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Crucial Fact

  • His favourite word was fact.

Last in Parliament March 2011, as Liberal MP for Richmond Hill (Ontario)

Lost his last election, in 2011, with 35% of the vote.

Statements in the House

February 7th, 2011

Madam Speaker, I had asked a question with regard to the procurement of the F-35s.

Very clearly, as a former parliamentary secretary to the minister of finance, I know how difficult it is when the government is in a deficit situation. For the current government, it is $56 billion and it wants to spend $9 billion, with a total package of probably $16 billion on the F-35s.

I want to make it very clear that we support new aircraft for the military. The issue is how this is being brought about.

I want to quote the treasury board guidelines that say competition remains the cornerstone of the Canadian government procurement process, that it is the most efficient way of achieving both goals of procurement and gives suppliers the incentive to bring forward their best solution at a competitive price.

The issue is the government has decided to sole-source this contract. It has done it in a way in which the minister, prior to his announcement in July, during the summer when the House was not sitting, indicated that there would be a competitive process. The government claims that there has been a process, that it has been competitive and we should not worry. We should just be happy.

In fact, we know the cost of this aircraft, which was about $50 million, is now up to about $92 million. It has been delayed and delayed. There was a recent delay in January with regard to this. The head of the air force in the United States announced it.

When we have a competitive procurement program, which would allow various individual companies to come forward, why has the government decided to do a sole-source contract?

At the defence committee, we had various companies come forward. They all indicated that they would be prepared to bid. The problem is the government has decided, for whatever reason, to ignore the guidelines that have served many governments, both Liberal and Conservative, over the years, and simply has decided to do this as a sole-source contract.

I know my friend across the way will say that this is the best air craft that money can buy. The problem is the metre is still running. We do not really know how much this will cost. We also do not have guaranteed economic benefits across the country. That is another issue in terms of the spinoffs that we will have. Normally we would have those benefits laid out. Again, this is a concern.

Lockheed Martin has indicated that it will be able to do this, but, again, the price has been going up and it is continuing to go up.

Given these guidelines, why ignore what has been a time-honoured tradition, best value for the taxpayer? Given the deficit we have today, we can afford no less than the best aircraft at the best possible price.

There is no contract to tear up because there is no contract. We are not interested in any of that nonsense. We are interested in an open competition. If it turns out that the F-35 is the best aircraft, fine. However, without that competition, it is very hard to determine that.

What I heard before the defence committee was that there were others in the marketplace that were quite prepared to come forward.

It is the issue of this. If the government decides to bypass the procurement process on one of the largest military procurements in our history, what other things will it sole-source? What else will it bypass?

Why have procedures in place if the government is prepared to ignore them? To me, that is not best value for the taxpayer. The taxpayers obviously want to ensure they get that value and they cannot get it if it is all shrouded in secrecy and government tells them to trust it, that this is what it will go with and that it best meets the best needs of the military.

There is no question that I want the best for the Canadian air force. I just want to ensure that the process is followed.

Foreign Affairs February 7th, 2011

Mr. Speaker, if it is not true, then why is Mr. Turcotte no longer leading the negotiations?

In 1971 Prime Minister Trudeau spoke out against nuclear weapons at the height of the Cold War. That was leadership. In 1997, Prime Minister Chrétien led the charge to ratify the Ottawa treaty to ban dangerous landmines. That was leadership.

In 2011, the Conservative government fired Mr. Turcotte for working to ban cluster munitions after the Americans complained he was doing too good a job.

Is this leadership? It is laughable.

Why are the Conservatives always prepared to sacrifice our national interests in favour of U.S. interests?

Foreign Affairs February 7th, 2011

Mr. Speaker, for decades, the world has looked to Canada for moral leadership on issues of munitions control and disarmament. While other countries stockpile weapons of mass destruction, Canadian leaders, like Prime Minister Trudeau, Prime Minister Chrétien and Prime Minister Pearson, led the charge against them.

Today, however, we learn that the government has reversed this trend and fired Earl Turcotte, one of Canada's leading arms experts, simply because Washington did not like him defending Canadian interests so vigorously.

How can the government justify firing a renowned Canadian official who was simply trying to defend Canada's long-standing human rights interests and reputation?

Strengthening Aviation Security Act February 2nd, 2011

Mr. Speaker, I had an opportunity to review some of the testimony and Professor Salter's comments and they certainly jibe very much with the Privacy Commissioner's concerns. It is even worse than the member said because in fact the information would be held from seven days to 99 years. What the member pointed out and what the professor indicated very strongly is that is more of what we should be looking at rather than giving the store away.

I say again, when the Prime Minister is in Washington on Friday, this should be one of the priorities because we keep giving away information for purposes other than what it should be used for.

I agree with the hon. member that had that testimony been implemented as one of the amendments to the legislation, it would have been most helpful in providing the kind of security and privacy that Canadians would expect from their government.

Strengthening Aviation Security Act February 2nd, 2011

Mr. Speaker, I have had the pleasure to work with my colleague for many years not only in the House but also in municipal government in the past. He raises a very important point with regard to the European Union.

There is no question that basing it on a diplomatic note not knowing the purpose other than information is given but that it could be used for law enforcement or immigration purposes is far too broad. As my hon. colleague well knows, a diplomatic note alone is not sufficient in terms of the security we need as Canadians and in balancing this privacy issue. That is something that would have been helpful had we been able to get that into the bill.

I know legislation is never perfect, but it is better to have a bill which addresses these concerns. This bill was introduced on the last sitting day in June and here we are at the beginning of February rushing it through. I wonder whose agenda this is. Is this the government's agenda or someone else's in this case?

Strengthening Aviation Security Act February 2nd, 2011

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to speak to Bill C-42. I have some concerns regarding issues of privacy as well as the fact that the government introduced this bill on the last day of sitting, June 17.

We are all concerned about security issues and balancing that with privacy issues. On the issue of providing information to a foreign government, it would be done when a plane lands in foreign territory. If a Canadian were to fly from Toronto to New York, information would be provided.

However, what is being proposed is that if, for example, a flight from Toronto to Vancouver went over American territory, personal information, the name and details of the passengers, would be given to American authorities. This is not only outrageous, but a violation of Canadian sovereignty and the rights of Canadians.

The question raised in the House on a number of occasions regarding Bill C-42 is as to why we negotiated such a bad arrangement. The Americans would basically have a free hand to know who is going to be travelling over American territory without the flight even landing there. In fact, the Americans can keep this information for up to 99 years, depending on the situation. This is an obvious concern.

To divulge this information is unprecedented and would certainly weaken Canadian sovereignty. It would mean that the information of people on flights anywhere in this country that go over American territory would be disclosed to American authorities.

At the Standing Committee on Transport, Infrastructure and Communities in May, the Assistant Privacy Commissioner noted her concern that the information could be kept from 7 days to 99 years. This seems highly excessive. The information may not be used just for the issue of security, but could be used for other purposes. That is the big question: What other purposes would it be used for? For example, it could be used for law enforcement or immigration issues and not necessarily for the purpose for which it is intended. That is where many Canadians have concerns.

In the Aeronautics Act we also have the legislative authority to create a no-fly list. I have never understood this. We are saying people cannot fly, but they can board a passenger ship, train, or use an automobile. Apparently they are only a threat in the air and not a threat on a ship or train. If a person is not allowed to fly, why would he or she be able to take other modes of transportation? The government must think that only people who fly are potential terrorists.

Canadian airlines disclose information when going to another country, but the fly-over issue is the crux of the matter.

Canadians value their privacy. We tend to be asked for a lot of private information. When people go to a store they might be asked for their social insurance number. The social insurance number is only given for government programs and not because someone wants to buy a piece of furniture, yet my constituents have been asked for their social insurance number. People are asked for information that is not germane to the issue at hand. With regard to the fly-over situation, a number of my constituents have voiced concern.

At committee the Liberal Party made three amendments.

First, the House of Commons should be required to conduct a review of these measures two years after the date of coming into force and then every five years. That oversight provision is important. It has been done in other legislation and is something that should be included.

Second, this data transfer would be limited to the U.S. in legislation. The original version said it could be forwarded to any government. It is going to be only to the United States.

Third, the airlines and travel agents would be required by Canadian law to inform passengers of this impending data transfer before a ticket was purchased. That is important. Canadians need to know that if they board an airplane which will be flying over a particular territory in the United States that their information is going to be given away. The Privacy Commissioner has pointed out concerns with regard to this.

This bill amends the Aeronautics Act to allow an operator of an aircraft that is going over, in this case, the United States to provide information. The amount of information to be given to the United States is clearly of concern.

I would hope when the Prime Minister is in Washington at the end of the week that this issue will be raised with the President of the United States. Unfortunately, the Americans have the impression that terrorism has somehow emanated from this country.

We all remember then-senator Hillary Clinton's comments about 9/11, the porous border and the terrorists who had crossed the border from Canada, which of course was not true. We have to be concerned about the comments yesterday by Senator Lieberman of Connecticut that the northern border of the United States is more porous than the southern border. This impression continues. We seem to be playing into this by suggesting that we have to provide information to the Americans.

When we deal with aviation regulations, we usually are talking about domestic regulations. In this case it is actually a security program dealing with another country. The collection of information is paramount. Again, this is unusual because it is not for domestic purposes. It is dealing with a foreign country.

Sovereignty is important. In international law, sovereignty of a country extends into airspace. We are abrogating that by allowing information to be given. There may be a change in weather and the route would have to change. The passenger would not know that in advance, obviously. Privacy and citizen rights, et cetera, are at stake.

There is the whole issue of balance between security and privacy. It would appear the government has simply caved in when it comes to this. Had it not been for my Liberal colleagues on the transport committee, we would have had a pretty wide open situation for turning over information to the United States. That is a concern.

There are issues about security at airports. I do not know if people feel any safer because they go through scanners at the airports. In Narita International Airport in Japan, the security initially is done before people get to the airport. Passports are checked outside the airport and metal detectors are used on vehicles. All that is done in advance. In Canada we wait until people are in the airport. Then we shake down some elderly individual or some 15-year-old kid, instead of dealing with the practical needs for security.

This legislation is flawed. Although the amendments enhance the legislation, I still have concerns with regard to the issue of turning over any personal information to a foreign government, and in this case when people are simply flying over a country. We all understand if the flight is landing in the country but when it is just flying over it, it seems to be questionable at best, particularly if the information is not being used strictly for that purpose. It could be used for other purposes, and Canadians would not necessarily know what it is being used for. That raises concerns. Why would the information be kept for up to 99 years? That is a concern.

The legislation has received some improvements because of these amendments, but again there is still the issue of whether we should be caving in to the United States and giving out personal information which is not done elsewhere.

Veterans February 1st, 2011

Mr. Speaker, I rise today to pay tribute to all Canadian veterans, but in particular to those who have fallen on hard times since leaving the Canadian Forces.

In early 2009, the Veterans Affairs ombudsman noted the serious constraints the government faces when trying to help homeless veterans, who often require urgent assistance but lack the required proof of identification to obtain it.

More recently, a study conducted by the University of Western Ontario drew attention to the plight of some Canadian homeless veterans. Often afflicted with addiction or mental health problems developed during their military careers, the study found that many of these once-decorated Canadians now find themselves in grave need. While this study identified only a few dozen homeless veterans in two Ontario cities, there is no doubt that countless others need help in cities from Victoria to St. John's.

For this reason, I encourage all members of this House to make great efforts to identify and assist the homeless heroes in their communities, and I ask all of them to rise to pay tribute to these brave men and women.

Questions Passed as Orders for Return January 31st, 2011

With regard to the government’s intention to purchase 65 F-35 Lightning II fighter jets to replace Canada’s current crop of CF-18 Hornets: (a) what is the current age of and total number of flight hours logged by each of Canada’s CF-18 Hornets; (b) what is the average age at which all CF-18 Hornets are anticipated to be retired; (c) what is the anticipated average total number of flight hours logged for all CF-18 Hornets at retirement; (d) who at the Department of National Defence is responsible for interpreting and managing Canada’s legal obligations under all Memoranda of Understanding with either the United States or Lockheed Martin with regard to the Joint Strike Fighter program; (e) where in the memoranda mentioned in question (d) is it explicitly stated that the government would be forced to withdraw from the Memoranda or from the Joint Strike Fighter program in order to hold a procurement competition for Canada’s next fighter jet; (f) what legal counsel was consulted to determine the accuracy of this interpretation; and (g) if any, what dissenting opinions of this interpretation were offered to officials from the Department of National Defence prior to the June 16 announcement that Canada would purchase the F-35?

Questions Passed as Orders for Return January 31st, 2011

With regard to efforts to have Richmond Hill’s “David Dunlop Observatory” declared a National Heritage Site: (a) what are the contents of all Heritage Canada departmental memos on this topic, excluding those memos that principally served to advise a Minister; and (b) what are the contents of all Finance Canada departmental memos on this topic, excluding those memos that principally served to advise a Minister?

Questions Passed as Orders for Return January 31st, 2011

With regard to the failed negotiations that led to the recent restrictions of the Canadian Forces’ use of the Camp Mirage Air Base in the United Arab Emirates: (a) on a line-by-line basis, what are the known and estimated financial costs of losing privileged access to this base for the Canadian Forces; (b) on what date were these cost estimates completed and by which federal department(s); (c) on what date were these cost estimates submitted to the Minister of National Defence, the Minister of Foreign Affairs and the Prime Minister’s Office, respectively; (d) what are the details of the expanded landing rights offered to the United Arab Emirates as part of discussions on revising the Canada-UAE Air Services Agreement, including details of all constraints on seat capacity and maximum flights to any and all destinations in Canada; and (e) has the Department of National Defence or the Canadian Forces completed a detailed analysis of how the restriction of the Canadian Forces' use of Camp Mirage will impact the mortality rate of Canadian soldiers ending a tour of duty in Afghanistan and, if so, (i) what are the contents and results of this analysis, (ii) which ministers had access to these results and on what dates did they receive access?