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Crucial Fact

  • His favourite word was forces.

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

Won his last election, in 2000, with 71% of the vote.

Statements in the House

Ballistic Missile Defence February 17th, 2004

Madam Chair, the member is quite correct. Even if George Bush were to be re-elected, there is no way that this system, any kind of weaponization of space, could possibly be deployed in his time as president and certainly Canada would not be there. Canada would not be supporting that.

Ballistic Missile Defence February 17th, 2004

Oh yes, the Americans have had a number of tests that have worked. In fact, for any country that can put a man on the moon and can put the kind of equipment that they have on Mars, it certainly will not take long before they master this technology. They will.

It is a discrete system. It is one that we can sign on to and say, “Yes, that is in the defence of North America. That is a completely defensive system”. As we have said to them quite clearly, “If you go to weaponization of space, we are not going to be there with you”.

Ballistic Missile Defence February 17th, 2004

Madam Chair, not everybody believes that is where it is ultimately going to end, but even given that a lot of people say that--and the member has quoted a number of people--we do not have to be there with them, just as we were not there with them in Iraq. We took a stand. We said no. We did not agree with what they were doing there. We did not agree with them operating outside the multilateral process. We were not going to go that way. People said that we were going to pay a price for that, but we said, “No, we believe that is the right thing to do”.

We will do what we believe is in our interests and what is in the interests of the worldwide community. Weaponization of space is not in the interests of the worldwide community.

If the United States ultimately decides to go there, we will just say no. We are with them in terms of missile defence. It is a discrete system. It is a system that can work.

Ballistic Missile Defence February 17th, 2004

Madam Chair, we will only go as far as we feel it is in our national interest to go. We do not want to go in the direction of the weaponization of outer space. Even if the Americans eventually go there, we do not have to go there, just as we did not go to Iraq.

We make the decisions that are in our national interest. I believe this is in our national interest, but to go to the weaponization of space is not. I have every confidence that Canadians know where to draw the line, where it is in our interest and where it is not in our interest.

In terms of trying to please the Americans, they are our closest neighbour, our closest friend and ally, and our major trading partner. We certainly want to work with them in terms of defence and security of North America, just as we work together in all those other areas. We have to look at what our interests and our values are. We have to determine whether we can go in this direction with them. Sometimes we will be able to go with them and sometimes we will not.

We will make those kinds of distinctions. I have every confidence that the government and the people of this country will do what is in our own national interest.

Ballistic Missile Defence February 17th, 2004

Madam Chair, in the period since the end of the Cold War we have seen a proliferation of weapons of mass destruction and their delivery systems. We have seen a diffusion of technology going throughout the world that has been used in those cases to develop chemical, biological and perhaps even nuclear weapons.

We have heard just in the last few days about nuclear secrets coming out of Pakistan. Just in the last year or two, we have seen the development of two-stage missile systems, medium to long range missile systems out of North Korea, not necessarily for their own use but perhaps for sales to others.

If this trend continues, then it is quite conceivable that somewhere in future years we could see a launching of an intercontinental ballistic missile against a city in North America with a nuclear or some other kind of warhead on it.

I would think that if that kind of circumstance were to occur, I would not see that anybody would object if we could send up a missile to destroy that incoming missile before it hit its target.

That is all we are talking about. We are talking about a defensive missile system. It has no warhead on it, but it goes up into space and at a very high speed hits the incoming missile and destroys that missile before it can hit its target and kill literally thousands upon thousands of people.

I do not see why anybody would be against having that kind of system. That kind of system is not star wars. It does not lead to an arms race. It is a completely defensive system. It does not lead us down the path to weaponization of outer space.

I do not believe that we are going to see the Americans go that route any time soon, but even if ultimately they did, there is no reason that we have to be there with them. In fact, we should not be there with them. We oppose the weaponization of outer space.

There are those who say “but if we get into this path of ballistic missile defence it is a slippery slope”. No, it is not. We quite clearly indicated in the war on terrorism that we would go to Afghanistan with our American allies, but we did not go to Iraq. We made a decision that we felt was in our national interest. We went to one and we did not go to the other.

We can make those kinds of distinctions and those kinds of decisions on any other matter, including this whole question of how far to go on these defensive weapons. Weaponization of outer space is something that this country opposes and should continue to oppose.

Nor do we have to go with any substantial capital costs. The Americans have already provided for the capital costs for this system. Quite frankly, we could not afford it in any event. There could be some costs with respect to administration, with respect to operational issues of having additional personnel at Norad, for example, but we would not be participating in any substantial capital costs.

If this sounds like the system is a fait accompli, that is because it is. It is not something that has been invented by the Bush administration. In fact, it is the subject of a piece of legislation that passed through the United States Congress in 1999: the national missile defence act. It was signed into existence by the former president, Bill Clinton. The current president has said that they will deploy missiles starting this fall.

Starting this fall: so I think there is a need to get on with this in discussion with our American allies, because if they are going to make decisions that affect the safety and the security of the people of North America, then I think it is in our national interest to be at the table.

Being at the table involves, to my mind, Norad. Norad is the agency between Canada and the United States that we have had for over 50 years and that has successfully monitored anything coming into the airspace of North America. It detects missiles coming in. It can detect any object from outer space. It detects aircraft. Originally it was designed to detect strategic bombers coming in over the Pole from the Soviet Union as it existed in those days, but today it plays a very important role in detecting anything happening in our airspace.

It was very vital on September 11, 2001. Norad quickly moved to deal with the issues involved and to have planes come into Canada at that particular point in time, as many of them did. They controlled the airspace. There was a Canadian in the command position at the time of the disaster of 9/11, so Canada played a very key role in that.

Norad can detect anything coming in and it can send jet fighters up to deal with anything, except that it does not have missiles. Missiles are the one missing part of a defensive system. If we do have an incoming offensive missile, Norad is the logical entity to be dealing with sending up a defensive missile to destroy it.

I think we need to work that out in the Norad context. If we do not, then the Americans will be making these decisions on their own and we will be left outside the door. It will marginalize Norad. We cannot afford to have that happen. We need to be there. We need to be part of the decision making process. That is certainly in the interests of the people of our country. I hope that is the decision we will ultimately make: to be a partner. That is in our interest.

Resumption of Debate on Address in Reply February 5th, 2004

Mr. Speaker, as I indicated earlier in my remarks, cities, where 80% of our population lives, are the economic engines of this country. Cities find themselves in the situation where they are competing more and more with other cities of the world. Toronto competes, not with cities within Canada, but with some of the major cities in other countries, whether they be in the United States, South America, Europe or wherever.

What we are attempting to do here with the new deal is recognize that. We are attempting to bolster our cities' opportunities to continue providing those economic benefits to our entire population. It is like the goose that laid the golden egg. We want to continue to nurture that goose so it can continue to do that for the benefit of all Canadians and advance our economic endeavours worldwide.

Resumption of Debate on Address in Reply February 5th, 2004

Mr. Speaker, this is a novel throne speech in terms of cities because there has never been this kind of mention of cities before. In the case of the GST, there has been nothing quite as specific as that in terms of the instant benefit that will go back to our cities. Let us give some credit where credit is due in terms of something that is quite new.

Giving our cities and municipalities a place at the table is also vital toward solving problems, including poverty. Yes, I think we should all hang our heads in shame about poverty. However over the years the government has put a lot of attention on poverty, particularly for children. The child tax benefit and the entire child care program that is now evolving are all designed to help meet the needs of our poorer families and to meet the needs of our future generation of Canadian citizens and voters, our children.

A lot of progress has been made. A lot of good things have been done but, yes, there is still a lot to do. Every member of the House, of all political parties, decided that poverty should be eradicated. We all should hang our heads in shame because we still have that kind of problem.

The government has been dedicated over the last 10 years and continues to be dedicated to doing what it can to cut down on poverty and give people in this country an equal opportunity.

Resumption of Debate on Address in Reply February 5th, 2004

Mr. Speaker, in addressing the Speech from the Throne I want to focus my time on the new deal for cities, or “new deal for communities” as it is fashioned in the speech.

I have three reasons for doing that. First, my riding of York Centre is located at the geographical centre of Toronto and when I go door to door and visit with my constituents I hear a lot more about high property taxes and complaints about inadequacies in municipal services than I do about federal problems.

Second, I bring a perspective as a former mayor of Toronto for some 11 years, and the issues of the financial squeeze that cities are facing is something that I personally understand.

Third, I am chair of the GTA caucus, which is a caucus of some 40 Liberal members of Parliament who represent a population of almost five million people in an urban situation.

The Speech from the Throne is outlining what I would see as the beginning of an urban strategy, and it is a needed urban strategy. It is something I have advocated for a long period of time. After all, 80% of the people of this country live in urban areas. The engines of our economy are urban areas. They are very important parts of the cultural mosaic of this country, so we need to have an urban strategy, just as we need a rural strategy, for dealing across departments on a horizontal level with the various issues we face.

In this throne speech we see GST relief for municipalities. That is a good thing. It puts money very quickly back into the hands of the municipalities. In my case, in the City of Toronto it is some $52 million. Also important is the fact that some $20 million will go to the benefit of the Toronto Transit Commission, the TTC, which it needs badly to help cover its deficit situation in terms of the provision of public transit.

The GST relief is a measure that has been applauded by municipal leaders. It may not be the opposition applauding, but certainly we have heard from the mayor of Toronto, the mayor of Winnipeg and the mayors of a whole lot of other cities who are unanimously and very vocally in favour of what has been provided in this Speech from the Throne. It was a very specific measure that was announced.

Second, there was the acceleration of infrastructure last year in the budget. We, for the first time, went to a lengthy period of time: 10 years for an infrastructure program. That is good, because what the municipalities want is some predictability. They want to know that over a long period of time they can plan and rely upon that money coming in. It is good that in the infrastructure program we lever provincial money and we lever municipal money. That helps add to the pot to do more to help strengthen our infrastructure and stop the deterioration of our infrastructure in our urban areas.

So now we are talking about accelerating, and we need to accelerate because we need to get more money in subsequent budgets. The infrastructure program, which I was pleased to have been able to start for the federal government when I was minister of the Treasury Board back in 1993-94, I think is a solid program of great need for urban areas right across the country.

Third, the throne speech says that city hall will get a place at the table and I think that is vital as well. There are three orders of government, maybe only two of them officially in the Constitution, but to the citizens out there who are the taxpayers for all three levels of government they are all important and we need to have the perspective of our municipal leaders at the table.

I can remember that back in the mid-1970s when I first became a municipal politician we had things called tri-level meetings, that is, federal-provincial-municipal. Those were great days in terms of dialogue and cooperation. There was even an urban affairs ministry of the federal government. I think we can get back to a table that does have three orders of government planning together. I think we could see agreements between those three orders of government that would help make our cities, our urban areas, more liveable places in continuing to contribute to the economic and cultural vitality of our country.

I think the throne speech is a solid, welcome piece of work.

As next steps, there are other urban issues and other aspects of the new deal that need to be examined. In Toronto, for example, we are in a crisis situation on two big issues, urban transit and affordable housing. In many other urban areas across the country those two issues are significant. However, overall, all municipalities are facing infrastructure problems.

Let me highlight the two problems because I think they are important. We cannot leave these problems to the municipalities. We cannot expect that the GST relief will cover these areas. There is a lot more that needs to be done. We need to be a partner with them. All three levels of government need to be partners in dealing with issues such as urban transit and affordable housing.

The problem of urban transit in Toronto results in the city suffering from gridlock. The board of trade says that we are losing $2 billion a year in our economy because of this gridlock. Part of the answer to that is to get people on public transit. However in the last few years we have been making it more difficult for people to get on public transit. There have been cutbacks in service and in maintenance, and higher fares.

The Toronto Transit Commission receives less government support than any major transit system in the world. It receives 20% support from the provincial government at this point in time. It was getting 50% support and 75% for capital. It receives a lot less but receives some support from the provincial government.

If we were to look at some of the major transit systems in the United States we would see that they get federal support as well. In fact, their total government support far exceeds what ours is, even in other parts of Canada. For example, in Montreal I think we would find 30% or 40% government support versus the 20% support that exists in Toronto.

Therefore the province needs to do more and the federal government needs to do more in terms of urban transit if we are to solve this gridlock problem. We have to solve it if we want to keep our cities viable and keep them as the economic engines of our country. Toronto, like a lot of the other cities, is very important to the coffers of the government as well.

I will now turn to affordable housing. This is a very sad situation. We need a housing strategy in this country. We need a federally led housing strategy with a partnership with the other levels of government as well. We need to deal with the problem of homelessness and the problems that seniors face.

In Toronto we have some 70,000 people on a waiting list for housing geared to income. Those people are being told they will have to wait seven or eight years. That is unacceptable. These are people who are spending 50% or 60% of their income in some cases on rent. They do not have enough money to make ends meet. In fact, they have to go to food banks. We have over 6,000 children who live in homeless shelters. We have seniors, even though there is indexing in their pensions and it is geared to the cost of living, the CPI, whereas rents in Toronto have been increasing twice as fast as that particular rate has. Therefore, they are into a squeeze as well.

I have had seniors in York Centre tell me that they are paying 50%, 60% or more of their income on housing. Again, that is a terrible situation in which to put our seniors. A lot of people are suffering as a result of this housing crisis.

We need a housing strategy. We need to get on with developing affordable housing with the other levels of government and we need to do it now in both of these cases because we are in a crisis situation.

The throne speech clearly says that in the new deal this is a down payment. That is welcome terminology because it means that there is a lot more to be done. I know the Prime Minister and his parliamentary secretary have a long list of things they want to do. We have talked about the gas tax, and that is certainly one item that I think can go a long way toward helping meet the transportation costs in our municipalities, whether it is roads or urban transit. Urban transit, certainly in the greater Toronto area, needs the major amount of focus.

Yes, the throne speech is a good down payment and a good start but there is more to do. I am glad we are heading down the road of an urban strategy. I congratulate the Prime Minister and the cabinet for helping move us in that direction in this throne speech.

Chabad June 11th, 2003

Mr. Speaker, I rise to pay tribute to Chabad Lubavitch which is the world's largest network of Jewish educational and social service institutions. The Chabad movement was founded in the 18th century in the Russian city of Lubavitch. The word Chabad is an acronym for the Hebrew words for wisdom, understanding and knowledge, representing a philosophy of life that integrates the spirit of humanity with the physical reality of the world.

Chabad is a worldwide movement with 3,000 branches in almost 50 countries on six continents. Chabad operates schools, youth centres, social agencies, summer groups, soup kitchens, medical clinics, and non-sectarian drug rehabilitation centres.

At the present time, more than 100,000 children are being educated in Chabad schools. Chabad houses serve as a home away from home for college and university students. They offer food for the body, nourishment for the soul, and non-judgmental advisers always willing to listen.

Supply May 29th, 2003

Mr. Speaker, I think NATO still is very relevant. One sign is the fact that many countries have just joined and many countries still want to join because they recognize two things are important for their future prosperity. One is economic prosperity, which they hope to get through membership or affiliation with the European Union. The other, which is basically and fundamentally needed first, is a sense of security, particularly with some of the past conflicts in Europe. The desire to have the sense of security that comes through NATO is very important to them.

NATO is a collective defence organization. I do not think any one of our countries could defend itself against a major onslaught. It would need collective defence mechanisms. We have built up and are continuing to build up an interoperability among the different countries. NATO is itself developing capabilities like the AWACS system or perhaps even a strategic lift that can be used for the member countries on a shared basis. Collective defence is still a very valid thing.

NATO though in future, as the situation in Yugoslavia settles down and becomes much better than it was in the past, could use its rapid reaction forces to help in terms of peace support operations in other parts of the world, either under the UN or some other international banner where it could make a valuable contribution in the future.