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

His Holiness the Dalai Lama October 22nd, 2010

Mr. Speaker, I would like to officially welcome His Holiness the Dalai Lama, who is arriving in Toronto today for a three-day visit. Thousands of Canadians will gather in the Rogers Centre today to hear his inspiring message of peace, compassion and hope.

Tomorrow the Dalai Lama will attend a community ceremony at the Tibetan Canadian Cultural Centre to visit with members of the strong local Tibetan-Canadian community as well as members of the Parliamentary Friends of Tibet.

Tibetan-Canadians have sacrificed much to make this centre available for the wider communities, a facility for peaceful dialogue between cultures. While the centre did receive federal funding towards its renovation, I invite Canadians to provide a truly Canadian welcome to the Dalai Lama by donating some of the matching funds it must have to be completed.

The other way to commemorate the visit, of course, is to ensure that Canada remains vigilant and consistent in its support of international human rights at all times.

I invite hon. members to join me in extending an official welcome to honorary Canadian citizen, the Dalai Lama.

The Environment October 20th, 2010

Mr. Speaker, the factors the hon. member mentions make it even more embarrassing. From biodiversity to oil sands, the government is sullying Canada's international reputation. A few weeks ago it was James Cameron, today it is leading environmental groups, on the new report, reminding Canadians how the government is failing them on the oil sands.

By abdicating its responsibilities in Alberta, the government is giving Canada a black eye internationally. Canada's negotiators have received no mandate for the conference on biodiversity.

Will the minister and the government not agree that Canada needs a new doctrine from the government: the responsibility to do no further harm to Canada's reputation?

The Environment October 20th, 2010

Mr. Speaker, last Friday, the government posted the first report in Canada on ecosystem health on an obscure website, without notifying the public or the media.

After reviewing the report, we know why: 80% of the indicators in this report prepared for the UN conference show signs of trouble.

Today, will the minister reveal to Canadians what positions Canada will take at this conference? Furthermore, where is he hiding them?

Lake of the Woods and Rainy River Basins October 5th, 2010

Madam Speaker, I appreciate the enthusiasm that came from the members opposite.

The Lake of the Woods is a national treasure. It is appreciated by, as they are called locally, the 'Tobans, who come from Manitoba and utilize it as perhaps their primary source. They also draw water from the region, so it has health implications.

We are debating a private member's motion, and as for all hon. members who bring forward a motion in all sincerity, we sympathize with the member opposite for not having the government act unilaterally. In other words, the government could make its own reference to the International Joint Commission. The IJC was established some time ago. It is a functional mechanism with stronger agreements over bodies of water such as the Great Lakes and so on. It just so happens that under pollution control, we do not yet have the Lake of the Woods referenced there.

Perhaps there are members opposite or other members who are privy to it and could explain why there has not been a bit more urgency on the part of the government, if that possibility indeed exists. The only question we have on this side is why we cannot get into something a bit sooner than it would take for this particular motion to move forward.

It would seem that phosphorus levels in the lake are of a concern and are influencing algae growth of a type that would actually be hazardous to a whole range of the opportunities that the lake provides, be it the local economy in terms of walleye fishing and so on, or the recreational opportunities not just for visitors from Manitoba but obviously for local Ontarians and people who live in the area. It is mainly summer tourism, but there is winter tourism as well and the reputation that could come should some of the concerns that many people have start to develop.

Of course, as people may realize, this is a transborder concern because the phosphorus is likely coming from fertilizers upriver on the American side. A joint reference is required. Often in these cases, as we saw for example with some of the Red River disputes, there is government action, where the government actually stands up and says that it has a concern, that it has some of the science. If I am not mistaken, the Ontario government has provided some of the science already, so that those concerns could be substantiated. The government could simply sit down diplomatically with our American counterparts and see this happen as part of the IJC moving forward.

The other concern we have in terms of an explanation why this might be a bit dilatory or not the fastest way to get the action that the tourism operators and the sustainability folks, who I understand are working hard on the ground in the Lake of the Woods area, would like is the prospect of having resources. That is something that can only come from the executive branch which is currently held by the party opposite. In other words, will the IJC get the resources it needs to be convincing on this point? Will that be part of the reference?

It is not part of the motion. We understand the limitations of private members' motions, but we certainly would like to see going forward that this be something that brings real relief and not just something that goes on and on. People are used to government processes sometimes that do not deliver the actual outcomes they are looking for. In terms of the variety of groups, cottage owners and people who are permanent residents, people who are involved in the ecology of the area, such as hunters, fishers and so on, are all saying that they want to get this going.

We certainly support this motion moving forward, but for the consideration of the members on the government side and the proposer of the motion who sits there as well, why could we not use some other measures to get this to go forward, for the very same reasons that he has articulated, and which other members of different caucuses in this House have already reflected in terms of their contributions?

I look forward, as the environment critic, to seeing this move forward in the best way possible. If this motion is the only device we have, we will certainly support moving it forward.

Lake of the Woods and Rainy River Basins October 5th, 2010

Madam Speaker, I would like to inform you that I will be sharing my time with the member for Lac-Saint-Louis.

It is a pleasure to speak about the Lake of the Woods and Rainy River system, as someone who was born in Manitoba. I note that the member who proposed this motion talked about it as one of the purest water systems. I come from another one, which is one of the largest clear-water lakes--

The Environment September 30th, 2010

Mr. Speaker, today we learned there is a new minister of the environment for Canada: Hollywood director James Cameron. It is only after his intervention in visiting the oil sands in Alberta this week that the Conservative government finally made an announcement to study the problem of monitoring water and air pollutants in the Athabasca River. We now have the avatar sands to go with the titanic wreck of the environment minister under these guys.

Would the Prime Minister tell us, will his government start protecting the environment, or do we have to bring back Mr. Cameron to change the Conservatives' do-nothing agenda when it comes to protecting Canadians on the environment?

Immigration and Refugee Protection Act September 27th, 2010

Mr. Speaker, I would like to thank all of the members participating in today's debate.

I would like to address my remarks to the people out there who could be a little confused about what we are debating today.

Each member in the House received a kit about what this bill attempts to do, what it will do if it is passed at second reading. It will, in a way that respects our military and our relationship with the United States, accept people who for reasons of conscientious objection have decided not to participate in a particular war that was not sanctioned by the United Nations, and that contained acts that many in the United States have regarded as illegal. It would introduce measures that conform to a Canadian sensibility.

We have noted today that the members opposite have taken this as an anti-government bill. They have responded only in the voice of the government. They have decided that they are afraid to debate the concepts in this bill, the concepts that affirm the United Nations Universal Declaration of Human Rights and the Nuremberg Principles that protect our military. These rights and principles make sure that when we have soldiers under arms we have them there for the right reasons, at the right time, under the right direction.

This bill reflects a Canadian sensibility, but also some of the duress that a number of these soldiers were under. I know there are members in the House who have served in the military, but most of us have not. Some of these members have been disdainful of the people we are talking about, without reading the books or the literature or talking to the people involved.

There are people like Chuck Wiley, who spent 17 years in the military. He walked away from a pension of $1,700 a month when he was three years away from it, because of his conscience. He had more guts than anybody in the House has a right to dispute. His situation demands that each hon. member in the House give consideration to this bill on its merits. Unfortunately, that is not what we heard from members opposite.

There was an element of compulsion at the peak of the Iraq war, a practice called stop loss, which affected people, many of whom find themselves in Canada today. They did not have the choice of honourably serving out their commitments. They were pulled back into service by a trick in their contracts. They were supposed to go back into service after their full services were rendered. In fact, this policy affected as many as 15% of the personnel in U.S. services. The current president has agreed to phase it out. However, it reflects the difficulty of people in that war.

Distinct from any service personnel under the Canadian flag in any other war, they did not have recourse to the options that most modern armies should have in respect to conscientious objection. Anyone in the National Guard who signed up to serve domestically was forced to go overseas.

I have made it clear that I am open to looking at any language brought forward by the government. There has been none. There have been no opinions tabled by the Department of Immigration. There has been no information forthcoming, only threats and accusations from various members of the government party who have spoken on this bill.

It is disappointing. I think people have a right to be disappointed in the inability of the House to take on a bill that contains some contentious elements. I would very much respect those who might sit in opposition to this bill if their opposition was derived from what the bill actually contains.

This debate has been unfair to the people coming in. This summer, Jeremy Hinzman, one of the resisters, received a court decision that said exactly what this bill says: that conscientious objection is reasonable and must be taken into account. It was sent back for a new evaluation.

We do not want to send people through courts and grind them through processes. However, the reaction of the government was not that it should maybe take a look at this. Instead, it sent out a one-sided bulletin that prejudiced the chances of anyone's getting a fair hearing. That is the behaviour of a government that does not listen to two motions passed in the House. It does not give heed to the fact that Canadians have pronounced themselves on not just the Iraq war but on the ability of Canadians to have a national sensibility. We accepted 50,000 people at the time of the Vietnam War. Some people in the House are too timid even to debate these 300.

I believe this is a character test for us in the House. I look forward, whether it is here or in a public debate with members opposite, to meeting that test honourably and giving due consideration to people who have put themselves in our hands. They deserve an honest reply.

Corporate Accountability of Mining, Oil and Gas Corporations in Developing Countries Act September 20th, 2010

Madam Speaker, it is a great honour to rise in support of the bill. This is a bill about what is possible for Canada. It is not a bill for members who do not want to address the fundamental problems that exist in Canada.

We need to have impact on world trade. We need to be agents of our own way forward in terms of how we are going to get good results, good jobs, and good outcomes for people from this globalized economy. It is our champions in mining, in particular, in this case that can lead the way.

What is most disappointing to some of the argumentation we hear against this bill is that there was a consensus that is reflected in this bill. This is the outcome of the corporate round table on social responsibility. Clause after clause, measure after measure, many of these things are to be found in the guidelines that corporations have for themselves. What is the difference? We are actually going to enact something. We are actually going to make something workable. We are actually going to make it plausible.

As is often the case when it comes to progress there are doomsayers that say all these incredible things that will come about as a consequence without looking at what this really could mean. This could mean corporations will have an ability to resolve disputes. This could be an enhanced reputation for Canadian-based mining companies. Of course, for those of us interested in the benefits for Canadians of companies, it is a little rich hearing from some of the government members about how they would like to see Canadian headquartered companies when they keep rubber-stamping sale after sale and creating conditions under which our mining companies are being sold off.

This bill had quite a different context a few years ago when we were world leaders. The government has ridden us to a different place. But the companies we do have understand these issues. They deal with them every day in the sovereign nations that they are part of. It is, I think, a bit of stampeding on somebody's part to bring them away from where this bill could put them, which is in a consensus position; a functional position of leadership in the world.

It is what we need to see happen in terms of trade if we look at our own vulnerabilities in terms of our dependence on foreign decisions in a range of things. We want to start to see not just a code of ethics, but a basis for behaviour on the part of companies in terms of advancing some of the other outcomes that we have. The bottom line has to include some of the bottom line benefits for the local populations and Canada is in that position in a number of industries.

Again, when we look at the unspoken in terms of what the government and some of the bill's detractors are prepared to look at, they simply do not see that this is a functional bill that has taken into account all of the different challenges that are there and that the companies actually then deal with a predictable process.

It is a little bit like the failure of the government on climate change. To go to the Petroleum Club in Calgary, or to any business enclave in the country, they are talking fairly loud about a government that does not have the temerity to actually invent something that will work. What does business want? Predictability. They actually want to know what the rules of the game are. To simply say, as this government says on climate change and so many other things, “We will wait for somebody else to move”, that is not leadership. That is not even Canadian.

Canadian companies and Canadian governments have led in a whole host of areas internationally. That is not the Conservative government of today. That is the problem. It is in that context of do nothing, know nothing, deny everything that we basically have this reactionary government unwilling to basically have leadership--

Petitions June 17th, 2010

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to present a petition signed by dozens of people in my riding of Parkdale—High Park to bring attention to the decision by the government to not accept any further applications this year under the eco-energy retrofit program.

My constituents who signed the petition are urging the government to provide adequate funding to allow all Canadians to successfully claim grants under the program during the entire year of 2010, which it said it would do in the original budget. This follows the government's cancellation of the original retrofit program taking away programs for small business and for low incomes, and now stifling the one that it did restore.

The petition is signed by people generally disappointed with the government's lack of action on climate change, the one program that is working. They would like to see it resourced by the government ahead of its other priorities, obviously.

Iran June 17th, 2010

Mr. Speaker, I request that Motion No. 547 be adopted by this place by unanimous consent.

I move, “That, in the opinion of the House, the government should engage in direct diplomatic efforts, in partnership with other countries and organizations, to have the government of the Russian Federation: (a) formally recognize the murder of Polish nationals in the spring of 1940 in the Katyn Forest in Russia, the Kalinin and Kharkov prisons and elsewhere as a war crime, as defined by Article 175 of the Fourth Geneva Convention, and as a crime against the Polish state; and (b) release all documents and archives relating to this event to the Polish government at a public ceremony”.