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Crucial Fact

  • His favourite word was forces.

Last in Parliament May 2004, as Liberal MP for Perth—Middlesex (Ontario)

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

Statements in the House

Access To Information Act May 11th, 2000

Mr. Speaker, the Access to Information Act came into force on July 1, 1983. At that time it was a revolutionary piece of legislation and represented a significant leap forward for the right to know.

By enacting the Access to Information Act, Canada joined a group of elite countries whose governments had opened their files to their citizens. Prior to the Access to Information Act, access to government information could be granted or denied according to the whim of the government official who responded.

However, after the coming into force of that legislation, Canadian citizens could not be denied access to information without proper justification. Parliament had established the principle that Canadians citizens and landed immigrants were entitled to have access to documents held by the government, subject only to specific and limited exceptions provided for in the act.

These exceptions were established after considerable thought in order to maintain a balance between the right of access to information and privacy, business secrets, national security and the need to maintain a climate of open communication for policy making purposes.

To further emphasize the commitment to openness, most of the exemptions contained in the act were made discretionary. There is no harm or injury to the interest protected by the exemption, then the institution is not prevented from releasing the information.

The Access to Information Act also provides applicants with an appeal process if some or all the information they have requested is denied or if they are unsatisfied with the processing of the request. Complaints may initially be made to an independent officer who reports directly to parliament, the information commissioner and then, if the applicant is still unsatisfied, to the federal court.

The Access to Information Act represented a major commitment to openness by the Government of Canada. Since then, most provinces have passed legislation providing access, to varying degrees, to government information.

This right to know embodied in legislation is one means of giving Canadians an insight into what their government is doing. It also enables citizens to access and use the information that their government holds on their behalf.

Canadians agree that the machinery of government has become more complex over time, its responsibilities are broader and its decisions have a direct impact on their lives. This is why it is important to be accountable to the population and to constantly ensure that the government systematically releases information on its activities.

It is therefore important to remember that the Access to Information Act was intended to supplement other traditional ways of making government information available to the public. I believe that the Access to Information Act has encouraged institutions to identify many categories of information that can be released without formal requests. Many institutions have, on their own initiative, placed useful information on their websites, in their libraries or in their reading rooms.

Since 1983 the environment in which the Government of Canada operates has changed. Technology has had a tremendous impact on the way government delivers programs and services to Canadian citizens, and on how information is collected, processed, and managed within the government.

Following these changes, some argued that the provisions of the Access to Information Act are now outdated and require a major update to take into account the new information technologies. Consequently, many individuals and interest groups propose changes touching on specific aspects of the act and some more general changes.

Parliamentarians are among those who want to change the act. While some members used the Access to Information Act to get government information, others introduced private members' bills to amend it.

For example, section 67.1 was the most recent amendment to the act. This section was added when Bill C-208 was proclaimed on March 25, 1999. This was a significant amendment to the act as it made it a criminal offence for any person to wilfully obstruct the right of access provided by the Access to Information Act.

Bill C-208 received all party support in the House, sending a clear message that all parties strongly support the concept of openness.

Another private member's bill is the bill we are debating today, Bill C-206 which was re-introduced by the hon. member for Wentworth—Burlington. This bill proposes a variety of amendments to the Access to Information Act.

I believe this bill is a good start. The member is to be congratulated for his leadership on this important issue. He has demonstrated his commitment to the concept of openness by proposing 33 amendments to the act which he believes will improve the act and will increase that openness.

Nevertheless, while I commend my colleague in his efforts, I believe that before we vote on these significant amendments to the Access to Information Act, we must seek the views of all stakeholders who will be affected by them: Canadian citizens, the information commissioner, special groups, representatives of the media, government officials and so on. There are widely differing views as to the impact this bill would have on the Access to Information Act, and the consequences that would emerge from the it. In order to properly assess the contents of the bill we need to hear more, both from those who support the bill, or portions of it, and from those who oppose the bill.

All of these individuals or groups who use or have an interest in the Access to Information Act must have an opportunity to make representations or bring forward their own proposals to amend the act before we take any further steps.

We must open the discussion and invite all stakeholders to participate in the important debate concerning what adjustments are needed and how the objectives of the act can best be accomplished. While I am among those who support the overall thrust of the bill as laudable, there are a number of outstanding concerns on which there needs to be full and wide consultation.

Forestry May 5th, 2000

Mr. Speaker, next week is Forestry Week in Canada. I ask the Minister of Natural Resources, how is the government planning to recognize the important role that forestry plays in the lives of many Canadians in this country?

Fullarton Book Launch April 13th, 2000

Mr. Speaker, as part of this year's ongoing millennium celebrations, I want to congratulate and thank everyone who participated in the Fullarton history book launch this past weekend. Entitled Water under the Bridges: The Story of Fullarton Township , this 950 page book examines the significant people and events of the last 150 years that helped define the area.

Participants to the book launch were entertained by guest speakers and local performances, including bag piping, gospel singing, solo violin and theatrical performances.

My special gratitude goes to the 22 member history book committee, especially the chair, Jean Park, who for the last three and a half have been working extremely hard to see that this project was a smashing success. Congratulations to all.

Petitions April 12th, 2000

Mr. Speaker, pursuant to Standing Order 36, I have the honour to submit petitions signed by residents in my riding of Perth—Middlesex.

National Defence March 27th, 2000

Mr. Speaker, I would like to address this question to the Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of National Defence.

A recent report states that national defence plans to eliminate some of its historic combat regiments. Would the parliamentary secretary give members of the House a more current report of the national defence report being studied at national defence headquarters?

National Defence March 24th, 2000

Mr. Speaker, my question is for the Minister of National Defence. Yesterday, the Panamanian flagship with a crew of 31 carrying a cargo of salt from Spain en route to New York began to take on water and sank quickly. The crew was unable to utilize its life rafts and lifeboats.

Could the minister inform members of the House on the role played by members of the Canadian armed forces in the rescue of the members of the Leader L ?

Citizenship And Immigration March 22nd, 2000

Mr. Speaker, pursuant to Standing Order 108, the Standing Committee on Public Accounts has the honour to table its sixth report.

After considering the report on the performance of the Office of the Auditor General of Canada for the period ending March 31, 1999, the Standing Committee on Public Accounts has agreed to report it.

Mr. Speaker, in accordance with Standing Order 108(3)(e), the Standing Committee on Public Accounts has the honour to present its seventh report. After considering chapter 21 of the November 1999 report of the Auditor General of Canada, entitled “Financial Information Strategy: Departmental Readiness”, the committee has agreed to the report.

Stratford Festival March 20th, 2000

Mr. Speaker, it is once again my pleasure to rise in the House to announce with great enthusiasm that the Stratford Festival Theatre will be opening its 2000 season on May 3.

As many will know, the festival is renowned the world over for its theatrical productions. This year will be no different. Its playbill looks more like a study of the classics. Shakespeare's Hamlet and Titus Andronicus , Alexandre Dumas' The Three Musketeers , Molière's Le Tartuffe and Oscar Wilde's The Importance of Being Earnest are just a few of the plays the festival will be performing this season.

To facilitate participation, my office will provide every member with a 2000 festival brochure. I strongly encourage everyone to come along and join the celebrations.

Communities In Bloom December 13th, 1999

Mr. Speaker, it is my pleasure to rise in the House today to speak about people, plants and pride, the slogan of Communities in Bloom, an organization which seeks to provide a national focus for established provincial and community based beautification programs across Canada.

Launched in 1995 with 29 municipalities participating, this year's edition had the involvement of all provinces and territories. Hundreds of municipalities were involved at the provincial level, while 94 municipalities competed at the national level. With competitions designed to build a spirit of community and to increase civic pride, Communities in Bloom has popularized environmental awareness and heritage conservation.

It gives me great pleasure to announce that the town of Mitchell received four out of five blooms in this year's competition and was a national finalist in the 2,000 to 5,000 population category.

Stratford Festival December 2nd, 1999

Mr. Speaker, it is my honour to rise in the House today to pay tribute to one of Canada's cultural cornerstones, the Stratford Festival. Now ranked among the great classical theatres like the Royal Shakespearean Company, the Stratford Festival has clearly become one of Canada's premier theatrical centres. What started out as a small theatre festival in 1953 is now responsible for a full 12% of southwestern Ontario tourism, drawing over 590,000 visitors this year alone.

This remarkable festival contributes over $185 million in economic benefit to the province of Ontario, generates $71 million in tax revenues and creates over 6,000 jobs for the regional economy. The Stratford Festival is beyond any doubt an economic and cultural powerhouse for the whole of Canada.

I would like to congratulate the festival staff for their hard work and to wish them continued success in the new millennium.