House of Commons photo


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

Fighting Foreign Corruption Act June 3rd, 2013

On the contrary, Mr. Speaker, I think the member opposite is quite wrong in his consideration of what we are not doing for the environment. We have certainly expanded the Nature Conservancy of Canada's role. We have provided it with more money.

As a director of the Toronto regional conservation area, we are able to maintain many of the greenbelts around Toronto, such as the Oak Ridges Moraine, which lies just north of Toronto. We are, with the province and Parliament, protecting these.

I think we are certainly doing our work in ensuring that species at risk are being studied and that we know how to preserve them for future generations.

Fighting Foreign Corruption Act June 3rd, 2013

Mr. Speaker, what a pleasure it is to be speaking so close to the hour of midnight. I think this is probably one of the few times I have had this opportunity to speak this late at night. Let it not be said that members of Parliament do not work hard in this country. I have visited many parliaments around the world, and this is one of the finest examples of Canadian democracy at work.

Let me be the first to say the words “omnibus bill” have been bantered around. I take exception to that. I do not think omnibus bill is a bad descriptor of what we are trying to do here. However, in my consultations with the business community in my riding of Willowdale, the omnibus bill really is not what is said. We call this a comprehensive bill, a bill that looks at every single aspect of Canadian human resources, of capital resources, of intellectual resources, our natural resources and how we tie all that together to make this country work.

I will go through some small concerns I have with our bill. I appreciate the opportunity to talk today to Bill C-60. Economic action plan 2013 is a positive plan that is focused on creating jobs, promoting growth and supporting long-term prosperity.

As Canadians know, our global economic reputation is strong. Canada has earned the trust of global investors for its responsible fiscal, economic and financial sector management. Canada is alone among the G7 countries to receive the highest possible credit rating from all the major credit rating agencies, which contributes to low borrowing costs.

As a recent Toronto Sun editorial noted:

Since the Tories took over, no other G-7 country has surpassed Canada in per capita job growth. Canada has added 1.5 million net jobs since 2006. ...Canada is in good shape compared to all the other industrialized countries of the West.

The economic action plan 2013 would strengthen this record with actions in all areas that drive economic progress and prosperity by connecting Canadians with available jobs, helping manufacturers and businesses succeed in the global economy, creating a new building Canada plan, investing in world-class research and innovation, and supporting families and communities.

While it is gratifying to highlight Canada's economic strengths, we recognize that Canada still faces a challenging global economic environment. Today's legislation would help to address these concerns.

First, for instance, communities would benefit from Bill C-60 through investments that address accessibility and affordability of housing. Our government has made a firm commitment to ensuring low-income families have access to quality affordable housing. Two major Government of Canada housing initiatives are set to expire in 2014: the investment in affordable housing and the homelessness partnering strategy. Since 2008, these programs have provided significant financial support to provinces, territories and communities to increase accessibility and affordability of housing for low-income Canadians.

To ensure we continue to meet these needs, our government would renew its commitment to the investment in affordable housing and the homelessness partnering strategy with a nearly $2 billion investment. This new investment has been welcomed by many across Canada for both the amount of the investment and its length.

Indeed, here is what Habitat for Humanity Canada had to say:

The...government's renewed investment in affordable housing comes as great news for low-income families looking to buy a safe, decent and affordable Habitat home.

Toronto City Councillor Ana Bailao of ward 18, Davenport, who is the chair of the city council's affordable housing committee, commented, “We are very pleased to see (the programs) renewed, and for a five-year term, which is the longest we have ever seen”.

In addition, economic action plan 2013 proposes to support the construction of new housing units in Nunavut, which faces unique challenges in providing affordable housing due to its climate, geography and dispersed population.

Helping individuals and families obtain affordable housing and avoid homelessness creates broader economic benefits for all Canadians.

On another subject we will be protecting our environment, which brings me to my next point. Protecting the health and well-being of Canadians by promoting a clean and sustainable environment is a key priority for our government. Canada's unique natural heritage contributes to a high quality of life for Canadians today and in the future. That is why the legislation before us would provide $20 million for the Nature Conservancy of Canada to continue to conserve ecologically sensitive land.

Support for the Nature Conservancy of Canada would allow the organization to protect Canada's most important natural areas and the species they sustain by continuing to conserve ecologically sensitive land under the natural areas conservation program.

Additional funds for conservation would be leveraged by requiring each federal dollar to be matched by two dollars in new funding from other sources, creating even greater value from taxpayer dollars. It is measures like these that will significantly enhance Canada's long-term economic sustainability by supporting a healthy environment.

Before I conclude, let me touch on two more key initiatives that represent investments in our communities.

First, economic action plan 2013 would introduce a temporary first-time donor's super credit designed to encourage new donors to give to charities. The FDSC would increase the value of the federal charitable donations tax credit by 25 percentage points if neither the taxpayer nor his or her spouse has claimed the credit since 2007. The FDSC will apply on up to $1,000 in cash donations claimed in respect of any one taxation year from 2013 to 2017.

This new credit would significantly enhance the attractiveness of donating to a charity for young Canadians who are in a position to make donations for the first time. By helping to rejuvenate and expand the charitable sector's donor base, it would have an immediate impact on supporting that sector.

Second, to address the needs of Canadians with a print disability, such as an impairment of sight, today's act proposes funding of $3 million in 2013-14 for the Canadian National Institute for the Blind in support of a national digital hub. Incidentally, the Canadian National Institute for the Blind is in a riding just south of my riding.

The national office of the Canadian National Institute for the Blind is located in Toronto, but the services of the organization, including the digital hub, benefit Canadians across the country. The CNIB's national digital hub would provide improved access to library materials for Canadians who are blind or partially sighted, supporting their ongoing educational development and their quality of life. This would allow the institute to increase the number of new titles available to the print-disabled and would increase the number of end-users benefiting from the national digital hub.

Finally, I would be remiss if I closed without quickly reviewing other important initiatives in Bill C-60. They include providing funding of $3 million over three years to the Pallium Foundation of Canada to support the delivery of training in palliative care to front-line health care providers; expanding tax relief for home care services; and improving the integrity of the tax system by, for example, streamlining the process for the CRA to obtain information concerning unnamed persons from third parties, such as banks.

As I noted this evening, economic action plan 2013 contains a host of benefits for every part of the country. Through this comprehensive and ambitious plan, we will maintain and strengthen our advantages by continuing to pursue those strategies that made us so resilient in the first place: being responsible, being disciplined and being determined.

This act marks an import milestone and the next step in creating a brighter future for our country. I urge members opposite and all members of this House to get behind this legislation and get it passed so that it can do just that and put Canada in a position to meet the challenges of the 21st century.

Asian Heritage Month May 2nd, 2013

Mr. Speaker, May is Asian Heritage Month, an opportunity for all Canadians to learn about the history and contribution of Asian Canadians through celebration and festivals that include culinary and cultural exhibitions across Canada.

I am proud to say that my riding of Willowdale is home to several vibrant Asian communities that have historic roots and connections.

There are two important anniversaries this year: the 50th anniversary of diplomatic relations between Canada and the Republic of Korea, also known as South Korea; and the 60th anniversary of the Korean War armistice.

With these two important historic milestones, our Prime Minister has designated 2013 the Year of Korea in Canada. This is also the theme of this year's Asian Heritage Month.

I invite all Canadians to take part in Asian Heritage Month and reflect on the important contributions that Canadians of Asian heritage have made throughout Canadian history.

Committees of the House April 29th, 2013

Mr. Speaker, certain aspects of these interviews are contracted out, especially when we have indicated that we need to test English or French. That is done by third party sources that are probably much better at doing it. There are certain cases where actual immigration staff may not totally understand the equivalences and professional skills, whether it be medicine, architecture or engineering. Some of those may be reviewed by professionals who have been accredited to us to do the work.

Committees of the House April 29th, 2013

Mr. Speaker, the member opposite asked a good question. I applaud his commitment and enthusiasm for this file.

Let me be the first to state that the minister is one of the most responsible ministers that we have in the House. By deleting the federal skilled worker issue, he will be giving immigrants some hope that they will not have to wait in a queue for seven or more years. The minister will be allowing them to put their credentials and equivalency into a pool from which Canadian employers can draw.

Instead of sequentially picking an immigrant from maybe 240,000 applications, employers can choose from a pool of qualified immigrants. Employers will have 10 provincial and 3 territorial sources to go to. I assure the member that this will put our immigration system in a just-in-time selection process where immigrants can be processed within a year.

Committees of the House April 29th, 2013

Mr. Speaker, I thank the member opposite for his concern about family reunification. In many cultures family reunification is a key aspect of family life and the building blocks for an economy. As the grandparents are older, they look after the grandchildren. They also help to perpetuate the system of respect for one's elders by having parents live within the same household. This is certainly the case for many of the cultures of East and South Asia.

How we address this family reunification system is, as we have indicated, that because the backlog is so long in applying for permanent residency for parents or grandparents, it would be much simpler to issue them a 10-year visa for as long as their passports are valid, for which they could stay two years. That would be quite sufficient to serve the need for faster reunification. As I mentioned, there is a 85% approval rate on this file.

Committees of the House April 29th, 2013

Mr. Speaker, I appreciate the fact that the member opposite is also passionate about the whole issue of immigration.

With respect to her first question on spousal re-unification, I think that is one of the fastest streams that exists in our system. I get those questions in my riding from time to time. Usually they are resolved in the most expeditious manner.

Regarding parents and grandparents, as I indicated previously, there is a large backlog. However, having put the super visa on stream, one can apply for a super visa and come for a two-year period of stay. It is a visa issued for a period of ten years.

With respect to federal skilled workers, in the past they had to be in a sequential file. Now they go into a pool and can be drawn by ten different provinces and three different territories.

Committees of the House April 29th, 2013

Mr. Speaker, it is my pleasure to speak on the subject of immigration, as I myself transitioned in Canada from an international student to a landed immigrant to, finally, a citizen. It has been a pleasure living in this country for the last 45 years.

Our Conservative government's focus remains jobs, economic growth and long-term prosperity. Our government is taking concrete action to help unemployed and underemployed Canadians work at their full skill level and to ensure that Canadians and permanent residents are given the first chance at available jobs.

In addition to these efforts, immigration will continue to be a key part of Canada's plan to tackle labour market needs as Canada's workforce continues to age. In order to do that effectively, we could not continue with what was, quite frankly, a dysfunctional immigration system that did not work in Canada's best interests. Our government is committed to moving away from that slow and passive immigration system, with massive backlogs and lengthy wait times, to a proactive just-in-time system that brings economic immigrants to Canada, in a timely fashion, with the skills our economy needs today and will need in the future.

There are countless people across the globe who want to immigrate to Canada. If we look at the latest statistics, there are a total of seven billion people in the world. With extrapolation, we could understand that more than two billion would like to live in Canada. However, we are mindful of the fact that Canada has the capacity to settle and integrate only a limited number of people each year. That is why the government sets out an annual immigration level plan.

Since 2006, Canada has welcomed the highest sustained level of immigration in Canadian history. However, because the previous dysfunctional immigration system legally required the government to process to completion every application it received, and year after year, the number of applications received was almost double the number of admissions, massive backlogs accumulated in every immigration stream.

Some people, including both opposition parties, have advocated the simplistic option of raising immigration levels to solve this problem. They are wrong. Even raising immigration levels to 1%, which is the official policy of both the NDP and the Liberals, would have only a limited impact, and massive backlogs and long wait times would persist.

I would also point out that raising levels is out of step with the views of Canadians, including immigrants, who do not support significant increases in immigration levels. It is not because of anti-immigration sentiment, as immigrants are just as likely to hold these views as those born in Canada. It is because of practicality. People understand that there is limited capacity and funds to integrate newcomers.

The only way to actually prevent massive immigration backlogs and skyrocketing wait times is to align the number of applications with the number of admissions. Some would say, “So what if people have to wait?”

The fact is that immigration backlogs have had real and negative consequences for immigrants and for the Canadian economy. Immigrants had to put their lives on hold while they waited years for an answer. Due to outdated selection criteria, too many of them had to wait to come to Canada, only to face unemployment or underemployment. For Canadians and the Canadian economy, it meant lost productivity and acute skills shortages that were still not being filled. It also meant that Canada was losing the global competition to attract and retain the best and brightest talent from across the globe.

As we can clearly see, Canada's previous immigration system made no sense. After years of neglect from previous governments and ministers of immigration who were too afraid to make the necessary reforms, our Conservative government acted. We are aggressively pursuing transformational change to Canada's immigration system, moving toward to an immigration system that functions in the best interests of Canada's economy and also of immigrants.

As a result of these long overdue reforms, I was very proud to announce just a few weeks ago that the total immigration backlog has seen a dramatic reduction of 40%. This is major progress. It is important to understand where we were and where we were headed, compared to how far we have come as a result of the transformational changes we continue to implement.

I will give some examples. The federal skilled worker program is Canada's flagship economic immigration system. More economic immigrants came through this system than through any other system. Under the old system, by 2008, approximately 640,000 applications had accumulated in the backlog. Applicants were waiting six years for a decision. The backlog was projected to balloon to over 1.5 million, with wait times of 15 years by 2015.

Canada competes for the top talent in a globalized world. Many of our peer countries, such as Australia and New Zealand, are mindful of this and have fast and flexible immigration systems that process applications within a matter of months. You can imagine that if given the option of waiting a decade in a queue or obtaining permanent residency in a matter of months that any rational person would choose the latter. Canada was losing the competition for the best and brightest talent from around the world. To resolve this major issue, the government took the difficult but necessary step of eliminating most of the old applications in the federal skilled worker backlog.

It is very telling that this Liberal member would claim to be outraged at the idea of eliminating old federal skilled worker applications. I say that because the Liberals tried to do the exact same thing in 2003, when they were in government, but they failed, because the court ruled against their efforts. The difference is that where they were incompetent and failed, our government was successful and competent. What is even more disturbing about the hypocrisy is that the Liberal immigration critic is not aware of his own party's record on immigration. I think that is a serious cause for concern.

In addition, we temporarily paused the federal skilled worker program while we improved the outdated points system. For too long, too many immigrants were coming through the federal skilled worker program only to face unemployment or underemployment. We pored through a large volume of research, which consistently showed that language proficiency, youth and pre-arranged job offers were the most important factors associated with the economic success of immigrants.

On May 4, we will open the new FSW program with an updated points system and a requirement to have one's overseas education assessed before applying so that one has a realistic understanding of how it compares to the Canadian standard. It is what I like to call truth in advertising.

As a result of these actions, along with other important steps we have taken, beginning in 2008 with the introduction of ministerial instructions, we are well on our way to a federal skilled worker program that functions on a just-in-time basis. Today we have gone from a backlog of 640,000 to only 90,000 and from a wait time of six years headed toward 15 years to a wait time of only one year.

The backlog reduction in the federal skilled worker program clears the way for the move toward an innovative system based on what we call an expression of interest. Applicants will eventually go into a large pool of qualified immigration applicants for Canada, giving us their consent to share their applications with employers, and indeed, with provincial governments, so that those employers can come into the pool of qualified immigrant applicants and do their international labour recruitment from within that pool.

For example, if Canadian engineers start retiring in large numbers as the baby boomers retire, and an engineering firm will need 10 additional engineers next year and will be looking for engineers within a particular specialized area, it would be able to go into the system and do a query to look for the qualified prospective immigrants in that field in that pool. It would be able to look at their applications and their pre-assessed education and credentials. If it was satisfied and wanted to do its due diligence, the firm would offer that person a job. The government would then bring in that immigrant applicant on a lightning-speed basis.

We did some very interesting research that showed that immigrants who arrive with pre-arranged jobs in Canada are earning almost $80,000 in income after their third year, which is much higher than the average. This is where we want to head.

Coming with a pre-arranged job means that people get past the survival job gap and go straight into employment at their skill level. They are making good money and are paying taxes so that we can provide health care and our social programs. That is why we need a fast, flexible system. That is why we must deal decisively with these backlogs.

I am very proud of the progress we have made, thanks to the decisive action we have taken.

There is more good news. The federal skilled worker program is not the only immigration stream that has seen major progress. The second is for parents and grandparents. In addition to addressing labour market needs, Canada's immigration system also facilitates family re-unification. Over the years, the parent and grandparent program experienced a growing number of applications to the point where the backlog grew to over 160,000 applications and a wait time of eight years. I think we can all agree that this was unfair to applicants and their families.

What actions have we taken? This is the reason we have introduced the action plan for faster family re-unification. By admitting the highest number of parents and grandparents in 20 years over 2012 and 2013, while placing a temporary pause on the program, we have seen a dramatic reduction of 50% in the backlog.

In addition, the new super visa allows parents and grandparents, many who do not want permanent residence but want to spend an extended period of time with their children and grandchildren, to visit Canada for two years at a time over a 10-year period. Over 1,000 super visas are issued every month. The approval rate is high at over 85%. In fact, had we not acted in 2011, the wait times would have grown to 250,000, with a 15-year wait time, by 2015.

Yet the opposition parties have opposed improvements to the parent and grandparent program. Both the NDP and the Liberals have committed to returning to the pre-2011 program.

We need to avoid going back to the old system of ballooning backlogs and skyrocketing wait times. We have spent the last year consulting with Canadians on a new parent and grandparent program, which will be unveiled later this year. It is important that the new program be sustainable, and most importantly, that it avoids backlogs in the future.

The options could not be clearer: people can wait 15 years to be reunited with parents or wait two years or less. The parties advocating for unlimited applications are not supporting family re-unification. Exactly the opposite is true. Lengthy wait times keep families apart.

There has also been significant progress in reducing the backlog in business class. The backlog had increased to over 100,000, with a wait time of almost a decade. It would have grown to over 250,000, with an astonishing 20-year wait time, by 2015.

By pausing applications for the investor and entrepreneur programs, we have managed to reduce the backlogs and the wait times slightly. While the program remains paused, we are working on a new program that will move from a passive program with no actual long-term investment to a program that reflects demand and requires active investment and job creation in Canada.

There are obviously more streams where progress has been made and some in which progress has not been made. However, the pattern is the same. In programs where we have taken action to better align the number of applications with the number of admissions, backlogs have gone down, and wait times have decreased.

In conclusion, to maintain Canada's tradition of openness and generosity, we must ensure that our immigration system functions so as to best support our national interests and our country's long-term economic prosperity. That is why our government has initiated a series of transformational changes that enhance Canada's economic immigration system and allow us to keep pace with our country's evolving needs.

Our new and improved immigration system would help ensure Canada's long-term economic prosperity by allowing us to select the skilled immigrants our country needs and the ones who are the most likely to succeed when they get here. This would ensure that newcomers are able to contribute their full potential, help alleviate labour shortages and grow Canada's economy.

Our ultimate goal is a just-in-time immigration system that recruits people with the right skills to meet Canada's labour market needs, fast-tracks their applications and gets them working in a period of months, not years. To get there, we have taken clear and decisive action to dramatically reduce backlogs. However, we still have work to do in that area as we strive to attain our goal of having a fast and nimble immigration system.

We want to bring highly skilled newcomers into the Canadian workforce more quickly so that they can help fuel our economic growth and fully contribute to our nation's productivity. We have made tremendous progress toward this goal over the past year, and we will continue to build our achievements in the months and years to come.

Business of Supply April 18th, 2013

Mr. Speaker, any company that works on Canadian soil will have to adhere to Canadian rights, regardless of whether they are environmental, labour, tax legislation, or exploration. This is precisely the reason we need to have an agreement whereby we have an understanding of how to do business with each other.

Business of Supply April 18th, 2013

Mr. Speaker, these are national agreements between two states.

If we look at Canada as being corporate Canada, the Conservatives are looking after the best interests of corporate Canada. We are ensuring that we want to do business for the long term to ensure that there is long-term prosperity for Canada as a nation. In order to do that we need to put in place the mechanism for us to resolve disputes, the mechanism for us to pay each other on time, and the mechanism for us to meet the same standards. These are the mechanisms we need to put in so that private businesses can get on with their own business.

When I was working in China in the early 1980s, these mechanisms did not exist. Every deal had to be negotiated individually, including 200 to 300 pages of contracts. Unfortunately, at that time China did not have the mirror image of the legislation.

What we are putting in place gets both countries to a level playing field.