House of Commons photo

Crucial Fact

  • His favourite word was respect.

Last in Parliament June 2013, as Liberal MP for Toronto Centre (Ontario)

Won his last election, in 2011, with 41% of the vote.

Statements in the House

Taxation May 2nd, 2013

Mr. Speaker, close research establishes one thing very clearly; that is that the Conservative Party has been engaged in a stealth campaign over the last several years. They are raising taxes and tariffs by $10 billion, and they are raising employment insurance premiums between 2010 and 2015 by another $10 billion. That is 10 and 10: a $20 billion program.

Why is the Conservative Party hiding this from the Canadian public?

Privilege April 25th, 2013

Mr. Speaker, I have a point of privilege that I want to raise. I know it will shock you to hear this, but I actually think it has some merit.

It stems from the private member's bill, Bill C-425, which was moved by the member for Calgary Northeast and which was being considered in the Standing Committee on Citizenship and Immigration.

Last week the parliamentary secretary moved that the committee should recommend to the House that it be granted the power during the consideration of Bill C-425, An Act to amend the Citizenship Act (honouring the Canadian Armed Forces), to “expand the scope of the bill such that the provisions of the bill be not limited to the Canadian Armed Forces”. That is going to be reported to the House of Commons.

This is an issue that affects the rights and privileges of all members, and indeed the very structure of the relationship between private bills, public bills and private members' bills.

My argument is quite simple. It is that if we were to allow the government majority to do this in order to allow for the consideration of other amendments that the Minister of Citizenship, Immigration and Multiculturalism has asked be added to the list, we would basically be allowing the government majority to completely expand the nature of private members' bills, which deal with a specific subject, and in fact to change their very nature from being private members' bills to being public bills.

However, if we allow the majority members to do that, they would be basically bypassing all of the requirements with respect to public bills. Those requirements include first reading, second reading, votes on both, and then referral to a committee to consider the whole structure.

Mr. Speaker, if we allow this to happen or, more specifically, if you allow this to happen, sir, the consequence will be very clear. It basically would mean that governments could increasingly use private members' bills as a way of getting other issues in front of the House, bypassing ordinary debate in second reading and the due consideration of this House so that after only two hours of debate on one subject, which in fact was what took place, the government would then suddenly be permitted to introduce other issues into the debate.

There are basically two points that I want to make in my argument. I feel so strongly about it—and this is a historic first—that I actually have some notes that I may consult from time to time as I deal with this matter.

First, Standing Order 97.1, which sets out the rules with respect to private members' bills, restricts a committee to making only two kinds of reports. The first is a report that brings back the bill, with or without amendments. Those are amendments that are within the scope of the bill, approved by the whole House at second reading. The second is a report requesting a 30-day extension to the committee's report deadline. No other report is allowed, and if that were not the case, it would be mentioned specifically in S. O. 97.1 or somewhere else in the chapter of our Standing Orders that governs private members' bills.

Mr. Speaker, you will be familiar with the simple legal thought that the expression of one thought is the exclusion of all others. I will not bore you with the Latin tag for that phrase, but it means that the fact that this procedure that is now being proposed by the government is not contained anywhere in Standing Order 97.1 or anywhere else in the Standing Orders dealing with private members' bills means that the scope of a private member's bill cannot be broadened to consider other matters, because the impact of that would be to completely change the reporting mechanisms that are basic to the relationship between private bills, private members' bills and public bills.

Mr. Speaker, my second point is that I think you also have to consider the impact that this can have—and, I would argue, will have in this instance—with respect to the procedures and considerations that we have.

Mr. Speaker, if you allow this to take place and allow a motion to be put to the House that basically broadens entirely the scope of a private member's bill to include the rest of the government's public agenda, imagine for a moment what the consequences would be.

It is very simple. The effect will be that the government could, by extrapolation, even add an omnibus feature to a private member's bill and say it is using its majority to add everything, the whole kitchen sink, into the measure.

Mr. Speaker, you have to say very clearly to this majority government that it cannot misuse and abuse private members' bills in this way. Private members' bills are intended for private members to put forward issues, items, agendas and concerns that they have. They are not intended to be a way by which the government skirts around the purposes of private members' bills and drives home its own agenda.

If the Minister of Citizenship and Immigration has a variety of things that he would like to do—and we know that he does, because he has made speeches about them and has told the press that he intends to proceed with them—let him come into the House with a public bill. Let him come forward with a bill that pertains to the questions that he wants to raise. He cannot use a private member's bill to force his own agenda onto the Parliament of Canada.

This is a problem, and it is very clear that if the minister has something to present to the House of Commons, he must introduce a public bill, which will be thoroughly debated in the House at second reading, be sent to committee and come back to the House at third reading so that we can discuss it.

That is why we are not only concerned about the government's proposal, but we also think it is basically illegal. This proposal is not included in the Standing Orders of the House of Commons. Therefore, the House should not allow such a thing.

Foreign Affairs April 25th, 2013

Mr. Speaker, intelligence officials, both in Israel and in the United States, have stated publicly today and over the last two days that they believe there is a very good possibility that chemical weapons have been used against the civilian population in Syria. I am sure all members of the House regard this as an enormously serious problem and a great challenge to the whole world.

Can the government please tell us what Canada now intends to do when faced with this growing body of evidence?

Employment April 25th, 2013

Mr. Speaker, the government can create as many programs as it wants, but the facts of the matter remain, and that is the problem.

The problem is that unemployment is still higher among youth. The statistics are very clear; nobody can argue with the facts. Nevertheless, the Conservatives are spending less money to tackle this problem. Why?

Employment April 25th, 2013

Mr. Speaker, at the risk of committing sociology, which I know has now joined the list of cardinal sins among the Conservative cabinet ministers, I wonder if the minister responsible could please explain the answer to a simple question.

When youth unemployment is getting worse, which it clearly is and we can show the statistics that prove that, why is the government actually spending less on its programs to help young people find a job?

Foreign Affairs April 24th, 2013

Mr. Speaker, in light of the appalling human rights record of the Sri Lankan government, including the impeachment of the chief justice, including the jailing and indeed murdering of several journalists, including human rights abuses which go right across the jurisdiction, would the Prime Minister consider this proposition? Why would Canada not invite the Commonwealth countries to come to Canada, for Canada to host the conference and for Canada to become the chairman of the Commonwealth for two years?

It is preposterous that the Rajapaksa government should be chairing the Commonwealth for the next two years.

Questions on the Order Paper March 28th, 2013

With regard to the program that has government employees visiting recipients of Employment Insurance: (a) what is the rationale for this program; (b) when was this program created; (c) what are the specific locations the program is being run from; (d) what is the process by which these locations were chosen to do the house calls; (e) what is the total cost to taxpayers of this program, including the total cost for all travel and meal expenses for each employee; (f) which program activity does the funding for this program come from; (g) was any document review, literature review, expert and key informant interview, survey, case study, qualitative or quantitative analysis, or cost-effectiveness analysis conducted to support creating the program, and if so, what are the details of these documents; and (h) what scripts, instructions or guidelines did each employee of this program use?

Hon. Member for Toronto Centre March 27th, 2013

He is getting there. I know how difficult it has been for him. All I can say is on this side we are all rooting for him as he goes through this change.

For my colleague in the New Democratic Party, I fully understand that for many New Democrats my even being here is something of a difficulty for them. It is sort of like living next door to one's first husband for one's whole life. However, I appreciate very much the thoughts that were expressed by my colleague from Skeena and his ability to say kind words. I hope some of them are true, but I really do appreciate what has been said.

I think all of us will understand that one develops a very special relationship with the people who are here and I want to express my deep thanks to all my colleagues.

I especially want to express my thanks to the member for Wascana. We have been together in difficult battles. He has been my deputy leader. One can imagine how challenging that can be sometimes in terms of the stuff we have to try to do. I really do appreciate the kind and thoughtful way in which he has helped me to lead and helped me to provide a sense of direction for our party and our caucus. I am very appreciative of his words today, and I am very appreciative of his friendship and of his colleagueship.

As has been said, I feel a bit like Tom Sawyer, who as we all will recall had an opportunity to attend his own funeral and in so doing was astonished at the things that were being said about him and the emotions that were being shown. To all those who feel like they have gone through some kind of deathbed conversion in saying such things about me, I simply want to say that I am not dead yet. I am still around. I am going to be here on April 15. I am going to be back sitting somewhere in this place, although I am not quite sure where. I will be here to continue my work as a member of Parliament.

It continues to be a great honour to serve the people of Toronto Centre, and it continues to be a great honour to serve in this Parliament. It is true, I have been a rising star now in five separate decades, and the star is still rising. I can feel it. I want to express my deep thanks to members of the House for taking such valuable time out of the Conservative Party's political agenda to express their thanks to me and to the work that I do.

Hon. Member for Toronto Centre March 27th, 2013

The transcript is going to be put in gold.

I thank all of the members who spoke today. I want to say to the member who just spoke, the leader of the Bloc Québécois, that I very much appreciated his comments. We do not agree on the fundamental question of the existence of the country—of Canada—but throughout my political career I have always tried to show that despite our differences of opinion and our profound philosophical differences, we must respect each other. We must find a way to show some dignity here, even though we do not always agree and we do not share the same views.

For the members, from time to time I have offended people. When one says as many things as I do, some of them will seem to be inappropriate and sometimes even hurtful. For that I apologize and express, perhaps on this occasion, the fact that we do not always reach the heights to which we like to ascribe ourselves.

I thank the Prime Minister for his words in question period today, which I appreciated.

I thank the minister for his very kind words. Knowing something of his own political past in Ontario, I know how difficult this transition is to being a generous, kind and thoughtful person.

Hon. Member for Toronto Centre March 27th, 2013

It is clear now. I appreciate that. I think they all know that now.