House of Commons photo

Elsewhere

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

Resumption of debate on Address in Reply October 11th, 2002

Mr. Speaker, would it come as a great shock that I voted against a motion put on the floor by the Progressive Conservative Party? That party left this government in a deficit position of $43 billion in 1993. The PC Party wants to spend now and go back to the days when it had no concern about the fiscal reality that this government has created.

Why is our economy the way it is? Why are we ahead of even the United States? Because of the strong fiscal leadership shown by this government under this Prime Minister.

Resumption of debate on Address in Reply October 11th, 2002

Mr. Speaker, I will reiterate. We are absolutely committed to the military. What I find interesting is that as we travel around the world, as many of us do in the pursuit of our jobs, people tell us how proud they are of the contribution of the Canadian military.

I am quite confident that there will be some attention to the funding needs of the military. I am sure it will not satisfy those who once again insist the sky is falling and that we never do enough. I do now know that we could ever do enough to satisfy those individuals, but I believe the military is being well served.

Resumption of debate on Address in Reply October 11th, 2002

Mr. Speaker, I thank the hon. member for his question.

Defence is an issue that is important to Canadians but it is a matter of priorities. The government has made commitments in defence. I have heard the Minister of National Defence stand here and read off a litany of issues with which we have dealt. We have increased funding for wages for our soldiers. We have purchased new equipment. Nobody wants to talk about the positive things.

Because we tend to be in a war setting in our society with President Bush rattling sabres all the time, everyone wants us to somehow pour billions of dollars a year extra into defence. The government is committed to the armed forces. The government is proud of the military and the job it does. What is so astounding to that member--

Resumption of debate on Address in Reply October 11th, 2002

Mr. Speaker, I know that party is opposed to the Official Languages Act. I know the Canadian Alliance would trash bilingualism, if it had an opportunity. If Canadians want that, Canadians can indeed vote the Alliance into government.

My sense is Canadians do not want that. This is a fully bilingual country in every aspect. In every region both languages should be celebrated. In my view they are celebrated by most thinking Canadians.

Resumption of debate on Address in Reply October 11th, 2002

Mr. Speaker, the object of an employment insurance program is to provide insurance. When people buy insurance they hope they never have to cash in on it. It is like life insurance. The insurance companies are betting people are going to live; people are betting they are going to die, but are hoping the insurance companies are right. It is the same principle.

When we have an employment insurance plan, it must be supported by everyone in the country who is working. Hopefully not everyone will need it and obviously they do not.

Also, I would like to see an accounting over the last 20 or 25 years of how much has gone into employment insurance in terms of direct subsidy from the taxpayer, when the employment insurance program was running a deficit. Nobody talks about that. All members talk and yell about is that it is running a surplus.

We have reduced employment insurance premiums. They are down to about $1.25 from the $2.20 they were when we took office. We have reduced the burden on the business community and the worker. In the last budget we dramatically increased benefits for Canadian workers. They know it. It is only the folks over there who do not.

Resumption of debate on Address in Reply October 11th, 2002

Mr. Speaker, I quite agree it is probably somewhat strange to hear me suggesting we calm down the rhetoric and I take the member's point. However, the passion I feel about these issues is very real.

We will indeed have a plan. That plan will be put before Parliament before the vote. That has been made clear. The plan has been a long time in the making. It continues to be a living document. We continue to consult with communities and to talk with industry. That is an ongoing process. That is why it is so disturbing to have people just stand and say, “No, no, no. Do not ratify it. Throw it out”.

At some point, one has to take a stand. The stand by the government and the Prime Minister is, we want to ratify Kyoto. Work with us to make it the most effective ratification we can. That is what we are committed to.

Resumption of debate on Address in Reply October 11th, 2002

Somebody mentioned Toronto. I believe the number in Toronto is about 30%. The number is 60% in the Region of Peel, the community I represent.

The opposition wants to take this as an opportunity to once again bash the government. I would like to point out that there are a number of things the government is doing to attempt to address the issue of homelessness and affordable housing, but we have not done enough. If that satisfies the catcallers and the hecklers, good on them, but in my view the important thing is to recognize it, make the statement in the throne speech and then put in place the programs to try to solve these problems. If anyone here thinks we can do it with the snap of a finger or just simply by pouring money into a problem, that is pretty naive.

The reality is we have an opportunity. We have identified a segment of society living in shelters who go to work at businesses every day. They are proud individuals who do not want to take welfare, who would rather get a paycheque instead of a welfare cheque. They are willing to live in a shelter so they can save for their first and last month's rent. It is a tribute to those people.

Instead of members yelling about it, I would like to see us do something and I am convinced we will do something as a government. As a result of our statements in the throne speech around fighting poverty and investing in affordable housing, we will provide affordable housing on a much broader scale.

Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation has re-entered that area of social responsibility. We announced agreements on affordable housing with $680 million of federal money matched by the provinces and in some cases the municipalities. Agreements have been signed by 10 provinces and territories, including Ontario where $245 million was signed for in an agreement. By the way, it was the first time in 10 years that we have been able to sign a bilateral agreement with the province of Ontario. We have signed the deal. They have agreed to put in rent supplements in lieu of capital up front which is fine with me as long as it gets the housing, as long as it gets the shovels going into the ground.

People will say it has not happened fast enough and I agree. It is a little frustrating with the bureaucracy at any level, be it the federal level or the provincial level. Frankly, on this deal we have done our job. We have brought the money to the table, put in place the programs, negotiated with the provinces and signed the deals. It is now up to the provinces and the municipalities working in partnership to either match the money or to put in the rent supplements so that these units are affordable and to get the shovels in the ground and get the houses built.

On top of that, there is a further commitment in the throne speech that says we will add to that particular housing agreement, that we will be investing more. It has to go through the budget process now. People will ask how much. The throne speech does not say how much. Canadians understand that a throne speech is not designed to put down the actual dollar amounts; rather it sets out the vision.

The government has committed that there will be additional work done in the area of affordable housing. I have the privilege as the parliamentary secretary responsible for crown corporations to work with Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation and with Canada Lands Company to develop some new housing initiatives in every part of the country and that work is currently going on.

That is the first step in addressing the issue of poverty. I have heard the opposition say there is no such thing as child poverty; that the children are poor because their families are poor. I tend to agree with that but the reality is the kids are not the ones who can do anything about it. They are captive to the cycle of poverty. Very often a poor child becomes a hungry child and a hungry child is not going to pay attention at school, is not going to learn, is not going to do the homework and is going to act out in some way.

There is certainly a comprehensive need to deal with the poverty of families and children. The end result of that and the reason that vision is so vital in the throne speech is it will help build a stronger Canada with stronger families, people who can get out of the welfare cycle and the poverty cycle and create a great life for themselves.

Let me give an example of the type of thing that people yell about. We will recall in the last throne speech there was an announcement that we would increase the maternity leave from six months to one year. It is not in this throne speech; it was in the previous document. There were howls of indignation from the business community. There were howls of indignation from the benches opposite. I have to say that even I wondered if it was the smart thing to do at the time.

We all develop our ideas by the circumstances in which we live. This summer I was delighted to become the proud grandfather of two new baby boys. My two oldest sons and their wives had kids. Those moms, Karen and Kim, have the opportunity to stay at home to nurture, to breastfeed, to be with those babies in the first year of those babies' lives. Maybe I have a different attitude because my family has finally experienced that.

It was one of the best darned things the government has done since 1993. It is a very simple thing. The business community has not been thrown into chaos. Every time something changes or there is something new, it is Armageddon, “Oh, my goodness, why would you do that? It is going to cost us thousands of dollars. We are going to have to retrain. We are going to have to replace these people. It isn't going to work”. The chambers of commerce, the boards of trade, the official opposition all rant about it.

Then we see mom with the baby and what happens to that baby by having a parent at home with it. It is not necessarily the mom any more; it could be mom or dad. Being with that baby during the first year of life is critically important. I am very proud and pleased the government had the courage to stand up to the hail that ensued after the announcement was made. With kids like my grandkids, it will pay dividends 20 years down the road when they graduate from university because they had a really good solid start. The opportunity was made available to them because the government had the vision in the throne speech to make that change in the way we do business. It was a terrific idea.

It will also be seen in the throne speech that we are moving in the area of affordable housing, in the area of attacking shelters, in working with the minister of homelessness on the SCPI funding, on the renovation funding. The government is in full flight on all those issues and is dealing with them at the community level.

We only have to ask the people at the community level whether or not what I say is true. The municipalities will say they are getting terrific cooperation and they are pleased with the programs being put in place in those areas. They will also say, and I openly admit it, that it is not enough, and it never is. They will also say that it is not fast enough and it never is. But they will say that at least the federal government is recognizing the needs in these areas and they would implore their provincial representatives to do likewise. I am confident that they will across the country, because government bodies are recognizing that once and for all we have to tackle these problems and put in place the solutions to poverty, homelessness and the lack of affordable housing.

The third item regards improving the life chances for aboriginals. The classic example of our doing that was something which again caused demonstrations in the streets and in here. Parliament was held to ransom. It is just an example of how we can work with the aboriginal community. That was the Nisga'a treaty. Now that the treaty is in place, the howls of indignation have calmed down and gone away. People have recognized that it was not Armageddon and the end of the world. In fact, some very good things have happened. I hope sincerely that the vision shown by the Prime Minister in the throne speech will put in place more treaties that will be similar and will accomplish the same thing.

I have spoken before about the environmental aspects of the Kyoto accord. I understand I have only about a minute left so I cannot go into great detail, but I want to say once again, let us just calm down the rhetoric.

We have made changes. We took lead out of gasoline and there were howls. People said, “Oh, my goodness, the sky will fall. We will go broke. We will go out of business”. When we converted to metric, one of the great debates in the nation's history was that it would be the end of the world because the United States was not going metric. Yet today our kids function in the school classrooms. Even if we dinosaurs do not, our children all do.

We need to recognize that the throne speech provides a vision and a direction. It shows not a legacy but in fact what we can do to make this an even greater country for our children and grandchildren and we can leave a place that all Canadians will truly be proud of.

Resumption of debate on Address in Reply October 11th, 2002

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to have an opportunity this morning to talk a little about some of the initiatives in the throne speech.

It is interesting for us to follow the speeches that occur after a throne speech. Frankly, they tend to be rather general, and often somewhat negative when coming from the opposition, which is understandable. In fact, a throne speech is really about vision. It is about the vision that the government has. Some may not share that vision. Members opposite or members of the media or some Canadians may not share that vision, but clearly that is what it is.

There are a number of key points announced in the throne speech that I think deserve some analysis and some discussion. It would be interesting if we could ever do it without the partisan flavour, but I doubt that is possible, frankly.

The first point in the throne speech states that we will put in place a health care system to meet the needs of Canadians today and in the future. I think we all know that the number one issue for all Canadians is our health care system. We are also well aware that Roy Romanow is in the late stages of his cross-Canada study and will be releasing a report with recommendations.

I believe most Canadians have faith in Mr. Romanow. He actually, as we all know, comes from the seat of medicare, the province of Tommy Douglas, and I always like to give credit where it is due, of the New Democratic Party and the CCF, its forerunner, who started public medicare. They sure did. As a result of that effort, all Canadians I think appreciate the fact that Mr. Romanow is doing a very thorough analysis on the health care system.

The reality of the health care system is that when it started it was indeed fifty-fifty between the provinces and the federal government. However, what was covered in that fifty-fifty agreement was fundamentally physicians and hospitals. Since that time, provincial jurisdictions, which is their right as they are duly and democratically elected to represent their provinces, have expanded the coverage of medicare to go well beyond the initial agreement of providing fifty-fifty funding for physicians and hospitals. I do not dispute if they want to put certain services in Ontario or in Alberta. They have every right to do that. They are answerable to their constituents. That is one of the strengths of the federation of Canada.

However, it would not make sense to me that a provincial government could simply announce to its community that it is going to add certain things to the envelope of health care and then just expect that the federal government, regardless of who is in office, will agree and will again split the cost fifty-fifty. That is why the Romanow commission, in my view, will be examining the services that are provided under health care. It will be examining the ways in which health care is delivered. It will be examining, I hope, such things as people who are in beds in hospitals when perhaps they should be in beds in long term care or acute care facilities. They should not be taking up space in a hospital, which means that when the emergency room floods, when all of the people come in during peak hours in an emergency room, there are no beds for those people so they wind up on stretchers in the hall. Do we build hospitals with the capacity to run at peak in an emergency room setting 24 hours a day? I do not think anyone thinks that is necessarily the efficient way of delivering hospital care. As well, at the same time that many provincial governments have increased the envelope in terms of what is covered, they have also reduced the funding.

I do not really want to get into a battle on whether the provinces are right or the federal government is right. I hope sincerely that what the Romanow commission will accomplish for all Canadians is to once and for all depoliticize this entire health care system.

We need a system in which Canadians, regardless of their income, regardless of their age, regardless of their status, whatever it is, have access to basic primary care so that they know, when they take their injured child to any emergency room in any hospital in any community in the entire country, they will receive fair treatment. I do think there will have to be very hard decisions, and not just about funding.

I am sure that everybody's solution to health care is just that the federal government should put more money into the pot, but the reality is that we also have to examine the way we are doing things, the way we deliver community health care. Could care be better given at home in many instances? I think we all know that it is possible and that it should happen more. Could care be given cooperatively, with the Victorian Order of Nurses and others who do wonderful work spending more time going into the home or a seniors' residence and keeping these people out of the hospital infrastructure in the country?

That is not to say that they should be left to suffer in any way. In fact, we want to ensure that their treatment is first class and readily available, available in a way that is not only the most comforting way of delivering health care to them but the most economical way. Because at the end of the day, while we all wrap ourselves in the emotion of the health care system, the taxpayer has to pay for it. I think the taxpayer expects the federal government, every provincial government and every hospital board to be able to deliver services at a fair cost and certainly in an efficient manner.

My second point on the throne speech is one that is very important to me. It deals with the need to help children and families break out of poverty and ensure that all children have a good start in life. As we approach the Thanksgiving weekend, I think we all recognize, particularly in this place but across the country, that we have a lot to be thankful for. At the same time as we celebrate Thanksgiving, we have to realize that there is an anomaly in Canada. We still have too much poverty. We still have families struggling. We still have single moms without housing.

Recently I was astounded to read about a young woman who lived in a YWCA shelter. I also saw an interview with her when I was in Calgary a couple of weeks ago. The reason she was being interviewed is that she had a job. Every day she gets up out of her bed in the shelter, the people at the shelter make her a lunch to take to work and she goes off to work as a receptionist in a dentist's office. I could just see the thrill in her eyes. She was just so delighted to have a job. She does not want to be on welfare.

Let us imagine this. I was astounded to see that someone who is living in a shelter actually has a job. That is not the sort of typical image we think of when we think of people living in shelters, so I did a little more research. I found out that over 50%, an astounding figure, of the people who live in shelters in the city of Calgary go to work every day. Some of them have kids. They send their kids off to school and they go to work.

Renovation Month October 10th, 2002

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to announce that October is Renovation Month, an annual Canadian Home Builders' Association event providing consumers with information on home renovations and showcasing the building industry's professionals and their products and services.

As Canada's national housing agency, CMHC supports this event and plays a key role in providing Canadians with important information regarding the many choices and decisions involved in renovating and maintaining their homes.

CMHC is the most reliable and objective source of housing information in Canada. This fall CMHC will help those who are planning renovations by providing them with free renovation information.

CMHC also funds a number of federal repair assistance programs for low income Canadians and is committed to helping improve the quality of life for Canadians in communities right across the country.

Resumption of debate on Address in Reply October 8th, 2002

Madam Speaker, first, let me say that when this country exports clean fuel to the United States, which allows it to not have to use another source of fuel, we should get credit for that because we are working with our partners in the United States, which is all I hear about from over there, to ensure there is compliance.

I also have heard that one of the the biggest problems is the fact that George W. Bush, who happens to come from Texas, no small wonder, is opposed to ratifying Kyoto and yet he has approved over $3 billion in American money toward meeting the Kyoto commitment. There is no question that this is a joint effort but Canada will show the leadership that is required by having a vote in this place. It is my hope that we will ratify Kyoto and get on with the commitments the Prime Minister made.