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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

Good Samaritan Award October 26th, 2010

Mr. Speaker, I rise today to recognize my constituent, Rebecca Vincent, who is a recipient of the Richmond Hill Good Samaritan Award for her outstanding leadership in our community.

A Girl Guides of Canada leader with the 1st York South Rangers, Rebecca has tirelessly dedicated her time to helping young women learn new skills, build friendships and gain leadership qualities.

Additionally, Rebecca is also known for her website, Becky's Guiding Resource Centre, which provides camping tips and team-building exercises for Girl Guide and Boy Scout units across the country.

A teacher with the York Region District School Board, Rebecca is also a camp co-ordinator at Camp Woolsey and an outdoor educator at Scanlon Creek. She is also an avid traveller who spent a year in the great Australian outback.

As we celebrate the 100th anniversary of Girl Guides of Canada, I congratulate Rebecca on her involvement as a Guide and in being a role model to our young women in the community and indeed around the world.

Standing up for Victims of White Collar Crime Act October 5th, 2010

Madam Speaker, it partly comes down to political will. It also comes down to the fact that we seem to always be bogged down in jurisdictional issues. There are not only 13 regulators but 50 other bodies involved in the co-ordination, investigation, et cetera. The fact is that this is one area where Parliament needs to act very strongly because the ability for these things to slip through the cracks is very evident.

I do not know of too many countries, in fact I cannot remember one, where there are so many regulatory bodies dealing with this issue. The United States, Great Britain and France all have a single body, and yet we are still debating regulations and jurisdictions rather than who we are supposed to be serving. It is the public that is the victim because of these 13 bodies and the other 50.

Standing up for Victims of White Collar Crime Act October 5th, 2010

Madam Speaker, as a former parliamentary secretary to the minister of the environment, I welcome the question. My personal view is that yes, it should be broader. It should deal with those kinds of issues. There are jurisdictions where this in fact takes place. She mentioned Asia, and Japan is another example.

This is a type of fraud, although obviously a different type, one that not only has a major impact on the community but can have significant financial implications as well. Environmental false reporting or fraud is an issue that the committee would certainly have to look at, but there are examples in Japan and Singapore where these in fact are on the books and could be very useful.

Who speaks for the community? That is a good question. Both interest groups in the community at large and we as legislators have to put some teeth into legislation that sends a strong message to companies that we do not want it to occur and if it happens there will be penalties. We have to speak with a very loud voice because, whether the pollution is in rivers or fields, the fact is that it is having health effects. Those are implications that need to be addressed.

Standing up for Victims of White Collar Crime Act October 5th, 2010

Madam Speaker, today I will be splitting my time with the hon. member for Newton—North Delta.

I am pleased to speak to Bill C-21, particularly given the importance of white collar crime in this country. Over the last few years we have seen more and more of these cases. The Canadian securities administrators note that at least 5% of adult Canadians have been affected in one way or another by this white collar crime situation and that over one-third of these large numbers of victims of fraud are seniors who have invested money and who have obviously been misled. These people take the money and often it is not recoverable.

We also note with interest that corporations have estimated that between 2% and 6% of their annual profits are affected by white collar crime. Over the last few decades this has totalled billions and billions of dollars, so both the average individual in this country and corporations are affected by the activities of these fraudsters who clearly prey, in many cases as I have indicated, on seniors and the most vulnerable in our society.

We welcome the government's legislation, finally, on this and obviously support it going to committee to be reviewed. This legislation has a minimum mandatory sentence of imprisonment for two years for fraud valued at over $1 million. We could get into the issue of where people stand on mandatory minimums, but the reality is that the courts need to be much tougher on these individuals who prey on the most vulnerable and who clearly take people's life savings.

There have been cases recently where these situations have occurred and have caused great personal trauma for people, the Jones case in Quebec, for example. People believe that the individual before them is a reputable individual who tells them they will be able to invest their hard-earned money in certain investments for their retirement. Yet it turns out that they are victimized, and the penalties are not tough enough.

Not only do we have to look at the penalties but we have to look at prevention. How do we stop the fact that 2% to 6% of corporation profits are lost? How do we stop the fact that 5% of Canadians have been victimized? The committee will have to examine it, but it is not simply about the penalties; it has to be about how we can do better in terms of dealing with these kinds of individuals who are preying on our society.

Prevention is obviously important. The bill does not address the issue of the end of the one-sixth accelerated parole provisions for these offenders, which the opposition has called for and certainly the public has called for. There is absolutely no reason why this provision should still be there, and we hope the committee will deal with that issue. That is one of the shortcomings we see in this proposed legislation.

There is no question that the legislation has been a long time coming. It would have been dealt with earlier by the previous legislation that was introduced before Parliament was prorogued. Now we have new legislation, Bill C-21.

The Earl Jones case in Quebec and the Bernie Madoff Ponzi scheme in the United States are examples of the kind of individuals out there who prey on people and why we need to have tougher legislation. We need to have legislation, in my view, that not only includes the mandatory minimum but also deals with the sentencing issue and the psychological and financial impact on individuals.

The legislation permits victim impact statements after sentencing, but just as it is with an individual who is a victim of a mugging or an offence of that nature, the psychological impacts and the financial impacts in this case are quite significant, which is important. It is important that the courts look at those victim impact statements as well, to see obviously what mitigating factors were involved, but these things have a very long-term effect.

Constituents in my riding of Richmond Hill have been victims of white collar crime, and some of these people are still feeling the effects 10 years later. They should not, but they blame themselves in many cases and ask how they could have been taken in by this individual, how they could have been so gullible. Therefore, they ask what the penalties are, and often it is simply a slap on the wrist, and this is why the mandatory minimum is obviously important. But, it is also important to look at those community impact statements as well.

The Royal Canadian Mounted Police has indicated its support for this. The Canadian Bar Association has concerns about the mandatory minimum issue, but again we need to deal with the reasons for white collar crimes. We need to deal with what the regulations are. One of the issues the House has been dealing with as well is the issue of the securities commissions, the fact that we have 13 across Canada and the issue of a national regulator. When I was parliamentary secretary to two ministers of finance, we promoted the idea of a national regulator. The government is again talking about a national regulator. It is important because, in trying to keep track of investments and the fact that if people overseas are looking at investing in Canada, it does not make a lot of sense that we have 13 bodies. But there are other issues. There are about 50 entities as well that are also involved in the issue of regulations, as well as dealing with the issues of enforcement, investigation, coordination, et cetera. We have a very bureaucratic system, which is often why these kinds of cases slip through the cracks and why these people are able to advance their particular agenda on individuals who unwittingly fall victim to this.

On the issue of recouping of dollars, when people have taken the money how do we get the money back, if any of it is recoupable? How do we get that in terms of where they have put it? Have they put it offshore? Have they simply spent it? What are the tough penalties to deal with individuals who do this?

In my riding there was an elderly lady who had invested $10,000 with someone she thought was a reliable individual, and unfortunately she never recouped that $10,000. When people are elderly and that kind of savings is gone, it has a tremendous impact. The question again is, what are we doing as legislators not only to deal with the proponents who are involved in this kind of white collar crime activity but as well to prevent it? How can we be tougher in terms of the regulations? How can we be tougher in terms of monitoring? Those are the kinds of things that people want to see. The bill deals with part of that, but it does not deal enough on the prevention side. I hope the committee will do more with that.

The victim restitution issue is obviously going to be extremely important because again that is something that at the end result people are most concerned about, in terms of how that impacted on individuals and their families and their community. How do we get the word out of what happens to these people? Some would argue that a minimum of two years is not strong enough, but from the Liberals' standpoint we do believe that there need to be strong provisions put in place, and if we had not prorogued we probably would have had this a lot earlier. But we have to move quickly on a bill of this nature because this addresses an issue in our society, which is becoming more rampant. When we think of 5% of Canadian adults who have been in one way victimized by white collar crime, that is quite significant. I look forward to future deliberations on this.

Canada-Panama Free Trade Act September 30th, 2010

Mr. Speaker, I would point out that it does not impede it, but it is not really focusing on what the real issues of the day are in terms of what our competitors are doing, and again, much more engagement on the multilateral level with organizations that are out there. I go back to one that I am most familiar with, dealing with the Asia-Pacific region, and that is ASEAN. Obviously if we do that, we are going to have a bigger bang in terms of that approach. Although these things are helpful, we need a strong policy, a strong strategy. We need to listen to what organizations such as the Canadian Chamber of Commerce have said, which is that we really do not have that, and unless we have it, we are not going to be competitive internationally in the longer term.

In order to do that, we have to get together. We have to really start hammering out something not for this year or for the next five years, but the kind of policy that will take us 15 or 20 years down the road, because standing still is not going to help and obviously the Australians in particular recognized that when they launched their very aggressive free trade approaches in the Asia-Pacific.

Canada-Panama Free Trade Act September 30th, 2010

Mr. Speaker, as I indicated earlier, one of the side agreements deals with labour. If the member has legitimate concerns on the labour issue, that is where at committee with the appropriate witnesses that kind of discussion needs to go forward in terms of strengthening these provisions. But if we simply want perfection and say no, if this is not here now we are not going to engage with any free trade, then we can put up a big wall around the country and obviously we will not be doing our businesses any favours and certainly not the population. So again, it is about engaging. Obviously there are provisions we can strengthen, but we cannot strengthen the bill if we simply say we are not going to do anything because it is not there now. That is why we have these discussions and obviously why amendments are made at committee.

Canada-Panama Free Trade Act September 30th, 2010

Mr. Speaker, I am certainly not an advocate of getting into bed with the Conservatives, the NDP or anybody else, although I know the NDP has had experience with being in bed with the Conservatives, particularly in 2005.

I want to point out that one of the things free trade provides us is an opportunity to deal with political liberalization, et cetera. Panama has come a long way from the Noriega days. There is no question that there is continual liberalization and improvement within Panama. One of the things that at least my party believes in is engagement. There cannot be improvements unless we engage others, and this is one vehicle.

I understand the member is concerned about those issues and I would suggest to the member that the bill going to committee is an opportunity to look at some of those issues and strengthen it. That is why bills go to committee. We do not just say we do not like a bill because it is not perfect. If it is not perfect, we have to work on it, and that is why members deal with it in committee.

Canada-Panama Free Trade Act September 30th, 2010

First, Mr. Speaker, the member had better define what he means by “appalling”, because my definition and his are obviously different.

I give the example of the preferred destination status with China. If the member checks the record, in the fall of 2005 it was the Liberal government that actually had an agreement in place. There was something called an election, which obviously precluded the final signing of that agreement.

My question to the member, which I realize is a rhetorical one, is why it took the Conservative Party almost four years to get that finalized when the Liberal government had done all the work. The work was already done. In December 2005, that destination agreement existed, and we lost four years of an opportunity to really showcase Canada, because those guys over there, unfortunately, were ragging the puck.

Canada-Panama Free Trade Act September 30th, 2010

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to participate in the debate on Bill C-46, as I did the other day on Bill C-8 which dealt with another free trade agreement the government is proposing. This bill deals with a free trade agreement with Panama.

Obviously, free trade agreements are important to Canada given that we export over 80% of our goods, and obviously Canada needs to be competitive in the international community. It is disturbing that for the first time in over 30 years, we have a significant trade deficit. The government needs to look at a comprehensive approach in terms of how we deal with the issue of trade in the international community.

At the moment we have what I would call one-off agreements. There is one with Jordan and now there is this one with Panama. We also debated one involving Colombia. The difficulty is that our competitors are taking a much more aggressive approach. For example, we have no free trade agreements with any state in Asia. With markets such as Japan, China, India, the ASEAN members, this is very important, and a multilateral approach particularly with ASEAN would be beneficial.

We are still in negotiations with Korea; I believe we are in the seventh round now. With Singapore, we are in the ninth round. This is disturbing, given that the Americans have been reaching out. We see the Japanese concluding free trade agreements with countries as diverse as the Philippines and Mexico, yet at the same time, we are doing these small agreements.

The one with Panama is fine. We on this side of the House certainly support the bill going to committee. However, in terms of the big picture, there are real issues that we need to be grappling with on the issue of free trade. A multilateral approach gives us a bigger market. For example, ASEAN, with 590 million people from Vietnam, the Philippines, Indonesia, et cetera, is very important, yet we are simply chipping away at it. We do not have a coherent policy in terms of how we should tackle trade issues.

As a significant amount of our trade, some 75% or 80%, is with the United States, when there is an economic downturn in that country, as we have seen, it has an impact on our economy. We need to diversify, but diversifying with Jordan and Panama is not going to solve things in the big picture. It is not going to deal with what our competitors have been doing internationally. We need to be in the game. We have been more on the sidelines. We have to engage in these major markets. There are opportunities for us out there, but the government needs to lead. The government needs to demonstrate.

A few years ago, the Canadian Chamber of Commerce wrote a very compelling paper about China. It clearly indicated that there was no policy of the government in terms of how to engage that market. For example, Canada is a world leader in the area of environmental technology, particularly with respect to clean air, clean water and contaminated sites. This is very important work and certainly is useful for China. We need to be part of that, but we are not seeing the kind of leadership needed in order to go forward.

From that standpoint, the agreements the government has been putting forward simply focus on a very small niche. They do not deal with the kinds of issues they should be dealing with.

We are seeing an increase in protectionism in the United States. That is of concern, particularly in the area of agriculture. It means difficulties for our farmers. It is a difficulty in terms of our being able to compete in the international arena. The United States' protectionist policies are having an effect here. With respect to the America first policy, the government had discussions with the United States and changes were made in terms of Canadian companies being able to compete, but that only affected 37 of the 50 states in the U.S. It is important that we be there.

The Conservative government has not shown the kind of leadership that is needed on the multilateral side, in terms of being much more visible in the United States. Policy in the United States is not done in Washington; it is done in districts and states across the U.S. That is where we need to be focusing our efforts.

Canadian businesses can compete with anyone in the world if there is a level playing field. When there is not a level playing field, obviously we often face difficulties.

Although my party supports this bill going to committee, the fact is that we would like to see a clear strategy, particularly for the emerging key markets, such as Brazil, India, China, and Japan. We have watched and continually see the United States, Australia, and others being very aggressive, particularly in their talk about a big Asia Pacific free trade zone. If they are in first, we obviously will pick up the pieces.

I think Canadian businesses deserve more than picking up the pieces. They deserve the opportunity. Again, we have to be aggressive. We can talk free trade, but we really have to demonstrate it. The only way to demonstrate it is to show leadership.

Currently, penetrating the Korean market is an issue, particularly in the automotive sector, and the Japanese are carefully watching our discussions. If, and it is a big if, a free trade agreement were to occur between Canada and Korea, the Japanese would be particularly anxious to come to the table. At the moment, the Americans are talking to them about possible free trade.

Some people say that we could never get a free trade agreement with Japan because of agriculture. I do not know of too many people in this House who represent ridings that have a lot of rice. Rice is always the one issue the Japanese deal with. Even then, Japan was able to conclude a successful agreement with the Philippines, for example.

The issue in this agreement, and we are supportive of sending it to committee, is the Canadian merchandise we export to Panama: machinery, electronic equipment, pharmaceutical equipment, et cetera. It is a relatively small market. It is also important that we look at some of the other free trade zones in Latin America.

Latin America has developed, along with states such as Argentina, Uruguay, and Chile, zones in which there is a free flow of goods and where tariffs have been dropped so that businesses can compete. As a country, we need to send out a very clear message that we are prepared to enter into agreements where it is in our national interest.

Obviously, we have to look at environmental issues. This country has traditionally been a leader on climate change, clean water, and clean air issues. Countries really need that expertise.

Not only are Canadians very cost effective in terms of what they are able to produce and export, we can do it in two official languages, which is very helpful. Again, if we are not at the table, that is a problem.

We also have to look at the issue of labour co-operation. I notice in this agreement that there is a side agreement on labour co-operation. Obviously we have to expect that what we are asking is what we would demand at home, including the right to association, the right to collective bargaining, and the abolition of child labour. These are standards we have, and we would expect the same in dealing with other countries.

I know that some colleagues have concerns on the labour end of it. When it goes to committee and we have the appropriate witnesses, we can have those kinds of discussions and strengthen, if need be, those provisions. I think that is important. No piece of legislation I have seen in 14 years here has ever been perfect. That is why we send it to committee, where colleagues have an opportunity to look very carefully at legislation, hear from witnesses, and move forward.

My understanding, in terms of the major stakeholders on this particular bill with Panama, is that there are no major objections. On the whole, it is a fairly straightforward agreement. Again, it will give us some access, but we have to build on that, particularly in the Central American region in countries such as Nicaragua, Guatemala, and Costa Rica. Those countries are also looking at better co-operation. As a balance to the United States, I think Canada could play an important role.

Again, it is the whole issue of having a level playing field with access to markets. We need to be able to at least secure that. When we are looking at new partnerships, we must be able to tell our business community to go forward with the opportunity.

There were reservations about the free trade agreement with the United States and whether we could compete. Obviously, we can compete extremely well when a level playing field is available.

Canada's total exports to this particular country amount to 12.6%. Imports amount to about 17.3%. Over 80% of Canada's economy depends on trade. To keep that, we need to have as much access to markets as we can.

Former Prime Minister Trudeau, in the seventies, talked about a third option, and that third option was to diversify. If we had diversified in the seventies and eighties, maybe we would be in better shape than we are now.

Tariffs are the worst thing that can happen to a trading nation. Obviously, I am not old enough to remember the Great Depression in the 1930s, but some of my colleagues on the other side might. The first thing that happened was that major tariff barriers went up, and protectionism became rampant. That is not something we want to do. That was not good. We need to make sure that we have protection.

We also need to demonstrate leadership when it comes to issues such as climate change and the environment. The Conference of the Parties will soon meet in Mexico, and that will be an opportunity to strengthen international regimes.

Canada is traditionally well known for its international leadership, particularly in areas of multilateralism. The International Criminal Court is an example.

The 11th Conference of the Parties, in 2005, was the most successful COP ever to deal with developing a clear climate change regime internationally. That was important. The former Liberal government got a lot of accolades because of that. Again, it was because of the fact that we demonstrated leadership. We need to continue to do that. We need to continue to say to our allies and others that if protectionism is wrong, this is what we are prepared to do to focus forward.

The European Union has some very stringent policies, particularly when it comes to foodstuffs, even in terms of colouring food. We have to be able to talk about these issues with colleagues. We have seen other countries react to issues in this country, and we need to have a strong voice on those issues. Some of my colleagues, particularly those from Newfoundland and Labrador, are well aware of the issue with regard to the seal hunt.

What are we doing to educate? What are we doing to get our message out on some of these issues so that these sudden trade barriers will not come forward and harm the interests of Canadian farmers and producers, whoever they happen to be?

It is instructive to look at what went forward when we made an agreement with Israel in 1997. That was an opportunity to start further negotiations in other areas of the Middle East. Bill C-8, the Jordan agreement, will build on that. The gulf trading area, a Middle East trading area, is important all the way from the United Arab Emirates to Algeria. That is another market we could penetrate.

In other words, what is the strategy? What is going to be the policy in order for us to move forward? We on this side of the House are quite willing to work with the government to develop a strategy, because it is in our nation's interest. If we do these kinds of things, we will serve our citizens well.

Non-agricultural products, particularly fish and seafood, would be helpful for our markets, but that is only one part of the puzzle. It would be nice to see a really strong policy that the government, members of the opposition, and members of key sectors that deal with international trade really hammer out together. It would be the kind the policy and the kinds of tools we need to be much more aggressive.

The Americans certainly have not been sitting idly by. The Australians, in particular, have been very aggressive in Asia and have reaped a number of benefits. ASEAN, of course, which was getting closer on trade issues with China, now realizes that they cannot put all their eggs in one basket. They are wondering where Canada is on the international stage. They see where the Australians and the Americans are, and they are saying that we need to be there.

Some people do not know that in Indonesia, for example, we are the fifth largest investor, particularly in the area of mining, but our approach is not necessarily coherent. It is not necessarily a policy to say, “Go out there and good luck”. That is not the way to build good trade relations.

Obviously, we support the faster elimination of tariff barriers, particularly in those areas that are important to Canadian industry. In this agreement, Panama will see the elimination of at least 90% of current barriers on goods coming from Canada, which is obviously a positive, but where are those big deals we need to hear about in the House? Where are those big negotiations going on?

On this side, we are watching very carefully the issue of Korea. That is very important because of the nature of that market. We need to be able to say to our businesses that there are tremendous opportunities out there. We do not want to be dealing just with our American friends, which is great, but given policy there, we need to make sure that we are at the forefront.

We were one of the first major countries in China. We had a tremendous opportunity there. Mr. Chrétien led a number of Team Canada missions there in the 1990s. We were leaders. Unfortunately, relations with China changed with the current government, and we lost a lot of ground.

We have to continue to have a consistent policy on how to deal with our trading partners. We cannot be all things to all people. We have to have a particular niche. For example, on the environment, we could have a whole Team Canada just dealing with environmental issues in the Pearl River Delta. There are days when the smog is so thick it rolls into Hong Kong and one cannot see across the harbour. We need to take advantage of those things.

People cry out and say that they need to see Canada there. It would be very helpful if we would do that. Although we will support the bill going to committee, we want to look at the issue of labour to make sure that the guarantees are there. We want to make sure that if these things can be strengthened, that will be done. We welcome the opportunity, but we want to see the bigger picture. We want to see more emphasis on multilateralism, and if that goes forward, it will benefit Canada in our future trading relationships around the world.

Canada-Jordan Free Trade Act September 27th, 2010

Mr. Speaker, to my knowledge, there has not been, but that does not mean that there could not be. First of all, we need to make sure that the strongest teeth are in an agreement in terms of labour practices with respect to the issues I raised, such as the collective right to negotiate and unionize, et cetera.

At the same time, we need to be that beacon. We need to be able to continue to push. What we would expect at home we would also expect internationally when dealing with other countries. Obviously, even in the case of Colombia, provisions were put in the agreement, particularly in the area of human rights. Obviously it is not perfect, but we should not demand anything that we would not demand at home in terms of the issues the member has raised. Again, we need to collectively push that issue at committee and going forward.