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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 October 17th, 2016

Mr. Speaker, as my hon. colleague from Kamloops—Thompson—Cariboo mentioned in her speech, I come from one of those urban ridings. I do not have a softwood lumber producer in my riding or workers in the industry, but in my previous employment I did travel extensively through northern Ontario and western Quebec, where I saw many communities that had been devastated by the long-term dispute between Canada and the United States.

I have looked at the motion that has been presented to the House and it contains good words. I come back to the comments made by the member for Battlefords—Lloydminster. It is one thing to have this resolution before the House but what bright line in the sand would the member suggest the government not cross in getting the right deal for Canada?

Standing Orders and Procedure October 6th, 2016

Mr. Speaker, I take my friend's point. As I said, we have already had a number of instances when prima facie cases of privilege have been referred to PROC and there is a concern that the government can use its majority to, in theory, shut down debate or to create a finding that there was in fact no actual breach of privilege. Again, we do get into those instances.

I have heard in the debate today a lot about empowering the Speaker. At the end of the day, the Speaker needs to be viewed as being neutral, so there has to be some kind of mechanism to send these kinds of questions. At the end of the day, we collectively make decisions on the nature of privileges and immunities in this place. It should be governed by practice and by our history. In that sense, there can be profound differences when we make these findings at PROC, but I do not know how we can create any other mechanism, quite frankly. That is really my challenge with respect to the member's question.

Standing Orders and Procedure October 6th, 2016

Mr. Speaker, I take my friend's point with respect to his comment.

At the end of the day, the most important aspect for us, as parliamentarians, is freedom of speech in this place. I am simply encouraging members. I believe that the primacy of S. O. 31 statements should be about concerns related to our constituencies. I am not suggesting that there may not be any other issue that might arise, but I would encourage us to use it for the purpose that I think it is primarily intended. There may be instances where there can be a very charged issue, as we heard earlier today, that a particular member feels strongly about. For me, that might have been more appropriate for question period, but again it is about freedom of speech and that is our primary rule.

Standing Orders and Procedure October 6th, 2016

Mr. Speaker, I want to thank my colleague from the Yukon, who of course serves as chair of the procedure and House affairs committee.

I am always supportive of prospective changes to our practices, including to the prayer and the moment of reflection, that are more in keeping with the tremendous diversity of our country here today. I would be willing, but again, I would want to hear the give and take from colleagues on all sides.

With respect to S. O. 31 statements, again I would encourage members to use them as primarily an opportunity to reflect issues within their constituencies. It is primarily the tool to be congratulatory or to raise issues that are particularly relevant to where the member comes from, and to share that with members of the House of Commons as opposed to using that as a partisan tool.

Standing Orders and Procedure October 6th, 2016

Mr. Speaker, I want to start by thanking all my colleagues, on all sides of the aisle, for their overwhelmingly constructive comments today on the take-note debate as it relates to the Standing Orders.

I, along with a number of colleagues I see within the House, have the privilege of sitting on the Standing Committee on Procedure and House Affairs. I have been carefully taking notes from most of the members in terms of their ideas and suggestions. I know that our very able clerk, Mr. Andre Barnes, will summarize all those issues, so that we can review them carefully and present our recommendations back to this place in terms of changes to the Standing Orders.

I want to say again that the point and the nature of the Standing Orders is to provide us with clear rules with respect to our conduct in this place. However, when it comes to conduct and decorum, it really comes to each and every one of us in terms of how we comport ourselves when we are in this place. Again, I urge members to be mindful of that. Many members today have demonstrated that, with a significant generosity of spirit, as we have entered in this debate here today.

My mandate was quite different. I indicated that my purpose today on the government side was primarily to table items that were within the government House leader's ministerial mandate letter and our electoral platform that I had not heard already during the course of the debate. I think I have heard most of it. The items have been covered, in large part. The purpose of doing so was to allow the Standing Committee on Procedure and House Affairs with the opportunity to consider those, and whether it is necessary to make rules changes to the Standing Orders in order to give them greater effect. I will cover a few of them that have not been covered and that I have not heard yet.

I am not convinced that some of these instances within the minister's mandate letter require Standing Order changes. I think it is more of a function of the practice of Parliament and the practice of the government of the day. A lot of things we had discussed in the previous election related to our sense of the conduct that occurred or what we found offensive in previous Parliaments, or the erosion of some of the traditions and practices of this place, requiring a change to the Standing Orders. I hope that is not necessary. I hope that we can respect the traditions of the British parliamentary practice and procedures, so that we do not have to use the strong hammer of amending the Standing Orders to do so. I will cover the ones that I have not heard today, and I will leave it to my colleagues to perhaps comment on them.

One of the commitments we made in the last election was related to the creation of a Prime Minister's question period. I have not heard any commentary on that today with respect to whether that would be a good practice. It is certainly a practice that is adopted in the United Kingdom. There is a dedicated period of time where the prime minister would make himself or herself available to take questions from members. I do not know whether that would change the nature with respect to our overall perception that question period is far too theatrical and far too canned, quite frankly, in terms of the give and take that takes place.

We have heard a lot of suggestions with respect to giving much greater power to the Speaker to enforce the rules of debate, and some of the other amendments with respect to suggesting that questions be tabled in advance so that a substantive response can be given, which is the practice essentially in the British Parliament. I certainly would be supportive of us moving in that particular direction. However, I do want to table the concept of whether the Standing Orders require a change with respect to a dedicated Prime Minister's question period.

The second major item I have not heard much discussion about relates to the use of prorogation and omnibus bills. Again, this was a situation that occurred in the 39th, 40th, and 41st Parliaments, with respect to a situation of prorogation and an increasing use of omnibus bills.

It has been a commitment of this particular government to try to avoid using omnibus bills. The only exception to that should be the budget bill. In the presentation of the budget, it does have the inevitable effect of having significant amendments to all kinds of consequential acts to bring the budget into effect. I do not think that even the budget itself should deal with things that fall outside of budgetary measures. I am very wary of the use of omnibus bills as a standard practice to slide certain types of items through that are not relevant to the minister responsible for moving a particular bill forward. Again, there is a question as to whether that is appropriate use within the Standing Orders, but I again want to table that.

One of the other things that rose in previous Parliaments was with respect to the estimates and whether there is consistency between the estimates and public accounts. At the end of the day, parliamentarians need to have a clear mechanism to ensure that the tabled estimates are consistent with the public accounts. This is something that the President of the Treasury Board is working on. I do not think it requires a Standing Order change, but this is something that the procedures and House affairs committee ought to consider.

Other things that go to the independence of this place, particularly as they relate to the officers of Parliament, are whether there are mechanisms and ways to ensure that officers of Parliament are properly funded, that their reports to the Speaker and ultimately to the House are appropriate, and that the government of the day does not constrain the operation of the officers of the House in doing so. I would also extend that to the parliamentary budget officer. We have seen instances in the past where that has been a challenge. We want to ensure that each of the officers of the House, and the parliamentary budget officer, have the necessary tools so that parliamentarians get the necessary information they need to keep the government to account, while by the same token providing information in a neutral manner.

I thought I heard some discussion about the disclosure of expenses. I do support the concept that the activities of the Board of Internal Economy should be more public and should be open, by default, as opposed to the current practice.

I have a couple of final points to table, and they are already incorporated within the Standing Orders. They deal with ensuring that this workplace is free of harassment and sexual violence. Again, this is something that the procedure and House affairs committee does need to periodically review, that our conduct in this place be reviewed to make sure we avoid situations we have found sometimes unfortunately in the past between members, and between members and their staff. Canadians need to have confidence that we are acting in a fashion that holds the highest standards of workplace practice and that the procedure and House affairs committee continues to review that.

We have heard a lot about family friendly. I do not have much more to contribute to that particular debate, as it has been effectively covered in broad detail. I would encourage members to constantly be open to change. The way in which we conduct ourselves here is often dealt with within historical practice, and is often ossified to a time that is long past. I appreciate that fact, for example, as it relates to the member for Abitibi—Témiscamingue. Despite the fact that there is a stranger in the House, none of us has ever exercised the rule to call that matter out.

We need to continue to have that openness among us, to find new ways to accommodate and encourage more members, and a greater diversity of members, to participate and become members of the House of Commons.

I do not have much more to add. My time is up, and I am going to encourage questions and look forward to the debate as it continues today.

Standing Orders and Procedure October 6th, 2016

Mr. Speaker, I want to thank my friend from Chilliwack—Hope for his contribution. While I do not accept his premise on the intention of the government with respect to the possible elimination of us sitting on Friday, I think we all accept on this side of the House that when we signed on, this was a seven-day-a-week job.

The question we are framing is in terms of our accessibility to our constituents, and our ability to have more opportunities to interact with them and bring their issues and concerns to this House. Therefore, I take some exception to what I see as a clear sense of opposition from the Conservative Party with respect to this particular initiative. Again, I want to encourage members on all sides of the House that particularly with this debate, it should not be a partisan debate.

I am a member of the procedure and House affairs committee, and we all want the best ideas to come forward. We want to try to make this place more attractive to Canadians to serve in this place, and to make this a place that all Canadians can embrace. I would encourage my friend to consider that, and perhaps make a different contribution with respect to how we could better serve our constituents through some changes in the Standing Orders.

The Standing Orders are the blunt instrument by which we get things done. I am not suggesting that is the way it should be. It should ultimately come back to our practices and how we conduct ourselves with and between each other.

Standing Orders and Procedure October 6th, 2016

Mr. Speaker, I simply want to encourage all of my colleagues to be less partisan today. This is the one day that we collectively, as colleagues, have an opportunity to ask ourselves whether the Standing Orders, the rules that conduct the operation of the House of Commons and committees, are appropriate or whether we need to make changes. This is our opportunity, as members of Parliament, individually and collectively, to put on the table the important issues of the day.

My colleague raised many important issues. I am going to get to one issue, and that is with respect to the Speaker's powers and the enforcement of the rules of debate. Would my friend be amenable to perhaps expanding those powers beyond simply, under the current system, naming a member if he or she is out of order?

Paris Agreement October 4th, 2016

Madam Speaker, I listened with interest to my friend from St. Albert—Edmonton's contribution to this debate on the Paris agreement. I find it kind of rich that he is proposing to lecture this government with respect to its approach on federal-provincial-territorial relations given the approach of the previous government for the last 10 years, which was essentially to ignore provinces and territories. In fact, there was never really any meaningful consultation that ever took place from that particular side of the aisle as it related to the provinces.

If we look at the specific instance of what we have done in the past few days on this particular file, it simply was to impose a pricing system on carbon for those provinces that would not participate in a particular program.

The member also referred to the specific instance of Alberta. Again, I do not accept his characterization because the Alberta government has already put in a particular pricing system, and therefore, it would not need the federal intervention. How does he actually square his party's particular approach with ours?

National Security and Intelligence Committee of Parliamentarians Act September 28th, 2016

Madam Speaker, as I said, I want to again clarify that this is not about the Prime Minister having the capacity to edit the report or the findings. It is simply about redacting information that, ultimately, is deemed to be potentially injurious to national security. It is not to, in any way, circumscribe the strength of the committee in terms of its ability to engage in a review of the security apparatus of the country.

As it relates to the selection of the chair, at the end of the day, with all due respect, we carry the majority on this side of the House. We could ultimately elect whatever chair the majority chooses to elect. Ultimately, what is important is that we go through a process to make sure that every qualified member who sits on this particular committee goes through the appropriate security clearance process and serves with the mindset that they are there to serve in the national interest in a national security review for the benefit of all Canadians.

National Security and Intelligence Committee of Parliamentarians Act September 28th, 2016

Madam Speaker, I raised a point earlier in questions and comments with respect to the mis-characterization of the nature of this committee. I think all of us are thinking that this is a parliamentary committee. It is not a parliamentary committee. It is a non-parliamentary committee that, admittedly, is subject to a check and balance by the political executive, but membership must be based upon being a parliamentarian. Up to seven of the members must be members of the current House of Commons and two must be senators.

I take the earlier point that the member for Durham, for example, had advanced. The purpose of this committee is to work in a non-partisan fashion and to ensure that the ultimate aim is, first and foremost, the protection of our citizenry and to provide a strong national security apparatus, while at the same time, balancing the important rights and freedoms of individuals.