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Crucial Fact

  • His favourite word was early.

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

Lost his last election, in 2011, with 33% of the vote.

Statements in the House

Business of Supply November 25th, 2010

Madam Speaker, I think the challenge for everyone in the House is to see that in fact we fulfill the commitment that we say we are making, a commitment that is for development, a commitment that is for training, a commitment that is not in a combat role.

I think the challenge and the record of governments in lots of places in the world is a very sketchy one in terms of maintaining those kinds of promises. When a country is in a war environment, it is very difficult not to be engaged in a combat role.

That is why, as I was trying to say in my remarks, we have to be really vigilant, each of each other, each of ourselves, because it is so easy to slide into a different role.

That is what we are voting on today, the literal support of that mission, of training and of development and not a combat role.

Business of Supply November 25th, 2010

Madam Speaker, I will divide my time today with the member for Richmond Hill.

I will vote against this motion. The motion will not likely pass, as we know already, and what we say today will not change this outcome.

On a matter that is one of life and death for those in the military committed by our actions or for those who come home and who carry with them an experience that shapes their lives for a lifetime, one would expect a soul-searching debate of many weeks and months. But that is not what we have.

So if there is no real debate, let us at least set out some of the questions we would have discussed had there been one and keep those in mind as we get to the next milestones of the Afghanistan mission in 2011, 2014 and beyond.

I was in university at the height of the Vietnam war. Vietnam offered us many lessons. It taught us what happens when ideology, in this case Cold War ideology, makes us blind to what is there to see, when rhetoric sucks us in and sticks us with the wrong persuasive image, an image then of dominoes falling: if Vietnam falls, so will all of Southeast Asia; if Southeast Asia falls, so will....

But it also taught us of other traps. “Five hundred soldiers have been killed”, the U.S. government and military told us; “we can't allow them to have died in vain”. So more soldiers were committed, and more died. One thousand, 10,000, 20,000, until the war was not about dominoes anymore, and 10,000 more died because 20,000 had already died, and then 10,000 more. “We cannot leave now”, and there were 10,000 more.

Lessons offered, many lessons not learned, and one lesson that was learned: the U.S. public, in dismissing the Vietnam war, also dismissed the dedication of its soldiers. Its soldiers returned home broken and received no healing thanks. That would not happen the next time.

So in the years after September 11, 2001, Canada went into Afghanistan to fight terrorism, and in fighting terrorism, also to fight for those abused, especially women, by Afghan life.

Debate is so hard in a time of war. Criticism sounds unpatriotic. It is as if in war we lose our right to question and think. Yet it is a time when we must question and must think. Canadians are dying. Afghanis are dying. We have to be right. Situations can change, or we can begin to see those same situations differently. It is not about questioning our soldiers. Barring some rare abhorrent act, soldiers are always right. They do what they are told to do. It is their generals, or more so, it is those of us in Ottawa. It is their government. We make the final decisions. If we are wrong, far more than us, they pay the price.

We have to encourage debate because it is so easy to shut down debate and get things wrong; because this is about life and death, not dollars and cents; because we cannot face the prospect of being wrong.

It is so easy for us to wrap ourselves in the flag, to hide behind our soldiers, and at the first hint of criticism, say “We have to support our men and women in uniform”, to choke off debate of any kind. And who can argue?

In Vietnam, then, dismissive of the war, Americans were dismissive of their soldiers. In Canada now, far from being dismissive of our soldiers, it is very hard for us to be dismissive of any war they fight.

But true support for our men and women is committing them always to the right cause with the right chance to succeed, the right cause and chance today, tomorrow and every next day after that. So we must keep our eyes and minds always open, always alert.

More than 200 years ago, Samuel Johnson described patriotism as the last vestige of a scoundrel. This is not necessarily the case as Johnson understood it, but it can be. Question period, scrums and sound bites offer no time for thoughtful resolution, only enough time for pandering.

“But that is just the politics of it,” we say, “no big deal”. But in the absence of any other discussion, it becomes a big deal.

War, like grain subsidies, health care, and affordable housing, is about choices. We must provide our military the tools they need for the task we ask them to do, but is that task in Afghanistan, Darfur, or someplace else? Is it in defence, diplomacy, development, or all three? Or does it depend? There are choices. Do we buy the F-35 and pursue the foreign policy an F-35 can pursue, or fewer of them, or more?

People die in war. Tens of thousands of other Canadians die years and years before others do because they do not have the right food, the right shelter, or the right start in life. It costs about $2 billion a year to conduct our fight in Afghanistan. There are choices.

In Afghanistan, we know what we hope. We hope to shut down the actions of terrorists beyond Afghan borders. We hope for education and better lives for the Afghan people, especially for Afghan women. And we hope that long after we leave, the Afghan people will want this for themselves and be able to sustain this by themselves. Right now, we hope far more than we know, but we cannot allow hope, the ideology of terrorism-fighting, and the loss of Canadian lives to make us blind. The stakes are too high.

What do we owe the 153 Canadian soldiers who have died in Afghanistan? What do we owe their families? We owe them respect and gratitude. We owe them remembrance of what they have done for their country. More than anything, we owe them good choices in the future, for the sake of those who come after them.

I will vote against this motion, but like everyone else in this House and like everyone else in this country, I will go from here into the future with my eyes wide open.

Questions Passed as Orders for Returns November 22nd, 2010

With regard to the CF-18 replacement criteria: (a) what specific operational requirements did the Department of National Defence (DND) set out in its CF-18 replacement criteria; (b) what was the rationale behind each of these requirements; and (c) in what operational theatres does DND anticipate the CF-18 replacement will be used?

Questions on the Order Paper November 22nd, 2010

With regard to the CF-18 replacement criteria: (a) what organizational, political, industrial or bureaucratic bodies had input in determining the CF-18 replacement specifications; (b) what were the names and positions of the individuals involved in the decision-making process; (c) who at the Department of National Defence ultimately approved the final draft of the CF-18 operational requirements document; and (d) did any analysts or officials register dissenting opinions in this process and, if so, what were they?

Sustaining Canada's Economic Recovery Act November 1st, 2010

Mr. Speaker, there is no doubt that when the economy is working well, the greatest social justice program is a well-functioning economy. However, one of the challenges we are finding now, even when there are two jobs within a family and oftentimes there are not, is that the end result still has the kinds of problems that I was talking about, whether it has to do with housing or other experiences in low income and poverty.

I do not think it is enough just to say we will do what we can in terms of the economy. I would caution the members across the floor to not just look at and listen to what they are doing, but to look at the dimensions of what they are doing.

Anybody can do a little bit, an inch deep, but if the challenge is a foot deep, then an inch deep does not matter a heck of a lot. An inch deep can lead to very nice, interesting rhetoric and make everybody feel better, but it is the other 11 inches that are really the question. That is my problem with the focus and direction of this government for the last four and a half years.

Sustaining Canada's Economic Recovery Act November 1st, 2010

Mr. Speaker, it is a question for all of us. As much as we find a lot of the debate we have here fascinating, I am not sure many people at home do. We can see it in the problems with low voter turnout, especially among younger people. The majority of those who do turn out feel an obligation to vote, not necessarily out of a great engagement in the process. That is a problem for all of us.

Our biggest problem, and we can see this in the United States, comes when there is nothing really compelling on the table. That is when the problem arises. All of us have been around tables where we disagree with each other. Unless we have something to focus on, something we think is much more important than each other, we will focus on each other and the snipping begins.

That is our challenge and it is also the challenge in the U.S.

Sustaining Canada's Economic Recovery Act November 1st, 2010

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to have this chance to speak to Bill C-47, the second budget implementation act.

Everybody, rich and poor, young and old, doing well and not doing well, we are all looking for the same thing: a chance, a real chance. Even the rich who have been rich all their lives, to develop a new product or to break into a new market, at some moment they need a chance, too.

For those who are not rich and for those who are poor who have not had the same chances or who did not give themselves the full chance they needed, what do they do? Where do they go? For them, for all of us, at some moment, government matters.

A budget matters. A budget offers a path to our economic future as a country and for each of us as individuals. However, the impact of a budget is far more than just economic. It can add a piece to a life that up to that moment does not quite work. A budget has often to do with money in the form of an investment, in training, learning, health, research and development, housing, literacy, in things that might not make today much better than yesterday, but which will give us a shot at a better tomorrow.

I have watched the government for more than four and a half years. I have listened as it has brought down several budgets. A budget day offers many announcements about many things, so much it seems is about to be done. Then the next day and every day after that we also begin to see what is not being done. For me, the test for any budget of any government is, what will its impact be 5 years or 10 years from now? How will it make us better off, as a country, as individuals? How much is a budget just stuff and in truth will not have any real impact on our lives at all?

That is my disappointment with the government. More than four and a half years have passed with very little benefit to the future of Canada and Canadians.

Learning, we know, will be central to every country's future. As parents, we worry about our kids. As we look into the future, more than anything we want to know that they will be okay. We see these immense, unimaginable changes ahead and we do not know how our kids will adapt.

We know that passing on to them some money will help a little, but money gets spent. Over time, we have come to realize, to know that in their future their only real security, their only real opportunity is learning. Therefore, when things change, they have in them the capacity to learn and change with them.

Our kids need to learn more and better in their early lives, to have enriched opportunities outside their own homes as well, in early learning and child care, just as they do when they get to kindergarten and beyond. They need to have better chances at college and university so their learning is not interrupted constantly by the need for part-time jobs or years off to limit the debt they incur.

Many adults who do not learn to read early in their lives, who live under the suffocating ceiling of illiteracy need literacy programs to give them another chance at life.

What is the government doing in these regards, in this budget? What has it been doing in these more than four and a half years? Very little. Enough to say in question period and in scrums that it is doing something. Enough to meet its political needs, but not enough, not nearly enough, to meet the needs of those outside government, to meet the needs of Canada and Canadians for the future.

When this recession ends, one thing is certain, the world's economy will not go back to where it was before the recession began. Shifts have taken place. There are new ways to do things, new technologies, especially in the energy sector, new opportunities, new risks. The need for any government, for any company, is to move to where the world is going, not to where it was or is.

In this budget and in the last four and a half years what has the government done to prepare us to succeed in the future? It has done just enough to say it has done something.

It is even more dramatically the case for those who are poor and who need a chance in so many different directions, affordable housing, income assistance, child care, disability supports and even more so still, those who are aboriginal. The government has done just enough to say it is doing something, but not nearly enough to make a difference, to offer a chance at a real life.

For more and more families, it takes both parents in the workforce to make ends meet. We are living longer. We are living healthier. However, as extended families, less often do we live together. What happens when something goes wrong, when there is a major illness in the family, a child or an elderly parent? When lives are closer to the margin, how do we adapt? How do we help caregivers? The government has done just enough to say it is doing something, but not enough to make a difference.

If someone notices just how little the government is actually doing for Canadians, the government discourages those voices. According to how the government thinks, these problems should not exist. If government gets smaller, if a little more money is put into the pockets of people, everything will be fine.

The reality is, however, that life as it is really lived annoyingly gets in the way, unless of course the government does not notice. For the Conservative government, it is the miracle of ideology. If the Conservatives know something already, then they do not have to listen. The government does not have to listen to community groups, so why not cut their funding. It does not have to listen to people who oppose or criticize it, so why not fire or humiliate them. Because we cannot know what is not knowable, the census is cut. Everybody knows that if something is not measured, then it does not exist. If it does not exist, then it cannot be a problem. If it is not a problem, why have government programs to fix what does not need fixing? It is magic, magic for the government but not magic for those who need a chance.

In a time of global economic transformation, in a time of climate change, in a time when the gap between the rich and everyone else has grown, in this more than four and a half years, as exemplified by the second budget implementation act, the hallmark of the Conservative government has been political management, not national stewardship.

Hincks-Dellcrest Centre October 21st, 2010

Mr. Speaker, a few weeks ago I visited the Hincks-Dellcrest Centre in my riding. Among other things, the centre offers programs for children with suspected mental health problems and their parents. I sat around with some of the mothers and asked them why they were there.

Most of them are new to Canada, their own mothers live far away, no family and no mentors around, and this is their first child. Those 10 new things that happen every day in a child's life, why? Is this normal? Is this a problem? What should they do? They learn from the staff and they learn from each other. They have made friends. Their children have made friends. They feel comfortable. They feel at home.

If anyone ever for a moment wonders why governments can matter, why taxes can matter, why cutting is not the answer to everything; if anybody ever for a moment wants to know why multiculturalism in some countries struggles and why this multiculture of Canada works, go to Hincks-Dellcrest. It is inspiring.

Business of Supply June 17th, 2010

Madam Speaker, however the process worked or did not work to the satisfaction of the member in terms of how we came to present this motion, I think that the essence of the question is the functioning of the current government and how prorogation can be misused to shut down voices.

I would not be so distracted as that member is. I think that is an absolutely central question for all of us, the shutting down of voices.

Business of Supply June 17th, 2010

Madam Speaker, as I said in my initial remarks, the prorogation was a shutting down of voices. That is what it fundamentally was.

Prorogation can be used for lots of different purposes, but one of its purposes, surely, is not just for the convenience of the government to decide to shut down voices. It is too much of a central theme, a central attitude, and a central way of doing things by the government. It shuts down voices that it does not want to hear. Whenever it does not want to hear them, it just shuts them down. Prorogation is just part of the same thing.

In terms of the hon. member's question about the work of the committee, I am sure that the committee has worked hard. The fact is that prorogation as it now exists allows for the possibility of the shutting down of Parliament and the shutting down of voices at absolutely inappropriate and unworthy times. Unless and until we get prorogation right, we open ourselves to these kinds of abuses in the future.