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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

Supply June 1st, 1998

Mr. Speaker, I appreciate the opportunity to participate in today's debate. There are a few clarifications I would like to make with respect to this motion as its wording places a negative connotation on the government's approach to employment insurance.

First I would like to put this topic in some context of the government's overall fiscal management and deficit reduction strategy. When the government took office in 1993, it recognized that the key to a prosperous future for Canadians was getting Canada's books in order.

Thanks to the government's determined and balanced approach, the vicious cycle of high deficits, high interest rates and slow economic growth was transformed into a virtuous cycle where lower deficits have helped produce lower interest rates leading to higher economic growth and lower unemployment and leading ultimately to the elimination of the deficit last year.

Hon. members are aware that the deficit is now dead. It is dead for 1997-98, 1998-99 and 1999-2000. This is the first time Canada has had a balanced budget in 30 years. This will be the first time in almost 50 years that the Canadian government will have had three consecutive balanced budgets.

Canada I am pleased to report in the current economic cycle has had the first balanced budget of any G-7 nation. In addition, the debt to GDP ratio fell last year, the first meaningful decline in 20 years. Again it will fall even more.

We have also pursued budgets of balance, budgets that recognize the need to continue to make key economic and social investments even with demands of fiscal constraint. Over the last four years we have invested in children by enriching the child tax benefit. We have improved tax assistance for the disabled and for charities. We have provided more help for post-secondary students and for those supporting them. We have placed a high priority on improving Canadian health care.

As the books improved, one of our first and most significant initiatives was to introduce legislation to increase the Canada health and social transfer cash floor from $11 billion to $12.5 billion. This will provide provinces with over $7 billion more in cash from 1997-98 to 2002-03.

Now with the deficit millstone gone, we can afford to take even stronger action to help Canadians meet the challenges they face and take advantage of the opportunities of tomorrow. We will do this by pursuing and pushing the balanced strategy we have followed since coming to office, to build a strong economy and a secure future.

First, we remain committed to responsible management of the nation's finances. We will reduce Canada's debt burden to a two front strategy of stronger economic growth and a debt repayment plan.

Second, the improvement in our finances means we can make strategic investments such as the Canadian opportunities strategy. This strategy will improve access to knowledge and skills Canadians will need in the 21st century.

Third, the 1998 budget launches the process of general tax relief starting with those who need it most.

Over the next three years $7 billion in tax savings is being provided primarily to low and middle income Canadians. These measures must be modest in the beginning because the fiscal dividend that makes them possible is modest as well.

The government has made it clear though that it will not allow unsustainable tax reductions to put in jeopardy either Canada's regard for fiscal health or delivery on the country's priorities such as health care and education. As the fiscal situation improves and the debt becomes more manageable relative to the growth of the economy, the amount of resources that can be channelled into other areas, such as increased tax relief, will grow.

This brings me to the subject at hand, employment insurance. As hon. members know, employment insurance first and foremost is an insurance system to help the unemployed bridge the gap between jobs. I can assure the House that our government has no intention of breaking that very important link.

Some of our critics have suggested, and quite wrongfully, that the government is being too prudent and is hiding surpluses that could be used now for other purposes like lower taxes and in particular the tax that supports EI. This is simply not the case.

There is no denying that the EI account has a material impact on the government's fiscal health and stability. The annual surpluses in the EI account have contributed significantly to achieving the fiscal targets over the last four years. However, we should also remember that the government's improved fiscal outlook has a positive impact on employment and the EI account. The decline in the unemployment rate from 11.2% in 1993 to 8.4% at present makes that clear.

Look at what else has been happening. The government has lowered the EI rate four times, from $3.07 in 1994 to $2.70 in 1998. We would like to reduce the EI premiums further but the premium rate must be set to ensure that the EI account will have sufficient funds to pay benefits even during a recession.

In the event of an economic downturn a major increase in EI premiums would be harmful to the economy, as I think the members opposite would agree, and to Canadian workers. Clearly we must avoid that at all costs.

The premium rate will continue to come down but in a balanced manner and in the way to meet all the priorities indicated to us by Canadians, for example, personal tax cuts and health care spending.

I will return once more to the word balanced. Canadians asked for a balanced approach and that is what this government is giving them. We have reduced both the debt and tax burden and increased our spending priorities such as on health care. The fact is that the EI premiums are part of what makes the balanced approach work.

This is not to say that we are not reducing the EI premiums because we are. For 1998 alone, we cut premiums by $1.4 billion. I have just indicated that we will continue to reduce them in a measured way in the future. To those who would say we should cut them faster and deeper than we are already doing, my question would be how? By not cutting the debt? By not reducing taxes? By not spending on health care? I do not think that is what Canadians want.

I should remind hon. members that the EI surplus is currently in the range recommended by the chief actuary of Canada. Let me provide the House with three important facts on which to reflect. The EI premium rate must ensure there is sufficient revenue each business cycle to pay EI costs at relatively stable rates. The current surplus makes prudent provision against rate hikes in the event of unforeseen economic and global changes. It also allows the government to address unemployment where it is most severe.

For example, similar in concept to the 1997-98 new hires programs, the 1998 budget gives employers who hire young Canadians in 1999 and 2000 an EI premium holiday. We must also remember that just a few years ago the federal government deficit was $42 billion. At that time the government looked at all aspects of the fiscal situation and there was no denying the EI surpluses played a role in restoring fiscal health. This was not done in isolation however and contemplated other difficult decisions.

The motion put forward by my colleagues opposite uses phrases such as “catastrophic effects”, “taking over funds destined for unemployed persons” and the government not adapting “to the new realities of the labour market”. I do not believe this is the case.

Canadians and the government and no one else will make the economic and policy decisions for this nation. We have regained control of our fiscal future. By regaining control over the finances, we are setting out a plan to help all Canadians gain access to the tools of tomorrow's success.

I believe we have taken a balanced approach on this issue.

Minister Of National Defence May 27th, 1998

Mr. Speaker, it is with great pleasure that I rise today to congratulate the Minister of National Defence, the hon. member of parliament for York Centre. He was recognized last Thursday as the recipient of the American Public Works Association's Distinguished Service Award. The award recognizes members of government for their far-reaching positive impact on public works programs, services or policies through distinguished public service commitment.

He is the first Canadian to win the award in the 104 year history of the APWA. The minister certainly deserves it for the work he did as minister responsible for infrastructure when he launched the Canada infrastructure works program, a model program for intergovernmental co-operation. He spearheaded the effort to rebuild Canada's infrastructure and provided $2 billion in federal money. The program delivered the money where it was needed most, at the municipal level.

In his current portfolio the minister mobilized 15,000 Canadian forces to support public works officials during the ice storm of 1998.

Please join me in congratulating the Minister of National Defence.

Supply May 14th, 1998

Mr. Speaker, I never mentioned past governments other than my comment on nuclear submarines. I am quite frankly not interested in what the previous government did because I am interested in what we are doing.

The member asked about whether we had failed in political leadership. I demonstrated at the very beginning all the things the government has done. The gentlemen over there should listen up. If they ask questions they had better be prepared to listen to the answers. Otherwise they should not ask questions.

Supply May 14th, 1998

Mr. Speaker, I thank my hon. friend for his comments. As far as the reserves are concerned we are going through a process. We have made improvements, as I said earlier in the House, whether it be in terms of pay and benefits or whether it be in terms of equipment.

Clearly the process is not finished. We obviously want to have the best equipped, the best trained reserves and armed forces generally. Rome was not built in a day and clearly we are improving. As far as submarines are concerned, we did not buy the nuclear submarines to which the previous government had committed itself, but we have an agreement now in terms of the four new submarines from England. It is excellent value for the Canadian taxpayer.

Obviously we do not want to be in a position as we were in preparing for the first and the second world wars when we did not have the necessary equipment. We want to make sure that if we are to send our forces overseas on peacekeeping missions or involve them in activities in this country we have the right personnel with the right equipment.

We even heard in the House today that the Government of Italy requested that Canada provide assistance. Again we have personnel who are recognized for their professionalism around the world.

Supply May 14th, 1998

Mr. Speaker, I rise today to take part in this debate. I noticed that the motion deals with the failure of this government to provide political leadership. I am very surprised to see that given the track record of this government. Clearly their definition of political leadership and ours is different.

I am going to be splitting my time with the member for Nepean—Carleton.

I want to highlight a couple of issues and specifically talk about the reserves. Since this government took office in 1994 it has restored public confidence and pride in the Canadian military. We have given the forces a clear mandate to change the way we do business and get a bigger bang for the buck.

In 1994 we produced the defence white paper. We cut the bureaucracy and reduced the number of top military brass. There was procurement reform and 3,000 more soldiers were added to the army. We increased the number of reservists to 30,000. We have re-equipped the forces. This is clearly leadership, not failure.

I am surprised that the hon. member across the way would put such a motion forth. I am not going to dwell on the record of the Conservative Party or the comments we heard during the election from the Reform Party. I want to talk about positive things.

We hear a lot of negatives in the House so I want to talk about the positive things this government has been doing, in particular the leadership we have shown with regard to the armed forces and in dealing with the issue of the reserves and the total force concept outlined in the 1994 white paper on defence.

Beginning with the first principle, reserves are value added because they are so deeply embedded in Canadian society and our Canadian traditions. The militia idea goes back to the earliest days of New France. Citizen soldiers fought off attacks on their country in the 1770s and again in the War of 1812. They were the backbone of national defence after the establishment of the modern Canadian state in 1867. They kept their skills alive at a time when Canadians wanted to think about anything but war.

We have a proud military tradition in this country. One just has to look back to the first world war, Vimy Ridge; the second world war, D-Day and the battle of the Atlantic; recently the Persian gulf. Canada has participated in over 40 peacekeeping operations. This is a record we can be proud of as Canadians.

Canadians fought and died in Korea between 1950 and 1953. They have shown bravery. They were the shock troops of Europe in the first and second world wars.

The reserves in particular are a bridge between the regular forces and the Canadian public. They are made up of the Canadian public all across this country. Most important of all, the reserves are a vital and relevant defence resource implicit in the message of the total force. The reserves are not a frill or some out moded luxury. They are a necessity, an integral part of the Canadian forces. They are able and expected to augment and sustain regular units or, in some cases, execute specific tasks not generally carried out by the regular forces.

The militia has since the 19th century provided individuals and entire units for the whole range of army imperatives. Naval reservists have major responsibility for coastal and harbour defence and naval control of shipping. The air reserve is creating a national pool of trained personnel to supply air force deployments at home and away.

The communication reserve has been a leader in the implementation of the total force. The Canadian Rangers provide a military profile in our vast north and other isolated areas of this country.

During operation recuperation when we met the storm of the century with the largest peacetime deployment of the Canadian forces in our history, the reserves were there. The reserves supplied fully one-quarter of the more than 16,000 military complement which carried out essential tasks in Ontario, Quebec and New Brunswick. The availability of these reservists demonstrates the value added effect of this service because we could not afford an additional 4,000 regulars to be available on such short notice for such emergencies. I know my hon. friend across the way would agree with that.

I am proud of what the reservists did during the ice storm of 1998 and what they did during the floods in Manitoba and in the Saguenay. I know hon. members feel the same delight as I feel that our men and women are cheered on the streets across this country for what they did.

As the chief of defence staff likes to remind us, the ice storm highlighted one of the Canadian forces' most essential roles, protecting the lives and possessions of Canadians in times of crisis.

I would be less than frank if I did not think and say that these recent operations in Canada have helped with restoring the contract of trust between Canadians and the forces. Reservists are every bit as important a part of this process as our regular forces.

When the government took office it very quickly made it a high priority to reform, modernize and upgrade the reserves as part of the program to improve the overall capacity and operational effectiveness of the entire force.

We need well trained and well equipped reservists, organized and cohesive and logical military structures which use resources more effectively than in the past.

I know it is easier to criticize than it is to provide solutions. The government has been providing solutions since 1994 on this issue. But again we will hear all the negatives. We will not hear the positives because of course that is not the job or the role of the opposition.

We have put a great deal of study into the restructuring of the reserves, including the convening of a special commission. The most complicated aspect of a restructuring program concerns the militia. We have decided to reorder the geographically based districts into brigade groups, organized along functional lines, again showing leadership.

The government is engaged in an evaluation program based on carefully thought out criteria and extensive consultation with the reserve constituency, notably honorary colonels of the reserve 2000 committee. The final decision will not be easy but I know that every effort will be made to make it fair and to make it equitable.

While the complex labour goes on the government has not stood still on other fronts. We have improved equipment available to reservists. The soldier project, Griffon helicopters for the 400 squadron at Borden and the 438 squadron at Saint-Hubert, and the delivery of maritime coastal defence vessels are some examples.

Over the past year we have introduced an improved pay and benefit package for reservists which, combined with the reserve force retirement gratuity, demonstrates the commitment to recognize and to compensate our citizen soldiers for their sacrifices.

With the assistance of the House of Commons Standing Committee on National Defence and Veterans Affairs we are also examining in a comprehensive way the needs of people in the military. We must ensure we provide an appropriate level of support to the men and women of the forces and their families and that includes reservists. I know my friends and colleagues on the other side would agree with that.

The Canadian forces liaison council is making great strides in protecting civilian jobs and benefits of reservists. There are over 4,500 employees in the databank. Over 3,000 of them have stated their support of the reserves, while 1,800 have agreed to grant military leave to reserve employees.

Clearly we can be very proud of the work our reservists do. Concerning underrating and underutilizing reserves in the past, we are taking care of that. We find them indispensable and they have shown their commitment to their country.

Southbrook Winery May 13th, 1998

Mr. Speaker, today at the gala reopening of Canada House, Queen Elizabeth, Prime Minister Chrétien, British Prime Minister Tony Blair and many others will sample one of the finest wines in Canada.

Southbrook Winery and its owner, my friend Bill Redelmeier, have created an international award winning dessert wine, Canadian Framboise. Southbrook started producing wine in 1991 and won the gold medal in 1997 at the London wine challenge. It now produces over 100,000 bottles a year, from table wines to fruit wines. CP Hotels selected the Framboise especially for the Canada House gala dinner.

Mr. Redelmeier is also helping the town of Richmond Hill celebrate its 125th anniversary by including the anniversary crest on the label and donating $1 from every sale to help fund the anniversary events.

Please join me in congratulating Bill Redelmeier and Southbrook Winery for their success and for being selected as Canada's dessert wine of choice.

Canada Labour Code May 12th, 1998

Mr. Speaker, I listened with interest to my colleagues across the way and I am dismayed to hear about the fact that suddenly we have invoked time allocation.

I ask hon. members across the way where they were during the discussions on Bill C-19. I would like to know where they were during the course of the filibuster when we had members of the official opposition obviously needing to go back to labour code 101 to understand the basics. It was very disappointing to see that of the 97 clauses there were nine amendments proposed by the official opposition, seven on clause 2.

On the road to Damascus they suddenly discovered the light. They discovered all sorts of new amendments. Where were they during the course of the debate that I participated in? I understand that members of the New Democratic Party were there. Unfortunately the Conservatives were not there during the filibuster. To suggest that the government is try to bring in closure on this important bill is absolutely ludicrous.

Dealing with the substance of the amendments before us, the approach in Bill C-19 is a very careful compromise on a very difficult issue. We recognize an employer's right to hire replacement workers for legitimate purposes. However, their use for the purpose of ridding the workplace of union representation would be unfair labour practice. This was the recommendation of the majority.

My colleague opposite talks about the fact that it was not unanimous, but the majority of the members of the Sims task force supported it. It was part of the overall package of recommendations which both labour and management considered acceptable.

Motions have been put forward which would radically alter this provision and therefore upset the overall balance of the proposed amendments we are trying to achieve. One motion calls for a general prohibition of the use of replacement workers. Another motion seeks to eliminate any restriction on their use. Still another motion seeks to add additional wording.

This provision was carefully examined during the parliamentary study of former Bill C-66. Again I hear that we are trying to rush the legislation through. Bill C-66 died when the election was called. We have been told time after time that this is an improvement on Bill C-66. If we are rushing the bill, I would like to know where the opposition was.

Some employer groups raised concerns about the wording of the provision in the former Bill C-66. They wanted the full text of the task force recommendations to be included. This was also the recommendation of the Senate committee which also studied the former Bill C-66.

What did the government do? The Minister of Labour responded to these concerns and changed the wording of the replacement worker provision in Bill C-19 to fully reflect the task force recommendation. To repeat that for the opposition, to make sure that the replacement worker provision was fully implemented the task force recommendation was put into the bill. Major federally regulated employers who appeared before the House committee during the study of the bill indicated that they were satisfied with the new wording. If members of the opposition were there they certainly would have heard that.

To those who wish to eliminate the provision I say there must be an appropriate remedy when an employer hires a replacement worker and then refuses to bargain in good faith. This provision provides in my view and certainly in the view of the government such a remedy.

When the television cameras are on we now get all the amendments. Obviously we need to have television cameras on all the time in committee and then maybe we would have some serious work done.

To those who want to prohibit the use of replacement workers a total ban on replacements would undermine the balance. The bill is trying to achieve a balance.

Finally to those who think more wording is needed I refer them to the position of the Canadian Chamber of Commerce.

Maintaining its objection to the rationale for amending the code to include such a provision, the chamber representative told the standing committee:

We are pleased that the federal government heeded our concerns with respect to the earlier wording of this provision and is proposing to amend the legislation accordingly. In particular, the addition of the words “rather than the pursuit of legitimate bargaining objectives” in proposed subsection 94(2.1) will ensure that any tribunal interpreting this legislation will be guided by the explicit obligation to consider the reason why the employer may have hired strike replacements rather than only the protection of a union's representation rights, as was the case under Bill C-66.

It is my view that the provisions that have been put forward in terms of the amendments be voted down.

Canada Labour Code May 12th, 1998

Mr. Speaker, the official opposition is trying to do in the House what it failed to do in the committee, that is actually to take a constructive part in the debate other than the filibuster we witnessed the other week.

Let us make clear what it is trying to do. It is nothing less than to remove strike and lockout rights from employees and employers subject to the Canada Labour Code.

Motions Nos. 18 and 20 would add hardship to the national economy as a criterion for maintenance of service requirements while Motions Nos. 22 and 23 would prohibit all strikes and lockouts in the ports.

Members of the official opposition have stated that they support collective bargaining and the right of workers to what they call strike peacefully. What does strike peacefully mean? For most it means a work stoppage free of violence, but for the official opposition it would appear to mean that a work stoppage has no economic impact.

This is a complete contradiction. The entire purpose of a strike or lockout is to impose economic sanctions in order to convince the other party to agree to terms and conditions of a collective agreement.

In democratic countries such as ours the right of workers to organize and begin collective bargaining is a fundamental right. This right is recognized in the international bill of human rights and in International Labour Organization conventions to which Canada is a signatory.

In democratic countries the right to strike or lockout by private sector parties is limited only to the extent necessary to protect public health and safety. That is exactly what Bill C-19 proposes. There is no precedent in Canada to my knowledge for removing the strike and lockout rights from private sector parties for economic reasons.

Federally regulated employers and unions that negotiate under the Canada Labour Code specifically told the Sims task force—and I know the opposition remembers the Sims task force because we talked about it ad infinitum during the discussions—that they did not want their lockout and strike provisions removed. They did not want their disputes subject to binding third party determinations.

The federally regulated employers, transportation and communications, FETCO, which represents most major employers subject to the code said:

We do not want statutory authority to be given to the government to impose arbitration, alternative dispute mechanism, or unilaterally determine some of the provisions of the collective agreement itself.

The parties subject to the code agree that the appropriate criteria for maintenance of service requirements is protection of public health and safety.

On this point the Business Council of British Columbia told the task force:

The inclusion of a provision within the Canada Labour Code for designating “essential services” should be confined to matters deemed to be essential to the protection and maintenance of “public safety and health”.

The Sims task force did not recommend the removal of strike and lockout rights from any group of employees or any employer subject to the code. The vast majority of parties subject to the code do not support the removal of strike and lockout rights.

I urge members of the House not to support these amendments.

Division No. 137 May 12th, 1998

Mr. Speaker, I listened with interest and I would indicate as a member of the Standing Committee on Human Resources that the debate we are talking about today should have taken place in committee.

Unfortunately my friends on the other side were more interested in a filibuster and now have all the speakers. They did not have the speakers when we were in committee. To suggest for a moment that somehow the government is stifling debate is ludicrous.

In committee we started at 11 o'clock and went through to 8:30 because we had to go to question period. Again they were going through a filibuster. If the members on the other side wanted to talk about serious amendments, and I would suggest that these are serious amendments, they should have been discussed in committee.

I would like to put on the public record some issues I did not have a chance to do last week. The official opposition suggested that the certification procedures under Bill C-19 were undemocratic and that the bill deprived employees of their right to vote on union certification applications.

I do not agree with these statements particularly because there is nothing undemocratic about certification procedures under the Canada Labour Code. Bill C-19 does not amend these procedures.

The basis of certification would remain majority support. The board would retain its current authority to verify union support by holding a certification vote in any case. Certification procedures under the code are similar to those in a number of provincial jurisdictions. I am sure those jurisdictions do not consider their procedures undemocratic.

We also heard a lot about the remedial certification procedure under Bill C-19. Members of the official opposition keep referring to the Ontario Labour Relations Board decision in the Wal-Mart case, a decision which members should be aware has been upheld by the courts, despite the fact that remedial certification procedures existed in five provincial jurisdictions for many years. The Ontario Wal-Mart case is the only case members of the official opposition can cite to support their position that the provision has been misused.

Contrary to statements made in the House last week, remedial certification in the Ontario statute was not brought in by the Rae government. It was there before the NDP formed the Government of Ontario. Interestingly the provision was modified but not removed when the current government reformed the province's labour laws.

Last week a member referred to the British Columbia Labour Relations Board decision in another Wal-Mart case. It is interesting that contrary to the member's assertion the B.C. board did not use its remedial certification powers to overturn a vote in that case. In fact the B.C. board ordered that a representation vote be held.

The absence of examples of use of remedial certification authority by provincial boards proves what the government has been saying about the provision. It is an effective deterrent to serious employer actions designed to prevent employees from exercising their fundamental right to organize.

It is rarely used and only to remedy the worst cases of employee conduct which make it impossible to measure employee support through the holding of a vote. The certification procedures and remedial certification provisions of Bill C-19 are part of the overall package of task force recommendations which representatives of both labour and management in the federally regulated sector accepted as fair and balanced. They should not be modified or removed from the package in my view.

Holidays Act May 6th, 1998

Madam Speaker, I thank the members who spoke to my bill today. It does not ask for a statutory holiday but a day of recognition.

My colleagues spoke of other very notable people who could be recognized. The major difference is that Laurier was a prime minister and certainly the father of Canadian independence.

It is said that those who do not learn from history are doomed to repeat it. If one does not understand the past one has no concept of the present and is unable to contemplate the future. By recognizing and promoting Laurier Day, November 20, is to give Canadians a sense of who they are.

As my colleague has just said, the spirit of the country was built on compromise. The spirit of the country was built by Canadians working together, the settling of the west, because of Laurier and because of men of vision.

It is important that we as Canadians in the House look to that inspiration. By proclaiming November 20 we are able to point to this day and tell our young people how important Laurier was as a nation builder. Then, as we go into the next century, we will have a good understanding of what it means to be Canadian, the glue that brings us together as a people. That is extremely important.

I thank my colleagues for the debate and seek the pleasure of the Chair to make the bill votable.