House of Commons photo

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

Budget Implementation Act, 2004, No. 2 February 4th, 2005

Mr. Speaker, the previous speaker was absolutely correct in that we have reduced the deficit by $61 billion and there is an incredible savings to the taxpayers of over $3 billion annually. This is a remarkable feat for the government. Today we can look at investing in child care, health care and our cities because we have done such a tremendous job over the years of balancing the books and creating a surplus for this country. This is a very historical moment which we have arrived at because of the good management and good stewardship of the government.

Budget Implementation Act, 2004, No. 2 February 4th, 2005

Mr. Speaker, I have had the pleasure to listen to members from both sides of the House speak on the issue of the budget. We have to keep in mind that Canada is the envy of the world in many respects, particularly in our financial situation. We have had seven consecutive budgets. We have had unprecedented surpluses in our budget as well, which makes us the envy of many places around the world.

At times, when listening to the debate, we forget to praise and recognize that Canada has put itself in the world stage, which is a remarkable feat. Because of these unprecedented balanced budgets and the measures taken by previous finance minister, now the Prime Minister, to put us in this great economic situation, we can look at investing in some of our key priorities that will put forward the social agenda for the country for the years to come.

In particular, an area I am most interested in is the cities. It is something for which I have a great passion, having been a municipal councillor for almost 10 years in the city of Toronto. The cities were not just crying out for money, although money is extremely important. They were crying out for recognition by the federal government that cities would play a big role in the decision making and for respect. I believe we have managed to do that.

The Prime Minister has spoken with many of the leaders of municipalities across the country. He has demonstrated time and time again that he wants to listen to their concerns and act on their suggestions. They greatly appreciate the Prime Minister giving a hand to help them.

In particular, the GST has saved municipalities like the city of Toronto some $50 million annually. That is a tremendous saving. The budget of Toronto is an extremely large budget of about $7 billion, but $50 million goes a long way to help the city deal with many of the financial burdens that it faces, specifically in delivery of direct services.

Another core issue that we are moving forward with is the gas tax. The announcement by the minister has been extremely well received by municipalities. It is another sign that our government and the Prime Minister want to work with the municipalities. The Prime Minister does care about their concerns and is doing everything he can within his power to ensure that cities get what they deserve. They very much appreciate the incredible amount of cooperation and goodwill that has been exhibited by our government and our Prime Minister.

Another area that is very important is public transportation. I particularly admire the fact that both the Prime Minister and the minister have stated over and over again that they want to move forward, not just with the GST rebate and the gas tax, but also with the issue of Kyoto and linking its obligations to meet the protocol. The moneys to be given to the municipalities is a very strong move forward in support of the importance of meeting the Kyoto protocol and our concerns about the environment.

There is a link when we talk about helping our cities. Cities are in many ways at the forefront of dealing of issues of the environment and issues around climate control. What better way in Toronto than to deal with the whole issue of public transportation? The Toronto transit system carries about two million passengers daily. In many ways that takes away the reliance on cars which in turn reduces smog.

Time and time again Toronto has faced many problems with smog in the summer. It is quite critical. Strengthening public transportation is essential in order to deal with the issue of smog and climate change.

This is a very important move at a very critical time. The government has pushed forward the Kyoto protocol agreement. Cities are moving forward on issues like public transportation. A link is being made between the gas tax rebate and Kyoto. This is fundamental. I am very proud to see that the government is moving forward very strongly in this area.

As a government and as a party, we have committed to health care, a fundamental issue to Canadians. Certainly the signing of the health accord with the premiers is fundamental in ensuring that we are on solid footing for years to come in Canada. I am very pleased to support the government. All of us should take great pride because it was not just an agreement reached with the Prime Minister. It was reached by the Prime Minister in conjunction with all the provincial premiers, many of them from different political parties. They came together, understood the importance of health care to the citizens of this country and were very proud signatories to this historical agreement.

We are moving forward on the issue of child care. The minister is meeting with his provincial counterparts. We hope to have an agreement signed soon. The government is quite committed to moving forward on child care. I had the privilege of sitting on the human resources committee. This issue has been dealt with and discussions are ongoing. We have heard from agencies and community groups who very much want the government to move forward on this proposal. We are encouraged by the goodwill of people in the communities and agencies. The minister's discussions with his counterparts have been extremely successful.

We are very happy to be moving forward on these very important issues. I want to state once again my profound thanks to the former finance minister, the Prime Minister, for the incredible direction in which he has taken the country. We thought years ago Canada was headed toward economic oblivion and that we would not have solid foundations on the issues of employment insurance and pension plans. On many other fronts we thought we would not have the money but it is now a decade later and we have the money and Canada is on a very good, solid footing.

It is a balanced approach. There are those in the House who would like to put all the money into one specific area. The government always looks to balance the budget in a way that provides the social service programs Canadians need and deserve, and at the same time makes sure that we are on solid footing. We do not want to forget our obligations to maintain a competitive economy. We must also look at the tax cut measures that were taken by the government. It is a balanced approach. I think Canadians appreciate that the government has put the economy on a good solid footing for many years to come.

Aristides De Sousa Mendes February 3rd, 2005

Mr. Speaker, as we mark the solemn 60th anniversary of the liberation of Auschwitz, we reflect on the tragedy of so many lives lost in acts of unspeakable inhumanity. We also reflect on those who placed their own lives at great risk to protect those most vulnerable during this terrible period in human history.

One such man was Portuguese diplomat, Aristides De Sousa Mendes, who was posted in Bordeaux, France. In 1940, he disobeyed the directions of the regime then in power and issued over 30,000 visas to Jewish refugees and others at great risk so that they might travel safely through Portugal and Spain.

As a result, his diplomatic career was ended, his ability to earn a living destroyed, and his family forced to endure hardship for the rest of his life.

Today, I honour those like Aristides De Sousa Mendes who demonstrated that in the midst of such tragedy there were individuals who placed all at risk in order to follow higher ideals.

Immigration and Refugee Protection Act February 2nd, 2005

Madam Speaker, I agree with my hon. colleague that Canada was built by immigrants and immigration is very important to this country. I also agree with the direction in the bill.

I still have not received an answer to a question I posed to the member in private. I think it is important that I pose it publicly. It is on the whole issue of the amount. The amount has not been considered in this bill. As well, could the hon. member clarify for us, is he not worried that the bill might lead to only those who could afford it would be able to get a residency visa?

Foreign Affairs February 2nd, 2005

Mr. Speaker, the International Commission of Inquiry on Darfur established by the United Nations Security Council to investigate violations of international human rights and humanitarian law in Darfur made its report public yesterday. It strongly recommends that the Security Council refer this matter to the International Criminal Court.

Will the Government of Canada support this important recommendation?

The Environment February 1st, 2005

Mr. Speaker, as outlined in the Speech from the Throne last fall, the government is committed to realizing the goals that have been established in regard to wind power as an alternative energy source.

As a former chair of Exhibition Place in Toronto, I strongly supported the construction of a wind power turbine on the grounds of that city owned facility. I am pleased to report today that the turbine has produced $32,000 in dividends for its investors and has displaced approximately 300 tonnes of carbon dioxide emissions.

In supplying sufficient power to provide electricity to 280 homes for one year, the Exhibition Place wind turbine is an example of how we can move forward with this renewable and clean source of electricity.

I encourage the Minister of the Environment to move forward with respect to wind power in Canada.

Finance January 31st, 2005

Mr. Speaker, where I believe we have to take leadership is in the whole renewable energy sector. The hon. member's question gives me the opportunity to talk about the windmill project, an experiment done in Toronto about a year ago. A year later, it has actually paid for itself. These are some of the measures that I think need to be going.

I know the provincial Liberal Government of Ontario is doing an amazing job in terms of renewable energy and wind power. It is something that I believe we have to move on as a country.

Part of fulfilling our Kyoto obligation has to be on renewable energy and I do think there is a great opportunity on wind power. Our government is committed to renewable energy. We made that part of the throne speech and it was part of our campaign platform. I believe that in the budget the government will deliver on the commitments that were promised in the throne speech.

Finance January 31st, 2005

Mr. Speaker, as most members are aware, when the Liberals took power in 1993, there was a real economic crisis facing this country, not just to the EI fund, but also to the Canada pension plan fund.

Many young Canadians, including myself, believed that when we retired we would have no pension fund. Today we can rest assure that we do have a fund that is planned for many years to come and it is very well funded. That is because of the measures taken by the government.

We have invested in many projects, We have invested in social services programs, in housing and in the environment. We have in fact been leading the way more so than anywhere else in the world. I think we should be congratulating the government for the measures taken over the years and not criticizing it.

Finance January 31st, 2005

Mr. Speaker, I am grateful for the question that was asked by my hon. colleague. I want to begin by congratulating him when he concedes the fact that it was a good thing to get rid of the deficit. When the government came into power in 1993, it was facing this massive deficit and was paying interest of $3 billion every year, which was a waste of taxpayer money. Some dramatic action was needed. It was good that our current Prime Minister, then the finance minister, took immediate actions to resolve these issues.

Obviously, we have had a remarkable economy in the last three years. A good part of that has to do with the fact of our good credit rating. The government took charge and ensured that we got rid of the deficit and those heavy payments that were a burden to taxpayers every year. We could not have had or afforded the present deal that was signed with the provinces on both equalization payments and health care. We could not have moved forward with child care if it were not for the measures that were taken some 11 years ago by the then finance minister.

To get our house in order, those measures had to take place. Today we can talk about meeting our Kyoto protocol. Today we can talk about what we want to do about child care. Today we can talk about what we want to do about employment insurance. However, we could not do that back then. We had to take all these measures.

It is to the credit of the Prime Minister, the then finance minister, for taking these very wise measures that have left Canada in a great place in the G-7.

Finance January 31st, 2005

Mr. Speaker, thank you for allowing me to speak to the hon. members of this House on Canada's national debt strategy and its advantages for Canadians.

As hon. members are aware, the Government of Canada has recorded a surplus of $9.1 billion for the 2003-2004 fiscal year. In keeping with generally accepted accounting practices, the $9.1 billion went to reduce the federal debt. This was the seventh surplus in a row, which has never happened before in Canadian history.

In 1998, the Government of Canada put an end to a series of 27 consecutive annual deficits. The seven consecutive annual surpluses, coupled with sustained economic growth, have made it possible to substantially reduce the ratio of the federal debt to the gross domestic product. From its highest post World War II point of 68.45% in 1995-96, it was down to 41.1% in 2003-04. This is the most pertinent indicator of the debt burden, since it measures the federal debt against the capacity of Canadian taxpayers to finance it.

Nevertheless, the federal debt-to-GDP ratio remains far higher than the average during the 1970s. Hon. members can well imagine that a heavy debt load puts any country more at the mercy of world interest rate fluctuations.

It is important to note that the cost of the federal public debt represented nearly 19¢ on every dollar of revenue in 2004-04, as opposed to 11¢ some 30 years ago. This ratio is expected to drop to around 18¢ in 2005-06.

We should point out that revenues which go to servicing the debt cannot be used to fund the priorities of Canadians, such as health care or post-secondary education.

It is becoming increasingly necessary to reduce the burden of debt, and thus the interest charges on the public debt, because of the economic and budgetary pressures that will be occasioned by the aging population.

This aging will bring a reduction in the percentage of active workers in the general population in coming decades, which will slow the growth of government revenues.

At the same time, the growing proportion of older persons will weigh heavily on government programs, such as health care and pensions.

The government is categorical: the federal debt ratio must continue to decrease. That is why the budget of 2004 set a goal of reducing the debt-to-GDP ratio to 25% within 10 years, an objective that was reiterated in the throne speech of October 5, 2004.

Thus, the debt-to-GDP ratio will return to the level of the mid-1970s. Similarly, the ratio of the debt service charge to revenue will be reduced to 12% in 10 years, which will free up resources for other priorities.

Let us now talk about the contingency reserve. In order to ensure that the government can carry out its goals, the budget includes a contingency reserve of $3 billion per year. If these funds are not needed, they will be used to pay down the debt.

The contingency reserve reflects the government's commitment to prudent financial management and built the foundation for Canada's recent strategic and economic successes. It has also allowed us to deal with some surprises over the past few years.

In fact it is the surprises that make it clear why we ought to put money aside for emergencies. That is what allowed us to cope with some of the serious financial problems that came with the severe acute respiratory syndrome and mad cow disease, and to provide $1 billion in direct support to farmers to help them overcome the disastrous consequences of mad cow disease and the sudden drop in their incomes.

In addition to the contingency reserve, the 2004 budget re-established a supplementary margin of economic prudence of $1 billion, a sum that will increase over the coming years. If this supplementary margin is not needed during a given year, it will be used to finance the priorities of Canadians.

There has been a distinct improvement in the country's economic and financial situation over the past seven years. Canada now has low and stable interest and inflation rates, strong employment growth, lower foreign debt and a current account surplus.

The federal debt has been reduced by $61.4 billion. In proportion to the size of the economy, the debt is the lowest it has been in 20 years. In that period, marketable debt decreased by $38.5 million.

This debt reduction has given the Government of Canada greater financial stability, reduced its vulnerability to internal shocks and helped the country regain a AAA credit rating.

I want to point out that if we consider all levels of government—federal, provincial and municipal—Canada is the only G-7 country to have posted a surplus in 2003. According to the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development, or OECD, Canada should be able to achieve this again in 2004 and 2005.

Canada is the G-7 country that has achieved the greatest budgetary recovery since 1992, especially in paying down its debt.

The debt load of all the levels of government in Canada dropped in 2003 to an estimated 35% of GDP and according to the OECD, it should be the lowest of all G-7 countries in 2004.

The advantages of our efforts over the past seven years to reduce the debt by $61 billion are extremely clear and extremely convincing. We now allocate $3 billion less per year to payments of the interest on this debt.

We will be able to invest this money year after year in the priorities of Canadians, such as health and education, instead of lining the pockets of bondholders around the world.

We must continue to reduce our debt so that fiscal dollars can increasingly be used to improve the lives of Canadians, thus saving us from having to further mortgage our children's future.

A balanced budget is not an end in itself. It is a way to build a better Canada for each and every one of us. A sound financial situation is a prerequisite to strong and sustained economic growth. Strong economic growth means more jobs for more people. It increases federal revenues, thereby allowing us to invest more in the social priorities that have helped us to define Canada as a compassionate nation that listens.

In closing, I affirm the determination of the Government of Canada to ensure that balanced or surplus budgets continue to benefit all Canadians. As we continue to reduce our debt burden, we can invest in national priorities, such as the health accord we just concluded with the provinces and territories, and in other priorities, in Canada and abroad.