House of Commons photo


Crucial Fact

  • His favourite word was infrastructure.

Last in Parliament March 2011, as Liberal MP for Parkdale—High Park (Ontario)

Lost his last election, in 2011, with 33% of the vote.

Statements in the House

The Environment November 25th, 2010

Mr. Speaker, the Prime Minister has made Canada the grand champion of booby prizes for doing nothing about climate change. Yesterday, we learned that the government cancelled the most important scientific research on climate change. Canadians have the right to know how global warming will affect their jobs, crops, health and drinking water supply.

How many more booby prizes do we need to win before the Prime Minister appoints a full-time environment minister?

Business of Supply November 18th, 2010

Mr. Speaker, the short answer is yes, we should have that very debate. It is being denied. Our mission will follow the spending instead, which is the wrong way to go. That is no way to respect our military personnel. If the average airmen were involved in this particular debate, what would they be looking for and what would they need? Consistently the government tries to speak for them and does not allow this debate to take place.

Canadians cannot have the confidence that we know what we want our military to do. That is what should come first. Then we should ask ourselves how to support them in the best fashion possible. This massive expenditure is the other way around. It would take other options away from us and would not allow us to actually support our armed services when we deploy them for things that could be completely different from where this expenditure puts us.

Business of Supply November 18th, 2010

Mr. Speaker, I appreciate the member's non-partisan comments in terms of her support for the questions we are raising today.

Yes, search and rescue is one of the needs that is expressed. We are looking to exert sovereignty, but let us do it practically. “Practically” means we have vast territories to look after. Speaking of short takeoffs and landings, even the conventional version of this is still a short-range, single-engine plane not necessarily suited to Arctic duties. There is a question there. Search and rescue is certainly one of the options that is overlooked.

I want to take the occasion to respond to the earlier question. There is no penalty right now. Let us be transparent about this. Is there a penalty? Is there a booby trap? Like the Mulroney government, is the Harper government loading in something here that it has not made available? If it is telling Canadians that it has, it needs to make it open and clear.

Right now, as far as we know, the choice is still there for Canadians. The choice we are debating today in this motion is still available. It is whether it is search and rescue or other needs that would be traded off. Canada would like to have those choices. Has the government signed a deal somewhere that takes those away from Canadians?

Business of Supply November 18th, 2010

Mr. Speaker, I think it would startle people in Quebec and elsewhere, in Winnipeg and so on, to know that there are no guaranteed benefits. Canadians have not received guaranteed benefits, and the estimate of benefits in the open competition between the eight or nine countries that are qualified is that we are going to do less than the value of these planes. We are actually going to be exporting a lot of our money to get these planes, which is different from almost every procurement we have done in the past. This is the largest military procurement effort and these are weakest rules under which it has been done.

The idea is that Canadians should be happy with crumbs from the table, which is what the member opposite is proposing, that for some reason we should not get the best, that we do not deserve to have a competition and that Canadians should be silent and happy. The government is going to be disappointed with the reaction of Canadians to that proposition.

Business of Supply November 18th, 2010

Mr. Speaker, it has been interesting to hear some of the debate. I wonder what the people at home must be thinking. Here is a government that used to believe in a free market defending the kind of approach we would expect from a totalitarian government, where it does not want the market to discipline any of its choices, where it is all-knowing, never prone to mistakes and never willing to put anything on the table to prove what it is about.

It is quite astounding. Here is a government that is trying to rationalize. We really wonder what is behind this. Why is the government so afraid of the marketplace? Why is it so afraid of putting its cards on the table? Why will it not open this up to competition? It has heard at committee from various companies that everything it has released so far about our requirements can be met by other companies. And that is reliably upheld by other experts, internationally and so on, people who do not have a vested interest in gaining the business.

It is astounding to see that the so-called Conservative Party no longer believes in a marketplace, that it no longer wants to get what is in the best interests of the taxpayers. We wonder what kind of interests are at work here. Is it some international Conservative-Republican agreement here to help offset costs? We really would like the members to be more forthcoming, because I think they are confusing the people at home as to who they are fighting for.

I think it would be interesting, too, to open this up in the sense of what we need to support a military and what should be in place as they decide what there needs to be for the military. For example, what is the role going to be for our defence? What are we going to ask our men and women in the armed services to undertake for us? And where are we going to provide for them?

It is interesting to note that none of the C-18s were used in Afghanistan, where we have had the biggest outlay of military effort in a generation. They were not an essential part of that effort. Therefore, with regard to their replacement, as least we need to pause and ask the question.

All we are saying on this side of the House is, before there is a penalty, before the government starts using all those kinds of excuses that it is stuck in the flypaper of its own doing, that it would put it up for competition and that it would be much more forthcoming, much more transparent about what it is doing. It is far from clear what interests it is upholding here today in resisting this helpful motion, this motion that puts forward an outlook that would protect the public taxpayers' interests. Many years before they were in government, the people opposite used to say they were on the side of the taxpayer. We do not see that anymore. Instead, we see these enormous outlays in terms of things that cannot be explained, such as G20s that are 20 and 30 times the cost of what other countries do. The government hides behind the flimsiest of excuses.

It is the same thing here. If the government feels it is so robust, if the gentleman who talked about Sopwith Camels wants to stand behind this, then release the details that would make this make sense, because the average Canadian is not there with them.

If we want to talk about people, let us inject something into this debate. It is not all about which side of the House one is on. Peter Worthington says this is a silly purchase. Now Peter Worthington is one of longest-standing commentators on military affairs in the country. He is not really known to be a bosom friend of the Liberal Party. However, he has written on this matter. He has judged the people opposite and has said, “What the heck are they doing? Why are they spending all this money on expensive, fancy equipment that they do not need? They are not going to meet the Russians over Canadian airspace”. This is according to Peter Worthington.

If there are members opposite who think they have more expertise, let us have it forthcoming. It did not occur in committee. It has not come forward from the current government. It is basically saying to Canadians, “Trust us. We are going to spend a lot of taxpayers' money. We are not sure what we are going to get.”

Let us talk about what it is the government is buying. It is buying these F-35s. It talks about the procurement that was already started. However, what happened in fact was Canadians invested and Canadians gained about $455 million in contracts without doing what the current government is doing. This anti-free-market government, all by itself, is putting itself in the position of buying these planes. We invested money, which is about 1% of what it proposes to spend on the planes, in return for which we were allowed to bid, and our companies, on their own merit, gained about $455 million in contracts. That is perfectly fine.

However, this is often what happens, and people who are watching us on TV will recognize the pattern. Whenever the current government gets into a tough spot, it says the devil made it do it, or sorry, the Liberal Party made it do it, because there is no such thing as accountability. The Federal Accountability Act lasted for a few weeks and ever since then the government has been looking for people to pin its problems on. I have to say that after five years Canadians are getting awfully tired of that.

Where is the party that used to stand up and say it would make sense of all this. The government seems to have taken over the party. We are talking about $16 billion with very limited public discussion, very limited public disclosure, very little debate and no competition, with no rationale.

There are not people out there who say, objectively, that these are exactly what we need, these very fancy intercepts. Let us look at these F-35s. Where did they come from? Did they come from a Canadian need, a requirement that we have where we got our best experts in a room and asked, “What does the Canadian military need to do in the next 20 years?” so we will spend this very scarce money? It is 76% of one year of supporting our troops, 76% of one year's budget. It is 6% of the Canadian budget being spent in this feckless, reckless fashion. “Reckless” does not come from here. It comes from the Auditor General, who said anybody who thinks it is a low-risk proposition is mistaken.

The onus is on the government to provide the assurances, the details, the specifics, the studies. Instead of doing that, instead of doing something open and transparent and available to Canadians who want to know where our money goes, the Conservatives did not put the experts in a room or say “Here is where our military is going”. Instead, they bought into a program that was designed for nations that have aircraft carriers, which Canada does not have, unless there is a hidden intention on the part of the people opposite.

This was a plane developed for three different formats at once, only one of which applies to Canada, but it is expensive as a result, with short take off and landing and aircraft carrier capacity. That is not the plane Canada necessarily needs. The onus is on the government, on the people opposite, when they are hitching their wagon with so little information, to submit themselves to a process. Rather than doing that, they are asking Canadians to take their word that they are spending $16 billion of hard-earned money at current arrangements for no particular clear purpose. Anything incremental is all borrowed, so will be paid back by our grandchildren. How will Canadians be safer? How will our troops be better supported?

The Conservatives made fun of the F-18s, but they neglected to mention to Canadians that $2.6 billion was spent to upgrade 80 of those F-18s and they are good till 2020. There is time to do what is right. It is another excuse the Conservatives cannot hide behind. There is time to do this properly. Instead of rushing it through like some deal made in the Congress of the U.S. or wherever these links are really coming from, let us have this done in an open and transparent manner, and let us not have people hiding behind the flimsiest of excuses.

With the overall requirements, there is nothing to force Canadians into this deal. That is the other thing the Conservatives have been saying, that they are stampeded because something got done years ago and they have no choice. Somebody made them do it. They are not really in charge. Canadians are getting a little tired of that too.

Over and over again, we hear from the Conservatives that they no longer encounter their own responsibilities. Whether these planes will cost, as they did in 2001, $79 million, or whether they will cost what they cost in 2007, $122 million, or some people are projecting $170 million, the Canadians who are listening want to know why the Conservative government is putting them on this supersonic ride. The only thing fast right now about these planes that are still in development is the way their cost is going up. I do not know why the government thinks we want a stealth procurement policy. That is not what Canadians want. The only stealth capability that we are getting is about how we go about spending billions of dollars on behalf of Canadians, and that is simply not acceptable.

When we look at the kind of dollars that have been outlayed in the past, we are looking at an exponential increase. These particular machines are impressive in terms of some of their capacities, but why is it that we want those stealth capacities? Where is Canada requiring the ability to sneak up on somebody else? So far in most of the debates in the House, we have heard about a defensive capacity on the part of Canada, not an attack capacity. Even in the new role of peace building or peacemaking, even in the kind of missions the government has signed us up for latterly in Afghanistan, we have not used this kind of plane.

The onus again is on the government to demonstrate that, to be straightforward, to be transparent, to allow Canadians in on the deal, because otherwise this deal will never pass muster by the average Canadian. It will not pass the smell test. We all in this House owe them that. Hon. members should vote for this motion, clear their conscience and let Canadians see we are working for them.

Petitions November 17th, 2010

Mr. Speaker, the third petition is in regard to the closure of public post offices. The petitioners are concerned that far too often post offices are closed with little notice, leaving local business without the necessary infrastructure to grow and leaving the surrounding communities in limbo.

The petitioners call on the Government of Canada to instruct Canada Post to maintain and improve its network of post offices and develop a uniform and democratic way of deciding what changes are to be made to this network.

I had the recent experience of helping an outlet to stay open in my riding and I would say that some instruction from the government would be in order.

Petitions November 17th, 2010

Mr. Speaker, the second petition is signed by more than 200 students and faculty of the Bishop Allen School. They draw the attention of the House to some staggering facts about the cost of biofuels, the connection with food shortages and the risk of millions of families going hungry. A World Bank report showed a 75% increase a few years ago and food prices were in some way connected to biofuels development and their related consequences.

The petitioners call on the House of Commons and the Government of Canada to take a leading role in the principle of food sovereignty, a right to adequate food for all.

Petitions November 17th, 2010

Mr. Speaker, I have the honour of presenting three petitions today.

The first petition regards the safety of our transit employees. This petition, signed by 270 Canadians, raises concerns about the alarming statistic that up to 40% of bus operators have been assaulted while on the job. Of course, that means an assault and danger not only to the operator, but to passengers, as well as the public in the vicinity of the vehicle.

The petitioners are calling on the Minister of Justice and Attorney General of Canada to provide stronger protection under federal laws.

These Canadians provide an invaluable service to the public. I submit this petition in their name and in agreement.

The Environment November 17th, 2010

Mr. Speaker, in that answer, which I assume was given to him by the minister, we are reminded that Canada not only has a part-time environment minister but a retreaded failed minister, clearly one instance where recycling should have been avoided.

In Japan last month, on biodiversity, and in Copenhagen on climate change, the government has stocked the trophy case with fossil and dodo booby prizes for its poor international performance.

Canadians are looking for leadership, while the Prime Minister is surrendering to the U.S. Congress to look after our interests on climate change.

When will the government admit that it has failed Canadians on one of the biggest challenges our country faces?

The Environment November 17th, 2010

Mr. Speaker, we are just days away from the international climate change negotiations in Cancun and under the current government, Canada has no position, no action, and no plan. For five years, the Prime Minister's long series of ministers have posed and postured and have done nothing. Every week that goes by, the government is creating a steeper hill for Canadians to climb in the future, which will make it tougher for Canadians and tougher for Canadian business.

Would the Prime Minister or his part-time minister care to tell us today when they plan to stand up for Canadians' interests on climate change?