House of Commons photo


Crucial Fact

  • His favourite word was tax.

Last in Parliament October 2015, as Conservative MP for Willowdale (Ontario)

Lost his last election, in 2015, with 37% of the vote.

Statements in the House

Holidays Act June 19th, 2015

Mr. Speaker, currently in provinces and territories where Remembrance Day is not a paid non-working day, many schools organize commemorative events to teach and increase students' knowledge of the importance of this day. Schools hold assemblies and invite veterans to speak. The activities at school ensure that students learn about our veterans and the role our soldiers played and continue to play in Canada—

Holidays Act June 19th, 2015

Mr. Speaker, as I am one of the last speakers of the 41st Parliament, I extend my thanks to the staff and wish my colleagues, those who are coming back and those who are leaving, Godspeed.

As a proud piper, every Remembrance Day I attend the Royal Canadian Legion, Branch 66, to perform in the ceremony for the Gordon Highlanders. It is a tradition I have carried on for about 10 years, since I started to learn to pipe. I must say that it is quite an honour to be part of Remembrance Day.

Today I am honoured to be here to speak about Bill C-597, an act to amend the Holidays Act (Remembrance Day). Bill C-597, which seeks to designate Remembrance Day a legal holiday, was introduced by the member for Scarborough Southwest. Its intent is not only to raise the profile of the day and ensure that it receives the same federal recognition as Canada Day and Victoria Day but to make Remembrance Day a paid non-working holiday.

November 11 is a day to remember the men and women of the Canadian Armed Forces. They have made great sacrifices for our country and our freedoms. They have also sacrificed for the rights and freedoms of others who are part of our global community but who have not been as fortunate as those of us who call Canada home.

On this day we remember those who have died fighting for us. We remember the sacrifices being made by those who are still with us. We remember the military families who live in uncertainty, never sure whether their loved ones fighting abroad will return home or be present for milestone occasions such as graduations or the birth of a child.

Remembrance Day has a long history in Canada. In 1919, King George V proclaimed November 11 Armistice Day. He declared:

there may be for the brief space of two minutes, a complete suspension of all our normal activities. During that time, except in rare cases where this may be impractical, all work, all sound and all locomotion should cease, so that in perfect stillness the thoughts of every one may be concentrated on reverent remembrance of the glorious dead.

In Canada, at precisely 1100 hours local time, businesses, factories, schools, offices, and traffic come to a halt for two minutes of silence.

We have observed this day, now called Remembrance Day, ever since the end of World War I. In 1970, the Holidays Act was passed to consolidate the Dominion Day Act, the Remembrance Day Act, and the Victoria Day Act. While Canada Day and Victoria Day are called legal holidays, the Holidays Act does not use this language for Remembrance Day.

With the intent of the bill in mind, it is important to note that the word “legal” before “holiday” has no effect on whether the holiday is a paid non-working holiday. A legal holiday and a holiday have exactly the same status.

We all respect the constitutional authority of the provincial and territorial governments to choose whether their residents have a day off from work and school on Remembrance Day. November 11 is a paid holiday for employees under federal jurisdiction, including those who work in banks or in the federal public service. However, it is up to the provincial and territorial governments to decide whether it will be a paid holiday for workers under their jurisdiction.

One reason for making Remembrance Day a paid non-working day is to give it a status equal to Victoria Day and Canada Day. Another reason—

Zero Tolerance for Barbaric Cultural Practices Act June 16th, 2015

Yes, Mr. Speaker, it was indeed a pleasure serving with the hon. member on the immigration committee, and we certainly discussed a broad range of issues.

The issue of visitor visas belongs in a separate discussion. However, with respect to cultural practices, polygamy, and so on, the issue came about because as we were doing broad consultations across Canada, we recognized that this was an issue we needed to address. Therefore, we continued our study and addressed this specifically. The end result is Bill S-7.

Zero Tolerance for Barbaric Cultural Practices Act June 16th, 2015

Mr. Speaker, there are a lot of these provisions for polygamy and sexual assault and so on in law, but they are scattered over a lot of pieces of legislation. This legislation brings them together in one place and in very clear and absolute terms of what this country is and what our shared values are.

With respect to barbaric practices, there are practices that, historically, in many societies, have been considered barbaric. However, as we have evolved into a modern civilized society, some of these have been put aside. In those cultures that do not share our values, those practices, in our eyes, are barbaric, and they are not permitted in our country.

Zero Tolerance for Barbaric Cultural Practices Act June 16th, 2015

Mr. Speaker, I am very proud to stand in the House today to support Bill S-7, the zero tolerance for barbaric cultural practices act.

The measures in the bill reflect our Conservative government's unwavering commitment to the protection of vulnerable women and children, whether they are newcomers to Canada or born in this country.

I know that many of my colleagues here today share our government's strong conviction that we must do everything in our power to ensure that barbaric cultural practices such as polygamy, forced and underage marriage, and so-called honour killings do not occur on Canadian soil. These are practices that discriminate against and perpetrate violence against women and girls, and they have no place in Canadian society.

Now that the bill has been public for several months, Canadians have had the chance to understand and react to its provisions. I have been heartened by the support that Bill S-7 has received. I will provide several examples.

Daphne Bramham of The Vancouver Sun, who has covered these issues more than most Canadian journalists, wrote the following in her column on December 9, 2014:

Forced marriages, child marriages and polygamy are barbaric practices and anathema to the equality rights of children and women.

After more than a century of ignoring them, the government's bill takes Canada a step closer toward eliminating them.

In an op-ed in the National Post last November 13, Aruna Papp wrote movingly about Bill S-7, relating it to her own personal experiences with abuse. Here is a short excerpt:

Forced into an abusive marriage at 17 and unable to leave it for 18 years, I can attest to the fact that a forced marriage is effectively a life of slavery. I congratulate the Canadian government for taking a bold step on behalf of women who have nowhere to turn for help.

Over the past 30 years, I have founded agencies in Toronto that assist immigrant women; I have met hundreds of women who are victims of forced marriages and domestic violence. The government's “Zero Tolerance for Barbaric Cultural Practices Act” recognizes the plight of these women. In presenting this bill, the government of Canada has said, in effect, “As a Canadian citizen, you, too, deserve to live a life free of violence and coercion.” For this, I am grateful.

On December 12, Tahir Gora, CEO of the Canadian Thinkers' Forum, wrote a blog post for The Huffington Post in support of the zero tolerance for barbaric cultural practices act. He wrote:

Minister Alexander is right. Violence against women is an absolutely barbaric act. It must be addressed strongly. Forced marriages, polygamy and honour killings happen every day around the globe under the guise of cultural practices. Should those cultural practices not be condemned? Calling a spade a spade should not be a political issue in a country like Canada where human rights guarantee equal rights to women.

I had the opportunity to sit on the Standing Committee on Citizenship and Immigration of the House as we studied Bill S-7. On April 23, immigration lawyer Chantal Desloges told committee members:

I believe the immigration provisions of Bill S-7 send a very strong statement that polygamy is not and will not be tolerated in Canada. The negative effects of polygamy on women and children are very well documented in sociological studies.

She added that the bill sends:

...a concrete statement about Canadian values. I think this is important in a context where our society is increasingly relativist and, in a rush to respect other cultures, we often overlook the fact that there is a reason why our own Canadian culture has developed in the way that it has.

At that same session, Vancouver lawyer and columnist Kathryn Marshall said:

At the heart of this bill is gender equality and the right of women and girls to be equal in Canada. As a woman, I feel very fortunate that I was born in a country in which the rights of women and girls are protected and in which we are equal to men. I feel fortunate that my daughter was born in a country where her gender does not sentence her to a lifetime of second-class citizenship.

At the core is the fact that equality is a fundamental human right in Canada. It is a core of who we are as people, a core value. It's something that cannot be taken for granted. We have to protect it and preserve it.

She added:

Gender equality should never be taken for granted, even in a place like Canada, where it is a core value of who we are as people. Critics of this bill have said that such horrendous acts as honour killings, polygamy, and child marriage should not be a priority of this government because they don't happen with enough frequency in this country. To those critics I would say that one occurrence of these brutal and un-Canadian acts is one enough: there should never be any of these acts. We should always take action. The reality is that we're not talking about a few isolated incidents. This is something that's becoming increasingly more common. The trend seems to be that's it's occurring with more frequency each year.

With the passage of this bill, Canada will be joining other nations that have taken a strong stance against forced and child marriage by making it illegal.

To critics who have objected to the name of the bill, Ms. Marshall countered, stating:

The horrifying reality is that culture is an essential part of honour violence. In parts of the world it is condoned and is legal. We must not be afraid to label barbaric practices as what they are.

I think that calling the bill what it currently is called shows a strong stance. History has shown us that language is an important tool, and we should use it. We should call these acts what they are, which is barbaric.

Finally, I would like to share the words of Salma Siddiqui, the president of the Coalition of Progressive Canadian Muslim Organizations, who told committee members:

The Government of Canada's decision to table a bill for zero tolerance of barbaric cultural practices is the right move and should be welcomed. For too long women have been oppressed through polygamy and forced marriages....

The bill is really about protecting women and should be seen as a welcome step. People coming to Canada must conform to our values. They have to put aside their past understanding of women. In this country, men and women are equal before the law and in society.

I am glad to have had the opportunity to share these words of praise for Bill S-7 from a number of notable Canadians. I hope that my fellow members of the House will take these words to heart and support the bill's important provisions.

Business of Supply June 1st, 2015

Mr. Speaker, in response to the question of advertising, it is absolutely the responsibility of the government to communicate with Canadians on important programs and services that are available to them.

From time to time, government changes policy or fiscal strategies to meet the economic needs of the country, to move the country forward in terms of how we address the challenges of the 21st century and the challenges of the world economic system.

On this side of the House, we make no apologies for ensuring that middle-class Canadians are aware of the measures that would put more money back in their pockets, including an enhanced universal child care benefit, the family tax cut, and encouraging more Canadians to join the 11 million Canadians who benefit from tax-free savings accounts. Liberals would take these measures away from middle-class families if they had the choice.

Business of Supply June 1st, 2015

Mr. Speaker, it appears that the member opposite does not have a lot of experience with financial institutions.

Prior to entering this House, I spent five years in public accounting, and one of my tasks was to audit some of the big banks. The member should know that banks, as profit institutions, are very concerned about how they govern themselves and how they win consumers. One of their tasks in doing that is to ensure they are competitive in this unregulated environment. It is regulated in the sense that we protect consumers, but unregulated in the sense that they do not have to comply with a day-to-day regulatory regime as to exactly how they should manage accounting, their fees, and so forth.

Government is not in a position to run the banking business. That is not our task. Let us leave that to the professionals in financial institutions.

Business of Supply June 1st, 2015

Mr. Speaker, it is my pleasure today to discuss how our government continues to lower costs for businesses and consumers, and in the process update this House on all that this government has done on the subject in recent years.

Our government understands that Canadians are tired of hidden fees, and that is why we introduced a code of conduct for the credit and debit card industry in Canada. The code was launched in 2010 to promote fair business practices and ensure that merchants and consumers understand the costs and benefits associated with credit and debit cards.

At the same time, Canadian banks understand that they operate in a highly competitive environment and that they must be prepared to respond to the specific and often changing needs of Canadian consumers. Accordingly, the government believes that a strong consumer protection framework is one in which there is vibrant competition, fees are disclosed, and consumers can exercise choice.

On this front, we have introduced regulations relating to credit agreements, which came into force in 2010. These regulations accomplish a number of pro-consumer goals, including the following: strengthening consumer protection and limiting business practices that are not beneficial to consumers; requiring the provision of clear and timely information to Canadians about credit products, with a particular emphasis on credit cards; mandating a minimum 21-day, interest-free grace period on all new credit card purchases when a customer pays the outstanding balance in full; and requiring express consent for credit limit increases.

We continue to make progress in this regard. Last November, in fact, the government welcomed individual commitments by Visa and MasterCard to reduce their credit card fees for merchants, which should ultimately result in lower prices for consumers.

Specifically, Visa and MasterCard are voluntarily reducing their respective credit card fees for consumers to an average effective rate of 1.5% for a period of five years. These proposals include specific commitments that all merchants receive a reduction in credit card fees, while providing a greater reduction for small and medium-sized enterprises and charities, which have the least amount of bargaining power.

Canadians work hard for their money, and our government believes Canadians deserve to keep more of that money in their pockets. That is why we have taken action to improve low-cost accounts and expand access to no-cost banking services to protect consumers and save even more money for Canadians. In this spirit, in May 2014, the government secured voluntary commitments from Canada's eight largest banks to enhance low-cost bank accounts, and to offer no-cost accounts with the same features as low-cost accounts, to a wider range of eligible consumers. As a result, no-cost accounts are available to youth, students, seniors qualifying for the guaranteed income supplement, and registered disability savings plan beneficiaries.

This action fulfills a 2013 Speech from the Throne commitment to expand no-cost basic banking services, as well as an economic action plan 2014 commitment to enhance access to basic banking services. Moreover, just this past April, the government released an update to the code of conduct for the credit and debit card industry in Canada, delivering on a commitment made in 2014 to help make life more affordable for Canadians and entrepreneurs.

These new changes will make the code even stronger, by addressing unfair business practices and improving transparency for merchants and consumers, including new provisions that apply specifically to mobile payments.

Consumers will also benefit from a new requirement that credit card issuers disclose to consumers who apply for premium credit cards that the use of these cards results in higher merchant fees. This will help to empower consumers in selecting their payment method by disclosing the actual cost to merchants of accepting payments with a premium card.

When it comes to helping businesses with their payment costs, members should not just take my word for it. The Canadian Federation of Independent Business has said that the code of conduct for the credit and debit card industry in Canada, “...has served merchants extremely well... [It] has done an excellent job in ensuring some fair ground rules and maintaining Canada's low-cost debit system”. They have also said that “...the Code played a big role in saving low-cost debit in Canada and it gave merchants some degree of power in dealing with the payments industry”.

Therefore, despite the opposition's call for more support to empower consumers, we can see that our government has already taken considerable action in this regard.

We are supporting consumers and merchants by working collaboratively with financial institutions. We will not change course. I urge my opposition colleagues to support our efforts in this regard by voting in favour of our budget bill, which is a bill that contains many low-tax and pro-consumer measures.

Our initiatives go beyond law-making and regulation. They also include public outreach and education.

In April 2014, we announced the appointment of Jane Rooney as Canada's first-ever Financial Literacy Leader. Her mandate is to collaborate and coordinate activities with stakeholders to contribute to and support initiatives that strengthen the financial literacy of Canadians. This initiative will allow the government to broaden its efforts and help Canadians make more informed choices for themselves and their families.

This is nothing new. Throughout our time in office, our government has been focused on helping Canadian consumers identify and take advantage of the best possible financial products and services for their needs. We are not done yet.

In economic action plan 2015, we proposed to amend the Bank Act to strengthen and modernize Canada's financial consumer protection framework to respond to the diverse needs of Canadians. For example, the financial consumer protection framework will provide improved access to basic banking services by allowing a broader range of personal identification, cooling-off periods for a greater range of products, and a new requirement that advertising be clear and accurate.

Unfortunately, the opposition, the NDP and Liberals, have committed to voting against our budget.

I should note that we have already accepted promises from the banks to end pay-to-pay practices as well. Hopefully, the next time the opposition will do their research before putting forward a motion like the one we are debating today.

As our actions have clearly demonstrated, the Government of Canada understands the importance of these costs that affect all Canadians, but we will continue to allow Canadians to keep more of their own money with lower taxes and increased benefits. The measures I have described today will benefit all Canadians, including the most vulnerable consumers. Moreover, they will help to provide all Canadians with the protections and tools necessary to make informed decisions on their financial futures.

Business of Supply June 1st, 2015

Mr. Speaker, perhaps the member opposite would conserve his comment until I have finished my remarks.

Business of Supply June 1st, 2015

Mr. Speaker, it is—