House of Commons photo

Crucial Fact

  • His favourite word was tax.

Last in Parliament March 2011, as Liberal MP for Mississauga South (Ontario)

Lost his last election, in 2011, with 37% of the vote.

Statements in the House

Budgetary Policy November 30th, 1994

Mr. Speaker, I want to congratulate the member for finally coming out of the closet in front of the entire House, declaring that he is a baby boomer that is.

The member continues to mention that we have a deficit and we have a debt. Hypothetically if the Reform Party had formed the government over $100 billion of additional debt would have been incurred even with their plans. It is almost as if there would be absolutely nothing happening.

The member said this very large debt was accumulated over the last 25 years by the baby boomers and that they are the ones who are going to have to pay it back. I wonder if he would care to comment on whether he feels that seniors were in any way responsible for any of this debt. Does he feel that seniors should pay some portion of that debt?

Budgetary Policy November 30th, 1994

Mr. Speaker, the member knows that the Government of Canada does not control global interest rates. The member is an economist. He knows the national debt is denominated in long rates, not in short. The Bank of Canada has influence only on the short end.

He is somehow suggesting the government has not done anything with regard to those rates. He is living in a fantasy world that somehow the government flips switches to make things happen. He knows interest rates have risen and are higher than the assumptions that were included in the finance minister's previous budget.

The finance minister has made corrections to ensure he meets his targets. That is responsible government. The finance minister understands the economy much better than the hon. member.

Budgetary Policy November 30th, 1994

Mr. Speaker, I am astounded that the member would not give some credit to what has happened in Canada since the election. One of the most important ingredients to growth in the economy is the confidence of the Canadian people, of the lending community and of business.

Three hundred and twenty-seven thousand jobs have been created since the government came to power. Much of that has to do with the confidence and credibility the Prime Minister has brought to political life, which the member enjoys as well. The hon. member should give credit where credit is due.

Budgetary Policy November 30th, 1994

Mr. Speaker, it is my pleasure to participate in this debate.

I intended to review some of the background of the consultation process but in view of the drift of the debate in the House I want to speak about specifics.

I would at least like to highlight some of the principles that the finance minister has articulated to the members of the House and to the Canadian public. He said that in approaching our budget for this year deficit reduction indeed is part of our overall strategy for jobs and for economic growth. He also stressed that fairness is paramount so that the most vulnerable in our society will not be left behind.

I think it is an extremely important part of the budgetary process to ensure that whether it is the social security review, the review of our social safety net, or whether indeed it is part of the budgetary measures, we are constantly going to focus on the needs of those who are most needy in our society first.

He also said that the deficit reduction must be selective and strategic, clearly reflecting our priorities. He said that budgetary action should weigh on the side of cuts in expenditures and not, and I stress not, on increased taxes.

Finally he said that the economic assumptions must be prudent to stimulate confidence so that our deficit targets would in fact be achieved. As you know, Mr. Speaker, a problem of former governments was setting targets that never were achieved.

I commend to all members and all Canadians the book Canada's Economy: What Past, What Future? This workbook which has been prepared by the Canadian Foundation for Economic Education is available to all Canadians in all public places; post offices, grocery stores, et cetera, and even through

their members of Parliament. I find, having gone through this a couple of times, that this is an excellent layman's language discussion on the kinds of issues that the government is addressing today in dealing with the challenges of balancing our budget over the coming years.

In the last couple of hours there has been quite a bit of discussion about whether or not the deficit should be eliminated in three years, whether it should be five years or whether it should be ever. These, as members well know, are the same discussions that went on during the last election campaign. I think that the Canadian people made their choice, a very clear choice.

Members may recall that the Conservative government proposed that it was going to eliminate the deficit in five years. The Reform Party said it would do it in three years. It was almost like a bidding war. The Prime Minister said during the election campaign that we have to be realistic, picking targets which are achievable within the time frames that are available to the government.

The Prime Minister made a commitment in his election platform that his government would achieve a deficit reduction strategy which would achieve 3 per cent of GDP by the end of the third year of the mandate. We are on target now. The minister has assured the House and Canadians that we will continue to introduce whatever changes are necessary to make sure that we stay on track and that we meet that target.

That means that by the end of the third year our deficit will reduce to some $25 billion. That is only an interim target. By the time that third year is over and we have hit that $25 billion target Canadians will have before them a further strategic plan for the next period to balance the budget for Canada.

Yet today the leader of the third party comes again to the House and reiterates: "We could do it in three years: We could slash that deficit".

I was at the finance committee when the Reform Party presented its program. I was astounded that of the $40 billion deficit the Reformers just said: "Here is our plan". They started off saying that $18 billion of the $40 billion deficit was going to be eliminated by economic growth. That has absolutely nothing to do with the Reform Party. It has to do with the initiatives that have been taken within our country to ensure that we stimulate economic growth in Canada. The Reform Party is somehow taking credit for some $18 billion reduction in the deficit.

The Reformers then went through a mathematical exercise to identify areas where they would cut. Not one explanation, not one rationale of how that would impact on the delivery of the services of those areas that they were going to cut; not one analysis or statement as to the impact on jobs for Canadians; indeed, not one indication of what that might do to the economic confidence that Canada has been developing over this period since the election.

The Prime Minister yesterday said in the House, and I quote: "If tomorrow we were to eliminate the deficit, $42 billion to zero, there would be a huge recession in Canada. The wise thing is to do it in a progressive way". I think that is the fundamental difference between the approach of the Reform Party and of this government, that we do have to keep control, we have to keep things in perspective.

I want to move on because I know that my time is very short. I want to share with Canadians a few facts which I think they may find interesting as they go through their assessment of where we are and the kinds of things that we should do. One of the key areas in which Canada would like to make progress and our budget would intend, and indeed our social security review, is to help Canadians to acquire skills. We have to help Canadians acquire skills to get jobs, to keep jobs and to find better jobs.

As Canadians know there has been much debate and much discussion about potential cuts in funding for post-secondary education. I want to share some figures.

Last year there was a 19 per cent growth in jobs for those who had a post-secondary education. At the same time there was a 17 per cent decrease in jobs for those who did not have a post-secondary education.

All of the experts say that over the next decade 45 per cent of all new jobs will require a post-secondary education. The government has included these facts, figures and initiatives in its priorities because our young people who are now in school must be given every incentive and opportunity to continue their education. We do not want them to be sitting on the curb watching the rest of Canadians go by.

During the 1990 to 1993 period, 190,000 jobs were lost during the recession. However, if we look very carefully at how that is composed, we find that 640,000 jobs were lost for Canadians who had a high school education or less. Offsetting that, 450,000 jobs were gained during the recession by those who had a post-secondary education. I think that indicates to all Canadians how important that education component is in terms of our overall strategy for Canada in the coming years.

The next area I want to share with hon. members is an analysis I did of taxation from 1992 as to who paid how much taxes and when. I found it very interesting that the top 10 per cent of taxpayers made $50,000 or more. That means if someone made more than $50,000 in 1992 they were in the top 10 per cent of Canadians. Interestingly enough, that top 10 per cent of Cana-

dians, approximately two million, contributed 32 per cent of all taxes paid and 44 per cent of all charitable donations.

When people start discussing should we tax more, should we raise our tax rates or should we go after the rich, they should first understand that they are talking about people who make over $50,000 and there are only 10 per cent of them.

Second, they have to understand that they already paid 32 per cent of all taxes and of their disposable income they are the major contributors to charitable donations. I find that very, very important to understand when we start discussing whether or not we should for instance cut RRSPs. At the $50,000 level one cannot even contribute more than $9,000 to RRSPs. Therefore, if the level were reduced we are basically talking about reducing it only for those taxpayers who are making much more than $50,000. Those things will have to be taken into account as we discuss the measures with regard to RRSPs.

With regard to matters such as employer paid health benefits, that has come up. Eight million employees receive employer paid health benefits tax free. The fairness of that has to be assessed.

Today in the newspaper it was reported that the mayor of my city, Mississauga, said that if the government raises taxes it is going to force more people into the underground economy than it has now. It is also going to force people to withhold taxes. I agree with the first statement but not with the second one.

With regard to the underground economy, there is no question about that. If we make serious and tough but fair cuts as a result of this budget there is no question that there will be increased pressure on the underground economy. As a result, I believe the government should as part of this consultation, and I hope members will consider this, have a parallel defensive measure to ensure that there is no increased pressure on the underground economy.

I have many more things to say but I will-

Budgetary Policy November 30th, 1994

Mr. Speaker, a brief question for the hon. member. He said in his statement that the government has not taken into account the impact of deficit financing on jobs, et cetera.

Does the member not agree that the impact on the Canadian economy of slashing the deficit at such a pace would drive Canada into a worse recession than we have just come out of and would create even more hardship on the Canadian economy?

Crohn's And Colitis Month November 30th, 1994

Mr. Speaker, I wish to inform the House that November has been designated Crohn's and Colitis Month.

Crohn's disease and ulcerative colitis are chronic digestive disorders of the small and large intestines. Often referred to as inflammatory bowel disease their cause is unknown although stress can precipitate attacks. There is currently no cure, however specific diets may control the symptoms. Crohn's disease and colitis may affect as many as 200,000 Canadians of all ages.

The Crohn's and Colitis Foundation of Canada is a non-profit voluntary medical research foundation dedicated to the finding of a cure for this disease by raising funds for medical research. The foundation with the financial support of Health Canada also provides education programs for individuals with this disease as well as for their families, health professionals and the general public.

To the foundation and its many volunteers we extend our best wishes and hope for future success.

Supply November 22nd, 1994

Mr. Speaker, I think the hon. member has made some very valid points. The important point is, and I think he would agree, that people entering any career should have reasonable knowledge, reasonable expectation of what the compensation should be and it should not be effective retroactively to their detriment.

A final comment. I failed to raise this in my comments, but I do agree very much with the member with regard to his comment on the family. All members of Parliament make a very, very significant sacrifice in being away from their families four or five days a week, nine months of the year. That is the important contribution they make so that they can serve and make sure we live in what the Prime Minister says often in this House, the best country in the world.

Supply November 22nd, 1994

Mr. Speaker, in reply to the member's points, first, he commented with regard to the aspect of reasonable expectation on behalf of those who seek elected office.

When I sought elected office I knew very well that the Prime Minister or the then leader of the Liberal Party had made a commitment if elected to reform MP pensions. I was expecting that and I fully took that into consideration. The reasonable expectation that I am talking about has to do with the constant suggestion on behalf of the Reform members that all members of Parliament should now take salary cuts, we should just not have a pension plan, and so on.

I must say that if this House and the Canadian people want to attract good people to this Chamber to make sure that the views of Canadians and the laws of our country are good laws, we are going to have to make sure that there is a fair and reasonable compensation. That is all I ask, that there is a reasonable expectation that it will be fair and reasonable and not somehow adjusted in major way after the fact.

That is why I raise the point that perhaps changes should be proposed before an election to be in effect after an election so that absolutely everyone knows what the story is going to be during their term.

Finally, with regard to the member's comments about old age security, I think it is patently unfair to somehow start raising that there are other social programs. We are talking about members' pensions. The motion says that it should be the same as pensions that exist in the "norms for private sector pensions".

I wonder if the Reform Party really means that. One aspect is that in normal private sector pensions, as a charter accountant I know there are portability provisions whereby the accrued benefits that one had during the period that one was there one gets to take them and transfer them into another plan. As the member well knows that is not the case with the current plan for MP pensions.

I would just say that there are some differences. Whatever it is, whatever it turns out to be, I am very confident that it will be fair and equitable to members of Parliament and to all Canadians.

Supply November 22nd, 1994

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to continue my remarks with regard to the opposition motion for today, that this House urge the government to replace the current members of Parliament retirement allowance plan with a pension plan that reflects the current norms for private sector pensions with a maximum contribution in accordance with the Income Tax Act.

This morning throughout the hours of debate there were a number of points made by hon. members in the House. I think it is very important to review a few of those points.

I think the most important aspect is the fact that during the election campaign the Prime Minister promised the Canadian people that he would reform MP pensions. He made two specific promises, the first being to end the so-called double dipping which is a case where former members of Parliament would receive appointments to government and receive not only a pension but also the compensation for that appointment to some government position. The Prime Minister has committed to eliminate double dipping.

The second was with regard to the age qualification, the age at which members of Parliament could qualify to start collecting pension benefits they were entitled to.

Yesterday the Prime Minister rose in this House and reaffirmed his commitment to make those changes and specifically said that those changes would be tabled in this House within the next few weeks.

I think the Prime Minister's commitment to this reform of our pension plan was very clearly demonstrated this morning when the he rose in the House to announce that his recommendation to Her Majesty the Queen that the Hon. Romeo LeBlanc be appointed as Canada's 25th Governor General had been accepted. In the House the Prime Minister and the other leaders of the other parties rose to compliment the Prime Minister on his selection and nomination of the Hon. Romeo LeBlanc who,

incidentally, is the first Governor General from New Brunswick, Atlantic Canada.

I thought it was very aptly put by the Prime Minister when in addition to announcing that appointment he concurrently announced that the new Governor General would be accepting his compensation as Governor General but that the Governor General nominated will forego or return his pension as a member of Parliament back to the government. That speaks a great deal for the leadership that the Prime Minister is showing on the aspect of MP pension reform.

Throughout the debate this morning a number of members raised interesting points and interesting issues. I receive with interest the comments of the hon. member for Vancouver Quadra who, through all of the rhetoric going on today, actually sat back and recalled, remembered and reflected upon members of Parliament who served in this Chamber prior to pension plans being formalized and being made for members of Parliament.

I think it behoves all members of Parliament not to forget those members of Parliament who served back in the 1940s and the 1950s, many of whom are still active and around, who do not have those same kind of benefits. I believe there would be some interest within this House to express some support for some sort of initiative to ensure that former members of Parliament who so honourably served in this Chamber would also be given some consideration in terms of pension reform.

I think most members of Parliament will have received an awful lot of input from their constituencies about MP reforms. It is referred to often as a gold plated pension plan and that it costs a great deal of money.

One of the things that really does not come up with regard to the discussion of the pension plan is how that relates to the overall compensation of members. I have to declare right off the bat that I am very supportive of comprehensive pension reform. I think it is the right thing to do and I hope that the reform will take place in conjunction with an overall reassessment of the compensation of members of Parliament.

I believe that Canadians would want to ensure that all members of Parliament receive a fair and reasonable compensation for the work that they do comparable to that which they could earn within the private sector. I think those principles should be sought and pursued by the government.

Most Canadians are not very familiar with the lifestyle of an MP and as most members know when you become an elected member the first thing you have to do is wind up your previous affairs. It is virtually impossible to maintain other income earning activity and still be a member of Parliament. I can speak from some experience as a chartered accountant. I know that it took some time for me to make arrangements to have my clients transferred to others so that they would receive the service they needed.

However, the fact remains that right now my chartered accounting practice as it existed no longer exists. In the next election, should I not be re-elected, I will be unemployed just as anybody else might be unemployed and will have to start again. That is a sacrifice that members do make. I hope that hon. members will continue to remind Canadians that all members of Parliament have left investments that they have had in other careers to come and serve in this place.

The other aspect of the pension discussion is what members of Parliament do here. I am sure that most members of Parliament work four or five days a week in Ottawa, some nine months a year away from their families. That investment and that contribution to Canada is very significant. I know this should be taken into account very carefully when the government considers compensation to members.

On top of that Canadians should also be aware that when members of Parliament go home when this House is recessed that does not mean that all of a sudden members of Parliament are somehow on vacation. Every member of Parliament has at least one office in their constituency, their riding. They have staff there to service the needs of their constituents. Their job in the riding is just as busy and important as it is in Ottawa. I am sure every member of Parliament has experienced the same thing where we find that we are working 80 hours a week to make a contribution to the betterment of Canada and to the concerns of our constituents.

When we make changes to compensation plans a fair and reasonable rule should be that every member of Parliament or every candidate for elected office should know what the compensation package is so that they can make an informed decision. To make changes over and beyond what was promised to be made, for instance the changes in the pension plan, is asking a lot for members of Parliament to take at this time without some reasonable expectation that there would be equity and fairness for all.

This whole question of when changes should be made really should come up in the debate. I would be interested if the Reform Party would care to comment on the general principle that when changes are going to be made to compensation of elected officials such as members of Parliament those changes should be fully debated, discussed, tabled and decided upon before an election but not to be effective until after an election.

With those comments, I am pleased to have participated in the debate. Again, I want to thank the Prime Minister for following through with his election promises to amend and reform MP pension plans.

Supply November 22nd, 1994

Madam Speaker, I am pleased to rise on the opposition motion concerning the members of Parliament pensions. The member for Vancouver Quadra has raised some very interesting points as usual.

I particularly want to note for all members that the government in its election platform and its statements in the House has said it will end double dipping and the age. Today the Prime Minister did show his commitment to make those changes when he announced the appointment of Canada's next Governor General, the Hon. Romeo LeBlanc. He further went on to say that the Governor General will draw a salary as a Governor General but will return his MP pension to the government as a sign of that leadership. That is outstanding.