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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

Supply May 29th, 2003

Mr. Speaker, in answer to the first question, yes I believe this will improve relations with the United States. This is an area that we have seen time and time again in the past through Norad where a very strong cooperation exists and adding to it with this defensive system is positive in that direction.

With respect to fissile materials and the whole question of controls, NATO has taken a considerable interest in that. There is a nuclear committee at NATO. I attended many of its meetings over the years as defence minister, and in more recent years since the end of the cold war, this has been the prime topic of discussion. The United States has put considerable time and effort into trying to bring about better controls of these materials. It has worked with the Russians in that regard. NATO and the NATO countries, including our own, have also been part and parcel of that.

However there is no doubt that some of the people and some of the information has gone out and the threat of proliferation has been added to by that very fact. That is part of the reason why this kind of response is coming from the United States in terms of protection through ballistic missile defence. It is not the only means but it certainly is an area that can help in this regard and it is an area of concern given the breakup of the Soviet Union.

However there are substantial controls, as much as there can be, and efforts are being made through NATO and the United States to control those materials and the information involving nuclear weapons.

Supply May 29th, 2003

Mr. Speaker, I will be sharing my time with the member for Davenport, although I suspect we may have some divergent views on the issue before us.

I do support the ballistic defence missile program that our government has now decided to sit down and discuss with the United States.

However I think the member for Don Valley West, who spoke earlier, had a valid point when he took on the word “any” in this resolution. His concern was that this might open it up to the question of weapons in outer space. I would counsel the member who is the sponsor of the motion and her party to consider an amendment that would say “excluding weaponization of outer space”. That is already the policy not only of the government but it is a treaty we have signed.

Surely we will not abrogate our treaty or create some confusion about that treaty. We are simply, as per that treaty and as per government policy stated on many occasions, against the weaponization of outer space. Getting involved with this program does not, I would suggest lead us to that other program.

There are those who will say that it is a slippery slope. I do not buy that argument. We just decided on the campaign against terrorism to draw a line. We said that we would go to Afghanistan. We said that we would fight terrorism in many different respects. However we did not agree with the position of the Bush administration with respect to Iraq. We made a decision that we felt was right for us.

We know when and where to draw the line. Weaponization of outer space is something that we should continue to oppose and that word “any” will create some confusion, and we could well clear up this confusion with an amendment.

I will get to the main substance of what we are talking about, which is Norad and a ballistic missile defence system that would operate from the ground or from water perhaps, but certainly earth based as opposed to space based.

I believe we should go this route. Why? We are dealing with the safety and security of Canadians. We are expected to do what we can to defend our country and our safety and security.

Is there a threat? Yes, there is a threat. It may not be imminent. It may not be something that is immediately around the corner. These things take time to plan out. They are still testing the system of being able to hit a missile with a missile. We are looking at perhaps a few years down the road where this threat could become very real.

What are the signs that this is the case? The signs are the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction. If we look at the statistics, many more countries are possessing these kind of weapons nowadays and with technology advancing as it is, it is possible for this technology to spread around.

There was concern when the Soviet Union broke up that many of the scientists were spreading their capabilities and selling their capabilities in many different parts of the world. We cannot take that lightly. It may not seem like it is around the corner or that it will happen today, but we have to plan these kind of defences out in advance.

Indeed let me point out that it is a defensive system. This is a non-nuclear missile that we are talking about, totally defensive, totally for the purpose of knocking down an incoming weapon that may have a warhead of mass destruction, and doing that quite far out from the atmosphere of the earth so a disintegration of the weapon occurs.

If we can develop such a weapon or be part of the United States developing such a weapon, why would we not? It is an entirely defensive matter. It does not lead to what is called star wars at all. We make a decision based on this project and its merits alone. That is really what is before us at this point in time.

There is more testing that needs to be done. People may question that. However I can state that the technology is feasible. They will get through the testing. They will be able to make this happen.

What is being asked of us in this regard? We are not being asked to contribute any of the capital costs. We are not being asked to contribute land. We are being asked if we would support what the United States is doing. Since it is in our interest, because the Americans are talking about defending the continent, I believe we should be a part of it.

In fact we have a logical bilateral institution that should be taking responsibility for the operations of this system, and that is Norad. Norad already has the responsibility for detecting anything that comes into North American air space, whether it be a missile or a jet fighter, a bomb or whatever it may be. Also, it already has the responsibility to intercept, except the inventory of what it has to use to intercept will not cover every such possible intrusion in future. Jet fighters will not stop an ICBM if one should be coming into our continent.

Even if it is not aimed at our country, there are a lot of border cities that one has to consider could be at risk. If there is an accidental launch or a rogue regime launch, maybe not likely at this point but could happen somewhere down the road, who is to say the accuracy would be so great that we could be sure it would not come into Canadian space?

I believe when it comes to the defence of North America, Norad is an example of where we work in a cooperative way with the United States. The U.S. puts a lot more money into it than we do. We get a bargain for what we put into it, and yet we are right at the table. The deputy commander is a Canadian general and Canadians are in the operations room. I have been there. I have been in Colorado Springs and in Cheyenne Mountain. I have seen the operational systems and Canadians are very much at the centre of that system. In fact, Canadians were in the control seat on September 11 and on many other occasions. There is a very suitable integration in defence of our common continent between our two countries, and that is the logical institution for control and decision-making on the system on an operational basis day in and day out.

If we decide not to become part of the ballistic missile defence system, I believe Norad will be marginalized because we will have decisions being made only by Americans, which could affect us. I do not believe that is right. We are far better off being inside the tent, as is being said, or inside the room at the table. We are far better off knowing what is going on, getting all the information we need and being part of the decision making that flows back to our government as well as the U.S. government. It works that way today and it should continue to work that way with ballistic missile defence.

It does not solve all the problems in terms of the threats. Obviously, ballistic missile defence would not have stopped what happened on September 11, but that should be a warning and it should also be an understanding of the kind of concern our American neighbours have about the threat to them.

Therefore, let us be a part of a system that is in our security interests.

Member for Oshawa May 5th, 2003

Mr. Speaker, I rise today with the unfortunate duty of informing the House that the hon. member for Oshawa has been hospitalized in the United Kingdom as a result of an apparent heart attack. He is in stable condition and resting comfortably. He is in good spirits, with his wife Beverley at his side.

As a testament to my colleague's commitment to the people of Oshawa, he continues to be in frequent contact with his constituency office and to serve the people of his riding.

I ask all hon. members to join me in sending our best wishes to the member and his wife. We look forward to his full recovery and quick return to Parliament.

Housing May 2nd, 2003

Mr. Speaker, I welcome the appointment of the hon. member for Mississauga West to the cabinet. Knowing his support for affordable housing, his job with respect to Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation will be most beneficial to Canadians.

I want to ask him a question in connection with the SARS disease. There are many people who are having trouble with their mortgage payments because of their loss of income because of this terrible disease. I wonder what Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation could do to assist those people?

Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome April 28th, 2003

Mr. Speaker, the member can ask me a question afterward if he wants to have me say something other than what I am saying. I would be happy to answer that further.

There will be an attempt to get the travel advisory lifted. It was over the top and an overreaction by the World Health Organization. Some evidence of that is the fact that officials from the Centers for Disease Control in Atlanta went to Toronto to study the situation and quite appropriately said it was not a matter of avoiding the city. They indicated there was no reason to avoid the city. If people were going to avoid being in contact with SARS they should avoid those health care institutions where there have been patients with SARS. That was a reasonable approach.

Nevertheless the World Health Organization is concerned about the spread of it in other parts of the world. I can appreciate that if this disease got into developing countries that do not have the health care system that we have in Canada it could be catastrophic.

Hopefully the team that is going over there will be able to persuade the WHO that the travel advisory needs to be lifted. When that is done, and with the cooperation of the three levels of government, people in the international community will be told that the advisory has been lifted and that Toronto is a safe place to visit. This should restore some of the large revenues lost by the tourism and hospitality industries in Toronto.

Tomorrow the greater Toronto area caucus will meet again on this issue. It will look at several recommendations that came from the summit today from the Chinese business associations and from the unions representing those in the hospitality industry in Toronto and will make further recommendations to the government. Ministers will be attending the session tomorrow. This will give us an opportunity for a fulsome discussion.

The bottom line is that the governments at all three levels are pulling together to resolve this issue. There has been some question about leadership. I think the media has distorted and exaggerated that issue considerably. There is always room for improvement in leadership, but in this particular case people have done what was necessary for them to do.

In the early stages of this it was necessary to hear from the medical profession. They were the ones giving the daily advisories on this matter and appropriately so since it was a medical concern. Now we all need to be engaged in terms of a recovery plan. We have to get the Toronto economy and the Ontario and national economies which are all affected by this, moving again. We have to get people to come to our country, our province and our city.

Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome April 28th, 2003

Mr. Speaker, I only heard a little bit about what the previous speaker was referring to with respect to emergency preparedness. As the former minister who was in charge of that, I think she has it completely wrong. The appropriateness of the handling of this particular case lies with the Minister of Health and the Minister of Health has carried out her responsibilities appropriately.

There has been a coordinated effort from Health Canada, the provincial and local health authorities. There has been the provision of equipment and support in many other different ways. I talked with the Minister of Health this morning in Toronto as she was talking with health officials in that city. She is carrying out the appropriate function, which in terms of emergency preparedness is properly assigned to the appropriate minister, she being the appropriate minister in this case.

I rise with two perspectives on this issue. One is as the chair of the greater Toronto area caucus of some 40 MPs, all Liberals of course, and some senators who have been seized of this matter for the past few weeks and have been dialoguing with officials as well as ministers with respect to the handling of this issue. I also come at it from the perspective of being a lifelong resident of Toronto and one who spent some 22 years as a member of the local government, 11 years as the mayor of Toronto. I can frankly say that never in that period of time have I ever seen a health challenge quite the same as this one.

As it is turning out, the health challenge has been handled enormously well by the professional health care staff in Toronto, in Ontario and in Canada. We are now getting to a point where the cases of SARS are on a downward curve. It is contained. It is controlled.

Certainly the praise for the front line workers is very well deserved. Doctors, nurses and many other health care workers have gone above and beyond in terms of the performance of their duties. I know the people of Toronto are very grateful, as indeed we should be right across the country for what they have been able to do.

We are coming into a period of time where much of the focus will now shift to the economic damage that has been done in the city, the province and the country, first and foremost to the tourism industry and the Chinese businesses that exist in the Toronto area.

This morning the Minister of Transport and I were at city hall in Toronto in what was called a SARS summit. It was brought together by various Chinese business associations who felt the initial impact. In fact, they said this morning that 50% to 80% of their business had been lost in this period of time, that people were not shopping and were not going to restaurants. We do know that a number of members of Parliament, our Prime Minister and others have gone into Chinese restaurants as a demonstration of just how safe it is.

Indeed I spent the last little while during most of the recess in Toronto. Life is going on in the city and has been going on in the city. There are not people walking around with masks. Rarely would people see that. The containment is within the various health facilities that have been dealing with the SARS outbreak. I say outbreak but we all know that more people die of flu and there are more people who are stricken with other kinds of diseases than this. It has been very well contained.

The mystery of it has added to the anxiety, quite naturally, not knowing exactly where it has come from or exactly how to treat it. I hope we can continue to work on that. There has been some suggestion of a vaccine. That certainly is worth exploring.

The Minister of Health said today that we need to study the lessons to be learned in terms of this particular problem. We definitely need to do that to see if there are ways we can tighten up the things we do and the procedures we carry out to help ensure that we are prepared if this kind of thing should ever occur again. We certainly hope it will not.

With respect to the economic concerns, business associations from the Chinese community have asked for some financial aid. Many of their businesses are on the verge of bankruptcy. We certainly need to look at what can be done to help them. Last week the Prime Minister announced $10 million which would match the provincial $10 million and the city of Toronto's $5 million. This would help to provide a recovery program for Toronto. This would give back to Toronto the reputation and image it deserves as a world class city.

The WHO travel advisory needs to be lifted. The Ontario minister of health and representatives of the federal Minister of Health are going over there hoping to—

Middle East April 9th, 2003

Mr. Speaker, I rise today to address the anti-Israel petition that was filed in the House on March 31 by the member for the riding of Quebec.

There is no connection between Israel's struggle with suicide bombers and Saddam Hussein's many years of non-compliance with UN inspections. Israel is a democracy and an ally in our campaign on terrorism.

The fundamental cause of the ongoing crisis in the disputed territories is the reluctance of the Palestinian side to accept Israeli existence, to renounce a strategy of terrorism and compromise, something that I hope will happen with the new Palestinian prime minister.

Israel has the responsibility to protect its people from suicide bombers. It is careful to minimize civilian casualties, and the allegations of Israeli massacres are fabrications.

Israel proved its commitment to peace at Camp David in July 2000 when it put forward a two state solution. Yasser Arafat responded with a strategy of violence. Terrorism cannot bring peace to this region, and Canada must stand by its Israeli allies in our campaign against this global threat.

Citizenship and Immigration April 2nd, 2003

Mr. Speaker, my question is for the Minister of Citizenship and Immigration. I read today about a holocaust survivor, a 75 year old woman suffering from Alzheimer's, who presently resides in my constituency. She is under threat, unfortunately, for deportation. The officials of the department are talking about sending her back to the United States. Her husband has died and she has no friends or family to look after her but she does have two sisters here.

Could the Minister of Citizenship and Immigration do something to help in this case?

Supply March 24th, 2003

Mr. Speaker, there is no doubt that this war is costing the United States treasury an awful lot of money. I suppose it will try to find means to recover it. I would not be surprised if we found familiar names of oil companies working in Iraq before long, names of companies based in the United States.

However I think we have a big risk though beyond the war and that is in the time of occupation with an American being a military governor, a la MacArthur at the end of the second world war in Japan. That is a very risky business. I think it will create a lot of animosity with the Arab and Muslim world. It will not be the end of this challenge and this problem that is faced.

I hope that does not prove to be the case but war frequently does not go the way we expect it to. Winning the peace can be also a very difficult matter.

Supply March 24th, 2003

Mr. Speaker, I do not think it has been an issue as to the number of inspectors. I think that most countries at the United Nations said that if Mr. Blix wanted more he could get more. He said, no, that he felt he had the number of people he needed. He just needed more time to carry it out but he believed that disarmament could be achieved.

The member asks, what about the last dozen years. Yes, it is quite true that Saddam Hussein got away with an awful lot for an awful long period of time. There I think we give credit to President Bush for putting up the pressure, for creating the kind of circumstances that the inspectors could operate in and actually achieve things. However, then at the end, instead of giving the inspectors the full time they needed to do the job, and I believe they could have done the job, he went over the top and pulled out of the United Nations process and attacked. I believe that was the wrong decision.