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Crucial Fact

  • His favourite word was billion.

Last in Parliament March 2011, as Liberal MP for Scarborough Centre (Ontario)

Lost his last election, in 2011, with 32% of the vote.

Statements in the House

Christian Orthodox Theological Institute June 15th, 2010

Mr. Speaker, there have been discussions among the parties and if you were to seek it, I believe you would find unanimous consent for the following motion. I move:

That the House express its support for the reopening of the Christian Orthodox Theological Institute of Halki which is located in Halki, Turkey, and recognizes the institute as a significant part of the Christian Orthodox faith and world culture.

That is the motion and I seek everyone's support. At the same time, I want to thank our House leader for the great work he has done to bring this forward.

Business of Supply June 1st, 2010

Mr. Speaker, let me summarize it.

Canada proudly put on the Winter Olympic Games, which lasted for 17 days. There were thousands of very important people, starting with our athletes, Paralympics and all, and it cost less than that. Is that not a large venue to use for comparison?

I will close with this. If the member bought a car tomorrow, a certain brand that I will not name, and he paid $40,000 for it and a year down the road I bought the same model of car with the same options and everything, I would pay ten times the amount. This is what I am trying to say. I used the Olympics as an example. I used the building of a house as an example. This is common sense. It is not revolutionary in any way. Canadians are too intelligent. They are going to see beyond the smokescreen and one day they will judge.

Business of Supply June 1st, 2010

We will move away from that, Mr. Speaker. We will just let Danny Williams, the Premier of Newfoundland and Labrador call it as it is. I think he used that word without any hesitation whatsoever. Sometimes people just do not like it when we put the truth on the table. However, I will say that the Conservatives have been intellectually dishonest with Canadians from day one.

The figures I used came from the various conferences that were held, the Ottawa-Montebello conference, the Toronto-Halifax conference, the Kananaskis conference, and the Muskoka conference. I used the figures from the various conferences. If they are in dispute, then we should look at them accurately and say whoever gave us the figures might have been misleading us.

As I said earlier, I am pleased that the Conservatives are in government and finally learning how to run the country, but they are not doing it that well. When he first came here, the member was a Reform member, and then an Alliance member, and now he is a Conservative member. He knows very well how his party misled Canadians. For example, his party played out the gym as a palace to Canadians. It is a room with some fitness equipment. They talked about the limousines. His then leader, Preston Manning, gave it away and he was using a limousine on his own and was driven here. There was the clothing allowance. It was okay to talk about it. Now we see that the Prime Minister has a limousine entourage like we have never seen before, but that is okay. Canadians can judge for themselves.

I put the figures on the table. If anybody would like to see them, I would be more than happy to make them available.

Business of Supply June 1st, 2010

Mr. Speaker, in the last 17 years I have sat here, I have never heard more dishonesty--and I can use that word, Mr. Speaker, because it was used--come from anywhere but that party. For example, there is the billion dollar boondoggle lie, the one or two billion dollar gun registry lie.

Business of Supply June 1st, 2010

Mr. Speaker, I was just writing down what the gentleman said so that I could repeat it verbatim.

The member said that other countries have not been as transparent as Canada has been. I would suggest we be very cautious with our words because telling other countries that they have not been transparent is an insult. That is like telling them they have not been transparent, that they are hiding something, or that they are misleading people. If that is the case, I do not want their officials in my country. I do not want them around the conference table. I do not want them giving suggestions to me here in Canada if they are not transparent. Let them stay home and work in their non-transparent environments.

In answer to the member about the cost, let me simplify it. If I build a house today and it costs $200,000 and three years down the road I want to build another similar house, the same square footage, the whole bit, and I add in the increase in inflation, et cetera, the cost of that house would go from $200,000 to $1.2 million. If I paid that $1.2 million, people would think I was stupid or that I had been suckered in. That is why I gave those other figures.

If England can spend $20 million, if Japan can spend $200 million or $300 million, and it does things first-class as we do here, how can we jump to $1.1 billion plus a contingency fund? I can guarantee to Canadians that the contingency fund will be accessed and we will see where we go with it.

Business of Supply June 1st, 2010

Mr. Speaker, what the member for Prince Edward—Hastings talked about is so true. We live in a new world, and Liberals were in government at the beginning of the new world we live in. At that time, it was under Jean Chrétien and then Paul Martin. With that new world that the member talked about came a lot more responsibilities, and obviously costs, but somehow we managed them.

The unfortunate part, though, is that when we had to take those steps, there was the Reform Party, as they were then known, and there was criticism, negativity, anti- this and anti- that. Today, I am very pleased because we are hearing comments that we have to deal with the world, we have to spend money, and we have to go to conferences.

When the Liberals planned to go to conferences, to world trade summits or the G8 or G20 that was initiated by a Liberal former prime minister, Paul Martin, the members opposite were negative. They said we should not be there. So I am pleased that the Conservatives have turned around. Now they can speak as a government. The ones who do not have to make decisions, such as the NDP, can say anything they want to Canadians, knowing they never have to deliver. Nevertheless, the Conservatives now have a taste of what it is like to make responsible decisions.

Throughout the day I was listening to the debate and decided I did not want a prepared text, that I would select a few comments from different members who have spoken and add my observations and comments. Before I do, I briefly want to read for the record the Liberal motion for the day, which states:

That, in the opinion of the House, while Canadians are justifiably proud—

We stressed that because earlier a member from the government side said, “We are proud to showcase our country”. I support that statement. So we should.

—of Canada's upcoming hosting of the G-8 and G-20 summits and determined to provide effective and efficient security for the visiting world leaders, they are outraged at the reckless partisan choices and financial mismanagement that have caused the security budget for the summits to skyrocket to over $1 billion

I will not read the entire motion, but certainly it compares the security costs for the 2010 Winter Olympics, which lasted 17 days and cost the same money. These summits are a three-day event, I say to Canadians, that is going to cost us, the government says, $1.1 billion, and there is a contingency included. Earlier today, one of the Conservative members talked about a contingency plan, which I will address in a minute, which guarantees Canadians that it will exceed that $1.1 billion.

What does that mean? It means the government is going to be spending over $400 million a day. That is mind-boggling. There was discussion about the trade with China that the hon. member brought up. That is wiped out in three days. Where is the benefit? There is zero benefit. If anything, it is costing us money.

The member for Brant earlier today talked about contingency funds built in. When Liberals were in government, the way we made our country number one, the way the Conservatives inherited the best country in the world, $13.2 billion in surplus, a balanced budget and the lowest debt-to-GDP ratio was because we had a contingency plan for a rainy day, which was $3 billion. If that money was not used, it went straight to debt repayment.

The way the Conservatives manage the economy, they eliminated the contingency plan. In their budget preparations, there is no contingency plan. When the world, never mind Canadians, was telling the Prime Minister and the Conservative government three or four years ago that we are headed into troubled and difficult times, their attitude was no, we are fine, do not worry, be happy, there is no recession, nothing is happening.

We know what has happened today. Hundreds of thousands of jobs were lost. Are these summits good? Absolutely.

The hon. gentleman talked about this as a spinoff from the Pittsburgh summit. I agree. Part of the Pittsburgh summit was about how to get economic order moving, how to get countries working. That is why I brought up the environment, because today everybody is talking about the green economy. Everybody is talking about investing in new ways, more efficient ways, more effective ways, and more cost-effective ways of running our households and our cars. We have to make an investment in these new technologies to benefit future generations and for the beautiful riding of Prince Edward—Hastings to be environmentally sound, which I know it is today, and all others, whether it is the Rouge Valley system in my neck of the woods in Scarborough or whether it is High Park in Toronto, or wherever it is.

I am very disappointed that there is nothing to address the environmental issues. I understand why, because the last time there was an environmental conference worldwide, the environment minister who is the Minister of Transport today did not want to show up. As a matter of fact, the conference did not want him there, because he did not have anything to say.

The government has totally abrogated its responsibilities when it comes to the environment. I believe and my party believes that there is a future industry in the green economy. President Obama, for example, talks about investing in the green economy. All the other world leaders are talking about investing in the green economy. Rahim Jaffer is talking about the green economy. It is to create jobs. That is the environment. That falls under the envelope called “the environment”.

This summit is a disappointment to each and every Canadian who cares about smog, who cares about a clean environment, who cares about an environmentally friendly Canada. They have been tossed aside.

This summit started off with a budget of $175 million or $180 million. All of a sudden, it just ballooned. The hon. Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Justice spoke earlier about our military. He said that the Liberals took away all the money, that the military had no money to buy new equipment, that we did that.

Let me just say to the member, because he is a new member, that at least I can say I have the benefit of having been around here 17 or 18 years and have had the great privilege of being the chairman of the national defence committee and veterans affairs. If anybody was there witnessing it, it was me.

On the floor of this hon. House, I asked General Hillier and the minister of defence at that time about the $14 billion in new equipment that was being talked about. I asked if it was new money, plus the $14 billion from the Liberal budget that they inherited, for a total of $28 billion. After three tries, he said it was the $14 billion allocated by the Liberal government. That is where the money should have come from for new equipment.

When the member made that statement, I will say respectfully, it was intellectually not true, just for the record and for Canadians to know.

Today, when we do not have moneys to pay benefits for a sick child who is suffering with asthma and we do not have the money to have our frigates or our submarines working and we store them, or we do not have the money to replace propellors, they have been in government four and a half years. They did not just take over yesterday. So they talk a good story.

That is what I am worried about with this summit, that there is a lot of talk, but when the government gets behind closed doors, is it really going to be in there fighting for Canada? We do not believe so, given the history, given what has happened in the past.

The government has misled Canadians in many ways. It has manipulated the messaging. It has been misleading Canadians. It has been manoeuvring, misstating and misrepresenting. As a result, the government has been mismanaging the economy. But enough of the letter M words; we will go to another part of the dictionary.

How has the government been misleading Canadians? It has been misleading Canadians in terms of the deficits and in terms of raising taxes. I will give one example. When the government brought its budget in a couple of years ago, it said it would lower taxes. The lowest tax bracket with the Liberals was at 15%. The Conservatives increased it to 15.5% and called it a tax decrease. Then they talked about EI.

In order for the economy to prosper, we cannot tax employers. What is the first thing the government is doing? According to the Canadian Federation of Independent Business, it is raising over $13 billion in employer-employee taxing. As a former employer, I say that would have cost me more money for my deduction as an employer, and of course, less money for my employee's pocket. Yet it is not raising taxes. If that is not misleading Canadians, I do not know what to say.

They have obviously misled Canadians, as they misled Canadians on the gun registry, for example. The member for Portage—Lisgar made defamatory statements towards Toronto Chief of Police Bill Blair, who is a decent man, a good man, who calls it as he sees it, who calls a spade a spade.

I call on that hon. member to do the right thing and apologize to Chief Blair, because we know that the gun registry does not cost the $1 billion or $2 billion. Every time the government stands up, it is a different figure.

That is why we cannot trust the government going to the summit. It is always misstating the facts. We now know that it costs $4 million a year. We also know that it hid that report supporting the registry until after the vote. If that is not misleading Canadians, I do not know what is.

Earlier today, the hard-working member for Dartmouth—Cole Harbour spoke. He gave us some examples of what we could do with some of the moneys.

My good friend from Sydney—Victoria, the hon. Liberal member, gave one example. He talked about the dredging that needs to be done in Sydney Harbour. He said that just 15 minutes of that conference would pay for half of the cleanup, and 30 minutes would wipe everything out. That is about $38 million.

As a member of the Greek community in Toronto, I say that one minute of that conference cost would help complete the Hellenic Cultural Centre, the first one, in its centennial year. Maybe the government will consider that.

The member for Dartmouth—Cole Harbour gave us some examples of what $1 billion could do. He talked about how we could support children in need, for example. He had a report that indicated that the national child benefit could have prevented 78,800 families, or 171,100 children, from living in low income.

That is the future of Canada. That is our children. Those are some of the things that I want the Prime Minister to think about as he goes to the conference.

I have often spoken in the past about the future of our country. I have great respect for our seniors and our veterans. We in between will find our way, but we have to give emphasis to the future of our country; that is, our young men and women. I agree with the hon. member that in order to be competitive, we have to reach out and we have to have a well-educated society.

Unfortunately, it is very expensive today. The government could take some of this money and invest it into education, as the hon. member for Dartmouth—Cole Harbour said earlier. He gave us some statistics when he said, for $1 billion, we could fully pay the tuition of 23,376 of the poorest Canadian students. Increasing the post-secondary student program funding to provide every first nations student who wanted to go to school with the funds to do so would cost approximately $700 million.

It could fund 28,571 Canadian graduate doctoral scholarships or 57,143 Canadian graduate master's scholars. That is preparing the brains for Canada to be competitive tomorrow.

The list goes on. We could reduce the student loan interest rates down to the government's cost of borrowing of 4.1%, which was a figure from 2008. We could expand the size of the Canada summer jobs program tenfold. That would help young men and women work during the summer.

That is part of the Pittsburgh spinoff, as the member said. It is helping Canadians get back to work. That is what I think these summits are really meant to be. How do we get our nations working and co-operating? How do we resolve issues?

One of the major issues is the environment. The government has done zero on that. I explained earlier why, because I think they might not have shown up on the hosting of their own conference.

The agency is just about to hire the staff right now. They are looking to hire two or three weeks before the summit. They do say that each person must pass a mandatory training program and have a security guard licence, which is fine. They are going to train them in a week or two to get ready to secure the world leaders. That is shocking.

This average security person is going to earn about $1,200 a week. That is about $60,000 a year. I am at a loss for words. There are people today who are hurting, who just want to earn something to put food on the table and we are going to pay approximately $1,200 or perhaps even more per week. I will let Canadians judge for themselves. That is all for a three day summit.

With respect to an audit, the Auditor General confirmed that her office will examine the spending. By the time the Auditor General does the audit it will be three or four years down the road and there will be no relevancy. God willing, the Conservatives will not be in government.

Kevin Page, the Parliamentary Budget Officer, also wants to do an audit but how can he? The Conservative government appointed him, but the minute he started putting the figures out, the Conservatives did not like it and they clamped down on him. They have taken away from his budget. He cannot do his work.

The message is very simple. Those who do not agree with the government are going to be shut down. Those who do not agree with the government are going to have their funding taken away. Certain groups, KAIROS for example, and certain work that they do, certain organizations that they reach out to, if it is not part of government policy the Conservatives eliminate the funds. Maybe they do not like the Greek community in Toronto and that is why it is not getting any funds for its community centre.

I have been asking since 2006, for four years, that maybe the government could contribute a $1 million or $2 million. The government has given money to other community centres, but unfortunately the Greek Canadian community has been starved. I do not think all of the Greek community votes Liberal. They vote Canadian and they pay their taxes, so they deserve consideration.

The estimates are really a concern. When the government included in the supplementary estimates the funding required for these summits, I do not know how it came up with the figure.

The summit in Britain for example cost almost $20 million. That country is very security conscious, maybe even more than Canada because unfortunately and sadly, certain incidents occurred in England. There were bombings. It has had other problems domestically and international interference. We would think that Britain would be spending more money to make sure when it hosts international guests that they are protected.

The question arises as to how Britain could do it with such a smaller budget when ours is astronomically high. We are discussing this subject because when we go back to our ridings Canadians are going to ask, “What are you guys doing? This is our hard-earned money”. The government talks about hard-earned money. It talks about choices. It talks about keeping more money in the pockets of Canadians. We agree with that.

I support these conferences. I believe that they have a value, but the hypocrisy around this is really hurting Canadians.

When the current Minister of Citizenship, Immigration and Multiculturalism was a member of the Canadian Taxpayers Federation, he said that the conference in Nova Scotia was too expensive. Today he is a member of the government, but back then he was complaining about the $8.1 million for a conference in Nova Scotia. Today he is in the government and he is approving $1.1 billion and counting.

I close with this. Those people are now in government. They came to Parliament to do things differently. They are now realizing it is not what they see. I am glad they have had a turnabout. Hopefully when they become opposition they will not be as angry as they were last time around.

Business of Supply June 1st, 2010

Mr. Speaker, the hon. member from Prince Edward—Hastings referred to the leader. I do not think that is what the Liberal leader said. However, we do know what the Prime Minister said when he talked about being embarrassed for Canada when we chose not go to war in Iraq with the United States. In Canada, our history speaks for itself.

The hon. member talked about trade liberalization. I support that. We have to go out there and get our share of the market. He talked about security. He talked about what we are doing in third world countries, and I agree with him.

He comes from one of the most beautiful parts of the province, of the country. It has a tourist industry. The area he comes from needs to be protected. The environmental issues are so important. I have not once heard anybody on the government side talk about bringing environmental issues to the summit.

Canada is spending $1.1 billion or $1.2 billion. Why are we not talking about the environment?

Business of Supply June 1st, 2010

Mr. Speaker, for the sake of this honourable House, just for clarification, the term “PIGS” is the first letter of each country—Portugal, Ireland, Greece, and Spain. I believe that the member did not mean anything dishonourable.

Business of Supply June 1st, 2010

Mr. Speaker, I listened carefully to the parliamentary secretary. As much as we have a lot of latitude and it is wonderful when we stand up to speak, we do not necessarily have to talk about the subject.

He talked a lot about the military, its services and the proud record that it has. However, I am sure he is well aware of two things, the first one being how the government is draining our military. It is tying up frigates and some are being mothballed. We do not have money to operate them or for gas. The other day we found out that of one of our soldiers who is serving in Afghanistan cannot get medical benefits for his child who has asthma. Where is the government's pride in our military?

The member talked about the service that our military will be offering, so why would the cost not be less given that the military is there and it has a role to play in Canada? Military personnel earn their income by being part of the military forces and, as such, they do one duty when we do not have a summit. With the summit, the forces will provide some of the services that the member talked about. Would he not think that the cost would then be lower as opposed to exorbitant the way they are?

Business of Supply June 1st, 2010

Mr. Speaker, I too am concerned about the $1.1 billion that is being quoted. God knows what it is going to be afterwards. Nevertheless, let us work with the $1.1 billion figure. The hon. member has worked very hard over the years on the education file as a whole and post-secondary education in particular. It intrigued me when he touched on that area in the short time that he had.

On behalf of Canada's future, our young men and women who must have a good education so that our country can be competitive, would he elaborate on how these funds could help Canada for a better tomorrow?