House of Commons photo

Elsewhere

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

Petitions February 11th, 1999

Madam Speaker, pursuant to Standing Order 36 I have the pleasure to present a petition on behalf of many Canadians with regard to access for grandparents to their grandchildren.

The petitioners request parliament amend the Divorce Act to include a provision as supported by Bill C-340 regarding the right of spouses' parents, the grandparents, to have access to or custody of children.

There is currently legislation in several provincial jurisdictions, including Quebec and Alberta, that allows grandparents the right to see their grandchildren.

Supply February 9th, 1999

Madam Speaker, I welcome the attention being brought to the House today regarding the protection of Canada's freshwater resources.

I am pleased that this concern extends beyond potential trade of our water resources by referring more broadly to how we manage our watersheds and specifically to the need to prevent transfers of water between drainage basins or watersheds.

Indeed the watershed is recognized as the fundamental ecological unit in protecting and conserving our water resources. Bulk transfer or removal of water, whether for use elsewhere in Canada or for export purposes, could potentially have a significant impact on the health and integrity of our watersheds.

It is important that Canadians work together to ensure that we take a comprehensive and environmentally sound approach to protecting our water resources and their watersheds.

Water is an essential part of all ecosystems, from the functions and life support provided by lakes, rivers and streams to the role of the hydrological cycle in sustaining water in its various forms.

Access to adequate supplies of clean water is crucial to our health, to our quality of life and to Canada's competitive position. Much of our economy and jobs are tied directly or indirectly to our supplies of water, from farming, forestry and industrial development to tourism and the recreational sector.

With 9% of the world's renewable freshwater resources it is easy for us to assume that Canada has an abundance of water. Given that Canada's land mass is approximately 7% of the world total, 9% of its water does not seem disproportionate.

If we consider the imbalances in geographical distribution of water resources, the question of abundance becomes more relevant. About 60% of Canada's water flows northward while 90% of the population and most of Canada's industrial activity are found within 300 kilometres of the Canada-U.S. border where freshwater resources are increasingly in demand and some areas are polluted and unsafe.

In addition to these geographical variations in water abundance, Canada also experiences significant variations over time in water availability. For example, the Red River in southern Manitoba has experienced flows ranging between 1 cubic metre per second and 2,700 cubic metres per second. The Great Lakes watershed, which is home to 9 million Canadians and 33 million Americans, is experiencing its lowest level in 15 years.

Compounding these short term variations, climate change is expected to result in significant changes to water availability in different parts of the country. Thus although Canada would seem to possess substantial water resources, there are regions in Canada in which scarcities exist or will exist.

We must therefore have a strategy to ensure that water resources are managed and protected for future generations. It is clear that interbasin transfers involving man-made diversions of large quantities of water between watersheds have the potential to cause the most significant social, economic and environmental impacts.

However, we cannot ignore other means of bulk water removal such as by ocean tanker or pipeline which may cumulatively have the same impact on watersheds as large scale interbasin transfers.

For this reason I consider it of paramount importance that the issue of bulk water removal, including for export purposes, be considered in its entirety and that we not develop solutions to one problem at a time at the expense of a more comprehensive approach.

Over the last 30 years concern about large scale export of Canadian water resources has risen primarily as a result of proposals to divert massive amounts of water to the United States to deal with water shortages or to allow for increased agricultural, industrial and urban development in areas of the United States with limited water supplies.

Several of these proposed megaprojects are worth mentioning. One of the largest continental water transfer proposals and probably the best known is the North American Water and Power Alliance project of the 1960s. This project would have involved the diversion of water from Alaska, northwestern Canada and watersheds surrounding Hudson Bay and James Bay to arid areas in the western United States, the prairie provinces and northern Mexico.

Another proposed megaproject was the grand recycling and northern development canal which would have transferred James Bay into a freshwater lake by building a dike between it and Hudson Bay and impounding the rivers that empty into the bay. The flows of rivers would have been reversed to deliver water to the Great Lakes and from there to other destinations in North America.

These megaprojects, while having the potential to create jobs and investments in Canada in the short term, would not benefit Canadian society in the long term.

The federal water policy of 1987 addresses Canada's experience with interbasin transfer projects by advocating caution in considering their need and by endorsing other less disputed alternatives such as demand management and water conservation.

The current focus of water exports proposals, however, is by tanker ship using water from lakes and streams such as last year's proposal to export water from Lake Superior to Asian markets, or by tanker trucks or pipelines carrying water from surface to groundwater sources.

Not only have the economics of water export clearly changed in terms of capital investment needs, but so has our understanding of the scope and the extent of potential environmental social and long term impacts. As I have already stated, bulk water removal, including export, must be viewed from a watershed approach.

This leads to the second concern that we take action to address the broad range of concerns facing freshwater in a comprehensive way rather than limiting ourselves to one export of water.

I support this motion. I believe a comprehensive approach is what Canadians deserve and what Canadians will get.

Supply February 9th, 1999

Madam Speaker, I welcome the attention being paid today to protecting Canada's freshwater resources. I am also very pleased that this concern extends beyond potential trade of our water resources. I refer more broadly to how we manage our watersheds and specifically to the need to prevent transfers of water between drainage basins or watersheds.

Indeed the watershed is recognized as the fundamental ecological unit in protecting and conserving our water resources. Bulk transfer or removal of water, whether for use elsewhere in Canada or for export purposes, could potentially have a significant impact on the health and integrity of our watersheds. It is important that Canadians work together to ensure that we take a comprehensive and environmentally sound approach to protect our resources and our watersheds.

Water is an essential part of all ecosystems, from the functions and life support provided by lakes, rivers and streams to the role of the hydrological cycle in sustaining water in its various forms.

Supply February 9th, 1999

Mr. Speaker, I congratulate my colleague on her comments. She focused on two areas that I think are critical.

One obviously is that this is an environmental issue. The other is the importance to Canadians, particularly in municipal areas.

My riding of Oak Ridges is part of the Oak Ridges moraine, a very sensitive area in Ontario and one where there are studies being done currently to deal with water issues. We have rivers such as the head waters of the Don.

A few years ago a commentator made the pronouncement that the next conflicts in the 21st century will be over water, that water is the critical issue. I certainly support the comments I have heard from all sides of the House today.

With regard to the issue which clearly involves federal, municipal and private sectors, what type of elements does she see as critical in the development of a federal freshwater strategy for Canadians?

Finance February 2nd, 1999

Madam Speaker, I thank my colleague across the aisle for his comments and his question.

With regard to my hon. colleague's question with respect to the armed forces, I am intrigued by his suggestion. Yes, it was a thumbnail sketch. Yes, I would be interested in further elaboration on anything we can do to assist the Canadian Armed Forces, given the fact that some of the residential conditions that our armed forces live in are not acceptable.

The minister of defence has clearly indicated, both in caucus and I assume at the cabinet table, that we have to address this very important issue with regard to the living conditions of our armed forces.

We are asking our armed forces to do more. I do not believe that in this case we can do more with less. We have to provide the physical tools to do the job.

I believe that my hon. colleague's suggestion is worth further discussion. I would be interested in talking with him.

We need to look at innovative ways to make sure that if we are asking Canadian forces personnel to serve in dangerous fields abroad they will know that at home their families have proper shelter and that they have the quality of life we would expect for our own families. Therefore I welcome the member's suggestion.

Finance February 2nd, 1999

Madam Speaker, it gives me great pleasure this evening to speak in the prebudget debate. I will reflect my concerns and the concerns of my constituents in Oak Ridges.

Governing means that one has to make choices. Canadians have indicated consistently that they want to see additional dollars for health care. They want to see further tax reductions. They want to see further debt reduction.

The government under the leadership of the Prime Minister and the Minister of Finance has responded effectively to the economic situation in Canada. When the government was elected in 1993 we had a $42 billion deficit. Through strong fiscal management, leadership and determination we now have balanced books, renewed economic consumer confidence and a strong growth rate. Success in eliminating the deficit has given us the financial ability to deal with other key issues.

Like many Canadians, I am concerned about future of medicare. This government is unequivocally committed to preserving Canada's publicly funded health care system. I support the recommendation of the Standing Committee on Finance that the federal government strengthen its involvement in the health care system by further increasing the cashflow by $1 billion starting in 1999-2000. If the cashflow is raised by $1 billion dollars the 1999-2000 total entitlements will increase by $6.3%. As a result when compared to 1998-99 we will have $27.6 billion compared to $25.7 billion. Provinces will have received $4 billion extra by 2002-03. The total CHST entitlement will reach $29.5 billion in 2002-03. I support additional funding for the proposed Canadian institute of health research. I support doubling research for health in Canada.

However, Canadians want accountability. Transferring millions of dollars to the provinces without some form of accountability and the ability to measure the quality of care needs to be part of the formula. Canadians want to know where those dollars are going. This is something we as a federal government should be committed to.

Canadians want further tax reductions. The government responded in the 1998 budget with a $7 billion tax cut over three years to low and middle income families. I support the elimination of the temporary 3% surtax. I also believe it is time to announce a timetable for the elimination of the 5% surtax starting with a 1% decrease this year.

The finance committee recommends and I support the 1998 budget measures that increase the personal and spousal amount by $500 for low income taxpayers. I think it should be increased a further $200, bringing to $700 the amount of additional income that can be earned tax free. I support the view that this $700 increase of the basic personal spousal amount be available to all.

I have had many calls and letters regarding the 20% foreign property rule. Canadian taxpayers want, and I believe should have, an increase by 2% increments to 30% over a five year period. I think this is the right thing to do. It will allow Canadians to achieve higher returns on their retirement savings and reduce their exposure to risk, which I believe will benefit all Canadians when they decide to retire.

Debt reduction is the third area that Canadians have signalled their support for. I have spoken many times about debt reduction in the House and I believe the government has a firm commitment to debt reduction and has a debt reduction plan in place. The government has made significant strides in debt reduction and this year the debt to GDP ratio was projected to be reduced slightly below 63% from almost 72% in 1995-96.

Leadership and commitment to Canadian values, governing with a social conscience and providing leadership on tough economic issues has been the hallmark of this government, whether the issue is homelessness, infrastructure or health care.

I believe that the government should continue the Canada infrastructure works program that was launched in 1994. We have a $40 billion deficit in infrastructure. In Canada roads, bridges, sewer and water systems need to be addressed, in spite of the federal-provincial-municipal cost shared program which generated investments exceeding $8 billion, with federal contributions of $2.4 billion. It supported over 16,000 infrastructure projects. It created 125,000 short term and 10,000 long term jobs across this country. It is an excellent example of governments and the private sector working hand in hand. That is what Canadians want. That is what Canadians expect and that is what the government delivered.

The program assisted municipal governments in upgrading Canada's physical infrastructure and it promoted rapid job creation to accelerate the economic recovery.

I believe that this program was a good unifying model. It demonstrated a shared purpose and accomplishment among all orders of government. Sixty-three per cent of all projected funds were for physical infrastructure, at 31% for water and sewer works and 32% for roads and bridges.

The program addressed environmental, economic competitiveness and job creation issues. The Silverman report, the finance department's evaluation and the auditor general's evaluation all indicated that it was a great success.

I believe that we need to develop a five year minimum strategy to national infrastructure and continue to work with our partners to eliminate this infrastructure deficit.

I also urge the Minister of Finance to consider making employer provided transit passes an income tax exempt benefit, similar to what already exists in the United States and western Europe. I believe this would eliminate as many as 300 million kilometres annually of urban automobile traffic within 10 years. It is also expected to reduce by 35% the expected growth in peak period travel in our major urban areas, as indicated both by the Federation of Canadian Municipalities and the Canadian Urban Transit Association. It will also help to achieve our Kyoto commitments.

Another area that I believe should be addressed is providing targeted tax relief for those Canadians who must bear large expenses as a condition of employment. Such is the case of mechanic's tools.

I know that the Minister of Finance must respond to many demands and many needs. This government has a five year mandate. Not everything was done last year. But we are going in the right direction. We are committed to keeping Canada's finances in the black, providing sound fiscal management that all Canadians can be proud of. The pace may not be as fast as some may like in some areas, but the goal is shared by all. The direction is clear and I believe that this budget will certainly address many of those key issues that Canadians have been calling for.

Supply February 2nd, 1999

Madam Speaker, as I was indicating, we have a rule of law in this country. Very clearly the law is in effect even in British Columbia. It has been pointed out by other members of the Supreme Court of British Columbia that the ruling of Justice Shaw is not binding on them.

To use section 33 is a very drastic step. It is one that is available. It has only been used twice. It has been used by two provincial governments. In both cases it was after every legal recourse had been exhausted. This is not the case in this situation.

Members of the opposition referred to the fact that some members signed a letter to the Prime Minister urging him to consider the notwithstanding clause or other equivalent effective measures. I would suggest that the Minister of Justice responded very quickly. The government has taken the extraordinary step of intervening in the appeal of the decision of the British Columbia Court of Appeal in order to defend the law, a law which this government believes will be upheld.

Let us make no mistake. The fact is that members of this party urged the Prime Minister to take action. Action has been taken and very swiftly.

This government, and I think everyone in the House, supports the protection of our children. It is absolutely paramount to every member here. There is no monopoly on that issue. It is for that reason the government has decided to act and to act quickly, not to wait if it ever goes to the Supreme Court of Canada, but to take immediate action.

This government believes that the existing law on the possession of child pornography is constitutional. I clearly oppose the decision. It is an abhorrent decision. But I have faith in the rule of law. I do not believe that anyone should be allowed to possess, produce or distribute child pornography. Let us make no mistake.

The fact is there is a process. If governments start to react to court decisions, two things are going to happen. I think the judges are going to be very careful about what they do and we will then question the independence of the judiciary. One judge has made a decision, a decision which we clearly oppose, but there is a process. The Minister of Justice has taken action.

There is no contradiction between the letter which is being brandished about by the opposition and what the government has done. Clearly members on the government benches have asked that action be taken. Action has been taken very quickly. I see no contradiction whatsoever.

We are clearly not giving nor will we give a blank cheque to child pornographers in this country. Therefore the decision to intervene is very important.

Children are our most valuable members of society and we will not tolerate any exploitation. Therefore the legal course of action is the appropriate one. We as parliamentarians write the laws. When this law was passed in 1993, it was passed unanimously by the House of Commons. I have faith that the law which was passed in 1993 will be upheld and it will be upheld by the British Columbia Court of Appeal.

I have no doubt that the action the minister has taken has clearly indicated that this government is prepared to stand behind the law which this parliament enacted. Canadians clearly want to see the government take action. I know from the comments I have heard that Canadians realize that action through the process of the law has been taken.

The rule of law is critical. That is what distinguishes ourselves from other forms of government. We do not have a politicized judiciary in the fact that we cannot simply say this is the decision we want. We have faith in the law of the land. I believe that law will be upheld.

In conclusion, we know clearly that child pornography degrades and victimizes young children. The Parliament of Canada and in fact the Supreme Court of Canada have indicated very clearly that the self-worth and the importance of children in our society is paramount. Therefore the decision by the government is the right one and I will be voting against this motion this evening.

Supply February 2nd, 1999

Madam Speaker, I point out that what distinguishes our society from non-democratic societies is the rule of law.

There is no question that no one in the House today has indicated anything but abhorrence for the decision of the chief justice of the British Columbia supreme court. What seems to be at issue here with some members of the opposition—

Youth Employment December 8th, 1998

Mr. Speaker, yesterday in Edmonton the Prime Minister announced the renewal of Canada's youth employment strategy. Now a permanent program, $155 million a year will be provided to help young Canadians. That is $465 million over the next three years.

Already we have helped over 300,000 young people to find work or become better trained. For example, after one year 88% of participants in the Youth Internship Canada Program had a job, had started their own business or had returned to school.

This is a program that works. We work with youth, educators, parents, the private sector and other governments to determine what young people need to enter today's job market. Why? Because it matters to us that young people have jobs and a future to look forward to in Canada.

Persons With Disabilities December 3rd, 1998

Mr. Speaker, my question is for the Minister of Human Resources Development.

In 1996 the federal task force on disability issues reported and made numerous recommendations. On this the international day of disabled persons, two years have elapsed. When are we going to see further action on these recommendations?