House of Commons photo


Crucial Fact

  • His favourite word was particular.

Last in Parliament September 2017, as Liberal MP for Scarborough—Agincourt (Ontario)

Won his last election, in 2015, with 52% of the vote.

Statements in the House

Business of Supply June 12th, 2017

Mr. Speaker, I am so honoured to have so many hon. colleagues join us in the House today.

I have not taken the floor in some time and I am going to ask you, Mr. Speaker, and my colleagues on all sides of the aisle, for some indulgence today. I have every intention of speaking to the substantive motion before us, but before I do that, I have some matters of a personal nature that I have felt in my heart for some time and need to get out, and I am going to simply say them if the House would grant me that dispensation.

Let me first take the opportunity to introduce some of the most important people in my life, whom I have the pleasure of having in Ottawa today. That is my parents Sandra and Anthony Chan, my brother Dr. Kevin Chan, and of course my beloved wife Jean Yip. Unfortunately, our three children Nathaniel, Ethan, and Theodore could not join us. The older two are currently in examinations, although Jean and I will be very pleased to welcome our youngest child Theo on Wednesday when he comes to Ottawa for his graduating field trip. We are very much looking forward to that.

First and foremost it is a tremendous honour to serve as the member for Scarborough—Agincourt. All of us treasure the privilege that we have serving in this particular place. I am so grateful to my constituents of Scarborough—Agincourt for having given me a mandate twice to serve in this wonderful place.

While it is a very proud thing to serve as a member of Parliament, there is only one thing that makes me more proud and that is to simply let my parents know my greater pride is reserved for being first and foremost their son, and being Kevin's brother, and most importantly, the spouse of my beloved wife, who has been there every step of the way. I simply could not ask for a better partner in life.

As I mentioned, one of the difficult things that often confronts us, and it is not unique to Canadians but obviously it is a challenge for those of us who serve in public office, is the sacrifices that are made by our families. If I have any failings to my children, such as having missed some of their important milestones, like recently missing Ethan's jazz concert at his school in order to perform my function here in the House of Commons, I ask them to forgive me, but I will explain the important reasons for why we do what we do.

The most important people in my life have taught me three important lessons and they are the concepts of dedication, duty, and devotion.

On dedication, my parents, and be that very much at an early age, instilled in both my younger brother and I the concept of doing our best. I have to say, and I would acknowledge, that I am one who has perhaps not achieved the same standard that my younger brother has achieved in terms of dedication. Dad has often reminded me that I often relied far too much on my talent and not enough on hard and diligent work, but I would like to think that was an important lesson that was imbued on both of us.

On the second point of duty, the point I want to make here is that it was not necessarily done by way of word. It was done by way of practice, through the daily way in which my parents lived their lives.

Duty of course was paramount for them. I hope that Kevin and I have discharged our duty. I have the privilege of serving as a public office holder. My brother does it in a different way as a pediatrician, as a physician, who has travelled the planet to serve the least fortunate children in the world. I am very proud of the accomplishments he has made so far and the accomplishments he will achieve in the future on behalf of the most vulnerable children around the world.

Finally, my parents also taught us devotion. I also had another very important teacher in that, and that is my wife Jean. As many members know, I have been going through this challenge with my health for the last number of years. I simply could not have asked for a more devoted partner in life as I have walked through this journey. I will steal a line from a former prime minister of ours, the Right Hon. Jean Chrétien, in referencing his partner Aline: “Without you, nothing.”

Mr. Speaker, I wanted to get back to a more fundamental issue, one that has been raised a substantive number of times in the House, and that is how we comport ourselves.

I am not sure how many more times I will have the strength to get up and do a 20-minute speech in this place, but the point I want to impart to all of us is that I know we are all hon. members, I know members revere this place, and I would beg us to not only act as hon. members but to treat this institution honourably.

To that extent I want to make a shout-out to our colleague, the member for Saanich—Gulf Islands. This parliamentarian, who despite the fact we are not in the same party and despite the fact that we may disagree on some substantive issues quite vehemently, I consider to be a giant, not simply because she exhorts us to follow Standing Order 18 but more importantly I have observed in her practice that she reveres this place. She is dedicated to her constituents. She practices, both here and in committee, the highest standard of practice that any parliamentarian could ask for. Despite strongly disagreeing, perhaps, with the position of the government of the day, she does so in a respectful tone. I would ask all of us to elevate our debate, to elevate our practice to that standard.

It is only through that practice, which I believe she so eloquently demonstrates, that Canadians will have confidence in this democratic institution that we all hold so dear. It is important that we do that.

The other thing that I wanted to speak broadly to is the practice of ditching what I call the “canned talking points”. I am not perfect. I know that sometimes it takes some practice. There are instances where it is necessary for us to have the guidance and assistance of our staff, the ministries, and of our opposition research. However, I do not think it gives Canadians confidence in our debates in this place when we formulaically repeat those debates. It is more important that we bring the experience of our constituents here and impose it upon the question of the day, and ask ourselves how we get better legislation and how we make better laws.

We can disagree strongly, and in fact we should. That is what democracy is about. However, we should not just use the formulaic talking points. It does not elevate this place. It does not give Canadians confidence in what democracy truly means.

The other thing I would simply ask all of our colleagues to consider is that while we debate and engage, what we are doing right now, when we listen, that we listen to one another, despite our strong differences. That is when democracy really happens. That is the challenge that is going on around the world right now. No one is listening. Everyone is just talking at once. We have to listen to each other. In so doing, we will make this place a stronger place.

I have some comments that I want to speak broadly to Canadians on before I get to the substantive issue that was introduced in the main motion by our friend from Selkirk—Interlake—Eastman. I know that sometimes, for example, when we are about to enter question period, and I have to be honest, I am one who is beginning to find it challenging to watch, maybe it is because I am on the government side. I have certainly participated with some glee at times on the opposition side, but I recognize that, and maybe my perspective has changed now that I have had a change of position in this place in the House, although I do not face the daily barrage, unlike members of the government.

I believe strongly that despite what we see in this place, what gives us strength is the fact that we can actually do it. We can actually engage in this process without fundamental rancour, without fundamental disagreement, and without violence. That is the difference, and that is why I so love this place. I would ask Canadians to give heart to their democracy, to treasure it and revere it. Of course, I would ask them to do the most basic thing, which is to cast their ballots. However, for me it is much more than that. I ask them for their civic engagement, regardless of what it actually may mean, whether it is coaching a soccer team or helping someone at a food bank. For me it can be even simpler than that.

It is the basic common civility we share with each other that is fundamental. It is thanking our Tim Hortons server. It is giving way to someone on the road. It is saying thanks. It is the small things we collectively do, from my perspective, that make a great society, and to me, that is ultimately what it means to be a Canadian. We are so privileged to live in this country, because we have these small acts of common decency and civility that make us what we are. I would ask members to carry on that tradition, because that is the foundation of what makes Canada great.

If I may quote the Constitution, it imbues peace, order, and good government. I would go to my friend from Lanark—Frontenac—Kingston, who would appreciate that particular point. We have much to be proud of, and I would simply ask us to celebrate this incredible institution. By doing those small acts, we will continue to uphold our Canadian democracy and the values that bind us together.

I think it would be inappropriate if I did not speak to the substantive motion of the day, so with the remaining five minutes I have been afforded, I will briefly address the motion our friend from Selkirk—Interlake—Eastman has put before us, because I may not have actually addressed it at all.

Let me simply say that I understand where the motion the member has brought forward comes from, but I profoundly disagree, and I disagree with it, respectfully, from the perspective of three quick criticisms.

First, I recognize that it attempts to provide a certain narrative that a particular party is good at managing the economy and a particular party is not so good at managing the economy, and it then tries to put piecemeal reasons why that is the case. I would first argue that it is difficult to evaluate the economic performance of a particular government after 18 months in any truly meaningful way, given the measures that have been taken.

I accept very much that we can attack certain measures the government has put in place. Whether one agrees or disagrees is obviously a point of reasonable debate, but I would argue that suggesting that what we have done would lead to some kind of profound economic catastrophe or failure at the present time is simply premature. I would argue that it would take some time yet to evaluate whether the policies of this government would lead to long-term, sustainable economic growth.

My second criticism is that there are lot more complicated variables that go into issues of economic performance that this particular motion, in my respectful view, does not address. I would argue that there are broad parameters related to innovation and where the economy ought to go that are perhaps not captured in this motion.

The final point I would raise is to simply suggest that in some ways, this motion is somewhat nostalgic in terms of its viewpoint. It tends to look at our economy as a whole in terms of what it was or what it used to be as opposed to what it ought to be or where it ought to go. From my perspective, it does not address what I consider to be some of the much broader forces of global technological change this government is attempting to fundamentally address. We need to ask the critical questions in terms of where we need to ultimately go in positioning our national economy in moving things forward.

I would offer those points as quick criticisms of the substantive motion before the House today, but I thank the hon. member for Selkirk—Interlake—Eastman for bringing it forward. It raises an important question about the direction of our economy. I would ask the hon. member to consider it from the perspective of our country as a whole as opposed to piecemeal. This motion, in some respects, has a propensity toward regionalizing, which I feel is an inappropriate approach when a government is attempting to address issues in the national economy.

Armenia April 12th, 2017

Mr. Speaker, let me thank my friend from Cambridge for his earlier comments. I also stand today as chair of the Canada-Armenia Parliamentary Friendship Group to recognize, along with the Armenian community, April 24, as it commemorates the 102nd anniversary of the Armenian genocide.

This day of remembrance pays tribute to the victims and survivors. To this end, we reaffirm our commitment to an inclusive and diverse society, while rejecting all forms of intolerance, discrimination, and hatred.

April is genocide prevention month, which was led by former MP Brad Butt through his Motion No. 587, and passed by the House in 2015.

This acknowledgement of Armenian genocide memorial day is important for all of us to remember. I commend the Armenian community for passing the memory of the Armenian genocide to future generations. If we do not remember the mistakes of the past, we are destined to repeat them.

On this solemn occasion, let us renew our commitment to stand for human rights and justice at home and around the world.

Rouge National Urban Park Act February 21st, 2017

Madam Speaker, I want to thank the hon. member for Peace River—Westlock for a wonderful explanation of the fundamental differences between the Rouge National Urban Park and the Wood Buffalo National Park in his riding. It was a particularly educational experience for me.

I want to follow up on the comments my colleagues made about the notion of ecological integrity. Not only, as the member for Saanich—Gulf Islands noted, is this a particularly important Carolinian forest, it also represents the largest diversity of flora and fauna in this particular region, which is, in itself, worthy of protection. Would my friend not agree that the notion of ecological integrity is particularly important, from an aspirational aspect, to make sure that this diversity is maintained?

Hon. Robert Stanbury February 13th, 2017

Mr. Speaker, I am honoured to rise today to pay tribute to the hon. Robert Stanbury, who passed away this past Friday morning in Burlington.

Bob, as he was known, was first elected in 1965 in the riding of York—Scarborough and represented his constituents with distinction until 1977. Under Prime Minister Pierre Trudeau, he served as minister responsible for citizenship and information, later as minister of communications, and finally as minister of national revenue.

A dedicated public servant, lawyer, and father, Bob was also a force for Canada's north. He served as president of the Canadian Council for Aboriginal Business and was a founding member of the Nunavut Arbitration Board. His good nature, wisdom, and support will be missed by many, including the Minister of Democrat Institutions, for whom I know he served as a mentor. I take comfort knowing that he enriched the lives of many through his strength, compassion, and leadership.

We join Bob's family and friends in mourning his loss. We thank him, knowing that Canada is a better society for his contributions.

Business of Supply February 9th, 2017

Mr. Speaker, the member for Humber River—Black Creek has been a mentor to me since I have had the privilege of joining her in the House.

The procedure and House affairs, the committee on which I sit, will be dealing with many things moving forward. As we know, we already have Bill C-33 before the House, and there are important elements in that which would certainly strengthen participation among our citizenry. In the minister's mandate letter are issues with respect to fundraising. That issue will likely emerge in legislation. We already have some of the toughest laws in the world on political fundraising, but this would make them even more stringent. We are going to be bringing forward other changes, for example, with respect to dealing with cybersecurity threats, again which is found in the minister's mandate letter.

Those are important issues that Canadians should have confidence in and will help address and alleviate any of the concerns they have about their participation.

Business of Supply February 9th, 2017

Mr. Speaker, I have tremendous respect for my colleague on the other side.

Let me also express that there is a measure of disappointment that we could not find a pathway forward. Governments are always faced with new information, new challenges, and new evidence that comes before it, and has to ultimately make certain choices.

Getting back to my earlier point about our ambitious agenda and our ambition for Canadians, we have made it very clear that we would consult broadly with Canadians, and that is exactly what we have done. I cannot think of more engagement on a particular topic than on this particular topic, whether it was with respect to the 170-odd members who had town halls, the consultation, the minister and the parliamentary secretary travelling across the country, or the special parliamentary committee that was formed to consult with Canadians on this particular issue.

As has been noted, we could not find an ultimate consensus. All the political parties have particularly driven views on what type of reform they would like to see, or lack thereof, and we have a particular partisan concern or perspective on the pathway forward. From my perspective, we saw a huge divergence of views. That does not necessarily, though, diminish our intent to still move forward on so many other aspects that would enfranchise our citizens in participating in our democracy.

Business of Supply February 9th, 2017

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to rise to join the debate. I want to thank my hon. colleague from Rosemont—La Petite-Patrie for introducing today's motion.

For me, it is always important to join the debate, particularly on issues of democracy. When I became a member of Parliament, I deliberately chose this topic for my inaugural speech in this place. Therefore, it is always a pleasure to come back to this topic, which I hold quite dearly. I have always tried to contribute to this place by having an engaged debate with my colleagues, and to contemplate the many different points of view that are reflected in debates that relate to our democratic practices.

I want to stress to colleagues that, at the core of this issue that is before us, and as part of this government, one of the things that is central for us is our ambitious agenda. We have been very ambitious in terms of our expectations for ourselves and for Canadians. This was also reflected in the aggressive platform we advanced in 2015. I recognize that when we are dealing with something as ambitious as what we were attempting to put forth, sometimes when we get into government there is the practical reality of some of the issues we have to face, and we have to look at the evidence before us and then to reconsider whether there is an appropriate path forward.

I want to get my comments out to those who are concerned about the recent decision we made that there is no path forward with respect to changes to the voting system, and make some recommendations as to how we could do this in a different way, and how we can create a process that depoliticizes what has become a highly politicized conversation.

First and foremost, when we are talking about something as fundamental as changing the voting system, we have to create a timeline and a process that can be achieved. It has to be done in such a way that it makes it less partisan. To some degree I acknowledge that from the government side there was probably a flaw in the process. In trying to do this within one electoral cycle, and the fact that we did it through a process of consultation and a committee of parliamentarians, it has become a highly charged partisan process. That is not helpful in getting to a consensus position on a change to our elections system.

My recommendation for those who continue to advocate for that change would be to do so through a process that takes it out of our hands as politicians and puts it in the hands of a panel of constitutional experts or possibly a constituent assembly, as was suggested for Ontario, and was the process that was followed in 2007, to come up with a binary question, such as, “We have the current system, and this is the other system that we are proposing to consider”, and to do so in such a way that it has a timeline and a time frame that takes it out of our hands as politicians, who have a vested interest in the outcome, whether there is a change or no change. That would be my recommendation for those who are very passionate about changing our voting system.

I have not had the opportunity to catch all of the debates. I sit on the Standing Committee for Procedure and House Affairs, which is charged with looking at changes to the Canada Elections Act. However, prior to us meeting as a committee, I had the opportunity to listen to the Minister of Democratic Institutions, who stressed what I think was a really important point, and which I said at the beginning of my debate: here will be times where we will have strong disagreement on particular points of view, including on the path to move democratic change forward.

The point of this place is to have those kinds of conversations, and from my perspective, we have to distill those kinds of conversations. At the end of the day, when it comes to democratic reform, we should still be driven by what is in the public interest, to the benefit of all Canadians.

I want to do a shout-out to all my colleagues on the procedure and House affairs committee. We generally work very well, on a consensus basis, moving forward on most items, where we are trying to make participation in our democratic process better, and trying to remove barriers to democratic participation, where possible. Of course, there are going to be instances where we do not agree. We have done so. We set those kinds of issues aside. However, we will ultimately come with the lens of what do we have to do and what will it take to make Canadians, or our citizens as a whole, feel that this place and our democracy belong to all of us, not to a particular set of narrow partisan interests.

I apply that particular lens to moving forward on democratic change. My friend from Ajax, the parliamentary secretary for public safety, most aptly noted we have moved forward on Bill C-33 with a number of changes to undo some of the aspects of the so-called Fair Elections Act of the previous Parliament that made it more difficult for citizens to more fully participate in the democratic process. He has already laid out what those elements happen to be, so I will not repeat them, but that is exactly the kind of work we are doing. It is difficult work, but it is work that we have to continue to push forward at all times. It is work that I know the Minister of Democratic Institutions will continue to do on further aspects of strengthening our democracy and looking at continuing challenges to our democratic practices. Whether it is with respect to our fundraising rules or the possibility of external threats to our democratic system, we have to constantly work at it together in order to further strengthen our democracy.

As the member for Ajax noted, many of us held town hall meetings. I held a town hall in the electoral district of Scarborough—Agincourt, where I heard from constituents on a wide range of concerns they had with the democratic system and with the potential changes to our voting regime. Like him, I heard divergent views. There were those who wanted to keep the current system, those who wanted proportional representation, and those who wanted a different system, like a mixed member proportional system that we might see in places like Switzerland or Germany. As we can see, there is a wide range of possible electoral systems that are available to us. The only caution I would add to that is, regardless of what system someone wants to advance, we need to keep it within the context that we operate within a British parliamentary Westminster model.

I am going to table my particular bias. I have always strongly favoured the democratic accountability that each of us as members has to the single member constituency model that we have. A number of the other systems, whether they are blended systems, or proportional representation systems, particularly in closed list systems, would erode that level of accountability if we were to adopt those particular systems. It would be highly detrimental to the system of democracy that we have developed here, following the Westminster model. Regardless of the changes we try to make to make things better and more participatory for our citizens in the democratic process, I have always believed strongly in a system that has myself, as an elected representative, accountable to a specific constituency or body of individuals I have to answer to in an election. That is my bias, and that is the frame from which I come.

At the end of the day, it is that level of accountability that holds us each in this place, and I would be, and continue to be, of the view that model is still one that serves us well.

Canada-Ukraine Free Trade Agreement Implementation Act February 7th, 2017

Mr. Speaker, let me join my fellow colleagues in echoing my congratulations to my colleague on her appointment as Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of International Trade.

I want to follow up on the comments made by my friend from Sherwood Park—Fort Saskatchewan with respect to his earlier question, and I want to pose a question in the context of Canada's relationship with the Ukraine.

I first want to reiterate the government's position that regardless of which political party has stood in the House to condemn it, Canada condemns most aggressively the actions of Russia with respect to its unlawful annexation of Crimea. However, notwithstanding that, Canada also takes a very strong position in making sure that we move Ukraine forward in an open, democratic, liberal fashion.

I want to ask my hon. colleague why this particular agreement and what further steps Canada will be taking in the future to ensure that Ukraine continues to move down this particular path.

Statistics Act February 7th, 2017

Mr. Speaker, first of all, I want to use this opportunity to give a shout-out to a former colleague in this place, the former member for Kingston and the Islands, Ted Hsu, who led the charge in the previous Parliament to drive the government to reinstate the long-form census. One of the arguments he made at the time was on the critical importance of collecting data in the interest of all Canadians and the broad national public interest.

I have been listening to the concerns raised on the other side, particularly from the official opposition as they relate to the issue of privacy, which gets to my question about why this bill purports to work with Shared Services Canada to share data between agencies. Does the minister have a reason that this is taking place? For example, with respect to the collecting of income data from the Canada Revenue Agency, is there a particular reason that we would adopt that particular methodology in the interest of collecting better information?

Controlled Drugs and Substances Act February 1st, 2017

Mr. Speaker, I have had the opportunity to live in Vancouver in the past and to work in the Chinatown legal clinic, which I believe is part of the hon. member's riding.

I want to get her perspective on what the bill would mean for her riding and why it ultimately would be critical in saving lives. I am quite familiar with the substantive problem of drug abuse in that area.

I also want to ask a supplementary question with respect to her continuing call for a state of emergency from the Minister of Health and why that declaration would actually bring any additional powers to the chief public health officer.