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

Justice May 6th, 2005

Mr. Speaker, with respect to conditional sentences, I just mentioned that they are a vital part of our sentencing regime. At the recent federal, provincial and territorial first ministers meeting with justice ministers, this matter was discussed. They have set up a special committee and will be reporting back to this House in June.

Justice May 6th, 2005

Mr. Speaker, clearly, since conditional sentences were introduced in 1996, they have become a very important part of our sentencing regime. There are examples that get media attention that maybe do not get fully reported and in fact give conditional sentences a bad name. However, they are a vital part of our sentencing. We are looking at those areas which have caused concern to see if there should be improvements made.

Civil Marriage Act April 19th, 2005

Mr. Speaker, accordingly I move:

That this question be now put.

Civil Marriage Act April 19th, 2005

Mr. Speaker, it is indeed a pleasure to rise today to again address this bill, which extends equal access to civil marriage to same sex couples while respecting religious freedom.

Clearly the government believes that this legislation is an appropriate way to uphold the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms and is committed to its passage. We have been considering this bill at length in the House over the last few weeks. To date, there have likely been over 100 members who have spoken to this bill.

I suggest that the time is right for us to take this matter to committee and I would, accordingly, like to discuss the matter of whether we are really going to be committed to this legislation or not. It is extremely important because when we look at what is set out for Canadians, the government has put out very clearly and distinctly the opportunities and options. I think Canadians can see through what has been brought forward by the members of the opposition.

When we look at this matter, there are clearly many issues brought forward that simply do not stand the test. When we look at the alternative approaches that have been brought forward by the opposition, clearly we find ourselves in a position where they simply do not carry the day. They simply do not make sense. They do not have the support that is needed.

Why are we in fact going forward with extending civil marriage instead of using other terms, and other means and methods? Clearly only equal access to civil marriage will fully comply with the charter equality guarantees. Any institution other than marriage, such as civil union, is less than equal.

The government represents the rights of all Canadians equally and will not treat some Canadians as second class citizens. Rights are rights are rights. None of us can, nor should we, pick and choose the minorities whose rights we will defend and those whose rights we will ignore.

The Supreme Court was very clear in its approach to this matter. Although some in the opposition would suggest that in fact there was not a clear and distinctive statement about religious freedom, there were a number of very clear statements made in the decision of the Supreme Court.

When we look at the actual reference report, it asked whether the freedom of religion guaranteed by subsection 2(a) of the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms protects religious officials from being compelled to perform marriages between two persons of the same sex that is contrary to their religious beliefs. Clearly and distinctly it was answered yes. I do not think there is any doubt about where the matter stood.

When we look at the issues of alternative approaches that have been brought forward by members of the opposition, it is clearly no longer possible to create a civil union system within Canada's constitutional and legal framework unless the notwithstanding clause is used. Even then our federal structure makes it virtually impossible to ensure equal treatment as civil unions are within the provincial and territorial jurisdiction, so 13 civil union schemes could have differences that would lead to legal confusion and not equality.

There is no middle ground here. Either same sex couples can marry civilly or they cannot. The law has already been changed in eight provinces and territories to extend equal access to civil marriage to same sex couples. To return to limiting marriage to opposite sex couples would require using the notwithstanding clause in order to overturn these decisions.

The courts have clearly indicated that any institution other than civil marriage, such as civil union, is less than equal. Only equal access to civil marriage will fully comply with the charter equality guarantees. Leaving this to the provinces and territories to resolve could cause a patchwork of 13 civil union schemes. Only Parliament has the ability to look at the complete picture in designing a Canada-wide approach.

The government bill is the only true compromise that is consistent with the rule of law and the Constitution, opening civil marriage to provide real equality and at the same time respecting religious freedom, both for those religious groups opposed to same sex marriage and equally for those who support it.

The Supreme Court is not the only court in the country that governments are bound to respect under the rule of law. Courts across the country have declared that restricting civil marriage to opposite sex couples is unconstitutional. Those decisions do not have to be appealed. They stand in the absence of a Supreme Court of Canada decision overruling them.

Governments can legislate to overrule an ordinary court decision, but where a law has been found to be unconstitutional, the only way to legislate to overrule that court decision is by invoking the notwithstanding clause to publicly state that the government will pass the law regardless of the fact that it violates a charter right or freedom.

The Prime Minister has stated that he will not use the notwithstanding clause in this circumstance to deny rights guaranteed by the charter to a minority. If one minority can be deliberately discriminated against, then others are potentially at risk. The Government of Canada can either uphold the charter because we believe in its values, or we can abandon the charter. The government will uphold the charter.

When we talk about the question of equality I do not think there is any doubt that the courts across Canada have ruled that equal access to civil marriage by same sex couples is an issue of equality rights under the Charter of Rights and Freedoms. In legal terms, the charter deals with human rights, the basic rights that Canadians believe should be available to all, including the right to equality. Although there is no right to marriage for anyone, there is a right to equality and, therefore, equal access to civil marriage.

Courts have explained that the essence of equality is ensuring the human dignity of all Canadians. Comparisons to other countries are interesting, but each country must make its own decisions in accordance with its own values.

Where is the onus and where does the onus lie? I suggest that if the onus were on those excluded to prove that their equality is absolutely necessary, what would have happened in our past? Would women have been able to prove that they absolutely needed to vote? Would Sikhs have been able to prove that they absolutely needed to be part of the RCMP?

The standard is simply wrong. This government is not changing the fundamental institution of marriage but preserving it, and now allowing same sex couples seeking the same degree of commitment in civil law, but who were previously excluded, to equally undertake the same fundamental vows of mutual love and commitment.

When we look back at the motion that was made in June 1999, the opposition motion was passed by the House of Commons before the decisions of the three courts of appeal and the courts of four other provinces and one territory.

Mr. Speaker, do we have enough people in this House? I wonder if it would not be an appropriate time to see if in fact we do have a quorum. I would like to have more people listening to this speech.

World Trade Organization April 15th, 2005

Mr. Speaker, it is a pleasure for me to have this opportunity to debate something that in my earlier days meant a lot to me, at least in the practical sense, because I was born and raised on a dairy farm, and today I realize the importance of all the complexities that go along with the process of protecting that dairy farm and the interests of the farmers in our communities.

Today I want to say that when we talk about our country's history as we look at trade, Canada has played what I would call a unique and constructive role in international affairs. Multilateralism has been a hallmark of our foreign policy and it has defined our reputation as a country that works in partnership with others to achieve goals that benefit people all around the world.

Likewise, when we talk of the multilateralism that has defined Canada's trade policy since the creation of the GATT before World War II, our trade policy has been built on the long-standing belief that Canadians prosper from secure access to foreign markets.

Secure access offers Canadians a more stable and predictable business environment and a more level playing field for our producers. Equally important is the recognition that Canadians need clear and enforceable rules and effective dispute settlement mechanisms to ensure that power politics do not impair the way our agrifood products are traded around the world.

Canada has consistently worked in partnership with many different countries to build a global trading system in which all countries, regardless of their political or economic power in the world, can compete on a level international playing field governed by multilaterally agreed upon rules.

This is why the WTO agricultural negotiations are so critical for Canada as a whole and for the agrifood business in particular. The negotiations offer us the best opportunity to work hand in hand with other countries to achieve greater market opportunities and to level the playing field for addressing foreign subsidies and tariff barriers that hinder our ability to compete fairly in foreign markets.

Since the negotiations began almost six years ago, Canada has been working in partnership with many countries to move the negotiations forward. As has been the case many times before in international relations, Canada has played a very effective broker role between divergent points of view, building on our current alliances and forging new ones.

It should be no surprise that this approach has been very successful for Canada. Many of our ideas and approaches have been reflected in negotiating texts to date and, most important, the framework that the WTO members reached in July.

The framework agreement will guide the next stage of the agricultural negotiations. As the framework was being negotiated in July, Canada's negotiating team met with the other WTO members, developed and developing countries alike, to promote our views. They worked day and night, leaving no stone unturned, as one would say, to advance Canada's objectives and to work toward a framework in the interest of the entire agrifood sector, including the five supply managed industries and the Canadian Wheat Board.

The framework clearly points the way toward a more level international playing field and moves in the direction of clearer and fairer rules that can address some of the existing inequities facing Canadian producers. The framework provides scope for Canada to continue pursuing our negotiating objectives and reflects many of the key ideas that Canada has been putting forward since the negotiations began.

I am proud to say that this government has been working in close partnership with our domestic partners, the provincial governments and the whole range of agrifood stakeholders over the course of these negotiations. Even before the negotiations began in the year 2000, the government consulted extensively with the provincial governments and the entire agrifood sector to develop Canada's initial negotiating position.

Because of this close partnership, our negotiating position has enabled Canada to put forward strong and credible ideas and approaches throughout the negotiations. I would like to applaud both Minister Peterson and Minister Mitchell for the amount of time and energy they and their officials have devoted to working with the stakeholders over the course of these negotiations, for these negotiations are not easy.

With the agricultural framework that we now have in place, Canada can continue to work toward achieving our negotiating objectives. It is true that Canada will continue to face pressure on our domestic sensitivities. When we talk about domestic sensitivities, we are specifically looking at such areas as our supply managed industries. We are ready and Canada will continue to work closely with the stakeholders to achieve a positive outcome for the entire agrifood sector.

The government is fully committed to continuing to work closely with our stakeholders, including the five supply managed industries and the Canadian Wheat Board, as negotiations progress. We will continue to aggressively pursue these objectives as set out for the negotiations and developed with the provinces and Canadians across this country.

We will continue to strongly press Canada's positions in the negotiations because all of our producers need a rules based trading system in which to do business and a level playing field in which to compete fairly and effectively.

This government will continue to defend the ability of our producers to choose how to market their products, including through the orderly marketing structures like supply management and the Canadian Wheat Board.

We welcome the momentum that the July package provided to the negotiations. We were glad to see that the July package integrated many of the key Canadian ideas. There is much hard work to be done this year if we are to move the negotiations forward to a successful sixth ministerial conference in Hong Kong, China, in December of this year.

We need to make every effort to advance the trade interests of our agrifood sector by working with other countries to move the negotiations forward in ways that not only advance our objectives but help meet the needs of the producers from countries around the world, especially those from developing countries. We need to continue to work together with our domestic partners to support Canadian agriculture, which depends heavily on exports, a predictable trading system, supply management, and the Canadian Wheat Board.

Coming from an agricultural background, I can certainly confirm the importance of the supply managed system as it relates to the dairy industry. So many in my community depend on the certainty of that business being there for them next week and next year, producing quality products at competitive pricing for all our citizens of this country.

At a recent policy convention of my party, a resolution that was raised by my own constituency brought forward the need for strong support for this particular supply managed industry. It was adopted virtually unanimously as a resolution of the party.

All of these factors speak to the importance that our communities give to supply managed industries and the need for the support of these industries within our country. We believe in supply managed systems. We believe they have been good for this country.

I am very pleased to stand here today and say I support supply managed industry, in particular of course because of my background in the dairy industry, and I want to see it flourish.

Question No. 114 April 15th, 2005

Mr. Speaker, I ask that the remaining questions be allowed to stand.

Questions Passed as Orders for Returns April 15th, 2005

Mr. Speaker, if Questions Nos. 97, 113 and 114 could be made orders for returns, the returns would be tabled immediately.

Questions On The Order Paper April 15th, 2005

Mr. Speaker, the following questions will be answered today: Nos. 99, 105 and 106.

Government Response to Petitions April 15th, 2005

Mr. Speaker, pursuant to Standing Order 36(8) I have the honour to table, in both official languages, the government's response to two petitions.

Marriage April 15th, 2005

Mr. Speaker, we have spoken about this matter in the House on numerous occasions and clearly the charter is very important to each and every one of us. Within the context of federal law and federal jurisdiction, we are protecting everyone who would be affected in that regard.

Within the provincial structure, we recently held provincial-federal meetings where Ontario was one of the provinces that had conducted many of these marriages. It has not had any problems whatsoever.