House of Commons photo


Crucial Fact

  • His favourite word was marijuana.

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

Lost his last election, in 2019, with 39% of the vote.

Statements in the House

Protecting Canadians from Unsafe Drugs Act (Vanessa's Law) May 27th, 2014

Mr. Speaker, I thank the member opposite for her speech.

One of the reasons that Vanessa's law did not come to the House sooner is the wide consultations the government did. They have been very significant and wide ranging. The government consulted with numerous stakeholders, including patients, consumers, the industry, and health care professionals. It was a very exhaustive consultation.

Some of the key groups included the Canadian Treatment Action Council, PharmaWatch, which I believe the member is aware of, the Best Medicines Coalition, the Canadian Nurses Association, the Canadian Medical Association, and the provinces and territories.

The round tables with these patient groups and health care professionals yielded widely based support for a strengthened drug safety system.

They also enthusiastically supported increased recall powers and increased fines and penalties that would better reflect the very serious nature of the offences.

These consultations provided the opportunity for these groups to fine-tune the provisions in Vanessa's law before it was brought before the House.

Canada needs this law. We need it soon.

I would like to ask the member opposite this. Does her party, the official opposition, intend to allow the bill to go to committee today?

Protecting Canadians from Unsafe Drugs Act (Vanessa's Law) May 27th, 2014

Mr. Speaker, I thank the member for Saanich—Gulf Islands from the bottom of my heart for a heartfelt and highly accurate speech. I certainly agree that the Therapeutics Initiative is one of the best institutes in Canada for identifying safety risks around prescription drugs, and has been for some time. Her call for amendments to be bill, from my viewpoint, are more than welcome, and the Minister of Health has said she is willing to consider amendments. In my view, this is democracy at its best. It is a non-partisan issue and the minister is taking a non-partisan approach, so I am very pleased about that.

The member talked about fines of $5 million a day. The bill also includes the provision that when there is criminal negligence and a court saw that it needed to be addressed with a major fine, there could be unlimited fines. A judge could conceivably fine a big pharma company that committed criminal negligence the full amount of their sales for the period of time the drug was on the market.

We need Bill C-17 now, as soon as possible. We need it approved now at second reading to get it to the health committee, if the House approves. We can talk about those issues and hopefully get the bill passed by the end of June. We need to get it approved now. I am hoping that today, at the end of the hour, the parties will agree to send it to committee so that we can reduce the damage and the adverse drug reactions that patients might otherwise experience if we drag out this process.

Protecting Canadians from Unsafe Drugs Act (Vanessa's Law) May 27th, 2014

Mr. Speaker, I want to thank the members opposite for supporting Vanessa's law, Bill C-17, the protecting Canadians from unsafe drugs act. I want to give my sincere thanks to all the members who are supporting it.

I am pleased to tell the House that we have had really tremendous cross-party support. This is a non-partisan issue, of course. This legislation has received that support since it was introduced. In fact, the NDP health critic, the member for Vancouver East, issued a press release the day it was tabled and called it a step in the right direction, as the member opposite just did.

I was also happy to hear that the Minister of Health has heard support from the Liberal member for Malpeque, who urged the minister to secure passage of Bill C-17, Vanessa's law, which will strengthen the federal government's ability to provide oversight and to take action to assure the safety of drugs after they have been approved.

I want to thank that member for that support as well.

The cross-party support this bill has received is very encouraging, and I look forward to working with these members and others in securing its swift passage. To that point, I want to request that we please get this bill out of the House today. I am hoping it will be approved to go forward to the Standing Committee on Health, of which I am member.

If we do that quickly, we can get it to committee next week. It is my wish and my hope that this bill will be passed before the end of June in the House of Commons and sent to the Senate. This is important, because Canadians are suffering adverse drug reactions daily. If we hold up Vanessa's law, that will continue and will be more likely to continue throughout the summer. The publicity from this bill is making Canadians more aware of the risks of adverse drug reactions when taking prescription drugs.

I ask members to help get this bill out of here by noon today, get it to the Standing Committee on Health, and get it approved and sent to the Senate, for the safety of Canadians.

Leader of the Liberal Party of Canada May 5th, 2014

Mr. Speaker, I rise today to speak to the Liberal leader's proposal to legalize marijuana.

At health committee last week, we heard testimony from leading experts, Dr. Harold Kalant, professor of pharmacology at the University of Toronto, and Dr. Meldon Kahan, medical director, Women's College Hospital, that the serious harms and risks associated with marijuana would increase with legalization. We already know from CAMH that marijuana use by 18-29-year-olds has almost doubled to 33.5% since 1996 and that, sadly, the odds of this group experiencing dependence, work problems, and financial, legal, and relationship problems are six times higher than users who are over 30.

That is the Liberal leader's target voting group, and they are mostly unaware of the serious health risks, which include persistent psychosis, chronic respiratory problems, and long-term impact on mental functions.

The Liberal leader should apologize to Canadians for his role as the Pied Piper of pot for our youth and abandon his reckless policy.

National Lyme Disease Strategy Act April 29th, 2014

Mr. Speaker, I rise today to offer my thoughts on Bill C-442. The subject is a national Lyme disease strategy.

I am very pleased to second the adoption of this bill by Parliament to address the urgent needs of victims of this disease. I congratulate the member for Saanich—Gulf Islands for this initiative. I totally support the important principle of this bill and our government's efforts to amend the legislation at the health committee, of which I am a member.

As my colleagues on both sides of the House have recognized, Lyme disease is an emerging infectious disease in Canada. It is caused by a bacterium transmitted by ticks, now increasingly found in southern Canada, including in the greater Toronto area.

Like the member for Saanich—Gulf Islands, I have a friend who suffers from Lyme disease. In 2006, I received a call from my long-time friend, Janet Mitchell, a former Oakville town councillor, who had recently, after years of confusion and misdiagnosis, been diagnosed with Lyme disease.

Janet told me a hair-raising story. She had in previous years lost the feeling in and control of her lower extremities and had difficulty walking. She was naturally deeply engaged with and worried about what was happening. She had great trouble getting up and down steps and ended up using a walker to get around. She and her husband had to move to a condominium that had no steps. She had a fear that she would end up needing a wheelchair due to a disease that she had previously never even heard of.

Then Janet told me that she had heard that her condition could have come from the bite of an insect, which is very frightening. A deer tick had bitten Janet, and unlike most victims of such bites, she did not develop a visible target-like rash, so she had never noticed. This is not that rare. That tick had deposited a kind of poison in her bloodstream, bacteria that over time can hide in the human body and cause those symptoms. It finds places in our joints and elsewhere where antibiotics cannot easily reach. It is like a scary movie.

Reported Lyme disease cases in Canada increased from 30 in 2003 to over 300 in 2012, and these numbers are expected to rise even further as ticks responsible for Lyme disease move into Canada's most densely populated areas. These numbers will also rise as conditions thought to be something else or diagnosed to be something else are increasingly correctly diagnosed as Lyme disease. Indeed, based on current rates in the U.S., Canada is likely to experience a marked increase in Lyme disease cases in the coming 10 years. Some estimates report that by 2020, the economic cost of reported Lyme disease cases in Canada could reach $8 million annually, for cases diagnosed early, in medical costs alone.

Being from Oakville, in southern Ontario, I understand that it is my part of the country that will most likely see the sharpest spike in Lyme disease cases over the next decade. That is why it is so important to my constituents that we address this issue sooner rather than later, and it is why I thank Janet Mitchell for educating me about this nasty and insidious disease.

These unsettling statistics are some of the chief reasons I am supportive of this legislation before the House today and why I have also been pleased to hear of our government's work in addressing Lyme disease. In recent years, our government has committed to working with the provinces and territories to address these risks to Canadians. The Public Health Agency of Canada has undertaken enhanced stakeholder engagement, public and clinical education, enhanced surveillance, and research to improve diagnostic integrity, which is one of the key problems.

The Public Health Agency's work has focused on surveillance, prevention, and control as the first step. The second step is research and diagnosis, and the third step is engagement, education, and awareness. This work has demonstrated positive first steps to address an emerging yet serious disease, and Bill C-442 promises to further add to this drive. Additionally, our government has devoted funding dollars in support of Lyme disease research, primarily through the Canadian Institutes of Health Research. Indeed, since 2006, we have invested approximately $4.6 million in Lyme disease research.

Our government has also been diligently working in concert with the provinces and territories on surveillance and on prevention and control activities. Provinces and territories report Lyme disease as a national reportable disease, and these data are contributing to the Public Health Agency of Canada's ability to monitor and report on the disease's progress.

Of course, the reality is why I am supportive of our government's proposed amendments to the bill, as outlined in the above facts.

Janet Mitchell was originally told by her doctor that she had MS, a disease that is somewhat more common in Canada than in other countries. She was told, like many others across Canada, that she could not possibly have Lyme disease, because we do not have Lyme disease in Canada. That was the best diagnosis she could get at the time. I shudder to think of how frightening that false diagnosis would have been for her and other Canadians who may have been diagnosed in a similar way.

However, Janet studied her condition on her own. She had spent a lot of time camping and hiking. Absent a visible rash, she had all the described symptoms of Lyme disease she found on the Internet. Janet found a new doctor, who advised her that the only test done in Ontario was not that reliable. She paid to have her own blood sample sent to the U.S. for a test called IGeneX, otherwise referred to as Western Blot, which is far more reliable. That test told her that she had the Lyme spirochete in her bloodstream. She had Lyme disease.

The theory that we do not have Lyme disease in Canada was actually never really true. We just did not have very much of it. Yet our specialists misdiagnosed many Canadians with Lyme disease as having other conditions, preventing them from getting the treatment they needed, as if deer and birds do not cross international borders, because both carry the ticks.

If caught early, Lyme disease can be cured. The bacteria can be eliminated with common antibiotics like erythromycin. However, once the spirochetes invade the cells, it is difficult to kill them, requiring, in some cases, months of treatment with more powerful antibiotics. An early and accurate diagnosis is key.

It is clearly important to respond to emerging diseases such as Lyme, but as the federal government, we still maintain the responsibility to respect jurisdictional boundaries, especially with regard to health care.

I have been very pleased to see that our government has been delivering historic funding dollars in support of health care to be delivered by the provinces and territories. They are projected to reach $40 billion annually by the end of the decade, which is, of course, a new record.

Provinces and territories are responsible for health care delivery, and it is important that the bill reflect that reality. At the federal level, we do our part by supporting research and sharing best practices across jurisdictions. Indeed, we are the single largest investor in health research, with support of nearly $1 billion annually. These research dollars will deliver the resources necessary to support medical experts in developing the research necessary to adequately respond to new and emerging diseases.

As I mentioned earlier, I am a member of the Standing Committee on Health and very much look forward to further review of Bill C-442 when it is referred to us in the coming months.

In the course of the committee's work, I hope to hear from various stakeholder groups on the current and possible future impacts of Lyme disease, not the least of which will be medical experts on the subject. Their input will help contribute to the committee's understanding of this emerging disease and further inform our work going forward.

I would be pleased to work with the member for Saanich—Gulf Islands on the bill, which promises to further build upon the good work our government has been doing to address Lyme disease in Canada. I think her commitment to this evolving issue and her willingness to work with our government demonstrates a spirit of co-operation that will be important going forward.

As we look to proceed on the bill at its current stage, I anticipate a good and full discussion on its merits and on ways it can be further improved.

I thank my hon. colleagues from all parties for their attention, and I urge them to support Bill C-442 at this stage so that we may work to improve its recognition of jurisdictional responsibilities and the proper role the federal government plays in addressing emerging diseases.

I look forward to the health committee's proceedings on the bill and the testimony we will hear on the subject of Lyme disease.

Economic Action Plan 2014 Act, No. 1 April 8th, 2014

Mr. Speaker, what we do in this House, and what we as members of Parliament do all day and when we go back to our ridings, is to try to communicate with people. It is two-way, and we do our best to listen. In my office, we get 1,000 emails, phone calls, visits, and letters a week, and we try to deal with that. We try to get messages back out, and it is a blur for people. It is extremely difficult to get messages to people.

Having a background in marketing, I can tell the member that people get home at the end of the day and they will have taken in a number of messages, from billboards, from things they have read on the GO train or the streetcar or whatever, and things they have heard on the radio. That is the way people get information. A lot of people do not sit down and go through all the letters they might have had from their member of Parliament. They do not read all the papers, and they do not watch all the news programs. Sometimes it is the only way to get important messages to people about our economy.

Arguably, the most important thing the government does is to advertise on television and tell them what the government is doing. If people do not know what the government is doing, how can they possibly vote as an informed voter?

Economic Action Plan 2014 Act, No. 1 April 8th, 2014

Mr. Speaker, I am not the former finance minister or the current finance minister, but I knocked on doors in my riding of Oakville and promised income splitting for families with children under 18. I believe that is what my government is going to do. I would like to say why I support it. It is because of what I said earlier in my speech. It is extremely expensive to live, especially for people with children.

It is the greatest honour in the world to have children; I do not mean to complain. I am saying how costly it can be when children start the activities they do after school. For example, in Oakville there are 12,000 children and coaches in soccer. Soccer is not that expensive of a sport; it is a fraction of the cost of hockey. When children get into extracurricular activities, choirs, soccer, or hockey, it starts to bear on the finances of families. It is extremely expensive. Income splitting would give those families relief to give their children the opportunities that they so deserve.

Economic Action Plan 2014 Act, No. 1 April 8th, 2014

Mr. Speaker, I'm pleased to have this opportunity to speak today regarding budget 2015 and this new budget implementation bill because I think their significance is so easily understated.

In this budget, our former finance minister and our current Minister of Finance, with the support of a highly principled Prime Minister, a dedicated caucus, and a hard-working civil service, have brought Canada within a hair's breath of a very significant goal. That goal, a balanced budget, will be achieved next year.

This has been accomplished with many tough decisions by our government, such as saying no to many requests for funding and ending programs that were not necessary. It includes a three-year wage freeze for members of Parliament, a change that will demand that civil servants pay half the cost of their own pension plan, and a demand that MPs, who serve an average of less than six years, also pay half their own pension plan moving forward in 2015. That means an additional $1,733 will be taken off the paycheque of each MP every month at that time, so we cut our own benefits too.

My point is that balancing a budget requires sacrifice and principled leadership. It is very difficult to do. It is no fun. That is why most countries in southern Europe could not do it year after year for decades until their debts overwhelmed them. Every member of this House knows what happened there.

Economists who have never been in government say that balanced budgets are not that important. They themselves are a very well-paid group who can afford more taxes, but what about ordinary Canadians? What about the people who spend most or all of what they earn on daily life, because life is just expensive? They are trying to pay a mortgage or save for a house or a family vacation or save for post-secondary education for their children. What about them?

I do not think most economists, who work for banks that earn tens of millions of dollars on interest from loans to governments or for universities or corporations where they have generous pension plans, feel it so profoundly if their taxes go up year after year. It will not affect their lifestyle very much. For everyone else who is taxed out, three or four levels of government are taking too much, and no one believes most governments spend all that money wisely.

Balancing a budget means that the government is spending the same as it takes in. It is not creating more and more debt that working people will pay their entire lives, plus interest. Balancing the budget also means that the federal government can start paying back the $619 billion it has borrowed in the taxpayer's name.

Bill C-31 is the track to this reality. It means that families can truly plan their own future with less fear that some future government will get its hands on more of their paycheque, before they even get it, for something that no one really needs.

Balanced budgets mean we are not mortgaging our children's future or saddling them with debt that they will pay for over their entire lives. Balanced budgets mean we pay our own way.

Balanced budgets mean investors worldwide want to invest in infrastructure in Canada because they know that they will get their money back with a return.

In February the Liberal leader, who has no economic policy to speak of, implied on a party convention video that the Government of Canada does not have enough debt and should take on more. That should get the attention of every Canadian, especially our young people, who will pay back any new debts created by a Liberal government, if elected, for the rest of their lives, and who will have a diminished quality of life because their paycheques are smaller because of high taxes.

The Liberal leader, who, as everyone knows, has always had the benefit of an inherited trust fund, is trying to convince the middle class that he is their new best friend. All he talks about these days is the middle class. It is as though he is trying to join it. He wants to help us. All of a sudden, ordinary working people are his priority.

On the other hand, we have a track record. Our government helped ordinary middle-class people and low-income people by reducing the GST by 2%, by enhancing the working tax credit, and by providing the universal child care benefit of $1,200 a year for each child under six years of age.

We have also taken one million low-income people off the federal tax rolls and provided a whole raft of tax credits to help low-income people who work to keep more of their own money. Conservatives care about low-income people and the middle class and are acting to make their lives easier. Most Conservatives are in fact low-income and middle-class people.

In a video prepared for the Liberal convention, the Liberal leader said, “while the middle class is tapped out, the federal government has room to invest”. He also said that the government of Canada needs to step up. He supported a party resolution at the Liberal Convention that the Liberals should spend 1% of GDP a year, which would be $18 billion that must be borrowed on infrastructure. Therefore, in four years, that would be $72 billion plus interest that our children and grandchildren would have to pay back, for their entire lives.

The Liberal leader is preparing to convince Canadians, as his father did, a former prime minister, that debts do not matter. Someone else will pay, not them. We have lived through this before, in the 1970s, under that former prime minister. Since Pierre Trudeau resigned, subsequent governments have achieved operational surpluses of $634 billion. Yet, during that time, Canadians have paid over $1 trillion in interest, all due to the debt that Pierre Trudeau and the Liberals left us with.

I have a rhetorical question. Who said this:

We were caught in a trap of our own making – a vicious circle in which our chronic deficits contributed to economic lethargy, which in turn contributed to even higher deficits, and then to greater malaise.

That was the former Liberal finance minister and prime minister, Paul Martin, the last Liberal finance minister to balance Canada's federal budget, years ago. He was right, and the Liberal leader today wants to do it all over again: promote the illusion that borrowed money does not have to be paid back, at least not by them.

In 2015, we will begin paying down debt again. We will reduce the interest we pay out and get more for our money. Canada will increasingly decide its own fate and never be beholding to banks and foreign leaders to direct our nation. We will never be ordered to cut back pensions, health care, or education funding by banks because we are near bankruptcy, like most of southern Europe has been. This is our solemn commitment to the people of Canada.

This budget is the step just before the top, the last step. We will get out of the borrowing paradigm. We will not turn around and head back down. Canada will control its own destiny, and this bill would take us one step closer.

Health April 8th, 2014

Mr. Speaker, for years I have been an advocate for drug safety and for making sure that Canadian families have the information they need to make informed choices on the medicines they are taking. With the numerous risks inherent in many drugs, we simply must do better at making people aware. It is imperative that drug safety information be available and accessible not only for over-burdened doctors but also for patients and the parents of children.

Will the Minister of Health recommit today to ensuring that drug safety information is made available for those who need it?

Leader of the Liberal Party of Canada April 7th, 2014

Mr. Speaker, Canadians are alarmed today to hear the Liberal leader's latest attempt to divide Canadians into two groups, with him defining the middle class as those who are living paycheque to paycheque.

Why is the Liberal leader trying to divide Canadians into two groups at all, those who have savings and investments, like most of our seniors and families, and those who do not? It is because he is looking for a pot of gold to fund his hidden plan to spend tens of billions of dollars on bigger government and open-ended socialist schemes, the same thing a former prime minister did in the 1970s, simultaneously creating debt that cost taxpayers $1 trillion in interest over the subsequent 20 years.

The majority of Canadians who do not have a trust fund but have managed to save for a rainy day, to start a business, or to retire, with much help from Conservative tax reductions, should be fully aware that they are the target to fund a massive nostalgia tour of the Liberal glory years by a new Liberal leader of the same name.