House of Commons photo


Crucial Fact

  • His favourite word was may.

Last in Parliament March 2011, as Liberal MP for Scarborough—Rouge River (Ontario)

Won his last election, in 2008, with 59% of the vote.

Statements in the House

Privilege March 12th, 1996

Mr. Speaker, as many of my colleagues on all sides of the House have done, we had taken note of the action of the member opposite at about the time of the referendum.

I want to make two or three points that I think might be helpful to you, Mr. Speaker. First, we have already made an attempt to distinguish the functions of the House of Commons from the functions of the ordinary courts of law. Most of the material facts lying in the background I would have thought would have been disposed of by those public authorities whose job it is to look at these things.

In dealing with the background facts one notes that it is an arguable counselling of a member of the armed forces which has taken place contrary to the National Defence Act. One notes that it is arguably a seditious act which has taken place, being a subversion of the federal sovereignty tending to public disorder or a disorder. It is arguable that that outcome could have occurred.

One fact should be taken note of, and I am responding to the remarks of the House leader of the Bloc Quebecois. It was fairly clear to me as a member of Parliament that in the event there had been a majority yes vote in the province of Quebec, that would not by itself have created the Quebec national sovereignty that has been discussed here. Even in the statute, as I understand it, in the province of Quebec there was a significant material lag time between the result of a referendum and any decision on sovereignty or secession.

The leader of the Bloc Quebecois has attempted to describe what his colleague has done as some kind of a quasi-job creation program for orphaned members of the Canadian Armed Forces. I suggest that as a respectful member I cannot accept that and I respectfully suggest that you, Mr. Speaker, should not either.

I believe there has been a substantial lapse of time involved. In addition to the reasons put forward by the member moving the motion, the House was prorogued for a period of time and adjourned for a period of time. There was also a period of time when the public authorities that I mentioned earlier were looking at this with reference to the Criminal Code and the National Defence Act. They, in their good judgment, have decided not to proceed to deal with those background underlying facts by laying any charges.

At the end of the day you, Mr. Speaker, are being asked to take note of the actions of a member who has used the House of Commons facilities and stationery in taking action which may bring the House into disrepute and may involve the House in some prima facie illegality either in relation to the Criminal Code or to the National Defence Act.

Mr. Speaker, it is not an easy decision for you. I go back to my opening remarks when I said that I tend to believe this is a matter that should be dealt with, for the most part, by the ordinary courts and not by the court of Parliament.

Foreign Affairs March 11th, 1996

Mr. Speaker, my question is for the Minister of Foreign Affairs.

Following the minister's statements in the House last week, China, which is a permanent member of the security council, fired three M-9 guided missiles which struck within 30 to 40 kilometres of the island of Taiwan. In light of these actions by China with whom we normally have good relations, can the minister assure the House that Canada condemns this unprovoked act of intimidation against Taiwan and that the peace and security in this region, an important one for Canada, will not be allowed to deteriorate further?

Foreign Affairs March 7th, 1996

Mr. Speaker, my question is for the Minister of Foreign Affairs.

In the last few weeks China has taken a number of actions, including military exercises along the coast of the island of Taiwan, involving about 150,000 troops, all in an attempt to influence the outcome of the Taiwanese elections.

Given the need to maintain stability in this important economic region and Canada's act of international support of democratic processes, can the minister tell the House the government's position on these events and what it will do to ensure that peace will prevail in this region?

The Budget March 7th, 1996

Madam Speaker, I was looking at some economic statistics, some of which were in the budget, which indicate that in the first quarter of this year we have for the first time in some 23 years begun to turn the curve on the debt to GDP ratio.

The opposition may not believe that. It comes from the University of Toronto's policy analysis group. It is a major change in direction.

On a national accounts basis our cash borrowing needs for the year 1998 will be zero. That is a computer projection for the year 1998. That basically says we will not have to borrow any new money to finance the deficit.

I wonder whether the parliamentary secretary can confirm for us that our budget projections and the direction which the minister has taken in the budget will bring us to those computer projected goals.

Petitions December 11th, 1995

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to present a petition, certified by the House and signed by 163 residents of Scarborough and east metro Toronto.

The petitioners call on the government to reconsider the national security certificate issued jointly by the Minister of Citizenship and Immigration and the Solicitor General of Canada in relation to Mr. Manicavasagam Suresh. This proceeding has caused concern among Tamil Canadians.

Malvern Remedial Project December 7th, 1995

Mr. Speaker, this week in my riding of Scarborough-Rouge River we are completing the last of the work on the Malvern Remedial Project.

This is an initiative to restore a residential area where soil had been contaminated by low level radioactive material dumped during the second world war. Although the problem was discovered in 1980, it has taken 15 years for all levels of government and the community to achieve their goal of removing the contaminants and restoring this neighbourhood of family homes.

We want to recognize and thank the Minister of Natural Resources and the leadership of her officials, the province of Ontario for sharing the cost and purchasing the real estate required, AECL for its expertise, the city of Scarborough, the local advisory committee chaired by Mr. John Brickenden, elected representatives at the municipal, regional and provincial assemblies and, last but not least, the Ontario and Canadian taxpayers who underwrote the costs.

The Malvern/McLure neighbourhood says thank you for this successful initiative. We hope the Malvern Remedial Project can be a successful example of community and government working together to correct environmental mistakes of the past.

Members Of Parliament November 24th, 1995

Mr. Speaker, as we wrap up debate on this motion I would like to thank all members for their interventions.

I confirm that the intent of the motion is not to open up closed door hearings completely and not to disclose confidences of witnesses and parties to hearings. It is not to embarrass anyone. It is to facilitate the work which we all do as MPs from time to time. It is to ensure that in the future our legislation is sensitive to and cognizant of the need of members of Parliament to have access to these tribunals, to view them in operation, to see the appointees do their work and to ensure that there is fairness and efficacy in our federal system of government.

Members Of Parliament November 24th, 1995


That, in the opinion of this House, the Parliament should adopt specific measures to enable and ensure access by members of Parliament to all judicial, quasi-judicial and administrative hearings held under the provisions of the Immigration Act, the Young Offenders Act and the Corrections and Conditional Release Act.

Mr. Speaker, the motion exhorts the government to put in place measures that would allow members of Parliament access to what are now closed door procedures under three separate federal statutes. The exhortation is for access, not a procedure for making submissions or representations. It is merely for access, presence or entry into procedures which deal with the rights and liberties of Canadians behind closed doors.

I have three short anecdotes gained from my several years of experience as a member of Parliament where, as have all of us in the House, I confronted barriers to access for members of Parliament when fulfilling our duties.

The first anecdote has to do with an Immigration Act refugee hearing about five years ago. Someone came to me to ask for my assistance in gaining a visitor visa for a brother. I did what I could. In the end after two or three interventions and a lot of work a visa was issued. The brother came and in complete disregard of all that had happened and the good faith of the family, he made an application for refugee status. I knew the man was a liar. I also knew he had put forth false information. I knew that the applicant would be presenting that false information at a refugee hearing.

Therefore I followed it very closely, particularly because what had happened was an abuse of my office and collectively involved the offices of all members of Parliament. I owed a duty to my constituents and to Canadians to make sure that my MPs office was not abused.

I went to the hearing where to my surprise I found that it was a closed door hearing and I could not be admitted. As things turned out, the hearing was adjourned. I made an application for access and it was granted. I was allowed to be present at the hearing but in

the end I did not have to present evidence. The application was denied and the man was deported. Under a federal statute a hearing can take place and under a law enacted by the House MPs do not have access. That case worked out reasonably well but it caused me concern.

There were two subsequent cases, one involving the prosecution of a young offender charged with murder under the Criminal Code. In that case I did not need to have access at the time, but I did take note of the provisions of the Young Offenders Act that can exclude individuals or groups from young offender hearings. A little light went on and I thought it was not healthy to have a statute enacted by the House excluding members of Parliament not specifically but generically. That was another case.

A third case involved parole hearings. Under current legislation there is no provision for access by any of the public to those hearings. In one particular Parole Act statute, and I do not know when it was repealed, MPs and senators were given access to parole hearings. Under the current Corrections and Conditional Release Act there is the absence of any provision to provide access to MPs or to allow the public access to those hearings.

I was at the Warkworth Institution about four years ago and had the benefit of attending a hearing, thanks to the decision of an inmate and his solicitor. It was useful to walk through the process at the time. There is hardly a member of Parliament in this place who will not be called upon at some point in his or her career to address issues involving hearings under the three statutes. My motion raises the issue for consideration by the House.

We are accountable to our constituents for the effectiveness and fairness of every procedure under all federal statutes. We are responsible to ensure the collective rights and liberties of our constituents are protected and are not abused by the procedures. We enact the laws and we are accountable to our constituents for them.

We are legislators but as history has evolved members of Parliament are also ombudsmen. That second role means that we must have as much access and freedom as an ombudsman in any provincial government, in any municipal government or at the federal government level. At the moment in the three federal statutes there are barriers to that access.

To the extent that MPs are unable to access the procedures, we run the risk of impairing our role as ombudsmen. The purpose of the motion is to get us all thinking a bit about our roles in particular under the three statutes. We must consider what we do when we enact statutes in the House and roll back to some degree the present barriers.

For the sake of the record I will cite the sections of the three statutes. In the Young Offenders Act it is subsection 39(1) and subsection 39(3). In the Corrections and Conditional Release Act it is subsection 140(5). In the Immigration Act it is subsection 69(2).

I wish to make a few comments about how the role of members of Parliament has evolved over the years. I have mentioned the legislator role and the ombudsman role. Parliament has evolved over the years, but in terms of the newer role of ombudsman it has not evolved sufficiently. Our ombudsman role is carried out in part based on the privileges of members of Parliament which are fairly well articulated, constrained and referred to directly and indirectly in the Constitution, in the Parliament of Canada Act and in the common law handed down to us when Parliament was created 128 years ago.

I do not have to go over them but I will point out that in every session of Parliament it is important for MPs to resubmit our request to the Sovereign for confirmation of our privileges in the House of Commons. The words read somewhat archaically but in a real way:

We humbly claim all of our undoubted rights and privileges especially that they may have the freedom of speech in their debates, access to Your Excellency's person at all seasonable times, and that their proceedings may receive from Your Excellency the most favourable construction.

As obscure as some of those words are, they are the request for the body of privileges and rights we collectively have in the House of Commons. We need them for the most important modern roles we have as members of Parliament, legislators and ombudsmen.

I was somewhat shocked about two months ago to read a legal opinion submitted to a committee by a body created by the House for the purpose of assuring Parliament and Canadians of the rights and liberties of Canadians in a particular field. The opinion was essentially that the body appointed by a statute enacted in Parliament did not have the obligation to answer questions put to it by members of Parliament at committee. It is a very serious issue for members of Parliament and has been for hundreds of years.

The legal opinion appeared to me to be completely ignorant of parliamentary law, which as I stated earlier is part of the Constitution. It verged on being contemptuous of parliamentary law. I simply put that on the shelf and say that hopefully there will be more on the issues of privilege and disclosure to parliamentarians in the new year.

There are two ways to address our role as ombudsmen. First, we could expand our privileges. Some of us believe that is not a great way to go, that there are more effective ways of addressing the problems. However we need to ensure our rights and privileges are vital, responsive and evergreen in what we need to do in our job as members of Parliament. Second, we can be vigilant when enacting

legislation to ensure that our role as MPs is not impaired in connection with procedures under the statutes. The motion before us today is attempting to roll back barriers that we have placed in the statutes.

Canadians want to know that their MPs are equipped, fully aware and conversant to deal with all of the procedures under federal statutes. We enacted them, so we had better know what is going on under those procedures. In order to know fully what is going on on behalf of our constituents, I say that access is fundamental.

When I say access I am not saying that we have to change the procedures to allow MPs to make representations, submissions, arguments, and get involved in the process; I am simply saying access. We should not close the door to ourselves in fulfilling our work as MPs.

I ask my colleagues, the officials of government, and the ministers to take note of this important issue.

I will not close without putting on the record what should be to all of us in this place self-evident. In our system of government the ministers sit in the House. They have burdensome responsibilities. I am sure they live 26-hour days. However, in doing their work they would be more likely to be ministers of government and less likely to be parliamentarians working for Parliament. Their job as ministers is to work for the government. They sit in Parliament. I suppose that most of them are good parliamentarians, but in terms of addressing the parliamentary agenda, very few of them would take the initiative to address matters directly on behalf of Parliament. That is somebody else's job. Whose job is it? It is not the ministers', it is the parliamentarians' job. It is the job of every member of Parliament and every senator who sits in Parliament.

In dealing with this issue we must not look to government. We must not look to ministers. We must look to ourselves. Hopefully the ministers will acquiesce in the constructive, positive things we do for Parliament.

Everything we do for Parliament will be handed down to our children and their children. We must not let this place atrophy. We must ensure that Parliament and its procedures are responsive to and vital for Canadians. It is our job to do that.

I leave this motion with the exhortation that it is our job to do this. Hopefully there will be support for this type of initiative, not just in this motion but as we pass legislation in the future.

Agriculture And Agri-Food Administrative Monetary Penalties Act October 26th, 1995

Mr. Speaker, in dealing with this group of amendments I will address two related and relevant issues.

Our efforts to fine tune the legislation in the House and earlier in committee have been primarily directed toward ensuring a proper balance between the rights and liberties of Canadians in the sector we are dealing with and the administrative exigencies as they evolve in the agricultural sector. Because we are dealing with food, in many cases some of the exigencies tend to be relatively urgent and require a prompt solution as opposed to a slow, administratively cumbersome solution.

As we strive to seek that balance in the House with the legislation, we must keep in mind that the House realizes it cannot, as is sometimes said, micro-manage the sector. We simply do not have the ability to micro-manage in all detail everything that goes on in a particular field. That is why the House by way of regulation delegates authority to administrators in government to make regulations which deal in a more specific way with the exigencies in the field.

Even then it is tough. Even then it is probably impossible to micro-manage. Many decisions that have to be made are being made in a warehouse at a border. Perhaps they are being made in a barn somewhere by inspectors and people who are growing and transporting the commodity. We ought to resist the urge in the House to overly micro-manage the field, and that is why we delegate.

We are trying to find that balance in the House and that is tricky. There is a further challenge for Parliament. Every time we delegate we say that we are giving authority or power to an official of the government. That official, in concert with the department, will be making decisions about property of others and what others can or cannot grow and transport in this field.

The challenge for Parliament is not so much today; it is down the road. We have a committee that deals ex post facto with the regulatory authority delegated by the House, the Standing Joint Committee for Scrutiny of Regulations. The more the House delegates, the more work there is for the standing joint committee. Given the large degree of delegation taking place under this statute, I see a further challenge for the standing joint committee to deal with the scrutiny of this type of regulatory delegation.

One criteria of the committee is described as the unintended or unexpected use of power. I agree it is perhaps a little fuzzy. However, should an official, the department, the minister or the cabinet at some future date authorize the taking of a step that could be construed as an unexpected or unintended use of power, the committee would point it out to the House. The committee also has the power of disallowance which it has used a half a dozen times in the last four or five years. It prefers not to do so. It is a procedure the House would rather not have the committee use but when necessary it does so.

To the extent we are delegating and trying to fine tune that delegation, there will remain to a greater or lesser degree a significant challenge to the committee structure created by the House in reviewing the appropriateness of the use of the authority and power we delegate.

It is not to detract from our efforts here to find the right balance between rights and liberties and administrative efficiency.

I think all members have the same view and I will continue to participate in this debate in the hope that we achieve the proper balance so the administrators, the minister, the deputy ministers, departmental officials and the cabinet will have the right tools and the right balance so our citizens will get the best services and the best considerations under this statute.

Agriculture And Agri-Food Administrative Monetary Penalties Act October 26th, 1995

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to speak to this group of motions and to some extent to the thrust of the bill.

I represent an urban area, not a rural area. One might be curious as to why a city boy is standing up to talk on an agricultural bill. My family and I eat the food, I acknowledge that. We depend on this constituency for survival.

I did take an interest in the bill from when it was first introduced in the House. Initially it raised some concerns with me. These concerns were expressed to the ministry and to colleagues. They were reduced to writing, it was not just talk. In the end I see the department has adapted the bill and made changes at committee. We are still making a few minor changes in the House.

What is really significant here is that the House will delegate to a department an administrative penalty program that involves a huge constituency, the whole agricultural community. Up until now the House has not delegated that kind of authority. The ability to police, to levy penalties and fines has usually been in the field of criminal law.

We do not delegate that kind of authority out of the House without making sure it is set out very specifically in our laws. In this case we have. It was done earlier in relation to airports and the field of aviation, however, in that area we are dealing with a very small constituency. Here we are doing it with the agricultural community and thousands and thousands of Canadians will be participating in and subject to this new administrative monetary penalty system.

We must be vigilant in the House, as I know all members are. The opposition is certainly vigilant, which is its job. My colleagues on the government side have been vigilant about how this process is to evolve.

We should look at other areas of Canadian life where there are rules and penalties. One that comes to mind, which is a little bizarre, is the National Hockey League in which Canadians play hockey for a living and voluntarily subject themselves to a system of rules. On the ice, hockey players can be fined and suspended. Granted it is a very small constituency but it happens in other areas of amateur hockey in Canada as well.

In this case we are talking about the entire agricultural community. As the minister has pointed out, it has bought into the new system. It is a recognition of evolution and modern government that the old way of doing things does not work any more. It is too cumbersome. Just because somebody ends up with a badly shaped potato should not be a matter subject to a criminal offence or a quasi-criminal offence.

We have a new system evolving here and I think we will make it work. The government has adapted and recognized the extreme difficulty in applying standards of strict and absolute liability. While in the beginning we perhaps were not as sensitive to the issues involved, as my colleague from Malpeque pointed out, the department and the legislation have the issue down very well.

The motions for further changes to the bill by the opposition are useful for the record even if my colleagues on this side of the House do not accept them all. I know some have been. However, it is a further good faith attempt to refine this legislation so that it will work to the benefit of Canadians.

I am pleased to indicate my support for the bill generally. I am sorry I cannot support all the opposition motions for amendment. The minister has the proper system and it will fly well.