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

Holidays Act May 6th, 1998

Madam Speaker, may I split my time with the member for Brossard—La Prairie?

Holidays Act May 6th, 1998

moved that Bill C-369, an act to amend the Holidays Act (Sir Wilfrid Laurier Day) and to make consequential amendments to other acts, be read the second time and referred to a committee.

Madam Speaker, I rise in the House today to speak to my private members' Bill C-369 which would proclaim November 20 as Sir Wilfrid Laurier Day.

There is no greater gift we can give future generations than to honour our history, to leave them a memory of our past. This bill asks parliament to recognize the contributions and role that Sir Wilfrid Laurier played in our history.

In asking the House to proclaim November 20 Sir Wilfrid Laurier Day, his birthday, I am not asking the House to proclaim the day a statutory holiday, but rather a day of recognition for Canadians to mark an important milestone in our history.

A true Canadian, Laurier was a skilful and pragmatic politician with a charismatic personality. He was a dominant political figure of his day.

As a French speaking prime minister, he was one of the builders of the nation, from prairie towns to the Canadian navy, in 1909.

Under his leadership Canada continued its industrialization and urbanization. It was strengthened by the addition of two provinces and two million inhabitants.

In designating November 20, it will pay tribute to Laurier's vision, his determination that Canadians regardless of their ethnic or linguistic background could work together toward a common goal, that of nationhood.

Laurier pursued and consolidated the work of Confederation begun by his predecessors. He was a true nation builder. In these days of political uncertainty we can look to Laurier as an individual who embodied his love for Canada, his love for a united and prosperous country.

We live in an era where our children have little appreciation for our history and for our roots as a nation. Professor J. L. Granatstein in his work Who Killed Canadian History comments on the fact that our knowledge of our history is disappearing.

Those aspects of our past that reflect our traditions, our values and our ideas, and that have helped to shape our society are disappearing from our collective memory.

This bill will help us recognize and promote our history. The federal government has proclaimed several national days of recognition. February 15 is National Flag Day. We celebrate June 25 as National Aboriginal Day. We have built educational programs around these days. We have helped to expand the understanding and the importance of these days to Canadians but we cannot stop there. We must mark those occasions in our history that are important to our nation's survival and to preserve the memories.

In these times when our national unity is called into question, it is only through the dedicated efforts of concerned Canadians that we find occasions or situations which celebrate the very fact of being Canadian.

Whether by disaster as demonstrated by the ice storm of 1998, or by design as in the more formal declaration of national holidays, I believe we must find ways to come together to celebrate our very Canadianism.

Armed with a better knowledge of our history, we can promote national unity.

We can define what it means to be Canadian. We can help Canadians better understand their past. My private member's bill is a further step in that direction.

Canadians will judge what we do as legislators in part by how we treat and respect our past. It is worthy to note that this bill which I put before parliament does not infringe upon provincial legislative authority or the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms. Rather, it seeks to enhance that which is truly Canadian, our common interests and sense of deep rooted history.

Joseph Schull in his work outlines the unique vision of Laurier, an individual who viewed himself as a Canadian both in terms of nationality and in terms of thinking.

If Sir John A. Macdonald is considered the Father of Confederation, Sir Wilfrid Laurier can be considered the author of Canadian independence. Such a title in and of itself is worthy of recognition.

Laurier was probably the greatest political orator in our history.

Warren Bennis says that leadership is the capacity to translate vision into reality. This applies to Sir Wilfrid Laurier. As prime minister, Laurier was determined to create a nation that embodied many elements. Laurier said of Canada:

Our country is Canada. Our fellow countrymen are not only those in whose veins is the blood of France. They are all those whatever their race, whatever their language whom the fortunes of war, the chances of fate or their own choice brought among us.

If there is anything to which I have devoted my political life, it is to try to promote unity, harmony and amity between the diverse elements of this country.

Laurier said:

I am a Canadian. Canada has been the inspiration of my life. The 19th century was the century of the United States. I think we can claim that it is Canada that shall fill the 20th century. I cannot hope that I shall see much of the development which the future has in store for my country.

But whenever my eyes shall close to the light it is my wish, nay it is my hope, that they close upon a Canada united in all its elements, united in every particular. Every element cherishing the tradition of the past.

And all uniting in cherishing still more hope for the future.

These words of Laurier are as relevant today as when they were first spoken.

I read in the Ottawa Citizen of May 3 that research collected by a group of federal bureaucrats shows the Queen and the Mounties were once central institutions. They have found however that these institutions, and in addition the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation, no longer provide Canadians with a common sense of identity.

It means, they say, that the federal government must strive in the coming years to refine a unifying vision for the country or risk its disintegration. In the words of the policy research committee:

Canada will need a new sense of common purpose to preserve social cohesion and to take the country, intact and thriving, into the next century.

The purpose of this bill is to take into consideration the comments I have just cited.

Proclaiming November 20 a day of official recognition of Sir Wilfrid Laurier will in my view help Canadians focus on our roots and help Canadians appreciate the contributions of a visionary and leader such as Laurier.

We will be judged by how we treat our history. We will be judged by whether or not we are prepared to honour political leaders such as Laurier as nation builders, as representatives who were prepared to lead when others only wanted to stay quiet.

Committees Of The House May 4th, 1998

Mr. Speaker, I have the honour to present in both official languages the second report of the Standing Committee on Human Resources Development and the Status of Persons with Disabilities.

Pursuant to order of reference of Tuesday, March 17, 1998 your committee has considered Bill C-19, an act to amend the Canada Labour Code (Part I) and the Corporations and Labour Unions Returns Act and to make consequential amendments to other acts, and has agreed to report it with an amendment.

Education May 4th, 1998

Mr. Speaker, Canadians have a strong and proud history. Knowledge of that history is disappearing, however. The teaching of our past, a past that reflects our traditions, values and ideas that help to reflect who we are, is disappearing.

Professor J. L. Granatstein in his new book Who Killed Canadian History points out that only 54% of high school and university graduates could name Sir John A. Macdonald as our first prime minister. Only 36% knew the year of Confederation. This is unfortunate and a reflection of the state of Canadian history being taught in our schools.

As a former teacher of Canadian history, I applaud Professor Granatstein for exposing the lack of consistent curriculum.

Canadians want more Canadian history taught in their schools. The Canadian government can act to change this disgraceful trend by providing our young people with an understanding and appreciation of our roots.

Granatstein suggests that Ottawa take an activist role by providing a subscription to every high school to a magazine such as The Beaver and National History . He also suggests that we establish a centre for Canadian history—

National Volunteer Week April 3rd, 1998

Mr. Speaker, April 19 to 25 is National Volunteer Week. It was first proclaimed in 1943.

Women's voluntary services organized special events to draw the public's attention to the vital contribution women made to the war effort on the home front.

Today volunteers play a crucial and critical role in contributing to the quality of life in our communities. It is through their tireless efforts and commitment to community values that events such as Canada Day and winter carnivals can be celebrated. Organizations such as the CNIB and the Cancer Society benefit from their energy, skills and dedication.

This year's National Volunteer Week motto is “Volunteers open the doors to a better world”. In my riding of the Oak Ridges the Helpmate Community Information and Volunteer Bureau provides skilled volunteers to many organizations and I pay tribute to their efforts in honour of National Volunteer Week.

Division No. 101 March 17th, 1998

Mr. Speaker, I am voting no with my party.

Health March 17th, 1998

Mr. Speaker, my question is for the Minister of Health. Two-thirds of Canadians risk premature death, heart disease and other health risks all due to physical inactivity.

If all Canadians were active, the savings for the health care system for heart disease alone would be $700 million a year. What is the minister doing to address physical inactivity? Who will he be partnering with to achieve this goal?

Holidays Act March 11th, 1998

moved for leave to introduce Bill 370, an act to amend the Holidays Act (Sir John A. Macdonald Day) and to make consequential amendments to other acts.

Mr. Speaker, the second one is an act to amend the Holidays Act to declare January 11 a national holiday recognizing the birthday of Sir John A. MacDonald, our first prime minister.

It is important for Canadians to recognize their political leaders and I so present the bill to the House today.

(Motions deemed adopted, bill read the first time and printed)

Holidays Act March 11th, 1998

moved for leave to introduce Bill C-369, an act to amend the Holidays Act (Sir Wilfrid Laurier Day) and to make consequential amendments to other acts.

Mr. Speaker, I have the honour to present to the House two private members bills, both seconded by the member for Brossard—La Prairie.

The first one is an act to amend the Holidays Act to declare November 20 a national holiday recognizing the birthday of a true nation builder, Sir Wilfrid Laurier.

The purpose is to declare this day as a national holiday, as a tribute to one of modern Canada's builders.

Laurier was our first French speaking prime minister. It is important for Canadians to recognize the contributions that Laurier made to the country.

(Motions deemed adopted, bill read the first time and printed)

The Budget March 9th, 1998

Mr. Speaker, I thank the hon. member for his question and his kind remarks.

I would point out that in fact the government is targeting very clearly skills development. The government clearly has looked at the role which youth will play in the next century and is providing the necessary dollars.

We have the Canadian opportunities strategy. Whether it is increased funding for advanced research, tax relief on student loans or assistance to employers through tax relief in terms of hiring in future years, the fact is that this government has made these things a high priority.

The human resources development committee met with representatives of student associations from right across the country. It met with representatives from the banks. It listened to what they had to say and it is now acting.

In this four to five year mandate I expect to see increased support for students in this regard.