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Crucial Fact

  • His favourite word was correct.

Last in Parliament October 2015, as Conservative MP for Kitchener Centre (Ontario)

Lost his last election, in 2015, with 30% of the vote.

Statements in the House

Economic and Fiscal Statement December 3rd, 2008

Mr. Speaker, perhaps I can complete the statement by Mr. Warren Jestin, to which the member referred, because I also noted it.

The GST cut and reductions to corporate and business taxes taken last fall...will...have a greater effect on the economy than a short-term stimulus.

Unlike the U.S., which has tried ad hoc measures such as giving people cheques ... we were following a much more rigorous process.

In fact, the tax cuts that we have already implemented do not just give us relief in 2008. They will give us the same relief and more in 2009, the year after that and the year after that. The Conservative government has given Canadians the gift that just keeps on giving.

Economic and Fiscal Statement December 3rd, 2008

Mr. Speaker, I do not know what economic background or qualifications the people who write for the Toronto Star have, but I would like to quote Mr. Don Drummond, the TD Bank chief economist, speaking about the stimulus package that the coalition has proposed. He said, “That would be a disaster that would launch us into a structural deficit. Canada's economy is one of the few in the world in which the domestic side of the economy is still growing. No one can point to Canada and say you are the cause of this international problem. I have seen a lot more failures of short-term stimulus than successes. A lot of them just do not work”.

That is what people across the country are saying about the stimulus program that is being proposed by the coalition. I will take what Mr. Harper and our party have done any day over that.

Economic and Fiscal Statement December 3rd, 2008

Mr. Speaker, first, I do not for a moment begrudge the right of my hon. friend and the other members of his party to be elected and to come to this chamber with the view of promoting the breakup of our country. All citizens have the right to promote their views and that is what they have done.

However, I hope that my hon. friend does not begrudge me the right to stand up in this chamber and promote the view that Canada should remain strong and united. I hope he also does not begrudge me the right to stand up in this chamber and implore my friends in the Liberal Party, especially, who have such a great tradition of federalism to also stand up for a strong and united Canada and not to enter into a coalition with those who propose that Quebec should separate.

Economic and Fiscal Statement December 3rd, 2008

Mr. Speaker, I do not know whether the member remembers me from 20 years ago, but I remember him with fondness and appreciation. I am glad to have this opportunity to speak with him across the floor of the House, and I thank him for his kind comments to me.

As to the first part of his question about what this debate is really about, I do not think I can do any better than to once again quote from the Waterloo region Record. It states:

At this critical moment in its history, Canada needs a strong, stable government with inspiring leadership that does the right thing. Whatever the Conservatives' failings, it is hard to see the Liberal-NDP, Bloc-sanctioned coalition delivering these essentials.

We need the government's plan.

As to the issue of economic stimulus, in my speech I already referred to a number of matters that were in the statement, which I think—

Economic and Fiscal Statement December 3rd, 2008

Mr. Speaker, I am gratified that my remarks at least sound like a speech. That is what they were intended to do and I thank my friend for that.

The second point I want to make is that the statement is an evolution of a plan that our government began with an update a year ago. If there are no surprises, it is because we are already pursuing appropriate measures. If there are no flashy new proposals, it is because the plans we have already made in the last year are coming to fruition. If there are no panicky new responses, it is because we have laid out solid preparedness and panic is unnecessary.

Instead of criticizing the government for failing to introduce new measures for 2009, the members of this House should praise the government for having already put in motion stimulus measures for 2009. For example, as a result of the government's stimulus plan, Canadians and businesses will pay $31 billion less in taxes in the coming fiscal year alone. This is almost 2% of our gross domestic product. It is a larger percentage of GDP than anything that has been implemented by our neighbour to the south. Even president-elect Obama is only proposing a temporary 1.1% economic stimulus in 2009. In the U.S., Japan, Germany, France, the U.K., Italy and Australia, none of them have proposed anywhere near the 2% of GDP stimulus that our government has arranged.

Some of our tax reductions were planned to come into effect only in 2009 for staged stimulus. These include raising the amount every individual can earn without paying federal income tax from $9,600 in 2008 to $10,100 in 2009. Also, effective January 1, 2009, Canadians will be able to benefit from the tax-free savings account, a flexible, general purpose account that will encourage investment. Corporations will also benefit from a reduction in the general corporate income tax rate, which will fall from 19.5% to 19% on January 1, 2009 and will fall further to 15% by 2012.

As another example of fiscal stimulus already planned, available federal funding for infrastructure projects rose by 40% this year and will rise by another 40% next year, hitting a record of $6 billion in that year alone. This is double the amount spent in 2007-08.

These measures provide permanent, sustainable, structural fiscal stimulus, unlike the temporary stimulus measures taken by some other countries. Taken together, these tax reductions and infrastructure investments represent a substantial fiscal stimulus.

The government could have waited. It could have held off any increase in this past year and not planned ahead for any increase in the next year, and then the government could have announced in this fiscal and economic statement the whole doubling of infrastructure spending, some $10.5 billion in one year, but while that might have satisfied the thirst of some for sensationalist measures, it would have done no more for the economy than planning ahead has already done.

It is not a coincidence that the U.S. has just determined it has been in a recession for over a year, whereas Canada is only now reaching that point. Does anyone in this House believe that it is just good luck that our success has been noticed around the world? Ordinary Canadians know that it is because of the hard work our government has done.

I understand that some in the media do not like old news. It is natural that newspeople want to report new initiatives, but do some members of this House really believe their own rhetoric? Can they really close their eyes and wish away the 2008 and 2009 stimulus measures the government has already put in place?

It is as if critics are saying, “We know that you've planned ahead. We know that you've had the foresight to arrange in advance all this stimulus. We know that, as a result, our economy has already been buoyed by that and will continue to benefit next year, but we don't care”. It is as if critics are saying, “Because you didn't wait until now, we are going to ignore the fact that you've already dealt with the problem”.

It is a bit like someone giving his or her spouse a birthday present a month before the birthday because the person knows how much the spouse needs that present, only to be criticized for not having a second present ready when the birthday arrives. How unfair is that?

As it is, with the stimulus plan in place since last year, the Prime Minister has been able to meet with other first ministers already and work with them to identify by next month, just a few short weeks from now, specific infrastructure projects. He has secured their commitment to tackle barriers to these specific projects. This is really amazing planning and foresight. This is careful, considered planning and foresight that was set out in the throne speech already approved by the House. This is planning and foresight that Canada needs most in uncertain economic times.

Consider the alternatives. If this economic and fiscal statement does not pass, what will happen to our government's carefully laid plans? Will these plans simply be abandoned by whatever government emerges? Will the implementation of these measures at the very least be delayed while a new government scrambles to forage a new consensus? Or will the country be plunged into yet another election mere weeks after the government's carefully laid plans received the support of the largest number of Canadians of any party in the last election?

Every one of these alternatives would inflict further damage upon our economy. The fact that we are even forced to ask these questions means that the members of this House have foisted a higher level of uncertainty and anxiety upon our nation. This is an entirely unnecessary and damaging thing to do to the economy and to our fellow Canadians.

Also, if this statement is defeated, the many needed fiscal measures it proposes will be lost or at least delayed. RRIF withdrawal relief for seniors will be lost or delayed. The $1.5 billion increased credit capacity for Canada's export sector, most notably in auto-related and other manufacturing, will be lost or delayed. An increased borrowing limit to protect insured depositors will be lost or delayed.

The $1.5 billion of increased credit and loan guarantees for small and medium-sized companies will be lost or delayed. Eliminating tariffs on imported machinery and equipment to encourage capital investment and increased efficiency will be lost or delayed. I could go on. These measures and others in the statement are all measures the House should neither abandon nor delay.

What will happen if we do take note of this economic and fiscal statement? Will the sky fall in? Of course not. First, all of its beneficial measures will proceed immediately. Second, the work of detailed budget planning will be allowed to proceed unhindered. First ministers will identify priority infrastructure projects by next month. Finance ministers from across the country will be consulted in a week or two. The usual prebudget consultations with stakeholders will occur.

Third, several important new pieces will fall into place to complete the picture. Economic variables have been changing with lightning speed. Remember that long ago era when gasoline prices were hitting $1.35 per litre? That was just six short weeks ago. Within a week or two we will receive the detailed funding plan that the government has prudently insisted upon from the automotive sector, which affects 10% of our economy. Within a few short weeks the Americans will decide both their economic plan for auto sector and their broader stimulus package.

Because so much of our economic ills are made in the U.S.A., our largest trading partner, its medicine will have a beneficial effect on our economy too. Is it not simple prudence to have this information before finalizing our budget?

Finally, there is some merit to keeping some of our powder dry. If this economic downturn is prolonged, we will be ill-served by using all of our fiscal ammunition now at the outset.

We must also remember that if the waters we are in really are uncharted, they may turn out to be less dangerous than everyone fears. Let us act accordingly.

I am glad the government has withdrawn parts of the statement that the opposition found wanting. This demonstrates a willingness to work together with the opposition, and I sincerely hope this will encourage a mutual effort.

In passing, however, I want to take strong issue with those who describe this flexibility as a sign of weakness or a sign of lack of credibility. In fact, the ability to change course is a sign of strength. My admiration for our Prime Minister has only deepened from this and has never been greater.

If we are to mature in our deliberations, we have to learn to consider the ability to compromise, as our Prime Minister is doing, to be a virtue. It is not too late for my Liberal friends across the aisle to embrace their own strength and to draw back to a compromise also.

I am glad our government has shown flexibility in withdrawing its proposal to eliminate the subsidy to political parties. This demonstrates a willingness to work together with the opposition, and I hope this will encourage a mutual effort.

In passing, however, I want to take strong issue with those who describe eliminating the subsidy as undemocratic. In fact, the subsidy itself is an attack on democracy.

Democracy should be a level playing field where all citizens have equal opportunity to make themselves heard politically. State-funded parties are more associated with totalitarian dictatorships than with democracies.

A subsidy to any party discriminates against those citizens struggling to compete without a similar subsidy and it is therefore elitist and undemocratic. Replacing corporate and union subsidies with government subsidies simply replaces one anti-democratic elitism with another.

I hope the day will come when all Canadian political parties will rise or fall based solely upon their support among citizens and not upon unequal government subsidies.

Democracy also works best when elected parties deliver, as nearly as possible, the leader and the policies they promised to voters. A vote for a party or a candidate is the voter's consent to that party or candidate's policies and leaders. Violating that consent in any significant way is a violation of democracy.

No Liberal supporter voted for a government that would include a coalition with separatists. No NDP supporter voted for a government that would sign an agreement with a separatist coalition. I do not think a single voter in my riding of Kitchener Centre voted for any government that could be held hostage by a veto of a party that insists Canada does not work and that has no interest in making Canada work.

I have had many friends who once supported the Liberal Party. I can only imagine how they feel about a once strong federalist party being reduced to begging the permission of the separatists to govern. We all know the agenda of the separatists has nothing to do with the economic survival of Canada. The separatists will not even enter this chamber until after we finish singing O Canada.

Many Liberal voters would never have given their consent to this. No party in Canada today obtained the consent of any Canadian to abdicate to the leader of another party. No party in Canada today obtained the consent of any Canadian to govern in a coalition. This would be a government for which no one voted. It would be a government that simply usurped power.

No circumstances in Canada today are so extreme as to justify such a violation of voters' consent. This is a bad time to experiment precipitously with new and uncertain measures.

These are not just my views. Canadians all across our great land are appalled by what the Liberals and the NDP have done in the House. To quote my citizens own Waterloo region Record:

The entire coalition will be propped up by the Bloc Quebecois, a party dedicated to destroying Canada. For the proposed 2 1/2-year life of this experiment, this would-be nation killer gets a veto over every single act of government. Ordinary Canadians helplessly watching all this can have no faith that the Bloc will give a damn about them or Canada's well-being.

These are not my words. These are the words of the people in my riding of Kitchener Centre. A deal signed with the separatists can only be bad for Canada. To quote again:

As sincere as the NDP's beliefs may be, their reflexive vilification of business as well as their ingrained penchant for heavy government spending could be disastrous in a recession.

These are not my words. These are not the words of a Conservative leaning newspaper, believe me. These are the views of people in my riding of Kitchener Centre.

The Liberals themselves said during the election that we could not have a coalition with a party, the NDP, whose platform is bad for the economy.

Another quote is:

In its hour of need, Canada is being asked to make do with a guy whose expiry date is set for May. This will hardly bolster the trust of Canadians—or investors both foreign and domestic looking for a safe place to park their cash.

These are not my words. These are the convictions of people in my riding of Kitchener Centre. If the opposition wants to do this, it should have the integrity to take the deal to the voters. However, the better course for ordinary Canadians and the better course for Canada is to let our government govern with the strengthened mandate it gained in the last election.

In a letter to the editor, one of my constituents, Sherri Helmka, put it very succinctly when she said the following, “My message is to all politicians in this country: Put your differences aside and deal with the future uncertainty facing all candidates. In other words, do your job!”.

We can do that by taking note of the fiscal and economic statement as an outline of direction and by waiting a short seven weeks or so from the conclusion of this debate for the government to propose its detailed budget.

Despite the events of this past week, I again invite each member opposite to walk this path through the forest of economic peril with common focus on the needs of ordinary Canadians. It is not too late.

Economic and Fiscal Statement December 3rd, 2008

Mr. Speaker, I rise to implore the House to support the motion taking note of the economic and fiscal statement. In doing so, I acknowledge that the statement does not identify the details of every stimulus expenditure planned, it does not identify every specific stimulus infrastructure project, and it does not identify the limits of new unplanned stimulus spending.

I ask the members of the House to recognize that none of that should be expected in an economic and fiscal statement for two reason. The first is obvious. An economic and fiscal statement is not a budget.

Many of the details that I have heard some members request will be available in the budget to be presented probably on January 27, a short seven weeks after we complete this debate. In this respect the statement is similar to the Speech from the Throne.

I listened as members opposite criticized the throne speech for lacking details. Then the House approved it anyway, recognizing that it was intended to provide direction with details to follow in legislation.

In the same way, we should take note of the economic and fiscal statement, recognizing that it provides the direction we need with details to follow in the budget.

Resumption of Debate on Address in Reply November 27th, 2008

Madam Speaker, my friend's presence in this chamber is simply more evidence of the number of great people who have come out of Kitchener. I am glad to hear that we share those common roots.

I, myself, was born and raised in Kitchener. I know its hills, valleys, streets and byways like the back of my hand. I have many friends and acquaintances who I have worked with over the years in Kitchener. I am in good touch with the kinds of needs and desires that they have.

I also want to add to what my friend has said about my predecessor, Ms. Redman. Many years ago, in another life, I had close contact with the organization that she represented. I have always had a good relationship with her and agree that she carried off her duties with class and dedication.

As to the issue of the unemployed and drug coverage, the government's first approach is to ensure that as few people as possible are unemployed. The kind of stimulus measures that are referred to in the Speech from the Throne are designed to do that. My expectation is that they will be largely successful.

Resumption of Debate on Address in Reply November 27th, 2008

Madam Speaker, timing is very important with these infrastructure projects, which is why I am so pleased that the Speech from the Throne expresses a commitment to accelerate these projects.

The strength of our land is that we work in partnership with the provinces, not unilaterally. In my own riding of Kitchener Centre, for example, the Kitchener-Waterloo region transit corridor was designated as a top priority last August by the Province of Ontario and the Government of Canada. My expectation is that I will be working hard to ensure that those funds flow on a timely basis in order to advance that project.

I have already been in touch with the mayor of Kitchener and the chair of the Waterloo region to find out what they believe to be their top infrastructure projects. I regard it as my job as a member to ensure that those get funded.

Resumption of Debate on Address in Reply November 27th, 2008

Madam Speaker, at the outset I want to add my voice to say how shocked and saddened I was to hear about the events in India yesterday. It was a terrible tragedy.

I appreciate the opportunity to speak in reply to the Speech from the Throne and I wish to thank the people of Kitchener Centre for giving me the opportunity to speak on their behalf. I am deeply grateful to my campaign team for their dedicated assistance.

We live in interesting times, as the Chinese proverb would observe. To further borrow from that tradition I suggest that we may define our present circumstances with the character for “crisis” that expresses in a single word not only “danger” but also “opportunity”. This Parliament has before it both danger and opportunity, and we have heard a throne speech that recognizes both the dangers and the opportunities.

The Speech from the Throne clearly addresses the economic challenges that define the work of this Parliament. As we speak, with the most recent reports available, Canada continues to enjoy the only budget surplus among the G-7 nations. Our average hourly wage rate has continued to increase by 4.3% in the last year. Our unemployment rate remains near historic lows. For the first time since 1981, we have less unemployment than the United States. In 2008, we have had a net gain of 107,000 new jobs to date. This contrasts with 1.2 million jobs lost by our neighbours to the south in 2008 to date. The fiscal prudence of our government in the last Parliament, undoubtedly, contributed to these advantages.

During the election campaign and again in the House I have heard the opposition parties refer to our government spending as “squandering the surplus that was left to us”. I must say that I do not consider paying down $37 billion of national debt in just two years, reducing almost $200 billion in taxation and investing in infrastructure as squandering anything. These were proactive measures to ensure the health of our economy.

To suggest that the government was wrong to reduce the surplus in this way, is to suggest that we should reverse those actions by raising taxes once again. To suggest the government was wrong to do these things, is to suggest that we should cancel those infrastructure investments. Yet, those are the very actions that have made our economic success known around the world. It is unwise to now suggest that lowering taxes and investing in infrastructure were wrong or should be reversed. Quite the opposite is true.

Those measures provided ongoing economic stimulus. The GST cuts, for example, did not just put more money in consumers' pockets last year, they continue to increase consumer spending power this year and will continue next year and the year after that.

The benefit of these tax reductions and infrastructure investments could not be greater if the government had waited until now to implement them, as have some of our neighbours. Quite the opposite is true. Because we were ahead of the curve, we are already enjoying the benefits and have delayed the onset of a recession far longer than have our neighbours.

However, the dangers remain: loss of stock market value; declining U.S. consumer confidence; reduced demand for our products, especially automotive, from our largest trading partner; and dropping commodity prices. We are all painfully aware of the dangers we face.

We cannot escape the economic downturn. The economic problems afflicting our largest trading partner will inevitably affect us. We are a trading nation. The health of the global economy impacts the health of the Canadian economy.

The government has already demonstrated its keen awareness of the necessity for international co-operation. Our Prime Minister has already met with world leaders and worked with them on general principles which will be implemented by our government with the support of the House. My personal hope is that two approaches will become priorities. I am certain that I speak for the people of Kitchener Centre in expressing these priorities. These in fact are opportunities. The first is an acceleration of investment in infrastructure. The second is ensuring support for those whose livelihood is lost or whose essential savings are lost by the economic downturn. These two priorities are emblematic of the Kitchener traditions of industrious community development and socially innovative concern for our neighbours.

As to infrastructure, the government has already wisely budgeted for $33 billion in infrastructure investment over the next several years. It is now important to provide much of that economic stimulus over the next 12 to 24 months. I am confident that our government will take those measures to the fullest extent possible. This is an opportunity to address real and present infrastructure needs.

It is equally important to ensure that no Canadian is left behind. In Canada, we do not abandon the less fortunate. Clearly, the economic downturn will make itself felt in the employment insurance fund and in provincial social assistance programs. I confidently expect our government’s new budget will address these very important needs.

The throne speech expresses a commitment to ensure delivery of the generous transfer payments already planned for health care and social programs. It promises to ensure that programs for workers facing transition are available for those who need them most. The throne speech also affirms our resolve to extend the homelessness partnership strategy and help more Canadians find affordable housing. These are opportunities to improve our support networks.

How will our government achieve these fundamental goals? How will we as a House in another minority position come together? How can the government reconcile sometimes conflicting needs across 10 provinces and 3 territories? We have a unique opportunity to accomplish this great work in this 40th Parliament.

We have two things going for us. First, we have heard a near universal call for a renewed sense of decorum in this chamber. This reflects a thirst by members of this House and by Canadians across our great land for a sense of common focus. The challenges before us are so great that they compel us to put aside partisan sharpness and find common purpose. This is an important opportunity to improve our public discourse.

Second, we have a Prime Minister who has the confidence to risk an open-minded search for solutions. Confidence leads to open-mindedness. It takes confidence to be transparent. It takes confidence to trust one another. In the last Parliament, our Prime Minister demonstrated his own quiet confidence on a number of occasions. These occasions included an open-minded commitment to secure Parliament’s approval on the Afghanistan issue before acting.

Another good example was the thoughtful and unifying resolution on the nationhood of les Québécois. Another was the heartfelt apology to our residential school survivors. These moments inspired the people of my riding of Kitchener Centre and, I dare say, they inspired Canadians across our great land. Everyone who was here for them can be proud of their work.

Those accomplishments required strength and confidence. Those efforts produced the truly shining moments of the 39th Parliament. Those efforts demonstrated how open-mindedness, transparency and mutual trust, possible only through confidence in our own strengths, can achieve common focus.

The Speech from the Throne lays out a path through a dark forest of economic perils. I call on all of our hon. members to seize the opportunity to confidently put on the cloak of open-mindedness, transparency and mutual trust. Let us travel that path together with common focus on the needs and well-being of all Canadians.

Restorative Justice November 21st, 2008

Mr. Speaker, I rise today to express my thanks to the people of Kitchener Centre for giving me the honour of representing them in Canada's Parliament. I intend to work hard to justify the trust they have placed in me. In coming to Ottawa, I carry the people of Kitchener in my heart.

I also want to express my love and gratitude to my wife, Sharon, and our children for their support of all my efforts.

This week Kitchener is hosting the restorative justice conference and celebrating the birth in Kitchener of the Victim-Offender Reconciliation Program now adopted across Canada.

I am pleased to have this opportunity to congratulate Mark Yantzi, retired judge Gordon McConnell, and the other pioneers of restorative justice on receiving the Ron Wiebe award this week. Their efforts are an example of original social innovation at its finest and part of what makes me so very proud of my community.