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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

Excise Act February 22nd, 1994

Mr. Speaker, it is my understanding that members of the government side will be splitting their time from here into 10-minute segments.

I am very happy to be able to speak to the issue involving the government's initiative to address the very serious problem of tobacco smuggling. It is my view the problem is not just a smoking problem, not just a revenue problem.

In my remarks today I want to choose a perspective that would target organized crime as the problem. Those who are professional organized criminals would probably argue with me that they are not the problem but rather simply a manifestation or symptom of another part of the problem. I differ with them at this time given the size and volume of the smuggling. In other very obvious problems in our society, organized crime is very much a part of the problem and I believe it is integral to the solution to this program and integral to solutions to other criminal problems we have in our society, which I will refer to later in my speech.

Bill C-11 has been adequately described here by the ministers and members from both sides of the House who have discussed it. It will facilitate police enforcement of the anti-smuggling measures. It will also permit authorities to begin or to continue or to redouble their efforts against the incentive to smoke.

These are some new tools provided by Bill C-11 which I regard as relatively small in stature in dealing with the current problems of cigarette and other types of contraband smuggling. I think I agree with the previous speakers that enforcement is very much a part of the solution. However, it is not the only solution.

The measures announced by the Prime Minister on February 8 will hopefully permit us as a society in the short run and in the long run to deal with the problem of cigarette addiction. At the moment our initiative I believe deals with organized crime, revenue and interdiction, re-establishing an orderly Canadian market in the commodity of tobacco.

What is the background here? I sat in the last Parliament for five years. Relatively early in that Parliament it became apparent that cigarette smoking was going to be a very serious problem. It grew and grew to the point where 40 per cent of the existing $12.4 billion Canadian tobacco industry was being controlled by smugglers. It was putting approximately $5 billion per year into the pockets of smugglers.

I point out that 95 per cent of the smuggling operation was controlled by organized crime. That type of smuggling, the volume of it, and the existence of organized crime was causing very obvious social and economic distortions at least regionally in our country and perhaps arguably across the whole country.

If action had not been taken at this time, I suppose we would wish that action had been taken a year or two years ago. In any event, we are acting now. If action had not been taken, it is estimated that more than 50 per cent of the cigarette market would have been dominated by the so-called smugglers, organized crime, with a value to organized crime of $6.2 billion.

Illegal tobacco seizures by the RCMP increased from 303 in 1990 to 5,044 in 1993, but even at that the RCMP told us that they were only seizing about 1 per cent of the illegal tobacco market.

Trafficking in illegal tobacco products had become an extremely lucrative enterprise. The profits to be made were so high that individuals involved in the drug trafficking trade are now engaging in the smuggling of contraband tobacco products. Traditional organized crime groups are also very much involved.

I want to cite a remark by the President of Colombia, a country that certainly knows organized crime very well, as I understand it, and is very much involved in the very unfortunate sequences that have befallen it in the drug trafficking trade. The President of Colombia said that the only law drug traffickers have not broken is the law of supply and demand. That is essential to my perspective in this particular intervention.

With the profit potential from contraband cigarettes gone, the organized crime elements that cause cigarette smuggling to virtually explode in recent years in our view will likely withdraw from the activity of smuggling cigarettes. With this new initiative the problem of contraband cigarettes will be dealt an effective and decisive blow.

Cigarette smuggling is not the root of the problem. It is only a symptom, as I said before. The same applies to other problems of smuggling involving alcohol, firearms, pornography, prostitution, gun smuggling and gambling. The root of the problem is the opportunity for profit that each of these areas provides to organized crime.

When the Prime Minister responded, he responded by first listening to the experts. The experts, the police authorities in the country, told the Prime Minister that they, by using existing enforcement methods, could not control the volume of smuggling and illegal activity being fostered by organized crime. The government's response therefore is one that is based on the advice of the experts. We could see no other way to deal with this.

Our program is strategic and not based on a simple issue of profit or a simple issue of revenue or a simple issue of a person deciding or not deciding to smoke. We must look at the whole problem and I believe that is what we have done.

Organized crime has more monetary resources than many police agencies. Crime organizations typically use sophisticated equipment to identify intrusive devices and employ countersurveillance methods to elude detection while they are conducting their illegal transactions. They employ computers, legal and financial experts and others to assist in the day to day operations of their illegal enterprises. They use sophisticated money laundering techniques to divert substantial portions of their profits into legitimate businesses.

Organized criminals attracted by high income activities, and these are high income activities, seek out crimes which produce the highest profit with the lowest risk. Current illegal activities, I have mentioned some of them, include not just tobacco, but alcohol, guns, gambling, prostitution, alien smuggling and pornography.

We could I believe literally fill our jails to overflowing with drug addicts, drug dealers and smugglers. As long as there is money to be made in the black market for any of these commodities, organized crime will have an incentive to recruit other people, other consumers and find other ways to carry on their illegal activity.

Integral to our strategy is the need to disable organized crime, at least in this field of tobacco smuggling.

Some examples of expert opinion are from Thomas O'Grady, Commissioner of the Ontario Provincial Police. He states: "Law enforcement communities, the public and appropriate levels of government", that includes us, "must continue to work together in developing laws and enforcement programs to make it both undesirable and unprofitable to organized crime groups to gain inroads in areas of gaming operations". There are similar views from all around the world published in Canadian legislatures, the United States congressional records, the United Nations records, European records, all focusing on this serious problem of profit as an incentive to organized crime.

I believe, much in the way we dealt with this particular problem of tobacco, we must also deal with drug addiction. We must be strategic. I would like to think that this government will have the ability, the opportunity and the support of Canadians to be able to deal with that other great evil of drug addiction by looking at the entire picture of taxation, of interdiction, of distribution of supply and demand, of all the laws when we address this serious problem of drug addiction.

Immigration Act February 22nd, 1994

moved for leave to introduce Bill C-219, an act to amend the Immigration Act (visitors' visas).

Mr. Speaker, I am very pleased to present this bill amending the visitor visa provisions of the Immigration Act. The bill was presented in the past Parliament.

The bill would permit the Canadian relatives of visitors to place a surety with the Government of Canada prior to the application for visa by the non-Canadian visitor.

At present Canadians have no role in this process. I believe, as do others, that their participation in the process by means of a surety would enhance the prospects of the visitor obtaining a visa and enabling the visit to take place.

The bill specifically provides that the absence of such a surety will not be considered by visa officers so as not to prejudice all others who are applying for visas who do not happen to have relatives in Canada.

(Motions deemed adopted, bill read the first time and printed.)

Criminal Code February 14th, 1994

Mr. Speaker, I certainly will not need that amount of time. When we recessed for question period I was near the end of an intervention dealing with amendments to the Criminal Code and the amount of force police officers may be permitted to use in apprehending individuals fleeing arrest.

The amendment also deals with changes to the Criminal Code, specifically the circumstances of penitentiary guards. Their circumstances are a little different. Now the code will recognize the ability of penitentiary guards and corrections officers to have access more quickly to the use of force than would otherwise be the case for police officers and peace officers.

At the end of that amendment there is a section dealing with the Coastal Fisheries Protection Act. I had made note of the reference in the amendment to an authority to be given by the House to the Governor in Council, that is cabinet, in prescribing regulations establishing the procedures in accordance with which and the extent to which a fisheries protection officer is permitted to use the force referred to in the subsection.

For the record I wanted to impress upon the House what we are doing here without saying it is right or wrong. At the end of the day it is probably the most expedient procedure. We are giving over to the Governor in Council, to cabinet, the ability to prescribe and define the precise definition between times when the force may be used and when the force may not be used. In essence, we are giving them the right to define what is an offence and what is not an offence. Over time this is not something a parliament would ordinarily do. It is our job in the House to define clearly and consistent with the charter what is and what is not an offence.

As we delegate this regulatory power in the statute I want the House to know I am confident the joint Standing Committee on Scrutiny of Regulations will take a little closer look at the regulations passed, if any, under this section. I want the House to be aware that as a rule we should not get into the habit of delegating to cabinet regulatory making powers whenever we find it difficult on our part to do it with precision.

I regard this as a bit of an exception for use on the high seas or within our territorial waters when a vessel is fleeing our territorial waters. That would complete my remarks.

Criminal Code February 14th, 1994

Mr. Speaker, I am very pleased to address this piece of legislation presented by the justice minister.

So often in this House when we debate legislation we are dealing with it usually on an intellectual level somewhat divorced from the real life circumstances in which we intend the legislation to apply.

In this particular case however, on a very personal note I could not help but notice that the drive for this legislation commenced with a decision of an Ontario court judge who found that the existing Criminal Code provisions strayed from the requirements of our charter. I believe this is rightly so. He did find that correctly. That particular judge was a lawyer for whom I had first worked as an articling student some 20 years ago.

The case involved a police officer who had apprehended a suspect and in connection with that had fired his gun. That police officer lived right across the street from me in Toronto. This particular amendment is a little bit more than just an intellectual exercise for me.

I would like to speak in particular to that aspect of the legislation that deals with the work of employees in federal penitentiaries who have certain powers and protections to help them do their work. The bill recognizes that peace officers who are correctional officers in penitentiaries have a unique situation relative to that of peace officers who are police officers on the street.

Correctional officers are dealing with convicted offenders, many of whom would present a serious danger to public safety if they were to escape. Subsection 25(5) of the bill would permit correctional officers to use deadly force in order to prevent an escape from a penitentiary that houses such high risk offenders. This would be only as a last resort when less violent means had been tried and found not to work. Those other means include warning shots and oral commands.

This reflects current policy and practice in the correctional service which is responsible for the operation of the federal penitentiary system. It is in accordance with the mandate of the service to protect society. The Correctional Service of Canada's current internal policies are currently consistent with proposed subsection 25(5). This requires a correctional officer intervening in an escape to attempt to first issue an oral warning to stop and then to fire a warning shot unless circumstances do not permit that to happen. In practice it has happened extremely rarely that a warning shot has not deterred an escapee and that lethal force has had to be applied.

Only specifically trained and authorized correctional officers in maximum and medium security institutions carry firearms. They do so only in designated areas. These include the observation towers and patrols around the institution perimeter.

Both maximum and medium security institutions contain inmates considered to pose a significant risk of escape and threat to the safety of the public. Consequently both maximum and medium security institutions are equipped with strong perimeter security such as high fences, walls, movement detection systems, cameras, armed posts and patrols.

The Correctional Service of Canada currently has 13 maximum security facilities and 17 medium security facilities in Canada. There are no armed posts in federal minimum security institutions since these institutions house offenders who are classified as being of low risk to the public.

As the Minister of Justice has already explained, the general rule in subsection 25(4) requires the peace officer to have reasonable grounds to believe that the particular individual fleeing arrest represents a threat of death or grievous bodily harm.

Subsection 25(5) qualifies that rule in the case of escapes from a penitentiary. That is important. This is a special rule to be used only for federal penitentiaries. The reason for this is that when a correctional officer sees an inmate escaping it is practically impossible for him or her to assess the degree of risk that particular individual represents at that precise moment in time. Physical circumstances such as darkness, distance, or a disguise worn by the inmate may make it impossible for the officer to identify the inmate.

Even if the identity were known the officer would not likely be aware of the factors that have precipitated the escape attempt, factors which could result in the inmate posing an increased risk to public safety. Inmates attempting to escape are often desperate to make good their escape attempt and are capable of resorting to violent measures including the taking of civilian hostages.

Therefore the test that is used in subsection 25(5) is that the officer must believe on reasonable grounds that any of the inmates in the penitentiary pose a threat of death or grievous bodily harm to the officer or any other person, that is, any inmate in that institution.

Correctional officers are able to found their belief on a well established system which assigns every federal institution a security classification according to the inmate population it is designed to accommodate. The new provision applies only to federal penitentiaries. Provincial corrections authorities were consulted in the drafting of this provision and they agreed there was no need for this provision provincially.

I believe that this proposed new subsection maintains powers of protection needed by front line staff in our penitentiaries and I believe it strikes the appropriate balance with the interests of public safety.

Lastly, in connection with the provision of the amendment dealing with foreign fishing vessels, I want to note that the vessels involved are foreign and not Canadian, an important distinction, and that the amendment is aimed at disabling a fishing vessel and not a person. Strictly speaking, the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms certainly does not have the same application as it does in the fleeing felon rule amendment we are discussing. However, there are implications for the safety of persons on the fleeing vessel and for the fisheries officers on the Canadian vessel who may be bound to use force.

The section we hope the House will adopt contains a reference to the making of regulations that would circumscribe or outline the situations in which force might be used, how it would be used and when it would be used.

This House frequently delegates this regulatory making power. We do it in almost every statute we pass. In this particular case we are delegating a scheme of regulatory making power which will come very close to making laws which are approximate to the issues of life and safety on a fleeing fishing vessel.

It is my view that we are in waters, if I may use that term, that require us to use very careful guidelines. In doing this I know there is a committee of the House-

Supply February 10th, 1994

Mr. Speaker, I cannot say I disagree with the thrust of the opposition motion or with much of the member's intervention.

I cannot help but note that the substance of the motion refers to a desire for a process that would review the public accounts with reference to overlap and duplication between federal and provincial governments.

I wonder if the member could advise the House whether he or his colleagues intend to propose such a motion as this to the public accounts committee which will be chaired, as I understand it, by a member of the Official Opposition. This committee, which is charged with the very subject matter that is the substance of this motion, is free to deliberate in an open and transparent process, as all of the committees of the House do. They have the power to subpoena, if not subpoena to call for attendance and production of papers and persons and they can report to the House whenever they wish.

The entire ambit of the motion can be put to and pursued by the public accounts committee if the members of that committee so wish and I wonder if the hon. member's party is prepared to proceed in that direction.

House Of Commons Standing Orders February 7th, 1994

Mr. Speaker, I have to admit to the hon. member and to colleagues that I will be chairing the subcommittee on private members' business. I can assure the hon. member and all members on both sides of the House that we will be looking very carefully at possible reforms in that area.

House Of Commons Standing Orders February 7th, 1994

Mr. Speaker, I thank the hon. member for the question. There is one principle if we are to proceed down the road to making the place work better and if we are to use the committee structure and that is the committee must, before it starts work, have a consensus as to what it wants to do. Without that all efforts will be scattered to the four winds and the committee will simply not achieve any goal, whether it be legislative or policy oriented.

I commend to all members who would be active in any committee area to build a consensus at the committee level before they start. One must accept a bit of divergence of views here at committee, but if they lose the consensus the committee will not impact on the government.

House Of Commons Standing Orders February 7th, 1994

Mr. Speaker, I thank the member for Ontario for his question and comment.

I learned a bit about Parliament before I was elected to Parliament. It will not be a surprise that most of what I have learned was in my first few years here as a member of the opposition. In my first few months sitting on the government side of the House I want to confirm that I cannot and will not forget all that I learned in opposition. I will not likely change my views about what this place needs and how it should be run. Hopefully I can be true to what I have always believed and to the views I formed in opposition.

I realize that being in government has some additional responsibilities and on behalf of my electors I am certainly prepared to undertake all of those. Je me souviens. I will not forget what it was like in opposition.

House Of Commons Standing Orders February 7th, 1994

Mr. Speaker, I am very pleased to speak to the issue of parliamentary reform. It is one that has been my favourite since I was elected to Parliament in 1988.

I would expect that all members take some pleasure from the fact that the government has moved to make changes in the way we do business in the House and in committees. It has been done early in its mandate and in a manner that reflects both the election promises it made and the work of other members on both sides of the House, not just in the last Parliament but going back about a dozen years.

I would like to put the issue of reform of Parliament in context. It is a rather large context. I have to go back and at least make reference to the foundation document, the Magna Carta. I am not going to read from it but it is here. Part of the Magna Carta shows up in our statutory books of reference. It is actually an appendix to the Revised Statutes of Ontario if I recall my days of law practice. It is not an unimportant foundation document.

I refer also to the bill of rights of 1689. It consolidated many of the rights and privileges that had been given birth to since the Magna Carta and which we still rely on.

I have a photocopy of proceedings of the British Parliament in the year 1788 where an individual by the name of Harris and another unfortunate individual by the name of Lee were both arrested by the Sergeant-at-Arms for contempt of the House in failing to attend and answer questions at committee. I have a long history of reform supplemented in part by a document I read on the weekend which was written by William Lyon Mackenzie and contained a proclamation from Navy Island, U.S.A., following the Upper Canada rebellion in 1837. There in print were many of the basic fundamental rights and freedoms that we required in this country at that time and which we still rely on today.

This House should always be reforming itself. We can reach back to 1837 and see the work and the lives lost. There were people hanged, people who followed Louis Papineau in Lower Canada and people who followed William Lyon Mackenzie in Upper Canada. But the work of reform of this House must always continue.

Who is reforming the House? Is it the government? No, it is not the government's job to reform the House; it is the job of members of Parliament. Anyone who uses the term government in reforming this place is in part misinformed. The government does have a role in that it collectively is the word that represents all of the members of the House who sit on the government side. The government must show leadership, but the government cannot by itself reform this place. The government is a manifestation of the crown, of the King, of the executive branch of government. The government does not run Parliament, members of Parliament do. That is something we must never forget.

The genesis of this round of reform, if we reach back about a dozen years, is the Lefebvre report, which I commend to members, and the McGrath report which dealt with a similar phase of reform. In the last Parliament we had the work of the House management committee, the work of the subcommittee to the liaison committee on committee reform and the work of our colleagues in the Liberal caucus, all of which has collectively

been, at least in part, manifested by the proposals for reform in this 35th Parliament.

I want to recognize a very important dynamic in parliamentary reform. One member can do nothing by himself or herself. Simply stated that is a fact of life; one person can do nothing. On the other extreme, we have a critical mass of people in parties, and a party can accomplish something, especially if we are the party on the government side and in the majority. But we must be careful to recognize that a party in majority is a party that holds virtually dictatorship powers. I say virtually because it is not often that a government will go to such extremes to impress its will on Parliament without listening to the opposition. Exceptions perhaps are the last Parliament. However we must all recognize this.

Where is the middle ground? What is the mechanism? The only mechanism capable of delivering a vehicle for reform and activity by members of Parliament greater than one but less than the party is the parliamentary committee. That is where we must look for reform.

I want to address two of the areas of reform very quickly. One is our absolute and utter failure to deal with the government's estimates. We have failed for years to do our work in monitoring the expenditures of the federal government. We are not alone in the western world. I know the British Parliament has similarly failed. I know that other Parliaments have failed. We do not want to continue this failure. We must recognize the challenge as it is. I believe the challenge is at the committee level. I am prepared to support the initiative in this round of reform that provides for a pre-estimates round of review that permits committees and members to impress upon government their views as to the spending in each envelope. I can only hope that it will work. I am not convinced that it will but we have to try it. We must start somewhere.

The other area is the new process of referring bills to committee after first reading. I am at first blush going to support this. We have to do something to improve the legislative mechanism here.

In my view it would be a wonderful institution if a committee could take a small piece of legislation, a small amendment, a one-page amendment, with the explicit or tacit consent of the minister, draft it and bring it into the House even during Private Members' Business as opposed to government business and have that amendment passed without having to gobble up the time required to develop cabinet consensus around the Privy Council table, back and forth among bureaucrats and back and forth through committee just to get one clause in a bill changed. It can take a year or two or three or four. I would love to see the new proposals accommodate that type of procedure. We will see if they do.

Finally I want to make a pitch for codifying and putting into statute the mechanism of the House for reviewing all the delegated legislation, that is the statutory instruments and regulations enacted by the Privy Council. There are over 1,000 per year. They are reviewed by the joint committee for scrutiny of regulations. This place and the other place share the workload.

At the moment there are some areas of delegated legislation and regulations that are excluded from the disallowance power of the committee. The disallowance power was used three times in the last Parliament. However, because the power is in the standing orders as opposed to being statutory, this committee is not able to provide for disallowance of regulations and statutory instruments made by agencies outside government such as the National Transportation Agency of Canada.

I would like to put it on record that it is my hope this will be an area for reform a little later in this Parliament. I want to join all members of the House from all sides who want to work to modernize Parliament's institutions and to make it a more effective place that will reflect the wishes of our electors and be efficient in so doing.

Serial Killer Games February 7th, 1994

Mr. Speaker, I would like to draw the attention of this House to the disturbing proliferation of killer board games and serial killer cards depicting perpetrators of violence.

Many Canadians have expressed concern about the insensitive glorification of violent crime that these games promote. The exploitation of human suffering for the purpose of financial gain is morally unacceptable.

Recognizing that the most expedient means of getting such products out of stores is to make them prohibitively expensive and that there may be freedom of speech issues in relation to our charter, I recently tabled a motion recommending $100 per unit tax levy on the manufacture or importation of such products which explicitly depict or promote actual or fictional perpetrators of homicide, kidnapping or sexual assault.

I urge this government to consider that motion as a means of preventing or limiting distribution of these products in Canada.