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Liberal MP for Ajax (Ontario)
Won his last election, in 2015, with 56% of the vote.
Statements in the House
Public Safety February 10th, 2017
Mr. Speaker, I share the concern of the member opposite. Let me assure him that we will work to ensure that all Canadians receive fair and proper treatment.
I would encourage members of the House, if there is an incident that they become aware of that causes them concern, to bring it to our attention. Obviously, a number of these issues are emerging. We will take a look at the situation. We will be happy to get back to the member. Again, I appreciate him bringing it to our attention.
Business of Supply February 9th, 2017
Mr. Speaker, I lament that a path forward was not possible, but responsible leadership is taking a look at the facts and making a decision that is best for constituents. I absolutely feel that is what we have done.
It is a bit confusing. The member is saying his constituents are not in favour of electoral reform, do not want it, but then he wants a referendum so he can, what, campaign against it? That does not make sense. It is divisive. It is unnecessarily costly and it would pull us away from the matters on which we should be focusing.
When the Conservatives say they want a referendum, but they do not want change, do they want a referendum so they can campaign against it? It is an illogical supposition.
Business of Supply February 9th, 2017
Mr. Speaker, this was indicative of part of the challenge that we faced as we went around the country. There certainly were constituencies where there was passionate support for some form of change, often at a very broad level, something like proportionality. However, then there was enormous difference even inside of that about what the proportionality would mean. The problem was that, as I went to other constituencies, including my own, there were very strong voices that said they had no interest in moving to any form of proportionality and if we went in that direction, it would be detrimental to our democracy; they said it is a bad idea, so do not do it.
I think that what a responsible government, a responsible legislator, does is listen. When we apply legislation, it is not a battering ram. We do not say damn the torpedoes and do no listen to anything but just ram it through. I do not think that is being responsible.
The idea of being responsible is taking a look at what the field of opportunity is to act. How much are we going to have to expend on other issues in terms of political capital to get it done, and how much does the population want it relative to other issues? I do not think spending the next three years talking about electoral reform would serve my constituents or the nation more broadly. The answer is to make the system the best we can without engaging in an all-out divisive fight over what system we are going to go with. That is why we landed here.
There is much we can do, and we should focus on that, but the major attention of the House has to be on trade, jobs, the border, and national security. I would have faced an enormous backlash if we had done any differently.
Business of Supply February 9th, 2017
Mr. Speaker, what I did find as I went across the country was, while there was not consensus on the idea of changing the system, there was enormous passion about our democracy and an enormous consensus that we need to do all we can to improve it.
On that basis, certainly we heard near unanimity on needing to repeal many of the measures that were found in the unfair elections act. Let me give some examples: the idea that the Chief Electoral Officer could not promote elections to adults, could not go out there and advocate for people getting to vote; the issue of people who were disenfranchised by not being able to use a voter information card; the issue around vouching; the issue of getting young people registered on the voters' list so that they are ready to vote when they become of age, so they are given the resources so they can turn out to vote. That was a particular issue, when we know the turnout for those who are under 30 is so low.
We also wanted to expand the rights of Canadians voting abroad. In many cases they were completely shut out from the ability to have a say in their own democracy. A citizen is a citizen is a citizen, and no matter where Canadians reside, certainly they should have the opportunity to have a say on the future of their democracy and how their nation is governed.
We know the issue of cybersecurity, particularly as we watched it unfold in the U.S. election, was of incredible import. Therefore the minister, in the new mandate letter, has been given specific authority to tackle that issue and ensure that our cybersecurity is in place to protect Canadian democracy and, indeed, the affairs of all parties.
The point is that, while there is not consensus on a change of system, there is a lot of area of common ground where we could work together to make our democracy stronger. I listened to those consultations that happened across the country and the voices that were there, to the people who passionately felt that they were not heard and the people passionately feeling that a change in system would push them away from being heard or create problems beyond what we have today, and this is the most prudent path forward.
For a responsible government, the objective should be to take a look at what the agenda is, do the research, do the work, do the engagement, and then ascertain the best path forward. In the next election, what is essential for me when I go and face my constituents for the sixth time—and I have been successful most of the time; I was not in 2011, and some members were excited about that, although I was not.
The reality is that I have to be able to go back and feel good about the decisions I made, feel that I listened to constituents, that I took an objective view of the facts, that I did what was expected of me in a representative democracy, which is to sit and deliberate, and to listen. To the best of my ability, I tried to do that.
I can say to this House that there was not a path forward for change. I lament that. I wish there was. What I can say is that we can do better and our democracy can be stronger. There are many areas where we can and will improve. As a government, we are firmly fixed on those. I feel very comfortable going back to my constituents and having that dialogue.
Business of Supply February 9th, 2017
Mr. Speaker, it is a great privilege to rise in this House and get an opportunity to speak.
I want to start by thanking all of the members in the House who were involved in the special committee and, indeed, all members who held town hall meetings and discussions about electoral reform with their constituents.
More than 170 members in this House did hold town halls, as well as the then minister of democratic reform and now Minister of Status of Women, and so did I when I was the parliamentary secretary. I had the occasion to go to more than 80 different town halls and events across the country to listen to Canadians on their ideas on electoral reform and what they wanted.
Certainly, we heard three things.
One was from a group of people who were extremely passionate about change, and that came in many different forms. They wanted MMP, STV, alternative vote, pure proportional, or some other system such as ranked pairs.
Second was from a group of people who were incredibly passionate for the status quo. These people believed that our existing democracy was working well. They were incredibly strident about the fact that change would be bad. They were concerned about a rise of extremist voices, particularly at this point in time, and were worried about even more power being given to parties and leaders, as often happens in some of the systems, and they were very opposed.
Third, there was a small subsection of the population that was incredibly engaged and did show up. In the case of the parliamentary committee, there was an organized effort to have those opinions brought in.
However, as I went into ridings and talked to folks, I heard that a lot of people were not engaged on this issue. They thought there were other issues that should be dominating the mind and attention of Parliament.
As we moved forward, it became clearer and clearer that consensus did not exist. It was certainly recognized that the effort to pull things together to create a national imperative on this issue would dominate the national attention, and it would do so, I think, to the detriment of a lot of other essential issues in front of this House.
A case in point would be the committee itself. The committee did phenomenal work. I think it worked exceptionally well in trying to bring together all the disparate ideas and views on changing our electoral system. Yet, when we look at the report of the committee itself, we see it could not get to the point of a recommendation. I know members will say that it did, but let us take a look at the recommendations that were made.
First, there was a recommendation that there be a referendum on whether or not proportionality should be pursued. I have yet to hear a Conservative in this House stand and speak in favour of a proportional system. They are not advocating on behalf of a proportional system, and I think it is fair to say that the Conservatives would campaign vociferously against a proportional system. The Conservatives said that they wanted a referendum, and we know where they would campaign on that referendum. On the NDP side, NDP members very reluctantly said that they wanted a referendum, but in their dissenting report, they said that they did not want a referendum, and I would actually agree with them on that.
I think it became clear that the only path forward with that lack of consensus would have been entertaining something like a national referendum on electoral reform, and I have two fundamental concerns with that.
The first concern is not only how much time, energy, and money it would cost but how diverting it would be for the issues of the nation that are most pressing, be they the economy, trade, our relationship with the United States, or national security. To place a national referendum on this issue I think would have been incredibly irresponsible.
Second, and this to me is the bigger point, we have a democracy that is representative. We are elected to represent our constituents. In fact, the Referendum Act only contemplates referenda in a situation of constitutional change. Therefore, we would have to actually change the act in order to have a referendum in a different way. We have to be very careful about that and think if it would lead to other consequences.
In a referendum, a majority opinion on an issue such as minority rights, let us say, would be abhorrent to us, and I think it would be contradictory to the charter. The idea that we would have a referendum, for example, on whether or not women would have the right to vote or whether or not same-sex couples would be allowed to marry would make no sense.
When we look at a referendum in this context, we see that the majority deciding on minority voting rights or how the minority might be represented in a system would be incredibly problematic. We have to ask where it would go next.
In a broader sense, we have the opportunity here to look at how we can strengthen and improve our democracy—
Canada Pension Plan November 17th, 2016
Mr. Speaker, I commend the New Democrats' support of the overall intent of the bill. They have some questions. I would say that it highlights yet another point, which is that there is still a huge amount of time to go on this bill. It will be sent to committee. There will be an opportunity for debate there. Then at third reading there will be yet more time for debate.
The member asked fair and good questions. There is every opportunity to examine them in committee and see if there is a way to provide restitution for those issues or get answers to those questions. The important thing is that we agree in principle with the direction of this bill. If there are remaining questions on how the rubber hits the road and how it will help Canadians get the retirement they deserve, that is precisely what the committee process is about. Then it will come back to the House for third reading.
I want to point out again that we are down to about 44 days, after all of this washes out, to complete the entire business of the government, including, by the way, finishing with this bill. The disruption that has been caused as a result of this happening has been incredibly problematic.
Canada Pension Plan November 17th, 2016
Mr. Speaker, I can say that every business in Canada has an obligation to ensure that its employees get a fair retirement. Businesses pay their fair share so that workers, at the end of a lifetime of working, get the retirement they deserve. That is an obligation.
Far from being a tax scheme, this is an opportunity to invest in the future of Canadians. It is an opportunity to ensure that we put bedrock under their feet. It is an opportunity to make sure that when they retire, they have the means to retire with dignity. Most Canadians get that. It is reflected in polls. That is why there is broad support for this. To characterize savings as a tax, when we know that those benefits will accrue to Canadians and they will get that money back and it will enable them to get the retirement they so richly deserve, is a gross mis-characterization of what is in front of us.
If members opposite have another plan to deal with the incredible shortage of income that folks will have in retirement based on their current savings, I wish they would put it forward. They had the opportunity during the election campaign. They had an opportunity in six days of debate. Instead, all we have heard are smears and mis-characterizations of this bill, which is unfortunate. I hope they will turn the tone of the debate back to being positive in terms of what they can offer to help make the situation better.
Canada Pension Plan November 17th, 2016
Mr. Speaker, it is a pleasure to rise to speak to the bill that I think is so critical to the future of all Canadians.
The reality is that Canadians have not been saving enough for retirement. This has been a result of a changing workforce in which pensions are less prevalent, and where employers' retirement provisions are becoming more and more meagre. Oftentimes Canadians are working contract positions or working in self-employed situations where they do not have access to funds to help support their retirement ambitions.
I can say, having lived through my twenties, longer ago than perhaps I would like to admit, and having talked to friends in that period of their life, it was something they did not consider and were not saving appropriately for. Unfortunately, as they have families and their lives get busier, that trend continues, and they do not start saving adequately until it is often too late. That means that the retirement funds they have are insufficient to fund their needs.
The reality of that is that seniors are now left with low incomes and in situations in which they have limited opportunities to either expand their income or to meet their basic needs. We do not want that retirement future for anyone, and it is incumbent upon us as legislators to look at the policy mechanisms we can put in place to ensure that it is not the outcome that hardworking Canadians meet when they complete their careers and decide it is time to retire, or when they are in a position when work is no longer possible.
Frankly, not taking action in this regard is reckless, irresponsible, and in flagrant disregard of the future of those Canadians. It is a totally unacceptable position to say that we should not be making policy moves to try to ameliorate this situation.
What particularly concerns me about the position taken by the official opposition, the Conservatives, is that they put forward no alternative. It is, “You're on your own. Good luck. Hope you figure it out”. That is not good enough. We ran very clearly on improving the Canada pension plan and ensuring that Canadians have that bedrock underneath them.
This plan will see Canadians having about one-quarter to a third of their retirement income from their pension. That is a very important change. It is an expansion of all the other things we are doing and not the only thing we are doing, but an important piece of the solution to where we need to go. If we do not do it, frankly, we will be in a lot of trouble.
I hear the Conservatives try to portray this as a taxation issue. The reality is, as I saw in my time leading various teams in different organizations, that an employer has a responsibility for the retirement of their employees, and an individual has a responsibility to plan and pay for their own retirement. This enables both of those things to happen. Savings are not a tax, but a prudent, intelligent plan for our future, and to characterize it otherwise is dishonest and disingenuous.
The bill is very clear. It is broadly supported by many provinces, by many people of different political stripes, but certainly, after six days of debate, after more than 36 interventions by the Conservative Party, there has been more than enough debate for us to move forward.
Just to give people some context about what we have in the parliamentary calendar, there are 55 sitting days from September to December. That is all we have: 55 days. Seven of them are supply days, which the opposition can use as they see fit. There were three days of debate on the Paris agreement, one day mandated to debate the Standing Orders, one day lost to debate on procedural tactics from the Conservative Party. That only leaves 43 days for the rest of government business. We have given six days to this, including today, and the Conservative Party, rather than using the full day for debate, as they supposedly had other members who wanted to speak, had us engage in all kinds procedural tactics, including trying to shut down the House yesterday.
It is disrespectful of this place.
For the Conservative Party, which invoked time allocation more than 100 times, which stunted debate entirely and shut down the House from having an opportunity to have a say on the issues of the day, when it has been allocated this amount of time on a matter that is focused, that is clear, and that is simple, to cry that somehow its rights have been infringed upon is obscene.
The reality is that the government has many important items it must pass and get done on behalf of the Canadian people. This place, this Parliament, has an obligation to ensure that the business of the nation is done.
These procedural tactics and games do not do any justice to that, and they particularly do not do any justice when the matter in front of us is as substantive as this.
The debate we should have, and I would welcome it, is how we can do more. How can we make sure that this pending issue, this huge problem we have of Canadians not saving enough and not having the funds they need to have a safe and secure retirement, is something we can work on collectively in a bipartisan way?
I am encouraged that this issue of CPP across the country, by and large, has been bipartisan. We have heard from Conservatives, from New Democrats, from Greens, and from people of all stripes saying that this is something we can agree on.
I would have hoped that the debate would extend that further to say, what else can we do? What other policy mechanism can we bring to bear? We cannot afford to have our population come to a point where their retirement is not going to be able to fulfill their needs?
The bill we have in front of us today is an important step in the journey, but it is not the end of the road. Therefore, we are looking at other measures, which were identified just a few moments ago, such as reducing the retirement age from 67 to 65 and looking at the supplement mechanism for old age security and how much it is able to provide for folks who are in income-insecure positions. We have to look at some of the other elements of the social safety network.
We recognize, and anyone who is interested in fiscal prudence would recognize, that if we do not make the investments on the pension side of the equation to ensure that people have adequate income, the forces that will come to bear on the costs of those social programs because Canadians do not have adequate income will be absolutely overwhelming.
If Canadians do not have the funds in retirement, we are not going to say to seniors, “Go sit on the street corner”. We are not going to say to them, “Sorry, you are not eating tonight”, and “Sorry, your heat is not going to be available”. It is going to come to the doorstep of government. This problem is going to land on our laps one way or the other.
We can put our hands over our eyes, ignore the problem, and do nothing about it today, or we can pass on a debt to the next generation or have the terrible choice of either paying for it or having people be in these terrible situations.
What we are saying is that the imperative is to act now.
I would encourage us, in the spirit of trying to move this forward, to take the time remaining to us to have a dialogue on the basis of what more we can do, that we set aside the faux arguments and the faux indignation about this issue of time allocation and acknowledge that we have had more than sufficient time to debate this issue. What we need to do is look at what more we can do. What we need to do is get on to the rest of the important business this House has to undertake and recognize that we do not have that much time in which to do it.
I look forward to getting to the vote. I look forward to seeing these measures implemented and to making sure that Canadians are able to have the retirements that, after a lifetime of working, they so richly deserve.
Canada Pension Plan November 17th, 2016
Mr. Speaker, I want to continue on that point. This is an incredibly important debate. We have had many days to discuss it, and yet it is a very focused matter. The reality is that the time in the House to debate the matter has been fulsome.
The member brings up a good point, which is the concern the government has about Canadians not having the resources to retire with dignity. This is but one part of a broader plan to make sure that Canadians have a safe and secure retirement in the future. The member was beginning to speak to that. It is such an important point. Could he illuminate how this fits into the broader picture of how we are trying to ensure that Canadians have the retirement they deserve?