House of Commons photo

Crucial Fact

  • His favourite word was respect.

Last in Parliament March 2011, as Liberal MP for York South—Weston (Ontario)

Lost his last election, in 2011, with 33% of the vote.

Statements in the House

Safer Railways Act December 7th, 2010

Madam Speaker, I have a question for my colleague. He actually talked about some of the same issues that are facing residents in my constituency of York South--Weston where the Georgetown corridor will be expanded with not only new traffic with respect to serving the airport, but also with the GO Transit expansion. The same kinds of concerns have been coming back through my office.

My question is related to the safety aspects. He wanted to know whether there would be a closing of the accountability loop where there are malfunctions, switching issues or whatever. This bill is designed to try to close that accountability loop. He has described his community. Does he feel more convinced that rail is an answer and does this bill help to assuage some of the concerns that people might have with respect to noise, safety, air pollution and those kinds of issues?

Safer Railways Act December 7th, 2010

Mr. Speaker, in my experience, in Europe and Japan the dedicated rights of way for passenger traffic and the transport of goods are separated. For the most part, we have integrated systems where the sharing of the subdivisions is an implicating factor with respect to how careful we have to be on safety. There are different safety standards for tunnelling with respect to the transfer of chemicals and goods as opposed to transporting people. In other countries they have separated those functions.

The safety factor only gets worse, but we are very fortunate we are now starting to address these issues and building our railways accordingly.

Safer Railways Act December 7th, 2010

Madam Speaker, that is an excellent question and extremely relevant. It is amazing how the relevance goes from the rail to air safety. Just yesterday we saw the implications with respect to the Concorde crash and the finding of liability on the part of Continental Airlines. The liability was not only with respect to the Continental Airlines generally, but with respect to the individual mechanic who was charged with responsibility. Through professional oversight, he or she did not see a problem that could have been disastrous.

The member has related to what the minister of state has said in a way, that the legislation also has fines for individuals who see a functional problem with equipment and who do not take action. To answer the member's question, in that case, I do not know whether the accountability loop has been closed. However, the legislation with respect to that tanker spill would in fact be instrumental in continuing the investigation, finding fault and then taking whatever remedial action required.

Safer Railways Act December 7th, 2010

Madam Speaker, the Minister of State has given an overview with respect to the relevance of Bill C-33 in terms of railway safety. I would suggest that while he has done a good job of that, he has really only scratched the surface. I mean that as a compliment in the sense that the bill is so compelling against the change that is taking place throughout the country in relation to rail and in relation to transport generally.

The whole issue with respect to competitiveness, the ability to move people and dealing with our environmental issues, health and safety through to pollution, is becoming more and more a fundamental problem that we have to address.

As we think of the changing nature of the forestry industry and the dependence on the movement of goods, as well as the changing nature of urban communities in terms of commuters, we realize more and more that rail is fundamentally positioned to offer a large degree of strategic compensation against the huge indemnity that we might face if it were not for having a rail service from sea to sea to sea that has served us historically.

Reference was made to the Mayor of Pickering in the region of Durham. I would just like to expand a little bit as a case in point that the greater Toronto area is choking on congestion. The ability to move people, and through people, services is being impeded by the fact that road construction has lagged far behind the capacity to meet the needs of transporting people from their origin to their point of destination, from where they live to where they work. Those commuting distances have become longer and longer, and the result is that the pollution created from the congestion is a health and safety issue.

When it comes to the movement of goods, the capacity of the road system to accommodate the trucks that are hauling and distributing goods is becoming more and more impeded. So rail, whether in terms of freight or urban commuting, offers a huge opportunity to make a difference with respect to the strategic response that we in government make to our environmental prerequisites and to our economic prerequisites.

In keeping with that sort of clinical analogy and the analysis that we must continue to use more of our rail capacity comes the prognosis of how to convince people that in those major rail corridors we can do it safely and we can do it in a manner that will not impede their quality of life, particularly those who live close to the rail rights of way.

The bill comes at a time when those questions are being asked. In fact, in the greater Toronto area, members who are on the Georgetown corridor in the Weston subdivision will know that there are huge plans to expand GO Transit to meet the needs of that broadening population and geo-economic area in the GTA, and to also expand service up to Barrie and over to Bradford.

The City of Barrie years ago acquired part of the old VIA right-of-way that would have been abandoned, in order to protect the opportunity to move people up and down that corridor, as is the case with Bradford at this time. As we speak, the city is negotiating with respect to protecting a rail right-of-way.

We know that some of these rail rights of way have gone for short line service, which has served the economy of local communities. Be that as it may, it is to the benefit of our populations that these rights of way are protected.

However, it must be done in a manner wherein the safety, health, responsibility and accountability for operating rail within federal jurisdictions must be absolute. We must absolutely close the loop so there is no question in the minds of the public that we are dedicated to not only using the rights of way, but using them in a sustainable way and in a manner that is going to protect the public.

As my colleague has said, the bill follows up on the Railway Safety Act that was approved in 1989 and updated in 1999. However, against the background of what I have said, the environment has changed immensely.

In 2008 the Standing Committee on Transport, Infrastructure and Communities made 14 specific recommendations, which, with a bit of editing, provided the Minister of Transport, Infrastructure and Communities the necessary tools, as the Minister of State for Transport has said, to regulate railways and ensure their compliance.

The nature of that compliance in monetary terms is considerable. A maximum fine of $50,000 on an individual found to be negligent, as a result of an inquiry or quasi-judicial process, and a fine of $250,000 on a corporation are within very minimal violations of the Canada Transportation Act.

We have heard that for major violations, individual judgments can vary from $1 million to $50 million on a railway that is operated in a manner not in the interest of public safety. These are not minimal parts of the legislation calling for major monetary retribution against railway operators that do not act in the public interest.

The whole notion is the minister is given the authority to review, grant and monitor railway operating certificates and the terms and conditions over which certificates are provided. The minister also has the power to set the conditions by which the railway operates. In my particular area and I am sure in those of my colleagues who also have rail expansion this is something we can take to our constituents. We can say that in keeping with the changes and requests we are making in the interests of the higher community that need to use our rail corridors, this is where safety and health standards are going to be accountably applied through the minister.

I will not get into the question of the administrative monetary policy regime to the extent that the Minister of State for Transport did, but I learned this morning that commensurate with the industry being held accountable, there has to be the ability to inspect and take action on violations and violators.

When people say they have experienced with their departments violations that they are very concerned about, it means protecting the people who are loosely described as whistleblowers. However, they are acting in the public interest. When they come forward, their actions should be taken and responded to in a positive way.

I hope I have given a little clarification and provided some comfort to those who may be watching. With the changes in rail and the projected role of rail, we are bringing in a regime that is going to operate in the higher public interest in terms of air quality, safety and the return that goes back to the public in Canada.

Safer Railways Act December 7th, 2010

Madam Speaker, this morning at the agricultural committee, it came out that as a result of the tragic listeriosis events there had been a major report calling for an audit with respect to the regime in place to guarantee that inspectors would have the tools to do the job where there were serious infractions taking place.

It was pointed out that while a review had taken place, the actual audit had not been done in a comprehensive manner in order to determine exactly the role of the inspectors and what the consequences would be once it had been discovered that there were violations taking place.

Under this bill, could we guarantee and could we assuage the concerns of the public that in fact the resources with respect to inspections would be taking place and that there would be an accountable implementation, through Transport Canada, with respect to ensuring that the analysis is done before an accident would occur and after--

Protecting Victims From Sex Offenders Act December 7th, 2010

Madam Speaker, the member gave an excellent overview with respect to the exploitation for sexual purposes of those who are under the age of 16. One of our colleagues from Scarborough has indicated some of his concerns with respect to that.

One of the concerns of Chief Blair, who was interviewed last week, was on the perversions associated with Internet solicitation, and in particular, the manner in which it is targeting young people. His concern is that the resources are simply not available with respect to the technology interface that law enforcement agencies can mobilize to deal with that particular aspect.

Could my colleague give an overview as to whether the bill broaches into that area and whether the law enforcement agencies can be mobilized to deal with it?

Ensuring Safe Vehicles Imported from Mexico for Canadians Act December 6th, 2010

Mr. Speaker, there are two components to the bill. There is the component with respect to the safety of vehicles that are going across borders from Mexico to Canada and Canada to Mexico. The second part is the vehicles that are being transported by organized crime.

My colleague mentioned the lack of police resources both in Mexico and Canada for the whole issue of trans-border shipment of vehicles that are in the category of proceeds of crime. When they are finally apprehended and the vehicles are returned to their owners, safe or not, the issue becomes how we mobilize our resources to follow up in the public's interest.

Should there be a parallel legislative approach that would toughen up and make more secure the proceeds of crime legislation? In order for law enforcement agencies to track these vehicles and the criminal parties involved, they need the resources to do that job for both the unsafe vehicles and those that have been transported illegally.

Points of Order November 19th, 2010

Mr. Speaker, I rise today to address the government's argument that Bill C-568, an act to amend the Statistics Act regarding the mandatory long-form census, requires a royal recommendation.

We believe it does not, and I will explain why.

First, we would like to remind the House that Bill C-568 was not included the Speaker's list of items that, in your view, Mr. Speaker, might require royal recommendation.

As all members know in this House, the Speaker always makes a statement on this question following a replenishment under private members' business.

However, in his remarks, the parliamentary secretary made the argument that this bill would not only require the expenditure of funds, but also change the mandate of Statistics Canada and give it so-called new responsibilities.

Before going any further, Mr. Speaker, I would like to read sections of the actual mandate of Statistics Canada under the act.

Section 3 states:

There shall continue to be a statistics bureau under the Minister, to be known as Statistics Canada, the duties of which are

(a) to collect, compile, analyse, abstract and publish statistical information relating to the commercial, industrial, financial, social, economic and general activities and condition of the people; ...

(c) to take the census of population of Canada and the census of agriculture of Canada as provided in this Act; ... and

(e) generally, to promote and develop integrated social and economic statistics pertaining to the whole of Canada and to each of the provinces thereof and to coordinate plans for the integration of those statistics.

That begs the question, what exactly would Bill C-568 do?

Would the bill create a new responsibility for Statistics Canada, as has been suggested?

It is very clear that its mandate is to take information for the census. It is as simple as that. This is not a new responsibility. This bill does not propose to produce a new function.

We would not be changing the mandate of Statistics Canada. We would simply be asking Statistic Canada to undertake the census in the way it has taken the census for the last 40 years, with a mandatory long form.

We would not be changing the mandate of Statistics Canada. We would simply be enabling Statistics Canada to fulfill its existing mandate.

The parliamentary secretary also argued that the bill would impose a cost of $50 million to carry out the long form census.

This entirely false, in our view. The bill would not impose any cost since the government already conducts a short and long form census. The forms are being printed and the money is already being spent. Bill C-568 would simply ensure that it is mandatory for Canadians who receive the long form census to respond to it. As a result, no additional expenditures would be required from Statistics Canada to do this.

Indeed, because the long form census is no longer mandatory, the government must print and mail significantly more forms out to the public to gather the necessary data and compensate for a reduction in the rate of response. It is estimated the new voluntary form would in fact cost $30 million more. As a result, Bill C-568 would actually reduce expenditures. I repeat, Mr. Speaker: it would actually reduce expenditures by $30 million.

In summary, Bill C-568 would not change the mandate of Statistics Canada. It would simply enable Statistics Canada to fulfill its existing mandate and reduce, not increase, expenditures by $30 million.

For these reasons, we believe the bill does not require a royal recommendation and we look forward to your adjudication and ruling on this matter.

Business of Supply November 18th, 2010

Mr. Speaker, my colleague spoke about whether these are the right tools to do the job. The question is: What is the job?

My question then is: Is this not the opportunity, given what has happened in Afghanistan and the whole issue of peacemaking and peacekeeping, to conduct a foreign policy review with respect to what Canada actually is expected to do and what Canadians want us to be seen to be doing? Is this not the time to put this on hold, never mind the issues with respect to whether it should be a proposal call or whatever, and that we really need to look at what we are doing—

John Finlay November 4th, 2010

Mr. Speaker, this weekend, former Liberal MP, the late John Finlay, will be laid to rest. John Finlay passed away last month after a courageous battle with Parkinson's disease.

John will always be remembered as a man of the highest integrity, as someone who was passionate about serving his country and his constituents in the riding of Oxford, and, in particular, passionate about education.

As the former superintendent with the Oxford Board of Education, John was renowned for his kindness, his compassion and his deep respect for the tenets of public education and those who delivered it.

When John became a member of Parliament in 1993, he was the first Liberal elected in Oxford in 44 years. He became a strong advocate for our first nations peoples as a member of the parliamentary Standing Committee on Aboriginal Affairs and Northern Development for five consecutive years, and as parliamentary secretary to the minister of Indian affairs and northern development from 2000 to 2003. John was a strong voice for the people of Oxford, so much so that they re-elected him two more consecutive times before he retired in 2004.

He will be remembered as an integral part of our parliamentary family. I am certain that all members of this House join with me in extending our condolences to John's family and friends.