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Crucial Fact

  • His favourite word was debate.

Last in Parliament September 2018, as Conservative MP for York—Simcoe (Ontario)

Won his last election, in 2015, with 50% of the vote.

Statements in the House

Human Resources and Skills Development Act November 22nd, 2004

Mr. Speaker, the Auditor General has been quite outspoken in her criticism of the employment insurance system and the surpluses that have been run up. That is money that has been taken from taxpayers without accountability. That has been taken not from taxpayers, in fact, but taken from a specific group of taxpayers, workers who have been paying into employment insurance and employers who have been creating those jobs.

I can tell the House that I do not read into anything that the Auditor General has said in regard to the approval for that tax grab of $46 billion to be taken away from the ordinary workers and employers in Canada. In fact, I read very much the opposite. There is a desire to see the system brought into account where we stop taking more than we need to run the system, where we ensure that we do not build up huge surpluses that are then diverted away to general revenues.

If the member is talking about having the government, through its general revenues, run it as a social program, that might be a different issue. However, what we have seen is a vastly politicized process of setting the employment insurance rate by the government. In fact, in the Auditor General's words, the government has been breaking the law that requires that there not be surpluses run up. Of course, it is a difficult law because it is a law that requires a certain degree of foresight. It requires looking into a crystal ball to set the rates.

It is very tough to hold people to account except in retrospect after they have made the decisions. That has been an opportunity that the government has taken advantage of to grab $46 billion from workers and employers in this county, to take $46 billion out of the economy that should be creating jobs and letting people live a better standard--

Human Resources and Skills Development Act November 22nd, 2004

Mr. Speaker, on this side of the House the perspective of the Conservative Party has been very simple. We believe that government should be smaller. It should be more efficient and more responsive to the needs of taxpayers.

The creation of new departments, new bureaucracies, and new cabinet ministers may be very helpful for allowing more spending and more bureaucracy, but the experience of the taxpayers of York—Simcoe is that the more bureaucracy they encounter, the less responsive it is, and the less service they get. The more they see their taxes go up, the more they see their taxes wasted.

Our solution would be a smaller government that takes less from the taxpayers and allows them support where they genuinely need it, not more spending and more programs in Ottawa, as indicated if the employment insurance system actually did function as an employment insurance system.

Our solution on things like HRDC, which is now becoming HRSDC, is to not have wasteful grant programs where the Auditor General has to be critical of the political interference, the lack of tangible results and the lack of accountability. Our solution is to focus on accountable processes, accountable systems and not look for ways to spend money, but look for ways to respect taxpayers' dollars and to allow them to spend their money the way that they would like to see it spent in order to make their lives and their families' lives better for many years in the future.

I do not see how the creation of new ministerial posts help to achieve that. A new cabinet minister may help a Prime Minister who is concerned about keeping his caucus happy, happier by creating more opportunities within, but that does not create new opportunities for people in my community who are working hard and trying to build better lives. In fact, it makes it tougher for them to do that when they see bigger and larger government. Bigger and larger government is not the answer in their lives. More opportunities for them is the answer in their lives.

Human Resources and Skills Development Act November 22nd, 2004

Mr. Speaker, I would like to say at the outset that we do not oppose this bill. It is a position that we take, however, not without many reservations.

In the recent election campaign, one of the major messages I received from my constituents was their concern that there was a government in Ottawa, a Liberal government, that was rife with waste. They saw a lot of mismanagement. Their concern was to see a lot of this corrected. That is what they asked me to do here in Ottawa, in large part.

It is not a coincidence, I believe, that what we are seeing in this bill is really an effort to rename the HRDC Department, that my colleague had so much trouble recalling. It is a name of a department that many Liberals might wish to forget because of course the HRDC Department had a notorious track record for bad management and bad waste. That HRDC boondoggle is something that the government wants people to forget. Why not use the easiest device, in the finest traditions of George Orwell, of using language and names? The new name of HRSDC is one way of leaving behind that HRDC history and the bad memories that went with it. I believe that has a lot to do with why we are facing the bill in front of us.

However, in practical terms, there is very little that I see coming from this legislation that achieves any successful outcome in terms of reducing government waste and mismanagement. In fact, in a similar vein, my constituents wanted to see a smaller and more responsive government. That is very much something that they wanted to see from government that had been lacking from Ottawa in the past.

Through the process of these companion bills that would create the new Department of Human Resources and Skills Development and the Minister of Social Development, the effect would indeed be to create an additional cabinet post, a new department and , in fact a larger, more diffuse and bureaucratic government. I am not sure that is what my constituents want to see when they think in terms of a smaller and more responsive government.

Curiously, we see an aspect of the legislation that says there may be a labour minister. It would be an optional consideration. We do have a Minister of Labour in this government but, apparently, it would be an optional position, suggesting that once again we are looking at a government that is much larger than it needs to be. That is a question that we are all concerned about.

Overall, one of the most troublesome aspects of the course we have followed here, and we heard it in one of the questions across the way, is the question of the process that this has followed. It is a process that speaks to the continued arrogance of the government, and in fact a lack of respect for this House of Commons and Parliament.

This department was effectively created through order in council a year ago. It has continued to operate for a year without any bill ever coming before Parliament to create the new departments and to divide them. The fact that this bill is before us today to create that department suggests to me one of two possible potential rationales.

First, it is an acknowledge of the government that the process that has been followed was in fact inappropriate and that the government should have come to this House of Commons before creating that department. The only other option is that the bill is in front of us as indeed a waste of time, something with which to keep this House busy.

I do not believe that the government is interested in wasting the time of the members in this House. It values that. That leads me to conclude that we are facing a piece of legislation that would make legal what is in effect a fait accompli, operating by order in council for about a year. That, to me, smacks of a disrespect for this institution, the House of Commons, and the processes of Parliament.

I want to talk a bit about the importance of treating taxpayers with respect and treating taxpayer dollars with respect.

The reorganization of the departments does not come without a cost. Any reorganization of this nature does require time and effort. Restructuring always involves costs. Often, we want to see restructuring taking place in order to save money and create efficiencies. I do not see any efficiencies coming out of this, but I do see additional costs coming from that. I see a lack of respect for the taxpayers of Canada through the steps being taken in this process before us. I do not see the companion material benefit that we would like to have.

I did notice in the legislation a recognition of the continuation of the Employment Insurance Commission. That brings me to another important point that I think is worthy of some comment in passing in this House. The way that the employment insurance system has been run in this country for close to a decade is similar to the other concerns I have about the attitude of the government toward taxpayers who are really viewed as people from whom to grab revenues for the purposes of the government rather than people to be served.

There have been enormous surpluses generated out of that system. Those surpluses come from the real money paid by workers and by employers through their employment insurance premiums. Yet, while they think they are getting insurance for those dark days when they might face the need to search for a job when they lose theirs, in fact, that money has not been pouring into a fund. For several years now, it has just been pouring into general revenues.

Some $46 billion has been grabbed from the workers and employers in this country and diverted to the general revenues to be spent on programs entirely unrelated to the needs of workers and unrelated to their insurance for the dark days when they lose a job. That smacks of arrogance of a government that sees every program and every chance to reach into people's pockets as a chance to grab their money for the ongoing operations of government.

That is not what employment insurance is about. That is not what it should be about. That ongoing surplus will continue to run this year. One need only look at the numbers of projected economic growth and revenues that have been coming in to know that this tax grab will continue. That is simply unacceptable.

I hope that through the continuation of the commission the government will see the opportunity in the weeks and months ahead to bring in real changes to restore the operation of the employment insurance system to a genuine insurance system that serves the needs of workers and employers.

Right now it is serving as a tax. It is a tax on jobs. It is a tax on economic growth. It is a tax on prosperity. The worst part of it all is that it is a tax that is regressive. It hits those ordinary workers more than anyone else. That is because after a person passes a certain income level the government stops collecting the tax. That person has topped out his or her contributions. It is a regressive tax. It is a tax that hurts the constituents in York—Simcoe tremendously. People are working hard. They are trying to get ahead and make a better life for their family. That is something that we need to see changed.

I look at Bill C-23 and, other than the opportunity perhaps to use that vehicle of continuing the employment insurance commission as a vehicle for further change in the future, I do not see a great deal of improvement. All I see is a process that leaves us with a lot of questions about the way the government does business and its lack of respect for the elected representatives of the people of Canada.

However, that being said, what would be the implication if we were to oppose the bill and put back the genie in the bottle of creating a new department? At this point in time I expect that it would only create further additional costs from a further reorganization. That is why we on this side find ourselves in the very uncomfortable position of being faced with a decision on do we or do we not support something that happened a year ago? Do we or do we not support a reorganization and the creation of a new department that happened a year ago?

In those circumstances, the challenges of the choice that we have to make can be surely understood. That is why, reluctantly, we will not be opposing this bill. We will only support it because of our concerns with the potential cost of trying to roll-back that restructuring at this late stage in the game.

Human Resources and Skills Development Act November 22nd, 2004

Mr. Speaker, I would like to split my time with the member for New Westminster—Coquitlam if that is possible.

Grey Cup November 17th, 2004

Mr. Speaker, on Sunday all Canadians will be focused on Ottawa, not on Parliament, but on a great and unifying Canadian event: the Grey Cup. This year the remarkable Toronto Argonauts will play for the championship.

Bolstered by the committed ownership of Howard Sokolowski and David Cynamon and inspired by the positive and optimistic leadership of Mike “Pinball” Clemons, the Toronto Argonauts continue in a proud winning tradition. We anticipate the exciting on-field exploits of players like the explosive Arland Bruce, outstanding Canadian nominee Kevin Eiben and a team that wins through talent, discipline and determination.

Football is ultimately a team sport. The Toronto Argonauts embody the Canadian values of hard work, commitment and sportsmanship, values that will surely contribute to on-field success.

No institution is as uniquely Canadian as the CFL and no annual Canadian event is as unifying as the Grey Cup.

This Sunday, as always, I will be cheering for the blue team.

Sponsorship Program October 28th, 2004

Mr. Speaker, Canadians and people who do business in Canada think a little differently.

Transparency International surveys those trying to do business on whether they think one must exercise undue influence to get things done because a government is corrupt.

Canada is losing out on real decisions on investing, creating jobs, getting economic growth and prosperity all because of this.

The refusal of the Prime Minister to be transparent and answer simple questions on his involvement in the sponsorship affair is fuelling the slide in Canada's standing.

Why will the Prime Minister not just tell the House what he knew and when he knew it?

Sponsorship Program October 28th, 2004

Mr. Speaker, when the Prime Minister started out as finance minister, Transparency International, which ranked countries according to corruption, ranked Canada as the fifth cleanest. By the time he was finished as finance minister, Canada had slid to 11th place. Since he became Prime Minister, the slide has continued and Canada is down to number 12.

The Prime Minister said that he wanted to get to the bottom of the sponsorship scandal, but he is acting more like he wants to get to the bottom of the clean government index.

Will the Prime Minister help Canada and come clean by telling us when he first knew his office made calls seeking sponsorship funds for his Liberal fundraising friends?

Sponsorship Program October 27th, 2004

Mr. Speaker, the Prime Minister is developing a growing credibility gap. Now it turns out that the Prime Minister, the guy who initially said that he knew nothing about the sponsorship scandal, was actually in the thick of it with another contract to Claude Boulay of Groupe Everest who worked on his leadership campaign.

When the Prime Minister said that anybody with information should come forward, why did he not release his correspondence with Groupe Everest? Why does he still continue to hide what he knows from Canadians today?

Supply October 21st, 2004

Mr. Speaker, freedom and democracy are important Canadian values and ones we have enjoyed throughout our entire history. Our history is instructive to us when it comes to the question of defence. Canada was formed largely by the leadership of Sir John A. Macdonald, but in many ways in reaction to security threats that Canada faced at that time. There was a need for British North America to bind itself together in defence against threats from outside.

That has always been one reason for our military. However, we never believed as Canadians that all we worry about is ourselves, that our security lies only here in Canada. We believe that we have a worldwide obligation to advance freedom and to defend freedom because a threat anywhere to the free world, tyranny anywhere, is a threat to Canadians here and a threat to our world order.

I have heard people say we do not need the world's biggest military. If we look at Canada's history and our involvement in World War I, we came close to having one of the world's biggest military forces. Canada's nationhood was forged on the battlefields of Europe where so many gave their lives. That was when our country really reached its true status as a world player.

In World War II we fought unprecedented tyranny. Even after World War II, we have been key players. Korea was the very first United Nations action. It was not a peacekeeping action, it was a peacemaking action, advancing the cause of freedom and protecting against an authoritarian threat. In every case, our proud military tradition came to the fore. We had a military force that was able to step up to the plate.

Today, people are sometimes complacent about the freedom that we enjoy in Canada. We forget that role, duty and obligation we have to the future. In my view, Canada cannot forget that role. We have to work to advance the cause of freedom everywhere.

However, these days it is difficult. We have now had a series of conflicts where the Prime Minister and the government have stood up and said we cannot play our role, that we may believe in the cause but we do not have an equipped military capable of doing our part on the world stage to fight tyranny, to fight authoritarianism and to protect freedom. To me that is a sad reflection.

Does the hon. member think that we can see from this government the kind of changes that are necessary for Canada to once again play that role on the world stage, of advancing the cause of freedom and protecting liberty, not just here but abroad?

Canada Education Savings Act October 14th, 2004

Mr. Speaker, certainly the crisis was provoked by the Prime Minister himself when he was finance minister. With the efforts of balancing the budget back in 1995, it was done largely on the backs of the provinces. It is quite clear that was the case and that crisis continues today.

In fact, we had the vision last month of the Prime Minister claiming to be a hero for finally reversing some of the damage that was done. While it was only some of the damage, as the hon. member has pointed out, it continues to be the case that provinces are working to recover from that.

Certainly there will be upcoming discussions that hopefully will give the government an opportunity to advance that exercise. That crisis is an example of how the government has continually operated. It creates the crisis, causes the problem and then comes up with legislation, such as the bill before us, Bill C-5, which would never have been necessary if provinces were not faced with those cuts to post-secondary education.

The problem is being addressed now and I think that is a positive thing for Canadians.