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

The Environment April 10th, 2002

Mr. Speaker, recent studies show that smog seriously contributes to heart and lung disease among Canadians of all ages. As we know smog is not just an urban problem but should be of concern to members on all sides of the House. In addition to the nation's cities, smog is a problem in the B.C. Fraser Valley, in southwestern Ontario and from New Brunswick to western Nova Scotia.

Last February the Minister of the Environment announced a 10 year federal agenda on cleaner vehicles, engines and fuels which was a key component of the Government of Canada clean air program. Would the Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of the Environment tell the House what actions the government has taken recently to move--

Species at Risk Act March 21st, 2002

Madam Speaker, the proposed species at risk act is becoming one of the most widely debated pieces of legislation the House has considered in some time. As much as we would like to say all decisions associated with species at risk and habitat protection are cut and dried, black and white and easy to decide I think everyone in the House would agree that is not the case.

Some members may agree on the compensation approach but not the listing approach. Some like the notion of government accountability but do not care for the way ministers would make decisions. Some support the co-operative approach. Others think there should be a more heavy handed approach.

This is only what we hear in the Chamber. Outside the Chamber even more has been made of the bill. Would it protect enough? Would it protect too much? Would it be better to move with what we have or have nothing at all?

I am not making light of the controversy. We need to acknowledge and even revel in it because it is democracy in action. However we need to understand why the government has been so insistent on its approach to issues concerning species at risk. It has stuck with them. It has introduced and reintroduced them. It has understood the political liabilities of some of them and still stuck to its positions. Why? It is because they are the right positions.

This is not arrogance. The government's position is based on the best available research. Bill C-5 is the result of exhaustive consultations. It is the result of nearly nine years of looking at what works and what does not. It is the result of studying the American example in the Canadian context, looking at precedents for compensation, and learning from 25 years of scientific expertise under the COSEWIC process.

We did not begin fully armed with policies. We built the bill one step at a time, with many amendments, and on the basis of the best experience in modern and up to date federalism. This is the Canadian co-operative approach. The provinces and territories must be involved. The territories must be treated as full partners in the protection of species at risk. There is a significant amount of federal land in the territories but under the legislation they would not be treated as little brothers or sisters. They would be treated as equals.

We must continue to ensure this full partnership is not undermined in any way. The approach must be one of joint actions and not heavy handed, top down law. Balance is what we must strive for. That is an absolute certainty. That is exactly what has been achieved in Bill C-5.

Our overall strategy for protecting species at risk is to ensure the federal portion of the responsibility is met. Bill C-5 is one element of the strategy. It would complement the work of other levels of government. It would build on the partnership approach of the federal provincial territorial Accord for the Protection of Species at Risk. It would reinforce the stewardship component of that strategy.

The accord is one of Canada's commitments to protect species. We also have commitments through international and domestic agreements such as the United Nations Convention on Biological Diversity and the Migratory Birds Convention Act.

Unfortunately standing committee amendments eliminate the incentive for the Northwest Territories, Yukon and Nunavut to complete the development of their own species at risk legislation to meet their commitments under the accord. That is not good news for wildlife.

We should all be proud that for the first time in any piece of federal conservation or environmental legislation we are entrenching the role and importance of traditional aboriginal knowledge. These are the people whose traditions tell us about the habits and patterns of birds and animals. These are the people who know because they have been told by their parents and elders going back generations that certain plants can thrive in certain situations. Such knowledge could help us protect species and plan effective recoveries.

We are incorporating aboriginal traditional knowledge into our assessment and recovery process in a formal way. This is quite unique. We are supporting steps to establish a formal aboriginal committee that would recognize the enormous contribution aboriginal groups have made in the formation of these policies. It would be an enormous step forward. It would formally recognize and acknowledge our partnership and the valuable contribution of aboriginal people to the protection of species at risk.

The policy intents of Bill C-5 were not arrived at overnight. They came from years of study, consultation, discussion and examination. The co-operative approach is the Canadian way. It is the only way. It is already working. The time to act on the legislation is now.

If protecting endangered species is a significant step toward giving future generations a sustainable legacy in the natural environment then whatever the imperfections of Bill C-5, perceived or otherwise, it is the best and perhaps last chance to finally make a beginning.

Species at Risk Act February 18th, 2002

Mr. Speaker, I am privileged to be a member of the standing committee on the environment. As such I voted for some of the improvements that the standing committee made to Bill C-5. I voted against several amendments which were passed by the committee because I felt they undermined the co-operative and accountable approach of the legislation.

There is no question that our country needs federal legislation to protect species at risk. We need a law that will encourage positive actions and behaviour, an act that will motivate and nurture the will to build upon a strong foundation of stewardship across our country. In fact, at this important point in our federalism the legislation comes at a time and in a manner that co-operation across the country is being achieved so that species at risk and their habitats would be protected.

As parliamentarians we know that building co-operation and partnerships is the most productive way to change things for the better. If we want our citizens to modify their behaviour to achieve a common goal then we should give them the tools and encouragement to do so. We cannot expect to earn this commitment simply because it is mandated by a law.

As a member of the committee I learned that there is much anxiety about endangered species legislation. Our job now is to achieve legislation that Canadians could trust and support and that would result in unequivocal support for legislation that would make all the difference to the 387 species at risk across the country.

Some Canadians are afraid that endangered species legislation could result in the government taking away their land as soon as species are found there. We need to pass legislation that would make Canadians full partners in species protection. We need legislation that would not remove people from nature but instead finds ways to have people and wildlife living in harmony. We should not risk arbitrary legislation but legislation that would encourage co-operation.

Other Canadians are worried that the bill would include too much discretion. They fear that the government will not act. As a committee we added many reporting requirements to ensure that no government would be able to ignore a species at risk in Canada. Every species at risk listed by the independent scientists of the committee on the status of endangered wildlife in Canada, COSEWIC, would receive the attention of the government within 90 days.

I am proud to support a government amendment to Bill C-5 that would add every single species recommended by COSEWIC for immediate protection to the legal list. This clearly demonstrates how seriously the government takes its job to prevent any more species from extinction.

I also support a government motion that would restore the accountability of the government for decisions to protect species and habitat. Canadians expect that decisions that may affect their lives and livelihoods will be made by the people they elect to represent them. We cannot shirk our responsibility and pass the buck to non-elected scientists to make these tough decisions for us. We need to keep the scientific and political processes separate but co-ordinated and accountable.

At this time when we have already accomplished a better understanding of our shared jurisdictional responsibilities the provinces and territories are concerned that this act would undermine their own work to protect species and habitat. We need to maintain their full partnership for species protection in Canada. They manage the majority of lands where species live and we need their full participation in wildlife protection.

We should not dictate to provinces and territories how to protect species and habitat under their jurisdiction. We need the provinces and territories as equal partners. We need to work with them to find the most effective ways of protecting species and habitat. This is what we committed to do when we all signed the accord for the protection of species at risk in 1996. We need to ensure Bill C-5 is consistent with the co-operative approach that we agreed to under that accord.

We are all in this together. Canadians overwhelmingly support passing the species legislation and they want us to get on with the job of protecting species at risk. We can achieve this by making new partners and improving the partnerships we have already started.

Once passed, Bill C-5 would help us off to a good start and 233 species at risk across Canada along with their residences would be protected by law. Recovery strategies for all 233 species at risk would proceed. When parliament reviews the legislation in five years' time I am absolutely certain that we would look back at the legislation as a seminal period, when we made Canadian wildlife much safer and that we delivered on our commitment to pass along a stronger natural legacy for future generations.

Employment January 31st, 2002

Mr. Speaker, in addition to focusing on their studies right now many young Canadians are looking ahead and thinking about finding summer of employment.

Would the Secretary of State for Children and Youth outline what plans the government has to assist them in finding summer employment?

Disabled Persons Day December 3rd, 2001

Mr. Speaker, the United Nations has designated the third day in December as International Day of Disabled Persons, a day to celebrate and acknowledge the experience and capabilities of people with disabilities in all aspects of political, social, economic and cultural life.

Canada has made considerable progress in all areas of disability. Initiatives in research, prevention, rehabilitation and community action have brought new meaning to the concepts of integration and life with dignity for people with disabilities.

Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation, Canada's national housing agency, makes a valuable contribution to these efforts, helping to meet the housing needs of people with disabilities. CMHC pioneered initiatives such as the residential rehabilitation assistance program for persons with disabilities. CMHC researchers are also carrying out projects designed to improve housing for Canadians with disabilities.

I encourage all Canadians to join the United Nations in observing the International Day of Disabled Persons.

Public Works October 19th, 2001

Mr. Speaker, the parliament buildings are one of our most prized national treasures, are an essential part of the country's heritage and are in dire need of restoration.

Could the Minister of Public Works and Government Services inform the House on the government's plan for the parliamentary precinct?

The Environment October 2nd, 2001

Mr. Speaker, the Great Lakes hold about 20% of the surface freshwater in the world and the entire drainage basin measures over 750,000 square kilometres on both sides of the border.

In 1971 the Canada-Ontario agreement respecting the Great Lakes basin ecosystem was signed to stem the tide of environmental degradation within the Great Lakes and to restore the ecosystem's health.

Would the Minister of the Environment update the House on the status of the agreement, how it is working and what the government is doing to reduce pollution and restore areas harmed by pollution in the Great Lakes basin?

Business of Supply October 1st, 2001

Mr. Speaker, I appreciate the chance to speak to the motion which calls upon the government to accept the recommendations contained in the House procedures committee report dealing with a review of the estimates. It is particularly gratifying since the review of the estimates is a key function of parliament.

However, as members know, finding an effective way of doing this often has proven to be a thorny issue for parliamentarians. It involves two vital principles that are difficult to reconcile, namely the need for government to have its request for funds dealt with by specific dates, thus allowing for the efficient administrative operation of the state, and the need for members to examine these requests in sufficient detail to ensure that taxpayer money is being spent wisely.

As parliamentarians our goal must be to balance these interests and to provide for adequate efficiency and oversight. The recommendations contained in the report are but one example of proposals tabled in the House aimed at resolving this issue.

I acknowledge the work of members of the House who have examined the issue. However simply rubber stamping all the recommendations as the motion suggests does not recognize the complexity and importance of the review process. It requires that we take a thoughtful approach to the issue.

We need to approach with some caution the report recommendation which calls for the establishment of an estimates committee charged with reviewing all estimates, particularly since existing committees have already been doing this work. According to the report such a system would allow for better review. Members would be able to devote themselves more fully to important functions and they would acquire a greater understanding of the supply process.

While it is a very appealing prospect, we know the devil is often in the details. It is not clear how this would be achieved. One way might be to ask some members to serve on more than one committee. However such an approach clearly has its problems. It would mean asking members who already are stretched to the limit participating in debates, attending caucus meetings, serving on committees and taking care of constituent needs to take on yet another responsibility.

Another idea might be to assign fewer members to existing standing committees in order to find the members needed. This also has its problems. It would mean depriving existing committees of the people needed to properly conduct their work.

How many times have we heard that we should be strengthening our committee structure? Having one committee consider estimates instead of letting all members review them could result in our losing the input and insights of parliamentarians who have indepth knowledge of individual departments. Such a situation would damage our ability to fulfill our responsibilities.

It is impossible to assess a department's spending estimates without first having a good idea of its performance, goals, priorities and knowledge which a number of members have acquired as a result of many years of experience. We need to recognize that a number of other benefits flow from the current system under which estimates are reviewed by the House and by committees charged with specific policy areas.

For example, it would encourage members to see the bigger picture. The current situation allows members to be able to connect the individual questions of budget with the overall policy issues involved.

While there is much good in our current estimate approach all of us agree there is room for improvement. That is why the House modernization committee made a number of recommendations aimed at increasing the role of the House and reviewing government spending plans.

Among them was a proposal that the House consider two sets of estimates each year. This would allow all members to continue to review estimates, provide a high profile televised reminder of the role that members have in granting funds to the government, and we all know how much we like that, and permit the House to benefit from the input of members with indepth knowledge of specific policy areas.

The adoption of this recommendation in the House would go a long way to improving how parliamentarians deal with the business of supply. Rather than pushing willy-nilly into improving these proposals we should allow ourselves to benefit from the new estimates review process which we have adopted.

Only then would we be able to do the best possible job of evaluating if further changes were warranted. If providing efficient government while at the same time ensuring proper accountability and saving taxpayer money is our goal, we have already gone a long way toward improving that process.

I will not be supporting the motion. Nevertheless I remain committed to working with all members of the House on these important issues, especially at the committee level. It is only by working together that we can find the right balance between promoting efficient government with efficient government procedures and holding departments accountable for the wise use of taxpayer money.

Big Brothers and Big Sisters September 28th, 2001

Mr. Speaker, September is Big Brothers and Big Sisters Month.

Big Brothers and Big Sisters of Canada provides mentoring programs to children in more than 300 communities across this country. Most Canadians know at least one or two generous volunteers who give their time and energy to ensure that a young person has a role model to look up.

High school graduation rates among little brothers and little sisters are 20% higher than the national average. Right now there are over 10,000 young people matched with adults through this program.

I ask the House to join me in saluting the volunteers whose efforts make such a significant difference in the lives of so many of our young children in Canada.

Canada-U.S. Meeting September 20th, 2001

Mr. Chairman, I am grateful for what I thought was going to be a non-partisan opportunity to reflect on the very tragic events that occurred in the United States, the act of terrorism that not only affected the citizens of the United States but citizens from Canada and all over the world.

We should remember that the attack on the symbol of the United States, its strength and its free society, could have been an attack on Canada or on any other place in the free world. It could have also been an attack on the United Nations. As has been pointed out time and again, the act of terrorism was not a religious act, it was an act of violence against humanity.

We reflect this evening, in a non-partisan way, on what we can tell the Prime Minister to pass along to President Bush.

I understand concerns have been raised by those who are deeply concerned about terrorism about the position the Canadian government has taken. I am not able to give a chapter and verse defence of what we are or are not doing. The role of the opposition, quite frankly and quite appropriately, has been very well articulated, it is to ask those questions. Over the next number of weeks, if not months and years, those questions will be raised for the benefit of our citizens, and the government should attempt to answer them.

I must say that if the defence system against terrorism were the most up to date, with the most costly intelligence and surveillance equipment available and the most vigilant arms service capable of matching and reacting, the United States would not have been affected by this act of terrorism any more than the British are affected by the violence reaped upon it by the IRA or Israel being attacked in a terrorist fashion. The fact is, from what I understand and from what people in my constituency have been telling me, acts of terrorism are often not related at all to those provisions of capacity and how much we spend. They are related to how vigilant, how resolute and how committed we are to the values that we wish to protect.

There is absolutely no doubt in my mind that over the next few months, with the kind of vigilant questioning that is being brought to the floor and the follow up that will come from the government, we will be resolute and focused and we will take those actions that will convince our communities that we not only know the mechanisms that will protect us but also the values.

As I said this afternoon in an S. O. 31, Graham Green wrote something about the door of terrorism opening. He said that one of the most profound things that happens when the genie of terrorism opens the door is the terror and fear that we feel, that in the name of civilized society that we are incapable of acting or responding.

That is not the message we should send to the Prime Minister or the Prime Minister should take on behalf of Canadians to the president. We are capable of responding. The United States has been the bastion of freedom and the American way in which we in fact believe. Those values have been the greatest experienced in modern times. We will reaffirm that we are capable of responding. That is the first thing we should tell the president.

The second is how we respond. There are those who believe that the strategic response should be around the perimeter of North America or in fact the perimeter of Canada and the perimeter of the United States.

In this era of globalization, which is the prevailing trend, we are talking about breaking down boundaries. Europe is moving toward a common monetary system. We are attempting to allow capital to flow and to do things in a positive way so that capital and investment can start to eradicate poverty and start not only to export the values we believe in but in a real fashion create multilateral institutions that will not only serve the world well but will serve us well.

The third message we should give the president is that where the United States has been withdrawing from multilateral action the times beg for it because we cannot go backward. We must go forward.

We must reaffirm our faith in each other through multilateral entities. We must firm up the World Bank and the Organization for Economic and Co-operative Development, the OECD. We must work through the IMF, the American banking system and the Latin American banking system. We must develop mechanisms which make people start to understand, not in global terms that the WTO cannot work, is the enemy and we need acts of terrorism, not that dialogue and true grappling with the forces of poverty and extremism cannot be dealt with in the summit of the Americas, that we can work together to make multilateral institutions in keeping with globalization effective for the world. That is the message we have to give to the president.

To do that it seems to me there is some American experience. I refer to Franklin Delano Roosevelt who in his day had to respond to the situation. He described the epidemic of world lawlessness by saying that if it were a physical disease it would have to be quarantined and that those who did not support the quarantine would have to be brought into international accountability. He also said under different circumstances that America should walk softly but carry a big stick, and it was right then.

President John Kennedy said that in a thousand years when the history of civilized society was written we would not and should not be remembered for the political battles we won or lost but for the manner in which we contributed to human dignity and the freeing of the human spirit.

That is the litmus test against which we will be effective in combating terrorism by bringing everyone together and recognizing the total historical context within which we must operate. That historical context demands, indeed it cries out in this global community when so much can be lost so quickly, that we work together.

Those are the messages that my community and I are asking our Prime Minister to carry to President Bush.