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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

Questions Passed as Orders for Returns December 6th, 2010

With regard to the government’s aid funding for Haiti in 2006, 2007, 2008, 2009 and 2010, for every project funded, what is: (a) the name of the project; (b) the location of the project within the country of destination; (c) the amount of funding received by the project broken down as (i) grant or contribution, (ii) interest-free loan, (iii) repayable loan, (iv) non-repayable loan; and (d) the department where the funding originated?

Questions Passed as Orders for Returns December 3rd, 2010

With regard to the government’s aid funding for Afghanistan in 2006, 2007, 2008, 2009 and 2010, for every project funded, what is: (a) the name of the project; (b) the location of the project within the country of destination; (c) the amount of funding received by the project broken down as (i) grant or contribution, (ii) interest-free loan, (iii) repayable loan, (iv) non-repayable loan; and (d) the department where the funding originated?

Questions Passed as Orders for Returns December 2nd, 2010

With regard to the government’s aid funding for Pakistan in 2006, 2007, 2008, 2009 and 2010, and for every project funded, what is: (a) the name of the project; (b) the location of the project within the country of destination; (c) the amount of funding received by the project broken down as (i) grant or contribution, (ii) interest-free loan, (iii) repayable loan, (iv) non-repayable loan; and (d) the department where the funding originated?

Haiti November 19th, 2010

Mr. Speaker, for months Haitians have been dealing with a serious outbreak of cholera. This epidemic has killed over 1,000 people and 10 months after the earthquake, up to one million people still live in tents and lack clean water, the source of the cholera outbreak.

Why is the government not showing leadership in this crisis? Why are we not hearing anything from the government on this issue? When will the government report to Parliament and give us an update on this crisis?

Constitution Act, 2010 (Senate Term Limits) November 19th, 2010

Mr. Speaker, I do agree. I do appreciate the minister's effort on this very important file.

I strongly believe in term limits for senators. It is in the best interests of all Canadians and our institutions.

I would just ask the minister to make sure that we do consult with all appropriate stakeholders and the provinces. We should have a discussion at committee about whether eight years is the right amount of time or not. I will support whatever comes out of committee. But we should have something that is balanced, respectful and in keeping with our traditions.

Constitution Act, 2010 (Senate Term Limits) November 19th, 2010

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to speak to Bill C-10, An Act to amend the Constitution Act of 1867.

The purpose of this bill, as we all know, is to limit the tenure of the Senate appointments to one, non-renewable eight-year term. I have to say that I support the bill going to committee for possible amendments and to allow all stakeholders, including the provinces as well as constitutional experts, to testify on the changes that the Conservative government wants to make to the Senate of Canada.

I believe strongly in reform, but this type of reform must be in the best interests of Canadians, reflect sound public policy and respect the Constitution.

While the Constitution Act of 1867 does not say anything specific to exclude the authority of Parliament to make amendments to Senate term limits, the Supreme Court commented, in a reference case on the upper house, that alterations that would affect the fundamental features or essential characteristics given to the Senate, as a means of ensuring regional and provincial representation in the federal legislation process, would require provincial consultation. The role and tenure of a senator was determined by the provinces initially, in order to meet the requirement of a federal system.

For there to be meaningful reform, there must be meaningful consultation. Few Senate reform proposals throughout the years have looked at the role and function of the Senate, they were always on the political image. The Supreme Court reference concluded that the constitutionality test for reform would be best fit if it met the requirements for independence; the ability to provide sober second thought; and the means to ensure provincial and regional representation.

Former senator Michael Pitfield said:

The Senate should not be a duplicate of the House of Commons, but a complement: a somewhat less partisan, more technical forum with a longer-term perspective. Appropriately designed Senate reform could provide greater countervalence against the executive, more useful national debate and sharper administrative supervision - not only within the Senate itself, but in Parliament as a whole.

The role of the Canadian Senate is often undervalued. It is an integral part of the Canadian system of checks and balances.

Canada's founders were well educated and read The Federalist Papers. They wanted to avoid as many of the mistakes that were made in the United States as possible, but also could see what worked. They knew well that a counterbalance to a tyranny of the majority was vital.

Sir John A. Macdonald said, “We will enjoy here that which is the great test of constitutional freedom — we will have the rights of the minority respected.”

Political pressures, partisanship and overall workload can cause bills to be passed through the House of Commons without proper consideration. The sober second thought provided by the Senate allows for careful legislative review in the best interests of Canadians and public policy.

The Senate has a wealth of institutional knowledge and has issued some of the most comprehensive reports on issues that are important to Canadians. The Senate committee on national security has engaged in several in-depth examinations of Canadian security, especially in the wake of 9/11, including a recent report on airport security.

Senator Carstairs issued an important report on Canadian seniors and our aging population. As we determine now how we will go forward with jobs and health care, and the economy as a whole, as the largest portion of our population begins their golden years, no issue is timelier.

The Senate subcommittee on cities recently issued a very important report on poverty, homelessness and affordable housing in Canada.

The Senate is able, in its current form, to engage in long-term, in-depth studies of these vital issues. Our current Senate is a vital element of liberal democracy, which values the necessity of opposition. Absolute democracy turns into majoritarianism. The Senate of Canada is an important institution and deserves proper consideration and adequate consultation.

There are dozens of experts to be heard from as well as provinces that are equally affected by any changes we make to this austere chamber.

It is imperative that we ensure this bill is constitutional and that reforms that are suggested are in the best interests of Canadians and Canadian institutions.

The Senate is not one of many political tools in a legislative arsenal. It is an independent, important legislative body in its own right. The government must respect the Constitution and Canadian institutions.

Canada Elections Act November 5th, 2010

moved for leave to introduce Bill C-591, An Act to amend the Canada Elections Act (home voting for seniors).

Mr. Speaker, I am honoured to introduce a bill that would allow voters over 65 years of age to vote at home. If requested by a senior who might not otherwise be able to leave the home to vote, an election officer could assist a senior citizen in performing his or her most treasured civic duty.

I urge all my colleagues in the House to support this bill, and in doing so, recognize the importance of senior Canadians to our civic fabric.

(Motions deemed adopted, bill read the first time and printed)

National Colorectal Cancer Month Act November 5th, 2010

moved for leave to introduce Bill C-590, An Act to designate the month of March as National Colorectal Cancer Month.

Mr. Speaker, I am honoured to rise today in the House to introduce a bill that would designate March of every year as national colorectal cancer month. I have introduced this bill in previous Parliaments. It is important to bring awareness to this disease, as it affects one in fourteen men and one in sixteen women. Too many Canadians die with this disease. If it is caught and treated early, people have a great chance of survival.

I urge all my colleagues in this House to assist in recognizing this important cause.

(Motions deemed adopted, bill read the first time and printed)

November 4th, 2010

Mr. Speaker, Time magazine once reported that Canada is one of the planet's most comfortable and caring societies. This is true for most of us. However, if we are to realize the fullest potential of this great and youthful land, then we must ensure that all of us feel part of the dream that is this country. It is difficult to feel that when one is hungry, without shelter or in desperate need. Poverty is the great divider. It separates us from one another instead of bringing us together. Generations to come will not cast their gaze upon those of us alive today and reflect upon our words. They will look back to our times and seek the truth of our actions.

The Senate report on poverty, along with long lists of statistics and anecdotes all tell the same story. Poverty is all too real for too many Canadians, and if we are to succeed in confronting it, we must show leadership and resolve.

I ask again, will the government hear the call and find the resolve to take the action we all know must be taken?

November 4th, 2010

Mr. Speaker, the great Irish poet W.B. Yeats once said of poverty:

But I, being poor, have only my dreams;

I have spread my dreams beneath your feet;

Tread softly because you tread on my dreams.

For millions of Canadians the reality of poverty is not a dream but a daily hardship they face with growing disenchantment. It is a chain that anchors them to lives that cannot possibly realize their fullest potential. It is a woeful destroyer of youthful dreams and once hopeful ambitions.

Recently, on April 29, 2010, the Senate of Canada unanimously approved its report on poverty, In From the Margins: A Call to Action on Poverty, Housing and Homelessness.

This report confirmed yet again what we all know. Poverty is a real and growing problem here in Canada, one of the world's most prosperous nations. The report went on to make recommendations on how to address poverty and homelessness across Canada.

I implore the government to reconsider its decision to reject the recommendations made in the Senate report and to take action on the meaningful and wise suggestions put forward in the study.

We know that statistics can at times seem to be mere numbers on a page, but they also tell a story that cries out for a voice. In my home province of Ontario, for example, there are 357,000 people who receive social assistance and live below the poverty line. Food banks have experienced a 15% increase in demand in this year alone.

The same food banks also report that so desperate are some of their clients that 28% of them have had to use credit cards or lines of credit just to pay for food and shelter.

These are Canadians not unlike any other person we know. They are hard-working people caught up in difficult economic times who simply want to provide for their families and live decent and dignified lives. They are not looking for a hand out, but a step up.

Many of those who daily face the torment of poverty are society's most vulnerable: children, people with disabilities and senior citizens.

All too often in the midst of hurried lives and demanding schedules these are people who are invisible to many Canadians who do not know the burden of poverty. But the truth is, more than ever, that they are not invisible, they are unnoticed. It is not the same thing.

In many respects their lives are uncomfortable reminders to us all that we too are vulnerable. We owe it to them and to our country's future to see that we hear them, see them and do whatever we can to help them from the painful reality of poverty that can so often be cloaked with indifference.

We must remember that we all Canadians. All children deserve the same chance. All older people deserve the same dignity. All of us share this same vast and blessed land. We belong to it as to each other.

Mother Teresa once said:

If we have no peace, it is because we have forgotten that we belong to each other.

I ask the government once again, will it reconsider its decision with respect to the Senate's report on poverty and homelessness and take decisive and desperately needed action on these issues?