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Crucial Fact

  • His favourite word was canada's.

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

Strengthening Canadian Citizenship Act May 28th, 2014

Mr. Speaker, I will be splitting my time with my colleague, the member for St. Catharines.

I am very pleased and privileged to have this opportunity to add my voice in support of Bill C-24, the government's legislation that would strengthen the value of Canadian citizenship. Let me also say that it is a privilege to be a Canadian citizen and to be able to rise in the House to speak. I first came to this country as an international student in 1968, but I was made a stateless citizen in 1971 when Canada chose to change its recognition from the Republic of China to the People's Republic of China. Due to the generosity of the Canadian immigration system, I was able to apply for my permanent resident status and subsequently became a citizen in 1976.

Let me address some of the issues in the new citizenship act. As we know, Canadian citizenship is highly valued around the world. The fact that more than 85% of eligible permanent residents go on to become citizens is a testament to this. Last year, this translated into nearly 129,000 new Canadians citizens from no fewer than 219 countries, a 14% increase over 2012 numbers. We can all take pride in the value of our citizenship and in our high naturalization rate. Unfortunately, because Canadian citizenship is so valuable, some people are prepared to lie or cheat in order to qualify. For example, they may break our citizenship law by pretending to be living in Canada when they are living abroad. In fact, more than 85% of Canadian citizenship fraud involves falsifying residency. In many cases, permanent residents have used the services of immigration consultants who fraudulently establish evidence of residence in Canada while living abroad most, if not all, of the time.

Ongoing large-scale fraud investigations have identified more than 3,000 citizens and 5,000 permanent residents linked to major investigations, the majority of them related to residents. In addition, nearly 2,000 individuals linked to these investigations have either abandoned or withdrawn their citizenship applications. Individuals who seek to obtain Canadian citizenship fraudulently have no real attachment to Canada. They want citizenship for no other reason than to obtain the many benefits associated with Canadian citizenship or purely for financial gain.

Right now, applicants must reside in Canada for three out of the previous four years before being eligible to apply for citizenship. The major fault with the current citizenship requirements is that “residence” is not defined under the current Citizenship Act. As a result, it is currently possible for someone to become a Canadian citizen even if he or she has spent little time actually living in Canada.

Under the changes we propose, the rules around resident requirements would be strengthened so that adults applying for citizenship would have to be physically present in Canada. We would also lengthen the residency requirement to four years out of the previous six years, with a specific requirement to reside in Canada for a minimum of 183 days during at least four of the six qualifying years.

In his testimony before the Standing Committee on Citizenship and Immigration, Martin Collacott, a former Canadian diplomat and spokesman for the Centre for Immigration Policy Reform, said:

...I think newcomers will value their citizenship more if they know it is not something that can be acquired quickly or without meeting certain standards.

He added:

I strongly support the provisions of Bill C-24 aimed at ensuring that residency requirements are actually met, particularly in view of evidence that thousands of people have obtained their citizenship fraudulently by claiming they had spent time in Canada when they had not.

The proposed residency requirement in Bill C-24 would be consistent with the Income Tax Act, which says that those in Canada for less than 183 days with no other attachment to Canada are considered non-residents for income tax purposes. Unlike the majority of Canadians, non-residents are generally only required to pay taxes on their Canadian-sourced income. By better aligning the residency requirement for citizenship with the residency rules under the Income Tax Act, it would help to further strengthen the value of Canadian citizenship. Coupled with the new residency requirement, it would also strengthen the permanent residence attachment to Canada.

Immigration lawyer Richard Kurland, in a recent appearance before the standing committee, said the following:

For the first time, we have a pragmatic, transparent threshold to access Canadian citizenship. That is long overdue.

We obviously agree. I would add that these amendments to the Canadian Citizenship Act are also important because the physical presence in Canada assists with permanent residents' final integration into society.

A longer residence period would enable newcomers to develop a stronger connection to Canada. Furthermore, creating a clear and longer physical presence requirement would help deter citizens of convenience. Those individuals become citizens purely for the convenience of having a Canadian passport and to access the full range of taxpayer-funded benefits that come with this status, without any intention of contributing to Canada or even residing here.

In other words, they regard their Canadian citizenship primarily as little more than an insurance policy, to quote Mr. Collacott.

Of course in order to support their admission to Canadian society, citizens must first have an adequate knowledge of one of our official languages. As Mr. Collacott has said, the basic command of one of Canada's official languages is an essential skill for newcomers who are going to be able to contribute to society and the economy, as well as be able to realize their own dreams and aspirations as immigrants.

The government also believes that citizens must have knowledge about our country as well as the responsibility and privileges of Canadian citizenship, as this knowledge is essential to a new citizen's civic participation. This is why the amendments contained in Bill C-24 would also expand the age group who must first show proof of their language proficiency and take a citizenship knowledge test. We would expand the current age group from 18 to 54 years old, to 14 to 64 years old.

This would provide incentive for more individuals to acquire official language proficiency and civic knowledge, thus improving their integration. It would also ensure that more newcomers are better prepared to assume the responsibility of citizenship.

Lengthening the residency requirement and expanding the group that must meet knowledge and language requirements would ensure that more new citizens are better prepared for full participation in all aspects of Canadian life.

As I have said, these changes would also help deter citizenship of convenience. Taken together, the amendments in Bill C-24 would preserve and protect the value of Canadian citizenship both today and in the future by ensuring Canadians have a real, rather than a tenuous or non-existent, connection to Canada.

In his testimony before the standing committee, Shimon Fogel, chief executive officer of the Centre for Israel and Jewish Affairs, said his organization appreciates the steps taken by Bill C-24 to promote strong ties to Canada and buy-in to core Canadian values. He also added that the introduction of more robust residency requirements including physical presence to qualify for citizenship is particularly well received.

Canadian citizenship is highly valued around the world and, with this balanced set of reforms, the government is taking steps to ensure that it stays that way.

Citizenship and Immigration May 16th, 2014

Mr. Speaker, as I indicated before, if there are emergency needs for these kids, they will be looked after. However, in cases of failed refugee claimants, in cases of bogus refugees and fraudulent claims, they will not be entitled to our health care system.

Citizenship and Immigration May 16th, 2014

Mr. Speaker, the reality is that if there is an acute need, if there is a traumatic need for health care, they will get it. However, we are not here to provide health care for people who do not deserve it, people who are not permanent residents or legitimate refugees.

Citizenship and Immigration May 16th, 2014

Mr. Speaker, we have been very clear about who will get interim federal health care and who will not. Refugees will continue to benefit. Failed, fraudulent, and bogus claimants will not be entitled to our interim health program, just as 10 million visitors to Canada every year do not qualify for our health care. Besides, health is a provincial responsibility. If the Ontario Liberals want their doctors to treat failed claimants, taxpayers and ultimately voters will have to hold them to account for that decision.

Asian Heritage Month May 7th, 2014

Mr. Speaker, in May 2002, the Government of Canada signed an official declaration to designate the month of May as Asian Heritage Month.

Based on the 2011 census, there are over five million Asian Canadians from all over the world, representing approximately 12% of the Canadian population, all contributing to the unique and cultural society that Canadians value.

This month we will celebrate the heritage and history of Asian Canadians who have made notable contributions to this great country, a country that is one of the most culturally diverse in the world.

It is this diversity that strengthens Canada socially, politically and economically in monumental ways. Asian Heritage Month is a celebration where cities and communities across Canada will embrace and celebrate the values and customs of Asian Canadians. Let us embrace and celebrate the wide range of Asian cultures, ethnicities and traditions present in Canada.

These celebrations will be held across Canada, including in my riding of Willowdale. I invite all Canadians to take part in the festivities and celebrations that honour the contributions of Asian Canadians.

Canada-Honduras Economic Growth and Prosperity Act March 31st, 2014

Mr. Speaker, I wish to join my colleagues and voice my support for the Canada–Honduras free trade agreement.

I should also indicate that in my prior life I was in the business of doing business internationally, and Latin America was one of my areas of focus. It certainly has opened a whole new market for my business. I will also talk about what free trade would do for us.

Canada has always been a trading country. As an export-driven economy, Canada needs open borders. One in five Canadian jobs is related to exports, and that includes not just the export part of it, but also the transportation and communication. The fact is, we bring business people in and we also need transportation to go abroad.

Our bilateral regional trade agreements are essential to bringing continued prosperity to Canadians. This year, we celebrated the 20th anniversary of the North American Free Trade Agreement. NAFTA has provided a solid foundation for Canada's future prosperity. Canada continues to build on North American trade and competitiveness.

Only our Conservative government understands the importance and benefits of trade. Last fall, we announced that a historic agreement had been reached with the 28-member European Union.

The Canada–EU comprehensive economic and trade agreement, or CETA, is by far the most ambitious trade initiative Canada has ever negotiated. Once implemented, it will cover virtually all sectors and aspects of Canada–EU trade, from goods and services to labour mobility, investment, procurement, including sub-national procurement, and many regulatory matters.

With CETA, Canada will gain preferential access to the world's biggest market, with more than 500 million customers and a $17 trillion GDP. The potential benefits for Canada are tremendous. A joint Canada–EU study found that CETA could boost Canada's GDP by $12 billion annually and bilateral trade by 20 percent.

While the agreement with the EU will bring important benefits for Canada and Canadian companies, it would be short-sighted to focus exclusively on one area of the world. Canada's prosperity requires expansion beyond our borders into new markets for economic opportunities that serve to grow Canada's exports and investment.

On March 11, 2014, our Prime Minister and President Park of South Korea announced the conclusion of the negotiations for a Canada–South Korea free trade agreement, Canada's first free trade agreement in the fast-growing and dynamic Asia-Pacific region.

I might also add that in 1983, I represented a Canadian company exporting Canadian mass transit equipment to South Korea. It was a pleasure, indeed, a joy for me to see that 42 kilometres of that technology developed by us is now exported by Bombardier to South Korea.

In October 2012, Canada joined the multilateral Trans-Pacific Partnership, TPP, talks and bilateral negotiations are also well under way with Japan and India. Furthermore, during his first official visit to the region, the Prime Minister announced the launch of negotiations to expand and modernize the Canada–Israel free trade agreement.

Free trade agreements are but one tool that we have. Our negotiators are very active in every corner of the world, negotiating agreements that will benefit all Canadians. Canada currently has 25 foreign investment promotion and protection agreements in force; 15 additional concluded FIPAs and 10 ongoing FIPA negotiations. We continue to explore the possibility of FIPA negotiations with other commercial partners.

Since the introduction of Canada's blue sky policy in 2006, we have concluded new or expanded existing air transport agreements that now cover over 80 countries, facilitating the movement of Canadians and Canadian goods and services, and enhancing trade and investment relationships across all sectors. Canada has also been a key architect of international trade rules at the World Trade Organization, helping to establish principles of non-discrimination, transparency, and effective dispute settlement. Canada continues to welcome progress at the WTO, an organization that advances trade liberalization around the world.

Canada was an active participant in the negotiations leading up to the Bali declaration last December. This led to a new trade facilitation agreement, an agreement that will cut red tape and reduce border transaction costs for Canadian businesses, directly benefiting Canada's small and medium-size enterprises. It is estimated that this trade facilitation agreement could stimulate the world economy by up to $1 trillion and create as many as 20 million jobs worldwide.

Canada is also an active participant in the trade in services agreement currently being negotiated with 23 other countries representing 1.6 billion people and a combined GDP of more than $48 trillion.

Our government has made it a priority to diversify our international trade negotiations agenda and place increased focus on concluding regional and bilateral free trade agreements, such as the Canada-Honduras agreement that we are discussing today.

We need to be sure than we can compete. We cannot afford to hold back while our competitors are securing international trade deals. This is precisely why bolstering Canada's commercial relations in rapidly growing markets around the world, such as Honduras, is an important part of our plan for long-term prosperity.

The issue of competitiveness is also at the heart of why we need to implement our free trade agreement with Honduras. The U.S. and the EU already have free trade agreements with Honduras. How can we give our companies an edge if we do not even ensure they are on a level playing field?

Keeping pace with Canada's main competitors is just one reason we need to move forward on this deal. Both the 2013 Speech from the Throne and the budget made it clear that the government's top priority is to create jobs, growth, and long-term prosperity for all Canadians.

As Canada is an export-driven economy, international trade is fundamental to achieving this objective. One in five jobs are related to exports. Over 40,000 Canadian companies are global exporters, including global leaders in such sectors as aerospace and information and communications technology.

The Canada-Honduras free trade agreement is part of our efforts to liberalize trade with our partners in the Americas. The Americas offer great potential. Total merchandise trade between countries in the Americas and Canada, at $56.2 billion in 2012, has increased by 32% since 2007, and Canadian direct investment in the region, at $169 billion in 2012, has increased by 58% since 2007.

Our government recognizes that protectionist restrictions stifle our exporters and undermine Canada's competitiveness, in turn adversely affecting middle-class Canadian families.

Canada's Trade Commissioner Service already works with Canadian companies that are interested in doing business in Honduras, such as Gildan Activewear, Aura Minerals, and the Canadian Bank Note Company.

Once the free trade agreement is ratified, our trade commissioners will ensure that companies, in particular small and medium-sized enterprises, are aware of how they can benefit from the agreement and fully take advantage of greater stability, transparency, and protection in the Honduran market.

In addition to opening doors for Canadian companies and building our trade relationships, Canada is also committed to supporting Honduras in other ways. Canada and Honduras established diplomatic relations in 1961 and have a broad and diverse relationship driven by a wide range of links and collaboration, from political dialogue and commercial exchanges to people-to-people ties, as well as long-standing and substantial Canadian development co-operation.

We maintain an open dialogue with the Government of Honduras, as we believe that engagement, not isolationism, is the best way for us to help Honduras meet its challenges.

Thanks to these actions under our government's free trade leadership, Canada's workers, businesses, and exporters now have preferred access and a real competitive edge in more markets around the world than at any other time in our history.

Scouts Canada March 25th, 2014

Mr. Speaker, it is an honour for me to stand today to welcome Scouts Canada and l'Association des scouts du Canada who are in Ottawa today for their day on Parliament Hill.

Scouts is one of Canada's leading youth organizations for youth aged 5 to 26, offering programs for boys and girls in towns and cities across Canada. Scouts Canada has experienced successive years of significant growth. Today, Scouts Canada is a highly diverse, co-educational organization with over 100,000 members nationwide, representing many faiths and cultures. In addition to our two official languages, Scouts also offers programming in over 19 languages, reflecting Canada's multicultural landscape.

Scouts Canada is making itself known as the premier youth-serving organization in Canada. Scouting is both a program and a lifestyle. It has a positive impact on the lives of children and youth, focusing on the integrated physical, intellectual, emotional, social, and spiritual development of the individual. With leadership training starting at age 14, Scouts Canada is developing Canada's leaders of tomorrow.

I was a Scout for eight years, involved in Scouting programs in Taiwan, Japan, Canada, and the United States. Scouting certainly has enriched my life.

I ask all parliamentarians to rise today to recognize Scouts Canada and l'Association des Scouts du Canada's service to our nation. I wish to remind members to join us at the reception today at 5:30 p.m. in room 160-S.

Citizenship and Immigration February 28th, 2014

Mr. Speaker, in the immigration file, we do have a process for adoptions to come through and these are going through a normal process and we will have the department look into it.

Winter Olympic Games February 28th, 2014

Mr. Speaker, it is also my honour to congratulate our Canadian Olympic team for their incredible success at the 2014 Winter Olympic Games in Sochi, Russia.

Canadians from coast to coast to coast have witnessed excellence and are truly inspired by the performance of all of our great athletes. This is the result of years of hard work, skill, and dedication, qualities that we all aspire to and admire. Winning 10 gold, 10 silver and 5 bronze medals, Canada has proven to be a world power on the world Olympic stage and the Canadian Olympic team has captured the spirit and joy of all Canadians. The sense of pride that we all feel as a nation is incredibly monumental.

I am especially proud of the seven Torontonian athletes, who all competed with passion and professionalism. The diversity of our Canadian Olympians is truly inspirational. In 2018, we will look forward to sending our Canadian athletes to the next winter games in Pyeongchang, South Korea. This will be the third time in Olympic history that the winter games will be held in Asia.

Once again, congratulations Team Canada.

The Budget February 13th, 2014

Mr. Speaker, I would like to thank the member for recognizing the fact that I was a successful businessman. That is very helpful. It gives my speaking here in the House some credibility.

Prior to entering politics and prior to being a successful businessman, I spent over five years in public accounting, where I had the opportunity to audit companies. I audited small corner-grocery stores all the way up to publicly listed companies and multinationals.

When we do a budget, we do not look at hypothetical income coming in or hypothetical expenses. We forecast what expenses would be. We actually forecast what income would be coming in given the economic condition. The assets are then invested behind that. In a way, it is a very measured type of activity. We consult various departments, staff, and experts who give us the input we need. We also look at the entire international environment that we are doing business in.

The member mentioned something about a contingency fund. As prudent businessmen, we always put a contingency reserve on our balance sheets to ensure that we meet our budgets. The $3 billion contingency fund has been put in precisely for that, in order to be prudent and safe and to express to Canadians that we really know what we are doing when it comes to fiscal responsibility.