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Crucial Fact

  • His favourite word is iran.

Conservative MP for Thornhill (Ontario)

Won his last election, in 2015, with 59% of the vote.

Statements in the House

Business of Supply December 1st, 2016

Mr. Speaker, I listened very carefully to the minister's remarks. Many on both sides of the House have commented today on Canada's constructive engagement over the decades by previous Conservative and Liberal governments. The minister did forget to mention that in fact it was our government that enabled the re-establishment of communications between the United States and Cuba, which led to at least a temporary rapprochement.

I think the minister, like so may of his Liberal colleagues, is drifting somewhat off the topic of the motion before us, which is to reject the over-the-top nostalgic statement of condolence issued by the Prime Minister last Saturday. It has made Canada the laughingstock of the world.

While we know that the Liberals are engaged in an indecent pursuit of Security Council votes from countries both democratic and despotic, when he refers to Canada's “influential and trusted voice”, I hope that he realizes today that that influential and trusted voice has been sadly bruised by the unbalanced remarks by the Prime Minister last Saturday.

Business of Supply December 1st, 2016

Mr. Speaker, I know that there are a number of members of the Liberal government who were as outraged as those on this side of the House as those around the world, and certainly those in Cuba who are still under the communist boot of oppression, that there was not a single word about the Cuban people in that statement.

The relationship with Fidel was glorified. The meeting with Raúl was described as an honour, and this man is even more ruthless than his brother, and has reversed some of the minor improvements in human rights on the island that Fidel brought in.

I would suggest that my colleague should perhaps go back and take a look at that statement, and then look at the statement made by Prime Minister Harper on the death of that other dictator in the Americas, Hugo Chávez, which were much more appropriate remarks.

Business of Supply December 1st, 2016

Mr. Speaker, I must say that I pause and can only wonder at what the statement of condolences might have read like, had the NDP had the pen.

In answer to the question about Rights and Democracy, during our Conservative government, it was found that the organization, which was originally a worthy organization championing human rights around the world, had become very dysfunctional. There were financial management issues, and questions about the appropriate relationships of some members of Rights and Democracy with some unsavoury organizations and regimes around the world. It was decided that the organization had had its time, and it was closed down.

Business of Supply December 1st, 2016

moved:

That, in light of the regrettable comments made by the Prime Minister on behalf of Canadians on the death of Fidel Castro, and in an effort to send a clear signal to Cuban people and the international community that his comments do not reflect the true sentiments of Canadians, the House: (a) reject the comments made by the Prime Minister on November 26, 2016; (b) recognize the past atrocities and repression borne by the Cuban people under the rule of Fidel Castro, including his long and oppressive regime of imprisoning critics and reported beatings during arrest, restrictions on freedom of expression, association and assembly, and the suffering and restrictions placed on the press, minorities, and the democratic process, including the LGBT community; and (c) express its hope and full support for the people of Cuba, that they may now begin to see freedom and a commitment to democracy, human rights, and the rule of law, in order to ensure a brighter and better future for the Cuban people now and for generations to come.

Mr. Speaker, I will be sharing my time with the member for Calgary Shepard.

The debate on the motion before us today will enable members of all parties in the House to send a clear message to all of the people of Cuba, as well as to the international community, our democratic allies, and Canadians whose true sentiments are not reflected in the Prime Minister's regrettable condolences regarding Castro.

The Prime Minister, in expressing his personal sorrow at the passing of Cuba's communist dictator, made no mention at all of the Cubans whom Castro executed, imprisoned, tortured, and oppressed. The outrageously affectionate and nostalgic statement may be attributed to the PM's romanticized family connections; perhaps because of a shallow familiarity with Cuban history; perhaps due to the fact that he has never met a victim of Castro's tyranny; or, that he, on his recent quick trip to Havana, was wined and dined by Cuba's communist 1%, and that the representatives of civil society whom he met were not representative of Cuba's long-suffering, impoverished, under-employed, and oppressed society.

Today, we will remind our Liberal colleagues not of an idealized, cherry-picked, or confected Cuban history, but the facts.

It is true that Fidel Castro was a revolutionary hero. He overthrew a corrupt, brutal military dictator, Fulgencio Batista. But then Castro betrayed the Cuban people and rival rebel groups that had shared the revolution's victory. There were firing squads, prisons, and re-education camps for decades. Then armed and emboldened as a proxy of the Soviet Union, Castro enabled the installation of Soviet nuclear missiles in Cuba, which precipitated one of the most perilous moments of the Cold War. Throughout the 1960s, 1970s, and 1980s the Cuban dictator exported revolution widely. Castro sent tens of thousands of his soldiers to fight in a variety of Marxist revolutions and wars in Angola, Congo, Bolivia, Ethiopia, North Vietnam, to Syria and Egypt against Israel, and to Nicaragua and El Salvador.

The Prime Minister said in his overwrought condolences of last weekend that Castro made significant improvements to the education and health care of his island nation. Well, he did. Cuba has a world-class literacy rate and a health care system that is the envy of the developing world, but that is within and under the oppressive confines of a repressive communist regime. Doctors and nurses very often work part-time in unskilled jobs that pay better than their professional state wages. The Cuban education system is also notable for hosting revolutionaries from across the Americas and the Caribbean over the decades, providing technical and military training, propaganda skills, and political indoctrination.

That brings us to the fact that while educated and healthy, the literate, fine-fettled people of Cuba are brutally denied freedom of speech and freedom of association. Religion was banned for decades, and though recently restored, religious rights are very tightly controlled. The Communist Party of Cuba controls the army, all government offices, most civil institutions, all media organizations, schools, and universities, and even the official rigidly controlled gay rights organization. I will have more about that in a moment.

Although prisons today hold far fewer political prisoners than in previous decades, heavy-handed restrictions remain on any independent non-communist-approved organizations, unions, human rights groups, or political parties. Members associated with these groups are now the most often detained citizens. The systematic repression, for example, of Cuba's Damas de Blanco, Ladies in White, continues today. These are women, peaceful civil rights and human rights protestors, who regularly assemble silently in Havana's public spaces, where they are also regularly brutally harassed and detained or driven far into the countryside and dumped by the roadside.

I would like to speak now to the fact that Canada is one of only two countries that did not participate in the U.S. embargo against Cuba. Governments, both Liberal and Conservative, constructively engaged with Castro's communist government, albeit Pierre Trudeau's Liberals were flamboyantly and much more passionately and ideologically committed.

Canadian business and industry were allowed to participate in joint partnership with Cuban state enterprises, for example, in mining and tourism and services, partnerships that for decades were mutually beneficial. Sherrit International Corporation has been the largest Canadian investor, operating 50% jointly owned nickel mines in Moa, Cuba, and smelting and refining operations in Fort Saskatchewan, Alberta. However, in recent years, the investment climate in Cuba has changed for many Canadians and other international investors.

The Prime Minister said in his sorrowful tribute to the dictator Fidel on Saturday that it had been an “honour” to meet his brother two weeks prior, the successor dictator, and equally or perhaps even more ruthless, Raúl.

While the Cuban government has aggressively promoted new business opportunities in recent years, President Raúl Castro has launched a so-called anti-corruption campaign, using Cuban interior ministry forces, a secret police force modelled on the East German Stasi, to crack down not only on domestic Cuban corruption but also effectively steal foreign companies and their assets.

A constituent of mine, a businessman engaged in joint partnerships with the Cuban government for decades, who was even given awards of excellence by President Fidel, was detained under house arrest in 2011, including then in the notorious La Condesa prison outside Havana for more than three years, many of those years without formal charges. I visited the prison. It was a terrible place. He professed to his innocence throughout, despite intimidation and psychological torture. He was eventually convicted in a rigged trial on a range of flawed corruption charges, sentenced to 15 years in prison, with his $100 million in companies and assets seized, and then suddenly deported back to Canada, to Thornhill, because the bad publicity was hurting Cuba's investment campaign.

His is not the only cautionary tale for any Canadian considering investment in Cuba or joining in partnership with Cuban state enterprises. My colleagues across the House who are looking for Christmas gift reading might consider another similar equally outrageous true story of British businessman Stephen Purvis. His book Close But No Cigar has just been published and is available through Amazon U.K. The dustcover states quite accurately, “As tourists flock to Havana”, like our Prime Minister, for example, “to marvel at a city frozen in time, [Purvis] shows that despite reforms and international reconciliation the Castro regime remains a corrupt, dictatorial” regime. The book could also be relevant reading for those Canadians whose Cuban experience is limited to the cheap sand-and-sea resort bubbles, and who, like the Prime Minister, may have a romanticized perception of the regime.

I said I would return to the Castro regime's state-controlled gay community. Cuba no longer puts LGBT people in labour camps, as the communist regime did in the 1960s and 1970s, but publicly manifested homosexuality remains illegal, except and unless LGBT people are vetted and accepted as loyal communist revolutionaries. Raúl Castro's daughter Mariela is the director of the state-run Cuban National Center for Sex Education, and patron of the annual Havana pride parade. However, this event is a propaganda device, a tool designed to misportray a modern socially liberated Cuba.

I would be glad to address any number of questions in the moments that follow. However, in conclusion, I would like to offer a much better example of what the Prime Minister might have said last Saturday, using the template of Prime Minister Harper's statement on the passing of Venezuela's Marxist strongman president, Hugo Chávez, who was a protege of Fidel. If we substitute Castro for Chávez, this is how Saturday's statement could have read: “I would like to offer my condolences to the people of Cuba on the passing of President Castro. Canada looks forward to working with his successor and other leaders in the region to build a hemisphere that is more prosperous, secure and democratic.” Then our Liberal Prime Minister, speaking truly on behalf of all Canadians, could have said, “I hope the people of Cuba can now build for themselves a brighter, better future, based on the principles of freedom, democracy, the rule of law, and respect for human rights.”

With that, I echo the thrust of the motion before us today in calling on the House to reject the comments made by the Prime Minister on November 26, 2016.

Canada Pension Plan November 29th, 2016

Madam Speaker, we in the official opposition are still waiting for the finance minister to explain his conversion on the road to higher taxes.

I think it is worthwhile as we face this closure vote to remember the words of his coauthor of The Real Retirement, Mr. Vettese, who said in the Financial Post, “Canadians are not facing retirement crisis, nor is such a crisis likely to arise”.

In a different piece, it has been said:

Instead of expending political energy on debating CPP expansion in the misguided belief that many middle- and upper-income Canadians are not saving enough for retirement, the focus of public debate should be on how best to help financially vulnerable seniors.

I wonder if the minister could explain to us how he is squaring the circle here.

Foreign Affairs November 28th, 2016

Mr. Speaker, the Prime Minister, instead of paying tribute to a dictator, should have offered condolences to the long-suffering, repressed people of Cuba.

The Prime Minister should have spoken of hopes for a better democratic future for the people of Cuba. Instead, the PM not only expressed personal sorrow at Fidel's passing, but described as a real honour his recent meeting with Fidel's successor, the equally ruthless, Raúl.

Why will this naive Prime Minister not address democracy, human rights, and the rule of law?

Foreign Affairs November 28th, 2016

Mr. Speaker, the Prime Minister, in expressing his personal sorrow at the passing of the Cuban Communist dictator, had nothing to say about the Cubans who Castro executed in prison, tortured, and oppressed.

Is that because the Prime Minister and his father never met the victims of Castro's tyranny, or is it because the PM was only wined and dined by Cuba's Communist 1%?

Now that the Prime Minister has had time to reflect on his ill-advised condolences, will he tell us what he might do to improve the lives of the Castro regime's victims?

Rouge National Urban Park Act November 24th, 2016

Mr. Speaker, that speaks directly to the points the Conservatives are trying to make. This ecological integrity thing is the result of the Ontario government's most recent attempt to block and delay the transfer of lands. The Liberal government at Queen's Park was bragging at the time as it was offering these excuses, saying that it would hold this land back until it could transfer it to another government. It was petty, pure partisan politics.

Rouge National Urban Park Act November 24th, 2016

Mr. Speaker, my colleague should listen to some of the members of the Rouge Park Alliance. They have worked on this not for five, 10 or 15 years, but 30 and 40 years. Pauline Browes was a former minister responsible for Parks Canada. David Crombie is a former honourable member of the House and a former mayor of Toronto. Alan Wells is a long-time conservationist in the valley. Larry Noonan, whose remarks I cited, was in opposition to ecological integrity in House and Senate committee hearings more than a year ago. I can count on him, along with Alan Latourelle, the former CEO of Parks Canada. They will again attend to present testimony in committee when Bill C-18 is considered.

We are entirely for protection of the environment. We completely reject the political cover that the Liberal government has given to the Ontario government by injecting the term “ecological integrity” improperly and dangerously. It demeans the reputation of Parks Canada simply to provide political cover. The government should stand on its back legs and demand that the province of Ontario fulfill its commitment and transfer those lands now, with none of this—

Rouge National Urban Park Act November 24th, 2016

Mr. Speaker, for many decades now, Parks Canada has faced an overwhelming infrastructure deficit with regard to our heritage canals and with many of our protected areas, not just the national parks but other protected areas, and that is indeed a challenge. It was a challenge for our government. It will be a challenge for the Liberal government. However, after experiencing the recession of 2009-10, we did take budgetary measures that consolidated some of our costs. We also contemporized some of our hiring practices. Instead of having Parks Canada libraries scattered across the country with artifacts here, there and everywhere, we consolidated those artifacts. That resulted in a regrettable downsizing of staff.

At the same time, we also provided greater access for more Canadians to the parks, with a variety of incentives for the young to draw them to the park to increase revenues. In recent years, attendance at our great national parks, the more popular and traditional parks such as Banff and Jasper had diminished. We were trying to jumpstart and reinvigorate an interest in getting people there. The attendance in those parks and the payment of fees enhance the budget and operational capability of Parks Canada to deliver.

As I said in my remarks, we added, in barely 10 years, more than 60% of the area of protected places in Canada, and these include—