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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

Business of Supply November 25th, 2010

Madam Speaker, I am delighted to participate in today's debate.

First, having travelled to Afghanistan on three different occasions, I have had an opportunity to see our men and women in the field, in the OMLT, in Kandahar, working with Afghans and assisting the Afghan national army in a support role. There is no question in my mind that Canadians are making a significant difference in Afghanistan and they are making that significant difference under the UN resolution and as part of NATO.

Canada has always been, and will continue to be, a country that responds when the need is there. On the issues of international terrorism and dealing with and creating a stable and productive Afghanistan, Canada does not take second place to anyone. We have done an outstanding job there. Every Canadian soldier, every aid worker and every contractor there will tell us that they are making a difference in the lives of the average Afghan.

The discussion before the House deals with whether we should have a training mission, what is commonly known as inside the wire, after the combat role ends in 2011.

In my view, there are two ways we could go. We could simply say that the combat mission ends, therefore our responsibility ends and then we go home and let somebody else do the job. I believe Canadians, by and large, do not take that view. They take the view that 152 Canadians have lost their lives there, 152 Canadians have paid the ultimate sacrifice.

What else can we do? Our party has always supported the 3-D approach, which is defence, diplomacy and development. However, clearly one of the elements is in the area of training the Afghan national army, so it not only can it defend itself, but it can also train other Afghans so they will not need international assistance.

It is important that we have a force there, which is now over 170,000, an Afghan army that is able not only to secure the territory, but also to defend that territory and defend the sovereignty of Afghanistan, not just from the Taliban but also from outside sources, such as al-Qaeda.

I believe that the training inside the wire, on which the government has enunciated although I know more details will come, in Kabul and in the military academy, will allow Afghan soldiers to continue on in defence of their country.

Some would argue that this is a continuation of the military mission, but clearly the focus of this mission will change. What we are expecting of our forces is going to change. We are not going to be out in the field in a support role. We are not going to be out in the field in any combat role. We are training and we are going to train individuals.

On my third trip to Afghanistan, we asked all key Afghan officials, the foreign minister, U.S. General McChrystal and others what their biggest need was. Clearly the biggest need, which we came back and enunciated, was for training, not just for the Afghan national army, but for the Afghan national police. We have now heard from the government that it believes, in concert with our allies, that training is a necessary component and that Canada can contribute in a very valuable and specific way to the training of the Afghan national army.

It is not only about training however. It is also about support for development, for more and more students to go to school. Six million young people have gone to school who did not go before. However, we cannot build schools and clinics unless there is security. We cannot have security unless we have forces that are trained in order to secure those towns, villages and cities.

Therefore, I believe we will play a role which will improve the quality of life for the average Afghan. It will allow young girls to go to school. A few years ago, when we had the opportunity to meet with President Karzai, he indicated that, for the first time in Afghan history, 600 doctors would graduate and 300 of them would women.

When we think of where Afghanistan was just over 10 years ago, young children, particularly girls, did not school and women did not go out of the house. They were confined. They could not get an education. Think of the development next year when the Dahla Dam is completed, which is one of the three signature projects in which Canada has been involved. It will not only provide clean running water but electricity, it will also help irrigate significant areas of southern Afghanistan for the growing of wheat in particular.

If we really want to change the lives of individuals, the only way we can do that is to provide the kind of skill sets that, in this case, Canada is good at. We have significant aid workers there and they have to be protected. Again, the training of the Afghan forces and providing those skill sets will assist in terms of the protection of aid workers, whether they are ours or someone else's.

Advancing security and the rule law is another area in which Canada has been involved. It is embedded in the ministry of justice. As a vice-chair of the Afghanistan special committee, I have been able to witness that. With some of my colleagues on both sides of the aisle, we were able to see those kinds of changes.

The rule of law is absolutely important, as well as training people on human rights.

Questions on the Order Paper November 22nd, 2010

With regard to efforts ensuring that federal lobbying practices are conducted in an open and accountable manner: (a) how many former staff members of Conservative Members of Parliament (MPs) are now registered federal lobbyists; (b) how many former Conservative MPs are registered as federal lobbyists; (c) on how many occasions has a former Conservative MP or a former staff member of a Conservative MP lobbied a member of the Conservative government; (d) on how many occasions has a former Conservative MP or a former staff member of a Conservative MP lobbied the Minister of Finance, the Minister of Public Works and Government Services, or the Prime Minister directly; and (e) are any former Conservative MPs or former staff members of Conservative MPs currently under investigation by the Office of the Commissioner of Lobbying of Canada?

National Defence November 22nd, 2010

Mr. Speaker, it is not nonsense to Canadians who have to put food on the table and a roof over their head.

The government continues to spend billions of dollars on wasteful purchases for fake lakes, untendered stealth fighter jets and Republican-style prisons that Canadians are convinced we do not really need.

How is putting $16 billion, and counting, at risk for the purchase of untendered stealth fighter jets? Using the minister's own words, “practical, pragmatic and moderate”, is he serious?

National Defence November 22nd, 2010

Mr. Speaker, the government continues to force-feed Canadians an untendered contract for a fighter jet that even the manufacturer admits is costing more and more every day. The Auditor General has called this a “risky purchase” that could cost Canadian taxpayers twice as much as the government says.

“This is not a time for risky new spending schemes that will increase the deficit”, claimed the Minister of Finance. Really? It is time for the minister to walk the talk. Does the government not realize how risky it is to commit $16 billion, and counting, on untendered jets that keep getting more and more expensive?

Business of Supply November 18th, 2010

Mr. Speaker, search and rescue is another issue with which the defence committee is seized. Yes, there is no question that we do need search and rescue aircraft, but we also need aircraft to patrol the north in terms of the protection of our sovereignty, which I do not think anyone would argue with.

The issue is the type of aircraft that we need in terms of the capabilities for warfare 10, 15, and 20 years down the road. Is it the kind of aircraft we needed 20 years ago? Clearly not. In terms of support for troops on the ground, the type of aircraft that will be used will be different from what it was 20 years ago.

Could the money be better spent? Again, it goes to back to the Treasury Board guidelines. The way we would find that out is if we were to have an open, fair and transparent competition,. However, there is no question that her point on search and rescue aircraft is definitely something we have been pushing the government on.

Business of Supply November 18th, 2010

Mr. Speaker, I never mentioned the $3.2 billion. That number did not come out of my speech so I will not respond to that specifically.

However, I will respond to the fact, which was the central thesis of my speech, that Treasury Board rules were not been followed and that, today, 42% of those contracts are sole sourced. How do we know we are getting value for the dollar when 42% of all the contracts are sole sourced?

As my colleague indicated, I do work very well with him. However, in terms of equipping the armed forces, when we went into Afghanistan in 2001, no one, not even the military, could predict what we would run up against. In 2005, however, we did provide the largest expenditure toward the defence department in the history of this country. We brought in Coyotes and the kind of equipment that the forces have today, and the forces have that equipment because of what the Martin government brought in at the time.

I know a little revision to history works well in some quarters but it does not work well here.

Business of Supply November 18th, 2010

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to participate in today's debate. I want to point out, first of all, that the Liberal Party supports the replacement of the CF-18s.

Obviously the replacement is absolutely critical. This party has stood and continues to stand in support of our military. It was in 2005 that the Paul Martin government brought in the largest amount of money in support of the defence department, $15 billion.

This issue is really about process. It is about how this has developed into what the government is now claiming to be an agreement in which we are to purchase 65 F-35s. Obviously it is to protect our north and guard our sovereignty, all of which we agree with. However, I think the process is at the core of this debate. The process did not involve any government effort to negotiate a better price for Canadian taxpayers.

Currently we have a $56 billion deficit in this country, and the government is going to borrow up to $16 billion-plus for this new fighter aircraft. Who is going to pay for these? Obviously it is the taxpayers, and clearly it is at a time when we do not have those dollars.

The process did not follow the very rules that the government is sworn to uphold, which the government used to quote when responding to our party when we were in government.

This process not only pretty much guarantees we are going to be over-paying for the CF-18 replacements for the next 30 years; it also undercuts industry's right to guaranteed benefits, particularly on the economic side, for Canadian industry.

This, of course, is not the process the government is supposed to follow when making these types of major procurements. Let me quote from the Treasury Board guidelines, which lay out the proper process the government should have followed when making this procurement, and which our national experts have spent decades developing to ensure that we get the best deal on purchases like this.

In section 9.45 of the Treasury Board guidelines it clearly states that competition remains “the cornerstone of the Canadian government procurement process”. It is the most effective and most efficient way of achieving the goals of government. “It gives suppliers the incentive to bring forward their best solution to the operational problem at a competitive price, as well as respond to more effective requirements in support of other national objectives”.

What happened in this case? Clearly the government took an end run on these guidelines. For four years now, the government has increasingly ignored the competitive process. So it is not just in this case of the F-35s.

Do not take my word for it. I would like to point out statistics we heard before the defence committee last month from the man who used to be in charge of the department's procurement section. He said the following.

Statistics show that under the previous Liberal government of Paul Martin in 2004, only 8.8% of defence spending was spent through untendered contracts. In 2005 this number still remained relatively low at 14.6%. But in 2006 we saw the beginning of a drastic increase under the Conservatives. That year 27.3% of defence spending bypassed the competitive process, a number that increased again to 31.9% the following year. Compare that to today, when 42% of defence contracts Conservatives signed last year were without any competitive process. It is 42% uncompetitive.

It is no wonder we have racked up the largest deficit in Canadian history. Again, we are not going out and getting the best price. We are simply sole-sourcing. This is obviously costing all of us, members of the Canadian public, the taxpayers, a significant number of dollars.

That is what competition is there for. It is to get the best price, to make sure the Canadian taxpayer is getting value for dollar. This party has talked about value for dollar with regard to this issue from the beginning. That is a responsibility the government has chosen to ignore.

The other reason is to make sure we get the best equipment available to us. Never is this more important than when we are talking about military procurement for our men and women in the air force. We want to make sure they have the best tools available. Again, without an active, open, transparent and fair competition, we do not know that.

At the defence committee we heard from Boeing. We heard from other competitors, who clearly indicated this was not a competitive process, who indicated they can provide value for dollar, in fact less cost to the taxpayer. Yet the government has chosen to ignore that, and we have again a sole-source contract. That obviously is of concern to this party. It is of concern to me as the vice-chair of the defence committee.

I would point out that the government keeps talking about next generation fighter aircraft. Next generation is actually a catchphrase. It is a marketing slogan that has been used in order to talk about this particular aircraft.

It is incumbent upon all parliamentarians to make sure we do get value for dollar. It is incumbent upon all parliamentarians to ensure that the process as outlined in Treasury Board guidelines is followed. If that is not followed, then we cannot be sure that we are getting the best price for Canadian taxpayers, and we clearly are not sure.

The debate and discussion that I have heard from the government is that the JSF was developed. There was a so-called competition between Boeing and Lockheed Martin in the United States. I would point out that now the American government is quite concerned about the cost overruns of this jet, as are the British and other countries.

One of the things we have not been able to glean from the government is why it thinks this is the best aircraft in terms of the needs, the capabilities we need as a country for the Arctic, as an example. Is this the aircraft we absolutely need?

We will continue to debate this. It is unfortunate when this was announced by the minister. This was announced in July, in the summer. The Conservative government has a tremendous record of announcing things outside the purview of Parliament. We heard that last week with regard to the issue of our soldiers being involved with training in Afghanistan. Budgets have been presented outside of this institution. That erodes the role and the authority of members of Parliament. That is why the defence committee has taken up this particular issue and why this party has put forward this important motion today. We want to discuss this issue.

The fact is that cost overruns have to be, and continue to be, a major concern. We do not even know what the operational life costs are going to be in terms of this aircraft. My friends across the way will say that we did not have that with the CF-18s until four years after the fact. The costs we are looking at for this aircraft alone are the most we have ever paid, and obviously those additional costs go well beyond $18 billion; they could go to $25 billion or $30 billion, by some estimates. Obviously when the British and others are saying they should maybe scale back and look at this whole component again as to whether or not they can afford it, that is an issue.

Winslow Wheeler, who is a renowned defence analyst and someone who has been around the United States Congress for more than 30 years, pointed out a number of deficiencies with regard to this aircraft. We are obviously going to be looking at that. Some members of the defence committee will have an opportunity to go to Texas to talk to the manufacturer and ask some of those tough questions.

I want people to understand that we certainly are asking questions and we are going to continue to ask questions, which is why it is important that we go to Texas and talk to the manufacturer. We will be able to ask not only the manufacturer but hopefully Boeing and others in terms of what information they can provide, because this contract will not officially be signed for about three years. It is important that we do that. My friends across the way have agreed to do that. We are looking for value for dollar. We want to make sure we get the right aircraft. We are going to continue to ask questions on operational capability, about whether this is the right aircraft, particularly for the north as a single engine versus a dual engine plane.

Make no mistake about it. We support replacing the CF-18s. The issue is whether or not we can afford what is being proposed by the government and whether or not the F-35 is the plane for our forces.

Protecting Canadians by Ending Sentence Discounts for Multiple Murders Act November 16th, 2010

Madam Speaker, I am pleased to participate in this debate, and I will support sending the bill to the committee.

I would like to acknowledge my friend's comments with regard to our colleague from Mississauga East—Cooksville, who repeatedly has brought forth private members' legislation in support of this type of approach, one which most members in the House could adopt.

We had another version of this, Bill C-54, An Act to amend the Criminal Code and to make consequential amendments to the National Defence Act. It is back again. As members know, the House was prorogued and because of that, we did not deal with this issue. This tough on crime government supposedly let it languish and has only brought it back recently. There has been a lot of rhetoric about getting tough on crime, but the reality is when it has come to legislation, the government has not been very speedy in bringing it before the House.

Members may recall that Parliament repealed the death penalty in 1976 and imposed a mandatory life sentence for the offence of murder. Offenders convicted of first degree murder were to serve life, as a minimum sentence, with no eligibility before 25 years. For offenders convicted of second degree murder, a mandatory sentence of life imprisonment was also imposed, with a parole eligibility somewhere between 10 and 25 years when it could be reviewed. Those serving life sentences could only be released on parole by the National Parole Board.

We are all concerned about crime. One of the things we do not hear enough about from the government is the issue of dealing with the causes of crime. In the areas of murder in our country, the statistics have remained relatively stable since 1999. There was a spike in the seventies and early eighties, but it has remained relatively the same since then.

We need to deal with the kinds of programs that deal with alcohol abuse, drug abuse, housing issues, education, issues that really affect the development of crime. It is those social issues that ultimately are the ones that breed crime in Canada. When we do not deal with those, when we say that all the solutions to crime are to throw everybody in prison, it really does not address the causation.

There is an old commercial about changing our oil and filters, which says, “Pay me now or pay me later”. I would rather pay now and deal with the causes of crime rather than have to pay the escalating costs later on down the road. That also could apply to health care, again dealing with prevention first, such as a better diet, exercise, et cetera, rather than the extreme costs that occur later on, particularly in areas of health care.

We know the Criminal Code implicitly provides that all sentences shall be served concurrently, unless a sentencing judge directs or legislation requires that a sentence be served consecutively. For example, section 85(4) of the Criminal Code requires that a sentence for using a firearm in the commission of an offence “shall be served consecutively to any other punishment imposed on the person for an offence arising out of the same event or series of events”.

Section 83.26 mandates consecutive sentences for terrorist activities, other than in the case of a life sentence. Section 467.14 requires consecutive sentences for organized crime offences. One example when a consecutive sentence may be imposed by a sentencing judge is where the offender is already under a sentence of imprisonment.

My colleague from Mississauga East—Cooksville had proposed amendments when we were in government, which I supported. Offenders who killed one person received 25 years. If they killed two or more people, they received 25 years but their sentences were served concurrently. That obviously sent out the wrong message.

We hear that the statistics in Canada are alarming. When I look at England, Ireland or New Zealand, our rates of incarceration, particularly dealing with first degree murder, are significantly higher.

The inability to impose consecutive life sentences does not mean that parole ineligibility periods cannot be effective. A single parole ineligibility period for multiple murders can be increased when someone serving a life sentence receives an additional definite sentence. In such a case the offender is not eligible for full parole until the day on which the additional sentence was imposed. A lot of life sentences are not for 25 years; on average they are 28 years, so it is not automatic.

A large majority of homicides, over 95%, involve a single victim, not multiple victims. Since 1999, the rate has remained relatively stable. An international comparison was done in 1999 which looked at Canada in terms of first degree murder sentences and the average time served in other countries including the United States. With the exception of the U.S., for offenders serving life sentences without parole the average time in Canada was about 28.4 years. The impression out there is that people get a good deal, but they actually serve longer.

It is important that we send the bill to committee so that experts can testify and members of Parliament can have an informed and intelligent review of this legislation. Again, the bill affects a very small number, but we know it is the image out there that affects people's impression of reality, but the reality is clearly different.

In places like England and Wales the ministry of justice has revealed that the mean time served by mandatory lifers, that is murderers, first released from prison in 2008 on life sentences was 16 years, There was no change from the previous year. In Ireland, in 2004, the minister of justice acknowledged that imprisonment averaged 17 years. According to the New Zealand parole board, the average in that country was seven years if sentenced prior to August 1, 1987, and after that date, it was about 10 years. In terms of incarcerating first degree murderers, we are much further along than many other states in the world, particularly Commonwealth states.

Cases such as the Clifford Olson case or Robert Pickton case are the ones which attract national attention. They are the ones on which millions of dollars are spent. People ask what happens to the victims. One of the concerns on this side of the House is we do not want people to have to relive these tragedies every few years. It is important there be incarceration for 25 years, but if there is more than one murder involved, I support, and always have supported, consecutive terms.

Does that mean we have thrown away rehabilitation? Rehabilitation is useful in some cases. I do not know that it would be applicable in the case of multiple murders. We listen to people like Sharon Rosenfeldt, the founder of Victims of Violence. Her comment is that although this bill affects a small number of perpetrators, it still will cause the greatest amount of fear, controversy and unrest in our judicial system and the Canadian public. It will send a message.

If nothing else, as long as we are sending a clear message, that is important. But we should never shy away from the fact that the government has a responsibility to deal with the hard issues of the day, such as the causation of crime. We should start by focusing on youth at a very young age. It starts in our communities and schools. That is where we need to focus. This is again a small minority. We are dealing with this now, but if the government were really serious about dealing with this issue, it would have brought forward this legislation much sooner and it would not have prorogued Parliament in the meantime.

Canadian Forces November 3rd, 2010

Mr. Speaker, as we approach the solemn occasion of Remembrance Day and pay tribute to the sacrifices made by our veterans in times of war, let us not forget those members of our Canadian Forces who have returned from service and who are haunted by trauma, depression and anxiety.

Studies show that operational stress injuries can lead to long-term psychiatric conditions. Sadly, the mission in Afghanistan has also shown us these psychological consequences of combat.

In 2008, the military ombudsman made several recommendations on how the Department of National Defence and the Canadian Forces could further help Canadian soldiers and their families cope with the dangers of operational stress injuries. Last year, the Standing Committee on National Defence released another report making many similar recommendations.

On behalf of the Canadian Psychiatric Association, I urge the government to work harder to implement all of the remaining recommendations from these reports and, most specifically, those related to improving services and support to military families. The enduring sacrifice our soldiers have made while serving their country needs to be honoured.

National Defence November 2nd, 2010

Mr. Speaker, Treasury Board guidelines clearly state that competition remains the cornerstone of the Canadian government's procurement process. It is the most effective way of achieving the goals of procurement and gives suppliers the incentive to bring forward their best solution at a competitive price.

What makes the government think it knows better than the decades of experience that goes into laying out these guidelines, and what gives it the right to bring its own rules when borrowing $16 billion from taxpayers to buy fighter jets without holding an open competition?