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Crucial Fact

  • His favourite word was programs.

Last in Parliament September 2010, as Liberal MP for Vaughan (Ontario)

Won his last election, in 2008, with 49% of the vote.

Statements in the House

Budget Implementation Act, 2009 March 2nd, 2009

Mr. Speaker, I know the hon. member for Dartmouth—Cole Harbour really cares about that question, because I see him working very hard with our caucus on this particular issue of research and development.

We Liberals understand that research and development is really an engine for new ideas, for new systems of thinking and for the type of innovation that brings about economic growth, usually creating high-paying jobs and thereby increasing the income levels of Canadians.

The field of scientific research and development is one of the fundamental points that the government opposite needs to get its head around. We cannot be cutting in areas that create economic growth while we are facing a recession. It is not smart policy for the present or for the future.

Budget Implementation Act, 2009 March 2nd, 2009

Madam Speaker, I thought the hon. member was paying careful attention to my speech, but perhaps he was not, because I did not address the issue of the national regulator. What I said was that I believe we need to have the most efficient labour market system that we can, including a financial system that speaks to allowing greater investments within Canada.

The focus of my comments was to outline clearly that certain principles are needed when one is creating a new environment to bring about and spur on economic growth. They include having a plan to eliminate the deficit, which is absent in the present budget; having a plan to invest in human resources; a clear statement in respect of taxpayers' dollars; a competitive tax system that rewards work, innovation and productivity enhancement in an economy; and investments in infrastructure.

I was commenting on this particular issue as it relates to the fact that the present government has lapsed money while communities are looking for funding to improve their quality of life and the economic efficiencies of their own local economies. I do not understand why there is such a government lag on this particular issue.

Budget Implementation Act, 2009 March 2nd, 2009

Madam Speaker, as I rise today, all members of Parliament on both sides of the House understand that Canada is facing a storm of strong economic and financial headwinds, and we are feeling the turbulence of all this.

The impact has been greater and more extensive than originally stated by the Prime Minister during the recent federal election campaign. When we combine this with a more rapid deterioration in global economic growth, it has necessitated a discussion about substantial government intervention.

As industries such as automotive, forestry, mining and other sectors face uncertain times, as legislators we have a responsibility to respond to the concerns of people. It is the right thing to do, since we are dealing with potentially millions of Canadians who could lose their jobs, homes and savings.

These are difficult times and we need to do all we can to improve the present economic situation.

In 1993 the Liberal Party was challenged by what seemed to be insurmountable obstacles. We inherited a $42 billion deficit, double digit unemployment, skyrocketing debt and a tax system that was stifling economic growth. The record shows that while we were in office, we successfully eliminated the deficit, paid down the debt, created over three million new jobs and significantly reduced taxes, while we were dealing with externalities such as SARS and September 11.

All this was achieved in partnership and with the support of Canadians. It was a clear illustration of our resiliency as a people.

The present crisis and global economic uncertainty will test us once again. Ideas such as expediting infrastructure, investing in housing, building strong, sustainable and flexible labour markets, as well as training initiatives, supporting traditional and emerging sectors and improving access to credit must all be considered.

I believe we can in fact get through this difficult period, provided we adhere to some well defined principles which will address our short-term urgency without creating long-term negative repercussions.

We must first protect and help create jobs in Canada while respecting the taxpayer's dollar.

Truck drivers, hotel workers, people with small businesses, all Canadian taxpayers will be asked to contribute to proposed bailouts and billion dollar aid packages. Sometimes these individuals will be subsidizing workers whose salaries are much higher than theirs, as well as providing financial support to companies that may have misread and misunderstood the changing dynamics of the global marketplace. As Canadians, we have always shared in the risks and benefits of our common citizenship, however, we need to ask this fundamental question. Is this the best use of taxpayer dollars?

The answer to this question will vary according to the specifics of the proposal. Investments that create and expand opportunities should be supported, while others that offer no reasonable chance of success must be discarded. In evaluating the many options before government, it is important to assess the opportunity costs of the proposed measures.

Government's role must be clear. The priority must be to set up an overall framework that will encourage economic growth and job creation.

Canadians also need to have a sense that they can trust the managers of the economy, namely, the government. This is an issue that has arisen in conversations across the riding as I speak to constituents. Whether in schools or coffee shops, when I visit their factories and places of work, they often comment on the challenge they have when it comes to the Prime Minister's announcement during the election campaign, and they are referring to the issue of the deficit.

In September, the Prime Minister said that there would not be a recession in Canada and that we would be fine as long as we did not do stupid things, such as running a deficit.

In October, he suggested that the market represented some good buying opportunities for Canadians.

In November, his failed economic statement promised a surplus for the next five years. Twelve days later, the Bank of Canada announced that we were in recession.

In December, he admitted that his government would run a deficit of $20 billion to $30 billion.

In January, he said that his deficit would be closer to $40 billion. Once budget 2009 was tabled, we saw that the government was running a deficit in the current 2008-09 fiscal year.

So Canadians are concerned, and rightly so. After all, he is viewed as the leader of this country.

I believe that the federal government, in partnership with other governments, business and labour, must work to attain its economic objectives. As part of setting the framework, we must be committed to fiscal accountability, transparency and responsibility. On the tax front, our system must be globally competitive on both the personal and the business sides. We must encourage and reward work, investment, innovation and productivity.

Finally, no country in this world can survive in the long term without meaningful investment in people. This means providing opportunities for training and financial support during job transitions, as well as investing in individuals such as immigrants and aboriginal Canadians, who are consistently underemployed and whose potential remains largely unfulfilled. When aboriginal Canadians' potential is unfulfilled and when immigrants' potential is unfulfilled, our country's potential is not fulfilled.

During these times, we need to make the safety net more responsive and flexible to the changing nature of the labour market. This will guarantee that our human resources will be maximized.

All this must be done without sacrificing spending in areas such as research and development. Such a cut is shortsighted, due to the immense opportunity this area offers in modernizing the economy and providing stimulus for new ideas, new products and new services.

Tempting as it may sometimes be to look inward during difficult economic times, Canada must look at and place a high priority on expanding trade, which forces firms to specialize, to become more productive and to modernize. While recent events have put into question the regulatory framework of financial institutions in economic systems worldwide, I believe it would be ill-advised to impose on Canada's private sector and financial institutions a regulatory regime that would impede growth, innovation and job creation.

On the issue of infrastructure, infrastructure investments are also necessary to address the major deficit in this area. This is an example of smart investment, which will enhance the abilities of our cities, our communities and our country to compete and to maintain an economy that functions well, one in which goods and services move freely and efficiently.

On that point, I believe the government needs to release the funds for these infrastructure programs and not let the funds lapse, which would create a larger deficit for many of the communities that we proudly represent in this House.

Service Canada March 2nd, 2009

Madam Speaker, first I would like to express to my colleague from Brossard—La Prairie my most sincere gratitude and appreciation for bringing this subject matter to the floor of the House of Commons. I gather from the interest I see that, even in light of amendments, she has really struck a chord with many members of Parliament on both sides of the House who live with the reality of passport offices. I see my hon. colleague from the York region across the way, who, like I, has to deal with passports, which represent a large portion of our work as members of Parliament, alongside immigration-related issues.

However, I do want to take this opportunity, very briefly, to pay tribute to my colleague from Brossard—La Prairie for the great interest she has shown in this area and many other areas of public policy here in the House of Commons. I recall very clearly a conversation I had with her in the immigration committee, where she represents her constituency very well with insightful questions of ministers and also of departmental officials. I want to pay tribute to her because of her great dedication. She comes to this House with literally decades of experience in constituency-related issues, and the House will be well served by her experience as she brings to the forefront issues such as this one. The hon. member for Brossard—La Prairie, with her experience, has brought to this House an issue that is of concern to many Canadians.

The motion states:

That, in the opinion of the House, the government should provide Service Canada with a mandate to offer full passport services at all of its regional offices throughout Canada.

Members of the House know that with the growing demand for this important travel document and in consideration of what many areas face in obtaining passport services, this motion aims to help all Canadians in all regions of the country. What is truly important to underline is that we should be helping Canadians right across the board, and what better symbol than the passport?

I think sometimes in this House we miss the symbolism of what Canadian citizenship is all about. How can we deny access to a passport if in fact it is the document that tells Canadians that they are part of this wonderful country called Canada?

Of course, this motion goes beyond the symbolism of the actual passport, although it is very important. It goes on to illustrate the understanding of this particular member as it relates to creating greater efficiency in government and in the delivery of services and why that is important.

Why does the hon. member for Brossard—La Prairie believe it would create synergies between the government and Service Canada to provide a service that is important to Canadians? When one reads the objectives of Service Canada, it states:

Deliver seamless citizen-centered service...by providing integrated, one-stop service based on citizen needs and helping to deliver better policy outcomes.

On this point, her idea obviously merits consideration by the House. Enhancing the integrity of programs by building trust and confidence in our programs and by achieving significant savings in program payments, working as a collaborative, networked government by building whole government approaches to service that enable information sharing and integrate service delivery for the benefit of Canadians, demonstrating accountable and responsible government by delivering results for Canadians and government, savings for taxpayers and transparency in reporting are all efficiencies that would occur. These efficiencies in the delivery of service would provide greater access to Canadians right across the board.

We heard from a few of the speeches this morning that there are individuals who do not have equal access. In this day and age, a government should and must provide Canadians access especially to the Canadian passport. This type of accessibility speaks to how serious we take citizenship in our country. If there are areas across the country where people have to wait very long periods of time to have access to their passports, it speaks to the fact that we are not giving citizenship the respect Canadians justly deserve.

We can hear from the government's side that this notion is self-funded, and I agree. As people in the House know, I am not the type of member of Parliament who would like to spend money on every existing program. Nor do I think money is always the answer. However, efficient use of the Canadian taxpayer dollar is important. This is very consistent in the motion. The hon. member for Brossard—La Prairie has asked that we create greater efficiencies and synergies with existing structures. This point has to be underlined.

She is not saying that we should create a brand new bureaucracy or brand new programs. She is saying that we should let common sense reign in this issue. First, we are talking about the Canadian passport. Second, we are talking about existing structures, not new ones. That is where the hon. member makes a great deal of sense. This is the reason why I believe that on both sides of the House, at least in principle, we should look at creative ideas that allow members of Parliament to comprehend the needs of our citizens across the country.

To dismiss this motion outright, as suggested by a member of the government's side, would be a mistake. We would be denying ourselves an opportunity to examine possibilities that exist within our structure as a government to provide much-needed services.

I congratulate the hon. member for Brossard—La Prairie for bringing this to the attention of the House and, in many ways, for responding to what she is hearing on the ground and what she has been experiencing over many years as a person who has dedicated herself to public service.

I was reading her speech. She said that when one considers that close to 75% of all passports issued in Canada are the result of walk-in visit, that is, an applicant who took the time to go in person to a Passport Canada office, one has to conclude that the navigation of documents is extremely important to most Canadians. She is saying that we as parliamentarians know and appreciate what Service Canada does, although I share some of the opinions expressed earlier.

I believe in certain centres they are operating at full capacity, but that is not the reason to ignore the idea. It is a reason to say to ourselves that perhaps greater funding is required.

The point is not to say no to the idea that builds on efficiency, builds on greater synergies in government, but it is to say that perhaps Service Canada centres across the country require more funding to do a better job for our citizens. That is—

Immigration February 11th, 2009

Mr. Speaker, we all know how much the Conservative government cares about immigrants. During its term in office, it has allowed 36,000 fewer landed immigrants into Canada, and the word “immigration” was nowhere to be found in the Speech from the Throne.

During an economic recession, immigrants are among the hardest hit. They face higher unemployment, lower pay and higher poverty rates. However, the minister provides no hope and no plan to help those most in need.

Why is his agenda simply to turn his back on immigrants and shut Canada's doors?

Immigration February 11th, 2009

Mr. Speaker, yesterday in committee the Minister of Citizenship, Immigration and Multiculturalism claimed that Canada would stand alone in maintaining its current immigration levels, but moments later he told reporters that might change, leaving new Canadians confused and puzzled by his contradiction.

What is the real story? What is the real agenda behind his intentional flip-flop, and how can new Canadians trust this minister?

Business of Supply February 5th, 2009

Mr. Speaker, I want to start by thanking my hon. colleague for his remarks.

The opposition message is very clear. The Conservative Prime Minister missed the mark on his first attempt with the new American government. The opposition wants, through this motion, to hold the government responsible for having neglected our relations with our most important partner, the United States. In addition, just as the Conservatives neglected Canada when they should have been focusing on the economy, they failed to participate actively in decision-making with our trading partners.

Behind all the statistics on international trade lie relationships. We do not have much influence over the United States now because the Conservative government has not maintained a good relationship with it.

I would like to ask my colleague a question. Why did the government act this way?

Foreign Affairs May 29th, 2008

Mr. Speaker, embarrassing international headlines followed the Prime Minister to Italy yesterday, where the news of this “scandalo” greeted the Prime Minister on the front pages.

The La Stampa headline was “I piani Nato nell'alcova dell'amante”: NATO plans in the lover's room. On the front page of Corriere della Sera, it was “il ministro innamorato perde la testa (e i documenti)”: lovestruck minister loses his head and his documents.

When the Prime Minister launched his European tour, are these really the headlines he was hoping for?

Foreign Affairs May 29th, 2008

Mr. Speaker, the Prime Minister's public babbling over the removal of the Italian government's caveats on the mission of its troops in Afghanistan has now made it infinitely more difficult to get those caveats removed.

The government was so desperate to find a distraction to the embarrassing resignation that it was willing to jeopardize years of careful international diplomacy. Where have we seen this before? Is this not the same as the former minister of foreign affairs musing about the removal of the governor of Kandahar?

Committees of the House May 29th, 2008

Mr. Speaker, since I do only have 20 seconds left, and I also appreciate the sincerity with which the hon. member has posed the question, I would like to direct him, as well, to very quickly study the stop loss provision and he will understand our concerns on that issue as well.