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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

Vitanova Foundation November 19th, 2007

Mr. Speaker, this year marks the 20th anniversary of the Vitanova Foundation. Vitanova provides a range of addiction related services to individuals, families, and the community at large, including prevention, treatment, rehabilitation, and aftercare.

But Vitanova is much more than that. It has built itself on the core values of trust, respect and compassion. Like a second home, it offers the chance of a new life to people who have fallen victim to addiction. Its literal translation means “new life”, which best explains what it brings to individuals who turn to Vitanova for help.

I want to take this opportunity to pay tribute to Vitanova's founder, Franca Damiani Carella, and its president, Michael Federico, as well as the dedicated staff and volunteers who provide care, guidance and hope to the thousands of people whose lives have been forever changed by the assistance and support received at Vitanova.

On behalf of the Parliament of Canada, I would like to congratulate Vitanova on 20 years of dedicated community service.

Business of Supply October 29th, 2007

Mr. Speaker, does the hon. member believe the Conservative Party still believes it solved what it once recognized as the so-called fiscal imbalance?

As well, does the hon. member believe the Prime Minister, as he put it, solved the problem along with ending “the annual pilgrimage of premiers and mayors to Ottawa for financing?” It seems to me, judging from today's debate, they are still very much knocking on our doors.

In 1999 nine out of ten provinces signed the social union framework agreement and passed it in their respective legislatures. Of course Quebec did not. What new limits does the government have planned for federal spending powers and will all 10 provinces have to agree before any new agreement is struck?

Finally, if the Prime Minister were genuinely interested in resolving these issues, he would hold a first ministers meeting and put them on the agenda. He has had 21 months. What is the holdup and why will he not call a first ministers meeting?

Business of Supply October 29th, 2007

Mr. Speaker, I would like to ask the hon. member to comment at great length. I think he has a chance to clarify his role in relationship to the fiscal imbalance.

I would like to point out a few things before he does that. Both orders of government, the federal and federal, have access to the same major revenue bases, such as personal income taxes and corporate income taxes, as well as sales tax and payroll taxes.

The provinces have also exclusive access to some rapidly growing tax bases, including revenues from natural resources, gaming and property taxes.

I am sure he is also well aware that international comparisons show that Canada is one of the most decentralized federations in the world, with provinces that have complete autonomy in setting their tax policies to address spending pressures related to their responsibility.

As well, the current federal debt is about $467 billion, whereas the total of all provincial debt is $274 billion. The government cannot be accused of maintaining a fiscal imbalance when the provincial collective debt is much lower.

I want him to state an opinion on these undeniable facts.

Business of Supply October 29th, 2007

Mr. Speaker, would my hon. colleague from Markham—Unionville, a neighbour of mine, by the way, comment on this entire debate in reference to a few points relating to the access to revenue bases by both the provincial and federal governments, the debt of provincial governments versus the federal government and the fact that internationally Canada is fairly well known as a decentralized country?

Could he please expand on those three points?

Business of Supply October 25th, 2007

Mr. Speaker, in order for me to state that we had a failure in reference to our government as it relates to housing would be to lie to Canadians and I am not going to do that. The relationship we had with the municipalities and the relationship we had with the provinces in reference to housing was excellent.

I will agree with the hon. member, though, that the Conservative government's record on that particular issue is lousy.

Business of Supply October 25th, 2007

The finance minister has been flip-flopping left, right and centre. And I can tell the member something. I think that the Prime Minister has also recognized that.

What happened to the Minister of Finance in reference to one of the key cabinet committees? That is a signal in fact that the Prime Minister has concerns about the Minister of Finance and the way he has handled the cases and files that I raised. That is the issue.

I do want to point out to Canadians watching this that the Liberal government left to the Conservative government a phenomenal opportunity to do things better, but unfortunately, the Conservatives are failing them.

Business of Supply October 25th, 2007

Mr. Speaker, what I meant is that I have never seen a government that has done so little with so much. That is the reality. I cannot believe how a government that inherits all these surpluses is not investing in immigrants, is not investing in women, is not investing in research and development, is not investing in the engines of growth.

I hope the hon. member is not telling me that the performance of the finance minister has been excellent.

Business of Supply October 25th, 2007

Mr. Speaker, I will be splitting my time with my neighbour to the south, the member of Parliament for York West.

I want to say how pleased I am today to participate in this very important debate about two issues that I think speak to the future of the country and our ability to provide the standard of living and quality of life that Canadians rightly demand of our country and indeed of our governments.

I have had occasion over my career to sit on both sides of the House, and sitting here and listening to the various speeches on both sides reminds me of the story of two governments. I must say that I am quite envious of the Conservative government, because it inherited a wonderful opportunity to build even a better country.

Unfortunately, the story I need to tell is the one about what we were left with. We were left with a $42 billion deficit, high unemployment and high interest rates. Those were very difficult times. It would have been easy for us to throw up our arms in despair. Instead, we chose to roll up our sleeves and we brought about a phenomenal Canadian economic renaissance.

What did we do? I say this to remind Canadians of the excellent economic record of our government. We eliminated the deficit. We paid down the debt. We introduced the largest tax cut in Canadian history. We did not raise taxes, which is in juxtaposition to the present government. We did not raise taxes on low income Canadians; we lowered them. We lowered business and corporate taxes because it made sense, particularly in this particular debate on competitiveness and productivity.

We committed over $12 billion in new funding for research. It was interesting to note that an earlier speaker on the government's side said that Canada leads in research and development. That is true, but we on this side actually set that record. That is a fundamental difference between our record and theirs.

I guess the Conservatives have had the opportunities to show their stuff, as we say, early on in their government cycle. What did Canadians see? The version of the Conservative Party's view on increasing productivity is to actually make cuts in human resources development, literacy programs and post-secondary education. All those things are very important ingredients in developing a competitive strategy in a productivity enhancement plan for the country.

However, early on, we saw that although the Conservatives raised the taxes on low income Canadians, they also participated in the income trust fiasco, the fiasco that really wiped out $25 billion in investments for thousands of small investors.

The other issue that I will raise now is the issue of interest deductibility, described by some people as the worst tax policy in 35 years, which essentially would have sent our businesses out into the international marketplace with one hand tied behind their backs.

Therefore, I wonder whether the Conservative government understands that it has to really change its view on how to increase the productivity and competitiveness of a country. That is not done by sending the wrong signals to the markets. That is not done by hindering the potential of our businesses, because at the end of the day, it is our businesses in the private sector that are generating these jobs.

We learned that early on. We did all we could as a government to empower the private sector to generate jobs and we were very successful. We were able to lower the unemployment rate from double digits to create over three million jobs. That is the sort of record that we had.

When we look at other statistics, we invested billions in post-secondary education. On the corporate tax side to generate economic growth, to reward individuals and businesses, we lowered taxes. On the corporate tax side the Liberals reduced the tax rate from 28% to 21%. That spurred on economic activity. What was interesting was that the lower the taxes, the more revenue we generated for the government.

The facts speak for themselves. The Conservatives have had a year and some odd months in power and they have already made serious mistakes. Canadians are wondering, actually they are beyond wondering, they are beginning to believe that in fact the Conservatives lack the competence in economic management to bring about the type of changes that we were able to build.

We wonder whether the Conservatives have learned anything. The first thing we did was we established a very stable economy: low interest rates, low inflation, paid down the debt. We also did something else. It was not just about taxes and getting the macro-economic environment right. We also invested in people. We cannot be productive as a nation if we do not invest and put people first in our agenda.

The great opportunity that we have had and which was clearly illustrated during our years in office was the way we dealt with the issue of labour as it relates to the marketplace and as it relates to immigration. The long term issue that we face in this country is indeed an aging society. Immigrants and aboriginal Canadians provide our greatest hope to address skill shortages. Almost 100% of all new labour opportunities as it relates to human resources will be through immigration.

On an issue related to immigration, what in fact did the Tories--I should not say the Tories--what did the Conservatives, the Reform Alliance do on the accreditation of foreign credentials? We have seen a cut in investments in that area. We wonder why that would happen. Do they prefer not maximizing the human resources potential of immigrants? Is that what that government is about? Why cut in that area? Why cut literacy programs? It is almost inconceivable that they would engage in the type of cuts that reduce opportunities for people in this country, particularly those whom we will depend upon to give us the type of skills that this country and the marketplace require.

I cannot cover all the areas because of the time restrictions, but I can tell the House that I have not been at all impressed with the Conservative government. I have not been impressed with the way the Conservatives dealt with issues like interest deductibility. I am also not very impressed with the fact that they do not realize that at the end of the day we have to invest in research and development, we have to invest in people, we have to invest in post-secondary education because the wealth of our country, the wealth of our future will be generated by ideas that come from between our ears. To not recognize that is a major flaw.

Business of Supply October 25th, 2007

Mr. Speaker, as the hon. member gathers, of course, the opposition day motion deals with the issue of competitiveness and productivity. I think his speech attempted to make a strong case for the Conservative agenda as it relates to infrastructure, but I do have a question in reference to the reaction that the Conservative agenda has had from the Federation of Canadian Municipalities, which claims there is a $100 billion unfunded infrastructure deficit in Canada.

Does the hon. member truly believe that the response by the government is sufficient to such an infrastructure crisis faced by our country?

Business of Supply October 25th, 2007

Mr. Speaker, the danger of practising retail politics à la Conservatives is that they are only looking at the immediate situation that the country faces and they lack the foresight to address key issues like skills shortages as well as Canada's aging society. Nothing illustrates that more than the lack of understanding the government has in reference to immigration. Statistics show that within the next 20 years, immigration will account for all of Canada's net labour force and population growth.

The question I have for the hon. member, who I know cares about the future of Canada, is why has the government reduced spending on foreign credential recognition by $145 million when immigration is such an important element of any future strategy of a G-7 country?