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Crucial Fact

  • His favourite word was place.

Last in Parliament May 2004, as Liberal MP for Mississauga West (Ontario)

Won his last election, in 2000, with 63% of the vote.

Statements in the House

Supply March 20th, 2003

Mr. Speaker, I will be sharing my time with the member for Simcoe—Grey.

I have just received an e-mail from my office that tells me the second strike has already started and the ground troops are moving in as we speak here. This is obviously an extremely critical time in that part of the world.

Much of what I am about to say I am quite sure members opposite will not agree with, but there is one thing on which I think they would share agreement with me. We have one of our own in this place, the member for Wild Rose, who has a son in the war in the American military. On behalf of my party and everyone on this side, we just want to say we wish him Godspeed and safe return.

One of the things that upsets people is how words are used in this place and outside. There have been comments made by people from all sides of the House that have been inappropriate and send the wrong message to the people of the United States. The message that somehow Canadians do not support Americans is just not true. It is certainly not true that the government does not support the people of the United States or indeed the government of the United States, a duly elected government, properly constituted, and respected by this government.

Just because at times friends diverge or disagree with one another does not mean that they will not continue to be friends. It is somewhat offensive when people in Canada, in positions of such great responsibility as members of Parliament, on whatever side, stand up and say that somehow the government or our country is anti-American.

We have a long history with the Americans. That does not mean that we walk in lockstep with them. That does not mean that we agree with every policy, be it foreign or domestic. In fact, we had members opposite demanding that we fight against the Americans on the softwood lumber issue, that we fight and challenge the administration on the steel issue, and that we not allow the Americans to take our water. We hear that all the time. Now we have a situation where those very same people are standing up and demanding that we just simply do what President Bush says and go to war. We just do not agree that the proper process here is to launch an attack at this time. I think we have made that very clear.

For other members to suggest, as I have heard in this place, that we as a country, as a government, have done nothing in terms of contacting the heads of other states is an absolutely false statement. We know the work that our ambassador at the United Nations has done. We know the respect that he has in the United Nations and in the world community. Does anyone really think that he acted unilaterally, that somehow he was not in touch with our Minister of Foreign Affairs, with our Prime Minister, with officials in the government, that somehow he was flying solo? I do not think so. He represented our country with dignity and honour, aggressively trying to put together a compromise that could at the very least forestall the actions that we saw begin last night and that have just started up again.

The frustration that many of us feel here is that nobody around here supports Saddam Hussein and in fact I find it an insult that the Leader of the Opposition, a man who would stand in that office purporting to become Prime Minister of the country, would actually say, “If the Liberals are genuinely neutral or will be cheering for Saddam Hussein, then they should have the guts to say so”.

That is the most outrageous statement for anybody to make, to somehow insinuate that the Prime Minister of Canada, or the Government of Canada, or the Liberal Party of Canada, or any individual on this side are actually cheering for Saddam Hussein. It is an absolute insult and destroys any dignity that individual should have in that office.

Are we supporting the Americans or are we not? There is another statement here that is quite remarkable. It says, “We are relieving allied soldiers in Afghanistan so they can fight in Iraq”. Again the leader of Her Majesty's loyal opposition said that if the government really believed in its position it should pull out and that if it did not believe in that position it should not have people there. Talk about trying to have it both ways.

We have supported the United States policies on homeland security. Our Deputy Prime Minister is in touch regularly with Tom Ridge. We have supported the United States in its request to tighten up procedures at the border and to require that certain landed immigrants in this country who have not yet obtained citizenship apply for visas to go into the United States. We have said that we understand the fears of the United States. We do not, however, support targeting of people based on their race or their religion and we strongly oppose anything that leads to that. We do understand the need for the United States to feel more secure within its own borders and we will work very closely with it.

Any member who has had the opportunity to visit Norad in Colorado Springs would see the kind of relationship between the U.S. military and Canadian military, working hand in hand, shoulder to shoulder every single day running the facility that provides security for all of North America.

We have another operation in North Bay, Ontario, where the same thing exists, where American soldiers are working together with Canadian soldiers.

When we make a commitment to send 3,000 troops to Afghanistan, why would the Leader of the Opposition stand up and say we should not do that because somehow we do not support war in Iraq? We strongly support the war against terrorism. We have three ships in the gulf. The chief commander of the seven ships in the gulf patrolling the waters looking for terrorists, looking for subversives is Canadian. Should we withdraw him because somehow we did not run off to war?

The opposition members stood in this place and demanded that we go to war before it even knew where the war was going to be, for goodness sake. They wanted us to send troops, get them over there so that we are ready to go when somebody shoots a gun in the air. There is some real inconsistency here.

However, the point that I want to stress is that this country supports the United States of America, its people and government. What we do not support is war at this time. We have attempted to broker a peace, to use diplomacy. We have begged President Bush to hold off the dogs and allow for continued discussion in diplomatic negotiations. As a government it is our view that those negotiations may well have been successful if more time had been allowed.

Were we ever in danger of an attack coming from Iraq? We know North Korea has the capacity to launch an ICBM against North America, but we also know that Iraq does not. Therefore a pre-emptive strike in my view was what we were trying to avoid. A pre-emptive strike to go in for regime change was what the President of the United States clearly wanted to do. What we signed on for in resolution 1441 was not regime change. What we signed on for was disarmament, the elimination of chemical and biological weapons of mass destruction. This has elevated beyond that.

I believe that what our Prime Minister has done is taken a difficult but principled position, and as a result of that I am confident that the powers that be, including George Bush in Washington, will respect that decision and will understand that we are a sovereign nation with the responsibility and the right to make our own decisions, and that is what we have done.

Question No. 149 March 18th, 2003

Canada Post has operated without government funding since 1989 and all its expenses are self-funded. The corporation is committed to providing universal, affordable postal service while sustaining a financially healthy business. The details of the corporation's activities are considered privileged and commercially sensitive and cannot be specified.

Question No. 148 March 18th, 2003

Canada Post has operated without government funding since 1989 and all its expenses are self-funded. The corporation is committed to providing universal, affordable postal service while sustaining a financially healthy business. The details of the corporation's activities are considered privileged and commercially sensitive and cannot be specified.

Question No. 144 March 18th, 2003

Canada Post values the contribution of its employees and actively supports their development. The details requested constitute personal information about Ms. Pierrette Ringuette-Maltais and would be inappropriate to disclose.

Canada Post has operated without government funding since 1989 and all its expenses are self-funded. The corporation is committed to providing universal, affordable postal service while sustaining a financially healthy business.

Canada-U.S. Relations February 27th, 2003

Mr. Speaker, I remember the outpouring of sympathy and affection toward Americans by all Canadians following September 11. That relationship was not built because of the tragedy, it has existed for many years.

Canadians and Americans have much in common. They are not just our closest neighbour, they are our friends and even family. Even though most, if not all, Canadians do not want the United States to launch war against Iraq, we still respect and cherish our relationship with America and Americans.

These are very tense times in the world, but Americans need to know that even if Canadians disagree with going to war we will continue to live in harmony and peace with them. We share the values of freedom and democracy. We share the longest undefended border in the world. We share hopes for our families and our futures.

Canadians do not hate Americans. We pray for them, we care for them, and we respect them as a nation. May God bless America.

Privilege February 25th, 2003

Mr. Speaker, much to your surprise, this is not about the comments that have been thrown around in this place with regard to my actions yesterday. This is about a letter that many of us, in fact I suspect all of us, would have received from the member for Calgary West. The issue does not really matter, but he is talking about the Falun Gong issue, an issue that I have some sympathy for.

In it he is asking me, as a member of Parliament, and presumably all of us, to send a letter to the Prime Minister to take action on this matter internationally. He asks, “Please sign and send the attached letter to the Prime Minister”.

Mr. Speaker, I would like to refer the attached letter to you for a ruling on this, because I frankly think it violates all our privileges. It is a letter addressed to the Prime Minister, on House of Commons letterhead. There is a place on the bottom, a signature block if you will, signed “Sincerely” and fill in the blank, in this case myself, MP, Mississauga West. So all of us would get this. Our names would be on this document, which would then be somehow in circulation.

I just find it rather wrong, frankly, that any member would take it upon himself or herself to draft a letter on an issue on House of Commons letterhead. Had it come on blank paper, I would not have raised the issue at all. We have all seen examples where people will sign a letter “per” if the member is not there and send it out, or we have seen the stamp where it says “original signed by” whoever it happens to be.

In this case, I just frankly find that it is an affront to all members of Parliament, regardless of the issue. This has nothing, and I want to stress this, whatsoever to do with the issue. We could fill in the blanks. Next it will be gun control. But we could fill in the blanks on any issue. If I want to write a letter to the Prime Minister on my letterhead, I will do so. I have no objection to being asked by any member in the House to do that, but I take strong exception to any member of the House being so presumptuous as to write a letter on House of Commons letterhead and then potentially have it put into circulation.

I would ask you to take a look at this, Mr. Speaker, and give a ruling as to whether or not the member has acted appropriately or has possibly violated our privileges or, at the very least, whether he should be admonished and requested not to do it again.

The Budget February 25th, 2003

Madam Speaker, my response is not only honest, it is accurate. The member knows it. The Auditor General said that the costs were $688 million. That is over eight years since 1995. The $1 billion figure would be at the end of 2005, in three years time. They are running fast and loose with the numbers and they know darn well they are doing it.

The Budget February 25th, 2003

Madam Speaker, I know the member is passionate. He is the king of rooming houses. He is interested in developing a nation of rooming houses. That is not the direction of the government.

If the hon. member does not know where that skimpy money of $753 million went, he should talk to the people in the city of Toronto or here in the city of Ottawa. He does not have to go far. Of course shelters are not the solution. However for the meantime, until we can get a full continuum of housing that will not only deal with shelters but also with single units and affordable housing for families, it must be delivered by the local community. The member knows that.

Our job as a national government is to put in place a national strategy. There is about a billion dollars for shelters for the homeless and a billion federal dollars for affordable housing, matched by the provinces and the municipalities, which translates into $2 billion. The hon. member can look at the numbers himself.

We have the renovation program. If we add up all the numbers we exceed $4 billion in a national housing strategy that I will admit has been slow to hit the ground. I alluded to the reasons why it is slow. The provinces have to ensure the money flows. The federal dollars are on the table. They are there to build housing. It is time the provinces and the municipalities got busy and did it.

The Budget February 25th, 2003

Madam Speaker, it is a delight and an honour to talk to you, the House and the folks at home about the things that are in the budget and some of the ways we try to communicate the value of what is in the budget. Communication is always a major challenge for government.

We all saw the headlines the morning after the budget. After listening to some of the commentators and the reaction notably from some of the mayors across the country, people would think we had just brought in the worst possible budget that could be imagined.

In the calm atmosphere that has followed the announcement, the press scrum and the hysteria around the budget, I would hope that people have had a chance to sit down and carefully analyze what is in it for them, how it benefits them as individuals or their communities if they happen to be mayors or councillors. I am not just spouting off something the government would like one of its members to talk about. I sincerely believe there are some initiatives that I know my colleague from the NDP opposite will agree are far reaching. These are initiatives in terms of affordable housing, infrastructure, commitments that help people who live in our cities in terms of the environment and clean air, our Kyoto commitment, alternative fuels, and the list goes on. These are all things that will benefit people whether they live in a large city such as Toronto or a small city, whether it is in the west or in the east.

One of the frustrations a government member has is getting the proper information out. I want to share a story to illustrate that.

We have all heard recently dramatic and substantial criticism around the so-called gun registry and its $1 billion cost. In fact, as I was going to committee yesterday I heard one of my hon. colleagues from the fifth party stand here in the House and quote the Auditor General to the effect that the Auditor General had stated that the government has wasted $1 billion on a gun registry.

If something is said often enough, people will believe it. It does not have to be true. I will take a few moments to share with the House the facts about the gun registry.

The total budget, not just for the registry but for the entire gun control program since 1995, and this is in the Auditor General's report, is $688 million. We are talking about over eight years. There is more than one aspect to the gun control program. There is licensing. There is communication. There is setting up the web pages and getting the system in place. There is the computerization. All of this is included in the $688 million over eight years. The total cost for the registry itself is one-third of that.

We have heard members opposite stand in this place and unabashedly say that it cost $1 billion for the gun registry. That is absolutely false. The total cost for the registry, and this came out in the public accounts committee yesterday, is one-third of the total of $688 million over eight years, or approximately $225 million.

Even the media who were in the room yesterday during the public accounts meeting heard the auditor agree with that. Then last night on the news what did we hear? We heard the reporters say that the gun registry cost $1 billion.

We throw our hands up and say how many times do we have to say something? It is like shouting into a wind tunnel. Words just come back to us and no one pays attention.

I understand the game. It is advantageous if a member is in opposition. I am sure I would be equally as forceful as some of the members opposite in trying to distort the real numbers for my own political purposes. I hope I would be a little more honest than that. The reality is that is what is happening.

The numbers are $225 million for the registry and $688 million for the entire gun control program supported by 74% of Canadians.

Be assured that members on this side will stand strong and firm to ensure that Canada continues to have a gun control program that will ensure our citizens are safe and that we know who has weapons in this country. We can try to prevent the tragedies that occur from the unfortunate use of guns. It will not solve all the problems. No one is trying to say that.

I just wish people would be more honest with the numbers, which brings me to the housing issue.

We announced in our last budget $680 million across the country, federal dollars, new dollars for the building of affordable housing. Affordable housing is determined to be a unit that a person paying 30% of his or her gross income can afford to pay.

We announced it as a bilateral housing strategy with the provincial governments. The municipalities are creatures of the provinces. The provinces have the jurisdiction. The province of Ontario, and I cannot say that I am happy about this, decided to pass the responsibility for housing for most of the dollars, the cost, on to the municipal sector.

If we look at the $680 million envelope, it breaks down to a $25,000 cash subsidy for capital toward the construction of a new home. That was to be matched by the provincial governments. Across the country we have entered into agreements that differ substantially because, as we are often told, individual provinces have their own criteria, their own requirements and their own needs. We responded to that.

In the province of Ontario, we struggled to sign an agreement, which we ultimately did, which said that the province would put in $2,000 to match our $25,000 and the balance of $23,000 would come from the municipalities. The municipalities, rightfully in my view, screamed that this was unfair, that the province was abdicating its responsibility to participate in the bilateral housing agreement with the federal government. Unfortunately we were required to sign the agreement but we negotiated some additions to it which I think benefit the municipalities.

One of the things we were able to do was to get the province of Ontario to agree to make 25% of the units that are built affordable by providing rent supplements. A rent supplement is an amount of money paid each month to the tenant to cover the cost of the rent. If a single mom can afford $600 a month based on 30% of her income and the rent is $1,000 a month, the economic rent, she will get a $400 a month rent supplement from the provincial government.

When we total up that provincial government commitment, it comes to about $180 million. At least we are getting close to matching Ontario's share of the $680 million, which happens to be $245 million. It is not the best deal in the world but it should get housing on the ground. It should break ground. It should see activity.

I must say that Ontario has been dragging its feet on implementing the agreement. One-third of the money and the units have been announced in the Waterloo region and nothing else has occurred. Yet the crisis is in the larger cities, in my city of Mississauga, in the city of Toronto, and in all the communities in the greater Toronto area.

Frankly the province is dragging its feet for whatever reason I am not quite sure. It is my hope that the province will see its way to having these funds flow, $680 million times two. Whether it is provincial or municipal, it is times two, an additional $320 million in this budget, bringing the total for new affordable housing to $2 billion. Anyone, whether it is the new leader of the NDP or anybody else in this place, who says that is not a substantial commitment to affordable housing does not know what he or she is talking about and is simply playing politics on the backs of the people who need the help and need the housing.

We are committed to it. We are going to make sure the housing is built all across the country. We are going to work with the province of Ontario to make sure that whatever commitments go to Ontario flow directly to the people who need affordable housing.

The Budget February 25th, 2003

Madam Speaker, I want to ask a question based on the aspect of the work the hon. member is doing with women entrepreneurs. I led a task force on young entrepreneurs a few years ago. I travelled the country and found that the spirit of entrepreneurship is alive and well and quite a marvellous thing in this country.

There is a bit of a dichotomy with the government being involved in programs for entrepreneurs. They generally try to run away from government. They generally say to us that the best thing we could do for them as entrepreneurs would be to get out of their way. That was the case with young entrepreneurs.

Has the member found that with women entrepreneurs? Are there programs we could use at the moment to help women entrepreneurs, both young and perhaps a little older, to create value, to create jobs, and to help this great nation grow?