House of Commons photo


Crucial Fact

  • His favourite word was tax.

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 October 21st, 1998

Mr. Speaker, I rise on a point of order. I seek the support of the House to return to motions in order to seek the unanimous consent of the House to withdraw Bill C-370.

Income Tax Act October 21st, 1998

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

Earl Goforth October 6th, 1998

Mr. Speaker, it is with great pleasure that I rise in the House today to salute Mr. Earl Goforth, a volunteer in the Whitchurch-Stouffville Museum in my riding.

Mr. Goforth received the Ontario Heritage Foundation's Heritage Community Recognition certificate in recognition of his service. For over 18 years, he has shared his knowledge of tools and agricultural implements with visitors to the museum. The museum itself opened in 1971 in the Bogarttown School which was built in 1857.

Mr. Goforth's involvement and service in the museum has enhanced its educational and entertainment value not only for visitors, but also for the staff and volunteers.

I was pleased to honour someone who helps us understand our local history, Mr. Goforth.

Supply October 5th, 1998

Madam Speaker, I would not agree. The provinces were not brought to their knees. The national child benefit system is an example of redirecting resources toward new programs to assist low income families.

Obviously this promotes the fact that we are not hearing that message from the other side of the House. When we work together that message does not come from the other side. Only the sovereignists, the separatists, continue to say that they want the money, they will take the money, but we will not have any say in terms of how those dollars are spent.

Supply October 5th, 1998

Madam Speaker, Canada is a federation and therefore there is power sharing among other orders of government.

I certainly am not pleased to see that we have a homeless situation, that we have people who go to bed hungry. However that is why the government has been working with other orders of government in the country to improve the living standards of all Canadians.

There is no question that the responsibility is at the ground level but Ottawa can only do so much. As I pointed out in my comments, moneys are transferred to the provinces. What the provinces in some cases are doing with those dollars is open for debate.

We still have the most liveable cities not only in North America but probably in the world. I would point out to the hon. member across the way that the government is committed to working with our counterparts across the country. We are committed to improving the standard of living of all Canadians. We have demonstrated that. Certainly the comments I made show that we are putting our dollars to work in conjunction with our counterparts.

In order to renew the federation, rather than pointing fingers we are trying to get all provinces to work with us to improve the state the hon. member talked about just a few moments ago.

Supply October 5th, 1998

Madam Speaker, I appreciate having the opportunity to speak to the opposition motion. In particular, I would like to clear up some apparent misconceptions regarding how spending on social programs has fared under the Canada health and social transfer.

The federal government's actions in the area of transfers to the provinces clearly demonstrate that social programs are a top priority. This is fact, not partisan rhetoric.

Under the previous longstanding system of transfer payments to the provinces, support for social programs came in two forms. The first was a cash component. In other words, direct funding. There was a tax point component, where the federal government let provinces step in to collect a share of taxes that would normally have been levied by Ottawa.

This is not an abstract issue. Under the formula agreed to, as the economy grew it meant that the value of these provincial tax points would grow. That meant that the amount of direct cash funding could shrink because the total value of that funding would remain constant.

However, this previous approach spelled a problem for the provinces because the cash portion was scheduled to gradually decline. In fact, the cash portion was on track to dry up completely and there was nothing to prevent it from doing so until this government acted in the 1995 budget.

In that budget we replaced the Canada assistance plan and established programs financing with the CHST. In spite of enormous fiscal constraints that we faced at that time, we saw to it that this new transfer system would include a five year guaranteed cash floor of $11 billion in addition to tax points. In other words, the cash floor is the minimum amount of cash that the provinces receive for health, education and other social programs.

We did more than guarantee sizeable and certain cash transfers to substantial social programs such as health care. At the earliest possible opportunity, as soon as we got our fiscal house in order, we increased this cash flow to $12.5 billion per year. This measure, announced in 1997, means that the provinces will receive an extra $7 billion over six years.

The interesting thing about this increase is that we brought it into effect one year earlier than we originally planned. We were able to increase our commitment to assisting the provinces in vital social programs because this government's progress in deficit fighting has given us some leeway to allocate more money toward new health initiatives.

For example, the 1997 budget provided $150 million to the health transition fund and $50 million to the Canada health information system over a three year period. Our budget of 1996 set aside $65 million for the health services research fund and our most recent budget increased funding for the Medical Research Council by $65 million.

None of this would have been possible without drastic spending reductions during the early years of the government's mandate, cuts which we made sure were deeper for the federal government than for our provincial transfers.

The most severe cuts were in the area of direct program spending, which included the operating costs of government departments, business subsidies, department transfers and appropriations to crown corporations.

The federal government also made cuts in transfers to the provinces. When the government has an annual deficit in excess of $40 billion and an accumulated debt of over $500 billion, and when 20% of spending is on transfers to other orders of government, that is to say $1 out of every $5 spent, the choices are limited. There is not the option of cutting transfers to the provinces.

There are those who would argue very different numbers because they refuse to recognize the value of federal tax points in their calculations. They ignore the fact that this is a contribution to provincial revenues that keeps growing year after year.

Has one provincial spokesman suggested a willingness to give the tax points back? This issue is not often debated but it is extremely important one.

Canadians owe it to themselves in our national policy debates to understand the issues involved. Over the years as federal-provincial social programs were developed the federal government contribution has taken two forms. One is the commitment of direct contribution, but as of 1977 we also have to provide the provinces with tax points.

What is a tax point transfer? It simply means that the provinces can collect a portion of taxes that would otherwise go to the federal government. In other words, provincial tax revenues increase, federal revenues decrease and the national taxpayer still pays the same rate.

There are good reasons for provinces to accept these tax points because as the economy grows so does the value of these points. While there have been economic ups and downs, each of these tax points is worth much more today than the programs we funded when they were introduced.

Let us consider for a moment the tax points transfer to the provinces in 1977 to support health and social programs. In 1977 these tax points amounted to about $3 billion in revenues. Today they are worth about $12 billion. In other words, if the federal government did not transfer these tax points it would have some $12 billion more in its coffers to spend on health and social programs.

When we hear calls for the federal government to hand over billions more for health and social programs, we must remember that this ignores the fact that provinces enjoy significant additional revenues from tax points they have already collected in previous years. That is why we continue to calculate the value of tax points in the final calculation of our transfers to the provinces.

This being said, I would not deny that we asked the provinces to share the fiscal sacrifices that governments had to make. Nor would it be fair for me to belittle or to understate the burden of restraint that was imposed by necessity on these governments and indeed on all Canadians.

The opposition must also be fair that the motion we are debating today fails the test of fairness in two areas. First, it fails to acknowledge the sheer lack of choice that we faced earlier in our mandate, and I have already elaborated on that. Second is the point I would like to address further. The motion suggests that the funding policies of the federal government have single-handedly imposed harmful consequences for health care and other social programs.

Quite simply the opposition motion does not tell the whole story. I would like to put it in some perspective. Earlier in my remarks I demonstrated that health and social programs were a top priority of the government. What are the priorities of provincial governments?

Looking at the province of Ontario as an example, in the current fiscal year the CHST is $850 million less than in 1993-94. Yet Ontario has brought in a tax cut amounting to $4.5 billion. If Ontario can afford a $4.5 billion tax cut then it can afford to cover the $850 million it is missing in transfers.

I realize that what the provinces do with their money is beyond the scope of this debate, but nevertheless to have a fair, meaningful and informed debate about how social programs have been affected by savings under the CHST we must remain mindful of what we are doing as a government, what we can and what we cannot do.

Can we as a federal government balance the federal budget? The answer is yes. In fact we have already done that. By restoring order to our finances can we as a federal government do our part to ensure that the provinces have more money for health and social programs? Clearly the answer is yes, and we have already done that. We raised the CHST cash floor to $12.5 billion and we did it a full year ahead of schedule.

As a federal government are we in a position to increase direct funding to key health initiatives? The answer is yes. As I have already indicated our last three budgets have allocated more money toward the health transition fund and other programs.

Can we as a federal government force the provinces to balance their budgets? The answer is no. It is up to them. Some have and some have not.

Can we as a federal government demand that provinces use any budgetary surplus for spending on health care? The answer is no. Again that is up to them.

Can we as a federal government insist that the provinces treat health care rather than tax cuts as a top spending priority? The answer is no.

The answer to these questions are quite revealing. For one thing they reveal that even though spending on social programs may be the top priority in Ottawa, it does not necessarily follow that spending on social programs is the top priority of the provinces.

The mark of leadership is the ability to accept responsibility for decisions, even unpopular ones. The record of the federal government speaks for itself. We have no problem accepting responsibility for the tough spending decisions we have made. The wisdom of these decisions has been borne out by the dramatic turnaround in the fiscal health of our nation.

We cannot accept blame for weakening the social safety net through our restraint measures. In fact the opposite is true. As a government that is once again in control of financial destiny we have been able to put in place a sound financial foundation. Our fiscal turnaround has meant significantly lower interest rates for all governments. That helps business growth and tax revenues. Together this means lower costs for governments themselves and that we are better placed than ever before to enhance the quality of life and security of individuals.

The policies I have outlined clearly demonstrate the government's commitment to sustaining and improving social programs.

Business Mission September 24th, 1998

Mr. Speaker, this past summer I had the privilege of leading a business mission to the People's Republic of China. Included were representatives from many sectors including waste management, trade consulting, textiles, computers and local government.

We travelled to promote industry in my riding of Oak Ridges. With a significant Asian population, we have an advantage in dealing with the Chinese market. I was pleased to help businesses from my riding to establish firm ties with one of our largest trading partners.

On behalf of the mission, I would like to thank the member for York West, the Minister for International Trade, for his assistance.

Let me say that I was proud to follow up on the Prime Minister's example and lead my own mini team Canada.

Parks Canada Act June 2nd, 1998

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to address the House on Bill C-29. The rationale for establishing the proposed parks agency is that it would simplify organizational structures, improve administrative efficiency and allow more flexible staffing and financial procedures.

The bill does not seek to privatize Canada's parks, but the administration would become a separate employer or departmental corporation to be known as the Canadian parks agency.

Bill C-29 is intended to assist Parks Canada in its role of preserving, protecting and expanding Canada's national parks, historic sites and related protected areas.

From Cape Spear, Newfoundland to Pacific Rim National Park, more than 38 national parks and 786 historic sites visited annually by 24 million Canadians are among the most important aspects of Canadian identity and are cherished symbols of Canada's land and history. Of these, 12 Canadian locations have such outstanding universal value that they have been designated as UNESCO world heritage sites.

The creation of the new parks agency will result in three key benefits, benefits which will ensure continued excellence of stewardship for the precious heritage now entrusted to Parks Canada.

The Parks Canada agency will be an autonomous organization accountable to the Minister of Canadian Heritage and in turn to parliament, an organization able to make needed decisions in a more timely fashion at less cost to the Canadian taxpayer.

The new agency will be able to deliver continued cost effective and efficient services to visitors to the national parks, historic sites and other related protected heritage areas.

The Parks Canada agency will have new financial authorities and flexibilities to retain and reinvest revenues. These will allow appropriations to be used to create new national parks, national historic sites and related protected heritage areas throughout the country.

The mandate of the program will not change after the new entity comes into existence. The legislation creating the new agency will support and will possibly strengthen the existing mandate. The Parks Canada agency will be in a better position to continue to maintain the current systems of national parks, national historic sites and other related protected heritage areas.

It will continue to provide a high level of service to park and site visitors and will work toward the completion of the national parks system and toward the expansion of a system of national historic sites and national marine conservation areas, and continue to preserve and maintain the natural ecosystem of the parks which is constantly renewing itself in order to survive.

This is why we are bringing in the new Parks Canada agency into existence. Canada's parks service is the oldest in the world with a distinguished history and a promising future. The creation of this agency is an important step forward, one which will ensure that we satisfy our obligations to Canadians and to the world to protect and to conserve our most enduring and cherished symbols.

As the past president of the Canadian Parks and Recreation Association, I am a strong advocate of the need to preserve our national parks and the important role they play in the lives of Canadians. They provide an oasis for vacationing families as well as provide unlimited outdoor recreation for the avid campers and nature lovers in Canada. From mountain climbing in Banff and Jasper to bird watching at Point Pelee, Canadians are enjoying all the benefits our parks have to offer.

In turn, Canadians gain a greater appreciation of our country and its natural beauty. Our national parks are indeed a national treasure. They link us to our history, our heritage and the Canadian landscape.

In 1885, about 25 years before the Americans, Canada's first prime minister, Sir John A. Macdonald, created North America's first national park, Banff National Park in the Rocky Mountains of Alberta. Banff remains one of Canada's premier and most loved national treasures. Its natural beauty and resources must be preserved for generations to come.

By passing Bill C-29, we in the House of Commons can ensure the renewal of the organization that Canadians have entrusted with their cherished national parks, national historic sites and other protected heritage areas.

Supply June 1st, 1998

Mr. Speaker, if on this side of the House we walked on water the opposition would say “why can't you swim”. It seems we continually hear from the other side that it could do it better. I think we are demonstrating that we are doing it better. I agree with the finance minister because obviously this government has taken the approach in the last four years of reducing EI premiums continually, which had not been the case previously.

Of course it was a partnership. There is no question that Canadians as a whole worked very hard to make sure we were able to reduce this deficit. It is now that the government through the fiscal dividend is able to share, in particular in health care. The national round table on health said that the government allocation of dollars was right on. I think the approach we have taken is the correct one.

Supply June 1st, 1998

Mr. Speaker, it is clear that in my comments I have indicated that the government is taking a balanced approach. It is very clear that the government has to make prudent fiscal decisions.

Clearly there is no question that in having that money set aside, if there is a recession in the future, and we of course hope there is not, we need to be prepared. The member seems to forget the fact that this government has reduced EI premiums continually over four years. There is no question that EI is used as a bridge between people who are unemployed and their next job. I believe the government's strategy is taking a very clear approach, one which will benefit all concerned.

There is no question that I cannot support the Bloc's position because I think the government strategy is one that has been working. It is one which will prove certainly in the short and long term to be the right approach.