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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

Ethics October 3rd, 2002

Mr. Speaker, I have a question for the government House leader. I have to come back to the so-called ethics package. It is evident that members from both sides of the House have concerns with respect to a code of conduct for parliamentarians.

Would the government House leader please update the House on when the government will introduce legislation that will reflect the concerns that have been raised by members of the House?

Species at Risk Act June 20th, 2002

Mr. Speaker, as members know, earlier this month the House approved Bill C-5, an act to protect species at risk. It would appear that the bill cannot receive royal assent this summer.

I would ask the Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of the Environment if she would please outline for the House what the government intends to do in the interim to protect species at risk.

Vimy Ridge Day Act June 18th, 2002

Mr. Speaker, there is a conventional historical wisdom that if we do not learn from our history we will be doomed to repeat it.

Vimy stands out as a profound moment in Canadian history for all the reasons that have been pointed out. However I will add something to the debate. Until Vimy the frontal attack was the characterization of the way war was fought. Hundreds and thousands of men and women lost their lives because, as Marshal Foch said when asked who would win the war, “The side that has the most bullets will win the war”. It was a question of one casualty, one bullet. The frontal assault, wave after wave with machine guns pumping out bullets, was the way war was fought.

Vimy was profoundly important because according to my reading of history it was the first time Canadian troops were commanded by Canadian generals. The Canadian generals had a different attitude toward the value of their men. As has been pointed out, they sat with them, looked at models of Vimy and discussed the manner in which the battle should be fought. Each and every person from lance corporal or private all the way through the corps knew exactly what the mission was. They knew what they had to do to carry it out both individually and collectively.

The characterization of Vimy in my mind is that it was a time when it became absolutely apparent that life was fundamentally important and that men were more important than bullets or cannon shells. The men had to be taken into the confidence of the generals. They had to know why they were doing what they were doing and how they would do it together.

This says a lot about how we as Canadians approach battles and wars. The Minister of National Defence was barraged with questions about why we were not sending our men to Afghanistan. He was asked why we were not doing this or doing that. Whether it was 1917 or 2002 it would be profoundly important to me that the country's generals and leaders be absolutely certain about the conditions they were sending my son or daughter into. That is the Canadian way.

This should be part of the debate about why Vimy is fundamentally important. Yes, it is fundamentally important. It is the signature of what we were or are as a nation. However what does that mean? In today's context when we are trying to carve out our role in the world it means we are still fundamentally accountable for the manner in which we engage our citizens with respect to the critical issues of our times.

That is what it means to be a nation. That is what Vimy means to me. It should be written in the history books so that in our legions and across Canada citizens past and future can know the lessons of history. We must be our own nation, make our own policies and have our own fundamental Canadian values. Such values were instilled at Vimy.

Species at Risk Act June 11th, 2002

Mr. Speaker, the bill to which my hon. colleague referred was introduced as Bill C-65 several years ago. I was not here then but I have heard members debating the issues referred to by my hon. colleague.

First, with respect to scientific knowledge, there is absolutely no question that under the bill the entrenchment of COSEWIC, which consists of scientists who would gain their legitimacy not only through the legislation but through the council they sit on, would add a balanced, even-handed, measured, prudent and arm's length role to provide balance and accountability within government.

As I have made clear, the balancing act would be important. The concept of delegation which has been used on occasion could not be exercised in an ad hoc manner. The House could not delegate away its responsibility under the act. Nor should it. It would be accountable for checks and balances in the system and for doing what is right for the sustainability of our natural environment.

Second, the input of first nations has been built into the act. Bill C-5 would establish a legitimate advisory board to take into consideration aboriginal people's historic knowledge and understanding of the environment.

Third, compensation is probably the most difficult issue the committee grappled with. I congratulate its members for doing so. It was my first experience of seeing the cut and thrust of genuine debate in an attempt to find consensus on issues.

The compensation regime would be experience based. In this sense it would break new ground. It would attempt to emphasize the concept of stewardship in a manner that did not require the expropriation of lands or rights. It would develop partnerships with those who would be affected because they too have a natural legacy we all wish to preserve.

We will go through the bill carefully rather than in an arbitrary manner. We will learn from our experience and build a regime that is fair, balanced, measured and guarantees a sustainable future for our natural environment.

Species at Risk Act June 11th, 2002

Mr. Speaker, I would like to split my time allocation with another member from the government side.

I am speaking today in support of the species at risk legislation, a piece of legislation that has been, believe it or not, nine years in the making. Throughout that nine years much has happened. The provinces and territories have joined the federal government in making a strong commitment under the accord for the protection of species at risk.

We have moved forward on the habitat stewardship program to assist with co-operative and partnership efforts on the ground in species recovery and habitat protection. We have also established the ecogifts program, which encourages land donations. We also have recovery programs underway. The Committee on the Status of Endangered Wildlife in Canada, COSEWIC, has assessed more than 233 species against new criteria, a daunting task that was attacked with vigour and with good results. We have not stood by waiting for this piece of legislation.

However, now the time has come to put in place the law that will reinforce these many different actions of the past nine years. There are a number of precedents in the proposed species at risk act, but in my mind the most compelling is the rigorous and independent scientific process to assess species, operating at arm's length from the federal government.

The proposed species at risk act provides for a listing system based on sound science. It is the job of scientists to provide the determination of what species are at risk. Governments, though, must decide what actions to take on the scientific list because there could be major social and economic impacts. That is why the Government of Canada will make the decisions regarding the application of the prohibitions proposed under the bill. Let me explain how this will work.

By asking specific questions COSEWIC determines if a species should be assessed. These include determining if the species is native to Canada. Then a subcommittee of specialists develops a list of species to be considered for the assessment. When a decision has been made to assess a species, a status report is commissioned. These are very detailed reports that can take up to two years to prepare. COSEWIC then uses the status report to assign the species to one of seven categories: extinct; extirpated, which means the species is no longer present in the wild in Canada; endangered; threatened; of special concern; and species that are not at risk because there are data deficiencies.

The COSEWIC assessments are at the very core of Bill C-5. The completed assessments are presented to the Minister of the Environment and the Canadian Endangered Species Conservation Council. The COSEWIC list is also placed in the public registry established under the legislation.

Let us look at this process. Clearly scientists and scientists alone will make decisions about the assessments of species and where they should be placed on the list of those at risk.

The weight of the COSEWIC assessments is further enhanced by the fact that the organization is recognized legally in the legislation as part of the assessment and listing process. This is a huge step forward. Clearly the assessment will be done at arm's length from the government. It will not be subjected to any economic or social pressures. The COSEWIC decisions and findings will be published in a public registry for everyone to see at any time. This will be totally transparent.

When the government decides to add species to the legal list, then a number of provisions in the proposed species at risk legislation kick in. For instance, the bill contains automatic prohibitions against the killing or harming of individual species and the harming of their residences. It also stipulates that there would be mandatory recovery strategies put together, within specific timeframes, on recovery of the species from its dangerously low numbers.

Finally, and just as important, the process under the proposed law allows for authority to take emergency action to protect habitat.

We can see that the decisions involved are extremely serious. They involve both the economy and some of our social structures in a carefully balanced manner. For that reason the elected representatives of the government will make the decision on what constitutes the legal list. We have been unequivocal on this for some time and we know this is the prudent approach. Many scientists know this is the right approach and, having understood this process, agree with the government.

However, the work of COSEWIC will not end there. There are timelines for the development of the ministerial response to a COSEWIC assessment. That will happen within 90 days and the minister is fully accountable to respond. Every single year the minister will report to parliament on each COSEWIC assessment and the response the minister has made. This will happen one by one on every species put forward for protection. If this is not transparency, if this is not accountability and if this is not a fair, science based system, then I really do not know what is.

The public registry is but another example. Anyone will be able to track government action on species that have been found to be at risk following COSEWIC's scientific assessment.

The protection of endangered or threatened species is a responsibility that the government takes very seriously. We agree that COSEWIC species assessments must be addressed in a timely manner and the government is taking steps to do just that. There are 233 species in schedule 1 of the bill. This means that statutory obligations apply on proclamation of the act to 233 species that have been assessed by COSEWIC using the new and updated criteria. Each and every one of them, without exception, will be reported on. This is a very significant indication of the federal commitment on species at risk.

The assessment and listing of species is a perfect partnership: the scientists with the expertise to determine the threats and status and the elected members of parliament who will move forward on actions that address those threats and their status. It is a partnership that will work well, but it is not the only partnership.

Throughout the entire strategy for the protection of species at risk, which includes the bill, the accord and the habitat stewardship program, there are other partnerships that can be found. For example, they can be found in the work between a farmer and a conservation group on the loggerhead shrike. They are found between fishers and sightseers with respect to the protection of whales. They are found between scientists and government in listing and assessment. They are found between mining companies and forestry companies and municipal governments with provinces and territories. Partnerships are important to this strategy because they are what will work.

The proposed legislation backs up this process with strong prohibitions, but it depends first and foremost on co-operation. As I have said before, this is the approach that is required and that will work. We know that because we have seen what happens when the heavy hand of the law comes down first. From the beginning over nine years ago, this fundamentally Canadian approach has finally achieved a consensus for action. This is the strategy we have formed.

The missing piece is the species at risk act. It is time now to fill in the final building block and get on with the job of creating a sustainable and natural legacy for future generations.

Howard Mackie Awards May 28th, 2002

Mr. Speaker, Canadian Interuniversity Sport is the national governing body of university sport in Canada. Each year 49 members representing over 12,000 student athletes and 500 coaches compete for 19 national championships in 11 different sports.

Earlier this month Canadian Interuniversity Sport honoured the top female and male athletes with the 2002 Howard Mackie Awards, a distinction which carries with it a $5,000 scholarship to attend a Canadian university grad school of the recipient's choice.

Taking home the award as female athlete of the year was the University of Toronto's Liz Warden, a member of Canada's national swimming team and a resident of Indian River, Ontario. Liz was joined on the podium by fellow national swimming team member, Brian Jones of the University of British Columbia and a resident of Richmond, B.C.

The winners were selected by the board of trustees of the Canadian Athletic Foundation, a not for profit board established for the purpose of administering the awards.

I know everyone in the House joins with me in congratulating Liz Warden and Brian Jones as recipients of the awards.

Tax Credit May 21st, 2002

Mr. Speaker, it would be an understatement to say that the federal government recognizes the importance of expanding access to post-secondary education. There are significant benefits to individuals, to the economy and to society.

A cornerstone of the government's efforts is the Canada student loans program. From its inception in 1964 to March 2001 the program has assisted 4.5 million full time students by providing a total of nearly $20 billion in subsidized loans. I happen to be one of the first ones who entered into the program. I appreciated this assistance. It allows for needy students to access the knowledge, skills and learning they need in order to obtain better jobs and to attain a better standard of living for themselves and for their families.

Not only does the Canada student loans program provide loans to needy students, it also provides additional assistance to students in school and provides help to graduates to deal with the problems of high student debt levels. Many of these measures were key components of the Canadian opportunities strategy announced in the 1998 budget. Specifically the federal government assists those students in school and in financial need by the following approaches.

It provides them with access to Canada student loans of up to $5,610 in loans per year to help them with their financial needs. Provinces supplement Canada student loans with their own student financial assistance programs.

It fully subsidizes the cost of interest on the loans while the students are in full time studies at an annual cost to the government of nearly $250 million.

It assists students with special needs through grants to supplement their student loans. There are grants for students with dependants, students with disabilities, high need part time students, and women pursuing doctoral studies. In the recent December 2001 budget the federal government increased by $10 million a year the assistance available for students with disabilities.

In addition, the Canada Millennium Scholarship Foundation, which was established and funded by the federal government, provides bursaries averaging $3,000 to over 90,000 needy students annually to help reduce the debt they would otherwise incur.

In recognition of the problems caused by increasing student debt loads, the federal government also provides significant additional assistance for graduates experiencing financial difficulties in repaying their student loans, such as the following.

Graduates experiencing financial difficulty in repaying their loans are eligible for interest free periods on their loan for up to 54 months after graduation. During these periods of interest relief, the government pays interest on the loan so that it is kept in good standing.

Also, if the graduate is still experiencing financial difficulty after interest relief has been exhausted, the loan repayment period can be extended from 10 to 15 years, reducing monthly payments by up to 25%. If there are still problems, debt reduction is available. The maximum amount of assistance is the lesser of 50% of the loan or $10,000.

In addition, there is a tax credit for interest paid on federal and provincial student debt. On Canada student loans the tax credit reduces the effective interest rate on the loan to slightly above prime.

Together these measures provide an insurance policy for graduates in repayment. They ensure that those having difficulty repaying their student loans will not have to go into default. Those with the most serious problems will have their debt reduced, unlike the member's proposal for a tax credit for principal paid on student loans. These measures target federal assistance to those who need the help the most. These are examples of what we think is smart spending.

In summary, the Canada student loans program currently disburses over $1.5 billion in loans annually to nearly 400,000 students, and up to $120 million in Canada study grants. Annually the program assists over 30% of all Canadian post-secondary students.

The cost to the government of the program is expected to be nearly $925 million in 2002-03. There is little doubt that the Canada student loan program has been an effective way to make post-secondary education more accessible for Canadians.

The cost borne by Canadian taxpayers to expand access to post-secondary education is a necessary investment in Canada's future, one that will pay huge dividends in terms of economic growth, increased productivity and higher incomes for the graduates.

Expanding access to post-secondary education continues to be a priority for the federal government. A key objective of the recently announced innovation strategy is to ensure that all Canadians have access to post-secondary education.

The Minister of Human Resources Development will be consulting with partners and stakeholders to determine how this objective can best be met.

Arts and Culture May 9th, 2002

Mr. Speaker, support for the performing arts and community theatre is alive and well in towns and cities right across Canada. Nowhere is live theatre more successful than in my riding of York South--Weston where members of the Weston Little Theatre have performed 15 plays so far, ranging from the hilariously funny murder mystery farce While The Lights Were Out to the dramatic Whose Life Is It Anyway? .

Weston Little Theatre has received two Thea Awards, which in community theatres is equivalent to the Oscars, for its production of Italian American Reconciliation . As in community theatres across Canada, Weston Little Theatre is managed by an all volunteer board of management. Membership is open to anyone in the area, no experience required, just a love of theatre.

I congratulate community theatres across Canada and in particular the Weston Little Theatre which this summer will be performing Theatre in the Park: A Night of One Acts at the bandshell in Little Avenue Memorial Park. Admission is free and everyone is welcome.

The Environment April 22nd, 2002

Mr. Speaker, as has been pointed out earlier, while the government is engaged in public consultations on a new agricultural policy, there are growing signs that greenhouse gases from farming affect our environment and increase the rate of climate change.

Would the Minister of the Environment please tell the House what the government is doing to help farmers reduce greenhouse gas emissions?

Geological Survey of Canada April 16th, 2002

Mr. Speaker, on April 14 the Geological Survey of Canada celebrated its 160th anniversary. The Geological Survey of Canada which is part of Natural Resources Canada is Canada's oldest scientific agency.

The Geological Survey of Canada has a rich history closely entwined with that of Canada's. Its pioneering geologists were often the first explorers to chart the frontiers of our vast country. Today it is a world leader in the evolution of scientific concepts that allow us to better understand the planet on which we live.

The work of the Geological Survey of Canada gives us knowledge upon which we base critical decisions affecting the development of our lands and waters and our mineral, energy and groundwater resources.

I congratulate those whose dedication and talent have made the Geological Survey of Canada an important part of Canada's fabric.