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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

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

Madam Speaker, I will be splitting my time with the member for Bonavista—Gander—Grand Falls—Windsor.

From the outset, I will state that I will be supportive of the bill going forward to committee. There are some issues in the bill that need to be carefully thought out. There are some positive things in the bill, but all of us have concerns.

I will not be critical of members in the House in the aspect of the bill that is paramount to us all, and that is the safety of the citizens of our country. All members here, no matter to which party they belong, truly believe they are here to make sure there is legislation in place to protect our citizens on a daily basis. I commend all of us on that. What I and other members have issues with is the approach.

How did we get there? Some legitimate issues have been raised particularly by members of my party and our public safety critic. Rehabilitation has always been paramount to the whole corrections system in this country. I am quite concerned that that whole idea is being eroded. We also want to make sure there are programs and the necessary funding in place to ensure that people do not reoffend. Programs which deal with issues of safety have been cut over the last few years. Those programs are vital to ensure the safety of our society. I am concerned about the erosion of those programs.

Some of the aspects of the bill need to be clarified. Bill C-39, the ending early release for criminals and increasing offender accountability act, was introduced in June of this year by the Minister of Public Safety. The bill amends the Corrections and Conditional Release Act. We should look at some of the things the bill tries to clarify.

It clarifies that the protection of society is the paramount consideration in the corrections process for the Correctional Service of Canada, the National Parole Board and the provincial parole boards as well. It provides that a correctional plan is to include the level of intervention by the service in respect of the offender's needs and the objectives for the offender's behaviour, the offender's participation in programs and the meeting of the offender's court-ordered obligations.

It expands the range of disciplinary offences to include intimidation, false claims and throwing a bodily substance.

It permits victims to make a statement at parole hearings. It permits the disclosure to a victim of the name and location of the institution to which the offender is transferred, the reason for a transfer, information about the offender's participation in programs, and convictions for serious disciplinary offences, and the reason for a temporary absence or a hearing waiver.

It eliminates accelerated parole review. It provides for the automatic suspension of the parole or statutory release of an offender who receives a new custodial sentence and requires the National Parole Board to review the offender's case within a prescribed period. It authorizes a peace officer to arrest without warrant an offender for a breach of a condition of the offender's conditional release.

Some of the objectives in the bill are probably supportable, and we are supporting sending the bill to committee, but we have to make sure that public safety is the paramount consideration when dealing with corrections issues.

My party believes that rehabilitation is key to preserving public safety and preventing recidivism. We believe in a corrections system where human rights are promoted and respected .

For these reasons we support the bill in principle, namely that public safety remains paramount in corrections policy, but we have concerns with the government's overall road map to corrections, including the over-vamping and deterrence at astronomical costs.

One of the major concerns I have heard from provincial premiers is how little consultation is taking place at the provincial level; this when so many of the costs will be carried by the provincial governments. This would be a heavy burden. They want to make sure they are part of the consultation as we move forward with legislation dealing with criminal offences and rehabilitation.

A number of organizations have also expressed concern about this bill, including the John Howard and Elizabeth Fry societies, and the Criminal Lawyers' Association. Rehabilitation is the key to an effective corrections system, prevention, and public safety. Professor Michael Jackson, a former director of the John Howard Society, has stated that they have serious concerns with this legislation.

There are different groups that need to be heard at the committee level. That is one of the reasons this bill needs to go to committee. We can then look at different ways to correct and modify this bill.

There are some positive things I see in the bill, but I have to say that we are concerned about the overall cost of some of this legislation. It will be shared by all taxpayers. The provincial premiers will have a difficult time managing their budgets. They are concerned about where this legislation is going and how it will affect their treasuries.

We heard from Kevin Page, the Parliamentary Budget Officer, who stated that the cost of one of the bills could be in the range of $10 billion to $13 billion. This is an astronomical cost that, without question, will have an effect on our ability to provide other services, whether we are talking about health or other social services.

We also know there has been some erosion taking place in the programs that deal with prevention. If public safety is paramount, then we must make sure we have programs and resources in place to deal with crime prevention, so that people will not be reoffending.

A concern to us all is that so much of the legislation before us imitates our friends and neighbours to the south. I think we would all agree that the cost has been enormous on their society, with little decrease in crime or criminal activity.

If we are going to look for a road map, we want to make sure it is one that all of us could be supportive of. I believe it should be guided by principles based on fact and not emotion. It should have the resources in place, and we should know where we can get the funding for the programs.

Thus far, I see in this bill a cost to all of society. There is a cost to the treasury and to the public. We have a series of concerns that we keep raising. I hope the government will listen.

I think we would all agree that establishing the rights of victims to make a statement at a parole hearing is an important and positive aspect of this legislation. How it is implemented, how it is done, is something the committee will have to take a look at.

Of course, we would want to involve victims groups as well. It would probably be done on a case-by-case basis, because I am not sure all victims want to make a statement at the parole hearings. However, if they wish to, they should be given that opportunity.

The level of intervention would probably be decided on a case-by-case basis, with the victim having the opportunity to make a statement.

There have been a series of issues raised by different people, primarily advocacy groups. We need to listen to the John Howard Society and the Elizabeth Fry Society, which do good work in trying to rehabilitate criminals. We need to make sure that individuals do not reoffend. It is in the interest of all of us. For this reason, I will be supporting the legislation. I hope that we will be able to resolve some of these issues at the committee level before the bill comes back for third reading and final approval.

Fighting Internet and Wireless Spam Act October 18th, 2010

Mr. Speaker, I congratulate the hon. member for Mississauga South. He has spoken quite eloquently to this issue a number of times and to the importance of this legislation and getting it right.

He is absolutely right that it is not just a question of acting locally. We also have to act globally to bring all players and international partners onside. In many ways an international law is needed as well to combat this growing problem.

It comes down to whether there is political will. Will the government go beyond this bill and raise these issues at a global forum, the G8, the G20, or the UN? We need to take whatever action we can to get concrete global action to deal with the issue of spam. It is a serious problem. Criminals use it to attack vulnerable people. We have to see it as a criminal act and we cannot do that, as the member said, because a lot of the activity takes place offshore. We need to have our partners onside. We need global action, but we also need political will from the government in order to do that.

Fighting Internet and Wireless Spam Act October 18th, 2010

Mr. Speaker, all of us recognize that we are faced with a very serious issue. It is not about getting an email that is a nuisance. Many times it is about criminals taking advantage of individuals in our society.

I agree with the hon. member. There is no question that people need to be more aware about the problem. We need to ensure the government is doing everything possible to get the message out to individuals not just with tough laws but also through the enforcement of the laws. Someone on the Liberal Party's task force said that resources are also needed. We need the resources to be able to deal with this issue effectively. Law enforcement needs the resources not just from the legislative perspective but also the financial perspective, to deal with this very troubling menace that is causing havoc in our society.

Fighting Internet and Wireless Spam Act October 18th, 2010

Mr. Speaker, I would like to split my time with my colleague, the member for Don Valley East.

I am pleased to stand in support of Bill C-28, which was put forward by the Minister of Industry.

This is an important issue. The bill looks to enact the electronic commerce protection act, which would prohibit the sending of commercial electronic messages, in other words, spam emails, without the prior consent of recipients.

We have spoken quite a lot in this House about spam and this particular legislation. I am not sure if anybody has spoken to the origin of the word “spam”, but according to what I have managed to find on the Internet, “Spam” traditionally has referred to a pork shoulder and ham product. That is not what we are referring to here. Today's spam is a nuisance which all of us, unfortunately, receive as emails.

Twenty years ago this was not an issue. Today our lives are guided by the use of the Internet and email messages. I do not think any of us could manage our day-to-day affairs without a computer. All members of the House probably use the Internet, but if not, certainly their staff does. It is next to impossible to communicate with our constituents effectively without the Internet.

Spam is a nuisance. It significantly affects individuals, governments and companies. We must look at this legislation very seriously.

Members have raised legitimate issues about this legislation and what needs to be changed in order to make this legislation more effective. However, the proper place to do that is at committee. All of us probably will support sending this bill to committee so that the committee can hear from the different stakeholders to ensure that the legislation is appropriate and timely and that it would in fact address this very serious issue of spam. Spam is not only a nuisance but it is also used by criminals to wreak havoc on people and companies. Recently, a Quebec judge upheld a United States award of $1 billion against a spammer who used Facebook to send over four million spam messages. It is important that the courts and government treat this issue seriously.

The bill would also prohibit the use of false or misleading statements that disguise the origin or true intent of the email, the installation of unauthorized programs, and unauthorized collection of personal information emails. The bill would also establish fines for these violations, to a maximum of $1 million for individuals and $10 million for businesses. The bill would establish rules for warrants for information during investigation, and injunctions on spam activity while under investigation.

Bill C-28 would establish the private right of action, allowing individuals and businesses the ability to seek damages from the perpetrators of spam.

This bill is long overdue and we are happy to support it.

We have been told that up to 80% of email traffic globally is spam, which means that only about 20% of email traffic is legitimate communication taking place between individuals and businesses. These numbers show that not only is spam a significant problem, but it is a growing menace to everyone who uses the Internet or email.

While this bill is a good start, we must also work with other countries to address this problem. The Internet is international and there must be an international solution to spam as well.

The leading source of spam this year has been the United States. Almost 19% of the spam sent around the world has originated in the United States. India is second with 8% and then Brazil with almost 6%. Canada must work with these nations and all countries to address spam-related issues.

It is also important to recognize that anyone can be a target for spammers, including young people. It has just been reported that in advance of the release of the new Harry Potter movie in mid-November, spammers have been busy at work targeting young people. The last Harry Potter movie was of so much interest to young people, spammers are promoting free tickets, but once young people enter their personal details, they become the tools of the spammer. Anti-virus companies are warning computer users to be very careful of such online offers.

I have received many emails from what appears to be my bank telling me that I should register my credit card online because of some issue. When I contacted the bank to tell it what was happening the bank was very alarmed.

Individuals are being fooled into giving out their credit card numbers in response to what they think is a legitimate email from their bank. Because the email contains the bank's corporate logo and detailed information, people think the email is official, but it is really somebody trying to get private information, hack into a bank account and take out money.

This criminal activity is taking place on a large scale globally. We are not looking at a small menace. We are looking at a serious threat to our economic well-being and a serious threat to the safety of people. This is an issue of great importance. I hope that members will see it for what it is, a very serious issue that needs to be addressed by Parliament.

Anyone is fair game as a target. Spammers manipulate people, and in the case I mentioned, young people who are anxiously awaiting the last instalment of the Harry Potter movies.

Another important aspect of the changing dynamics of spam is that the use of spam is becoming increasingly more automated. The result of greater automation is the ability to target more diverse computer users in greater numbers and in all corners of the world. The use of spam in such circumstances is growing.

An associated aspect of spamming is theft of information and related issues.

A major development that has been reported in the new Kroll Global Fraud Report is that for the first time, physical theft as a criminal act has been overtaken by cyber theft. Criminals are using with increasing effectiveness the vulnerability of the cyber world.

Even Microsoft recently confirmed that two of its network devices had been used illegally to forward spam to thousands of users. The fact that such a large and vigilant company can be victimized is further proof of the seriousness of the problem.

The cost to fight spam is in the billions of dollars every year. This is money that could go toward paying bills, growing companies and supporting other more productive causes.

The bottom line is simply that spam is way beyond an inconvenience. It is a vehicle for criminal activity. It is a means to manipulate and cause great harm to individual users. It has a serious impact on businesses financially and in terms of their reputation. Spam puts our young people at risk. With all of this in mind, it is essential that we take action here in Canada to address this issue.

I am pleased that the government has incorporated into this bill most of the work of the previous Liberal government in this area. Back in 2004-05, the Liberal government established an anti-spam task force which came forward with recommendations. Some of these recommendations are in the bill. The task force recommended prohibiting the sending of spam without the prior consent of recipients; prohibiting the use of false or misleading statements that disguise the origin and true intent of the email; prohibiting the installation of unauthorized programs; and prohibiting the unauthorized collection of personal information or email addresses.

We will support this bill now and hopefully make any needed changes at committee.

It is important for Canadians that we take action to challenge this growing problem. It is also important for people in all countries that we work together in order to hold those who commit these acts responsible for their actions no matter where they live or operate.

Poverty October 8th, 2010

Mr. Speaker, why is the government willing to spend millions of dollars on American-style megaprisons and give huge tax breaks to corporations instead of addressing the issue of poverty? Why has the government not listened to the 74 recommendations made by the Senate subcommittee on ending poverty and homelessness?

Poverty is an issue that will not simply go away for millions of Canadians unless something is done to help ease the burden. Why does the government insist on ignoring this problem?

Poverty October 8th, 2010

Mr. Speaker, Thanksgiving is just days away and it is important to remember that many Canadian families will not enjoy even a basic Thanksgiving meal. Food bank use is up 21%. Many more Canadians are falling below the poverty line and current programs only maintain the status quo.

The best way to help our economy is to lift people out of poverty. Why is it so difficult for the Conservative government to put the needs of millions of Canadians who need help first?

October 5th, 2010

Madam Speaker, while the parliamentary secretary mentioned that the province was mainly responsible for the administration of this project, the federal government is a major source of funding for this project because they are partners. The federal government must take a leadership role and actively demand electrified trains along this corridor.

Our party has long made public transit a cornerstone of our vision for cities, a position that has been echoed by many organizations, including the Chamber of Commerce which has advocated for a national transit strategy to assist our municipalities.

Will the federal government adopt a national vision for our public transit and will it ensure that safe, environmentally friendly public transportation is a priority for projects like the one in Toronto?

October 5th, 2010

Madam Speaker, before I ask the hon. parliamentary secretary my question, let me take this opportunity to congratulate the Republic of Portugal on its 100th anniversary.

It was on this day, October 5, 1910, that the First Portuguese Republic was introduced, led by Teofilo Braga and then Manuel De Arriaga, both from the Azores where I was born.

As a proud Canadian and on behalf of my constituents and Canadians of Portuguese descent across the country, I wish to congratulate the country of my birth on its centennial.

On May 11, I raised a question for the Minister of Transport regarding the need to electrify trains that will soon be running through my riding of Davenport.

The current plan is to operate up to 400 diesel trains per day through these neighbourhoods. Residents of my riding are concerned by these developments, and they have told me at every opportunity just how concerned they are about the health and quality of life impact of having so many diesel trains operating so close to their homes and businesses. Clearly these concerns are legitimate and must be addressed.

They have told me that they are worried about the environmental impact of hundreds of additional diesel trains running close to their homes and parks along the Georgetown corridor.

They are also concerned that the lack of commitment by the federal government on electrification is more evidence of the fact that Canada does not have a long-term plan to support public transit in our cities.

I share these concerns. I too live in the Davenport community, and my constituents and I will continue to press the government on this issue until it makes a commitment to support safe, affordable and environmentally friendly public transit in our cities.

Since the spring of 2009, I have been working with my constituents and area community leaders in repeated efforts to deal with agencies involved in this project. We have raised matters such as the excessive noise of construction crews pile-driving all day long and how diesel trains will affect the health of our neighbourhoods.

Over the course of the last number of months, I have spoken and written to officials of the Canadian Transportation Agency, Metrolinx and provincial ministers and departments to try to come to acceptable solutions for affected residents.

Now that the noise issues have been resolved for the most part, it is imperative that we deal with the kind of trains that will operate along the Georgetown line. Postponing this decision is not a solution. In fact it is the problem.

What Torontonians and all Canadians deserve is a plan with a vision, a long-range infrastructure plan, and now is the time to make the needed commitment so that these rail lines will be electrified.

Waiting 25 years, all the while using unproven diesel train technology, is not only short-sighted but it is poor public policy. Delaying electrification only increases costs in the long term, and during this period the health impacts on residents are simply unacceptable.

Electric trains are a proven commodity in most major European and Asian cities in both urban transit and regional rail links like the Georgetown line. This is a technology that has been used for years in these parts of the world.

People in my community and communities across the region are deeply concerned about this issue, and I am too. It is inconceivable that we not take this opportunity to do the right thing and bring forward electrified trains for this project now, not at a some future undetermined date.

I was proud to sign the clean train coalition's pledge along with other politicians across the federal, provincial and municipal levels of government because now is the time to electrify this line.

I will continue advocating for the residents of my community with all levels of government involved in the funding of this project to ensure that electrification of the corridor is implemented now.

What specifically is the government prepared to do to assist public agencies and the Government of Ontario to ensure that the rail line project uses electrified trains now?

Protecting Children from Online Sexual Exploitation Act October 4th, 2010

Mr. Speaker, my hon. colleague made a valuable point. There is no question that Internet service providers have a major role to play and they cannot escape from their obligations. We have to make sure that law enforcement officers have the tools and that we as parliamentarians provide them with the tools to go after Internet service providers and deal with this issue effectively.

Protecting Children from Online Sexual Exploitation Act October 4th, 2010

Mr. Speaker, my hon. colleague has made a valuable point.

This is just one tool, but an important one, for law enforcement officers to deal with this very important and troubling issue. He is absolutely right that we have to look at best practices in countries such as Germany and Sweden that have a better handle on dealing with this issue. As the member noted, their percentage is nowhere near that of Canada's. Canada is number three, which is very troubling.

Maybe we should be looking not just at resources for policing but also at making sure there is legislation in place that takes account of best practices in dealing with this very important issue. As he mentioned, the U.S. may have similar laws but it has not seen the results that Sweden and Germany have seen. We should be looking at those countries' best practices and implementing them in Canada.