House of Commons photo

Crucial Fact

  • Her favourite word was cultural.

Last in Parliament November 2005, as Liberal MP for Parkdale—High Park (Ontario)

Lost her last election, in 2006, with 36% of the vote.

Statements in the House

Budget Implementation Act May 17th, 2005

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to have the opportunity to speak about some of the measures contained in budget 2005.

As the Minister of Finance pointed out in his speech introducing the budget, Canada will record its eighth consecutive surplus in 2004-05, a record unmatched since Confederation. Indeed, Canada will be the only G-7 country to post a total government surplus in that year. Canada's much improved fiscal situation has allowed the government to make significant investments in our country's future.

In this year's budget, we committed substantial new funding for health care, seniors, child care, our cities and communities, the environment, while at the same time providing tax reductions and laying the groundwork for future progress.

I will focus my remarks today on the initiatives in the budget that build on our social foundations, especially the importance of the arts and culture in our society, because this sector is one which allows our country to define us as Canadians.

It should also be noted that the arts and culture form part of the government cities and communities agenda. In fact, the arts and culture are the essence of our cities and communities and they are integral to the safety, vitality and economic prosperity of our cities and communities.

I represent the riding of Parkdale—High Park in Toronto which is home to many of Canada's artists and creators. Indeed, the city of Toronto bears testament for my thesis of the role played by the arts in our cities.

In February of this year, thanks to the advocacy of the greater Toronto area Liberal caucus in supporting the city of Toronto's application, Toronto was named one of the culture capitals of Canada. The culture capital announcement specifically recognized Toronto's ongoing and long term commitment to the arts and cultural sector.

Toronto is a cultural city that truly reflects culture and creativity and showcases the work of professional and local artists of all ages from diverse backgrounds and cultures to successfully blend traditional art forms with the newest technologies.

The influence of the arts is integral to the health and vitality of our cities. Let us not forget that when the Prime Minister became leader the first thing he announced was that the cities agenda would be the government's top priority. He reconfirmed this in the Speech from the Throne where we provided for a GST rebate to municipalities. He went further than that and kept another of his promises to ensure that cities and communities would start sharing part of the gas tax.

Budget 2005 also confirmed the government's commitment for art and culture by stabilizing funding for arts and cultural programs in the amount of $860 million over the next five years. It is the single most important investment by the Government of Canada in arts and culture ever. This investment will ensure that more Canadian artists and creators are able to display their work to audiences at home and abroad.

Specifically, for those people who may have forgotten what is in the budget, budget 2005 committed the following: $5 million per year over five years to enhance the multiculturalism program; $10 million per year over five years to the celebrate the Canada program for community based events and activities that offer Canadians the opportunity to share their pride in our country; $56 million over the next five years for the implementation of a Canada for all Canadians action plan against racism; $25 million over the next three years for commemorative and educational initiatives to highlight the contribution that ethnocultural groups have made to Canadian society and to help build a better understanding among all Canadians; and one of my favourites, $60 million to CBC Radio-Canada in 2005-06 to help ensure high quality programming; $5 million for the aboriginal languages initiative; and $45 million in 2005-06 for the centre for research and information on Canada.

I want to underline that the CBC will receive $60 million for 2005-06 for Canadian programming. I can assure members that we will continue to press for additional funding for the nation's public broadcaster so that it can continue to provide quality programs in all parts of the country.

I am also delighted to announce that the CBC's budget will not be reduced as a result of the government-wide expenditure review allocation exercise.

At this time I would like to remind Canadians that when we started this Parliament the Prime Minister announced that he wanted all departments to look for ways to become more effective and to look at what we could do to reduce expenditures.

Well, we looked and we found a $12 billion saving, which was headed by the Minister of Revenue, to ensure we were more efficient and more accountable to Canadians. I am also pleased to say that in light of this government's commitment to the arts and culture and how integral it is to our communities, not one heritage portfolio was subject to expenditure review. That is a testament to this government's commitment to the arts and culture and to our communities.

One of the biggest programs, as I said, is the renewal of Tomorrow Starts Today, a renewal advocated by arts organizations across Canada and with a new ally I might add, the Federation of Canadian Municipalities, because it, too, understands the important role that the arts and culture play in our communities and cities.

Let me just go through what those initiatives under Tomorrow Starts Today are and what would be lost if this budget does not pass.

First, we have the cultural capitals of Canada program that recognizes the excellence of municipal work in supporting special activities that celebrate arts and culture and their integration into community planning.

We also have the cultural spaces Canada program. I will bet there is not one member in this House whose community has not benefited from this. This is a program that helps to improve the physical conditions that enable artistic creativity and innovation and helps ensure greater access to the arts and heritage by all Canadians.

The arts presentation Canada program is comprised of five components that aim to strengthen organizational effectiveness and to build capacity in arts and heritage organizations so that funding our arts is no longer seen as a black hole. We are ensuring their sustainability because they are important to our society and our economy.

The Canadian arts and heritage sustainability program is comprised of five components that aim to strengthen organizational effectiveness and to build capacity in arts and heritage organizations.

The national arts training contribution program supports Canadian organizations specializing in professional artistic training, such as the National Theatre School in Montreal and, one of my favourites, the National Ballet School of Canada in Toronto.

An increase in parliamentary appropriations has allowed the Canada Council for the Arts to support new areas, to enhance grants and improve the international presence and national profile of Canadian artists. In 2007, the Canada Council for the Arts will be celebrating its 50th anniversary.

A new initiative and a very innovative one called the Canadian cultural online initiative provides funding for programs that focus on making Canadian content, in both official languages, readily available on the Internet, contributing to a better understanding of Canada and its rich diversity. It has five sub-initiatives, which include the virtual Museum of Canada, the Canadian Cultural Observatory and the Aboriginal Canada Portal.

I would like to share with members that last Thursday night when I went back to my riding I attended the 10th anniversary of the Centre for Contemporary Canadian Art which received funding under this program. The Centre for Contemporary Canadian Art, through its Canadian art database, offers the opportunity to view the works of close to 500 Canadian artists. It is a great program and it is a great success.

Another initiative concerns the music industry which I think is very important because it is one of our greatest successes. We define ourselves through our artists.

We also have the renewal of the Canadian music fund, which FACTOR is part of. FACTOR is the Foundation to Assist Canadian Talent on Records, which is a private non-profit organization dedicated to providing assistance to the growth and development of Canadian independent recording industries.

When this funding was threatened, FACTOR initiated the save Canadian music lobby. It was successful in the fact that it was renewed in the budget. At the Junos, Heather Ostertag, the president of FACTOR, stood and thanked the minister and the government for their acknowledgement of the importance that our Canadian musicians and songwriters play. I hope Heather's thanks were not in vain.

In an increasingly integrated North American and a global environment, artists, creators and cultural industries help Canadians make their voices heard and assert their perspectives on the world in which we live. I am glad to have been part of this government that will continue to ensure that our artists and creators are heard, not only in Canada but around the world.

Don Jennison May 11th, 2005

Mr. Speaker, I rise today to inform the House of the passing of one of my constituents, Don Jennison. Don was a committed activist for many causes both in my riding in the city of Toronto and across the country.

I first met Don in his role as a founding member of world 19, a community group that grew out of the campaign against the rushed amalgamation of the city of Toronto. Throughout the years, I had several meetings with world 19 and Don was always one of its most committed and passionate spokespeople. His concerns covered a broad spectrum of issues, from neighbourhood development to maintaining a fully public health care system.

I always found Don to be a challenging, well-informed and dedicated advocate for the causes in which he believed. This concept of public service from a private citizen is commendable. In this sense Don Jennison serves as an exemplar of the public spiritedness to which we should all aspire.

I wish to offer my sincere condolences to Don's family, his friends and his community. His passing leaves many lives emptier and diminishes the quality of our public discourse.

Constitution of Poland May 6th, 2005

Mr. Speaker, I rise today to pay tribute to the Polish-Canadian constituents in my riding of Parkdale—High Park, who on May 3 celebrated the Polish constitution of 1791, the oldest written constitution in Europe and the second oldest in the world. That event unites Polish communities throughout Canada and the world in their proud tradition of defending democracy and civil freedoms, not only in their home country but also in their adopted countries.

May 3 was a day to reflect upon and celebrate the heritage and ideals of humanitarianism, tolerance and democracy. The constitution of May 3, 1791 was the instrument that gave rise to parliamentary supremacy. It also gave Polish citizens new-found access to parliament. Constitution Day is a proud heritage for Canadians of Polish descent and a confirmation of the basic values and freedoms of our own society.

I am proud to offer my best wishes for this very memorable anniversary.

Poland April 19th, 2005

Mr. Speaker, I rise today to commemorate the 65th anniversary of the massacre of about 20,000 Polish officers, prisoners of war and civilians by the Soviet authorities in the forest of Katyn in the spring of 1940.

Last Sunday I participated in the annual commemorative ceremony at the Katyn Monument in my riding, together with members of the Polish Canadian Congress and veteran and youth organizations.

It took almost 50 years for Mikhail Gorbachev to admit that the massacre in the Katyn forest was the work of the Stalin regime. However, in March 2005, Russian authorities ended a decade-long investigation into the massacre, but declared that it was not a genocide, a war crime or a crime against humanity. Consequently, on March 22 the Polish parliament unanimously passed an act requesting the Russian archives to be declassified and requesting Russia to classify the Katyn massacre as genocide.

To this day, the Katyn massacre remains an open chapter in the history of the Polish community in Canada and a stumbling block on the path of building international relationships, trust and transparency.

Chinese Canadian Recognition and Restitution Act April 18th, 2005

Mr. Speaker, Canada is known around the world as a nation that embraces fairness, equality and respect for diversity as the very basic building blocks of our society. Those versed in Canadian history understand that this national strength is not an accident. It is a product of the deliberate collaborative work of the many Canadians who came before us. Our aboriginal, English and French ancestors laid the foundation of a diverse society. These roots have deepened with the arrival of generations of immigrants from around the world.

Our small population and vast geography dictated deliberate nation-building activities such as our pan-Canadian rail link. Our linguistic, ethnic and cultural diversity necessitated a value system based on tolerance and understanding, ultimately giving birth to our first Citizenship Act, the Multiculturalism Act, the Official Languages Act and our Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms.

Just yesterday, April 17, we celebrated the 20th anniversary of section 15 of the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms. As members know, section 15 guarantees equality before and under the law and equal protection in the benefits of the law without freedom from discrimination because of race, ethnic or national origin, colour, religion, sex, age or mental or physical disability. In the 20 years since its enactment, the very notion of equality before the law has become entrenched in our Canadian psyche.

The 20th anniversary of its entry into force is the perfect opportunity for all Canadians to stop and reflect on how far we have come as a nation, how far we have come since the dark days in our history when racism and discrimination dominated our society and how much we have achieved in building the legal framework that safeguards the values we hold so dear today.

The Government of Canada understands the strong feelings underlying requests for redress for Chinese Canadians. They risked their lives to help build Canada's railroad in the 1880s. More than 15,000 Chinese came to build the most dangerous and difficult section of the Canadian Pacific Railway. As soon as their work was done, however, Canadians wanted them gone. It was the beginning of a difficult chapter in history for Chinese immigrants to Canada.

Chinese immigrants to Canada came seeking an escape from the poverty and war at home. What they encountered here was prejudice, personal attacks and discrimination, but the Chinese in Canada persevered. Many chose to pay the head tax for the opportunity to have a better life in Canada. Many took on the most dangerous jobs in sawmills and fish canneries. Many bravely endured separation from family members they could not bring to Canada.

When some 600 men and women served in the military during World War II, Chinese Canadians contributed more manpower to the war effort than any other ethnic group. However, the community's contributions went well beyond providing manpower. In addition to Red Cross and other service work, the community is said to have contributed $10 million to the victory loan drive, more per capita than any other group in Canada.

Over the years, an incredible number of Chinese Canadian individuals have made extraordinary contributions to Canada: community leaders like Dr. Joseph Wong, who chaired the United Way and was bestowed the Order of Canada; artists like Chan Hon Goh or Xiao Nan Yu, who have distinguished themselves as ballerinas at the National Ballet of Canada; and champions like Jean Lumb, the first Chinese Canadian woman to receive the Order of Canada for her work on Chinese family reunification in Canada and her fight to save and revitalize Chinatown in Toronto, Vancouver and Calgary.

There are also internationally recognized Chinese Canadian scientists like molecular geneticist Dr. Lap-Chee Tsui, who helped discover the gene responsible for cystic fibrosis. Dr. Tak Wah Mak discovered the gene for the t-cell receptor, a major key to the working of the human body's immune system. Dr. Victor Ling is world-renowned for his discovery of the existence and mechanisms of drug-resistant chemotherapy. Sports stars like Norman Kwong, also known as the China Clipper, is a three times Sports Hall of Famer and Order of Canada recipient who helped the Edmonton Eskimos win six Grey Cups.

Clearly, Chinese Canadians are making important contributions to every aspect of Canadian life, in arts and culture, in science and medicine, in business and education and the professions, and I might also add, in politics. Our own hon. member and Minister of State for Multiculturalism, Raymond Chan, is a Chinese Canadian.

The Governor General of Canada, Adrienne Clarkson, came to Canada as a Hong Kong refugee during the second world war, rose to international recognition as a Canadian journalist and then became the first Chinese Canadian Governor General of Canada in 1999.

One thing is very clear, Chinese Canadians have more than earned their place in Canadian history and society.

Canada's treatment of Chinese Canadians is one of those chapters in Canadian history that does not make us proud. However, we can be proud of the progress we have made since those days. We can and we must learn from our history.

The Government of Canada is committed to strengthening the fabric of Canada's multicultural society. We are committed to acknowledging and commemorating the significant contributions made by various ethnoracial and ethnocultural groups, including the Chinese.

Already the Department of Canadian Heritage and cultural agencies in the Canadian Heritage portfolio have made considerable efforts to ensure that the story of the Chinese in Canada is known to all Canadians.

Canada's public broadcaster, CBC/Radio-Canada, for example, offers a comprehensive look at the history and experience of Chinese Canadians in their online archives at

The Royal Canadian Mint has struck a two coin set to commemorate the completion of the transcontinental track and to honour the significant contribution of Chinese workers.

Canada Post produced new stamps, commemorative coins and even a chequebook designed with Feng Shui elements in honour of the more than one million Chinese Canadians who were celebrating the 2004 year of the monkey.

The Minister of Canadian Heritage, on the advice of Historic Sites and Monuments Board of Canada, has designated two national historic sites and one national historic event to commemorate achievements directly related to the Chinese Canadian community. One of the sites is at Yale, British Columbia and commemorates the role of the Chinese construction workers on the Canadian Pacific Railway.

For more than 30 years, the Canadian Museum of Civilization has supported a full curatorial program on East Asian Canadians, including research, collecting and program development.

One of the opening exhibits at the Canadian Museum of Civilization in 1989 was “Beyond the Golden Mountain: the Chinese in Canada”, at the time the most comprehensive museum exhibit on the Chinese Canadian experience ever mounted.

The multiculturalism program also has funded numerous research programs on the Chinese Canadian experience. In television and film, the National Film Board of Canada, the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation and the Department of Canadian Heritage have funded various films and television series which celebrate the history, heritage and contribution of the Chinese Canadian community. This is just the beginning.

In the October 2004 Speech from the Throne, the government pledged its objectives “in a manner that recognizes Canada's diversity as a source of strength and innovation”. We also pledged “to be a steadfast advocate of inclusion” and “to demand equality of opportunity so that prosperity can be shared by all Canadians”.

In line with these commitments, the government is now advancing a number of multicultural and anti-racism initiatives designed to cultivate an even more equitable and inclusive society.

In our 2005 budget we have provided $5 billion per year to the multiculturalism program to enhance its contributions to equality for all. In want to point out one thing as my time is running out. Budget 2005 also provides $25 million over the next three years for commemorative and educational initiatives that will highlight the contributions that the Chinese and other ethnocultural groups have made to Canadian society and it will help build a better understanding among all Canadians of the strength of Canadian diversity.

With this funding, the government is responding to demands from the community in a new way that respects both the concerns of the communities and the government's 1994 policy on this issue. We as a government are looking to the future of all Canadians.

Bill C-333 in its current form asks Parliament to apologize for actions taken by a previous government and to provide redress, but we have to move forward and control the future to ensure that the past never happens again.

To conclude, while the bill may not be perfect in its present form, and no bill is, I would ask all members to support second reading of this bill.

Civil Marriage Act March 24th, 2005

Mr. Speaker, I rise today to unequivocally support Bill C-38, the civil marriage act, and to urge colleagues in the House of Commons to attend to the swift passage of the bill to create uniformity of the current law with respect to marriage across Canada.

It is trite to say that the current legal definition in Ontario, the province which I come from, is the voluntary union for life of two persons. This definition was confirmed by the Ontario Court of Appeal on June 20, 2003, when it upheld the lower court's decision in Halpern v, Canada, Attorney General, et al. The then existing common law definition of marriage, the voluntary union for life of one man and one woman to the exclusion of all others, was found not only to violate the dignity of persons in same sex relationships, it was also found to violate equality rights on the basis of sexual orientation under subsection 15(1) of the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms.

Courts in seven other jurisdictions have already found that the Charter of Rights and Freedoms requires that civil marriage be available to same sex couples as well as opposite sex couples. Moreover, last December the Supreme Court of Canada said and we agree, that it was preferable that Parliament create uniformity of the law across Canada. We believe that the federal legislation is the best way to provide a clear Canada-wide approach, and the government will not allow the balkanization of marriage.

For many Canadians and many parliamentarians, acknowledging and accepting this new definition of marriage is a difficult issue. I too acknowledge that this new definition represents a very significant change to a long-standing social tradition and institution. However, long-standing customs and traditions are not reason alone for our laws not to evolve and reflect the reality of our society as our society evolves.

Let me begin to explain by first looking at what the history of the definition of marriage is and where it came from. The definition of marriage has its roots in the common law and the statutory marriage laws of England. It is generally understood that in common law, the definition that is routinely referred to is found in a statement of Lord Penzance in 1866 English case of Hyde v. Hyde and Woodmansee. That definitional statement of Lord Penzance reads as follows:

I conceive that marriage is understood in Christendom, may for this purpose be defined as the voluntary union for life of one man and one woman to the exclusion of all others.

Let us stop here for a second. It is very important to remember that this definition of marriage dates back over 139 years ago to 1866. I am sure that there is not a person in the House that would not agree with me that our Canadian society has evolved significantly over the last 139 years. In fact, neither the law of our land nor our society has remained static.

It is also important to note that when the Supreme Court of Canada rendered its decision in the reference on the legal capacity for marriage for civil purposes, the court specifically reviewed the 1866 definition of marriage and noted its reference to “Christendom”. In doing so, the Supreme Court of Canada commented as follows:

The reference to “Christendom” is telling. Hyde spoke to a society of shared social values where marriage and religion were thought to be inseparable. This is no longer the case. Canada is a pluralistic society. Marriage, from the perspective of the state, is a civil institution. The “frozen concepts” reasoning runs contrary to one of the most fundamental principles of Canadian constitutional interpretation: that our Constitution is a living tree which, by way of progressive interpretation, accommodates and addresses the realities of modern life. In the 1920s, for example, a controversy arose as to whether women as well as men were capable of being considered “qualified persons” eligible for appointment to the Senate of Canada. Legal precedent stretching back to Roman Law was cited for the proposition that women had always been considered “unqualified” for public office, and it was argued that this common understanding in 1867 was incorporated in s. 24 of the Constitution Act, 1867 and should continue to govern Canadians in succeeding ages.

It was indeed that famous persons case, to wit, the case known as Henrietta Muir Edwards and others versus the Attorney General for Canada and others, that in 1930 the House of Lords held that the British North America Act planted in Canada a living tree capable of growing and expansion within its natural limits.

It was also in that same decision the court did not accept the argument that because certain customs had been in existence at a time when a law had been passed, that those customs now precluded a different interpretation of the law.

The Attorney General had argued, when the law regarding persons was passed at common law, a woman was incapable of serving a public office. However, the House of Lords noted:

The fact that no woman had served or has claimed to serve such an office is not of great weight when it is remembered that custom would have been prevented the claim being made or the point being contested.

The House of Lords then went on to say:

Customs are apt to develop into traditions which are stronger than law and remain unchallenged after the reason for them has disappeared.

The court concluded, by saying:

The appeal to history--in this particular matter is not conclusive.

I would respectfully submit that these arguments are equally applicable to those individuals who would invoke the notwithstanding clause to enforce the old common law definition of marriage. Customs and traditions are challengeable and the appeal to history is not only not a conclusive argument but one that does not take into account the evolution of our society or the realities of today's society.

There is no doubt that change from traditions and customs always invokes debate. In fact, there is historical evidence to that effect. I suppose it would be trite to say that history often repeats itself.

In preparing for my intervention today, I went back to read the debates that occurred in 1918, when the House of Commons debated women's suffrage and whether women should be entitled to vote.

Although those debates occurred almost 100 years ago, the arguments made in 1918 are almost the same arguments that are being made today. In fact, I would very respectfully submit that the arguments being made today against Bill C-38 are similar to the ones made against women's suffrage. Many are made on very emotional, passionate grounds, but without any evidentiary proof whatsoever of alleged consequences.

I would like to quickly share with members, because I know my time is limited, what Mr. Fournier said in 1918, with respect to women's suffrage:

This bill, with respect to woman suffrage, which is now under our consideration, is only one of the forms of feminism which are now spreading throughout the world. The question may be asked whether all the laws which have opened the liberal professions to women and which conferred upon them the right to vote, or to be elected to Parliament, have had any beneficial results on the progress of civilization, or have advanced the happiness of humanity. It is our urgent duty as law-markers to examine this bill with the greatest care, and not to accept as necessary a radical reform, the advantages of which of which have not been clearly demonstrated. I for one say that it will be a great error if, on the pretext of giving a transitory liberty to a class, we should bring down women from their throne at the fireside, where natural law has placed them to fulfil a divine mission. If the consequences of this moment to take women from the home and to lead them into the public arena where men are disputing great questions, are good, it is evident that we must vote in favour of this bill; but if, on the other hand, it can be proved that those consequences would be evil for the country and regrettable for the home, it is our duty to vote against it.

I would submit that the debate speaks for itself.

To conclude, it has always been my belief that to deny same sex couples the right to marry is to deny them access to one of the fundamental institutions of our society. The new statutory definition of marriage does not create new rights. It simply ensures equality before the law.

Amending the old common law definition of marriage is not only about acknowledging how our society has evolved over the last 139 years, but also reflects the fundamental Canadian values of fairness, equality and non-discrimination. As the Prime Minister has noted, this legislation is about the kind of nation we are today and the kind of nation we want to be.

I know and I believe, as the Prime Minister said, that there are times when we as parliamentarians can feel the gaze of history upon us. They felt it in the days of Pearson; they felt it in the days of Trudeau. We, the 308 men and women elected to represent one of the most inclusive, just and respectful countries on the face of the earth, feel it today.

I feel privileged to have the honour to be part of this momentous period of Canadian history which confirms our charter and our values as a Canadian society. I know that my decision to uphold the charter and minority rights is the right decision. It is also a decision which I know my children, David, Lara and Alex, will always be proud of.

International Women's Day March 8th, 2005

Mr. Speaker, today is International Women's Day, the highlight of International Women's Week which started on Sunday, March 6 and runs to Saturday, March 12.

This year, Canada's theme for International Women's Week is “You are here: Women, Canada and the World”.

To commemorate International Women's Day, on Friday, March 4, I hosted my seventh annual breakfast in my riding to acknowledge the accomplishments of the women of Parkdale--High Park. The event celebrated the success of local women, including Kelly Thornton, an award winning theatre director; Stephanie Gibson, an author and history teacher; Heidi Suter, a lawyer; Nathalie Bonjour, an artistic producer; and Anita O'Connor, a founding member of the Parkdale Golden Age Foundation and its current executive director.

International Women's Day is an ideal opportunity to reflect on the progress made to advance women's equality, to assess the challenges facing women in contemporary society, to consider future steps to enhance the status of women and, of course, to celebrate the gains made in these areas, as well as an opportunity to honour all women in our communities.

Estonia February 25th, 2005

Mr. Speaker, yesterday Canadians of Estonian heritage celebrated the 87th anniversary of the declaration of the independence of Estonia.

On February 24, 1918, the Salvation Committee declared the independence of the Republic of Estonia. This date was celebrated as the date of independence until the Soviet occupation of Estonia in 1940. However, during the Soviet occupation, Independence Day continued to be celebrated in Estonian communities around the world, including those in Canada.

This is an important day for all Estonians. Even during the days of Soviet occupation, Estonians around the world openly celebrated this day in hopes that once again Estonia would be a sovereign state.

Since the restoration of independence on August 20, 1991, Independence Day continues to be a day of celebration and a day of reflection for the Estonian people.

I would like to offer my congratulations to the people of Estonia and Canadians of Estonian descent on this momentous occasion. Elagu eesti .

The Budget February 24th, 2005

Mr. Speaker, the budget does deliver immediate results, and I will use the gas tax as an example.

The member is from Winnipeg which is a large city like Toronto. The budget will increase the amount of the gas tax flowing to municipalities immediately. This builds on the GST rebate which came into effect the moment the Prime Minister became the leader of our party before the election. That money will start to flow right away.

The Manitoba Theatre Centre in Winnipeg is a huge cultural institution which benefits from the tomorrow starts today program for the arts which is provided through the Canada Council. Money has not only flowed to the MTC, but it will continue to flow to it and other organizations so they can plan ahead. This does not just benefit the institutions, but also the individual artists, and that is very important.

Many things will flow immediately from the budget.

One thing that has always been true about the Liberal approach is that we are always careful to balance fiscal responsibility with investing in programs that are important to Canadians. As the member knows, this is the eighth straight year that we have balanced the budget. That is more than any other OECD country. We are leaders in this area, and we are proud of that fact. By balancing our budgets, we are not paying huge amounts of money on debt. The interest alone that we saved is huge, and that money can be reinvested in the priorities of Canadians which are outlined in the budget.

Some things take effect immediately and others take effect over time. I submit this is an indication of fiscal prudence. We are investing in those things that are important to Canadians and that truly affect Canadian values.

The member indicated that minority governments last only one or two years. In the province of Ontario, the minority government of Bill Davis lasted four years. I am optimistic. We will continue to work together in cooperation, as we have, to ensure that we serve Canadians. I look forward to our continued work with the member opposite.

The Budget February 24th, 2005

Mr. Speaker, it is with great pleasure that I rise today to applaud the Prime Minister and the Minister of Finance on budget 2005. As the budget speech was so correctly subtitled, budget 2005 was “Delivering on Commitments”.

I would like to take the majority of the time that has been allotted to me to speak on the moneys that were allocated to the Department of Canadian Heritage.

Budget 2005 contains great news for the entire Canadian heritage portfolio. In fact, the Globe and Mail has the named the Department of Canadian Heritage as one of the winners, having received $1.6 billion in funding over five years for a multitude of cultural programs and heritage projects.

The government's commitment to our country's arts and cultural sector should not come as any surprise to anyone in the House. In our election platform, the government acknowledged that “Canadians believe that measuring a country's vitality goes beyond traditional economic yardsticks to include its culture, its heroes, its history and its stories”.

Therefore, the government committed in the election platform that it would undertake inter alia the following: first, to ensure that the policies of key cultural institutions suggest as Telefilm, the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation and the Canadian television fund are fully aligned with the objective of providing more successful Canadian programming of all genres; second, to make investments to better protect Canada's heritage sites and National Archives; and third, to provide, through the Canada Council, increased support for Canada's major arts organizations to more effectively enable the latter to export Canadian cultural excellence.

Following the sequence of events, after the election in its first Speech from the Throne, which was delivered on October 5, 2004, the government also noted the important role that culture plays in Canadian communities.

In the section in the Speech from the Throne, entitled “Canada's Cities and Communities”, the government noted the following:

What makes our communities vibrant and creative is the quality of their cultural life. The government will foster cultural institutions and policies that aspire to excellence, reflect a diverse and multicultural society, respond to the new challenges of globalization and the digital economy, and promote diversity of views in cultural expression at home and abroad.

I would respectfully submit that budget 2005 delivered on its commitment to arts and culture.

Yesterday in the budget speech the Minister of Finance again spoke about the arts and culture in reference to the cities and communities. He noted:

Canada's cities and communities are the places where most Canadians live and work, raise their children and want to retire in dignity and security. They are engines of growth, employment and innovation, centres of art, culture and learning.

This reference in the budget to arts and culture was accompanied by the following details, which are outlined on pages 99 to 102 of the budget plan. They are as follows.

First, the budget provides $172 million per year in new funding to provide stability for tomorrow starts today arts and culture initiative for another five years, for a total of $688 million. This brings the total funding for the tomorrow starts today program to $860 million over five years.

Second, the budget provides $5 million per year over five years to enhance the multiculturalism program. The budget plan also notes an investment of $10 million per year over five years to celebrate the Canada program for community based events and activities that offer all Canadians the opportunity to share their pride in their country.

Next, the budget allocates $56 million over the next five years to the implementation of “A Canada For All: Canada's Action Plan Against Racism”.

There is more. The budget allocates $25 million over the next three years for commemorative and educational initiatives to highlight the contribution that ethnocultural groups have made to Canadian society and to help build a better understanding among all Canadians.

Next is something about which I am very pleased. CBC/Radio-Canada will receive $60 million in 2005-06 to help ensure high quality programming. There is more. An amount of $5 million has been allocated for the aboriginal languages initiative.

Last but not least, $4.5 million in 2005-06 has been allocated for the Centre for Research and Information on Canada.

I am also glad to note that the arts community responded almost immediately after the budget speech had been delivered. The Canada Council for the Arts issued a news release noting that the “Federal budget brings good news for the arts”. In particular, the Canada Council for the Arts welcomed $25 million a year for the Canada Council. Speaking on behalf of the Canada Council, its chair, Karen Kain, stated the following:

“This is wonderful news, not only for the Canada Council, but also for the thousands of artists and arts organizations who receive Council funding,” she said. “I think this will allow the arts community to breathe a little easier, and we greatly appreciate the government’s efforts in making this happen”.

Ms. Kain also went on to note the following:

“The number of artists and arts organizations in Canada has increased dramatically over the past two decades, and far too many deserving projects have had to be turned down because of lack of funds,” she said. “We are pleased that the government recognizes the challenges we face, and appreciates the value the arts bring to Canadians and their communities.”

I would also like to point out that today the Canadian Conference of the Arts also specifically applauded the Minister of Finance and congratulated the Minister of Canadian Heritage on the renewal of the tomorrow starts today funding. Speaking on behalf of the CCA, its national director, Jean Malavoy, noted the following:

We are grateful for the extension of tomorrow starts today. We congratulate [the Minister of Canadian Heritage] and her colleagues on this significant step, and we expect that this five year extension represents the foundation on which increased funding for culture can be built.

Indeed, I can speak first-hand of the importance that the arts community attributes to the renewal of the tomorrow starts today's money.

After being given the privilege of being appointed Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Canadian Heritage by the Prime Minister in the summer, I began conducting a series of consultations with artistic and cultural organizations in Ontario. The most common themes that were raised during these consultations included the need for stable, multi-year funding, including the immediate renewal of the tomorrow starts today program, the enhancement of the Canada Council and the recognition of the key role that our cultural institutions play in the economic and social well-being of our cities and communities.

However, I would also like to add today that the arts community found perhaps a new ally in its quest to request funding for the arts and the renewal of the tomorrow starts today program. The Federation of Canadian Municipalities, at its last annual meeting, passed a resolution calling upon the Government of Canada to renew the tomorrow starts today program.

For those people who do not know, the tomorrow starts today program first came into place in 2001, which was the largest reinvestment in the arts. Again, we see this reinvestment continuing.

I would submit that in general the Liberal government's 2005 budget delivers on all of its key platform commitments, including building the 21st century economy, securing Canada's social foundation, addressing climate change and meeting our global responsibilities.

I am so proud to be a member of the Liberal team. This budget fulfills the commitments made in the Liberal election platform. It also reflects the priorities of my constituents, as evidenced by the results of prebudget consultations which I held in the riding and which I spoke about in our prebudget consultations.

One must always remember that the budget document allows the government to make fiscal choices that reflect the kind of society that we want. I believe that budget 2005 accurately reflects the kind of Canada that not only the people of Parkdale--High Park want, but the people of Canada want.