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Crucial Fact

  • His favourite word was billion.

Last in Parliament February 2017, as Liberal MP for Markham—Thornhill (Ontario)

Won his last election, in 2015, with 56% of the vote.

Statements in the House

Resignation of Members January 31st, 2017

Mr. Speaker, I thank my colleagues for that wonderful response. Perhaps I should simply sit down, which I will, in just a few minutes.

I would like to begin by expressing my shock and horror at the terrorist act committed in the Quebec City mosque. I want to express my sincere condolences to the families of those who were killed or wounded.

As I stand in this place for the last time, I naturally do so with mixed emotions. Having had a few days to think about it, I also believe that this China assignment is the perfect job for me. I am grateful to the Prime Minister for his confidence.

I am going to Beijing with a great teammate, Nancy, my wife of 36 years. I think she deserves applause, if only because she has had to put up with me for 36 years. Nancy will be a great partner, but she also has her life in Canada. She, like I, will miss our three sons. She will spend part of her time in Canada, but she will be a huge asset as well in China.

I am also pleased to share this opportunity with the member for Saint-Laurent, who has been a colleague of mine for decades. We met as classmates at university in Montreal, and we served together as MPs and ministers. I would be very pleased if we were to remain colleagues as ambassadors. I would enjoy that, but it may not come to pass. It is a mystery. We will find out soon.

Passing right along.

I would also like to thank the citizens of Markham for their support in six elections and over 16 years, as well as the volunteers who have given me their strong support over the years. No politician is better than his assistants, so I would like to extend a big thank-you to my assistants, past and present, for their loyalty and their excellent work.

I know that members from all parties will agree with me that Ali, Bernie, Lisa, Kyle, and Kerry have all done fantastic work on immigration files, and I thank them very much. They have not had to put up with me for 36 years but three of them have for more than 10 years, Hursh, Lisa, and Wendy. I thank them all.

I also know members will be equally well served by my successor. I really want to warmly congratulate the member for York South—Weston now that he has become Minister of Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship. As members saw in question period today and yesterday, and in his first press conference over the weekend, my successor is a quick study. He is doing a great job. He has a warm heart. Immigration is in good hands.

As I look back over the last 16 years, I can think of some good times in this job and some not so good times, some pretty bad ones, actually. However, I thought what I would do is save my description of those bad times for my next speech in this chamber, which might be in some future life.

In terms of the good things, I only want to mention a couple: the nomination of Nelson Mandela to be an honorary citizen back in 2001 and, in particular, the Syrian refugees.

I am certainly glad that we have more than accomplished the task. In particular, I would like to thank the dedicated officials with the Department of Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship.

However, what makes me really proud is not that we got the job done, although that is good, but that at a time when so many countries around the world are closing their doors to refugees, ordinary Canadians across this land have come out and have welcomed our newcomers with open hearts. That is what makes me very proud to be a Canadian.

Three days ago, the Prime Minister sent the following tweet:

To those fleeing persecution, terror and war, Canadians will welcome you, regardless of your faith. Diversity is our strength.

I remember, very happily, that when we came up with this refugee initiative, all of the opposition parties supported us. I hope very much that in that same spirit all of the opposition parties would support the sentiments expressed in that tweet, especially about “irrespective of faith”. I believe very strongly that those sentiments reflect not just Liberal values but Canadian values.

I am going to China to work for broader and deeper ties between our two countries, with the ultimate objective of creating jobs and growth for middle-class Canadians. This is partly, but by no means exclusively, about free trade discussions. It being 2017, I know that a successful trading relationship must not only pass some economist test, but it must also be demonstrably job creating and prosperity creating for hard-working Canadians. It is in that spirit that I will be offering my advice on trade with China to the government.

Canada and China have enjoyed a strong friendship that began with Norman Bethune in the 1930s, and continued with John Diefenbaker and the export of wheat, and with Pierre Elliott Trudeau and the diplomatic recognition of China.

[Member spoke in Mandarin.]

[English]

As I said in Mandarin, Canadians and Chinese are good friends.

One of my projects is to improve my Mandarin.

However, when China and Canada have disagreed on something, and this sometimes happens, all three prime ministers I have served have drawn on this friendship to speak respectfully but frankly to their Chinese counterparts. I know this long tradition will continue.

One last thing about China. One of the jobs of any ambassador is to help vulnerable Canadians who have run into some of trouble in a foreign country, in this case, China, a little like the refugees. I commit to you, Mr. Speaker, that I will work as hard as I can to help those vulnerable Canadians in China. That will be a very important part of my job.

In conclusion, and I am not one of those who says “in conclusion” 17 times, not having anyone in mind who says that, I will miss this place and all the people in it, from my closest colleagues to my severest critics, who are usually not so severe, and quite nice most of the time.

My final message to members collectively is to have the capacity to govern our country well and have the wisdom to make Canada even better in years to come.

Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship December 13th, 2016

Mr. Speaker, we have been working very actively on a two-part strategy. We will bring Yazidi people, women and girls, from Turkey and Lebanon. We have also sent groups of officials into Iraq to consider, and we will bring them from that country as well. The member should understand this is an extremely dangerous part of the world, and so we cannot release the details of our plan, but we are committed to do it and to do it on time.

Questions on the Order Paper December 12th, 2016

Mr. Speaker, insofar as Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada, IRCC, is concerned, IRCC officials travelled to Erbil, Iraq, in October 2016 to conduct interviews with Syrian refugee applicants and to consult with the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees and the International Organization for Migration on a potential program for individuals who have suffered grievously at the hands of Daesh, including Yazidis.

For operational security reasons, further details of the trip cannot be provided, as this information has the potential of putting at risk the safety of IRCC officials, partners, and vulnerable populations.

IRCC has engaged and consulted with trusted international partners, non-governmental organizations, and governments in developing the plan for a program aimed at individuals who have suffered grievously at the hands of Daesh, including Yazidis.

Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship December 12th, 2016

Mr. Speaker, the provinces have been on side from day one. As has been the case with past waves of refugees, it is in the early days an act of kindness by Canadians but over the long run it is a hugely positively investment. These refugees integrate into the labour force. Their children do exceptionally well. I have no doubt the Syrian refugees will do just as well or better than the Vietnamese boat people and many others who came before.

Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship December 8th, 2016

Mr. Speaker, we have been working with the provinces to plan this since day one, and the settlement agencies and many Canadians. As I have said, this is a long-term investment.

Somewhat less than half of the refugees currently have full-time employment, but 90% of the government-assisted refugees are in language training, and many of them are making terrific progress toward gainful employment.

This will be a successful long-term investment for Canada, and the children always do extremely well.

Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship December 8th, 2016

Mr. Speaker, in terms of funding, the hon. member should know that just recently, last month, we initiated $18.5 million of additional funding, half of which is going to language training and half of which is going to settlement areas.

The member should also know that this is a long-term investment. When refugees come from a terrible civil war without language or education, it takes a while for them to become fully operating Canadians.

Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship December 8th, 2016

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to say that yesterday, we reduced the processing times for spouses and their families from two years to one year.

A special thanks to the young officials whose tiger team led to a radical improvement in the processing guidelines for our new system, and I can tell the House that we will harness their skills to improve our performance in other areas.

Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship December 6th, 2016

Mr. Speaker, I thank the hon. member for her question and also for her good work in this area.

When one is welcoming refugees to Canada, there is nothing more important than to teach them English or French, especially in the case of Syrian refugees, who typically speak not a word of either language, so we have committed hundreds of millions of dollars to this enterprise. Just last month we invested an additional $18 million for language training and settlement, of which $3.2 million is going to go to British Columbia. We have recently, since April, created 7,000 new language spaces, so we are working very hard on--

Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship December 1st, 2016

Why do I not have a job? I think I do have job.

Mr. Speaker, as I just said, there are many benefits coming from this accord. As in any undertaking, there are risks. We are working very carefully and strongly with the Government of Mexico to manage those risks in a responsible way.

Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship December 1st, 2016

Mr. Speaker, I am particularly grateful to my colleague for her question today, because it gives me the opportunity to announce the very good news that it is today that we are lifting the Mexico visa.

This is good news for the Canadian tourist industry. It will create many jobs. It is definitely good news for our beef farmers who will be able to export their wonderful product to Mexico.