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Crucial Fact

  • His favourite word was great.

Last in Parliament October 2015, as Conservative MP for West Vancouver—Sunshine Coast—Sea to Sky Country (B.C.)

Lost his last election, in 2021, with 30% of the vote.

Statements in the House

Iran Accountability Week May 5th, 2015

Mr. Chair, we are blessed to live in a country with freedom, democracy, human rights, and the rule of law. Debates in this very chamber often swirl around the sacredness of those values and what we must do to protect them.

People who serve in uniform commit their lives to defend those values. I know this well as a son of a father who ended up as a prisoner of war, committed to those freedoms.

History suggests that the people of Iran share Canadians' high regard for democracy. Cyrus the Great was one of the first law givers of ancient times, a king who liberated the Jewish people from captivity under the Babylonians. In the early 1950s, then prime minister Mossadegh led a democratically elected government at a time and in a region where the right to elect one's leaders was fragile at best.

As the first ever government liaison to the Canadian Iranian people, I have come to appreciate contributions of people of Iranian background to the cultural fabric of our Canada, people like Davood Ghavami, president of the Iranian Canadian Congress, who has worked so hard to introduce Persian culture here in Canada.

People of Iranian background appreciate hard work, good education, art, music, and close families. Women of Iranian background in Canada have demonstrated great leadership. I think of Nassreen Filsoof, head of the Canadian Iranian Foundation, and the human rights advocate Nazanin Afshin-Jam Mackay, for instance.

There is tension today between the governments of Canada and Iran, tension that is at odds when judged against the natural affinity between the people of the two countries. Canada rightly holds the Iranian regime to account for breaching international nuclear proliferation guidelines, for supporting terrorist organizations, for destabilizing the region, and for human rights abuses against its own people. Tonight it is Iran's human rights record that is the main subject of our deliberations in this great chamber.

Despite President Rouhani's diplomatic engagement and the ongoing nuclear negotiations, there has been no indication of any transformative shift in Iran's policies and activities. The president and members of his administration continue to make public statements inside Iran and to international audiences in support of rights and freedoms. However, there has been no evidence of improvements, and the state continues to undertake serious and systemic human rights abuses.

As Canadians, we believe Iran should be judged by its actions, not by its words. The Iranian regime continues to flout due process and the rule of law, and seriously restrict freedom of expression, assembly, and association, consistently attacking human rights defenders, lawyers, journalists, and bloggers.

I thank the many colleagues of all parties in this chamber tonight with whom we stand together against those abuses against the oppressed people of Iran.

I would like to make special mention of my colleague, the member for Westmount—Ville-Marie, who has been a driving force in recognizing Iran Accountability Week. He and others have pointed out that the death penalty is used frequently in Iran. In a three-day period last month, 43 people were executed. Persecution of the Baha'i people in Iran, a religious minority, has gotten worse. We know of more than 900 political prisoners in Iranian jails, which means there are probably many more.

To be perfectly blunt, the situation of human rights in Iran has not improved since the election of President Rouhani in June 2013 and has shown clear signs of deterioration on several fronts.

The discussion of liberties can be very theoretical, and so it is important to bring it down to ground level. To speak of 900 prisoners makes our minds reel and stretches our imaginations. Therefore, the genius of Iran Accountability Week is that each of us participating parliamentarians pairs up with one Iranian political prisoner to highlight that person's plight and to personalize the situation better, for the world to see.

It is always difficult to put theory into practice when it comes to human rights. It is too easy for us here in Canada, where we enjoy freedom and equality, to forget the suffering of people who are oppressed by a dictatorship. To avoid an overly theoretical discussion, I suggest that we put ourselves in the position of someone jailed for their political convictions.

Based on information provided to me by Ms. Afshin-Jam MacKay, I am going to share the story of Behnam Ebrahimzadeh who was in prison for five years for being a workers' rights activist, as well as defending children and human rights in Iran.

As Behnam's family recounts, this Nowruz, or Persian New Year, was the fifth for the family without Behnam by their side. He is in ward 2 of Rajai Shahr prison, known as Dar Al Quran. Originally he was sentenced to 20 years in prison, but after a huge public outcry, his sentence was reduced.

However, as his sentence was coming to a close, Judge Salavati, at branch 15 of the Revolutionary Court in Tehran, resentenced him to nine years and four months on brand new charges of colluding with the People's Mojahedin Organization of Iran, a banned opposition group, and spreading propaganda against the regime by contacting Mr. Ahmad Shaheed, UN Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights in the Iran.

Behnam categorically denies any and all connection with the Mojahedin. It is impossible to prove the negative absolutely. Although he is not a murderer or a thief, he is housed alongside dangerous common criminals in this ward, and as a result his safety is threatened regularly. He suffers from arthritis in his neck, and further due to the continuous pressure put on him inside prison and long periods of solitary confinement, he suffers from intestinal and kidney bleeding, for which he is denied medical help by prison authorities. He is denied even a painkiller.

Sadly, Behnam's only child, Nima, is suffering from leukemia. Behnam is denied any visitation with his family and child. His family thanks all the peace-loving human rights advocates in Canada, Iran, and around the world for our support. Together, we believe that continued pressure on the Iranian authorities increases the likelihood of the release of Behnam and many like him.

It is our duty to inform the public and human rights bodies about his imprisonment and torture for simply defending workers, children, and human rights.

In Canada, our heroes are mainly hockey players, musicians and leaders of civil society. Iranians count many poets—such as Hafez, Saadi, Rumi and Omar Khayyam—among their national heroes.

I greatly admire Saadi, who lived in the 13th century and whose words are inscribed on the wall of the United Nations building in New York. The poem is called Bani Adam or Children of Adam. It tells us that men and women around the world are one, and says that if one person suffers, all of humanity suffers with them.

Saadi's poem, famous among Persian people, relates so poignantly to why we are here today. As he put it:

The children of Adam are limbs to each other,
Having been created of one essence and soul,
If one member is afflicted with pain,
The other members uneasy remain.
If you have no sympathy for human pain,
The title 'human' you cannot claim.

These are strong words, and they communicate a universal truth of our moral responsibility to champion the cause of those who suffer, as we now champion those in prison in Iran.

Given that we know of hundreds of political prisoners there, we can assume there are many more about whom we do not know, and others living daily in fear for their freedom and their very lives.

Saadi points out the significance of even one political prisoner. In my case, I have chosen Behnam, suggesting that he represents all those who suffer in oppression, in Iran and elsewhere. My colleagues in this House tonight and my friends who fight for freedom in Iran and elsewhere can all agree with this sentiment. We ask President Rouhani and other members of the Iranian government to let Behnam and other prisoners of conscience free. Saadi would cheer us on.

In my role as government liaison to the Canadian Iranian community, I have come to love Persian poets. I have written a poem each Nowruz, and one especially for this evening. It is called A Poem for a Prisoner.

Eight hundred years ago, the poet Saadi said it best;
He said that feeling others' pain can oddly make us blessed.
He sensed that in our souls a link unites us all as one,
That we are all one family beneath a common sun.

Saadi's words in Bani Adam reach us all today—
People here in Canada; people far away.
It's a foreign government whose abuses we despise.
Those who suffer its abuse are brothers, in our eyes.

Canada seeks justice, and we'll shout it from the heights;
Our Government opposes those who menace human rights.
But while we challenge tyranny wherever it may reign
We sing with Saadi soulfully his powerful refrain.

It's the bully government that we summon to account.
It's not a quarrel with Irani citizens we mount.
Our quarrel with the foe relates to government, it's clear;
Our bond with Persian people is healthy and sincere.

Mossadegh and Cyrus stood for freedom at the base;
Iran will learn to smile again, extend aazaadi's face.
Oppose the government we will—but Saadi said it best;
We share with Persians eshgh, uniting East and West.

National Defence May 4th, 2015

Mr. Speaker, the Prime Minister and the Minister of National Defence were recently in Iraq, where they met with Iraqi and Kuwaiti leaders about challenges in the region and reaffirmed Canada's role in the fight against ISIS.

Having been on the ground in Baghdad on a 2011 human rights issue, I can personally attest to the importance of our role in Iraq today. Can the Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of National Defence give this House an update on our mission against the ISIS death cult?

Health April 27th, 2015

Mr. Speaker, it is deeply disturbing that the City of Vancouver is looking to legitimize the illegal marijuana drug trade. This irresponsible scheme to sell marijuana in stores just like alcohol and cigarettes can have only one effect: increasing marijuana use and addiction. That is exactly the plan the Liberal leader has been peddling for months.

Can the Minister of Labour, a practising physician, please update the House on our government's approach to actually discourage kids from smoking marijuana?

Anti-Terrorism Act, 2015 April 24th, 2015

Mr. Speaker, I was pleased to hear my friend and colleague from Saanich—Gulf Islands refer to my former political science professor and others, but aside from that, I take umbrage with much of what she said. The bill is designed to bring our government up to the level of other western democracies. It is modest in the changes it would make, given the threats we as Canadians confront.

I would ask two questions. First, I would ask if my friend has to be confronted personally by a knife-wielding terrorist for her to understand that the threat really is out there and that Canadians need to face it. Second, why would she oppose a bill that seeks to bring judicial overview of the kinds of measures we are looking at as opposed to the executive approval used in other democracies, which is much less cumbersome and unwieldy than judicial oversight?

Business of Supply April 20th, 2015

Mr. Speaker, it is a fallacy to say that world-class processes means that we do not ask questions. In fact, a world-class process means a commitment to reviewing what happens after an incident like this and a commitment to make it better.

The Coast Guard has already said that the protocols can be improved in terms of the notification. The Coast Guard notified the province and expected the province to notify the city. That did not happen fast enough and it is going to happen faster next time. That is what world class means.

World class means continuous improvement. It means daring to look at the best practices from around the world to adapt them and make them particularly Canadian. That is what the Coast Guard is committed to doing. That is what our government is committed to doing. We can have an economy that walks and chews gum at the same time. We can have a pristine coastline and we can still export our resources. The opposition would say “no”. It would say “stop”. I say “yes“. We can continue to improve and we will do so. That is what world class is.

Business of Supply April 20th, 2015

Mr. Speaker, it is an unfortunate aspect of our adversarial system that when one is in opposition everything has to be a no or a stop or a wrong. What I would love to see is my NDP colleagues coming together and asking “How can we get together and make sure we have a world-class system? How can we conduct the independent review that the Coast Guard has actually committed to doing?”

Yes, I have spoken to the Coast Guard. I spoke to the director of operations as the situation was unfolding. It was he who verified with me that the government has invested in improving the transport regulations, in improving a tailor-made kind of area response system rather than a cookie-cutter system that would apply right across the province. The government has invested in navigation response technology. These things will all be reinforced by an expanded Coast Guard, with over $5 billion in Coast Guard vessels.

We are not talking about perfection. We are not talking about saying “stop” to an economy. What we are talking about is a commitment to world-class excellence. We have seen it, we are going to continue to see it and yes, we can still improve.

Business of Supply April 20th, 2015

Mr. Speaker, in an Earth Day talk I heard on April 17, Chaplain Jason van Veghel-Wood asked the question, “What is the 800 pound gorilla on the basketball court?” The question refers to something that is large and important, something that everyone should know about, but which is somehow ignored as people get distracted by less important things.

The question related to a famous psychology experiment by Chabris and Simons in which students were instructed to watch a video in which they were to count the number of times persons passed a basketball back and forth. The students were good at counting the number of passes, but when questioned, half of them failed to notice that during the game, a man dressed in a gorilla suit actually crossed the basketball court, thumped his chest and spent 10 seconds on the video screen.

As we consider the motion brought by my NDP friend this morning, I ask, Is there a gorilla on the court? Are we missing something more important than this specific question being posed today? Let me come back to that question in a moment.

As a British Columbian, like many others, I am concerned about the fuel leak from the Marathassa in English Bay. However, as a maritime nation, Canada relies on marine transportation for the success of our economy. In fact, I have heard that most Canadians do not realize this, but 92% of Canada's economy floats on salt water. Think of the grain, the natural resources, the finished materials that we ship overseas or that we receive by sea, and B.C. ports handle almost 40% of Canada's international marine traffic, more than any other province.

Our government is focused on creating jobs and economic growth. A thriving maritime trade sector continues to be a key pillar of Canada's economic opportunity, but safe and efficient marine transportation does not happen by itself. The dedicated men and women of the Canadian Coast Guard spend day and night ensuring safe navigation so Canadians from coast to coast to coast can enjoy the quality of life we are so fortunate to have in Canada.

The Coast Guard accomplishes this important mandate by having highly trained men and women in its ranks, specialized equipment at the ready and a fleet of over 115 vessels strategically deployed across the country. In addition, it maintains strong partnerships with other organizations, such as the Royal Canadian Marine Search and Rescue in B.C., which has proud and effective stations and vessels in at least five parts of the riding I represent, West Vancouver Squamish, Gibsons, Pender Harbour and Half Moon Bay.

For friends and neighbours who believe that my riding is the most beautiful place on earth, we look to people like them to keep it that way. In other words, we British Columbians have a personal stake in maintaining the pristine nature of our coastline.

Events of the past two weeks have shown that we do have a world-class system in place. Reasonable people agree that does not mean perfection, but what does it mean? What would we expect to have in place in a world-class response system? We would expect the minimization of oil spills in the first place, a containing of the leak, committed people there to respond, top communications networks in place, good coordination among the various parties, oil out of the water fast and a minimizing of injury to waterfowl, fish, plants and humans, the whole ecosystem.

What did we see in the response to the Marathassa oil spill? We saw newly implemented regulations that govern foreign vessels that require them, within 96 hours of entering our waters, to advise what is their emergency response plan. We saw 2700 litres of bunker fuel spilled into the water. We saw a Coast Guard boat in the water within an hour and coordination among a vessel of convenience, aerial surveillance and the Coast Guard. We saw the Coast Guard working through the night to boom the spill. Eighty per cent of the oil was collected within 36 hours, and over 95% within four days, leaving just 0.3 litres in the water.

Yes, there were beaches closed, but there were hard-working trained people who were there to clean those beaches by hand. We saw a wonderful populace in British Columbia, people who take these things seriously for our environment, our tourism and our very identity as British Columbians. Thanks to our Conservative government, we saw polluter pays law that the company and its insurer will pick up the tab, not Canadian taxpayers.

Contrary to much of the speculative comments made by opposition and others following the Marathassa incident, the Coast Guard has been clear that its response was not affected in any way by the former Kitsilano base. This fact has been repeatedly stated by both the commissioner of the Coast Guard and the assistant commissioner. The Kitsilano station was a search and rescue station, not an environmental response station, and was therefore not equipped to conduct an operation of the magnitude required during this incident.

Certified environmental response organizations have the capacity and expertise to respond to these types of emergencies and, as per protocol, it was one of these organizations that was contracted by the Coast Guard.

We saw four pillars of preparation in place, investment by the government in maritime safety that paid off.

First were the area response plans. In B.C., the Coast Guard maintains marine pollution response equipment in three major centres, namely Prince Rupert, Richmond and Victoria, as well as equipment caches in 12 other communities. These caches contain a variety of response equipment, including booms, skimmers, storage tanks, protective gear vessels and other supporting equipment in order to handle a wide range of situations.

The environmental response program maintains a duty officer presence 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. These duty officers are the first line of defence to marine pollution incidents, and ensure that all reports of marine pollution are investigated and that an appropriate response is undertaken. When the Coast Guard needs the support of certified environmental response organizations, like the Western Canada Marine Response Corporation as in this incident, it can do so through its emergency contracting authority.

Second were the navigation aids. Our government has modernized our Marine Communications and Traffic Services centres. This modernization project is replacing the Coast Guard's current, outdated marine communications technology with a state-of-the-art platform that will improve the safety of those at sea.

Third, we have seen improved transport regulations, like the polluter pays principle that I have already referred to.

Fourth, as was discussed by the parliamentary secretary, there has been an expansion of the Coast Guard fleet. Since 2009, the government has delivered 9 mid-shore patrol vessels and 11 smaller vessels, including the pollution response vessels that support the environmental response program in B.C. Going forward, our Conservative government has committed over $5 billion to build more Coast Guard vessels, many at Seaspan, in the riding I represent.

What are we seeking when we talk about a world-class response system? Remember, excellence is not the same as perfection. While we had a world-class response, it does not mean that we cannot do better.

What would have prevented the oil spill in the first place? Maybe there were preventive measures that should have been in place. The district of Sechelt, in the riding I represent, has called for an independent investigation. We need to be committed to independent, objective reviews if we are to adhere to world-class standards in what we do.

Yes, perhaps there are better protocols that could improve the communications systems. The Coast Guard has already committed to an independent review, as discussed by Commissioner Jody Thomas on CBC last week.

In conclusion, I thank the Coast Guard people who work so hard and efficiently, the clean-up crew and people who worked to clean the beaches, and the concerned public, people like Mr. O’Dea, the boater who alerted the Coast Guard in the first place.

However, if we ask the wrong question, we will get the wrong answer every time. The NDP in this case is focusing on too narrow a question. It is a question about the installation that was at Kitsilano. What is the 800-pound gorilla on the court? Is it the provisions of one base or another? I say no. We have to take this to 30,000 feet if we are truly committed to an excellent environment and an excellent economy. If the goal is to score cheap political points on an unacceptable incident, then we can look at a policy decision that focuses on specific installations, but the installations are not the resources on which we need to call to attain a best-in-class result for the environment and the economy.

On Earth Day, a billion people will celebrate the 45th annual event. Yes, we are connected to one another and to our environment. When it comes to our government's promotion of the economy and jobs, we all know that this may mean an increase in vessel traffic in English Bay, Howe Sound and up and down the coast. Like many British Columbians who care about jobs and the economy, we accept the presence of these vessels in our waters, but only in the event of world-class marine safety.

In our pursuit of excellence for our country, we must not fall into polarized, mind-numbing, vacuous debate. I ask my friends in the opposition to be open to the true spirit of continuous improvement as we protect our marine safety. I pledge to do that. I know that my colleagues do. We must not say “stop” to our growth as a country. We must say “no” to the stop mentality. I say “yes” to independent, objective, science-based processes that will deliver to get the best guidance in how we keep our economy thriving and our environment the best that it can be.

Lions Bay April 2nd, 2015

Mr. Speaker, small towns and villages bring out the best of Canadians: the sense of intimacy, caring for one's neighbour and the pursuit of excellence at individual and community levels.

Lions Bay, B.C. is one of those great Canadian municipalities known for its resilient, talented people; people small in number who like to dream big. Lions Bay was one of the first Canadian municipalities to proclaim national health and fitness day. Its people take care of safety for a long swath of Highway 99. Its search and rescue volunteers and firefighters are legendary. We will not hear louder cheers for events than at Lions Bay, like the annual GranFondo bike race from Vancouver to Whistler .

This is a community that works together, laughs together, and when tragedies occur, like the death of lovely little Erin Moore just before Christmas, cries together.

Last Saturday, I had the honour of joining many Lions Bay residents to celebrate the official opening of its updated community centre, supported by our government's western economic diversification fund. This centre is a place where individuals and families will gather to exercise together in body, mind and soul.

Petitions March 27th, 2015

Mr. Speaker, I stand today to present a petition on behalf of over 100 Canadians, mostly located in the beautiful province of Ontario, who are concerned about apples. In fact, they are concerned about the possibility that a genetically modified apple may be approved by the Canadian Food Inspection Agency. They suggest that this should not happen.

Taxation March 27th, 2015

Mr. Speaker, many people say that the riding of West Vancouver—Sunshine Coast—Sea to Sky Country is the most beautiful place on earth. Families in this riding are asking what can be done to help them in terms of tax relief and direct support. What they do not need is waste and new bureaucracies.

I wonder if the Minister of Employment and Social Development can tell us what our government is doing to respond to families like those in West Vancouver—Sunshine Coast—Sea to Sky Country?