House of Commons photo


Crucial Fact

  • His favourite word was military.

Last in Parliament October 2015, as Conservative MP for Pickering—Scarborough East (Ontario)

Lost his last election, in 2015, with 38% of the vote.

Statements in the House

Afghanistan Memorial Vigil October 29th, 2014

Mr. Speaker, Canada's mission in Afghanistan is an important part of our military heritage. More than 40,000 members of the Canadian Armed Forces deployed to Afghanistan, making it Canada's largest military deployment since the Second World War.

The Afghanistan Memorial Vigil remembers and honours those who have fallen in Afghanistan. It also acknowledges the bravery and dedication of all members of our armed forces.

The Vigil displays 192 plaques that were formerly part of the Kandahar Air Field cenotaph. This cenotaph was a memorial structure for Canadian soldiers to commemorate their fallen comrades.

The plaques represent 158 Canadian Armed Forces personnel, a Canadian diplomat, a DND contractor, a Canadian journalist and more than 40 U.S. armed forces members who were under Canadian command during operations in Afghanistan.

Since the National Day of Honour, the Afghanistan Memorial Vigil has travelled across Canada and to our embassy in the United States. It will soon arrive in Ottawa during Remembrance Week and will be open to the public in the Hall of Honour.

I encourage Canadians to come and pay their respects to our nation's fallen heroes.

Interparliamentary Delegations October 27th, 2014

Mr. Speaker, pursuant to Standing Order 34(1), I have the honour to present to the House, in both official languages, the report of the Canadian delegation of the Canada-Europe Parliamentary Association respecting its participation at the third part of the 2014 ordinary session of the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe, held in Strasbourg, France, June 23 to 27, 2014.

Business of Supply October 21st, 2014

Mr. Speaker, we demonstrated a very quick international response to the Ebola outbreak. Domestically, we are quite prepared to face an eventual outbreak of Ebola.

At the border, Canada has adopted additional scrutiny for passengers who have been in affected countries in Africa. All international points of entry into Canada are routinely monitored 24-7. Travellers from affected countries are referred to quarantine officers. Health assessments and temperature checks can implement measures under the Quarantine Act. There are no direct flights from affected countries in Africa.

The Public Health Agency and the department of foreign affairs recommend against all non-essential travel to Guinea, Liberia, and Sierra Leone. Canadians in affected countries should consider leaving while commercial flights remain available.

Business of Supply October 21st, 2014

Mr. Speaker, when an honorary consul is asking something, if it is not coming from a government official, there may not be an answer.

Second, when we talk about the experiments with the vaccine, which are taking months, we demonstrated that we sent the vaccines at the request of the World Health Organization as soon as it requested them. There are 800 vials in the WHO's possession. It will be an issue that will depend on the World Health Organization.

Business of Supply October 21st, 2014

Mr. Speaker, referring to the process of auctioning of the equipment, this routine process was stopped once the WHO request was made.

The government offered to donate 1.5 million gloves, 2 million masks, and 1.2 million isolation gowns. The first two shipments, including 128,000 face shields, is already delivered in part by our RCAF Hercules aircraft. With the remaining equipment, which will be delivered in the coming days and weeks, priority is being given to what the World Health Organization is requesting.

Business of Supply October 21st, 2014

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to rise in the House today to speak on the ongoing outbreak of Ebola in West Africa. I would like to focus my remarks on highlighting the work done by our scientists in developing the Canadian experimental Ebola vaccine.

As my colleagues will know, on August 12, the Minister of Health announced that we would be donating up to 1,000 vials of this experimental Ebola vaccine to the World Health Organization. This vaccine was created in Canada by researchers at the Public Health Agency of Canada's National Microbiology Laboratory. This vaccine has never been tested in humans, but has shown strong promise in animal research. It is a result of years of hard work and innovation by Canadian scientists to improve global public health and security.

The Public Health Agency of Canada has been prepared to send the experimental vaccine for some time now. I am very pleased to hear that the World Health Organization finally signalled that it was ready to receive it, and vials began being shipped yesterday to Geneva. The WHO, in consultation with partners, including the health authorities from affected countries, will determine how the vaccine will be distributed and used.

I would like to share some information on the development of the Ebola vaccine at the Public Health Agency's National Microbiology Laboratory.

The agency's National Microbiology Laboratory officially opened in 1999. It is one of the few facilities in the world and the only one in Canada that has the capacity to accommodate and research the most basic to the most deadly infectious organisms at the highest level of biocontainment. It is a world-class laboratory with a mission to advance human health through laboratory leadership, scientific excellence, and public health innovation.

Before the opening of the facility, not a single researcher in Canada had the ability to work on hemorrhagic fever viruses such as Ebola. A potential case of Ebola in a patient could not even be diagnosed in Canada prior to 1999. Canada was entirely reliant on the Centers for Disease Control in the United States. It speaks to Canadian innovation that within three short years of the facility's opening its doors, researchers at the National Microbiology Laboratory had already developed the foundation of what would become the experimental Ebola vaccine.

Through continuous research and experiments that spanned a decade, scientists at the facility perfected a vaccine that has been effective in protecting non-human primates from the deadly Ebola virus. The particular species of Ebola for which the vaccine was developed, Zaire Ebola virus, is considered one of the most aggressive infectious agents, capable of causing death in up to 90% of humans and non-human primates.

For over a decade, at a time when Ebola outbreaks were only sporadic and quickly controlled, Canadian researchers continued their important work to find ways to fight and protect against this virus, knowing the potential for this deadly disease to spread. They recognized that although Ebola is not indigenous to Canada, international travel provided the opportunity for the transport and introduction of this disease into countries outside Africa through an infected individual.

They also realized the potential for the Ebola virus to be used as a biological weapon and worked closely with other government departments to ensure that Canada was prepared.

Their research also had a much broader goal. They believed that the novel technologies and methods used to create treatments and vaccines against aggressive viruses such as Ebola could potentially be applied to less intimidating pathogens. This belief still holds true today. The cascading effects of Ebola research at the agency's National Microbiology Laboratory may soon lead to a universal flu vaccine, may help Canada stop the next pandemic, and could directly contribute to and help shape the future development of better therapeutics to fight a range of new and emerging pathogens.

This is the reality of the important work being done in Canada. It truly exemplifies the world-class research conducted by agency scientists.

The Ebola vaccine was a Canadian discovery, with ongoing support from the Government of Canada over the last 15 years. Through considerable funding for this cutting-edge and innovative special pathogens research program, Canada can now, more than ever, stand proud as an international leader in the field of infectious disease research. Since 2007, well over $5 million has been specifically invested to help agency researchers find vaccines and treatments against Ebola as well as some other very dangerous organisms.

I am proud to say that thanks to this funding, Canada has developed vaccines and treatments for a range of hemorrhagic fever viruses. In addition to this promising vaccine, Canada created and tested the ZMapp Ebola treatment. This post-exposure treatment has a very good survival rate in non-human primates. The treatment uses a unique regimen of multiple doses of antibodies designed and engineered to find, attach to, and effectively cut the Ebola virus, preventing the virus from reproducing and multiplying in the body. It has no side effects.

It is believed that the ZMapp treatment was directly responsible for saving the lives of some front-line workers who became infected with the Ebola virus in West Africa. This is an important example of work being done in Government of Canada laboratories that has led to the saving of lives. It is a proud moment for all Canadians.

In addition to the Ebola vaccine and treatment, the agency's National Microbiology Laboratory has developed vaccines that have been shown to be 100% effective at protecting against the Marburg virus and the Lassa virus. These viruses can be deadly and have no known cure.

The threat of these viruses entering the country is real. It is because of the hard work and dedication of so many, through innovation, vision, and scientific tenacity, that I can proudly say that our country is prepared and ready should a hemorrhagic fever virus enter Canada.

There are no confirmed cases of Ebola in Canada, but Canada must be prepared for a case to come here. While provincial and local health officials are the lead on any Ebola case in Canada, the Public Health Agency of Canada stands ready to assist.

The work to develop a vaccine or treatment is not done in isolation. Discoveries of this magnitude require collaboration throughout government departments, investment by private industry, and, importantly, international partnerships. This vaccine is an example of what can go right when scientific knowledge is shared across borders, when important additional funding is made available through a variety of specialized grants, and when private industry is brought up to help further the work of Canadian scientists.

While multiple organizations assisted in some aspects of the development of the vaccines, I would like to highlight that the intellectual property rights for this vaccine belong to the Government of Canada. I can assure the House that the Public Health Agency is in regular contact with the licensee of the vaccine and with multiple international partners, including the WHO, to provide guidance and advice on ways to advance the clinical trials and facilitate the production of Ebola therapeutics.

Phase I clinical trials for these vaccines were launched on October 13 at the Walter Reed Army Institute in Silver Spring, Maryland. Canada has supplied 20 vials of the experimental vaccine for use in these trials. We have confidence in this vaccine, but we must remember that it is an experimental vaccine and that phase I clinical trials are important to assess the overall safety of the vaccine in humans and to determine the appropriate dosage. Outcomes of these phase I trials are expected in December.

Canada is an important contributor to the fight against Ebola in West Africa. This is in no small part due to the researchers at the agency's National Microbiology Laboratory, who have devoted their work to find cures and treatments for those who so desperately need it.

I would end my remarks by echoing the parliamentary secretary's remarks that while the motion before the House is commendable in recognizing the devastation wrought by this Ebola outbreak, it is imperative that we as parliamentarians allow our public health officials and ministers the flexibility necessary to focus their efforts on addressing this outbreak.

To that end, I move, seconded by the member for Don Valley West, that the motion be amended by replacing the words “appear before” with the words “report either in writing or in person to”.

Assaults Against Public Transit Operators October 10th, 2014

Mr. Speaker, I want to thank my hon. colleagues for their support of this bill. Let us continue to work together to make this bill law as soon as possible, following the procedures of the House.

Again, I am thankful for the great support for the bill. Let us make the men and women working in public transit safe, as they deserve to be.

Assaults Against Public Transit Operators October 10th, 2014

Mr. Speaker, I mentioned there were several bills that unfortunately did not pass for various other reasons. However, Bill S-221 would make it an aggravating factor for the purposes of sentencing if the victim of an assault were a public transit operator.

How would this bill accomplish this? The bill would add subsection 269.01 to subsection 269 of the Criminal Code, which would state that when a court imposed a sentence for an offence referred to in any of sections 266 to 269, common assault, assault with a weapon, aggravated assault and assault causing bodily harm, it shall consider as an aggravating circumstance the fact that the victim of the offence was, at the time of the commission of the offence, a public transit operator engaged in the performance of his or her duty and shall give primary consideration to the objectives of the legislation and the tenets of the conduct that formed the basis of the offence.

This bill concentrates on one of the sections of the Criminal Code that deals with aggravated assaults. Therefore, it has a certain purpose, and that is to provide clarity in the Criminal Code.

Assaults Against Public Transit Operators October 10th, 2014

Mr. Speaker, the legislation would ensure that the sentence would be appropriate to the crime. That is important. The legislation would also act as a deterrent against committing crimes, as people would think twice before committing a crime for which there would be an appropriate sentence.

Assaults Against Public Transit Operators October 10th, 2014

moved that Bill S-221, An Act to amend the Criminal Code (assaults against public transit operators), be read the second time and referred to a committee.

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to join the debate today and to speak in strong support of Bill S-221, a bill that seeks to acknowledge, through explicit sentencing principles, the harm caused when public transit operators acting in the course of their duties experience violence.

I urge all members to vote collaboratively to ensure that the bill is passed into law as quickly as possible.

I would like to start by first thanking Senator Runciman for his diligent work on this file in the other place. I would also like to mention the work of the member for Leeds—Grenville in this matter.

Transit operators play an absolutely critical role in the lives of our citizens and our communities all over Canada. Nowhere is this more apparent than in our major cities, where public transit is relied upon to transport millions of passengers every day.

It would be no exaggeration to say that without the people who drive our buses, trains, subways, trams, and taxis every day, our economy and our communities would be in peril.

A 2010 report prepared by the Canadian Urban Transit Association, entitled “The Economic Impact of Transit Investment: A National Survey”, offers the following key findings: transit reduces vehicle operating costs for Canadian households by approximately $5 billion annually, and it reduces vehicle accident costs by $2.4 billion annually.

We need to ensure that the transit system operates effectively, that people feel safe when they use the transit system, and that those operating our public transit feel assured that if they are victimized on the job through acts of violence, the criminal justice system will effectively respond to such violence.

At present, there is no specific offence or aggravating factor in the Criminal Code that uniquely targets acts of violence committed against public transit operators. The proposed bill would amend the Criminal Code to create a new aggravating factor for the sentencing of offenders convicted of uttering threats, any of the three assault offences, and unlawfully causing bodily harm to transit operators.

This would send a strong message that Parliament believes that such crimes must be treated more seriously because of the fact that those victimized are vulnerable, given the role they occupy, and because of the potential for broader harm to passengers and the public.

The amendments align with the preventative purpose of criminal law. That is, the bill proposes a criminal law response that seeks to prevent harm from occurring in the first place by deterring the commission of such crimes through explicit sentencing principles. It further responds to acts of criminality that can have a significant effect not only on the individual victim but more broadly on the safety of the general public.

These amendments would make Canada's criminal law approach to violence against public transit operators comparable to the approach taken in other jurisdictions, including a number of U.S. states and Australia's New South Wales. While the approach taken is not identical in all cases, these jurisdictions have all taken steps to explicitly address violence committed against transit operators.

More serious incidents of violence toward transit workers are occurring across the country. Every day, transit operators face the real risk of being assaulted on the job. Their physical exposure and frequent customer interactions leave them vulnerable to being molested, struck, or spat on and to becoming the targets of verbal abuse, threats, and thrown objects.

Transit operators, due to the nature of their work and their inherent inability to defend themselves against aggressive acts while carrying out their duties, face a number of unusual and unpredictable threats in their workplace that most Canadians do not.

Transit operators face most of the known risk factors for workplace violence: interacting directly with the public, working alone or in isolated areas, having a mobile workplace, working late at night or early in the morning, providing services to people who may be experiencing frustration, having a workplace where access is uncontrolled, handling monies or fares, and having inadequate escape routes. Relying on this, transit workers are at higher risk for violence than are workers in many other occupations.

Members need not solely listen to me to understand why we are singling out public transit operators in this bill. Let us hear testimonials from people directly involved in this matter.

On June 12, 2014, the Senate Standing Committee on Legal and Constitutional Affairs heard from Neil Dubord, the chief of the Metro Vancouver Transit Police. In his own words, he explained why public transit operators need to be granted additional protection by the law. He said:

Public transit is differentiated from other occupations by the very nature that they serve a broad spectrum of customers including the working poor, homeless, addicted and those suffering from mental illness. As with other occupations, the opportunity for operators to disengage and extricate themselves from potentially violent situations does not exist. They cannot walk away or withdraw from the incident because they are locked in the driver's seat and operating a large vehicle. A pilot would never allow a passenger to freely walk into the cockpit of a plane.... Public transit operators do not have the luxury of restricting access; their occupation is unique and the hazards they face are not experienced by other occupations. This is why they require the protection of Bill S-221.

Passing Bill S-221 would provide Canadian public transit operators and taxi drivers with an extra legal safeguard to deter assaults committed against them.

My riding of Pickering—Scarborough East contains two separate municipalities and, in turn, two separate transit authorities, Durham Region Transit and the Toronto Transit Commission.

In the area serviced by Durham Region Transit, there were four relevant instances of assault on transit operators in 2013 alone. The TTC states that there is an assault on a public transit operator in their system at least once a day.

For example, on July 20, 2011, a woman boarded a TTC bus and became involved in a fare dispute. She proceeded to hurl racial slurs at the TTC employee. The situation quickly escalated, and the woman pepper-sprayed not only the bus driver but three passengers who bravely came to the aid of the victim. Her penalty? Forty-six days of jail time for four charges of assault with a weapon.

As horrible as such cases are, they pale in comparison to the ordeals that other public transit operators have had to endure across the nation. A bus driver in the Maritimes received 14 stab wounds to his face, neck, and arm. He lost over half of his blood and nearly died in the process, all because he would not deviate from his route. In Edmonton, a driver was hospitalized in intensive care after he was subjected to a vicious and unprovoked beating from a passenger. The list goes on and on, and tragically, it lengthens each and every day.

These attacks not only take a personal toll on the victims but can also have a significant financial impact on the transit systems in terms of lost work hours, medical claims, employee absenteeism, and lawsuits.

According to the Canadian Urban Transit Association, there were 2,061 reported assaults in 2011. That is over five reported instances of assault a day across this country.

StatsCan reports that the average public transit operator is more than four and a half times more likely to be assaulted while operating their vehicle than the average person walking on the street.

Of course, the need for quick passage of the bill is not based merely on the fact that public transit operators are more likely to get assaulted; quick passage is also needed because of the consequences of the assault on the public in both the immediate and long term.

Public vehicles are, by their very nature, transporting members from the public. An assault on a public transit operator can happen quite literally at any time, whether it is in a school zone, on a highway, in a side street, or parked at a station. The transit operator is tasked with an incredible amount of responsibility for the individuals that they are servicing.

Should an assault happen while an operator is driving their vehicle, we suddenly have not only the driver at risk of serious injury but every other person on the bus as well. In addition to the passengers, every single pedestrian, cyclist, and driver in the immediate vicinity also becomes a potential victim.

While being physically assaulted is of course horrendous, being witness to such a destructive act can have its own effect. Members of the general public using transit need to be reassured that their safety is protected at all times, and the best way to do that on our transit systems is to protect our operators. Every single Canadian should have a right to both be safe and feel safe at work.

I appreciate the hard work that many associations and organizations such as the Canadian Urban Transit Authority and the Amalgamated Transit Union are doing in committing themselves to making sure that the workplace of public transit operators is as secure as possible.

In addition to shaking the confidence of the general public, assaults on public transit operators have a more direct effect on the industry, namely in the recruitment and retention of competent operators.

Bill S-221 is intended to serve as a deterrent to violent acts against public transit service operators and to increase overall safety on public transit. Having legislation like Bill S-221 in place would give judges the grounds to hand down harsher sentences than if the victim were not a transit operator or a taxi driver.

If I may, I would like to briefly touch on the reasoning behind including licensed taxi drivers in this bill. Much like the assault of a bus driver poses an immediate threat not only to the driver but to his passengers and the people around them, so too does the assault of a taxi cab driver. The similarities do not end there. Cabbies often find themselves working alone at late hours, dealing with fares, being restricted in their seats, having a mobile workplace, etcetera. That much is very straightforward.

The need to include taxi drivers is only emphasized when we look at the staggering rates of violence against this group of individuals. From 1997 to 2011, the homicide rate for taxi drivers was 3.2 per population of 100,000. In that 15-year period, 23 taxi drivers were murdered in cold blood. Unfortunately, we do not have official statistics on assaults on cab drivers, but one can only shudder when thinking about how high they must be.

The very last point I would like to speak to concerns a recent court decision here in Ottawa. I feel that it perfectly illustrates the actual issue Bill S-221 would address.

A man was charged and pleaded guilty to assaulting a bus driver. The crown requested that the judge consider the fact that the victim was a bus driver in rendering the sentence. When handing down his decision, the judge said:

Does his status as a bus driver alter the severity of the sentence I am to impose? I do not believe the law supports the notion that bus driver assaults per se attract higher sentences than other assaults....

That bus drivers are exposed to the risk of assault is supported not only by periodic media reports of driver assaults but by common sense. Bus drivers encounter thousands of individuals during their work, many of them impaired or simply intent on mischief...

While all of this is true, I am aware of no settled body of authority holding that an assault on a bus driver is per se more serious than assaults on anyone else who has the misfortune of being victimized, and no authority was advanced by the Crown. To be sure, the Criminal Code of Canada does contain principles aggravating the seriousness of an offence for vulnerable groups including those prone to hate-based abuse, the mental or physically disabled, children, and those who the offender owes a duty of trust to. Bus drivers are not, however, enumerated.

This is not the first time we have debated criminal law reform to address this reprehensible activity. There have been several private members' bills on the subject, from members from all political parties, but unfortunately, they were not passed.

Support for this bill extends far and wide. Transit unions, transit police, bus and taxi drivers, the Ottawa Transit Commission , the TTC, and many others have spoken in strong support of this bill. We now have the opportunity with Bill S-221 to work together and unanimously pass into law meaningful changes that will appropriately address the violence committed against transit operators.

We owe it to these hard-working men and women to ensure that the law properly responds to the harm they experience. Bill S-221 would assist in this regard, and I strongly support the bill.