Crucial Fact

  • His favourite word was offence.

Last in Parliament November 2005, as Liberal MP for Northumberland—Quinte West (Ontario)

Lost his last election, in 2008, with 29% of the vote.

Statements in the House

The Budget January 29th, 2002

Mr. Speaker, I thank the hon. member for his question. I think it goes back to my initial opening statement, that is, each of us has a series of priorities we have to address every time there is a budget put forward. We work with those priorities. In this budget there was a priority that was obviously a reflection of September 11. There is no doubt that as a member of the government I would always like to see more in every area as well, but I think the reality is that we take our priorities, balance them and pick and choose those areas in which we will go forward.

In terms of this budget, I believe we have indicated where we are going. I do believe that there have been a great number of strides in the Internet and broadband areas. I can see that the schools are now becoming interconnected. It is clearly being advanced step by step so that we will be able to achieve our connectivity goals.

However, I do say that from my perspective it is a question of priorities. We are doing our best to try to meet the priorities as we, as a caring and sharing government, see them. Therefore I am looking forward to seeing the budget fully implemented and seeing the results thereof.

The Budget January 29th, 2002

Mr. Speaker, I will be dividing my time with the member for Algoma--Manitoulin.

Indeed, it is a pleasure today to rise and speak on the budget. At times, I suppose, we sit here and listen to the debate back and forth and wonder if money alone could solve all of these problems. I think it is clear that each one of us has our own priorities. As parties, of course, we establish these priorities as part of the party system, and as we look at what we would like to see they obviously reflect the priorities we have established from our party base.

The values and vision espoused in the budget have in fact been significantly impacted as a result of September 11, but I think the budget properly adjusts to those events and proceeds in a way that I think is showing a good and solid future vision for the government.

Like the member for Winnipeg South, I want to look at some of the infrastructure that the budget affects and how it may affect us in the future. I would like to address this matter by looking at my riding as a microcosm. I would like to focus on an area that is research, innovation and technology, which was an interest of mine when I was elected in November 2000 and has continued to be since then.

When I first appeared in the House and made my maiden speech about a year ago, I announced as part of it that I was starting a research, innovation and technology committee to give me advice on how we should chart the course for the technology related sector within my riding. In its conclusions and recommendations to me, the research, innovation and technology committee indicated that there was a great and significant need for technological infrastructure within my riding. Urban areas even within my riding are far ahead of the rural neighbours, and of course they are absolutely miles behind the major metropolitan areas.

In the new economy that we are already entering upon, we have come to rely on the broadband communications for everything from banking to health care. It is vital that the Government of Canada show its commitment to ensuring that all areas of our country have adequate access to this fundamental resource. Broadband sources such as fibre optic cabling can be compared to our quest to link this country with the railroad. Then, of course, we required the ability to transfer goods efficiently across this great country. Now, in our global economy of today, we require that same ability, but instead of the rails and ties of yesterday we have the bits and bytes of today.

In the last election we went to the people of the country and made a pledge to them that we would focus on creating a smart Canada, a country that has innovation and education as part of its primary resources. We pledged to make Canada a top five leader in research and innovation by the year 2010.

To this end, we must harness the power of the information age. We must provide access to the Internet and all of its associated information technologies. The information age does not apply just to those who live in major urban centres. Canadians from coast to coast need that access. If we are to truly promote knowledge and reward innovation, then we must take steps to foster growth within this important sector of our economy to ensure the long term viability of our country in this new economy.

My committee also acknowledged that as long as rural Canada does not have adequate access to broadband communications and those assorted tools that go with it, we will have great difficulty in attracting new business to our regions. Even for things so simple as the promotion of our regions through online databases of our economic resources, such as the availability of land or space for new location of facilities, these have all been compiled and are conveyed through our online resources.

This technology infrastructure is a must if we intend to compete in that new economy. The Internet of today is not just another research tool.

As I look at my rural riding I see health care as a primary example of where broadband communications are needed so desperately. In Northumberland, we have access to numerous health care facilities, fine health care facilities. However, they are not yet able to reach their full potential of information sharing. With the electronic files now being produced by the CAT scan and the MRI, doctors have the ability to view and manipulate the various files that are produced, but in fact without the proper means of transmission of those files from place to place, really they have to find a physical way to attend at these various facilities in order to properly diagnose and give advice.

This is a classic case of a bottleneck in the system. The specialist has to physically travel to view those files at the various hospitals. With a shortage of those people who read those files, broadband communications is something that could be very helpful, not only to the health and welfare of those rural Canadians but to allow us to get proper service to our health care system in an efficient way.

I am pleased to see that in this budget there is a continuing commitment from the Government of Canada in the area of strategic infrastructure. With the Strategic Infrastructure Foundation, we should have the ability to look at this for some of these major infrastructure projects. I do not think we can look at this as simply being available only for highways, urban transport and sewage treatment. I think we can look at it in the broader context of all our technological infrastructure needs.

At this point so many communities in rural Canada are starting to have some fibre optic cable running through them, but the catch is to try to figure out a way to connect to that fibre optic cable. The government is now looking at private and public sector partnerships to ensure that these rural communities will have the ability to harness this power inherent within the Internet and broadband communications.

So how do rural areas like my riding move forward? How do we push down these barriers? How do we get ready for this new economy and promote ourselves for this new investment? On the local level, of course, we have a strategy that is used for attracting and sustaining diverse businesses, but I think we have to use technology and work more with technology to enhance and improve our way of life in rural areas, particularly as it applies to health care, continuing education and other key sectors.

It is important that the views of the rural communities such as mine in Northumberland are brought forward and heard. The guidance and leadership from our government as demonstrated by this budget is an imperative for rural Canada. There is only so much time for rural communities to become competitive in the new economy and our government must continue to expand our ability to assist communities in getting up to speed.

With this budget, I believe we are taking another step forward with the creation of this Strategic Infrastructure Foundation. Within our government we always have to be looking forward. I call upon our government to take another positive step by putting together working groups within our communities to examine the issues of broadband technology, not only in the cities but in the rural areas, for I think it is through this means that we will be able to interconnect this country and reap the benefits therefrom.

People in rural communities such as my riding are looking forward to leadership from us. This is an important issue. The budget has given us the vision and has given support but we need to do more. I look forward to working with my colleagues in the House in the coming months to continue to advance this issue, to work with the stakeholders in ensuring that the needs of rural Canadians will be met as we look at creating a more innovative country.

Petitions January 29th, 2002

Mr. Speaker, it is a pleasure to rise today to present a petition on behalf of some of the constituents in my riding concerning VIA Rail.

They wish to bring to the attention of Parliament the fact that there is a review going on within the area of the Port Hope station. They are extremely concerned about the future of the station and the services it provides. As a result they have taken up a petition to ask parliament to continue to maintain the VIA stop in Port Hope.

Petitions November 2nd, 2001

Madam Speaker, I rise today to bring forward a petition on behalf of some of the residents of the riding of Prince Edward--Hastings.

The petitioners call upon parliament to enact an immediate moratorium on the cosmetic use of chemical pesticides as a precautionary approach until such time as their use has been scientifically proven to be safe and the long term consequences of their application are known.

Anti-terrorism Legislation November 2nd, 2001

Mr. Speaker, in September Canadians and others around the world witnessed shocking terrorist acts and have come to recognize that new threats face their freedom and security. In light of this, many Canadians are very concerned that minority communities will be unfairly targeted in the wake of these events.

Can the Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Justice and Attorney General of Canada inform the House as to how we can ensure the security of all Canadians and protect the diversity and harmony that we enjoy in Canada?

The Parliament of Canada Act October 18th, 2001

Madam Speaker, it is a pleasure to discuss the bill that is before the House. In fairness I am taken aback by the member for Elk Island. I think it is vital and important that we express ourselves through poetry. As I read many poems I find that what one sees is the soul in print. To me that is something unique and very special.

When I reflect on September 11 and think about what went on, and having seen what took place that day, I found comfort in some poetry. I would like to take the time to read the poem which I think goes to the substance of the human. Poetry really gives one a sensitive way to express oneself. The poem is High Flight .

Oh! I have slipped the surly bonds of earth And danced the skies on laughter-silvered wings; Sunward I've climbed, and joined the tumbling mirth Of sun-split clouds--and done a hundred things You have not dreamed of--wheeled and soared and swung High in the sunlit silence. Hov'ring there I've chased the shouting wind along, and flung My eager craft through footless halls of air. Up, up the long delirious, burning blue, I've topped the windswept heights with easy grace Where never lark, or even eagle flew-- And, while with silent lifting mind I've trod The high untrespassed sanctity of space, Put out my hand and touched the face of God.

On that fateful day in New York City that is what the reflection was for me as I stood in Saskatoon.

Poetry has a special place in our lives. It is unique to each and every one of us. To have someone try to express what the Canadian psyche is, I think is very important to each and every one of us as Canadians. It helps to define us. It helps to bring out our diversity. I am very supportive of the office of poet laureate.

With respect to my hon. friend from Elk Island, I say that we have to look at the possibility that our poet laureate may not necessarily be bilingual. In this particular case we may have a francophone for two years as a poet laureate or we might have an anglophone for two years. We may not simply have a bilingual poet laureate.

I do not think that is a reason to throw out the baby with the bath water. We need to reflect on the benefits that a poet looking at our country as a totality can express about certain events in our country's history.

Today as I look at what has been proposed, I see little or nothing wrong with writing poetry, especially for use in parliament, on state occasions and to sponsor poetry readings. To me it is very important and vital in this place and the country for the betterment of all.

I appreciated the opportunity to take a few moments to express myself on the issue. I certainly will be supporting the bill.

Income Tax Act October 5th, 2001

Madam Speaker, I am pleased to rise in the House today to deal with the consideration of the merits of private member's bill, Bill C-209.

There is no question that encouraging the use of public transit is a laudable goal. As a matter of public policy this is a goal that is obviously consistent with the government's plan. Every time we remove a private automobile from our roadways, there is a direct effect in the reduction of greenhouse gases and that is a relationship that all of us can understand and appreciate. The government recognizes the importance of reducing greenhouse gases, but in doing so we must remember that the tax system is only one of the possible methods and mechanisms we can use in order to help us reach that goal.

First and foremost, governments at all levels must work together to be effective in this challenge. Second, I submit that we should examine the legislation we have before us today in light of the other options that are available to us and also look at where we could most effectively utilize the money that this proposal might cost the public purse.

It has been estimated that this proposal, if enacted, would in fact cost the public purse approximately $100 million annually. For $100 million annually, the question is, do we believe that this would accomplish the goal and would there be other expenses that might be incurred in its implementation?

Clearly those who already take public transit do not need a tax deduction to encourage them to use this service, so why, as the bill advocates, should we spend money from the treasury to provide a subsidy to those existing users? It might be beneficial to those current riders, I suppose, if they had sufficient income to be taxable, but the deduction from taxable income is not helpful at all to those who do not have a net taxable income.

Clearly this part of the bill is a discriminatory measure and would take away from the benefit a person of lower income might have received. Surely this was not the intent of the drafter of the bill, but it certainly would be the ultimate effect as it is drafted. Whether they were patrons of the transit system or whether they would decide to begin using public transit, surely a section of this nature is truly inappropriate. The bill would not legislate any sort of direct payment to the person who uses the public transit system but in fact would legislate a deduction from net taxable income. That is a very important distinction to make in relation to the bill as it appears before the House.

As I look at the bill my initial thoughts are that, first, the tax system credits proposed would not be equally applicable to all riders because of our graduated tax system. Second, if one is not taxable at all, obviously there would be no financial benefit or incentive under the bill. Third, if the goal is to reduce greenhouse gases by increasing ridership, why should we provide any financial support to those who already take the transit system? Fourth, this proposal would not appropriately target the group that we wish to encourage to take the public transit system, that is, those who currently simply do not use that system.

When we reflect on what we should consider, other alternatives ought to be taken into consideration. Some of the alternatives we should be looking at, I would suggest, are the infrastructure programs that are used for transit capital improvements, for direct capital investment and for adding to operating grants. These are effective ways of keeping down the cost of public transportation and also of broadening the base of support through the extra moneys that would be provided by capital infusion. We want to induce more people to use the public transit system and ultimately reduce greenhouse gases.

I would submit that public expenditures that are directed at creating the least expensive, cleanest, most well maintained, modern and efficient means of public transit would be a better and more direct method of achieving the goal of getting more riders to leave their cars at home.

Another problem with the bill is the practical application of the accountability section as drafted, subclause 118.96(3), which states:

The individual shall provide supporting vouchers indicating the amounts paid by the individual for the use of a public transportation system.

With respect to the bill itself, the word shall used in subclause 118.96(3) is a mandatory word which requires one to provide the supporting vouchers or receipts in order to deduct from the net taxable income this public transportation expenditure.

Let us think about what this really does. What does it really create? Not only does it create a new administrative problem for the traveller in having to obtain and maintain the receipts, but there is also an expense created for the travel provider on every trip taken by the taxpayer.

This is not to mention the fact that ultimately CCRA has to receive and store all of these vouchers, which conceivably could be in the hundreds per taxpayer, which again could be something significant.

The cost of producing the vouchers by the travel provider and the cost to receive and store these vouchers by CCRA would not be, I suggest, a positive use of government resources, again taking into consideration that the primary purpose of the bill is ultimately to reduce greenhouse gases.

In the bill I think what we are looking is possibly the creation of a very expensive administrative system, not only for the federal government but for all levels of government, which in effect really are part and parcel of the whole idea of public transit. That would include the provinces as well as the municipalities.

The government is committed to reducing greenhouse gases and clearly excellent public transit is one important part of that policy. The government is committed to the important principles of sustainable development across a wide spectrum of government activities. That means clear goals in relation to the environment. The federal government has required all of its departments to prepare sustainable development strategies for tabling in the House. As well, every federal budget since 1994 has included measures that will help achieve a better integration of the economy and the environment.

In budget 2000 and in budget update 2000, $1.4 billion was allocated toward key environmental challenges. One of those challenges of course is climate change. A green municipal investment fund is a part of those initiatives and is there to provide loans in support of municipal projects in such areas as urban transit.

As part of reducing greenhouse gases within the scope of mass transit, our government is also leading by example. The Alternative Fuels Act of 1995 requires that three-quarters of the federal government fleet, which includes those green buses we see travelling up and down the Hill, if vehicles meet the minimum feasibility requirements, will use alternative fuels. Clearly this is a positive step in reducing greenhouse gases.

In conclusion, I wish to thank the hon. member for bringing this important issue to our attention, but as I have articulated there are better ways to use public moneys in order to achieve the goal of minimizing greenhouse gases and better serve the environment. The tax deductibility provided in Bill C-209 does not meet the tests required for an efficient, effective and wise use of public funds. Therefore I am not in support of Bill C-209.

Customs Act September 24th, 2001

Mr. Speaker, in light of recent events, we have heard quite a bit about securing the perimeter of North America. It comes down to the question of what sort of consultation are we having with our neighbours to the south?

In that regard could the member tell us what consultations the government has had in bringing forward the bill to the House? It is very important that we know that we are consulting our American counterparts when we bring forward this type of legislation.

Attack on the United States September 17th, 2001

Mr. Speaker, clearly all of us need a moment to cry, a catharsis, and a release. In my riding I have a mother who does not know the whereabouts of her son who happened to be at ground zero in Manhattan. These criminal acts have touched all of us, some more directly than others, but the direct perpetrators of this crime are dead. We cannot exact a greater penalty on them.

I like the suggestions that the hon. member has brought forward about airport security but the greatest challenge for us as a free people is not with respect to more weapons or personnel, not with respect to revenge or retribution, not with respect to closing our borders to immigration and not to dwelling on the attributes of the U.S. anti-terrorism legislation which apparently did not work or help.

How do we who foster freedom of speech, religion, and thought deal with those who under the guise of freedom of religion inspire, finance and foster others to destroy our free society? How do we stop those who generate these ideas?

Canada Customs And Revenue Agency May 31st, 2001

Mr. Speaker, what is Canada Customs and Revenue Agency doing to ensure that its workforce continues to be representative of the four employment equity designated groups now that it is a separate employer?