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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

Canada-Jordan Free Trade Act September 27th, 2010

Mr. Speaker, as I indicated earlier, we are a nation of traders, and obviously, one of the issues that clearly comes to mind is the approach we take in terms of our trade relations with our neighbours, particularly when we have about 85% trade with the United States.

Clearly what we need to have is a vision. We need to clearly have a plan as to what we need to be doing. I talked about the fact that although the Canada-Jordan free trade agreement is an interesting approach, there is a wider market in that area, in terms of the Arab free trade area, which, with 18 states, is very important. The fact is that a multilateral approach is absolutely critical. Given what has been happening in Doha, we need to really push multilateral agreements. We need to push multilateral agreements, in large part because our neighbours are clearly doing that: Australia, the United States, the EU and others. It is very important that we be a player.

Jordan is a very good example of a country in which modernization in terms of banking and monetary infrastructure has been progressing. It is a good place to invest. Obviously, we recognize that, and we want to encourage Canadian business to recognize it by bringing on organizations such as the Canadian Chamber of Commerce, the Federation of Canadian Municipalities, and organizations that will have an interest in participating in this type of agreement so that we can encourage the best and the brightest in this country to be on the leading edge.

Without some kind of overall strategy, these kinds of agreements are simply one-offs. We need to hear from the government in terms of what overall approach we should be taking in terms of providing leadership to deal with our competitors.

I go back to the Asian-Pacific again to say that in the Asia-Pacific, we are not a player, and we need to be, particularly in places such as Malaysia, Vietnam, the Philippines, Cambodia, and others. What do they all have in common? They are all part of ASEAN. While other countries are looking at doing free trade agreements with ASEAN and the 590 million people who live there, we are standing idly by. We cannot afford to do that.

We need to be aggressive in these areas. If we are aggressive in these areas, we can compete, particularly on the environment. In the environmental area, we are experts on clean water, contaminated soils, and clean air. Environmental companies are very interested in participating there.

When I referenced my meeting, with our Minister of the Environment, in July 2007, with King Abdullah of Jordan, I mentioned the fact that they were very interested in the environmental technology this country has. Agreements like this will hopefully give Canadians an opportunity to access those markets. These are things that we should have been doing. We need to do them in a broader context as well. Without that kind of push, we are going to be left behind. We continue to do these one-offs. They are not necessarily the most productive or the most useful.

Speaking of the environment, in the agreement there are side agreements on labour co-operation and on the environment. I would point out that on the environment, one of the things I am pleased to see is that we are going to comply with and effectively enforce the domestic environmental laws and not weaken the environmental laws to encourage trade or investment. That is important. We are not going to weaken them; we are going to strengthen them.

We are certainly going to ensure that provisions are available to remedy any violations of environmental laws and to promote public awareness, because the environment is extremely important not only for Canada and Jordan, but in general, in terms of what we can provide. Providing these kinds of safeguards is obviously going to be important. They are going to be important not only for those countries and the people in those countries, but again, because we can share that expertise and get our environmental companies involved, particularly on issues of desertification and irrigation, on which we can provide expertise. Particularly in an area of the world where water is in short supply, Canadian expertise and technology can be part of the solution.

We can be part of the solution only in Jordan in the Middle East. Yet we have a trading area of 18 nations. I again point out, whether it is with Saudi Arabia, Egypt, or the United Arab Emirates, that we need to be a player. I hope that the government will come back and look at the issue of expanding this in terms of a multilateral approach, which would give us more access and opportunities for Canadian business. Standing still is obviously not appropriate.

We also have the side arrangement, on the issue of labour, to guarantee freedom of association, the right to collective bargaining, the abolition of child labour, the elimination of compulsory labour, et cetera. A colleague in the New Democratic Party raised this issue. I would suggest that this is where the Standing Committee on International Trade could bring witnesses forward to make sure that if there are areas of concern, they are addressed. Any agreement can be strengthened. It is absolutely important, for the protection of workers, to make sure that they have the ability to organize and carry out their activities free from fear, discrimination, and pressure. That is one of the aspects of this agreement. If there are opportunities to strengthen any of these, then we need to do so. They are basic human rights, and we want to make sure that they are enshrined.

Jordan has a high degree of internal security and stability. It is a free-market-oriented economy. That is something we encourage not only for Jordan but in other areas of the Middle East where we could continue to promote free-trade opportunities. In a free market, we can be a major player. Jordan has a well-developed banking and communication system. We can take advantage of that, given the expertise we have in those areas.

There is no question, in looking at tax rates for Jordanian and Canadian companies, that there are opportunities where Canada could play a role. However, we have to go back to the issue of developing a more regional approach, because other countries are doing that. Other countries are saying that in a very competitive global environment, given the economic situation around the world, we cannot sit at home; we have to be there. That is what we are hearing from the business community. I hear that from small- and medium-sized businesses all the time.

I appreciate that when we are looking at these issues and bringing those witnesses forth at committee, we will be approving simply one agreement. How do we strengthen our role internationally and competitively in a manner that really addresses Canada's strengths, whether that be the environment and dealing with climate change or telecommunications, two particular areas in which Canada is very strong.

We talked about agriculture. We have seen that it deals with subsidy issues. Agriculture is very important because we export so much. In looking at those opportunities, I mentioned the Japanese, who are able to sign agriculture agreements with countries we never would have thought of, such as Mexico or the Philippines. I think that if we really put our minds to it, we can do more. This particular agreement gives us an opportunity to say that if, in fact, we are not going to be successful at the Doha Round on the issue, we need to deal with it in a multilateral way. I know that there are colleagues here who clearly see that as an opportunity.

I hope that the Government of Canada will continue to show leadership, because our American friends, the EU, and others are not standing still. They are being very aggressive. As with the experience in Korea, we know the importance of accessing those kinds of markets, because those countries are clearly looking well beyond their shores.

We have talked about a free trade agreement with Japan. Again, the larger issue is an Asia-Pacific agreement. If we are not a player in that part of the world, if we are not a player in a larger sense in the Middle East, we are going to be left behind.

I know that my time is coming to an end. I urge colleagues to support sending it to the committee. It is important that we examine not only this bill, but again, the broader picture of where we want to be in the 21st century in terms of our trading relations. How will they strengthen our own domestic economy so that Canadians are at work and so that we can provide leadership on the world stage.

Pioneer Park Stormwater Management Project September 27th, 2010

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to rise today to recognize the leadership that the Town of Richmond Hill has displayed in the areas of water management and sustainable infrastructure renewal.

For several years our town had witnessed the decay of the Pioneer Park flood control site, which had lost its ability to safeguard the communities it was built to protect in 1985 and which no longer reflected modern standards of stormwater control.

However, thanks to upgrades carried out under a recent rehabilitation project, the new Pioneer Park stormwater management system is not only capable of protecting the nearby hospital, roadways and communities, but will also help the town control water quality and soil erosion and will help stabilize and rehabilitate the East Don River waterway.

For the town's exemplary work on this project, the Federation of Canadian Municipalities and the Insurance Bureau of Canada have made Richmond Hill an inaugural recipient of a national Watershed Award. This award recognizes municipal governments that have demonstrated leadership in their efforts to adapt to climate change by reducing their vulnerability to flooding and water damage.

I would like to congratulate the Town of Richmond Hill on its leadership.

Canada-Jordan Free Trade Act September 27th, 2010

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to participate in this debate on Bill C-8. Let me first of all indicate that all countries are governed by their national interest, and certainly in Canada's interest, trade is absolutely paramount given the fact that 80% of our economy really needs access to foreign markets. Therefore, we are certainly concerned on this side of the House that for the first time in over 30 years we are now facing trade deficits, which obviously is something that needs to be addressed very quickly. Obviously this agreement is only one in a series of what we hope will be agreements, particularly on a multilateral basis, to push access not just for Canadian products, but obviously that helps business, cultural aspects and political aspects in terms of dealing with other countries.

There is no question that this agreement gives us an opportunity to begin further inroads. Since 1997, we had the free trade agreement with Israel, but we really need to look at not just Jordan but the greater Arab free trade agreement that Jordan is a member of. Over 18 countries are members of that. It would give us hopefully, down the road, access from the United Arab Emirates all the way to Algeria. It would give us the opportunity to really expand in areas on environmental protection. It would deal with areas of communication, areas dealing with forest products, et cetera.

The difficulty, of course, is that this is just one aspect. I had the privilege in July 1997, when I was parliamentary secretary to the minister of the environment, to meet with the minister and with King Abdullah II of Jordan to talk about environmental protection issues in particular. The king was very clear that he wanted to see more opportunities with Canada, and obviously the development of this agreement would give us opportunities to discuss and promote both environmental protection, labour protection and other issues with the Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan.

We on this side of the House support sending the bill to committee. I assume it will address a number of the issues that some other colleagues have raised in the House today. In terms of access to trade, trade is really our lifeblood and we need to not only be only aggressive looking at what our neighbours are doing, for example, the United States which has an agreement with Jordan, but it is also very aggressive in Asia and the Asia-Pacific region. We do not have one agreement in Asia-Pacific. We have exploratory discussions right now with India, but the reality is that while the Americans have been moving forward with even a discussion on an Asia-Pacific agreement, we still sit back and have not been aggressive. We are in the ninth round with Singapore. We are still dealing with the Korean situation, particularly the issue of automotive access. But in terms of where the real action is, it is dealing with multilateral agreements, and this is where the United States and the EU, which also has an agreement with Jordan in this case, are taking a very proactive role.

Although this is one step and we certainly welcome that, there are the larger issues that we need to deal with, particularly looking at the whole issue of an agreement with the Arab free trade zone. That would certainly be of benefit to us.

There is no question that Canadian exports, although they were only worth $77 million in 2008, still are important in terms of forest products and in terms of some of the agri-food areas and obviously machinery. But again, that is simply one aspect. We import only about $15 million, as of 2008, but it is building those bridges. That is why, for this country in particular, given that we have over 85% of our trade with the United States and given the economic downturn being faced around the world, the impact it has on the Canadian economy is significant. If we put all our eggs in one basket, there is difficulty, obviously, when doors close. So we need to have these other areas.

Canadian business has demonstrated very clearly that it can compete with the best in the world given the opportunities out there. This is obviously something that we on this side of the House will continue to push.

The elimination of all of the Jordanian non-agricultural tariffs, which currently average around 10%, is small, but again an example of the need to promote Canadian agricultural products, which we know are the best in the world.

The need to promote and reduce tariff barriers in general means that this country will become much more competitive internationally. It will give us, again, a bridge in the Middle East. Jordan and Israel have a peace agreement since 1994, so there is obviously trade going on. We can continue to promote many of these aspects, which I think are important.

Colleagues have mentioned environmental technology. One of the things about climate change, of course, is that Jordan is dealing with significant climate change issues, as are other countries, particularly in terms of desertification. Again, Canadian technology and expertise can be very helpful in terms of dealing with the Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan. It is an opportunity to promote and expand our environmental goods in that part of the world. I think it is important. Hopefully, it will be a bridge later on for other countries in the Middle East.

There is no question that, at this point, Canada is going to be able to take a leadership role, but we need to be able to evaluate some of the issues that have been raised. In terms of textiles, et cetera, there does not seem to be any concern raised in that area. Obviously, some members have asked about the nature of the labour agreement. It is similar to the one that the United States signed with Jordan. Again, we can certainly look into that at committee. If we look at where Jordan has come from, particularly since 2002, coming out of the IMF agreement it had in terms of its progress on banking, monetary reform, and in many sectors, Jordan certainly is a very good partner for Canada in this region.

When we are examining those kinds of issues, we again want to be able to say to Jordan and to the rest of the world that Canada is open for business. It is obviously going to be a two-way opportunity both for the Jordanians and for Canadians, but also we will be clear that this is simply one aspect and that Canada continues to diversify. As the lifeblood in dealing with that trade deficit for the first time in over 30 years, we have to diversify. We also have to get our businesses to line up to compete in that area.

Going back to the Asia-Pacific for a moment, the fact is that the Japanese concluded a free trade agreement with the Philippines, as well as with Mexico, a NAFTA partner. It is important because the Japanese were able to deal with agricultural issues, which traditionally they have always been very protectionist on. Yet they were able to get agreements with two countries that have large agricultural aspects.

The fact is that we are still toiling away with Korea and Singapore. We need to look at what others are doing. Of course, the Americans have clearly demonstrated that they see the future there. An ASEAN agreement, with the 10 countries in ASEAN, will mean that a market of over 590 million people will open up with Australia, with the United States. We have to be there.

Therefore, though we support the idea of a bilateral agreement in this case, the much larger picture is the trading blocs that are emerging, the ASEAN, the EU, and dealing with the Asia-Pacific. All those are really critical.

If one looks at an example such as Vietnam, Vietnam is a market that now has a very strong foreign investment provision. It is welcoming Canadian companies that are there, such as Manulife. Again, we are missing the boat when we are not developing these kinds of strong free trade agreements. Because Vietnam is part of the ASEAN group, we need to have that.

I know time is ticking down until after question period, but I want to point out that again these kinds of agreements will benefit Canadian manufacturers and Canadian labour. It will benefit many opportunities where we can in fact expand. I hope to add a little to that after question period.

Canada-Jordan Free Trade Act September 27th, 2010

Mr. Speaker, there is a lot of discussion in the House about bilateral agreements, but also about the need for a multilateral approach, particularly in places like the Asia-Pacific and certainly in the Middle East.

I am sure my colleague is familiar with the greater Arab free trade agreement, which embraces about 18 states in the Arab world, that is breaking down barriers. This, I would suggest, might be an opportunity, once an agreement is reached with Jordan, for Canada to really push to be part of an agreement in which we would have access to a significant market, particularly in the Arab world, as diverse as from Qatar all the way to Algeria. It would seem that that might be an important approach to take.

I would ask my colleague for her comments on a greater Arab free trade agreement arrangement with Canada.

Cracking Down on Crooked Consultants Act September 23rd, 2010

Madam Speaker, I am pleased to enter the debate today on Bill C-35.

We spend a lot of time talking about the importance of immigration to Canada, and rightly so. The difficulty, however, is that people almost have to be Philadelphia lawyers to figure out what the rules and procedures are in order to immigrate to Canada. There is no real consistency in terms of what we tell people at our embassies and high commissions, about what the job market is like in a particular field, how long it will take in terms of the process in general to come to Canada, or under what basis people can come to Canada. For many people here who want to sponsor relatives, it turns out that they think it is a right rather than a privilege.

Not understanding the process has led to people looking for consultants. In some cases a consultant is really not the appropriate term given the fact that many of these people have limited if any understanding. There are some very good consultants out there and there are obviously some bad apples.

The difficulty is that as members of Parliament we are charged with the responsibility of dealing with legislation. In 2008 the Standing Committee on Citizenship and Immigration produced nine recommendations. Now the question I have for the government is, why were they not implemented?

One of the difficulties around this place is that when a standing committee deals with a particular issue, it deals with a stream of witnesses, debate, amendments and comes up with very concrete recommendations that are sent to the government, sometimes it is as if we have basically wasted our time.

Now I realize that in 2008 there was a federal election, but since then these recommendations have not been implemented. I think that is absolutely unacceptable when we look at the nature of the recommendations to fix part of the problem. This legislation before the House is not a panacea. It is not going to solve all of the problems. It is not going to solve all the backlogs. It is not going to deal with the financial issues in order to implement the kind of process that we need in place.

In my office alone, one person is dedicated solely to deal with immigration. Now I am not an immigration office. In theory I seem to be part of an extension of the department. In many cases the department is dealing with the applications that need to be dealt with. We have too many people applying and not enough resources to deal with those applicants. Fortunately, I am very blessed with a very committed, dedicated individual who really understands the process, after the last five years.

The difficulty is that people's expectations and understanding of what is involved is like night and day. Many of these people are victims of consultants and it all starts where they are applying. Do our embassies and high commissions have the kind of information readily available?

One of the recommendations in this report was recommendation no. 8. It clearly indicated in 2008 that we needed to have the most up-to-date information, that people really had to understand what was going to be awaiting them if in fact they came to Canada, in terms of language skill requirements, job opportunities, housing, et cetera.

The difficulty is that most people enter this process rather blindly. Because they think that there is sometimes a quick fix, they deal with consultants. Some of these consultants turn out to be more of a problem than a cure.

In 2008 the standing committee made nine recommendations. One of them which I think was extremely important was this whole issue of a stand-alone agency that would deal with this issue in terms of having the summary powers needed to do the job properly.

Rather than amend the Citizenship and Immigration Act, we need to have a body that has the power to deal with consultants both from a regulatory standpoint, and some colleagues have talked about the provincial process of many regulatory bodies, but also the power to investigate and the power to really come down on people who mislead, who in fact basically take money when no service is really rendered.

Immigration is supposed to be important to this country and yet we have a system that is broken, and I would defy anyone who would suggest otherwise. People just need to go to any constituency office of a member of Parliament in the greater Toronto area or the greater Vancouver area and they will certainly see the difficulties that members of Parliament deal with. That is because we do not have the necessary tools. We do not have a legion of staff that can deal with this. There often is a lot of burn-out because one person dealing with this in particular is very difficult. We hear the most tragic stories of people who want to come to this country for a new opportunity but, again, it is the issue of dealing with this.

The last Liberal government, our government in 2005, put $900 million toward trying to deal with the backlog, which really was not enough, as with the present government which was not enough.

I am sure many members of Parliament have been asked by people how to speed up the process or how they can be fast-tracked. Obviously we can fast-track when we can fast-track them all and we cannot fast-track anyone.

Will this legislation deal with the problem? It will only deal partly with the problem. We support it going to committee. A 2008 standing committee report has nine recommendations in it, part of which deal with the issue of consultants. If the government had implemented those recommendations, we would perhaps be onto something else today. The fact is that we continue to try to reinvent the wheel instead of asking what the major problem is here.

If in fact we had no immigration policy, how would we create one that would address the economic needs of this country and the kinds of issues that we as Canadians believe are important and be able to attract people to this country? Instead, we always deal around the edges. We do not deal with the problems per se.

A stand alone regulatory body, as recommended by the standing committee in 2008, is what is needed. It really needs those powers, as we have said. However, this proposed legislation only deals with part of that issue. It does not really deal with the significant governance issues that the standing committee looked at when it listened to the many witnesses who came forward. We need to deal with that.

We also need to be working with our international partners. We need to get better coordination in terms of everything from people smuggling to the fact that people set up shot overseas and say that they are a consultant. When they are asked what kind of regulations there are, they say that one can come to Canada and do this and that.

Many of the people who come to my office have been drained financially paying money to certain individuals who in the end tell them to go see their MP. In other words, let the MP now try to deal with the problem that they in many cases have created or clearly have not been able to deal with. We need to look at that. It is obviously part of the solution.

As we know, consultants are often not lawyers. They provide advice and the difficulty is that sometimes they are not up to speed on this.

I have held information sessions in my riding dealing with the process. One is absolutely dizzy by the time one listens to how this process works: how does one do this, can one appeal this and then there is another appeal, what happens if one comes under certain classifications. One has to be a Philadelphia lawyer to figure that out.

We have these ghost consultants. We have these people who say that they can solve one's problem. It goes back to the fact that people accept money to give advice which often turns out not to be very helpful.

When we have standing committee recommendations, the best thing the government can do today would be to embrace those nine recommendations and move forward so we can deal with other aspects of immigration. Again, within those nine recommendations we also deal with a stand alone body that would deal with this. I think that is part of the solution but it is not the total solution.

Interparliamentary Delegations June 17th, 2010

Mr. Speaker, pursuant to Standing Order 34(1) I have the honour to present to the House, in both official languages, the report of the Canadian delegation to the Canada-China Legislative Association and the Canada-Japan Inter-Parliamentary Group respecting its participation at the 14th annual Assembly of the Asia-Pacific Parliamentarians Conference on the Environment and Development, APCED, held in Koror, Palau from November 17 to November 19, 2009.

Business of Supply May 27th, 2010

Mr. Chair, the government has reported what is needed in terms of existing additional integrated personnel support centres across the country. With regard to that, has the government completed this survey with regard to those support centres? What were the results and other plans to create new centres? Are there plans to expand the joint personnel support unit or to provide the unit with additional funding?

Business of Supply May 27th, 2010

Mr. Chair, with regard to the navy, there have been reports again that it is understaffed by about 1,000 at the present time.

Could the minister respond to that in light of the comments that my friend made earlier concerning the confusion about whether there will be a downing of some of the ships in question? There seems to be an indication, at least from the minister, that was never contemplated.

I would like to know, though, about the issue of personnel.

Business of Supply May 27th, 2010

Mr. Chair, I will continue in that vein. There have been reports that the army is looking to chop 5,000 reservists, especially class B contracts.

How much has been cut out of the reservist budget this year and, if so, can the minister give me a breakdown of the areas that are cut? There also have been reports that recruiting classes in some units will be cut more than one-half. How will this affect the recruitment which has been a priority for the government?

Business of Supply May 27th, 2010

Mr. Chair, since there is a shortage of time, of course we try to get as many questions out as possible. Again, I thank the minister for the follow-up that he will be doing.

I would like to ask about reservists. There have been reports that training operations have stopped for reservists in the navy, the army and the air force and further reports of budget adjustments and reallocation. It has been reported that the air force is expected to adjust $59 million, while the navy is expected to adjust $52 million and the army $80 million.

Could the minister confirm these adjustments and elaborate on what these adjustments or reallocations mean? Is this accurate? Where is the money going? What impact will it have in the long term?