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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

User Fees Act February 14th, 2003

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to have an opportunity to share some thoughts on this bill. I will begin by saying that I was asked by the sponsor of the bill, the member for Etobicoke North, and by the parliamentary secretary, the member for Niagara Centre, if I supported the bill? My answer was unequivocal. I said that I absolutely supported it, which means there are some things in the bill that make sense, but there are some concerns that need to be addressed.

To simply support it outright would probably cause some difficulty, unless we are absolutely sure, and I think this process will allow this to happen, that we will have an opportunity to make some changes.

Let me focus on a couple of things. I would not be surprised if the opposition supports a bill of this nature simply because the process which would be put in place would allow the opposition the opportunity to vote against every user fee that the government might deem necessary to put in place. To my friend, there is clearly an opportunity for political grandstanding if this is not handled properly, not that my hon. friends opposite would ever do that. Therefore we would be politicizing the process of putting in place fees, users fees, that were necessary for the proper functioning of agencies, departments of government. On the other hand, should Parliament not have a role in the oversight? That is where the balance here makes some sense.

I tend to agree with the principles the member has outlined in the bill of the need for more parliamentary oversight. We have to be careful about the process, not necessarily in terms of one fee or one issue, but in terms of the huge operation of public institutions in the government. In fact, there is even a suggestion that this could impact into the private sector whenever we deal with agencies or corporations that are regulated by government bodies. The obvious example would be Bell being regulated by the CRTC, or the music industry, or television or something of that kind. Some people might like it if we could have a more hands on ability to affect the fees that Bell charges. I do not know that we want to take the government, any government of any political stripe, down the road where we interfere to that level.

One issue is that when we at any level of government deal with a particular project, we should deal with the big picture. We should not micromanage. I do not believe that is what we were elected to do.

I use the example in days gone by when I was in municipal government. I was president of the Peel Non-Profit Housing Corporation, which builds housing projects. When we built a housing project, some members of the board literally wanted to pick the colour of the curtains or the design of the building. That is not the role of the board of that corporation. The role is to approve projects, put in place the financing and give the professionals the opportunity to build the facility, deliver it on time and hopefully on budget. To have the politicians involved in the everyday decisions and management of it would frankly cause me some concern.

I have spoken to the member about this. I believe if the bill receives approval in the House, it will go to committee. I am told it may go to the finance committee. It perhaps should go to government operations. I would ask the member to give some thought to that. It is more of an operational situation. The finance committee might find itself too busy to deal with the bill in a timely fashion.

One area I would want to deal with at committee would be the impact on crown corporations. In my role as parliamentary secretary of transport, the balance of that statement is four crown corporations. My role in working with the minister is to work with Canada Mortgage and Housing, Canada Lands, Canada Post, Queen's Quay and the old port of Montreal.

The concern I have is that many of these corporations, and I will just give a couple of examples, like Canada Post, CMHC and the Mint, have been given commercial mandates. They have a responsibility to market their services and products.

Canada Post is renowned throughout the world. It is a very typical Canadian institution. At home we tend to denigrate Canada Post and say nasty things about it. Yet there are some 26 countries throughout the world which hire the international marketing arm of Canada Post to help them do a better job of delivering mail in those countries. As is often so typical, a service developed here in Canada is recognized in other parts of the world in a better way and with greater acknowledgement of its success.

CMHC has a commercial mandate. The commercial mandate takes it to the point where it runs a very large and successful mortgage insurance operation. If it were impacted on the setting of its fees by the fact that it had to go through the actual fee setting outside the commercial realm or if it had to come to a parliamentary committee, we would be putting an unfair burden upon that corporation. It does have to compete. GE Capital has a mortgage insurance arm and it would be under no such obligation to come before a parliamentary committee to set its fees.

We have to look at some exemptions if we are to look at this. We have to be able to say that perhaps there are some fees or some areas that are more directly involved with Parliament and should have greater oversight and involvement. However clearly we should not penalize crown corporations or private sector corporations in their ability to compete in the marketplace.

This comes to the very issue of the role of Parliament versus the role of government. We have had calls recently for a vote in this place on whether Canada should participate in a war in Iraq if a resolution comes down through the United Nations. It seems to make some sense to the people on the street that Parliament should make that decision. However the basic fundamental problem in differentiating between the role of Parliament and the role of government goes to the very root of my argument with regard to micromanaging.

The government has certain executive responsibilities. The government is the Prime Minister and the cabinet. The rest of the people members of Parliament in support of the government or members of Parliament in opposition to the government. Technically the government is that group of men and women who form the governor in council, which is the cabinet of the government, and they have a responsibility. If they had to come to Parliament for a vote every time they needed to make a decision which had widespread impact on the country or in our relationships in foreign affairs, because of the debates we see in this place where positions are entrenched because of certain beliefs and certain political parties, the risk would be that we would paralyze the country and make it impossible for the government to fulfill its mandate.

That does not mean Parliament should not have a lot to say and a lot to do with regard to all these decisions. That is why we have the committee system and the opportunity to go forward with ideas, good ideas such as Bill C-212.

Let me just wrap up by saying that having identified a couple of concerns to my colleague, the member for Etobicoke North, I hope we can take out of the bill some of the areas that would lead to micromanaging, that would hurt the commercialized mandates of crown corporations and private sector companies and that would take Parliament as a group into the areas in which frankly none of us were elected to be involved. At the same time, if we adopt the principle involved here, we can say that we stand for more accountability and transparency in the setting of user fees because at the end of the day, a user fee is simply another form of taxation. It may be voluntary taxation. In other cases it is mandatory and people require it.

I could go on about whether we should have user fees in health care, which would be the obvious one that comes to mind. That would not be a voluntary user fee, and our party is opposed to that. However I do not want to get into the debate of that issue in relationship to this bill.

We should support the bill in principle and send it to committee. However there needs to be an awful lot of work done among the member sponsoring it, the committee and the government to make this a useful tool where we can say to the people of Canada that we have indeed improved the system of governing this great nation.

Question No. 115 February 14th, 2003

The title DG Regina does appear on the 2002 10-cent coin.

In 2001, the Royal Canadian Mint temporarily changed the design of the 10-cent coin to celebrate the International Year of Volunteers. The Latin phrase, D.G. Regina, which is traditionally featured on all Canadian circulation coins, was omitted to accommodate the special 2001 commemorative coin whose design required additional art space. Commemorative circulation coins create important benefits by contributing to the overall success of the event being celebrated as well as generating additional seigniorage, or profit, for the government. In this case, the Year of Volunteer coin generated for the government approximately $9 million in seigniorage.

Both the traditional Bluenose design and the Latin phrase were returned to the coin in January 2002

Organ Donations January 30th, 2003

Mr. Speaker, my friend, Hector Clouthier, tells me that his former hockey coach, Bill Higginson, has had a liver transplant. Mr. Higginson has had an illustrious career in sports, journalism, politics and volunteerism.

Coach Higginson is alive today because, as he says, some caring, compassionate Canadian signed the Multiple Organ Retrieval and Exchange Program, right here, better known as MORE. The MORE program was set up in 1988 to allow for quick, fair allocation of donated tissues and organs. As a result, Bill will be here next month to see his first grandchild born.

Coach Higginson is right on when he encourages us all to sign a donor card by saying “do not take your organs to heaven, heaven knows we need them here”.

We thank Bill for those wise words and wish him a speedy and full recovery.

Criminal Code January 27th, 2003

Mr. Speaker, although I do not necessarily feel obligated, I will undertake to get the answer on the Olympic side. It is a fair question.

Let me point out that the CCRA does have a fairness policy and is quite willing to provide relief, if it is appropriate, in terms of penalties or interest. Neither the government nor the CCRA is looking in any way to tarnish the dreams of young people or to hurt the great Canadian game of hockey. Think about how ridiculous it would be for any government to undertake that.

At the same time we have an obligation to ensure that these young people, when cast as employees, receive due and proper protection. Their employers have an obligation. CCRA will meet with them and work it out. They have an obligation to make those payments and provide that protection.

Criminal Code January 27th, 2003

Mr. Speaker, I should explain to the hon. member through you that as the Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Transport for crown corporations, I was specifically asked to respond since the Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of National Revenue was not available. That is why I am standing.

I will speak to two issues. First of all, it was my understanding that the issue we were discussing in the late show had to do with the Saskatchewan junior hockey league, not with the Olympic team. That is a new wrinkle the member has put on the table. I would suggest to the member that he could file an order paper question or perhaps deal with his own caucus to arrange to ask the questions in relation to the status of the Olympic team players in question period. I simply do not have that answer available now.

In relation to the answer about whether we are treating all teams across Canada the same, absolutely. There is no question.

I want to point out to the member that while I respect the fact that he is concerned about the condition of junior hockey in his province and the concerns the member might have about the dreams that he talked about, one of the most fundamental problems in dealing with an employer-employee relationship is the nub of the issue here. Are those young people employees when they are paid in one way or another, in kind, in room and board or in money in whatever way? Are they employees? If they are employees, then the employer has an obligation to make sure that they have full and complete access to all of the protection that any worker is entitled to in Canadian society.

Let me provide an example for the member. If a player was hit from behind and injured during one of the games and if the employer, the hockey team, was not paying the Canada pension contribution, then that particular employee, that player, would not have access to any kind of a disability pension. It might be small given that the player is a young person with a fairly short employment history, but this is a cumulative situation where we all pay into Canada pension and employment insurance over a number of years.

The member is suggesting that if CCRA were not to recognize these hockey players as employees, then in fact they would be treated differently than perhaps another young person who has a job working in some other industry. It could be in Saskatchewan or anywhere in the country. I think that is highly inappropriate. In fact it is kind of dangerous given the nature of the sport of hockey.

My wife and I had a junior player living with us for a season, who was playing for the Mississauga Ice Dogs. It is exciting and terrific, but it is a very violent sport and it is very easy to be injured.

Anyone who is a fan of the game would know that our good friend Don Cherry has started a program where stickers of a great big stop sign with the word “stop” are going to be put on the back of all hockey players' helmets. The hope is to eliminate the checking from behind that has become so prevalent and such a serious problem. We have seen youngsters wind up crippled and in wheelchairs. That is why we recognize these players as employees, so they can be protected.

Nuclear Safety and Control Act December 3rd, 2002

Madam Speaker, the department officials are looking very closely at this issue.

I think the member would agree that the key principle of safety is one which cannot be put at risk and must not be ignored. Considering the conditions around the site of the wharf, the engineers cannot guarantee at this stage how long the temporary works can be kept in place. Carrying out work near these structures might also cause some sections of the wharf to collapse. One can appreciate that for every action, there is a potential reaction.

All the stakeholders in the area, as I said earlier, are cooperating with our officials and our representatives. We very much appreciate the attitude that they are taking in trying to work out a solution with the engineers.

Nuclear Safety and Control Act December 3rd, 2002

Madam Speaker, the minister has asked me to inform my hon. colleague that the transport department is indeed continuing to work closely with the ferry's representatives. At the meeting in Les Escoumins on June 19 all the stakeholders unanimously agreed that all options for resumption of this service for the 2002 season had been explored by the engineers and there was no short term solution applicable to control the risks and ensure the safety of operations.

The status of the wharf has always been precarious, and the local stakeholders were regularly informed of this fact. Indeed, since 1998 some $1.5 million has been invested at each of these locations to keep the service running.

In the middle of November, the department's engineers met again with the representatives of the Trois-Pistoles--Les Escoumins ferry to outline the work done to date on analyzing the options for allowing short term operations at the wharf.

One of the priorities of the department obviously is safety and I am sure that my hon. colleague will agree with me that there can be no compromising on the safety of the public.

The minister and I are aware that the cessation of the operations of the ferry in 2002 has had impacts on the communities concerned and that users, mostly tourists, will among other things have to use the alternative ferries at Rivière-du-Loup--Saint-Siméon and Rimouski--Forestville, respectively about 50 kilometres west and east of the Trois-Pistoles--Les Escoumins route.

We have to assess the alternatives available to us in this case from the point of view of Transport Canada's port management policies. We are continuing to work closely with the representatives of the ferry. The department's engineers are meeting with the stakeholders on December 5 to obtain their comments on final designs for the temporary facilities.

The House and the member will understand that seeking options for such an exposed environment is very complicated and requires many analyses and checks by professionals in this field.

In conclusion, on behalf of the Minister of Transport, I want to thank the local stakeholders for their outstanding cooperation in this matter.

Nuclear Safety and Control Act December 3rd, 2002

Madam Speaker, the hon. member appears to be mixing apples and oranges. I heard reference to people who do not have homes, who generally are referred to as the homeless in this country, and that is a different issue than building affordable housing in partnership with the province.

In the homeless file, our Minister of Labour has been designated as the minister responsible for homelessness and, frankly, has done a marvellous job across the country in working with local communities to identify areas where shelters need to be developed and transitional housing needs to be built so that the people I believe the member is referring to, the people on the street and the homeless, have somewhere to go for shelter, such as on a terribly cold night like tonight.

However, if we are talking about affordable housing, it must be recognized, in spite of the constant chirping that is going on over on the other side of the House, that CMHC and the Government of Canada have invested $680 million, and it goes up to $1.36 million. In the province of Quebec alone it will generate 6,500 affordable housing units.

I recommend that the member talk to her counterparts, her colleagues in the province of Quebec. If indeed it is necessary for the province to provide shelter allowances to help the people she is talking about, then I think that perhaps the province of Quebec would entertain such a request, and it is appropriate that it does.

To say that the government has done nothing for either homelessness or affordable housing is a misrepresentation of the facts. The facts are clear. CMHC and this government are committed to a long term national strategy in the province of Quebec as well as across the entire nation.

Nuclear Safety and Control Act December 3rd, 2002

Madam Speaker, I am pleased today to have the opportunity to talk a little bit about the Government of Canada's affordable housing program.

Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation, our national housing agency, is responsible for carrying out the government's housing policy and national housing strategy which involves improving housing affordability, accessibility and choice in housing for all Canadians.

The Government of Canada works in close collaboration with the Government of Quebec on housing issues. In fact, contrary to statements that have been made, last December an agreement on affordable housing was reached between CMHC and the Société d'habitation du Québec. The agreement foresees a total contribution of $323.3 million in order to increase the availability of affordable housing in the province of Quebec; $161.65 million from the Government of Canada, $104 million from the Government of Quebec, and $57 million from the municipalities that will benefit. Obviously it is a true partnership. The program was officially launched in March and means that 6,500 new affordable rental housing units will be produced in Quebec.

Furthermore, to improve service to clients and make more efficient use of resources, the government has offered to transfer its remaining responsibilities in social housing administration to the province of Quebec with financial compensation. This also means that Quebec would then be allowed to retain the $30 million a year, estimated to be the amount in annual savings for investment in existing social housing stock, or, if it chooses, in new housing stock.

This is part of the Government of Canada's overall commitment to the affordable housing initiative. We are offering a total of $680 million to help Canadians across the country with affordable housing and, with matching contributions from provinces and territories, the total investment exceeds $1.36 billion in affordable housing. The recent Speech from the Throne committed to expanding on that initiative.

I would like to highlight a few other existing initiatives. For example, our government provides $1.9 billion in housing assistance to support some 640,000 community based housing units for seniors, people with disabilities and lower income households across the country. This includes supports for non-profit and co-op housing projects in every community as well as support for low income aboriginal people in cities and on reserve. The member is probably familiar with some of that in his own riding.

Our government also accommodates provincial program designs that address particular needs. In Quebec we provide over $26 million per year in housing renovation, including several existing provincial programs which are compatible with the national program.

Furthermore, the mortgage loan insurance from CMHC helps Canadian homebuyers gain access to affordable financing choices and facilitates low cost financing for rental investors.

Through its research activities, CMHC has reached out and encourages innovation in housing design and technology, community planning, housing choice and finance to improve the quality, affordability and choice of housing availability throughout Canada.

Madam Speaker, I want to assure you and the member opposite, the government and CMHC, as the crown agency involved, have a very strong working relationship with the province of Quebec and will continue to work with them to deliver affordable housing to the people of that province.

Kyoto Protocol December 2nd, 2002

Mr. Speaker, I find it somewhat ironic to be accused by my hon. friend of throwing accusations over here that the government has found ways to stall or to delay the debate on this when it is the opposition that has done exactly that. My hon. friend is probably the leading proponent of finding ways to stall and throw some mud into the gears of this particular place.

However, let me answer his question about why the rush. This is not a rush. For five years meetings were going on, co-chaired by the Government of Canada and the province of Alberta, on how we could arrive at the point that we are at today. That is over five years since Kyoto, not to even mention the time before that in Rio de Janeiro.

The homework has been done on this. My hon. friend refuses to accept the information and he should at least acknowledge that. Whether we put it out at a Grey Cup game or not, he refuses to accept the facts.