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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

Tobacco Act November 25th, 1998

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to speak in support of the amendment to the Tobacco Act placed before the House by the Minister of Health.

The amendment's proposal for a complete ban on the promotion of tobacco sponsorship is a step to be applauded and supported by all members of the House. It is a significant protective measure that will help reduce youth smoking and ultimately save young lives. It says no once and for all to tobacco companies using sponsorship to link their deadly products to popular youth oriented events and lifestyles. It says no to the consistent barrage of images that encourage young people to take up smoking and stay addicted to cigarettes.

The bill is the result of extensive consultation with many concerned parties across the country. As a result of this consultation we have proposed legislation that takes us further than ever before in protecting children and youth from harmful effects of tobacco. The latest consultations carried out this month by the House of Commons Standing Committee on Health confirmed the need for firm legislation to reduce tobacco use among youth.

The committee listened carefully to the views of a number of groups before approving three new recommendations from the Canadian Cancer Society and other health NGOs. The recommendations presented today as amendments to the legislation make the bill a stronger, more precise instrument for reducing tobacco use among Canadian youth.

As past president of the Canadian Parks and Recreation Association I worked a few years ago with the then minister of health on a program called a break free all stars program aimed at making sure that young people between seven and and twelve years of age did not smoke or take up smoking. I know these kinds of programs can be and are effective. I applaud the government for the type of legislation that it is bringing to the House.

There is no question the bill specifically identifies October 1, 1998 as the start date for the transition. In effect this means that the five year clock has already begun to tick down on sponsorship promotion if the amendment and bill pass.

The bill mandates that the only events which can be grandfathered would be those that have been held in Canada, although it was never the government's intent to allow otherwise. The change will make it clear that an event cannot be moved from elsewhere into Canada and treated as if it has always been here.

The bill mandates that only events which have been held in Canada between January 25, 1996 and April 25, 1997 can be grandfathered. Once again it was never the government's intent to allow events to be resurrected solely for their value as marketing tobacco products.

All three of these changes are important clarifications that are completely consistent with strengthening the government's health objectives. I thank members of the Standing Committee on Health for supporting the inclusion of three amendments in the bill. No doubt critics of the legislation will claim that the government is going too far. Given the alarming statistics on youth and smoking in Canada today, the amendment is appropriate and necessary.

As a former educator having worked with young people for 20 years, I can tell the House of the devastating effects on young people who take up smoking and who get addicted. I will point out some statistics which will illustrate what the government is trying to prevent.

Smoking among Canadian teens between 15 and 19 years of age has increased 25% since 1991. Currently one in three young Canadians smoke and half of them will die prematurely of tobacco related disease. It is for that important reason the Minister of Health has called tobacco use by Canada's youth an urgent public issue. The amendment before the House today is a firm response to the issue on the part of the federal government.

The government's response is clearly in line with the attitude of Canadians toward smoking. Canadians recognize that smoking is our number one health problem. They are also all too aware of the devastation tobacco has wreaked upon the health of our current generation. They implore the government to make every effort to ensure that such devastation will not be inflicted on future generations.

When it comes to youth and smoking the statistics show that we have our work cut out for us: 29% of 15 to 19 year olds and 7% of 10 to 14 year old are current smokers. According to the 1994 youth smoking survey, 260,000 kids in Canada between the ages of 10 and 19 were beginner smokers that year. Figures like these are very disturbing. They are being replicated in other countries and have prompted other governments and the World Health Organization to classify smoking as a global pediatric epidemic.

Assumption patterns reveal that the number of young female smokers has been rising significantly. Again I can speak from personal experience having taught for many years. Girls in particular smoke early, continue to smoke and are less likely to break the habit. As all youth smokers get older, they smoke more. Smokers 10 to 14 years of age on average smoke seven cigarettes a day. Of those 15 to 19 years of age smoke on average 11 cigarettes a day.

What is striking as evidence of youth smoking is the knowledge among youth about the effects of tobacco use.

More than 90% of people between the ages of 10 and 19 believe that tobacco is addictive. A similar percentage believes that environmental tobacco smoke can be harmful to the health of people who do not smoke themselves. About 85% of all smokers surveyed say they began smoking before they were 16 years of age.

My own father, who passed away six years ago, started smoking when he was 13. He died of lung cancer.

The critical time for smoking decisions appears to be between the ages of 12 and 14. Therefore, it is hardly surprising that tobacco sponsorship targets events like music festivals, tennis tournaments and motor racing, which are popular with this age group.

For young people, taking up smoking is a gradual process. It begins with forming a predisposition to smoke; that is, a perception that smoking is normal behaviour and acceptable in society among one's peer group. The perception of normalcy and acceptability that cigarettes are an integral part of a happy and fulfilling life is exactly the perception that tobacco sponsorship promotion encourages among children and youth.

Trying smoking can lead to the experimental stage when smoking happens repeatedly but irregularly. Regular use and addiction follow. The transition from trying to daily use takes an average of two to three years.

About two-thirds of teens will try smoking and about one-half of this group will become regular daily smokers. About 90% of smokers start well before the age of 20.

In surveys, youth have told us that they never expected to become addicted, believing instead that they would be able to quit whenever they wanted to do so. Just as addiction to cigarettes is a gradual process, so is quitting.

Many young people contemplate quitting, prepare to quit and then try to quit. But quitting is not an easy proposition. That is because nicotine is highly addictive. It is as addictive as heroin or cocaine. It is not surprising then that about three-quarters of smokers over the age of 15 have tried to quit but failed.

It is ironic that my own father quit smoking three years before he died. It was an arduous task for him to quit smoking after having smoked for more than 50 years.

Based on the evidence of the health threats of tobacco, based on the thousands of deaths from tobacco related diseases and the terrible toll that tobacco addiction takes on individuals in society, it is very difficult to imagine any reason for not supporting the bill and its important amendments to the Tobacco Act.

It has often been said that young people are the future of this country. It only makes sense, therefore, that we invest in them by protecting them and by ensuring the safest and healthiest environment for their growth and development. That is what this amendment is all about.

I call on all members of the House to support the amendment. A vote in favour of a ban on the promotion of tobacco sponsorship in this country is a vote for a safer, healthier and more productive future for Canada's youth.

Canadian Football November 24th, 1998

Mr. Speaker, I would like to comment on the great cultural institution of Canadian football. On Sunday we were treated to one of the best matches in a long time, the Grey Cup. The cup was donated by a former Governor General of Canada. It recognizes the supremacy of Canadian football in Canada.

At a time when we have the Americanization of the National Hockey League, the Americanization of basketball and other institutions, football is truly a Canadian game. It is about time that we took notice of the fact that this is an affordable form of entertainment for families in Canada. It does not have the big salaries of the NHL or the national basketball league. It is truly a Canadian game with Canadian rules.

I was very proud that Mr. Don Carmichael from my riding of Oak Ridges participated as one of the officials. I would like to—

Canada Small Business Financing Act November 23rd, 1998

Madam Speaker, I was highlighting the changes that were made in the bill. Perhaps the hon. member thinks it is a bit of history. It is also helpful to put the amendments in some context, which I was doing, and to address those concerns to members of the House.

As I said, it is targeting the young, small firms whose needs are served by small business financing programs. There is no question that the bill will help assist in that regard. The measure of success of the program is the extent to which small businesses would have had to borrow money without the program being in place.

I would like to point out some key provisions the member was asking about. The bill would provide authority to the Department of Industry to conduct audits to ensure compliance with the act and regulations. It certainly will provide authority to create limited pilot programs, something that we need on a cost recovery basis, on capital leasing and lending to the volunteer sector.

The government's contingency liability would be capped at $1.5 billion over five years. This means again, regardless of the dollar value for the loans made under the act, the taxpayers would never have to cover more than $1.5 billion on loans during that period.

It is clear that economic impact studies also show that the program has been successful in providing funding to firms that predominantly would not otherwise be able to obtain it. The amendments in the bill, as pointed out, would strengthen the capacity and the ability of small business entrepreneurs to provide necessary jobs, to develop necessary technology and to expand their businesses.

Small business is the engine of the country. It is important that all members note that in giving support to the amendments and to the bill we will have a stronger small business community across the country, thereby creating the kind of economic output necessary to continue our strong recovery.

Canada Small Business Financing Act November 23rd, 1998

Madam Speaker, I rise today to support Bill C-53, particularly because it improves existing loan guarantee programs that effectively stimulate economic growth. It helps to create jobs through small businesses. It encourages the kind of economic activity and entrepreneurial qualities among Canadians that can ensure our prosperity in the coming century.

There is no question that the proposed Canada Small Business Act would continue the existing act's history. That act's history over the last 37 years has been to support innovation. It has been there to support risk taking, a significant element of the government's investment for Canada's future. Most important, it is meeting the demonstrated needs of our small business community throughout Canada.

For example, the Canadian Federation of Independent Business released its survey of small businesses this past January, “Credit where credit is due”. Nearly 30% of the business owners who were surveyed listed availability of credit among their most serious business concerns. They need financing for buying and modernizing their equipment, for renovating, for purchasing premises and for buying land.

Two kinds of businesses face especially difficult problems in securing financing. These are very small and very young firms. It happens that these are also the financing gaps that the current act has been especially designed to help.

On the issue of size, nearly three-quarters of the firms taking out a loan guaranteed by the existing act have fewer than five employees, far more than regular bank borrowers who are of the same size.

On the question of the age of firms, the difference is even more striking. It is important to note that almost 38% of small businesses with a loan guarantee under the act are less than one year old. By contrast, among small businesses with ordinary financing from banks only 5% are younger than one year.

It is important to note that last year over 60% of loans under the act went to firms that had been in business for three years or less. The entrepreneurs who start these small firms and the spirit that drives them and moves them to succeed are Canada's economic hope for the future.

Small and medium businesses are the anchor of our national economy. They made crucial contributions to our collective economic well-being over the years. This is an important reason why we should be supporting the bill.

Even giant multinationals started in a niche market, and some quite literally in the corner of a garage. I can point out that Magna International started in Richmond Hill over 30 years ago. Today Magna International is one of the leading, if not leading, international automotive part manufacturers in the world. That environment is exactly what is proposed in the bill to help create those kinds of opportunities. Small business people need the federal government to appreciate and encourage entrepreneurial spirit, the willingness to take risk, which has been the hallmark of our country.

Canada needs over 2.5 million small businesses and self-employed entrepreneurs. They account for approximately 40% of the gross national product. Small businesses are responsible for the overwhelming portion of new jobs, 70% to 80% over the past three years.

The loan guarantee program is more than an investment in small businesses. It is an investment in jobs and an investment in job opportunities. We have to do more than talk about it. We have to provide those opportunities. We have to be able to act. The bill addresses those issues. In the last year alone borrowers expected to create an additional 74,600 jobs as a direct result of the loans. That represents more than 2.5 jobs per loan in just one year.

During the last five years borrowers anticipated creating over 480,000 jobs. We consider that the average loan guaranteed last year was approximately $68,000 and that the loan guarantee program is moving toward cost recovery. This is a remarkably cost effective way of expanding the nation's economy.

Governments, financial institutions and private lenders will certainly continue to come up with new ideas and plans for financing small business, innovative services, products and delivery channels. However it is important to note that none of them is primarily targeted to the young, small firms.

Jean Vanier November 16th, 1998

Mr. Speaker, today I would like to pay tribute to a great Canadian, a man who lives by his own creed that every person needs to know that they are a source of joy; every child, every person, needs to be accepted.

I am talking about Jean Vanier, founder of L'Arche, a community of homes for the intellectually disabled around the world and of Daybreak House in Richmond Hill in my riding. It is one of 11 L'Arche houses in the Toronto area, home to 44 men and women with disabilities.

It is the first and largest of the North American communities created by a man who has been many things: military officer, philosophy professor and recipient of the Vatican's Paul VI International Prize.

Mr. Vanier was in Toronto last week to give the Massey lectures and to shed light on how most of the world treats some of the most oppressed members of their societies, the intellectually disabled.

I would like to congratulate Mr. Vanier for his efforts in making the world a more welcoming place and for spreading his message of love and acceptance.

Transit Passes November 4th, 1998

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to stand today to discuss the issue of whether the government should consider making employee provided transit passes an income tax benefit.

In my many years in municipal politics I supported this position. As the president of the Federation of Canadian Municipalities I lobbied the government on this very point.

My friend across the way talks about the support of the FCM and the Canadian Urban Transit Association. There is no question that the government should consider the motion proposed by my hon. colleague.

The House of Commons Standing Committee on the Environment and Sustainable Development has stated that it is incumbent on the government to ensure that environmental policy is not hampered by fiscal policy. It is unfortunate that at the moment Canada has not joined other industrialized countries such as the United States and several countries in western Europe in making employee provided transit passes a non-taxable benefit. Under current federal income tax policy, employer provided parking benefits are officially taxable, but most employees qualify for exemptions. Employer provided transit passes are fully taxed, providing an estimated $570 per year federal tax advantage to the average automobile commuter.

The value of an urban parking space and GST avoidance result in an average $1,726 annual financial incentive to commute by automobile rather than public transit.

For those of us who live in the greater Toronto area or the Vancouver area or in Montreal, we certainly know the impact of congestion of automobiles.

This proposal would assist in our Kyoto commitments. It has been estimated that as many as 300 million kilometres annually of urban automobile travel within 10 years would be eliminated if this proposal were adopted.

It has also been estimated that it would reduce by 35% the expected growth in peak period travel in our major urban centres. We would save billions of dollars in road construction costs as well.

It would also prevent tens of thousands of tonnes of greenhouse gas emission. Clearly the battle to deal with reducing C02 emissions is going to occur in our cities. Therefore this proposal will assist in that reduction to meet our commitments, those targets at Kyoto.

It would relieve traffic congestion, thereby reducing transportation costs. It would enhances economic efficiency. No doubt it would lead to a reduction in health costs and fewer respiratory related illnesses.

Current taxation policies favour the automobile over public transit. Let me elaborate. We could amend the Income Tax Act so that employer contributions toward employee transit commuting expenses are not treated as a taxable benefit. Alternatively, the same effect could be achieved by the Ministry of Finance at the administrative level publishing a statement of regulations in an interpretation bulletin. In either case employers could pay some or all of the cost of employee transit commuting expenses without listing them on employee T-4 tax forms as taxable benefits and employees would pay no income tax on them.

The proposal has the support of the Canadian Urban Transit Association, the Transportation Association of Canada, the House of Commons Standing Committee on the Environment and Sustainable Development and the national round table on the environment and the economy. I had the pleasure of participating in that round table when I was president of the FCM in November 1996. The climate change task group of the national air issues co-ordinating committee also supports it.

Making transit benefits tax exempt leverages a much greater value by giving employers an incentive to offer such benefits. A typical transit benefit would total $480 per year plus $182 in tax exemption for a total benefit of $662.

Experience in other countries such as the United States and western Europe indicates that many employers would offer transit benefits if they were tax exempt. This is an effective strategy for increasing transit commuting, particularly for communities that develop other incentives for transit use.

For this reason transit benefits are tax exempt in most other developed countries. Several European countries provide tax credits to employers or employees for transit pass purchases. U.S. income tax law exempts up to $65 worth of employee transit benefits per month, about $88 Canadian, although it would be a little higher now.

Transit benefits can take various forms. Employers could give free monthly transit passes, tickets, tokens or transit fare vouchers including bus, rail, ferries and form van pools, but not car pools.

In the United States transit benefits typically average $20 to $30 U.S. per month or about half the full price of a transit pass. Employers typically offer transit benefits to an employee who agrees to commute by transit at least a few days a month. The results of a transit benefit tax exemption are that transit voucher programs are being established in many major American cities. Transit vouchers are produced by transit agencies or independent firms and they are equivalent to a money order or a cheque that can only be used for purchasing transit passes or tickets.

As an example, an employee might receive a $30 voucher with his or her monthly paycheque. They may pay the balance, perhaps another $30, to purchase passes or tickets from any local transit agency. These programs are popular because they minimize employer administrative costs and they allow one instrument to be used in an area with multiple transit companies.

I believe this proposal clearly has merit. This proposal, as the hon. member indicated, should be considered. We need to look at those benefits and say that fiscal policy should not hamper good public policy in terms of improving and encouraging public transit, improving our environment and improving the overall health of Canadians.

I suggest current federal tax policy is both economically inefficient and unfair because it provides automobile commuters with a valuable benefit that is unavailable to other modes. This policy is at cross purposes with municipal, provincial and even federal transportation objectives to develop a more efficient and sustainable transport system.

In conclusion, federal income tax exemptions have a significant leverage effect. They induce employers to provide benefits that meet exemption criteria and as a result most Canadian employers are offered parking benefits but virtually none are offered transit benefits. The total value of untaxed parking benefits represents $1,726 in annual economic incentive to commute by automobile rather than by public transit. We need to look at this and we need to take action. I hope the House will consider the motion and support it.

Remembrance Day November 4th, 1998

Mr. Speaker, Remembrance Day is a time for reflection.

My father served in the second world war with the Argyle and Sutherland Highlanders and he imparted a great appreciation for what people have done in wartime and the sacrifices that they made for their country and their loved ones.

A couple of months before he died in 1992 I asked him to tell me some of his wartime stories which I recorded. Some of his recollections were tragic, some heroic and some even humourous.

One such story dealt with the D-Day landings in 1944. Months before the D-Day landings thousands of allied troops had been gathering in the fields of southern England to the point that soldiers use to say “It's a wonder that the island hasn't tipped leaving Scotland high and dry”.

Remembrance Day is a day that does not glorify war. It is a day that reminds us that there were many Canadians who believed in a better future. They were prepared to fight and even die in order that generations to come would have a better future.

Now it is up to us to continue the work for a better tomorrow. If we do, we will have remembered.

Canada Customs And Revenue Agency Act October 27th, 1998

Madam Speaker, we have heard a lot of fearmongering on the other side with regard to the establishment of this agency. I would like to point out the many reasons for moving to a departmental agency status, none more important than the demands of clients for better, streamlined and more responsive tax, customs and trade administration services, and more of them.

In the time of economic expansion the demand for tax, customs and trade services also increases. A million new jobs in Canada since 1993 means many more tax filers both individual and corporate. Resources at Revenue Canada have remained relatively stable during the period of economic expansion and steep increases in business volumes.

Much of the new demand has been accompanied by internal operating efficiencies. There is little room left for more efficiency gains at Revenue Canada under the present structure. Hence the need for a new framework.

The agency model proposed, Canada customs and revenue agency, is unique. It combines the strengths of both public and private sectors while remaining fully accountable to parliament and to the Canadian public.

In developing the Canada customs and revenue agency, the department has been sensitive to the concern of the concentration of too much power in one place. Tax, customs and trade administration affect the lives and livelihoods of Canadians. They want to be sure they are dealt with fairly and that their rights are protected. The intention is not to create a new agency with unlimited power and unlimited scope.

In the design of the new agency, the essential checks and balances that govern the activities and ensure the accountability of Revenue Canada have been maintained. For example, the enforcement powers of the new agency will be the same as those currently provided to Revenue Canada through legislation like the Income Tax Act or the Customs Act. If there is a problem or a complaint the minister will still be fully accountable to parliament and to the public for the administration and enforcement of specific legislation. The minister will also have the authority, as in the case now, to answer questions in the House and ensure the agency is acting properly in its dealings with the Canadian public.

The confidentiality of a taxpayer's personal information will be protected under the agency as it is currently with Revenue Canada. The authorities governing confidentiality are clearly set out in legislation. They will not be changed by this bill.

Bill C-43 will permit the agency to offer new and better services to the provinces and territories. For example, at the present time Revenue Canada can only collect provincial taxes that are harmonized with federal taxes. The new agency will be able to collect non-harmonized taxes, expanding the potential for single window tax collection with considerable savings for businesses and individual Canadians.

Greater co-ordination between the federal and provincial and territorial governments will simplify tax administration for Canadians and reduce costs and overlap and duplication between governments. This is what Canadians expect and this is what we are going to deliver.

A major change that will allow the new agency to adopt a more client oriented approach would be increased operational flexibility in the management of internal resources. The new legislation will allow the proposed agency to tailor its human resources and administrative functions to meet the needs of its clients as well as those of its employees. All this means better service to provinces and territories, to businesses and to individual Canadians.

Doing something better is not an expansion of power but an extension of service; service to Canadians, service to businesses and service to the provinces and territories.

Better service means savings in time and money, savings in compliance costs for businesses, savings in administration costs for governments.

The intention of Bill C-43 is not to create an agency with extraordinary powers but rather to establish a framework with all the checks and balances for a superior agency.

Criminal Code October 22nd, 1998

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to speak to this bill in support of my colleague, the member for Mississauga East. She has worked very hard for quite some time to ensure that her proposal does not fall by the wayside.

I begin by quoting from one of her speeches on a similar bill in a previous parliament: “I have sadly been visited by too many victims of crime who have now come to realize that they also are victims of parliament. Some had lost children. Some had lost parents. Some had lost spouses but all had lost faith in the courts, lost faith in the parole boards and, most of all, lost faith in parliament”. I believe that parliament can make a difference. To lose faith in parliament would, I think, be disappointing to say the least. All of us in the House believe that parliament can make a difference or else we would not be here.

My colleague has worked on her bill for two parliaments. Surely now is the time to re-establish her faith in parliament. Now is the time to look at this bill and to give it the respect and study it deserves.

My riding of Oak Ridges is evolving. From being a fairly rural and small-town atmosphere where everyone knew everyone else, it has grown to be an urban centre. The problems associated with urban crime and justice are now raising their ugly head.

The chief of police in my area has informed me that the number of first and second degree murders is increasing, as is the number of sexual assaults. These are horrific crimes, domestic homicide involving husbands strangling wives, and beatings and stabbings. I will give some examples.

On September 9, 1995 there was a domestic homicide. A husband strangled his wife. He pleaded not guilty. Upon conviction of manslaughter he served five years in jail.

On December 17, 1995 in my riding there was a domestic homicide. A son-in-law beat his father-in-law to death and attempted to murder another in-law in the same manner. He pleaded not guilty. Upon conviction of second degree murder, he was sentenced to 16 years in jail.

On January 23, 1997 there was a domestic homicide. A young offender stabbed his mother to death. He pleaded guilty and upon conviction of manslaughter was sentenced to six months of secured custody and four months of open custody.

Another problem in my riding is home invasions where people are stalked then attacked in their own homes. There was even a case of two offenders who invaded a home to rob the owners and then slashed the victim who bled to death. That occurred on February 18, 1997. They pleaded guilty. Upon conviction of manslaughter, the young offender was sentenced as an adult to six and a half years in jail; the adult offender was sentenced to seven and a half years in jail.

I want to make the point that one of the bill's objectives is to reduce our inhumanity to the families of victims. Who among us does not remember the horror suffered by the victims of Clifford Olson and their families, the victims of Paul Bernardo and their families, the victims of Denis Lortie and their families.

Half of all those convicted of second degree murder in this country and who are sentenced to life are released after less than 12 years. Denis Lortie machine gunned three people to death and was released after only serving 11 years.

I cannot even imagine what those families have gone through. They deserve our compassion and they deserve truth in sentencing. There should be no discounts in sentencing.

Convicted repeat offenders of these crimes should not serve penalties all at the same time and then be released. If the person has done the crime, he or she should do the time. That means serving the full sentence for each penalty, a full sentence for each specific crime.

I have no difficulty in supporting cumulative sentencing for convicted serial rapists and serial killers. I believe in stiff sentences and I believe in serving all the time on the sentence and not serving it all at the same time. If a person is given three sentences, add them up and serve the cumulative time.

I believe this is a way to restore the public's faith in the court system, faith in sentencing, and faith in parliament. We should be proud to send the justice system a clear message. We should be clear and concise. Canadians want criminals treated in a clear way.

According to Sentencing in Canada: “Previous research suggests that, for some offences at least, unwarranted variation in sentencing trends is a reality in Canada. Researchers found for example that the same set of case facts generated sentences that ranged in severity from a suspended sentence to 13 years in prison”. This is not right. We should provide the justice system with clear and unequivocal direction.

A sentence should apply for each specific crime and for each victim. Full time should be served for each sentence.

By supporting this bill, we will establish faith in parliament for all Canadians, and certainly for my colleague for Mississauga East.

Holidays Act October 21st, 1998

Mr. Speaker, I seek the unanimous consent of the House to withdraw Bill C-370 which is No. 5 on the order paper.