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Crucial Fact

  • His favourite word was fact.

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

Lost his last election, in 2011, with 28% of the vote.

Statements in the House

Petitions February 7th, 2011

Mr. Speaker, I also have a petition from people across the country pertaining to the regulations around the health, welfare, and humane treatment of animals.

The petitioners are calling for the Government of Canada to sign and support a universal declaration on animal welfare. We should all be doing everything within our powers to prevent animal cruelty and reduce animal suffering.

Petitions February 7th, 2011

Mr. Speaker, I have three petitions.

The first petition is from Canadians in my riding of Davenport and around Toronto who are concerned about Canadians who have multiple sclerosis who are being denied the right to be tested and treated for CCSVI.

The petitions are calling upon the Minister of Health for Canada and for the province to evaluate the treatment proposed in persons diagnosed with MS.

Human Rights February 7th, 2011

Mr. Speaker, on January 26, David Kato, a gay human rights activist, was brutally murdered in Uganda.

At his funeral, a statement from U.S. President Barack Obama was read in which he described Mr. Kato as “a powerful advocate for fairness and freedom”.

The police in Uganda have tried to say that Mr. Kato's murder was a botched robbery even before an investigation has been completed. It is a final insult to the memory of David Kato and thousands like him.

From newspapers publishing the names of gay Ugandans on their front pages to institutionalized discrimination by the Ugandan government, the lives of gays and lesbians in that country are at risk every day. It is inconceivable that in this day and age gays and lesbians must endure daily threats of violence, discrimination, and suffer the loss of their lives simply because of who they are.

All of us must stand up and ensure that our voices are heard as we demand that the government of Uganda and institutions within that country cease their vicious and intolerable assaults upon gay and lesbian citizens who deserve to live their lives in freedom and safety.

February 3rd, 2011

Mr. Speaker, the government seems to miss the point yet again. Its programs do not reflect the realities of the present economy. Nor do they do anything for the multitude of Canadians who will be over 60 in the next 10 years.

The Canadian Nurses Association, the Victoria Order of Nurses, the Canadian Association of Retired Persons and the Alzheimer Society all agree that the Liberal plan is the way forward to safeguard public health care and reflect the values of family caregivers in our society and what they mean to the Canadian economy, to our health and to our communities.

Obviously one must wonder if the government does not believe that Canadian families deserve the support that they are giving to corporations.

Why will the Conservative government not recognize the realities facing millions of Canadians and invest in a program that will allow Canadians to survive financially during trying times?

February 3rd, 2011

Mr. Speaker, since the beginning of the recession in 2008, families across Canada have struggled to make ends meet.

Many Canadians are barely getting by and any unexpected expense would be enough to stretch their resources beyond where they can manage. An example would be the sudden illness of a loved one, particularly one of the main earners within the household. Sadly this is the reality in many homes across Canada. Fortunately Canadian families pull together when challenges like these present themselves.

There are approximately 2.7 million family caregivers in Canada responsible for 80% of Canadian home care services. This represents some $9 billion in unpaid care each year in our country.

Motivated by love and compassion, these caregivers willingly meet these difficult challenges. However, in doing so, they reasonably expect that their government would be willing to stand with them. Many of these families have paid their taxes for years without ever having taken anything back. Now they need a hand, and it should be there.

Unfortunately the Conservative government has decided that instead of making Canadian families a priority, it will instead continue with cuts to corporate taxes, while building more prisons despite volumes of studies that show this is not the way to go.

The reality is that our population is aging at an incredible rate and these numbers will only continue to climb. One in five Canadians will be over the age of 60 in the next decade. By 2017, just six years from now, it is expected that the number of Canadian seniors with chronic conditions requiring home care will increase by one third.

When we consider that already 40% of family caregivers are forced to take time off work and have to dip into their personal savings to survive while providing home care, and that well over half of Canadian caregivers have a household income of less than $45,000, Canadians are already being put into a tough spot.

As more and more Canadian seniors come to need home care in the next few years, the Conservative government is showing a disappointing lack of planning. It is not only poor planning, it is bad public policy.

Caregivers must make tough choices, but the Liberal Party will never let that choice be one of not being able to care for a parent, spouse or child results because they must work to stay financially afloat.

Canadians deserve the flexibility of care for their families and ailing Canadians deserve to live in dignity as they face health challenges and advancing years.

That is why I am proud of the Liberal Party's proposed family care plan. We will invest $1 billion annually in this plan in order to reduce the economic pressure on hundreds of thousands of Canadian families.

This plan includes a new six month family care employment insurance benefit that would replace the existing six week compassionate care benefit, so Canadians do not have to choose between quitting their jobs and caring for a gravely ill family member.

This new EI benefit can be broken up over 52 weeks so that the weight of caring for a sick loved one is no longer placed on one family member's shoulders.

We will also introduce a tax benefit to help low and middle-income family caregivers who provide this essential service. This tax benefit of up to $1,350 per year will help an estimated 600,000 families and will be available to all families earning under $106,000 a year.

While we are seeking to give Canadian families choices in caring for their families during a challenging period, how is it that the government can find the funds to cut $6 billion from taxes paid by big business and corporations, but not be able to find $1 billion for family caregivers?

Canada-Panama Free Trade Act February 3rd, 2011

Mr. Speaker, I spoke on two issues. One was the issue of this particular agreement and the side agreements which I thought was important. I said in terms of the evolution of the agreement, I think this is a very big step. I mentioned the fact that even on the Colombia free trade agreement, we did deal with the issue of human rights with a review that takes place annually.

It is not the ideal of the corporate social responsibility bill that I had supported that was put forward by my hon. colleague, but it certainly is a step forward that we even have this on the table. That should be seen as an achievement in itself, and not going back to the idea that it cannot happen, because it is happening with these side agreements.

Canada-Panama Free Trade Act February 3rd, 2011

Mr. Speaker, I thank my hon. colleague for the question. I would especially like to thank him for his concern and his interest in everything that is good for Canada.

At committee, we had the opportunity to hear from several witnesses who spoke about this bill. Representatives from certain businesses clearly indicated that this bill offers many advantages for our country and for businesses that work in Panama. After several meetings during which I had the chance to hear many people's testimony, in the end, while I cannot say there was a complete consensus, I can say that people who have been able to invest in Panama said that the bill would benefit businesses and would benefit Canada.

Canada-Panama Free Trade Act February 3rd, 2011

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to speak on this issue once again.

I am a member of the international trade committee. This bill has been before the House. We have had an opportunity to listen to stakeholders. At the end, we concluded that this was a good agreement for Canada and was one that we should pursue. That is why I will be speaking in support of this bill.

Given that Canada is a trading nation, I believe it is in our interest to do so. We have launched a series of trade agreements with a variety of countries that have been very successful for many businesses in Canada.

We recognize that Panama, compared to the giants of Latin America, is a small player, but this is a strategic place and partner that has great potential for the future. There are important opportunities there for growth between the north and south. The Panama Canal is a gateway that will undergo a massive expansion and could be an opportunity for Canadian businesses. We hope, through this initiative, dialogue and agreements, that there will be business opportunities between both countries. There would be different projects going on underground on which hopefully businesses could bid successfully. We have this opportunity.

As I said, the trade is relatively small, at about $100 million, but it has potential to grow. As well, these are significant steps in relation to tying things up, country by country, in the Americas.

My hon. colleague spoke about Mercosur, which is a large bloc in South America that includes Brazil, the dominant player there, Argentina and other regional players such as Uruguay, Paraguay and now Venezuela. It is a market that we have to get into. This is a market that we would eventually have a trade agreement with, similar to the agreement we are in the process of with the European Union. It is a complex process, but one that is necessary to engage in because the European Union is an equally important bloc on which we have to concentrate.

As we all know, trade for Canada is predominantly with the U.S. at over 80%. We have to diversify the treaty relationships we have with other countries around the world. This offers us an opportunity. Strategically it makes sense, given the major projects in the canal as well as the strategic importance of Panama.

Panama has made some strives over the years. It went through a very difficult time during the Noriega regime and afterwards. The 1980s was a difficult period, but it has made a transformative presence on the world stage. It is a stable democracy. It is a major player in the Organization of American States, of which Canada is a player, and this is a very positive thing. It is a country that has been providing stability for the region. Panama is a player that we want to engage bilaterally and through this agreement.

It is important to note that this agreement has very important side agreements on issues of labour and the environment. On the labour issue, my colleague spoke of corporate social responsibility, which I feel strongly about, and that needs to be done. In some ways this elevates the discussion and brings the focus not just on trade agreements, but labour rights and human rights issues, as they are equally important. We did that with the Colombian free trade agreement. There was a very important agreement on a human rights review. That was an historical step in terms of a trade agreement.

Although we are not anywhere near where we want to be in terms of corporate social responsibility, we are beginning to realize that it cannot be ignored and it has to be addressed in our trade agreements, bilateral agreements and discussions. We want to make sure that Canadian businesses are conducting themselves ethically abroad. By and large, I think they are but Canada can play a major role as a leader for the rest of the world in the fields of human rights and corporate social responsibility. This has to be the issue for the future.

Getting back to the agreement, it covers such issues as the right to freedom of association and the right to collective bargaining, among other things. I am very supportive of such an agreement that recognizes that when entering arrangements like free trade agreements, labour rights must be protected and encouraged. This is a positive outcome of this particular agreement.

In terms of potential business for Canadian companies, the opportunities, although presently small, have considerable room for growth. Canadian business provides a wide range of products, including vehicles, pharmaceutical equipment and machinery, among other things, but the opportunity for growth exists. Certainly it exists in the financial sector. We have major players in the Americas, such as Scotiabank, which has been carrying the flag of Canada. It plays a major role in the financial sector throughout Latin America and, of course, it is a major player in Canada as well.

As for the services provided by Canadian companies in the financial, engineering and communications sectors, there can also be an opportunity for growth.

Some concerns have been raised about the free trade agreements. I know there have been issues raised in committee in relation to the banking regulations in place in Panama with regard to money laundering. This is a big issue and the government needs to take it very seriously. It is a challenge that other countries face when they have tax-free havens, including some in Europe. This needs to be addressed.

The thrust of this agreement is one of economic support and solidarity between two countries that are important allies and provides stability in that region.

As I mentioned at the beginning of my remarks, Canada is a trading nation and responsible sound trade agreements are in the interest of Canada and are good for Canada. I think most Canadians would agree that we cannot act in isolation. This is the time for us to engage the world.

We are all aware that the discussions in Doha have not gone very well. Given that those discussions have not gone well, countries like Canada have engaged in bilateral agreements. There are those who would challenge the wisdom of that and whether the agreements should be multilateral or bilateral, but at the end of the day we have to move forward because the discussions have not been very meaningful or conclusive thus far. We cannot stand back while other countries sign agreements.

As I mentioned, Brazil is a huge player in that area. It is a country of 170 million people with a $2.2 trillion budget that keeps on growing. Our engagement in Panama further links us to the markets in South America, such as Brazil and other players.

The GDP of Panama is $44 billion. As I mentioned, the amount of trade we do with it is small, about $100 million, but it is nothing that we can dismiss as there are strategic interests for Canada.

I would be pleased to support this agreement. It is fairly good for Canada and Panama and offers the opportunity for mutual benefits, increased trade and co-operation in years to come. This is the essence of good trading relationships and good trade agreements.

George Vari January 31st, 2011

Mr. Speaker, in his eulogy of his dear friend, George Vari, the right hon. Brian Mulroney said, “George Vari's conduct exemplified both vision and dreams”.

George Vari was certainly a man of both vision and dreams. He truly was a legend. He was legendary for his business acumen, his compassion for fellow human beings, his philanthropy and his character.

His life was interwoven with many of the great events of the 20th century, including World War II, the 1956 Hungarian uprising and the enormous innovations and changes that ensued in the post-war era.

His innovation and creativity was manifest in the Tour Montparnasse in Paris or closer to home at Expo 67, as well as in projects across the world.

George Vari's life was shared with his beautiful wife, Helen. Their love is an enduring example of devotion and commitment.

George Vari has left this world but not before leaving his incredible footprints across the sands of time, never to be filled again but also never to be forgotten.

Business of Supply December 9th, 2010

Madam Speaker, by outlining the different sections of the charter, the member has illustrated the fact that not only did an incredible amount of work go into the charter, but collective wisdom as well as to what we could do as a country and society and why the charter is so important as a cornerstone of both our democracy and our Constitution and why it needs to be respected.

What the hon. member spoke of is something that all Canadians can be very proud of and respectful of: the fundamental rights that are there for all of us. Whether in times of need or for the most vulnerable in society, all of us need the protections provided by the charter. The charter is indeed a cornerstone of our democracy and what makes Canada the greatest country on earth.

In fact, the charter has been used by different countries around the world to emulate how to develop their particular charters of rights and freedoms. What worries me is when we start attacking and demeaning these fundamental Canadian institutions. We can be respectful of others with whom we might have differing opinions. There are differences of interpretation in how people apply the charter, and maybe we can be critical of how people have interpreted the charter, but overall, all of us as members of Parliament have a duty to respect one of the greatest cornerstones of our institutional democracy and our Constitution.

I would invite my hon. colleague to affirm that this is in fact the case and that we should work together in solidarity to support and honour one of the great landmarks of Canadian history, the Charter of Rights and Freedoms.