House of Commons photo

Crucial Fact

  • His favourite word was colleagues.

Last in Parliament May 2004, as Liberal MP for Ottawa Centre (Ontario)

Won his last election, in 2000, with 40% of the vote.

Statements in the House

Criminal Code February 21st, 2003

Mr. Speaker, if the member thought he was going to derail my train of thought, he has failed to do so. However I commend the member for standing and making notice of the Chair.

I want to move on to say that subclauses 447.7(1) and 447.7(2) respectively give the Minister of the Environment the discretion to determine whether a species of wildlife is an endangered or threatened species. Before making a designation of this nature, however, the Minister of the Environment must consult with the committee on the status of endangered wildlife in Canada. Again, this kind of provision is entirely in keeping with a regulatory scheme that has a broad public welfare goal, such as preserving wildlife, as is the case with the intent of my colleague.

In order to achieve that goal, it is necessary to have a flexible formula for determining species at risk. As I noted a little earlier, this scheme is moving away from the usual formula in the Criminal Code of a prohibited, morally reprehensible conduct that is sanctioned by a penalty.

Further, I would suggest that the maximum penalty for offences in relation to threatened or endangered species would be four and eight years respectively. These maximum terms are unknown in the Criminal Code. There is no precedent for this kind of maximum penalty. This is another example of the inconsistency of these provisions with other provisions in the Criminal Code when it comes to penalties.

In closing I would like to reiterate that there is a distinction between the objectives of legislation and the mechanics of the legislation itself to achieve an objective.

As I said earlier, the intent, as my colleague is trying to establish here, is to protect endangered species. It is a good intent but the way he is getting around it is not the most appropriate or efficient way, because it cannot be dealt with through the Criminal Code. The Criminal Code would not make it workable. Rather, it should be done, as it is now being done, through the regulatory process.

There is another important point that I wanted to bring to the attention of my colleagues. At the provincial level there are a number of mechanisms where provincial governments, through their regulatory processes as well as through legislation, can deal with some of those issues that exist within their jurisdictions.

I did not want to touch on the fact that we would be duplicating and infringing on provincial jurisdiction, but I will leave that for some of my colleagues who might be speaking to this issue later on.

Criminal Code February 21st, 2003

Mr. Speaker, I too would like to acknowledge the hard work of the member for South Surrey—White Rock—Langley and thank her for bringing this very important issue to the attention of Parliament.

While we are not here to debate the importance of dealing with poaching, the issue is whether the bill in its present form is the most appropriate mechanism for addressing poaching. In my view it is not. The bill takes existing offences and essentially duplicates them in the Criminal Code.

Bill C-280 does not have the appearance and elements of a true criminal law scheme. The scheme in Bill C-280 proposes what is essentially a regulatory scheme and drops it into the Criminal Code. The Criminal Code is not an appropriate statute for this kind of law. This is especially so where there is a range of existing federal and provincial laws that directly and indirectly regulate the same subject matter.

Even in the absence of all these other relevant inapplicable laws, the measures in the bill would be best dealt with by regulation rather than by amending the Criminal Code.

The bill expressly provides that the offence provisions in respect to wildlife that is not a threatened or endangered species do not apply to persons who act in accordance with a licence issued pursuant to a federal or provincial statute or regulation. This is usually associated with regulations. The essence is that if we have authorization we can do something but we are in violation of the law if we do it without authorization. This is often what regulations look like, but the Criminal Code does not work the same way. The application of a criminal offence provision does not normally rely upon whether a licence to conduct a prohibited activity has been issued by federal or provincial authority.

Another feature of the Criminal Code offences is that they almost always apply to everyone. It is extremely rare for the Criminal Code to specify exemptions for criminal liability in respect of particular offences. The exemptions set out in sections 204 to 207 inclusive of the Criminal Code relating to the gaming offences and part of the code are notable exceptions to the usual rules against exemptions. We can see the contradiction between the two. On one hand we want to deal with one specific problem, but by doing it through the code, we are brushing everybody with the same brush and making that exemption become quite problematic.

Nonetheless, it is extremely rare to specify exemptions that depend upon the exercise of discretion by a member of the executive branch of government. However, subclause 447.8 of Bill C-280 would grant discretion to the Minister of the Environment to issue an order exempting “any person or class of persons” from “application of all or any” of the offence provisions in respect to threatened or endangered species. In my view this feature is highly unusual and highly unheard of.

It is also rare in a Criminal Code context to have a member of the executive confer with an advisory body in order to determine whether the subject matter of the offence, in this case wildlife, falls within a particular category. I note that subclause 447.7(1) and (2) respectively would give the Minister of the Environment the discretion to determine whether a species of wildlife is an--

Industry February 21st, 2003

Mr. Speaker, recently the Minister of Industry as well as the Minister of Human Resources Development held a conference on innovation.

My question is for the Minister of Industry. Would he tell the House when we can expect to see some results in terms of the implementation of the recommendations from that conference?

Housing February 21st, 2003

Mr. Speaker, I rise to congratulate the Minister of Labour and Federal Coordinator on Homelessness, an outstanding citizen and one of the finest ministers. She is, simply put, a great leader.

As we know, the highly successful Supporting Communities Partnership Initiative was renewed for another three years. Under the leadership of our great Prime Minister, budget 2003 provides another $1.1 billion to the government's affordable housing and homelessness initiatives. In addition, the budget also renews the Residential Rehabilitation Assistance Program and increases funding to our affordable housing initiative.

Simply put, not only have my constituents of Ottawa Centre benefited from all of these initiatives, but countless Canadians across the country have also.

Canada Elections Act February 18th, 2003

Mr. Speaker, I am thankful for the opportunity to speak to this bill that seeks to enhance confidence in our political system. This is particularly interesting because it allows me to discuss an issue of great importance to my constituents, namely, how we ensure that our political system reflects high ethical standards.

I would like to focus in particular on public financing measures included in the bill and their importance in this legislation which would enhance Canadian confidence in the honesty and openness of our political system.

The Canadian electoral system belongs to all citizens and the support of taxpayers for the maintenance of an effective electoral system is vital. Public funding of the federal electoral process is a longstanding principle in Canada. The reimbursement of party and candidate electoral expenses, and tax credits for contributions, have been around since 1974 when the Election Expenses Act established a new regime for the financing of federal elections in Canada.

The legislation was a response to a growing concern about the fundraising and financing of political parties. In addition to providing for improved disclosure and spending limits, it was recognized at that time that public financing was an important part of the political financing equation.

The importance of public financing to a healthy democracy is such that all provinces have introduced public funding measures to a lesser or greater degree. All provinces provide tax credits for donations, some nearly as generous as the tax credit that is proposed in this legislation and some less. Reimbursement of party expenses is provided in Quebec, Ontario, Manitoba and Saskatchewan.

In Quebec, for example, the rate of reimbursement is 50%, as is proposed in this legislation. Reimbursement of candidate expenses is provided in all provinces except Alberta and British Columbia. Three provinces, Quebec, New Brunswick and Prince Edward Island, provide annual public allowances to political parties.

Quebec in particular has been providing a public allowance since 1975. The current allowance is 50¢ per elector. New Brunswick provides an allowance of $1.69 per vote obtained in the last election. Prince Edward Island provides for an allowance of $2 based on the number of valid votes for a party's candidate in the previous general election.

When the Lortie Commission studied these issues in the early 1990s it noted that the value of candidate and party reimbursements to our electoral democracy had been clearly established.

At that time the commission focused in on candidate and party reimbursements and recommended that reimbursement be tied to a subsidy per vote received. In retrospect, this recommendation is interesting in the context of the current legislation which in fact proposes a public allowance for parties tied to votes received.

When the Chief Electoral Officer examined this issue in his report on the 37th general election he noted that the purpose of public funding was to increase access to the political process. Together with election expense limits public funding is intended to contribute toward a more level playing field in the electoral process.

In his report he recommended that the threshold for candidates to be qualified for reimbursement should be lowered to 5% of the valid votes cast in their electoral district in order to increase access to the political process and broaden national participation. I understand that, since then, the Chief Electoral Officer has also suggested that the rate of reimbursement for election expenses for parties should be increased from 22.5% to 50%.

Clearly, the measures that are proposed to prohibit corporate and union donations and to limit individual donations will have a cost, a cost that is justified to remove the perception of influence over the political process. If we ban corporate and union campaign contributions and restrict large donations by individuals, how do we make up for the resulting shortfall in revenues that parties and candidates might experience?

Candidates and parties need adequate funding to fulfill the important role they play in our political system.

How do we encourage individual Canadians to pick up some of the slack?

The financial measures introduced in Bill C-24 build on existing measures in the bill, as well as previous recommendations and practices in other jurisdictions, in particular, the provinces.

I would now like to speak a little bit about financing measures. The rate of reimbursement for electoral expenses would be increased, according to the bill, from 22.5% to 50%. This would cover in part some of the potential losses that registered parties would incur under the reform.

It would also provide parity between parties. The reform would also add polling expenses to the definition of allowance expenses for reimbursement and raise the ceiling for expenses correspondingly.

Also, according to the bill, the threshold for candidates to qualify for reimbursement of election expenses would be lowered from 15% to 10%. This reflects the reality of our multi-party system.

Also, the bill introduces amendments to the Income Tax Act to double the amount of an individual political contribution that is eligible for a 75% tax credit from $200 to $400.

One of the objectives of the government is to encourage transparency. I would submit that this is exactly what the legislation does.

By voting, citizens would be effectively directing to which party their tax money would go. This would provide a direct link between the voter and the party that the leader of the opposition has been calling for. This is well balanced legislation. I am surprised and shocked to see some of my colleagues standing up in the House and challenging the legislation.

In fact, members of other political parties have seen the merits of the legislation and have stood up and endorsed it because they knew it was the right thing to do.

In our democracy Canadians and taxpayers deserve better than the partisanship that is being advanced by members of the official opposition. It is high time they spoke about the facts in the legislation and moved away from the fiction that they have been talking about over the past few weeks.

I commend the Prime Minister on the leadership he has taken on these issues. I also commend the House leader who has continuously done everything he could possibly do in consultation with the other House leaders to ensure the fast passage of the legislation so it can pass through the other House and become law.

I would also like to see the legislation go further, or an amendment to the legislation go further by making it a law that every Canadian must vote, as is done in Australia, Brazil, Italy and other jurisdictions around the world.

It is high time for us to move forward with the legislation as it has been proposed. At the end of the day it would need the collective action of all of us in order to move forward with such wonderful legislation. I would like to see my colleagues voting for it.

Dennis McDermott February 17th, 2003

Mr. Speaker, I rise today to pay tribute to Dennis McDermott, who passed away last week at the age of 81.

Dennis McDermott was president of the Canadian Labour Congress from 1978 to 1986. Before that, he was the Canadian director of the United Auto Workers for ten years. He was widely respected as a model leader of the trade union movement.

Mr. McDermott will be remembered for his advocacy of human rights issues and his outreach to workers and unions around the world. He raised the profile of the labour movement in Canada, and in 1981 he led one of the largest rallies ever held on Parliament Hill.

I ask the House to join me in sending our condolences to the friends and family of Dennis McDermott. We will all remember him for his conviction and hard fought efforts.

Canada Elections Act February 14th, 2003

Mr. Speaker, my question is for the government House leader.

Some time ago the House leader promised to take action on the Harper third party election spending case. I want to ask him exactly what action the government has taken since that announcement was made?

National Flag Day February 14th, 2003

Mr. Speaker, on February 15, 1965, the Canadian government adopted the Canadian flag, a respected symbol throughout the world that reflects our values of peace, respect, justice and tolerance.

I am therefore pleased to recognize the efforts of the Prime Minister of Canada and Mr. Jesse Flis, who represented Parkdale--High Park as a member of Parliament for many years, in making National Flag Day a reality for all Canadians in 1996.

Our flag is a symbol of the nation's unity and represents all Canadians regardless of race, language or belief. It is my hope that Canadians today will join together and celebrate our shared heritage and identity. Let us be proud of our flag and proud to be Canadians.

National Civil Defence Force Act February 13th, 2003

moved for leave to introduce Bill C-391, an act to establish a National Civil Defence Force.

Mr. Speaker, all we have to do is go back to the ice storm, which hit most of eastern Canada, to realize how important it is for us to establish a national mechanism to deal with crises, whether it be provincial or interprovincial.

The purpose of the bill is to establish a national institution that would coordinate efforts to deal with issues affecting crises from time to time, whether it be a flood, a natural disaster or something else.The organization would be manned and supported by volunteers from across the nation. Those volunteers would be trained and coordinated through some sort of a mechanism.

(Motions deemed adopted, bill read the first time and printed)

Medical Devices Registry Act February 13th, 2003

moved for leave to introduce Bill C-390, an act to establish and maintain a national registry of medical devices.

Mr. Speaker, the bill deals with the fact that across Canada we have thousands of medical devices, some of which are inserted inside the bodies of children or adults.

From time to time the manufacturers of those devices have gone bankrupt or have had some difficulties with those devices. When there are problems with those devices it is imperative that the ministry or the people in charge of a national registry inform those patients of the fact that there are deficiencies in those devices that are inserted in their bodies.

At the same time, if a company no longer exists, there could be some changes in terms of products and those kind of things.

With the technological advancements that exist in our nation and around the world, it is time for us to have a mechanism where at least we would know as a government what is available on the market and what the problems are with those devices.

The purpose of the bill is to establish that national registry.

(Motions deemed adopted, bill read the first time and printed)