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Crucial Fact

  • His favourite word was whether.

Last in Parliament March 2011, as Liberal MP for Eglinton—Lawrence (Ontario)

Lost his last election, in 2011, with 38% of the vote.

Statements in the House

Canadian Peres Center for Peace Foundation March 1st, 2011

Mr. Speaker, the Canadian Peres Center for Peace Foundation offers a glimmer of hope for those who yearn for lasting peace in the Middle East. Arming for security and preparing for war are still important, even though unconventional and high-tech weaponry make every country vulnerable and, as current events illustrate, popular awakenings can make even the mighty tremble.

Happily, there are those who also recognize the power of science, technology, information and education as borderless agents of change. Led by a veteran of war and statecraft, the Canadian Peres Center for Peace Foundation offers those who want to build for the future, and those who want to construct an architecture to house human and civil society values based on compassion and service to others, the mechanisms to reach out to the marginalized and the vulnerable.

The center's comprehensive strategy of “medicine in the service of peace” provides Palestinian children with the same high quality sustainable health services enjoyed by Israeli children, addressing some 1,500 cases each year.

Mazel tov. They need our help to succeed.

Privilege February 28th, 2011

Mr. Speaker, I think the opposition members have a duty and an obligation but also a right to ask questions to ascertain the veracity of the information presented to them.

Therefore, in the interest of establishing whether or not there is a prima facie case, perhaps the Parliamentary Secretary to the Leader of the Government in the House of Commons would tell the House on what date the minister signed the document and on what date she instructed that “not” be inserted.

While he is doing that, perhaps he can give us an indication on documentation the minister received on other projects that were accepted and not subject to contention, where she instructed that a “yes” be inserted.

Strengthening Aviation Security Act February 28th, 2011

Mr. Speaker, let me understand this now. Canadians who are watching this debate just saw something happen. Rightly or wrongly, opposition parties were actually debating the substance of the legislation. Then the government stood up in its opportunity to debate the substance of a law that it is passing to give the reasons why it is a good law and convince Canadians to its side, but its response was to adjourn the debate.

In other words, it does not want to talk about it and it prefers that we end the discussion right now. Is that what Canadians would interpret as being an open and accessible government that takes responsibility or is it yet another manifestation of, “You're on your own”?

Strengthening Aviation Security Act February 28th, 2011

Mr. Speaker, as I said earlier, I always enjoy hearing other people's views in this House. However, I wish that the member had not said what he did about the sky not falling because I can see the pencils being sharpened by my colleagues on the government side, saying there is justification for passing this bill right away because it is unnecessary, and the government of the United States and the Government of Canada have already accomplished what they needed to accomplish, so who cares.

I just want to correct something else for him. While it is true that I was a member of the transport committee, and I know the minister is looking at it and he is saying, “A great member, as well”, I have not been a member of that committee since last June. All my commentary is associated with my having been a former member of that committee and having followed the issue from its inception. So, if somebody confused somebody else's presence on the committee, when the hearings on Bill C-42 were taking place, I am delighted that my presence had such an overwhelming impact on whomever was there that I am now confused for other members on that committee.

That having been said, I think that there are some valid points that have been made by my colleague and there are points that need to be addressed constantly because, as I said before, the government does not care. It says, “You're on your own”. That is its mantra. Maybe he should address that.

Strengthening Aviation Security Act February 28th, 2011

Mr. Speaker, I want to remove all doubt. I was the first and only member of Parliament from either side of the House who actually spoke on the bill when it was presented last June, on the last day of sitting. I took great pains to try to raise awareness. I did not hear very many people from the NDP party, because it is an NDP member who has asked this question, comment on it.

I pointed out all the difficulties associated with the bill and indicated at the same time that whether we voted for or against it, after the end of December, it would be a moot question. The Americans were already subjecting us to all of this and the Government of Canada wanted nothing to do with it. As I said, people are on their own.

Strengthening Aviation Security Act February 28th, 2011

Mr. Speaker, I always enjoy debate in the House. Perhaps we should all enjoy it more often because it will give us an opportunity to raise the issues that are of concern to many Canadians.

My hon. colleague will know that about three and a half years ago the current Minister of Foreign Affairs, who was the then minister of transport, introduced what we would call a bite-sized bill, so members have an opportunity to advertise they are doing something, which was essentially a no-fly list. People's names could be put on a no-fly list and only the minister of transport at the time could remove it, but he had to go through the minister of foreign affairs and Homeland Security. Homeland Security was not about to answer phone calls from Canadian citizens, or any citizen, on the spur of the moment because their name was on a no-fly list.

The government already gave away individuals' privacy three years ago on a no-fly list. It said then that people were on their own. If they got on a plane, it was somebody else's problem if they got into trouble.

I believe the member was here when we had that debate and discussion. It is unfortunate we have to repeat it.

Strengthening Aviation Security Act February 28th, 2011

Mr. Speaker, I have spoken to this bill in the past and there are some themes that need to be repeated over and over again.

With all due respect to my colleagues from the NDP who have raised the issues of privacy and commercial rights, et cetera, and perhaps cast a net of blame and guilt to all parties, including the Liberal Party, inappropriately so in my view, and especially since the Liberal Party, when it was in government, resisted these incursions upon the sovereignty of Canada, incursions upon the privacy of Canadians by foreign states in the most vigorous fashion. It is a little disturbing to hear someone say that the Liberal Party would actually go in the opposite direction.

The truth of the matter, though, and many of the people who have been following this debate will bear this out, is that the Americans gave Canada notice more than a year and a half ago that by the end of 2010 their legislation would apply to their territory and the air rights associated with their territory. The consequences upon foreign carriers, or indeed even domestic carriers that would be carrying passengers over American territory whether they were to land there or just transit, was going to be subject to that American legislation. They gave a year and a half of warning.

The Privacy Commissioner gave the government an indication of what the implications would be for individuals and for commercial interests a year and a half ago.

All of this to say that the government, had it been interested in the issues of sovereignty, whether they would be commercial or private, did absolutely nothing.

I know it satisfies many people to talk about the ineptness of government or maybe the unwillingness on the Conservative government's part to protect the interests of Canadians and their sovereignty. But keep in mind that the legislation the Americans passed went into effect last December and that Bill C-42 would not do anything other than hold Canadian airline companies that go into the United States or fly over the United States safe, harmless from any liabilities under the Privacy Act. That is essentially it. For the Americans, security trumps privacy, it trumps commercial interests and it certainly trumps the sovereignty concerns of other states, including Canada.

What is that security concern? I should not cast the blame to Liberals, the NDP, or the Bloc on this because they were not at the table. The Conservative Government of Canada was at the table and it was unable to negotiate for Canadians any kind of exemption.

Further, it was unable to eliminate from this current legislation the fact that any other state can apply the same sanctions that the Americans have done to Canada.

This business about security trumping virtually everything else has been the mantra of the government, but it is also the mantra of the United States. I am not going to criticize the Americans' concern verging on paranoia. They are applying that to us. However, the government has not been able to convince the Americans that the measures we have put in place for security, at least in the air industry, are sufficient to make them comfortable about Canadians travelling over the United States and into the United States by air.

Why do I say that? Take a look at the fact that last year the government, right out of the blue, provided $11 million to put 40 body scanners in our main airports so that we can be extra sure there is not going to be any threat.

The body scanners and the new technology that have been put in place in many of the country's airports may do something to secure people's sense of safety. The fact that there was only one company allowed to bid and only one company to which that contract went is another story.

However, $11 million for 40 body scanners, and none of those scanners have any way of finding trace elements of powder or chemicals. I know that the minister is asking what this has to do with anything. Well, it has to do with the investment we make in air security on the air side. The Americans are looking at this and saying they are not happy with what we have, so they are not even going to negotiate any mitigation of the legislation. Do we have air marshals on every one of those planes? The answer is clearly no, so what other mechanisms have been looked at in order to provide the sense of security they need with respect to safety on the air side?

On the land side, they can handle that, but the air side they are not convinced. Did the government make any effort? The answer is no. Did it take a look at the research and the development that is available, whether it is in the United States or in Israel, which is always touted as the place that has the best technology and the best procedures for security? Did it do that? No, it did not.

It washed its hands of any responsibility and in fact turned its back on the Americans and told them to make laws for their country and if it applies to our citizens and our commerce, well, then we will deal it. What we will do is sit down and talk about a security perimeter.

That is so old hat. It has taken the Americans five years to come forward with a proposal that in effect says to the Americans, “We will be responsible for the northern border in the United States and let us see if we can negotiate for you what that means”.

What will the Americans accept? So far they have not accepted our body scanners, they have not accepted the fact that we make roughly $500 million of investment in security as people go through airports. We have just increased taxes by $3.2 billion over the next five years so that we can provide greater assurance at the airports, not necessarily the naval ports or any other land ports.

An additional $3.2 billion of taxation the Conservative Government of Canada says it is now going to impose on everyone in order to make the security perimeter more or less feasible. We do not know what the government is going to spend that money on. Please tell us that it is on new technology. Please tell us it is on research and development of the technologies that the Americans, the Israelis and others who are absolutely paranoid about safety, and maybe rightly so, are using.

We have no clue where the Conservative Government of Canada wants to take us and what kind of submissions it has made with the Americans with respect to overflying or landing in the United States by Canadians who are no threat to anyone.

I can see that some of my Conservative colleagues opposite are saying that this guy is playing down the business of security. Nobody does that. Nobody in the House says that we should not ensure that the Government of Canada provides security for its citizens.

What everybody demands is that the Government of Canada make at least a token effort to protect the business interests of Canadians and the privacy interests of all Canadian citizens as they go about the business of travelling around the world. The Conservatives have not even done that.

It is easy for someone to say when we go to other countries, we abide by their rules. That is the only thing that the government believes in. If people leave the country, they are on their own. If they fly over somebody else's territory, they are on their own. There is more to government than simply saying “you are on your own”.

If the Conservatives feel that their rationale for coming into government is to prove that they are ineffective negotiators, that they have no concern for Canadians and no concern for their commercial interests, Canadians are going to have to judge them on their rationale for being in office. What a shame.

Former Public Sector Integrity Commissioner February 28th, 2011

Mr. Speaker, the pattern of interference did not end with the resignation of Madam Ouimet. Email traffic indicates that even the new interim commissioner is taking orders. Last month, in an email to the Prime Minister's department, he said, “There is one issue that your office is currently not privy to and that the clerk must be briefed on. I will be pleased to provide details to ensure Wayne is not blindsided”.

So much for whistleblower protection. How many more issues have been discussed with the Prime Minister's department and the Integrity Commissioner? Is not that office nothing but a sham?

Former Public Sector Integrity Commissioner February 28th, 2011

Mr. Speaker, with regard to the Integrity Commissioner's office, $11 million was spent, 228 cases reported, but none pursued. There was a scathing report by the Auditor General and the Conservatives washed their hands of the commissioner. She is an independent agent who reports to Parliament they say.

However, email traffic between the Prime Minister's department and Madam Ouimet's office show detailed communication on cases. In one such exchange, the deputy clerk of the PCO asks whether it was true that a whistleblower had been told that Ouimet “did not have the resources to investigate the disclosure”.

Will the Prime Minister admit that he never intended to have an independent commissioner's office?

Strengthening Aviation Security Act February 9th, 2011

Madam Speaker, it would appear that members are still exercised about an issue that they have already agreed has passed. In fact, the Americans gave us notice some 16 months ago that the legislation that led to Bill C-42 would be implemented and put into effect in the United States last December.

This is not an issue of security. It is an issue of the government now trying to backtrack because it presented this last June and only now wants to put it into law. Just imagine being unable to protect Canadian sovereignty for all that period and then to come forward and say that it is a question of security. It is not.

The member for Montmorency—Charlevoix—Haute-Côte-Nord has just indicated rather eloquently that this is a commercial issue. It is to prevent airlines from being sued for breach of privacy legislation by Canadians on Canadian carriers. It is an issue of sovereignty ceded to the Americans because of the government's incompetence and inability to negotiate what the Americans asked it to negotiate on 16 months ago.

I would like the member for Montmorency—Charlevoix—Haute-Côte-Nord to elaborate on this. What this shows is that the $40 million spent on those special machines in 11 locations in Canada to provide greater aviation security meant nothing to the Americans and that the legislation to impose another $3.2 billion in aviation tax for security measures was unimpressive to the Americans, and therefore we have to go to this because our airlines will be exposed to harassment by Americans. That is what this legislation is about.