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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

The Budget March 9th, 1998

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

There is no question that education is a provincial responsibility, although we know that the federal government provides significant dollars to the provinces for post-secondary education. There is nothing in this budget which would suggest in any way that the federal government is interfering with provincial jurisdiction as far as educational curricula is concerned.

The government is providing needed assistance to students in this country. The government is showing leadership. I cannot believe that anyone would be opposed to providing financial assistance, whether it is through tax credits or tax points, to students.

Clearly the response of students, both inside and outside of Quebec, has been very positive. Finally they are seeing true leadership in education. The government is providing the necessary financial assistance to students. That bodes well for students in the future. We do not want them graduating from university with significant debt, and the figure often quoted is $25,000 per student.

The Budget March 9th, 1998

Mr. Speaker, I thank the hon. member for his question. When the government was able to bring down the deficit, it was because we were controlling our own spending. The government has indicated three, three and three in relation to the debt.

I suggest to the member that these figures are conservative. There is no question that if the performance of the economy continues to be bright, which I believe it will, we will be able to put more money toward debt reduction. I indicated in my comments that $13 billion was earmarked for the debt and it has already brought down the debt measurably.

I am confident in the strategy the government has put in place. Let us be clear that the finance minister has put a clear debt reduction strategy in place. The opposition wanted to know where we stood on it. We have placed it front and centre.

The Budget March 9th, 1998

Mr. Speaker, it is with great pleasure that I rise today to comment on the 1998 federal budget.

The Minister of Finance is to be congratulated on leading this nation from a state of economic stagnation and a deficit of $42 billion to a balanced budget, the first in almost 30 years.

Brian Neysmith, president of the Canadian Bond Rating Service, stated: “The Minister of Finance and the Liberals have accomplished what they actually set out to accomplish. They achieved a balanced budget. They achieved it ahead of schedule, and from that point of view, you have to give them full marks”.

I have been disappointed to see the members of the opposition take such partisan approaches to this accomplishment. Canadians clearly support this approach and the determination of the government to get our fiscal house in order.

Opposition members harangued the government about the deficit. Now that the books have been balanced and now that we have a balanced budget for the next two years, we hear cries of “shame” because it was not balanced the way they would have done it.

Harry Houdini is alive and well and living on the opposition benches. They would provide deep tax cuts, eliminate the debt and provide social programs, it seems, through various magic vanishing acts. The government, however, has to deal with reality.

The end results prove that the government made the tough decisions and with the support and understanding of Canadians it made Canada the first G-7 nation to balance its books.

Governing is about choices, it is about leadership and providing a clear vision for the future. This budget has mapped out a vision of economic and fiscal planning that will secure a bright road ahead for all Canadians.

I had the opportunity to host a post-budget breakfast in my riding last week. I had representatives from the chamber of commerce, community organizations, social agencies, young people and municipal councils. A common theme was heard during the discussions. We have our priorities straight. Debt reduction is front and centre, followed by new expenditures for skills development and health and selective tax reductions.

The three key elements were welcomed by the participants at my meeting, namely a two year fiscal plan based on prudent economic planning assumptions, as the current plan commits to balanced budgets over the next two years; the inclusion in the fiscal plan of a contingency reserve of $3 billion in each year; and the use of a contingency reserve when it is not needed to pay down the public debt.

This could mean that if the contingency reserve is not needed, up to $9 billion could be used to pay down the public debt. The minister has been cautious and prudent in his calculations. The debt to GDP ratio is the most relevant measure of a country's ability to manage its debt. It represents a true measure of debt burden. The government has already paid down almost $13 billion in market debt so far this year. More important, however, the debt to GDP ratio will be put on a permanent downward track through sustained economic growth and debt repayment plan.

The government is committed to bringing down the debt quickly and it has a strategy in place to do so. Given the effectiveness of the government in dealing with the deficit, I believe Canadians support this approach.

The St. John's Evening Telegram stated on February 25 that while the $13 billion payment will not cure everything overnight, it is a promise that the country will not be plunged into the debt more deeply in the future, that it will no longer mortgage our children's futures, and with the economic returns on the fiscal year yet to come in, even more may yet be applied to the debt.

The budget speaks to youth. As Lucie Konrad, executive director of the Canadian Youth Foundation stated, overall this is a good day for young Canadians. With this budget, young people can look forward to some relief from the crushing burden of almost a decade of a youth jobless recovery and increasing share of rising education costs.

The Canadian opportunities strategy provides a co-ordinated set of measures building on the 1996 and 1997 budgets to create opportunity by expanding access to knowledge and skills needed for better jobs and higher standards of living in the 21st century.

As a former educator I applaud the minister on placing a very high priority on providing greater opportunities for young people to prosper in the new knowledge based economy.

The budget demonstrates leadership by announcing the Canadian millennium scholarships and Canada study grants, tax relief on student loan interest and improvements to the Canada Student Loans Act, supporting youth employment through education, insurance premium holidays for employers for the young Canadians they hire in 1999 and 2000. These are investments in our future. Young people must be encouraged to dream and to seek opportunity in Canada.

The government has listened to the concerns of our youth. Heather Taylor of the University of Alberta student union stated that these educational measures in this budget are things for which we have been fighting for the past eight months. It shows the government is listening to students. It will have a huge impact on students.

The 1998 budget provides for the first time tax relief for interest on student loans. Beginning in 1998 all students will be eligible for a 17% federal tax credit on their student loan interest. Interest relief extensions will help about 100,000 graduates.

The editorial in the Toronto Sun on February 26 stated: “We applaud the finance minister. We think he has made the right choice in the first post deficit budget. The nation has a responsibility to help the 600,000 young Canadians who fear they will never have a good job or a decent career”.

The opposition has talked about a need for tax relief. The government will deliver $7 billion of tax relief over the next three years, tax relief for low and middle income Canadians through an increase in the basic personal exemption and the elimination of the 3% general surtax on Canadians with income up to $50,000. Those are two measures that will take 400,000 Canadians off the tax rolls and reduce taxes for 14 million Canadians by the year 1999-2000.

This government does not just talk tax reductions. It has taken clear and firm actions in this area. The government is continuing to provide targeted tax relief. I believe Canadians have examined the budget and have strongly indicated it is a balanced approach to the economic well-being of Canada.

I remind members of the opposition that we have a four to five year mandate. Obviously during that time we will be able to take other measures which I am sure Canadians will be supportive of. The next few years will continue to see tax relief and continued social spending in the area of health care. The impact of the 1998 budget over three years is clear. Forty per cent of new government spending focuses on investments in social and economic priorities and sixty per cent is targeted toward debt reduction and tax relief.

The government has demonstrated solid economic leadership that bodes well for the economic well-being of all Canadians.

Richmond Hill February 24th, 1998

Mr. Speaker, 125 years ago the town of Richmond Hill had its first town council meeting. At that time Yonge Street was a dirt road, the tallest building in the town was a new church and the fastest thing on four wheels was a horse and buggy.

Since that time Richmond Hill has grown from a small village on a hill to become the fastest growing large municipality in Canada. The original village is still the heart of the community which covers over 99 square kilometres in York region.

On behalf of the town, Mr. Speaker, I invite you to come out and help us celebrate at any one of the festivities planned for this year.

As a former town councillor, I am very pleased to stand up in the House and congratulate the town of Richmond Hill on its 125th anniversary.

Elvis Stojko February 16th, 1998

Mr. Speaker, today I ask you and my colleagues in the House to join me in sending congratulations and best wishes for a full recovery to Elvis Stojko, Olympic silver medalist.

As he said in an interview yesterday “Focus on what you believe in and remember what the important things in life are”. It is a simple message and one that we should live by and remember. By his grit and determination and by giving no excuses, he has led by his very example and is a role model for all Canadians. Richmond Hill's own Elvis has demonstrated that commitment to ideals and goals is something that all Canadians can relate to.

We thank Elvis for persevering and personifying the true Olympic spirit. Congratulations to Elvis.

Child Benefit February 5th, 1998

Madam Speaker, the motion before us recommends that the federal government review the level at which the child benefit is indexed. I believe this is a laudable goal. The Government of Canada fully supports the broader goal of increasing assistance to families with children.

The government initiated a national system to prevent and reduce child poverty more effectively than ever before when it introduced the national child benefit system in the 1997 budget, scheduled to take effect on July 1, 1998. The system has been designed to co-ordinate child poverty programs across Canada and to provide additional assistance to low income families working to provide for their children.

While programs have existed to assist low income families, the system has created disincentives and barriers to working. In the past when parents chose to leave social assistance and join the job market they lost badly needed social services such as health, dental and prescription drug plans. This clearly is a disincentive and is not acceptable.

The national child benefit system is an enriched and improved federal child benefit which will complement provincial-territorial programs to provide more effective assistance for low income families. These services will be made available to all low income families, the working poor and those on social assistance. I applaud the objectives of the national child benefit system to prevent and reduce child poverty, to improve work incentives and to simplify administration.

Governments have clearly recognized there is a significant problem in terms of child poverty. It has increased about 50% since 1989. The motion before us asks for a feasibility study on indexing child tax benefits.

The difficulty is that the potential fiscal costs of such a measure cannot be supported at this time. The financial impact of the proposal with the current inflation rate of approximately 1.6% per annum would cost the federal government about $160 million per year of indexation, that is $160 million in the first fiscal year, $320 million in the second and so on.

The child tax benefit allows for partial indexation to help address the severe fiscal problems facing Canada. The policy applies broadly in the tax system to spousal credit, basic personal credit, tax brackets, et cetera.

It would be difficult to apply full indexing to some tax parameters and not to others. It is estimated that the cost would be about $850 million per year. This would have a major impact on the government's ability to restore fiscal balance.

The government, however, has made a commitment to review the policy of partial indexation once it in a fiscal position to do so. In the meantime, the government has made it clear that it is targeting additional assistance in priority areas.

The prime minister stated in June 1997 that the government will double spending aimed at reducing child poverty once the government gets it fiscal house in order. He stated “We would like to double the funding when we have the means”.

The 1997 budget created a child tax benefit at a cost of $850 million. Since July 1997, over 720,000 low income working families have received increased benefits as a result restructuring and enrichment of the working income supplement.

Maximum benefits increased from $500 per family to $605 for the first child, $450 for the second child and $350 for each additional child. For the lowest income families the increases in the child tax benefit represent a 50% increase in federal benefits. Starting July 1998 these benefits will be extended to all low income families as a result of the national child benefit system.

The federal government is assuming a larger role in providing basic income support to families which children. We are moving in the right direction. We are assuming our responsibilities.

We believe in a society that is compassionate and cares for the less fortunate. It is interesting to note that Campaign 2000, a non-government anti-poverty organization, has abandoned its goal for the elimination of child poverty by the end of the century. It is taking up the need for sound fiscal management and furthering the interests of children. In November 1997 it stated that the social policy community in Canada had a high stake in becoming public interest guardians of the fiscal stability of federal finances.

Campaign 2000 commended the government for being particularly articulate and passionate in its concerns for children. It went on to say that strong fiscal stabilizers are an essential part of a sustainable social investment strategy for children and youth.

The government has demonstrated that it is committed to this important issue. Ken Battle of the Canadian Institute of Social Policy stated in February 1997 that a national child benefit system has the potential to be the most important social policy innovation since medicare.

The Globe and Mail stated in May 1997 that in difficult times it made sense to focus government generosity on those who most need it. The proposed child benefit is a good way to do it.

Yes, the government recognized the plight of those families that need support. The government has chosen to act, to demonstrate its commitment that this is a priority. A full review of the policy of partial indexation will take place once it is fiscally appropriate to do so. This is a commitment. This is our promise to the Canadian people. For those reasons, I cannot support the motion before us.

I believe I have demonstrated that this government is moving in the right direction, that it is the beginning of a process, not the end. We will see our obligations to the end.

Fred Burke February 5th, 1998

Mr. Speaker, today I salute Richmond Hill's very own mountain man, a man with clear goals in life, a man who decided he would climb a mountain before his 40th birthday.

Mr. Fred Burke has done just that. He returned home from climbing Mount Kilamanjaro, but he did not do it just for himself. He needed one more reason to make that climb. He dedicated it and any proceeds to a charity, Sheena's Place, a Toronto based non-residential centre for people with eating disorders that offers community support services and programs at no cost to users.

By climbing Mount Kilamanjaro and achieving his goal Mr. Burke helped young people who face their own mountain, their own struggle with eating disorders ever day.

Please join me in congratulating Mr. Burke on his climb and showing all of us the importance of goals.

Interparliamentary Delegations December 11th, 1997

Mr. Speaker, pursuant to Standing Order 34, I have the honour to present, in both official languages, the report of the eighth annual meeting between the Canada-Japan interparliamentary group and the Japan-Canada parliamentarians friendship league.

The meeting and visit took place between November 8 and 16, 1997. The Canadian delegation was honoured to receive the largest number of Diet members to have ever attended bilateral talks.

Japan is undergoing changes to its economy, institution and society which will be felt worldwide. We must not neglect the fact that Japan is our second largest trading partner next to the United States. Meetings and visits such as these allow parliamentarians from both countries to keep abreast of such developments.

I wish to thank my colleagues on the delegation for the exceptional bilateral talks and a very productive visit. I would also like to note the professionalism and dedication of our Canadian embassy officials.

Justice December 8th, 1997

Mr. Speaker, Canadians would be shocked to learn that someone could be arrested in a province and be released even when there is an outstanding warrant in another province for a crime such as armed robbery. This is referred to as non-returnable warrants.

My question is for the solicitor general. What steps is he taking in co-operation with other jurisdictions to ensure that offenders arrested in one province are returned to another province where there is an outstanding warrant for their arrest?

Curtain Club Theatre November 24th, 1997

Mr. Speaker, November 21 marked the 25th anniversary of the Curtain Club Theatre at its location on Newkirk Road in Richmond Hill.

The Curtain Club has a proud tradition dating back to 1952. It has provided the residents of Richmond Hill and surrounding areas with first class theatre productions from comedies to tragedies, laughter and tears.

We are fortunate to have such a professional organization in our community and a group of very committed and dedicated volunteers who are involved in the production, the creation of sets and the superlative acting.

It should also be noted that the Royal Canadian Air Farce which is also celebrating its 25th anniversary had its first show in Richmond Hill at the Curtain Club Theatre. That tremendous Canadian comedy team has delighted Canadian audiences with their satirical comedy and down to earth humour. Their first radio broadcast was from Richmond Hill's Curtain Club.

Canadian theatre has been enriched by the dedication and commitment of individuals who are prepared to devote long hours of preparation, hours of hard work and effort to present entertainment to the community.

I salute both the Curtain Club Theatre and the Royal Canadian Air Farce.