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Crucial Fact

  • His favourite word was report.

Last in Parliament March 2011, as Liberal MP for Charlottetown (P.E.I.)

Won his last election, in 2008, with 50% of the vote.

Statements in the House

Supply February 24th, 2003

Mr. Speaker, I did not detect a question from the member. He said I was talking drivel, but that is all I have been hearing for a month in this place on the issue of gun control.

Between the Canadian Alliance and the Progressive Conservative Party all they want to talk about every day is gun control. They do not want anything to do with gun control. Their premise is that every man, woman and child in Canada has a God given right to own a gun, store a gun and use a gun in any way they see fit. That is drivel and the learned member should be ashamed of himself.

Canadians want a common sense approach to this situation. They want gun control and they want it delivered in a cost effective manner. They are fed up with the drivel coming from the Progressive Conservative Party and from the Canadian Alliance.

We want it delivered in a more cost effective and transparent manner. The Auditor General reported that in chapter 10 and made some excellent recommendations. Those recommendations would be before the public accounts committee this afternoon, of which I am a member. We will deal with the auditor's report. We will hear witnesses, including the president and the past administrator of the gun control program. The committee will write recommendations, and those recommendations will be filed in the House and acted upon. At the end of the day, we will have a better, more cost effective gun control system for all Canadians and that is a good plan.

Supply February 24th, 2003

If I can drive a car, I have to get licensed and I have to get trained. If I want to buy an airplane, I have to get licensed and I have to get trained. If I buy a boat, I have to get licensed, trained and registered. Certainly what the Canadian people are telling me and telling everyone is that if I go out to Canadian Tire later this morning and buy a gun, I first have to get trained in the use of that gun. Second, the authorities in Canada want to know that I am a capable person to own the gun: first, mentally capable; then physically capable, of a certain age; and, most important, trained in the use of firearms.

They want to know that I have a gun. If there is a domestic dispute in a household and the police come in at two or three in the morning, they want to find out, not the day following and not the week following but that minute, whether or not there are any licensed firearms in that particular house. That is what Canadians want.

For example, an Environics poll released last week shows that 74% of Canadians support the elements of our government's gun control program. Among gun owners themselves, support is split: 45% support the policies and 55% are opposed. Interestingly, 77% support is found among respondents from homes where somebody else owns firearms.

I am aware of the problems that the administration of this program has undergone since it was enacted. I am aware that certain fundamentals, the costing that was carried forward in the system, were no longer realistic. I am aware that certain ministers should have come back to the House with updates on the costing. This matter is coming before the public accounts committee at 3:30 this afternoon. I am a member of that committee. That committee will certainly deal with this issue. It will deal with it in depth, and recommendations will be made and tabled in the House.

Going back to polls, hon. members here today also may remember that not too long ago a national poll found that supporters of every political party represented in the House supported the Firearms Act.

Briefly I want to turn to the government's initiatives to reduce costs, which is important, to increase transparency and to improve client service, which are contained within Bill C-10A. I must stress that the principles included in Bill C-10A are as important today as they will be when the program moves to the Department of the Solicitor General. Last Friday's announcement does not in any way make Bill C-10A unnecessary.

There are a number of initiatives that, if passed, will help the government respond to concerns expressed by our Auditor General and also by Canadians in general. One of these measures is a proposal to stagger firearms licence renewals, which is intended to help avoid a surge of applications in five year cycles. To even out the workload in such a manner would result in more efficient processing, better client service and, I also submit, very significant cost savings.

Streamlining the transfer process for non-restricted firearms allows provincial firearms officers to focus their efforts and, I should add, their resources on other public safety functions. It facilitates client service without compromising public safety. Moreover, consolidating administrative authority for all operations under a Canadian firearms commissioner would ensure more direct accountability to the minister, who in turn is responsible to the House. This would enhance both financial and political accountability. As well, the Canadian firearms program would present an annual report that would give a more full picture of the program and complement existing government reports to Parliament.

I believe strongly that Canadians want common sense gun control legislation delivered in a cost effective manner and with full accountability and transparency to Parliament. They also want a commitment from us that we will administer this program from this point on in the most effective manner possible.

Before I close I want to remind the House that this is not just a Canadian issue. Wayne LaPierre, chief executive of the National Rifle Association of America, recently told The Wall Street Journal that the National Rifle Association is watching Canada very carefully. It wants us to be an example. The NRA wants Canada to fail and the NRA wants to tell the world that we have failed.

Canada is an example. We are showing the world that the path of the NRA and their brothers in Canada's gun lobby is not the way.

Canadians overwhelmingly support the principles of our program and have for years. We have challenges to overcome, but with the support of all Canadians I am confident that we can overcome these challenges and ensure that Canada has an effective, common sense gun control policy.

Supply February 24th, 2003

Mr. Speaker, it is a pleasure to rise today and speak on this very important issue.

Chapter 10 of the 2002 Auditor General's report dealt with the Canadian firearms program. We have heard a lot in recent weeks about the administrative problems that the Canadian firearms program has had in the past. It is not my intent to, nor will I, downplay these problems, but I do think it is time to hear something about the changes the government has proposed to improve the Canadian firearms program.

I want to thank the hon. member for South Shore for the opportunity to remind Canadians about the gun action control plan that the Minister of Justice announced last week. This plan will deliver a gun control program that provides significant public safety benefits while setting the program on the path to lower costs. The plan will streamline management, improve services to legitimate users of firearms, seek parliamentary, public and stakeholder input, and strengthen accountability and transparency to Parliament and, through Parliament, to all Canadians.

A key element of the action plan is the passage of Bill C-10A and the adoption of consequential regulations by the end of this year. During the debate on what was then Bill C-15B, the hon. member for Yorkton--Melville told the House, “...the amendments given here may in some small way improve the original errors in Bill C-68”. I share that view and I associate myself with those remarks.

Unlike certain members of the opposition, however, I believe Parliament exists to, and has a duty to, make an engaged and constructive difference. Despite the overheated rhetoric of the gun lobby, Canadians, I am convinced, are committed to the principles of Canada's Firearms Act. Opposition to the Canadian firearms program is neither as broad nor as unanimous as opponents would make us believe. Canadians want meaningful, effective gun control delivered to them in an efficient, cost effective manner. Poll after poll demonstrates this deep commitment.

If we have listened to a lot of the rhetoric that has gone on in the House, in the newspapers and on radios and TV in the last month, we would think that Canadians do not want anything about gun control. I disassociate myself with those remarks. People in Canada do not want a situation where any person can go out and buy a gun, store that gun and use it in whatever way they want.

I am a poster boy for gun control. I have never owned a gun. I have never fired a gun. I have never stored a gun. I would not know how to shoot a gun. I should not be allowed to go out to Canadian Tire later this morning, buy a gun and store it under my living room couch. That is not what the Canadian people want.

Agriculture February 20th, 2003

Mr. Speaker, Canada's agricultural sector is a robust industry that contributes to the economy and quality of life of all Canadians. As the third largest employer, agriculture and agri-food accounts for 8.3% of Canada's gross domestic product. While farming is one of our oldest industries, it has also become one of the most innovative industries in the country.

Budget 2003 builds upon the $5.2 billion agricultural policy framework with the following initiatives. There is $220 million for the crop reinsurance fund; $100 million for food safety; $113 million for Canada's four veterinary colleges, one of which is located in my riding of Hillsborough; $20 million for venture capital and innovation through the Farm Credit Corporation; and $30 million for the Canadian Grain Commission.

Canada's farmers are a high priority for the Liberal government. Budget 2003 maintains and acts upon this commitment.

Lebanese New Year's Levee January 29th, 2003

Mr. Speaker, I rise today to congratulate all organizers of the annual Lebanese New Year's Levee, which was organized by the Charlottetown Lebanese community and held at the Delta Prince Edward on Saturday, January 11.

The evening's festivities included Lebanese cuisine, Lebanese music, Lebanese dancing and an excellent address on Lebanese culture presented by Dr. Abdallah Obeid, the Director of Arabic Studies at the University of Ottawa.

The event was attended by approximately 500 people, including the Lieutenant Governor of Prince Edward Island, the Premier of Prince Edward Island, and the Mayor of the City of Charlottetown.

The Lebanese have had a long and rich history in the greater Charlottetown area, going back in excess of 100 years. The original immigrants from Lebanon, and their descendants, have contributed much to the culture of the community of Charlottetown and the economy of Prince Edward Island.

On behalf of the House I wish to salute this community and the organizers of this event.

Prebudget Consultations December 10th, 2002

Mr. Speaker, the hon. member gave what I consider to be a very pessimistic speech. He talked about productivity issues, economic mismanagement and the failure to get the fiscal house in order. I am totally perplexed because the statistics in no way bear this out.

The hon. member knows the statistics. He knows that the GDP growth this year is 3.4%. He knows that the projected growth for next year is 3.4%. The hon. member knows that approximately 800,000 jobs have been created since January 1, 2002. He knows that interest rates are at an all-time low. He knows that $47 billion was paid on the debt over the last five years. He knows that we have had five consecutive surplus budgets. He knows that the debt to GDP ratio has decreased from 71% to 49%. He knows about the tax decreases.

If some of the comments of the learned member are correct, why is it the statistics would lead one to a totally opposite conclusion?

Prebudget Consultations December 10th, 2002

Mr. Speaker, the hon. member talked about taxes. We served on the same committee that went across Canada so I want to question him on this issue.

I agree with him on the issue of capital taxes. That is an issue that the finance committee stated in its report as regressive and counterproductive for the productivity of our economy. We strongly recommended that the government eliminate or start the process of eliminating capital taxes.

However, our corporate taxes, after one year's time, would be competitive with all the northern states. There would be $100 billion in tax cuts that would go through the system. The committee heard from 149 groups and individuals. I put the question to a lot of them about taxes and tax cuts and I do not recall any one saying they wanted more tax cuts over and above the $100 billion. They were pleased with the progress that was made.

Does the hon. member recall any individuals who recommended more tax cuts above and beyond the $100 billion?

Prebudget Consultations December 10th, 2002

Mr. Speaker, the whole issue of tax cuts was canvassed extensively when I toured the country with the Standing Committee on Finance. The question was put to many of the people; the groups, individuals and organizations that made presentations to the committee.

Yes, people are concerned about their taxes but, as the learned hon. member is aware, a year and a half ago the previous finance minister announced in the House tax cuts totalling $100 billion. That was the largest tax cut in the country.

When we talked about tax cuts I asked the individuals, groups and organizations if they were satisfied with the tax cuts that were made or if they wanted more on top of that. Invariably, almost to a person, they said that they were satisfied and pleased with the tax cuts announced by the previous finance minister.

Prebudget Consultations December 10th, 2002

Mr. Speaker, obviously the questioner is not aware at all of the most recent information regarding children living in low income families. I do not for a minute want to downplay this issue. It is a very important issue. Any number of children living in poverty is too many, but the numbers have gone down by what I consider to be a very significant decrease, from approximately 19% to 15%.

I travelled all across the country with the Standing Committee on Finance and I cannot believe how out of touch that member's party is with the people of Canada. It wants to privatize health care. It does not want to have anything to do with Kyoto. It does not even acknowledge that there is a problem. It wants tax cuts.

I spoke to people in Vancouver, Calgary, Saskatoon and Winnipeg and that is not what they are telling us. I cannot understand how that party became so out of touch with the people of Canada.

Prebudget Consultations December 10th, 2002

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to rise and speak on this issue. I had the privilege and pleasure to sit on the House of Commons Standing Committee on Finance. We underwent an extremely extensive consultation process. I believe we met with 429 different groups and organizations over the past number of months and we filed our report a week and a half ago. We listened to what the Canadian people were telling us, and that is contained in the report.

I consider the budget, which we all expect to be tabled in February, to be what I would classify as a threshold budget. It is a budget that I submit will set the stage for Canada and the government for the next 4, 5, 7 and 9 years out. It is up to us to lay out the path that we intend to travel.

However just as it is important to tell people where we will go, it is equally important to look back and see from where we came. I hate to go over this again, because the House has heard it so many times, but I will because we should never forget this. We rode our horses so close to the cliff in 1993 that I believe we came very close to going over that cliff.

The statistics are well known to every person in the House. The annual debt was $43 debt, interest rates were approximately 11%, unemployment was approximately 11% and the debt to GDP ratio was 71%. The last threshold budget was in 1995. Decisions were made, decisions that were very difficult and very necessary. The right policies were adopted, the right programs were put in place and we know the results.

Forty-seven billion dollars has been paid toward the debt in this country. We have had five consecutive years of surplus. Inflation is within the band of 1% to 3%. Interest rates are extremely low. Since January 1 of this year, we created almost 800,000 jobs, which is a tremendous record. GDP growth this year has been 3.4% and it leads the G-7. Projected GDP growth next year is expected to be 3.4%. These are tremendous results. The finance minister has implemented approximately $100 billion in tax cuts.

The correct monetary and fiscal policies, the stabilizers, are all there: low inflation, low interest rates and tax cuts and they are working. However at the same time there are pressures. People in my riding and right across the country have told us that there are issues that they want to see the government address, mainly in social spending.

These issues were with us last year but unfortunately we had the events of September 11. I suggest those issues were put off. Last year we had what I call a security budget. Some of the security and border issues were addressed by this country, but those pressures that were very much with us 15 months ago did not go away. They were merely deferred and they are very much with us at this point in time.

We have to make priorities when the Minister of Finance tables the budget in February of next year. I suggest and submit that the number one issue in the minds of all Canadians is health care. We have had the benefit of the Romanow report that was filed very recently and it is my suggestion to the Minister of Finance that the general guidelines of that report be followed.

Equally and just as important, any additional funding has to be conditional upon accountability and change. The public has told us that. If the accountability is not there and if the required changes are not agreed upon, then the public does not want any part of it.

The second issue is Kyoto and a lot of the environmental issues that face the country. The government in the next budget has to make a statement. It has to proceed boldly, with conviction and courage. It must make a clear statement that it has to seize the momentum and further resources have to be expended on this issue.

Another issue that the government ought to have a look at is post-secondary education. It is a major issue. I do not view it as a cost as much as I do as an investment in the economic growth, economic security and social security of tomorrow.

There are many other issues which have to be looked at. Again, these are the priorities. On child poverty, I agree with the announcement made by our Prime Minister in the Speech from the Throne to increase the national child benefit. Also an increase in defence spending should be seriously looked at.

One other issue that may not be as much a monetary issue as a policy issue is the airport traffic security fee. That has to be very seriously restructured. It is having a detrimental effect on short haul rates and small regional airports. I have made that point a number of times previously.

There will be some funding issues. The Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Finance had it correct. It is a matter of making choices and setting priorities, but these are the issues which I think the Minister of Finance should look at as he prepares the budget for the 2003-04 fiscal year.

In closing, I look forward to the tabling of the budget and to being further involved in the consultative process in the days and weeks to come.