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Crucial Fact

  • His favourite word was actually.

Last in Parliament October 2015, as Conservative MP for St. Catharines (Ontario)

Lost his last election, in 2015, with 38% of the vote.

Statements in the House

Criminal Code May 29th, 2006

Mr. Speaker, it is certainly my honour to speak. I guess I was the bookend today on both ends of question period. I will continue my remarks on Bill C-9, an act to amend the Criminal Code on conditional sentence of imprisonment.

Even before this legislation was drafted, the Prime Minister determined that we needed to get out to communities across the country to talk first-hand with Canadians and hear what measures they would like implemented. Last summer we put together the task force on safe streets and healthy communities and several party members, including the current finance minister, travelled across the country speaking to police officers, crime victims, social agencies and many others connected with the justice system.

As a result, we decided we needed to open up the Criminal Code and make some real changes that we believe will have a significant impact on the criminal justice landscape of this country.

From a local perspective, Niagara Regional Police Chief Wendy Southall, once she had a chance to review the bill, offered this comment:

Obviously from a Niagara perspective, as well as an Ontario and Canadian Chiefs of Police perspective, we're all focused on the significant consequences that must await people who possess illegal firearms and use them in the commission of an offence. And I believe these legislative changes are certainly a step in the right direction. Coupling these changes with enhanced border security will definitely have an impact upon the safety of the people of the Niagara Region.

I agree with Police Chief Southall and so does this government. In order to achieve our goal of safer communities, there needs to be a four pillared approach that involves: stronger penalties for those committing violent crimes; long term crime prevention plans that target young people, especially those at risk; realistic and effective rehabilitation programs; and finally, recognition within the justice system of victims' rights. I would like to speak directly to each of these four points.

In terms of justice, Bill C-9 is very clear. Criminals have to understand there are going to be consequences for their actions and we are serious about sending them that message. If people commit a serious crime, rest assured they will do serious time.

Any criminals convicted of a serious crime, including violent and sexual offences, major drug offences, crimes against children, and impaired driving causing death or bodily harm will be required to serve their sentences in prison, not at home. In fact, any criminal convicted of a crime that has a maximum prison sentence of 10 years or more will be ineligible for a conditional sentence.

The second pillar is prevention. Prevention begins with sound economic policy and good social programs. Our budget includes $20 million, a commitment to invest in youth programs that target young people at risk of becoming involved with guns, gangs and drugs. Ideally, we need to put tools and textbooks in the hands of our young people, not guns and not gangs, tools that will help them realize they can grow up to lead successful and productive lives. That means working with parents and agencies in my community, such as RAFT or Niagara Child and Youth Services, Big Brothers Big Sisters, and the countless others who work with troubled young people who feel they have no real choice or no real opportunities.

Everyone in our community should share a strong focus when it comes to working with our youth. We all need to play a role and take the time to help build our youth, and help them become positive members of our society. Our justice minister has been asked to put together a council of individuals to advise him on how to make these investments.

The third pillar is rehabilitation and reintegration. Both are an important component of our justice system. Rehabilitation programs help contribute to a strong community by helping all members of our society make a positive contribution.

Our new government understands this and has made rehabilitation a key component of this strategy, but let me be clear: justice and rehabilitation are not one and the same. We firmly believe that those who commit criminal acts must pay their debt to society and their victims, but we must not forget that they may one day earn the opportunity to re-enter society. We all have a responsibility to provide effective programs to ensure that those who have served their time return to society with the tools they need to become productive citizens. We must make every effort to assist these people and prevent them from returning to the same circumstances that led them to commit a crime in the first place.

The fourth pillar of justice is the protection of victims' rights. Perhaps this is the most important aspect of our new government's plan to provide stronger rights for the victims of crime. Twenty-six million dollars has been set aside in the budget to implement programs and provide better services for victims of crime to give them a voice in a system that often considers them last, if at all.

New options and programs are being developed to ensure that the federal government can appropriately address the needs of victims. Funds for programs such as financial assistance for victims to attend National Parole Board hearings and for covering travel expenses will ensure that victims are not treated like criminals but respected in their time of need, not ignored but listened to, not embarrassed but embraced.

Victims are the ones whose rights are too often discarded in our efforts to make sure that criminals' rights are protected. It is time for victims of crime to know that they matter too. In fact, they matter most.

In closing, I will acknowledge that even the toughest laws are not going to prevent all crimes, but our new legislation is based upon similar measures enacted in the state of Virginia in 1997, measures that provided positive results. Through 1998 in Richmond, the capital of Virginia, a city with one of the highest murder rates in the United States, homicides dropped by 40%. In fact, following the implementation of measures like those we have in front of the House today, the homicide rate in 1998 was the lowest in a decade. I can only hope that these measures have a similar impact on our communities.

In my community, for example, the Niagara area, a crime is committed with a gun every 36 hours. In 2005 there were 3,246 violent crimes committed in the Niagara area, with an unprecedented 14 homicides. This cannot and will not continue. I want nothing more for my community and for all Canadians than I want for my own family, a city where we can all feel safe and a country where we can all be safe to walk the streets. I do not understand why others would not want that for their communities and for their own families.

As I have outlined, getting tough on crime is a four-pillared approach that involves justice, prevention, rehabilitation and, finally, victims' rights. This approach is not necessarily new and it is not big on spin. It is a straightforward approach to fixing what is wrong in our country, our society and our communities. Bill C-9 sets out to do that. It puts the right focus on conditional sentencing and ensures that when a serious crime is committed there will be consequences. Those consequences, respectfully, do not include a penalty that consists of a weekend at home.

Criminal Code May 29th, 2006

Mr. Speaker, it is a privilege to stand today to speak to Bill C-9, an act to amend the Criminal Code, conditional sentence of imprisonment.

As we heard earlier from the Minister of Justice and Attorney General of Canada, the bill would deliver on the government's platform and its commitment to eliminate the availability of conditional sentences for serious crimes, including designated violent and sexual offences, weapons offences, major drugs, crimes committed against children and impaired driving causing death or serious injury. It is a key issue addressed by the local chapter of Mothers Against Drunk Driving in my riding and community.

The bill would also introduce an additional prerequisite which would have to be met before a sentencing court could consider imposing a conditional sentence. The bill would make conditional sentences unavailable for offences punishable by a maximum of 10 years or more that would be prosecuted by way of indictment. The new bill would screen out serious offences, including serious violent offences in the Criminal Code as well as the major drug offences in the Controlled Drugs and Substances Act.

The government's move to reform the conditional sentence regime is an attempt to limit conditional sentences to cases for which they were originally meant to be used. In this regard I would refer hon. members to the comments made in 1994 by the then minister of justice and attorney general, the Hon. Allan Rock. At second reading of Bill C-41, which introduced the conditional sentence of imprisonment as a new sentencing option, he stated:

It seems to me that such an approach would promote the protection of the public by seeking to separate the most serious offenders from the community while providing that less serious offenders can remain among other members of society with effective community based alternatives while still adhering to appropriate conditions.

He went on to add:

Jails and prisons will be there for those who need them, for those who should be punished in that way or separated from society.

In June 2003, the Alberta ministry of justice and attorney general prepared on behalf of British Columbia, Manitoba, Ontario and Nova Scotia a paper entitled “The Conditional Sentence of Imprisonment: The Need for Reform”. In the 37th Parliament, this document was provided to the Standing Committee on Justice and Human Rights for its review of the operation of conditional sentences of imprisonment.

The paper argued that conditional sentences were an appropriate and effective sentencing tool in many cases, but the committee expressed concern with the use of a community sanction for offences involving serious violence or serious property crime.

The provinces that contributed to the paper were concerned that conditional sentences were being used too often for cases of serious crime, such as serious violent crime, sexual assault and similar offences, impaired driving, dangerous driving and criminal negligence involving death and serious bodily harm.

The options put forward for reform in the paper included a prohibition of the use of conditional sentences for such offences or a rebuttable presumption that a conditional sentence not be used for those serious offences.

On January 25, 2005, federal, provincial and territorial ministers responsible for justice affirmed that conditional sentences were an appropriate sentencing tool in many cases, but they, too, expressed the need for timely reforms to identify appropriate limits to the use of such sentences, particularly for serious violent offences.

There is a new government now, one that is committed to protecting our families and our communities. One way we can do this is to ensure that conditional sentences are used the way they were originally intended to be used; that is for less serious offences committed without aggravating circumstances.

I agree that conditional sentences can be an appropriate sentencing tool in many cases, but for very serious offences, especially serious violent offences, I am confident that the more appropriate use of conditional sentence orders will strengthen public confidence in, and sanction of, the administration of justice.

By working together, all levels of government, members of law enforcement and of course people from our community, we can move toward a safer society for ourselves and our families.

I believe members will find that it is a myth, or political spin at best, to say that parties opposite are concerned about prevention and that our present government is only about tough justice. I do not think it is unfair to say that part of the reason we are in the position we are in today is due to the weakening of the justice system and a soft approach to crime that has done nothing but see it increase.

Our new government's approach will be visible and it will be practical. In keeping with the platform we were elected on, we will make the streets safer in St. Catharines and all of Canada, and that is one of our top priorities.

Business of Supply May 16th, 2006

Mr. Speaker, this is a motion put forward by one of the opposition parties so the question may be better asked of the folks who introduced this motion as to whom they may have or may not have consulted with in respect of the proposal that has been put forward today.

Business of Supply May 16th, 2006

Mr. Speaker, certainly when the Auditor General speaks, as she did again today, we all need to listen. It is interesting to note that this government is certainly going to act on the recommendations that were made by the Auditor General with respect to the gun registry.

Further to the member's point, I have enjoyed the time that I have served on the health committee. Our chair recently asked all of the health committee members what priorities they wanted to put forward to study on the health committee over the next number of weeks. Interestingly enough, pesticide use was not even put forward by the member for Surrey North who serves on the health committee for the NDP. The member never put forward that pesticides were an important issue that needed to be discussed at the health committee.

It was not important there, and I suggest that it may not be as important as the opposition motion seems to suggest.

Business of Supply May 16th, 2006

Mr. Speaker, I thank the member for Yellowhead for giving up some of his time for me and to compliment him on the excellent job he is doing as chair of the health committee.

I am pleased to have the opportunity to speak about the urban use of pesticides, sometimes referred to as the cosmetic use of pesticides. While I may not know a lot about cosmetics, I do have a few things to say about pesticides.

Pesticides are among the most rigorously tested and regulated substances in the world. In Canada, pesticides are regulated under the Pest Control Products Act. A pesticide itself must be approved or registered by Health Canada's Pest Management Regulatory Agency before it is allowed to be sold or used in Canada.

Before a new pesticide is registered, more than 200 scientific studies must be conducted to determine if it could or will cause any negative effects on plants, people, animals, birds or insects, as well as on soil and water. For a product to be registered, the health risks, the environmental risks and the value of the product must all have been tested and approved. Pesticides are also re-evaluated after they have been on the market for some time in order to determine whether they meet current health and environmental standards.

Children continue to be one of the significant concerns when it comes to pesticide use. Health Canada considers the special exposure of children in their assessments each and every time. Children's differences in diet, food consumption, development, metabolism and behaviour are all factored into the risk assessment. Health Canada is also responsible for the assessment of the environmental impact of pesticides and considers detailed information on the fate of pesticides in the environment. Let us be clear. The assessment of the acceptability of risk is based on the most sensitive species tested.

Health Canada also reviews efficacy in order to determine the lowest effective rate, as well as whether the product works for the intended use. These reviews are important to ensure that exposure to pesticides is minimal.

Health Canada carries out the extensive reviews that I have described for all pesticides, whether they are used in urban areas, on farms or even in forests.

I will now turn to a couple of other uses for pesticides but to do so it will require a short discourse on our constitutional powers.

The federal Parliament's authority in regulating pesticides rests primarily on criminal law. This power can be used where pest control products may pose a risk of serious harm, namely, health, safety or the environment. An outright ban on the cosmetic uses of pesticides would presuppose that they all cause unacceptable risks, and this is simply not the case. Once it is determined scientifically that a pesticide can be used safely, which means its use would not pose unacceptable risks to public health or the environment, the criminal law would not support a refusal to register the product.

Legislative authority regarding the regulation of pest management at the provincial and territorial levels is based on the authority to enact legislation with respect to property and civil rights in matters of local concern. A system of provincial-territorial legislation focuses on the sale, the transportation, the storage and the use of registered pesticides.

This is important because it takes into account provincial and territorial conditions and concerns.

Provinces and municipalities, in some cases, do have the authority to make decisions to further restrict or prohibit pesticide use to reflect the conditions in their own jurisdiction. Some municipalities have passed bylaws to restrict pesticide use on municipal and private lands in accordance with local situations and local needs. My own riding of St. Catharines has exercised that authority on a couple of occasions.

The federal government does not have the authority to intervene on the matter. The federal, provincial and territorial governments have, for many years, recognized that effective pesticide regulation depends on cooperation.

The federal, provincial and territorial committee on pest management and pesticides brings together all of those jurisdictions to exchange information and expertise in order to provide advice and direction to governments on programs, policies and issues relating to pesticides. Regulators at all levels work toward the common goal, which is to help protect Canadians from risks posed by pesticides and ensure that pest control products do what they claim to do.

The new federal Pest Control Products Act which was given royal assent in December 2002 did give further strength to the regulation of pesticides. In fact, the new act was carefully designed to not change the balance of federal, provincial and territorial powers in regard to pest management regulation.

Since 2001 the two levels of government have been addressing public concerns about lawn care pesticides by implementing an action plan on urban use pesticides. This plan is comprised of three key elements.

The first is federal, provincial and territorial cooperation in implementing a healthy lawn strategy which helps Canadians reduce their reliance on lawn pesticides. Second, Health Canada is encouraging pesticide manufacturers to develop reduced risk products and for Health Canada to continue to register reduced risk pesticides as quickly as possible. Third, Health Canada is re-evaluating the major pesticides used for lawn care against the stringent new standards that have been adopted both in Canada and in the United States.

I sure hope to have a healthy lawn this year. I have been trying for a long time and I think this is the year. The healthy lawn strategy consists of seven components.

First is the ability to assess which types of products should be available to homeowners. This has been completed.

Second is the narrowing of the existing domestic category for pesticides and establishing a new category for products that require more controlled domestic use.

Third is improving product labelling so that the use of lawn care pest control products is compatible with enhanced risk reduction practices. This is also underway.

Fourth is developing training materials and programs to educate homeowners on healthy lawn practices which minimize the need for pesticides. This material has also been developed and it has been distributed widely.

Fifth is developing training materials and programs for vendors of domestic products. This is an ongoing activity in conjunction with the provinces.

Sixth is enhancing the training of lawn care and landscape service providers and green space managers. This has also been completed.

Seventh is establishing a healthy lawns web site. This has also been completed.

I am pleased to report that at the end of fiscal year 2005-06 more than 70% of the reduced risk pesticides registered or pending registration in the United States were also registered right here in Canada.

I would like to report on the re-evaluation of older pesticides. On September 27, 2000 Health Canada announced the priority re-evaluation of the eight most commonly available pesticides. This re-evaluation uses modern scientific standards to determine whether any restrictions need to be made to the conditions of registration of these chemicals.

The re-evaluations are complete for four of the lawn pesticides. Lawn use for all four has been phased out. Re-evaluations and reviews for two of the remaining three herbicides, including 2,4-D, have been published and the third is in publication.

Some work remains to be completed, as I noted. Health Canada will continue the re-evaluation process on priority lawn care pesticides and will continue to encourage registrants to submit more reduced risk pesticides for registration. Other areas of activity are the improvement of pesticide labels, revision of information materials, and additional new material suggested by provincial and territorial partners that are right on the web site.

I am pleased to have had the opportunity to describe the actions that this government is taking with respect to pesticides used in the urban environment.

The Budget May 10th, 2006

Mr. Speaker, I listened with great interest to the two previous speakers, the member for Hamilton Centre and the member for London—Fanshawe. They both served in the Ontario legislature with the Bob Rae government, where we saw a social contract that gave 60,000 Ontario civil servants less money. When the NDP ran from office in 1995, that party left over 200 tax increases, $14 billion in debt, and worst of all, 1.5 million people on welfare.

When the member for Hamilton Centre said that his spine was cold, I would really like to have asked him how cold was his spine when he sat in cabinet and supported each and every one of those measures.

I ask the member for London—Fanshawe, how does she feel to go down that road in this country with what happened in the province of Ontario under that government? What kind of benefit would that be to the people of this country?

The Budget May 10th, 2006

Mr. Speaker, that is an excellent question.

The finance committee has been a great experience the last couple of days. We have had deputations from Revenue Canada. The question was put on the fact that the tax implication going from 16% to 15%, which the former government introduced only through a ways and means motion, was actually never introduced into legislation.

That piece of legislation has actually been added to this government's budget and will mean that if the members opposite vote against the budget, they will actually be voting against the very tax decrease they believed was so good for so many Canadians.

The Budget May 10th, 2006

Mr. Speaker, I certainly appreciate the question from the member for Winnipeg Centre. I would only say on the one point that I certainly agree that everyone should pay his or her fair share of taxes, whether they be corporate or individual.

I think what we are suggesting in the budget, and what we have suggested as a government, is that far too many of those same individuals are paying far too much tax and should not be paying more than their fair share. That is the point that I think the budget makes. Hopefully that is the point on which the member would concur with me: that it is time to offer tax relief and support the budget we have in front of us.

The Budget May 10th, 2006

Mr. Speaker, I certainly appreciate the question. I did mention the fact that there are over 30,000 students in the Niagara region, attending Brock University, Niagara College and post-secondary opportunities. I would be happy to restate the comments I made in my remarks, those being that in fact students will benefit. They are going to be able to, for the first time, if they are not actually earning any income, benefit from a tax cut that runs across all avenues, that cuts across everything, and that is the 1% decrease in the cost of the GST.

We are also going to provide a $500 tax credit to help about 1.9 million post-secondary students with their textbook costs. Some may say that is a small token. It is an appreciative token. We are also going to expand eligibility for student loans. There is also a tax credit. This budget will allow them to purchase monthly transit passes and get a tax credit for it. Finally, we will make all scholarship, fellowship and bursary income tax free, exempt from income tax.

The Budget May 10th, 2006

Mr. Speaker, I am certainly proud to have the opportunity to speak to the government's first budget. The 2006 budget is one that provides Canadians with hope; hope that our new government has departed from the ways of the past and is committed to doing what it said it would do; hope that their tax burden will continue to be reduced in a responsible way, one that reduces the debt, a true mortgage on our future; and hope that our new government will invest in the programs and services that are most important to Canadians, such as child care, health care, security, justice and responsible fiscal management.

I have to say that the people in my home community of St. Catharines also share some of this hope. For 13 long years the residents of my community have watched as budget after budget was brought forward, many of which served political interests in Ottawa but hardly any that served the interests of the people of St. Catharines. People in St. Catharines are hopeful that those days are gone. They see a budget that provides real results and that is good for their community.

I would like to take a closer look at some of the initiatives in the budget and share with the House some information of how the people of St. Catharines will benefit.

We all know that cutting the GST to 6% will provide each Canadian with a tax cut. Despite having promised to eliminate the tax 13 years ago, the Liberals will continue to defend the GST and say that it will not provide any real benefit to Canadians. I challenge the Liberals to say that to the people in my community who pay little or no income tax. What would their plan have provided these people, those who needed it the most? It would have provided them with nothing.

In St. Catharines, the average family of four that makes a household income of $60,000 could save as much as $400 a year from this tax cut. Working families could also save as much as $100 per year on gasoline purchases or save over $500 on the purchase of a St. Catharines built General Motors vehicle.

In my community there are approximately 30,000 students that call St. Catharines home. Niagara College and Brock University have residences full of student who virtually live on fixed incomes, that is not to mention the 23,000 seniors and the 28,700 people who earn less than $20,000 per year. These are the people who will benefit from the GST cut and I am proud to be able to deliver that tax relief on their behalf.

The self-proclaimed defenders of low income sitting across the way were so caught up in clinging to power for one day longer, they forgot to pass legislation to approve that tax relief. It never happened. I would like to take a moment to call upon members opposite to abandon the political rhetoric and do what they promised Canadians they would do more than a year ago, to join us this afternoon and vote for the legislation that will provide the tax relief they promised but never delivered. To vote against this budget is a vote against their own record and a vote against working families across this country.

If there is any doubt about what I am saying, I would refer the members to the finance committee report just two days ago where it was confirmed by government officials from Revenue Canada that this budget must pass for the previous government's tax cut to actually be put into legislation. If the Liberal members vote against this budget, they will be voting against the very tax cut they introduced, bragged about and campaigned on.

Let me speak to some further positive aspects in this budget. I mentioned seniors a moment ago. The 23,000 seniors in St. Catharines will see real benefits from this budget. We are proposing to double the current $1,000 maximum amount of eligible pension income that can be claimed under the pension income credit. The results will be more money in the pockets of St. Catharines seniors who have worked so hard for our country.

Our new government will also allow the parents of the 30,000 children under the age of 16 in St. Catharines to claim a children's fitness tax credit of up to $500 for eligible recreation and physical activities. This will help to keep our youth active and provide parents with the financial resources they need to keep their children enrolled in recreational programs, such as hockey, dance, soccer and gymnastics.

The hundreds of children at the Burtnik karate centre, where the leader of our party, the Prime Minister, visited during the election, are looking forward to it, along with their parents, who will be able to continue to keep their kids enrolled.

How could I mention children without mentioning the benefits that will be received by the parents of the 8,000 children under the age of six in St. Catharines through our new choice in child care allowance? The $1,200 choice in child care allowance will put almost $10 million into the hands of parents in St. Catharines to spend as they best determine to care for their children. Across the Niagara region, the parents of more than 24,000 children under the age of six will receive almost $30 million under this innovative plan, and that is just phase one.

The Prime Minister has also made it very clear that providing real choice for parents includes the creation of over 125,000 new child care spaces. Our new government will make the changes necessary to existing plans to reach that goal of 125,000 new spaces. That is phase two. It is a key component of our plan that cannot be overlooked.

In Niagara, for example, there are only enough spaces to service approximately 10% of the population. Our child care plan will provide support to all parents with children under the age of six, and we will create more spaces to provide real choice when parents are deciding how best to care for their children.

As we are a border community, safety and security are also a significant concern for the people of St. Catharines. Our new government will provide the investment and will hire and train more than 1,000 more RCMP officers in our country. These are important investments for the Niagara region. Under the watch of the previous government, it was slated to move several RCMP officers dedicated to policing, immigration, customs and drug offences. These new officers present an opportunity for St. Catharines and Niagara to work toward a more meaningful, 24 hour, seven day a week RCMP presence in the Niagara border region.

There are a few more highlights for St. Catharines. For those who pay $75 per month to use the St. Catharines transit system, a transit tax credit will result in $144 back in their pockets. That is almost enough to pay for two monthly passes.

There are 9,000 people in St. Catharines employed in trades. The tradespeople tool expense tax credit will help to cover the high cost of tools, boots and work accessories and will put up to $500 back in their pockets to help keep them working and help keep the economy working.

Thousands of small businesses in St. Catharines will also benefit from this budget. An increased small business tax threshold and lower tax rates will mean the owners of these businesses will have more money to reinvest and contribute to the local economy.

In closing, the 2006 budget is great news for the people of St. Catharines and for all Canadians. Unlike previous administrations, our new government has delivered a budget that keeps the promises we made during the election. We are going to do what we said we would do.

I am proud to be part of a government that is committed to keeping its promises and providing real benefits to working families in our community and across our country. I look forward to having the opportunity this afternoon to stand in my place and vote in favour of this budget: in favour of tax relief, in favour of meaningful investment, and in favour of the people of St. Catharines.