House of Commons photo

Crucial Fact

  • His favourite word was years.

Last in Parliament October 2019, as Conservative MP for Stormont—Dundas—South Glengarry (Ontario)

Won his last election, in 2015, with 51% of the vote.

Statements in the House

Volunteerism March 10th, 2005

Mr. Speaker, I am proud to pay tribute to an outstanding constituent of Stormont--Dundas--South Glengarry and a great Canadian.

Sultan Jessa came to Canada from Tanzania in 1973 and settled in Cornwall. Since then he has been a tireless and dedicated volunteer, an outstanding journalist, and a mainstay of several service clubs. In 1979 he was named Cornwall's Citizen of the Year.

Sultan Jessa is renowned for his outstanding fundraising abilities, boundless energy and commitment to his community. His efforts have benefited such organizations as the Children's Treatment Centre, the Cornwall Regional Art Gallery and Big Brothers and Big Sisters, among many others. As president of the Cornwall Multicultural Council and the Ontario Folk Arts Multicultural Council, Sultan has fostered solidarity among diverse cultural groups.

I am fortunate to count Sultan among my friends, and the entire Cornwall community is blessed by his outstanding leadership and generosity of spirit.

Congratulations Sultan Jessa.

The Budget March 7th, 2005

Mr. Speaker, I wanted to address my question to the Minister of National Defence, but he left before I was able to ask it.

The hon. member, in his opening comments, mentioned that he and his government supports the military. Last week I saw a parent and a step-parent. One of these people has a young man who is serving overseas and the other has a young man who is about to serve overseas, and who will be going over within three months. Both parents asked what was in the budget for their children. One parent said that the government is sending his child overseas to serve and protect this country with equipment that is older than his son. The son is 33 years old. The father said that in the event that his son does not come home, his blood will be on the government's hands.

I would like the minister, who said that the government supports the military, to explain it to the father whom I am sure will be watching.

Justice February 24th, 2005

Mr. Speaker, this is incredible. When Clinton Suzack was sent to a club fed prison after serving only six years for the murder of a police officer, the government did nothing. Now, Claude Forget will return to society after serving only half of his sentence. He attempted to murder two police officers, and the government did nothing.

If the Liberals want to protect Canadians, why do they not change the Corrections and Conditional Release Act?

Official Languages Act February 17th, 2005

Mr. Speaker, first I want to congratulate the author of this bill, Senator Gauthier, now retired. I also want to thank my hon. colleague opposite, who represents the riding next to mine, for defending this cause in the House.

The major purpose of the bill is to make the commitments set out in part VII of the Official Languages Act binding on the government. The way the act is worded now, the fulfillment of the objectives in part VII is left up to the discretion of the government. The bill before us today would allow the courts to enforce the implementation of part VII.

I can understand why Senator Gauthier felt this bill was necessary. Section 41 of the Official Languages Act commits the federal government to:

(a) enhance the vitality of the English and French linguistic minority communities in Canada and support and assist their development; and

b) fostering the full recognition and use of both English and French in Canadian society.

The government has failed dismally on both counts.

In 2004, the Federal Court of Appeal stated that:

Section 41 is declaratory of a commitment and does not create any right or duty that could at this point be enforced by the courts, by any procedure whatsoever.

In other words, the court ruled that section 41 of the Official Languages Act was a broad statement of principle and not an actual legal obligation. The court went on to say:

The debate over section 41 must be conducted in Parliament, not in the courts.

Bill S-3 addresses this ruling in two ways. First, it would add subsections requiring all federal institutions to take “positive measures...for the ongoing and effective advancement and implementation” of section 41.

Second, it would add part VII of the Official Languages Act to a list of specific sections of the act that are justiciable which is contained in section 77.

Simply put, this bill would clearly establish that, if the government does not carry out its duties under part VII of the Official Languages Act, it can be taken to court and forced to do so.

Simply put, the bill would make it clear that if the government does not live up to the obligations under part VII of the Official Languages Act it could be taken to court and forced to fulfill these obligations.

As a general principle I am very supportive of legislation that removes wiggle room for ministers and holds them to their commitments. However I am afraid the bill might not be drafted in the best way to achieve that goal.

My first concern with Bill S-3 involves section 41. Provincial governments have complained in the past that this section of the Official Languages Act infringes on their jurisdiction. The Bloc Québécois members made the same argument the last time the bill came before the House and I expect them to raise the same objection this time around.

My concern is that making section 41 justiciable, allowing it to be the subject of court action would clear the way for court challenges that might result in section 41 and the rest of part VII of the Official Languages Act being struck down on the grounds that it was ultra vires, outside the jurisdiction of the federal Parliament.

This concern was raised in committee in 2002 by the Minister of Justice at that time. To prevent this from happening I would like to work with my colleagues in the Standing Committee on Official Languages to amend the bill, perhaps by adding a section that explicitly respects the provinces and limits the federal government to its own jurisdiction in the way it fulfills section 41 of the act.

My second concern involves another section of the Official Languages Act that is affected by the bill, section 43. While Bill S-3 seeks to make the government's commitment under part VII of the Official Languages Act more enforceable, it does not clarify the scope of these commitments. As a result I fear that unless the bill is amended, it could result in a wave of court actions and the loss of parliamentary control over the nature and extent of the cost of the government's official languages program.

Section 43 currently states:

The Minister of Canadian Heritage shall take such measures as that Minister considers appropriate to advance the equality of status and use of English and French in Canadian society and...may take measures to (a) enhance the vitality of the English and French linguistic minority communities...; (b) encourage and support the learning of English and French in Canada; (c) foster an acceptance and appreciation of both English and French by members of the public; (d) encourage and assist provincial governments to support the development of English and French linguistic minority communities--

Bill S-3 would change the wording of section 43 to clarify that the heritage minister “shall take appropriate measures to advance the equality of status and use of English and French in Canadian society”. However while it removes the minister's discretion when it comes to that general goal, it still leaves subsections (a) through (d), the list of specific measures totally up to the discretion of the minister.

What that means is that the minister does not have to do any of the specific things listed in section 43, but if someone is unsatisfied with the minister's performance when it comes to a very general objective, the person could take the matter to court regardless of whether the minister takes any or all of the specific measures listed.

This bill is supposed to reinforce implementation of the government's commitments under part VII of the Official Languages Act. However, with regard to section 43, only the most general provisions would be binding, while the specific obligations identified in that section would remain discretionary.

To me, this is completely backwards. It would be much more logical to leave the first part of section 43 discretionary and make the specific measures binding. The legislation would then give clear direction to the minister, and a specific legal framework by which the courts could determine if the minister was carrying out his duties or not.

This bill is supposed to make the government's commitment under part VII of the Official Languages Act more enforceable. However, in the case of section 43, only the most general provisions would be mandatory while the specific obligations in that section would remain discretionary. That seems totally backwards to me.

It would make far more sense to have the first part of section 43 discretionary and make the specific measures mandatory. That way the act would give the minister clear direction and it would give the courts a clear framework for deciding whether or not the minister was fulfilling his or her obligations.

In other words, it would better if we could change the last part of section 43 to say “the minister must” instead of “the minister may” take measures to enhance the vitality of official language minority communities, encourage and support the learning of English and French, and so on, while leaving the more general part as a statement of principles. That would make it much easier to implement the act.

This is something my hon. colleague from Lanark—Carleton suggested the last time the bill was before us. I think it is a shame that Senator Gauthier did not see fit to make these changes before making another attempt to get the bill through Parliament.

I hope we can make suitable amendments to the bill in committee to make it more effective in meeting the goals.

I will support this bill in principle. I will encourage my colleagues on this side of the House to do likewise, although they will be free to vote as they see fit since this is an item of private members' business. I think the intention of the bill is something that many members would consider to be reasonable and worthwhile.

I will agree in principle with this bill and I invite my Conservative colleagues to do the same. I believe that a good many members consider the intention of this bill to be reasonable and valid.

Having said that, I am afraid some of the bill's specific provisions may be seriously flawed in the ways I have described. I hope to work with all members in committee to improve the bill and perhaps to make it achieve its goals more effectively.

I look forward to hearing from witnesses, looking into the wording of the bill, bringing it back to the House and if necessary, amending it and sending it back to the Senate. It would be a shame to rush this legislation through, only to find that it had the opposite of its intended use.

Auditor General's Report February 16th, 2005

Mr. Speaker, we have learned from the Auditor General that, since Jean Pelletier, nothing has changed under the Liberals. All appointments to crown corporations remain the Prime Minister's exclusive domain. For Ms. Fraser, favouritism, incompetence and inexperience are the trademarks of this administration. Governance is the last of our castaways' concerns.

Canadian families deserve good governance, but how can the Minister of Finance reduce taxes in this lackadaisical climate?

National Flag of Canada Day February 15th, 2005

Mr. Speaker, there are times in one's life or in the life of a nation when it seems like everything comes full circle. That is how I felt this morning during a flag day ceremony in my riding of Stormont—Dundas—South Glengarry.

Forty years after the maple leaf flag came into being, I was honoured to watch Cornwall's own Gaetan Secours, the former RCMP officer who raised the first ceremonial maple leaf flag on Parliament Hill, repeat that ritual for a local audience.

The first maple leaf flag to fly over the Peace Tower is being returned to Ottawa by the family of the late Lucien Lamoureux, the member for Stormont—Dundas and deputy speaker during the flag debate. Just like 40 years ago, Canada now has a minority government, which means vigorous debate and real compromise, just as we saw in the debate over the new flag. Canada was built on that kind of debate and compromise.

As we recall the birth of our nation's most important symbol, I urge all Canadians to recall and relive the spirit of rejuvenation that gripped this nation 40 years ago. Together we can forge our own destiny.

Sponsorship Program February 14th, 2005

Mr. Speaker, Justice Gomery's terms of reference clearly instruct him to take into account a Treasury Board review of ministerial accountability. The Treasury Board President has now shelved that review, which was supposed to report last September. Justice Gomery cannot take into account a review that does not exist.

If the Treasury Board President really wants to make ministers more accountable, why does he not start with himself and give Canadians the real reason he halted this review?

Income Tax February 8th, 2005

Mr. Speaker, 20 years ago Patrick O'Connor, who lives in my riding of Stormont—Dundas—South Glengarry, was a successful young manager and entrepreneur. At the age of 25 he contracted both HIV and hepatitis C from tainted blood transfusions.

Patrick has spoken to students, community groups, home care workers and others about HIV. He has written over 500 newspaper columns and published a children's booklet, 10,000 copies of which were distributed free of charge in the Cornwall area.

In 1992 he founded the United Counties AIDS Project, which raised over $35,000 in three years to help others with HIV. Today he is working on a second book for teens, and continues to write and speak about AIDS.

How has the government rewarded him? By insisting he pay $90,000 in interest because he failed to file his taxes in 1990, the same year he was told he was dying and was forced to sell his business at a loss.

I call upon the government to forgive the interest on Mr. O'Connor's back taxes. It is the least it could do for this community hero.

Supply February 8th, 2005

Mr. Speaker, I want to congratulate my colleague on a wonderful speech, and since he is much more experienced than I am, perhaps he can give my constituents and me some advice.

I represent the riding of Stormont—Dundas—South Glengarry. We are having some great difficulties that in some ways are connected to free trade. My constituents and I are believers in free trade. We understand the global economy, but as a result of our relationships with our American trading partners, I have a BSE problem in my riding and now I also have a textile problem in my riding. The ridings next to me are experiencing the same difficulties. There is a paper mill in my riding that had to lay off 390 people because of our poor relationships with the Americans. In a lot of cases, we cannot seem to get our borders working properly.

The frustrating part about all of this, especially in this last closure in the textile industry, where I have lost 175 jobs in my riding, is that the company was talking to the Liberal government for two years trying to get some relief and some help and nothing was forthcoming. There was dithering on both sides. This dithering goes on and on, one way or the other.

I wonder if I could I ask my esteemed colleague about this. What if we were to be more proactive rather than reactive in these cases, if we were to do something at the start when we have industries come to us? We have known about the BSE crisis for months. We have known about this textile problem with this company for at least two years.

In the member's experience, do you think it would be better to handle these situations and be proactive rather than reactive? Also, what the heck can we do to stop this? I must protect the jobs in my riding.

Supply February 8th, 2005

Mr. Speaker, in my riding of Stormont—Dundas—South Glengarry about 170 people will lose their jobs next month because a textile plant in the town of Long Sault is moving to the U.S. I should also mention that over 100 people in Montreal will lose their jobs because the same company, Gildan Activewear, is closing its operations there too.

I asked those in management at Gildan what the main reasons were for the plant closure. They told me that under the new Central American free trade agreement, textiles produced in Central American countries have duty free access to the U.S. as long as they use yarn that is spun in either the U.S. or Central America. However, if the yarn is spun here in Canada, the United States charges a 16% import duty. Gildan Activewear, in order to stay competitive, has moved to North Carolina in the United States of America.

That is what happens when our biggest trading partner negotiates freer trade with other countries than it allows with Canada. I would urge the Liberal government to develop a good relationship with the United States of America so these kinds of things do not happen.

The management of Gildan Activewear cannot be blamed for leaving. The company had been appealing to the federal government for help for over two years so the company would not have to move and it could stay competitive here in Canada but it was unable to.

I would like the member's opinions on what the government could have done to make sure that our relationship with our trading partner would be such that this country would not lose over 270 jobs, especially 175 jobs in my riding.