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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

Tax Conventions Implementation Act, 2010 May 13th, 2010

Madam Speaker, I am so pleased the minister asked me that question. I would be more than happy to put the red book before the public with respect to the GST and other issues.

If she had listened to my speech, she would have heard me talk about a nation needing revenue to carry out its responsibilities, and part of that revenue would come from the GST. The red book said that we would scrap the GST and replace it with an equal revenue-generating tax. A house, a business and a country cannot be run without revenue.

I challenge the member publicly. If I am wrong, I will resign. If I am right, she will resign. Will she take me up on the challenge?

Tax Conventions Implementation Act, 2010 May 13th, 2010

Madam Speaker, you can be assured that I will. I do not know if the member was here earlier, but I have been referring to nothing but Bill S-3. I have talked about how we promoted the issue of double taxation specifically with Greece given my Greek background. I am moving into various examples to draw a parallel, but maybe what has happened is I hit a soft spot because the Reform Party, now known as the Conservative Party, is trying to fool Canadians again by not allowing me to put the facts on the table. If the Conservatives believe in the democratic process, I ask the member not to interrupt again.

Of course tax avoidance and tax evasion create problems within any society. We look at the United Kingdom which just formed a coalition government, something which the Conservative Party condemned not too long ago. The first thing that coalition government is doing is it is looking at austerity programs simply because adjustments are needed. Obviously the tax revenue is not there to sustain the standard of living or programs.

Bill S-3 addresses this to make us competitive so there is more revenue coming into the treasury. It means people no matter whether they work inside or outside Canada will be treated fairly from a tax point of view. Canadian citizens, should they decide to move to Turkey, Greece or Colombia or other countries we have agreements with, or buy a summer home in Trinidad or wherever, will be treated fairly. In Florida there are a lot of Canadian snowbirds. Why should they not be treated fairly? That is what part of Bill S-3 is doing.

If I am off topic, Madam Speaker, please let me know. I believe I am trying to explain the whole process. Maybe my Conservative friends do not like to hear about it, but unfortunately the truth must be told.

The rules as set out by the OECD's model tax convention is a process where there is fairness, more so continuity in this model. What I was saying to my counterparts in Greece is they have to treat it fairly both here in Canada and in Greece.

For the last little while, Madam Speaker, Greece has gone through some unfortunate problems. The newspapers are reporting that Greece has a problem. Greece finds itself in the same position today that Canada found itself in 1992-93 where we were unofficially a bankrupt country. The IMF was going to step in. This is what is being talked about in Greece. We were not asked to sell the CN Tower, Niagara Falls, or some of the Thousand Islands in the St. Lawrence near Kingston. I do not know why anyone is asking these idiotic, silly and stupid things of Greece that the media suggested.

I believe in co-operation. The message I sent to the people in Greece is that everybody has to participate in this unfortunate economic situation in which they find themselves. I was saddened by the demonstrations and loss of lives.

Back to tax avoidance and tax evasion. The government in the last election promised that it would not touch income trusts and the government put it in writing. What did it do right after the election? It reneged on its written agreement. All of a sudden, Conservatives said there was a leakage and they needed the revenue of about $300 million. As the member for Eglinton—Lawrence pointed out earlier, it cost Canadians over $30 billion. There were two areas that primarily concerned me. One was the downward adjustment of seniors who had planned for their retirement years and then all of sudden x amount of money was taken out of their monthly revenue. That was unfair. The Prime Minister and his party misled Canadians before the election. People supported him because he told them he was not going to touch income trusts.

There is something else which also concerns me on the taxing side.

There is a provision in that area that gave Canadian companies and all other companies the opportunity to borrow money, should they wish to expand and acquire other companies, et cetera, and they could deduct the cost of that borrowing.

All of a sudden the government has put Canadian companies at a disadvantage. Canadian companies can no longer do that, but other companies around the world can. That is why there is an increase in foreign companies buying Canadian companies, thereby weakening the Canadian economy and Canadian sovereignty. That is what I cannot stand. I brought in a specific motion to have the government change that, but the government voted it down.

When we talk about sustainability for what we love here about Canada, the government has weakened that sustainability. Corporations that need to generate revenue, so they can pay taxes, so we can put money into the health system, have been weakened.

Tax Conventions Implementation Act, 2010 May 13th, 2010

Madam Speaker, I am disappointed that my friend said “corruption”.

They paid Jimmy Hart $50,000 to get rid of him. I do not want to get into this gutter talk, but I can if the member chooses to. He is a new member today. He is a former reporter, and I would like to believe that he was a good reporter, but maybe he was not a fair reporter and he should have reported both sides of the story. I would like to challenge him, for example, on the gun registry. Every time those members stand up they say it is $1 billion or $2 billion. They cannot even make up their minds how much it is, but truth be told that is not the amount. Why do they not ask the various police associations?

I would be more than happy to take on my colleague, the Minister of International Trade. I am very disappointed actually because he knows that I have stood to support the government's initiatives, especially on Colombia. I was not going in the direction today of trying to distort or defame in any way. I was simply pointing out the facts. I must say to the hon. gentleman, for whom I have great respect, that I am hurt. Nevertheless, I am going to move on.

We overcame that difficulty. We did it in a balanced way. Those are words that the Conservative government is using today. We put one-third into the programs that Canadians wanted, health care, pensions, and post-secondary education. We put one-third into personal and corporate tax reduction. We put one-third--

Tax Conventions Implementation Act, 2010 May 13th, 2010

Madam Speaker, before I discuss Bill S-3, I feel it is my obligation to clarify something. The member for Outremont used the word “threat”. Let me put it on the record that it was not a threat. What I was saying to the member, because he refused to answer the question, was that in all fairness the taxpayers of his constituency deserve to know what happens in this honourable chamber because members, myself included, cannot say one thing here and then go back to their ridings and say another, not in the 21st century.

I refuse to engage with the member for Outremont with the vocabulary he used. I will use one word, “belligerent”. I use it only to outline to the audience and Canadians that I will not engage in that vocabulary. I say he lowered himself today because I did not attack him. I simply tried to tie the two together with Bill S-3 when he kept referring to Colombian human rights violations.

I will repeat it for the record. I asked if the NDP was going to base its support for Bill S-3 on human rights violations? The countries today that are moving forward, and I will be supporting this bill, include Turkey along with Colombia and Greece. I simply asked him the question. Today, a member of the European community, Cyprus, is occupied illegally, 30% of its territory, by Turkish forces. There are 1,600 people who still cannot be traced and are unaccounted for. Refugees, both Greek Cypriots and Turkish Cypriots, want their properties back. I simply asked the member, if we compare that, what does he think about that? Instead of responding, he simply attacked me. I wanted to clarify that for the record.

I was saddened when he talked about not bringing our ways here. I too am proud of the Canadian record on peacemaking and peacekeeping. My father is a veteran of the second world war and I believe very much in what Canada has done. I have supported it over the years and, yes, even the Afghanistan issue and its problems, as a former chair of the defence committee. That is what we are doing here, trying to solve these problems.

I was saddened when he said that. To quote him, he said he was a proud Canadian. I do not know what he was referring to, but I do not know what it is going to take. Is it going to take my grandfather, John Cannis, who arrived on these shores 105 years ago? Is it going to take my father's generation that came after the war? Is it going to take my generation? Is it going to take my kids' generation? Is it going to take my three grandchildren's generation before I belong or anybody else? I ask the member to reflect on the words.

Now, to the issue today, Bill S-3. I proudly say that I am of the race of Solon. I am of the race of Pericles, Socrates, Hippocrates, Alexander the Great of Macedonia in Greece, but I also am the product of Sir John A. Macdonald, Cartier, Laurier, Pearson and Trudeau. That is why I have the privilege of standing in this honourable House. I say to the members of the Bloc that I believe in a strong and united country, unlike them.

Today we are here to discuss Bill S-3. The member for Eglinton—Lawrence described it when he talked about nation building. The issues of double taxation, tax avoidance and tax evasion are issues that have been on the table for as long as I have been a parliamentarian, which is since October 1993.

I will refer to my former colleague from Ahuntsic, Eleni Bakopanos, and myself. Every time we found ourselves with Greek representatives, we brought this issue to the table. It was not that Canada was not willing. It was the other side more so. There were obstacles but we were moving forward. We were ready in or around 2003 to finally put this agreement in place with Greece in terms of double taxation so that seniors who may choose to move back to Greece or other people could be fairly treated on the tax side.

Then, of course, there was the election of 2004. I am pleased that this government, and I cannot say “this government” because the bill was introduced in the Senate.

I am just wondering why the bill was not introduced in this hon. chamber, the House of Commons. I am glad that it was introduced.

For the record, the bill states that it is:

An Act to implement conventions and protocols concluded between Canada and Colombia, Greece and Turkey for the avoidance of double taxation and the prevention of fiscal evasion with respect to taxes on income.

That is what it is all about. That is what the member for Eglinton—Lawrence talked about. That is what we are trying to do.

In his speech, Senator Wilfred Moore said:

As the global economy grew more integrated, a treaty on international taxation was sought to deal with the problems of double taxation and tax evasion.

The OECD began to address these issues in the 1950s, eventually creating the model tax convention. Since then, more than 3,000 tax treaties have been put in place worldwide.

This is yet another step in trying to find some continuity, some consistency and more so some fairness. We as citizens, and I include myself, demand that the system offer us certain services, whether that be health care, education, pensions, et cetera.

In order for those systems to be sustained, there has to be infusion of money into the system. That is why it has been said that too much tax relief is not good. Where would the money come from to address the infrastructure needs, to address climate change, to put money into post-secondary education and the health system? I ask each and every Canadian, how would we sustain that?

I agree with Senator Moore's proposal in the way he describes it. I want to put more of his speech on the record of this hon. chamber and for Canadians to hear. He also said the following:

It is important to remind honourable senators that while we have been impacted by a global recession, Canada has weathered the recession better than any other countries and we are well placed going into a recovery. Our fiscal standing is the healthiest in the G7; our housing markets avoided the problems seen in other countries; and our banks and financial system are the strongest in the world.

He is absolutely correct. He went on to say:

I would like to inform the chamber that I have passed on these compliments to the Right Honourable Jean Chrétien, the man responsible for protecting the economy and Canadians from this recession.

In all fairness, the facts and the truth must be told. In 1993 when the Liberals assumed government, we inherited, unofficially, a bankrupt country. The debt was out of control. The deficit was just over $43 billion. There was over 12% unemployment. Students were disillusioned. They did not know if there would be any jobs for them after they graduated.

The International Monetary Fund was ready to step in. The bond market was ready in our country. What did we do? We said to Canadians that we would have to do a program review. Today they call it an austerity program, which is fairly true. We had to make adjustments. We had to make cuts, simply put.

Today when the government stands up and says we had to make cuts, let me remind the government members that their people at the time, Ray Speaker for example, stood up in this hon. House and said, “You did not cut enough.” When they stand up today and say, “Look at what you guys did”, let me remind them that it was Conservative provincial governments that were cutting first before the federal government did. Nevertheless, we have to move beyond that.

We implemented an austerity program. We started trimming the fat, as they say, in terms of laying off civil servants or terminating their employment, and adjusting how things were done. We tried to streamline with one-stop shopping concepts, so that services were not duplicated. In a short four and a half years, we balanced the books without raising taxes. Then surpluses came. Those are facts that nobody can deny.

We asked Canadians where they would like us to invest the surpluses. They said there were three areas--

Tax Conventions Implementation Act, 2010 May 13th, 2010

Madam Speaker, I listened very carefully to my hon. colleague and I agree with everything he said.

I want to put a question to him with respect to trade that he was referring to and he made a valid point.

However, the other day we heard testimony in the international trade committee how, for example, there is one province in Colombia which is a coal producing province, employs over 10,000 people, and it just purchased from Canada, I believe it was last year, about $60 million worth of equipment that it needs to do its work.

We also heard that one of Colombia's largest industries, the flour industry, employs approximately 200,000 people, of which 60%, meaning about 120,000, are women. They have found decent work to support their families and move out of the misery that has been talked about.

If we stay away as Canadians and do not help them, do not show them how to prevent tax avoidance and tax evasion as Bill S-3 is outlining, are we really doing them any good or should we step in and say, like other countries in the past, with their problems we are going to teach them the Canadian way? What does the member have to say about that?

Tax Conventions Implementation Act, 2010 May 13th, 2010

Madam Speaker, the incapability and ignorance is on that member's side. If he understood what I was trying to tell him, he would ask himself, “If I am singling out Colombia on human rights, why am I not singling out Turkey for doing exactly the same thing?”

With Bill S-3, we are trying to show these nations the way forward by moving them toward tax avoidance and tax evasion so they can produce and input into their economies to make for a better tomorrow. I am sad that he does not have much knowledge on the Cyprus issue. I will ensure his constituents know about it.

Tax Conventions Implementation Act, 2010 May 13th, 2010

Madam Speaker, I listened very carefully to the hon. member's comments. He referred to Colombia, Greece and Turkey and his resistance with Colombia because of human rights. One-third of island of Cyprus is illegally occupied by Turkish forces. There are 1,600 Greek and Turkish Cypriots still unaccounted for with regard to laws, properties, et cetera.

If that is not a violation of human rights on behalf of Turkey, what would he say to his Greek Canadian and Greek Cypriot constituents?

Tax Conventions Implementation Act, 2010 May 13th, 2010

Mr. Speaker, I listened very carefully to my colleague from Eglinton—Lawrence. The area that touched me was when he referred to income trusts and tied it together in terms of economic development, sustainability, competitiveness and future investments. I was very moved when he said that some $30 billion were wiped out.

I know how much he has spoken about seniors in the past. I want him to take the opportunity to talk about the impact that decision on income trusts had on seniors. In essence, the Conservatives misled Canadians during the election when they promised they would not touch income trusts and then did the opposite. I would like the member to focus on the impact that it had on seniors.

Tax Conventions Implementation Act, 2010 May 13th, 2010

Mr. Speaker, I enjoyed listening to the parliamentary secretary and I must say I am pleased. He touched on income trusts and we know that the government made a commitment. It reneged on it. With income trusts, I think there is a provision in there where it seems that Canadian companies are at a disadvantage. Foreign companies can borrow money to expand and acquire companies, invest, et cetera, and write off those borrowing costs. Canadian companies have lost that advantage.

Could he please talk about that? Are there any provisions in here that address that? We are trying to bring tax fairness and I see that. Can we bring some fairness to our corporate world as well?

Fairness at the Pumps Act May 13th, 2010

Mr. Speaker, I have a brief comment before I ask a question. The other NDP member asked a question with respect to the Liberals. When the Liberals were in government, the price was about $75 to $78 per barrel. The prices at the pump were about 55¢ to 60¢. We did conduct a review and we did find some form of collusion that we addressed.

How can the hon. member explain this scenario, where the price today per barrel is about $79 or $80 while at the pump it is an average of $1.02 to $1.05 per litre? Some time ago in the supposed crisis, the price per barrel was at $150 and they were charging us $1.04 or $1.05. How does this discrepancy match? My constituents are upset. They say they do not mind being fair.

The Conservative government promised during the election that it would eliminate the excise tax on anything above 85¢ per litre. It has not done so. Does she think that would also help the consumer?