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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

Business of Supply November 4th, 2010

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased that the government has decided to reject, at least for 30 days, the PotashCorp deal, because potash is an important industry in this country.

This opposition day motion has provided us with an opportunity to discuss the loss of some of our head offices in this country, the loss of jobs, and various takeovers of Canadian marquee companies. I am speaking as a parliamentarian who laments the loss of companies that were once the jewels of Canada. We have a responsibility to protect these companies so that our economy remains strong, and so that we maintain our commercial identity as Canadians.

Algoma Steel, Dofasco, Inco, Falconbridge, Labatt's, Alcan, Nortel, and Four Seasons are all companies that we have lost. Of course, Nortel is a more complex issue. These marquee companies put Canada on the map. We have to do everything possible to secure companies such as these. The government has to intervene to make sure that such companies continue to play a leading role in our economy.

The government's decision is a positive step. I hope that it will go further and block this deal because—

Copyright Modernization Act November 2nd, 2010

Mr. Speaker, the hon. member made some very valuable points. They are important on the issue of compensation for our artists and access for education. There are a lot of valuable points he made that need to be clarified and addressed at the committee stage. I hope we will come back with a better bill than the one we have at the moment.

I do not have an answer to all his questions. These are things with which I have also been grappling personally as to what is the best direction. I am hoping that the collective wisdom of the committee will allow us to come back with a bill that will be supported by all of us.

I am one of those who strongly believe we have to have some legislation. We do not always get perfect legislation, but we need something with which to move forward.

Copyright Modernization Act November 2nd, 2010

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to speak to Bill C-32, An Act to amend the Copyright Act.

There is probably no bill in this House that has occupied more parliamentarians' time than this one, not just in this particular session of Parliament but in previous sessions of Parliament. We have debated and debated this issue but we cannot seem to get it right. There have been several bills in the past, introduced in previous sessions of Parliament.

We have read the bill and we have serious concerns with it. However, we think it merits going forward to committee where it can have the proper study, the proper hearings and we can hear from the stakeholders groups and hear their concerns. We have already heard mixed reviews of the bill from different groups.

We want to see how we can make this bill a better bill for all Canadians. Canadian artists and consumers across the country are demanding action on this very important issue and they are looking to all of us for leadership. It is unfortunate that we have taken so long to get this legislation on track.

In Canada, we are in midst of a transition to a digital economy, which has a profound effect on our cultural industries. Our aging copyright laws have received international criticism and the longer we lag behind global best practices the more Canadian artists and Canadian consumers lose out.

We believe it is time for Canada to implement fair and balanced copyright modernization in order to balance the needs of creators and consumers.

We in the Liberal Party feel there are some serious challenges with this bill but that it merits going forward for further study at committee. We want to ensure that digital lock provisions allow Canadians who have legitimately purchased a CD, a DVD or other products have the ability to transfer their purchase onto their iPod or make a personal backup copy on their computer, so long as they are not doing so for the purpose of the sale or transfer to others.

Many artists, writers and creators have also expressed deep concerns about issues like the new education provisions, mashups, statutory damages and compensation for resale rights. While we have deep reservations, we will be supporting this bill going to committee to hopefully address some of the concerns that I have raised and that other members of this House have raised.

We need to take this issue extremely seriously because there are artists, stakeholders and people in our society who are looking to us for leadership. We need to take their concerns seriously and address them as soon as possible.

We are supporting copyright modernization to protect the works and intellectual property of Canadian artists and creators. We want to see Canada's laws updated as soon as possible.

Several areas of concern have been raised and I think it is important that I also raise them to have them on the record so we can figure out how to deal with some of these issues. One issue concerns whether digital locks should trump all other rights for copy. Bill C-32 introduces new rights for Canadians to make copies for personal use, such as format shifting, transferring a CD to an iPod; time shifting, recording a show for later viewing; and making back-up copies.

However, in Bill C-32 the new digital lock provisions, the technological protection measures, TPMs, override these new rights. In other words, under this new law, if a company puts a digital lock on a CD, the people buying the CD will not be able to circumvent the law to put the music onto their iPod without breaking the law. This exact issue was a highly controversial change when Bill C-61, the Conservatives previous copyright bill, was introduced.

We are in a constantly moving, dynamic digital economy and we have a hard time catching up with all the changes. At times we question whether we should have no legislation or deeply flawed legislation. I am one of those who believes that we should have some legislation and that hopefully it will not be deeply flawed once it goes to the committee stage.

However, we need some type of protection because having nothing at the moment is embarrassing to Canada and it is not looking after the best interests of Canadians from coast to coast.

Passionate consumer concerns have been expressed with regard to the digital lock provisions and media stories are reinforcing the belief that the Conservatives are preventing Canadians from transferring their CDs onto their iPods. Canadians believe that when they buy a CD, they are buying the right to listen to that music in the format they choose, whether it is on their CD player, their iPod or computer.

There is an education component to this bill that is also of great concern. The new education exemptions for copying means that teachers and educational institutions could now make copies of work for some educational purpose and not infringe on copyright.

Broadly speaking, the bill proposes to implement two major changes. It introduces making copies for educational purposes as an exemption under Canada's fair dealing rules and introduces several specific distance education exceptions to allow for copies used for lessons communicated to the public by telecommunication for educational or training purposes, if that public consists only of students who are enrolled in a course.

There is growing opposition to the broad fair dealing exemption. Writers and publishing groups in particular are very opposed. Because fair dealing is so broad but what is fair, the writers and publishing groups believe the new exemption will give teachers and educational institutions a blank cheque to make copies of their work to give to their students. They believe teachers and educational institutions should have to compensate creators for their work. In particular, why should private, commercial educational institutions be permitted to disseminate works for educational purposes without compensating copyright? This is not an easy issue. It is very hard to please both groups on this important contentious issue.

Groups, such as the Canadian Association of Student Associations, CASA, and the Association of Universities and Colleges of Canada, AUCC, have advocated for the education fair dealing exemption. Educators, whether they are post-secondary or K-12, have traditionally tried to make free copies of works for students claiming that they were infringing copyright under the fair dealing exemption of private research and study. The dissemination of works for students, however, stretches the concept of private research and study.

Furthermore, some teachers want to be innovative. An example is a teacher wanting to show a one minute clip of a movie to make a point but he or she cannot now without paying high copyright fees.

Essentially, CASA and the AUCC want to have a clearer delineation of fair dealing to allow them some clear and reasonable freedoms to use copyrighted material in certain circumstances. CASA and AUCC, however, are also pursuing this route to avoid expensive fees and course packs that charge up to $45 per person for copyrighted material for classes.

We can see that a lot of groups are depending on us to get this legislation right. We want to reward our artists and our artist community, not punish them. We also do not want to punish students.

I realize that these are very complex issues but it is time that we collectively work together to ensure we get this one right.

This fair dealing change, however, could have profound effects on the creation of textbooks, particularly in Quebec. Textbooks are specially designed in Quebec and, given the small size of the education market, copyright fees are quite high in order to recoup expenses. Allowing the fair dealing copying of even sections of textbooks in Quebec or in other parts of the country would significantly reduce the compensation authors receive.

Further, how far can exemptions be applied? Could a teacher make a copy of an entire movie and show it in class and not pay copyright fees based on the premise of education?

It was so much easier once upon a time when teachers could show movies without any issues of breaking the copyright law and so forth, but we have moved into such a new digital age that we have to figure out how we can be innovative and at the same time be fair.

The mashup section, clause 22 of the bill, creates an exception for mashups and user-generated content. An example of the mashup is a personal movie produced using movie and music clips combined with personal video and then posted on YouTube, for example. The clause, however, is too broadly written.

Under this rule, an individual can post an entire movie on YouTube and as long as the person adds a small inserted clip at the beginning or the end, he or she can call the video a mashup. We believe the language in Bill C-32 must be tightened to ensure that mashup exemptions cannot unexpectedly create a loophole for further copyright infringements.

There is also the issue of statutory damages. Clause 38.1 of Bill C-32 defines new statutory damages of $100 to $5,000 for all non-commercial infringements of copyright. Many stakeholders have expressed concerns about this section and believe applied statutory damages must be commensurate with the severity of the infringement.

As well, there is public exhibition of art. Currently, paragraph 3(1)(g) of the Copyright Act defines the right to present at a public exhibition an artistic work created only after June 7, 1988. The Liberal Party feels this is discriminatory to artists who created work before 1988, and we want to amend this part of the legislation.

There is the resale of art. Throughout Europe, artists are rewarded when their works are sold and sold again. Original art increases in value over time and artists feel a share of the increasing value should be returned to them upon resale of their works. In committee we wish to explore this European model.

Currently, copyright holders charge broadcasters for format shifting their works. A simple example of this is when a radio station purchases a song for broadcast. The current rules require the radio station to pay every time it plays the song but also when it transfers the song onto its computer server. Broadcasters want to simply pay once, whenever they play the song, and not pay again for the format shift being discussed.

The right of copy for format shifting, however, transfers approximately $21 million each year to artists and musicians, the creators of the works. Bill C-32 eliminates the ephemeral recording right from the Copyright Act, eliminating this compensation to creators.

Everyone can see that there are a lot of issues to be dealt with in committee, and we wish committee members all the best because this has been an ongoing issue as long as I have been in Parliament. We shall see if it actually gets resolved by the time this session is over. I certainly wish them all the best.

The stakeholder reaction, as I mentioned earlier, has been mixed. Michael Geist and consumer advocates oppose the bill, as the digital law provisions are considered overly restricting to Canadians who wish to download their CDs onto their iPods.

Some arts groups, such as the Canadian Film and Television Production Association, have supported Bill C-32 as a good step forward, but others, such as the Alliance of Canadian Cinema, Television and Radio Artists, ACTRA, and other Quebec arts groups have opposed Bill C-32 because it lacks a levy, inserts the new education exemption and is not strong enough on issues such as notice and mashups.

Large business groups like the chambers of commerce, the Entertainment Software Association and the Canadian Council of Chief Executives have expressed support for the bill.

Other information technology business groups such as Google, Bell, Rogers and others have expressed support for the bill's direction, but have expressed concerns about the digital lock provisions.

Several education stakeholders, like the Canadian Alliance of Student Associations and the Canadian Association of University Teachers, have also expressed support for the education amendments but also concern with the digital lock provisions.

The Writers Guild and the Association of Canadian Publishers strongly oppose the new exemptions for education.

The Canadian Artists' Representation and many other arts groups are opposed to many parts of Bill C-32 and would especially like to have the resale right included in the new bill.

We have a bill that is quite complex. I will not use the word “mess”, although some others might say it is a mess, but we have been in this situation for a very long time. Certainly it has been debated over the last 10 years through various sittings of Parliament. With what the Conservative government is now bringing forward, different pieces of legislation have been changed. We had elections and then we had prorogation. All of that has killed past bills. A new bill has been introduced at this time and we do not know when an election is going to happen, but we will see what happens to the bill. If it actually makes it beyond the election, that would be great, but I have some reservations. I am hoping the committee will have an opportunity to look at these different issues and address them.

Canadians from coast to coast are looking for leadership from all of us. I do not want to see this as a partisan issue. We need to get copyright right for all Canadians. It is of great value for all of us.

So many people are depending on us to make the right decision, so I am hoping there will be co-operation at the committee. I am hoping we can all get together to work on this very important issue, bring it back to the House, have a final vote and then move it to the other chamber.

I cannot say how important this legislation is to all of us, and I am hoping that in the spirit of co-operation and with the limited space of a minority Parliament, we will have the bill passed before the next election.

Casa dos Açores do Ontario November 1st, 2010

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased on behalf of the Parliament of Canada to recognize Casa dos Açores do Ontario located in my Davenport riding as it celebrates its 25th anniversary.

Canada's long and storied history with the Azores dates back hundreds of years. The nine lush islands of the Azores has for mariners formed a welcome horizon over the Atlantic Ocean with Canada to the west. For the 400,000 Canadians of Portuguese origin who were born in the Azores, both places are special in their hearts.

The Azores is home to many esteemed poets and the first two presidents of Portugal. As the first Canadian member of Parliament to have been born in the Azores, I share this pride.

Azoreans on both sides of the Atlantic cherish their country of birth, the place they have always considered their homeland. For the past 25 years, Casa dos Açores has helped build bridges between two neighbours: Canada and the Azores.

I would like to congratulate Casa dos Açores on this special anniversary.

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

Mr. Speaker, there has been no conversion because we do not see politics as a religion, nor are we concerned about ideology. We are much more concerned about getting things done for Canadians.

We have to look at things also in a practical way. When the economy is healthy and things are growing, when we think we can afford a tax cut, we will have to put a tax cut in place. When there is a different scenario before us and Canadians are in need, then let us invest in the social infrastructure.

It is not a question of converting from one ideology to another. We do not believe in conversions of ideology. We believe in getting practical things done for Canadians when it is the right time to do them. We have always done things in a practical and meaningful way. That is the direction in which I would like to see the country go. I think the vast majority of people who are in the middle actually believe that is the best way to move forward as a country, not in an ideological way either from the right or the left.

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

Mr. Speaker, my colleague and I would probably agree that we are concerned about what is in this legislation, but we are also concerned about what is missing from the legislation. What is missing is the whole idea that as a society and as legislators, we are responsible for the social building blocks of this country, and what I see is that they are being slowly eroded and dismantled. We are not putting enough into both our social infrastructure and our physical infrastructure.

I am very much concerned about the direction in which we are going and where our priorities seem to lie. We want to make sure that we are investing in our communities and our social infrastructure, and that we also look at changing some of the policies and directions. We have an aging population. We have crumbling infrastructure. We have cities in need. We have problems of youth unemployment. Are they being addressed? My concern is that unfortunately they are not being addressed in this bill.

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

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to speak to Bill C-47, the sustaining Canada's economic recovery act.

When reading reports or listening to speeches on economic issues, it is often possible to be overwhelmed by numbers, statistics and projections. However, beyond these figures and complicated tables are human stories of Canadians simply trying to build better lives for themselves, their families and their communities in times that are increasingly less certain.

As we all know, seniors across Canada face some of the most pressing challenges in terms of maintaining a decent living for themselves. Upon retirement, the vast majority of Canadian seniors see a significant reduction in their income. Whether they have managed to purchase their own homes or not, the expenses they face can appear daunting to them as they enter their retirement years. Indeed, these expenses are significant to those on fixed incomes.

These expenses include electricity, gas, food, home maintenance, property taxes, transportation costs, health costs in terms of prescriptions and assistance devices, and the list goes on. Unfortunately, all of these expenses are increasing as time passes, while income, particularly retirement income, simply does not keep pace.

It is for this reason that we as a society must recognize that our population is aging and that many of our seniors find it difficult to make ends meet. The challenge will only become more acute in the coming years.

While public policy encourages Canadians to save for retirement, it is widely recognized that only one in five Canadians has an employment-based retirement pension plan. It is a simple fact that most Canadians without an employment-based pension plan have little left over to save for retirement.

While others may save independently, many Canadians are relying on the Canada pension plan to support them in retirement and these payments are simply not enough to maintain a reasonable standard of living.

Those are some of the challenges for seniors in Canada.

We as a society must recognize that we have an obligation to consider fully the unique challenges facing Canadian seniors. We have an obligation to consider the kind of programs and initiatives to ensure that those who have worked hard all of their lives can live decent and meaningful lives when they retire.

We need to have serious discussions in this country about public policy considerations, such as reducing property taxes for seniors or providing a rebate for these payments through tax policy, increasing assistance for those who need prescription medications or specialized in-home medical care, and proper community support systems that are adequately funded. These are only a few of the areas of concern.

We owe it to seniors in this country to ensure that they can enjoy their hard-earned retirement years.

Similarly, many young families in this country are struggling, which should not be the case in a prosperous country like Canada. It is shocking and intolerable that, according to a 2008 report, one in nine Canadian children lives in poverty. That is one million children who must contend each day with the terrible reality of poverty.

These are working families who, at the end of the month, simply do not have enough money to cover all of their expenses. It is this kind of poverty that is vicious, in that it is circular in nature. It traps people in a cycle of poverty which in most cases is difficult to escape.

Recently, the Senate of Canada released a report on poverty, “In From the Margins: A Call to Action on Poverty, Housing and Homelessness”. The report contains 74 recommendations that should be considered. These recommendations include a call to increase the guaranteed income supplement for seniors, a national affordable housing program and to make the disability tax credit refundable. We must consider these kinds of public policy initiatives.

I would remind members that it was the previous Liberal government under Prime Minister Paul Martin that began to invest in affordable housing for the first time in a generation. It was also the Liberal Party which, in the last general election, had a specific plan to address poverty in Canada in general and child poverty in particular.

Young people in this country require an increasingly specialized level of education if they are to have any chance at all of competing in the rapidly changing global marketplace. It is only the fortunate few who, through family or other means, have the resources to fully cover the cost of their education. The reality for most students is that they work while attending post-secondary institutions. They also assume large student loan debts which will hound them for years to come.

It is incumbent upon us as a society to have serious debates about what we can do to address the issues facing young people who are increasingly leaving school with unmanageable debt loads which they assumed simply so they could obtain an education.

Not only is it in the best interests of the students to attend school and become as competitive in the world marketplace as they possibly can, but it is also in the best interests of our country.

The future belongs to our young people. We need to do all that we can to position them well as they enter their working lives. For them to do so with the burden of enormous debt is not the way to achieve this goal. We must look at ways to make post-secondary education more affordable and less burdensome. Today unfortunately the opposite is happening.

Universities and colleges are facing ever increasing fiscal pressures and as a result are charging higher fees. Students, even those who are fortunate enough to find work during their years of study, have to borrow more to cover their education costs. We need to lessen this burden and adequately fund our elementary, secondary and post-secondary schools.

There is an infrastructure deficit in this country which, several years ago under the previous Liberal government, began to receive the attention it deserved. The global economic meltdown in 2008 forced many of these reports from the front pages. If we are to remain competitive and in order to sustain healthy cities and communities, we must have a plan of action that is well-funded to repair or replace and sustain infrastructure across the country.

It is simply not reasonable to suggest that we can remain competitive when our infrastructure is aging and in disrepair. In my home city of Toronto there are sewage systems that are over 100 years old and clearly in need of replacement. This story is repeated across the country. As the previous Liberal government had begun to do, we need to start addressing the infrastructure needs of Canada's cities and communities.

I recognize that in the hue and cry about fiscal realities the inevitable question is, how does one pay for the kinds of programs and initiatives mentioned in my remarks today? It is about priorities and putting in place the public policies we need to get the job done.

How can it be that the government can find $1 billion to cover the costs of a 72-hour meeting in Toronto and Huntsville which produced questionable results, and yet when it comes to poverty, the cry is that there is no money to be found? That $1 billion would have gone a long way in helping to address poverty in this country. It would be better spent in this way than on photo ops and closed door meetings.

Similarly, the government maintains there is no money to fund students or address the needs of seniors and young families, yet it continues on a program of corporate tax cuts in the billions of dollars.

Canada's economy is competitive. Corporations are effectively competing on the world stage. We would do better to cancel the billions of dollars in tax cuts for the large corporations and instead channel that money into the areas I have referred to in these remarks. We need to be building schools and hospitals with this money, not corporate office towers. We need to be helping young people go to school, not world leaders at meetings of dubious value at billion dollar conferences.

The reality is that we must adopt public policies that would help Canadians and their families to live the lives they deserve. We can be prosperous and prudent, compassionate and responsible. We can also be progressive and sensible. This is how we build a nation in which all have the opportunity to excel. In so doing, we help create what is considered to be the greatest country on earth.

Employment Insurance October 29th, 2010

Mr. Speaker, the programs that exist today no longer reflect the realities facing Canadian families and, as our population ages, pressure will increase even more.

Groups, like the Canadian Nurses Association, the Victorian Order of Nurses, the Canadian Association of Retired Persons and the Alzheimer Society, support our plan to invest $1 billion annually in our Liberal family care plan.

When will the government take action on this important and growing challenge?

Employment Insurance October 29th, 2010

Mr. Speaker, across Canada, 2.7 million Canadians provide care for sick and aging family members. That will increase significantly by 2017 as our population ages. Many of these family caregivers use their own savings and miss time at work to provide this care.

How is it that the government can find $6 billion for unaffordable corporate tax cuts but cannot find a fraction of that to implement the Liberal family care plan?

Ending Early Release for Criminals and Increasing Offender Accountability Act October 19th, 2010

Madam Speaker, my hon. colleague makes a valid point and I fully agree with him. I do not believe it is appropriate for the government to be slashing crime prevention programs to the tune of up to 70%. Part of being tough on crime is to make sure that there are programs of prevention out there. Every time these programs are eroded, it makes our society less safe.

Remember, it was Parliamentary Budget Officer Kevin Page who said that one of the government justice bills, instead of costing $90 million, as was originally estimated by the minister, would actually cost between $10 billion and $13 billion. There is a huge discrepancy between $90 million and $13 billion. These programs are a huge cost that is going to be borne by all of us.

I also am worried about the impact it is going to have on our social infrastructure. Already provincial premiers are complaining about the cost of our legislation. If we are going to put forward more of these justice bills, I hope we are doing it in partnership with our provincial premiers, because they also have a stake in all this. There is a cost to them and a cost to all of us, because there is only one taxpayer.

I also realize that there is a cost of inaction. I am not one who says we should do nothing and that will be it. No, I agree that we have to act. But let us do it in a way that makes economic sense and is in the best interests of public safety. At the committee level, there will be an opportunity to debate and to engage different stakeholders, so that we can have legislation we can all be proud of.