House of Commons photo


Crucial Fact

  • His favourite word was veterans.

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

Lost his last election, in 2019, with 35% of the vote.

Statements in the House

Ongoing Situation in Ukraine April 29th, 2015

Mr. Chair, I would like to thank my hon. friend for all of his work on Ukraine, for the multiple election missions we put on, for the multiple times he has personally delivered non-lethal military aid to Ukraine. I thank him for all of that on behalf of Canada and on behalf of the Ukrainian people.

An army needs to constantly train. Canada has learned that, even throughout the years of Afghanistan. Every time we sent a new mission to Afghanistan, there was an 18-month cycle of training, deployment and returning. Sometimes they went as long as two years.

The fundamentals of any army have to be reinforced no matter how good it is. It is like an athlete, it needs to continue to train and reinforce those fundamentals. It becomes muscle memory. It becomes instinct. That is what the Ukrainian forces need from us. We have that expertise. We have expertise from the many years in Afghanistan and other missions, Bosnia and what we are learning across the globe right now as Canada works very hard to achieve peace and stability in other places.

The Ukrainian forces need that reinforcement. I know their people are battle-hardened, however, they need to understand the fundamentals of training, they need to be able to train themselves eventually. As a former trainer on many courses myself, it is important that all of this is reinforced and that we provide the fundamentals to the Ukrainian armed forces so that they can carry on forward themselves in future years, keeping their army strong and well-trained.

Ongoing Situation in Ukraine April 29th, 2015

Mr. Chair, I thank the hon. member for his many long years of service as a fighter pilot in the Royal Canadian Air Force. I thank him very much for that.

I have seen this movie before. My parents, in fact, have seen this movie before. My father could tell us about this movie from the inside of a gulag. This is something that is recurring in history. Vladimir Putin is also a historian. He studies Stalin, he understands Stalin, and he is refining his methods. He is drifting very quickly back to Russia's totalitarian communist past. This should be disturbing to us all.

This is somebody who is pressing our borders again, since the Cold War, be it the overflights over our Arctic, the overflights over Baltic space, the overflights over NATO members. It is a violation and something that is provocative and threatening global peace and security where it never had to be or should have been.

Vladimir Putin has personal ambitions to recreate an empire of his own and we are not going to allow him to do that. Canada and its allies are going to stand firm in the face of Mr. Putin and all of us are going to enjoy the freedom, democracy, human rights and rule of law that all of our nations have earned over 70-plus years of having to deal with the communist system.

Ongoing Situation in Ukraine April 29th, 2015

Mr. Chair, as the member knows, the SWIFT system is a private entity based in Belgium. We talk to all of our allies, whether it is financial, NATO or in other fields, and we continually have that dialogue. We also have to move in concert with the rest of our allies as well as taking into account the SWIFT system's independent nature.

Ongoing Situation in Ukraine April 29th, 2015

Mr. Chair, I am honoured to take part in this very important debate in support of Ukraine tonight.

I would like to begin by praising the Ukrainian Canadian diaspora for their support and commitment to Ukraine. That is all 1.2 million Canadians of Ukrainian heritage and the organizations that organize this community like the Ukrainian Canadian Congress, League of Ukrainian Canadians, League of Ukrainian Canadian Women, Canada Ukraine Foundation and the Canada-Ukraine Chamber of Commerce and so many others. They have been absolutely incredible and I thank them all so sincerely for their efforts and their leadership.

There is a new medical mission leaving this week on a diaspora-led mission and recently as well Canada has sent 1,100 tactical medical units and 238 sets of state-of-the-art night vision goggles to Ukraine's army.

I also praise Canadians in Ukraine like Lenna Koszarny and others who in collaboration with Canada's Ambassador to Ukraine, Roman Waschuk, have ensured that all materiel has been sent, received and delivered accordingly. Well done for them.

Whether it takes months, years or decades, Crimea will return to its rightful place in Ukraine. Canada will never recognize the illegal Russian occupation of any Ukrainian territory.

Mr. Putin must also stop his campaign to undermine all of his neighbours in the Baltic states and in the west with his very dangerous information war waged against all of us and particularly directed at the Russian people themselves as he drifts closer and closer to Russia's totalitarian past. By doing so, Putin perceives enemies and threats where none existed and now continues to threaten global peace and security.

The Russian people have big hearts and big souls. Russians are generous and kind people who are being misdirected by their own leadership. They are being misdirected by Putin and his oligarch facilitators who continue to prosper despite a failing economy while his weapons expansion continues and the Russian people increasingly suffer and go without. His war upon his own people is intended to methodically eliminate the democracy that they very much deserve after the long dark years of communism.

I am very proud of the role Canada is playing to promote peace and stability in Eastern Europe today and to bring stabilization to Ukraine so the Ukrainian people can chose their own path, democratically, in a free and prosperous Ukrainian nation.

Unprecedented in the post-Cold War era, Russia's aggression against Ukraine has highlighted the broader importance of the transatlantic security relationship and that of NATO, in particular. As a founding member of NATO, Canada has a long-standing commitment to promoting security in Central and Eastern Europe. This commitment was evidenced by our swift response to the current crisis. In fact, the Government of Canada was among the first to respond to NATO's call for contributions to the alliance's immediate assurance measures.

As ever, the men and women of the Canadian Armed Forces answered the call and I am proud to have served alongside them during my time in the military.

Early on, Canada deployed soldiers to Poland and Eastern and Central Europe as part of Operation Reassurance. Over the last 12 months, our soldiers have taken part in numerous training exercises aimed at building the capacity of our allies.

An important contribution to NATO's persistent presence in the region, Canada has taken on a leadership role in training exercises designed to develop and enhance interoperability, readiness, joint operations capability and multinational responses to potential crises.

Indeed, since the initial deployment last year, over 500 Canadian Armed Forces members have participated in exercises in Poland, Germany, Lithuania and Latvia and more will continue to. There are presently approximately 220 soldiers stationed in Drawsko Pomorskie and soon there will be approximately 200 Canadian soldiers in Ukraine helping to develop capacity in Ukraine's army. That was recently announced by Canada's Minister of National Defence and we thank him for that announcement.

Their deployment not only represents a demonstration of our ongoing commitment to NATO, but also of the readiness and professionalism of the Canadian Armed Forces. The leadership role undertaken by Canadian Armed Forces at training exercises during Operation Reassurance is a testament to our determination to increase this interoperability.

Canada is a proud ally and we will work very closely with our allies in NATO and in Ukraine. Canada will always stand shoulder to shoulder with the people of Ukraine.

This Prime Minister and this government and our ministers will make sure of it.

Ongoing Situation in Ukraine April 29th, 2015

Mr. Chair, I would like to thank the minister for all his support and help, both as the Minister of Foreign Affairs now and in his previous incarnation as the minister of national defence. There is no one who has been stronger on this file. I am very grateful for the fact that in his name I was able to announce 238 state-of-the-art night vision goggles, which Canada recently sent to Ukraine to help those soldiers.

My question has to do with the ceasefire between Ukraine and the Russian-backed rebels. They have signed the Minsk agreement, but I have tremendous concerns about the conduct and execution of the agreement. I wonder if the minister would be kind enough to comment on that.

Veterans Affairs April 29th, 2015

Mr. Speaker, our government recognizes the importance of commemorating the 70th anniversary of the liberation of the Netherlands. Unfortunately, one veteran who was invited as a guest of the Dutch government is unable to be accompanied by his son, because the Avon Maitland District School Board his son works for has refused his request for unpaid leave.

Can the minister please update this House on this specific case?

Business of Supply April 20th, 2015

Mr. Speaker, this country and this government are committed to the Canadian taxpayer. We are committed to balancing the budget. We are committed to public safety, and we are committed to making sure that we have and continue to have the strongest economy in the world.

We have invested in these safety protocols all across the region. As we can see from the reports of the agencies involved, we were involved and moved very quickly to contain the spill. We have moved and made improvements and investments in the coast guard and other assets related to it. We have made sure that the communications enhancements that were made enable the coast guard and related agencies to communicate quickly and to respond at the quickest possible speed across the area.

We have invested not only in technology, but we have invested in the safety and security of Canadians on land and sea and in the air.

Business of Supply April 20th, 2015

Mr. Speaker, obviously I disagree. Canada has the safety of all Canadians at heart.

The task was responded to fairly quickly. It was tasked at 20:06 hours and arrived at 21:25 hours. Remember, it is on the sea and it takes a while to get there. We are not on land and cannot race at speeds that some people might want to consider. We have to remember that this is a marine emergency being responded to, and the entire ship was boomed off by 5:53 in the morning. I think that was responded to quite well.

The other thing we have to remember is that across Canada there are over 80 caches of oil spill equipment that are accessible very quickly, and all of that was brought to bear within that timeframe. All of our services that were engaged in this incident responded very quickly, professionally, and did their jobs to a very high standard.

Business of Supply April 20th, 2015

Mr. Speaker, I would like to note that I will be sharing my time today with the hon. member for Lotbinière—Chutes-de-la-Chaudière.

Let me begin by reassuring parliamentarians and Canadians alike that Canada has one of the strongest marine safety regimes in the world. Our government remains committed to continual improvement, and continues to take action to strengthen our marine spill prevention, preparedness, response capabilities, liability and compensation regime.

On April 8, 2015, a marine fuel spill occurred in Vancouver's English Bay. Since learning of the incident, we have confirmed that the spill originated from the MV Marathassa, a bulk carrier on her maiden voyage that was scheduled to pick up grain. At the time the incident occurred, she was anchored along with several other vessels in the area.

When notified of the spill by a concerned boater, the Canadian Coast Guard responded and tasked Transport Canada's national aerial surveillance program, or NASP, aircraft to perform overflights of English Bay. Throughout the response operation, several aerial patrols were made daily. In total, this represents 13 overflights, which were vital to assess and monitor the amount of pollution and the effectiveness of the cleanup efforts. The results of these overflights were shared with all parties involved in the response efforts, and the overflights will continue as needed.

In addition to the situational awareness provided by the flights conducted as part of the national aerial surveillance program, Transport Canada has conducted inspections of the vessels to verify compliance with applicable safety and environmental protection requirements and to ascertain the cause of the spill. Also, Transport Canada is monitoring the actions of the response organization, in this case the Western Canada Marine Response Corporation, to ensure that it is in compliance with the Canada Shipping Act, 2001 and all regulations.

Transport Canada investigates all reported oil spills, and if there is sufficient evidence that there is contravention of our federal laws, the polluter may be prosecuted in court. Furthermore, an administrative monetary penalty could be imposed on the polluter. This is just another measure to protect Canadian taxpayers.

As the cleanup efforts continue, Transport Canada has already begun to shift its focus in its investigation. Marine safety inspectors are continuing their work examining compliance with the requirements under the Canada Shipping Act and the Vessel Pollution and Dangerous Chemicals Regulations.

Under the Canada Shipping Act, an owner of a vessel like the Marathassa must have an arrangement with Transport Canada's certified response organization, as well as under the Vessel Pollution and Dangerous Chemicals Regulations. All vessels are required to report either a discharge or an anticipated discharge of oil. Such a report must be made by the master of the vessel as soon as the discharge occurs or is anticipated, unless the master is involved in saving lives, securing safety or dealing with damage to the vessel or the environment.

As part of its investigation, Transport Canada will review the vessel's compliance with these requirements. The results of the investigation will guide Transport Canada's decisions on the appropriate enforcement action. This can include prosecution as well as seeking administrative monetary penalties.

As well, under Canada's regulatory regime, the Marine Liability Act requires vessels to have insurance to cover pollution damage arising from an oil spill. In Canada, our liability and compensation regime for ship-source oil spills is based on the polluter pay principle. This means that the polluter is responsible for paying the costs of an oil spill. In this particular case, the shipowner's representatives have indicated that they will meet all of their legal liabilities. Losses and damages covered under the regime include reasonable measures to prevent or minimize pollution damage, cleanup costs, property damage, economic losses and environmental restoration actually undertaken. Under the Marine Liability Act, the liability limit for a bulk carrier the size of the Marathassa is $26.5 million to cover eligible losses and damages related to a marine fuel spill.

Although it is unlikely that the costs will exceed that amount in this case, if they do, additional eligible losses and damages may be covered from the Canada ship-source oil pollution fund. Canada's ship-source oil pollution fund was established in 1989, and it is a very important piece of Canada's oil spill preparedness and response regime. The fund covers all oil spills for all classes of ships at any place in Canada or in Canadian waters. As members have heard, Canada has an extensive oil spill preparation and response regime that is in place to ensure that if a spill does occur the response is effective and efficient, and protects the interests of all Canadians and our marine environment.

As we learn from this incident and continue our efforts to modernize our response regime through the implementation of a world-class tanker safety system, we must also acknowledge the work of all those involved who immediately responded to this incident. The incident serves to highlight the importance of our continued efforts to work collaboratively with our partners, and all levels of government and industry, to achieve a world-class tanker safety system.

Throughout this incident, Transport Canada's teams have been actively engaged with our key partners, such as the Canadian Coast Guard, Environment Canada, and provincial and municipal jurisdictions, as well as the private sector response organization, Western Canada Marine Response Corporation.

Transport Canada is continuing to conduct aerial surveillance flights over English Bay, to survey the area to help with the cleanup efforts. Canada remains an international leader in the maritime community as a country that provides a clear and predictable set of rules. These rules not only help to protect the environment and ensure safety, but also protect Canadians through the liability to collect compensation if spills occur.

Canada depends on marine shipping for economic growth, jobs, and prosperity. With the inspection and investigation regime currently in place and the continued improvements being implemented through the world-class tanker safety system, we will continue to ensure that our marine environments remain safe.

Pope John Paul II Day April 2nd, 2015

Mr. Speaker, I rise today to celebrate the first Pope John Paul II Day in Canada.

We will forever celebrate and honour Saint John Paul Il on April 2 each year. Pope John Paul lI was a champion of freedom and human rights. His legacy goes far beyond his role as pope. He was vital in promoting international understanding and peace-building. He was a bridge-builder between faiths and a champion of youth.

He was central to defeating Communism in Europe and has left a profound and lasting impact on the world. I had the honour to meet him and to help bring World Youth Day to Canada in 2002, a memory I will always carry with me.

I would like to thank my colleague from Mississauga East—Cooksville for introducing the bill and for allowing me the honour to second it.

Today, April 2, also marks the 95th birthday of my father, Lieutenant-Colonel Zdzislaw Opitz, a soldier of General Wladyslaw Anders' 2nd Polish Corps and a gulag survivor. I wish my dad sto lat today.