House of Commons photo


Crucial Fact

  • His favourite word was jobs.

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

The Budget February 23rd, 1994

Mr. Speaker, I was paying attention to the hon. member's speech and I was quite puzzled by some of the statements she made, particularly in relation to unemployment insurance premiums.

I recall a few weeks back when the hon. member was complaining that perhaps the premiums were too high at $3.07. Now we have reduced them so that we can give the type of relief to small business to go ahead and create over 40,000 jobs.

I will tell the hon. member that one thing she will learn very quickly in this House is that inconsistencies are quite dangerous, when we promote certain ideas in the House of Commons, particularly as a member of the opposition.

I am also quite puzzled by the fact that the hon. member would say that this government is not addressing the concerns of young people. Perhaps the hon. member should be reminded of the establishment of the Canadian youth corps and the national apprenticeship training program that this government introduced. It was part of our red book initiatives.

It is fundamental for the hon. member to understand that the issues we have raised in the budget are quite consistent with the commitments made in the red book. I will tell the hon. member why that is important. In case she has forgotten, that red book was what gave us one of the strongest-

1994 Winter Olympic Games February 10th, 1994

Mr. Speaker, Saturday marks the beginning of 16 days of exciting Olympic competition in Lillehammer, Norway. All Canadians will be watching with pride as our athletes compete for gold.

The residents of York North are especially proud of Elvis Stojko, the Canadian men's figure skating champion who lives in Richmond Hill, Ontario. The accomplishments of this young athlete are impressive and include a silver medal from the 1993 world championships and four silver medals from national championships.

I offer my congratulations and best wishes to Elvis Stojko and the entire Canadian Olympic team. I know these young Canadians will compete in the true spirit of the Olympics as we support them in their pursuit of excellence.

Social Security System February 3rd, 1994

Mr. Speaker, the UI premium rate for 1994 has been set at the minimum rate required under the Unemployment Insurance Act. The rate will not be increased during 1994. Furthermore, the government will introduce legislation to prevent the UI premium rate from rising in 1995 as would otherwise occur under the provisions of the Unemployment Insurance Act.

The UI program is self-financing from premiums paid by employees and employers. The federal government temporarily finances UI deficits but premium revenues must eventually match UI costs. We therefore might have paid for the freeze by allowing the deficit in the UI account to rise, thus postponing the day it would return to balance, but we decided that would be imprudent.

There is widespread recognition of the need for a comprehensive reform of Canada's social security programs. No department or government on its own could design all the appropriate changes. Therefore we hope members of the House from all parties will participate in the reform of social programs including unemployment insurance.

As the Minister of Human Resources Development said in response to the hon. member's original question, the review of the social security system that was launched in the House on January 31 will consider the issues of unemployment insurance rates and premiums in a broader context.

The hon. member will agree that the problems facing Canadians in the 1990s go far beyond the financing of the UI system. Unemployment, poverty, global competitiveness, changes in the work place and skill shortages are only some of the factors we must consider in the process of rebuilding the social security, labour market and learning framework of our country.

The scope of the review will include UI but will extend beyond it to include training and employment programs, social assistance and income security, education and learning, labour practices and rules affecting the workplace, and taxes and premiums that affect job creation.

Our goal is to reduce reliance on programs like unemployment insurance by helping people to get back to work. This is the mandate we received from the Canadian people in the October 25 election. This is our commitment and this is what the social security reform process is all about.

As the hon. member knows, the minister outlined a process for reform that will consult widely with Canadians from all walks of life on these important issues. The process respects the jurisdiction-

Employment And Immigration February 2nd, 1994

Mr. Speaker, I am tabling, in both official languages, copies of Unemployment Insurance Developmental Uses: 1994 Expenditure Plan and copies of the annual report of the Canada Employment and Immigration Commission Department for the fiscal year ending March 31, 1993.

Social Security System January 31st, 1994

Madam Speaker, I would first like to point out to the hon. member that the government's number one priority is job creation. It is for this reason the government has introduced an infrastructure program which will generate thousands of jobs for Canadians. It also for this reason that we have moved very quickly toward the establishment of the Canadian youth corps for our young people.

It is another reason why we have put most of the tools dealing with job creation into a single portfolio, namely the human resources development portfolio.

I would also like to point out to the hon. member that he should be a bit cautious about throwing figures around, particularly when it comes to training. I am speaking of such numbers as the $300 million cut in training. In fact, our actual expenditure on training will be the same as last year. As the hon. member himself suggests and then proceeds to disregard, we need to look at the big picture.

Training and job creation efforts need to be balanced. Many UI recipients need training but they also need jobs once they are finished. It is why, as mentioned earlier, we launched the infrastructure program where people throughout Canada; the east coast, the province of Quebec or Ontario or British Columbia, will be benefiting greatly from this program.

Furthermore the Minister of Human Resources Development outlined this morning how we intend to proceed to rebuild the social security, labour market and learning framework of our country. This is at the core of job creation. By renewing and revitalizing the social security system we will be providing the right opportunities for Canadians to get jobs. We cannot stimulate employment if our systems do not reward effort and offer incentives to work.

The social security action plan will also propose clear options for redefining and redistributing work to ensure that more Canadians have jobs.

Social Security System January 31st, 1994

Yes, Mr. Speaker.

Social Security System January 31st, 1994

Mr. Speaker, I would like to thank the hon. member for his question.

I must tell the hon. member that as a member of Parliament I have taken a great deal of time to examine the transformation that has occurred in our society and indeed in our economy. What is fundamental in that examination is the fact that we simply cannot look at issues the way we did before. If I can use these words, given some of the words being used by the Premier of Ontario, we have to look at a new contract, a new set of arrangements between the individual, the community and government. In that sense what is fundamental for the success of this new contract is full co-operation between the various stakeholders in our community.

There are programs today in Canada that date back to the 1940s. They have been tinkered with, but essentially they have never gone through the type of review that is necessary to upgrade and to make them relevant to the present situation. In this social security review that is taking place today and that is being started this morning by the minister, we have to rethink the way we provide services. We have to rethink the purpose for unemployment insurance. We must modernize what individual Canadians have grown accustomed to.

Fundamentally, this change is necessary simply because of the fact that we cannot tell the single mother who is compelled, with her children, to stand in front of the local food bank for her daily meal that this is the way our country is going to deal with her reality. Nor is it fair to tell the high school dropout who is hoping for a better tomorrow that he will be in long-term, chronic unemployment because the measures that we as a government and as a people are taking are not effective.

There is a moral obligation on the part of all members of Parliament on both sides of this House to engage in the type of dialogue that the Minister of Human Resources Development initiated today so that our programs, the delivery of our services, are efficient, modern and updated to the reality of the global village in which we live today.

I hope that in summary answers the hon. member's question. I am certain, given his dedication to representing his constituents, that he will participate fully in this very comprehensive review of our social security system.

Social Security System January 31st, 1994

Mr. Speaker, I appreciate this opportunity to speak on the government's action plan for social security reform.

The minister has invited the members on all sides of this House to join together in this critically important mission, nothing less than the entire rebuilding of the social security, labour market and learning framework of our nation.

In the recent election the people of Canada asked us for a sweeping change. Clearly Canadians want the government to act, to provide leadership in getting people back to work. No more inattention, indifference or inaction. They want action on job creation.

As the minister has said, reform of our social programs is the most important, most compelling, most sweeping task we face today as a nation. The decisions we make in the coming year will affect every single person who lives in this country, in this century and the next.

The government's approach to reforming our social security programs is to preserve and foster Canada's well-earned reputation as a society in which we help those who need our help. This has indeed been our long tradition, going back hundreds of years, even before the birth of the nation.

Each of us in this House has an opportunity to continue that tradition by weighing the proposals put before us from citizens of every quarter, considering the merits of all recommendations

and, with due deliberation, deciding what the best solutions for our country are.

Each of us, I am sure, know constituents in our own ridings who are suffering: children who are poor and going to school hungry; young men and women with no jobs and no prospects; families trying to support both young children and aging parents; single parents seemingly trapped on social assistance; workers who have spent half of a lifetime in an industry that is now dying; other workers with skills nobody wants any more; people in our inner cities oppressed by poverty and despair. These are people in our own neighbourhoods, on every avenue, crescent, road in our political ridings, whether it is mine in York North, or Montreal or Vancouver. These are people who are suffering, who are asking the federal government for action. We have a responsibility, as we do to all Canadians, to bring back hope, to bring back a sense of dignity to the lives of those people and their children.

Altogether there are millions of citizens who are not benefiting from our present so-called safety net.

It is evident to me that the safety net is full of holes. Restoring employment as the key concern of the government requires a complete overhaul of our existing programs. We must examine, analyse and reform unemployment insurance, training and employment programs, social assistance and income security, aid to education and learning, labour practices and rules affecting the workplace, taxes and premiums that affect job creation, management of programs in government and between governments, and delivery of services.

Our purpose is to renew, revitalize, re-invigorate the government's role in advancing the prosperity and security of all Canadians.

It must foster creative new linkages, eliminate disincentives, seek efficiencies, organize by mission, organize by vision rather than by bureaucratic mandate. We must, at the end of the day, improve spending efficiencies by monitoring the results of those programs. That is fundamental to accountability in our system.

To those who insist that the objective is simply to cut costs, I simply must say to them that they are wrong. The present system is not working. People understand that. People understand that young people are having problems in the transition period between school to work. People on social assistance understand that there are disincentives to once again getting back into the workplace.

Everywhere I go throughout this country people are telling me that what they really want is an opportunity for a job. The high school dropout wants a vehicle of opportunity so that he can return to the workplace, and the older worker whose job has been eliminated because of globalization or downsizing, call it what you want, wants a vehicle of opportunity too. He does not like to sit at home. What he is saying to us is, please, give us something; give us something we can hope for. That person who is sitting there waiting for this opportunity to knock also has a son and a daughter whose prospects are not any better.

I think that in this House we must do some soul searching. We must look within ourselves and find the inner strength to face change, to provide this country with the type of change that Canadians called for on October 25.

We can perhaps fight for the status quo, as the leader of Her Majesty's Loyal Opposition stated earlier this morning. But let me tell you, that is not the mandate we on this side received. People told us they wanted change, they wanted reform. We have a responsibility not only to react to what the public wants, but also to take a leadership role that has been missing for far too many years in the House of Commons.

Why change? The evidence is there, for all of us to see: chronic long-term unemployment; too high levels of illiteracy; one million children living in poverty; an entire generation of young men and women without employment. We are still asking ourselves, why change?

The time to move is now. We have no time to waste. The high school dropout who needs a vehicle of opportunity needs it today. Tomorrow is too far away.

Our nation is fast becoming two Canadas: one comprising the secure and well-paid, the other containing those with part-time, low-paid, intermittent work. It is the type of polarization that I spoke about when I was employment critic of my party and I was occupying your seat. I said then and I will repeat today that no one has benefited from nine years of Conservative trickle-down economics. Nobody has. We have divided a nation on economic terms. We have denied people opportunity. The days when working hard and playing by the rules meant reward are long gone. Well, this government will restore those days, and this government will bring back hope to so many Canadians who are today hopeless.

We are living in very stressful, discouraging, dispirited times. This type of feeling is evident with our young people as it is with our older people. It is evident in every sector of our society. Discussions around kitchen tables are not about getting up in the morning and looking forward to tomorrow with confidence. They are about whether or not there will be a job waiting for them tomorrow. It is about reading about downsizing, about trickle-down economics, about young people who have lost hope. That has to change. This is the type of dialogue that I hope Canadians will engage in.

Whether you sit on this side of the House or that side, we were given a mandate to represent people's views. Whether you are a member of the Bloc Quebecois, the Reform Party or the governing Liberals, there is a constant reminder. As we take our seats in this House, we must always remember that when we knocked on doors during the election campaign people were asking us to restore their faith in the role of government. They wanted us to give their children hope for the future and to build safer and better communities for everyone.

The day we forget the reason why we are here will indeed be a very sad day for this country.

If I may, I would like to return to the minister's comments this morning. He set out two goals for our action plan. The first goal is to confront the issues that face us. They include long-term structural unemployment, even when the economy is growing, faulty adjustments for people who have to change jobs, and constant changes in technology affecting the labour market and training programs. There are people in this House who are not aware of the technological revolution that has occurred, even though it has redefined time and space.

The unacceptably high levels of school drop-outs, illiteracy and shortage of skills are things we should all be extremely concerned about. We should also be concerned about the growing poverty, especially among children, the stress caused by competing demands of the family and the workplace. Among some corporations there is a persistent determination to cut jobs, even though there is growing evidence that this does not achieve the expected efficiencies.

While it might perhaps look great in the corporate culture to say "I want a lean and mean organization", I feel that is not the function of a cultured business person. To me, a cultured business person is one who can absorb technological advances while at the same time widening the opportunities for his or her workers. It is not simply saying to your workers, "I have a better and more efficient machine, so I don't need you any more". We are talking about people. We are talking about people's lives. We are talking about families. We are essentially talking about the future of our country.

We will be engaging in a number of discussions with other governments and we will be looking at ways to end duplication and waste that exists. We will also look at the limited capacity of governments to provide assistance and security.

The second goal of our action plan is to propose options for change to meet basic employment insurance and adjustment needs, restructure parts of the unemployment insurance program and the Canada assistance plan, and to create a new form of employment insurance. We want to broaden educational and training assistance to recognize the need for life-long learning. We want to enhance support and care provisions for children, and introduce measures to ensure that individuals with disabilities can achieve equality, independence and full participation in employment. We want to seek a better balance between incentives for job creation and funding social security programs.

We want to ensure basic security for those in need; redefine the roles and responsibilities between governments; improve efficiency; strengthen the co-operative nature of all levels of government; and we want to design new and improved ways of delivering our services. The challenge is great, but let us make it very clear from the start that it is not merely a challenge for members on this side. Essentially today we have begun a process of positive change for all Canadians.

We hope and trust that members of the opposition will take the opportunity to participate, whether through parliamentary committees or in their own ridings, seeking input from their own constituents to participate in redesigning the social security system of this country. Perhaps this will be the most important initiative this government will undertake.

In a modest way I must say to you that we simply cannot do it on our own. We need your input, whether you agree with our vision of the country or not. We need to hear what the people are saying. Some of you will participate as members of the parliamentary committee, but that does not mean that the rest of us will not have a role to play.

These types of issues should be discussed in every riding, in town hall meetings, and in everything one does as a member of Parliament. At the end of the day, the legislation that we collectively will propose to the Parliament of Canada will design the type of Canada that will lead us confidently to the 21st century.