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Results: 1 - 15 of 48
View Walt Lastewka Profile
Lib. (ON)
Mr. Speaker, I am sure everyone has known right from the beginning that when Gomery did his work he worked hard to get it done. In January the opposition and other people insisted that Gomery do his work. Gomery has done his work. Gomery has reported. The Liberal Party of Canada has acted. The opposition knows that we acted as soon as Gomery made his report. We look forward to Gomery's second report.
View Walt Lastewka Profile
Lib. (ON)
Mr. Speaker, we have answered questions from that member a number of times in the House, but let me repeat what the deputy leader of the Conservative Party said just a few weeks ago: “We know that every recommendation that will come out of the second Gomery report will already have been adopted and acted upon and all the transparency and accountability mechanisms already in place”. That came from the deputy leader of the opposition. I thank him very much for having confidence in Justice Gomery.
Justice Gomery did his work in his first report and he will do his work in his second report--
View Walt Lastewka Profile
Lib. (ON)
Mr. Speaker, I am honoured to rise on this occasion to offer my sincere congratulations to Mr. Paul Bosc Sr. of Château des Charmes wineries on his investiture as a Member of the Order of Canada.
Paul immigrated to Canada from his native Algeria about 40 years ago and settled in Montreal. Not long afterward, he relocated to Niagara to work for the former Chateau-Gai winery. Paul was its chief winemaker and director of research for 15 years. In 1978 he established his own winery, creating Château des Charmes. The winery now has more than 250 acres of vineyards and was one of the first wineries to cultivate European grapes.
Paul Bosc Sr. has played an important role in cultivating the wine industry in the Niagara region. He helped establish Brock University's Cool Climate Oenology and Viticulture Institute and Ontario's Vintners Quality Alliance or VQA.
As one of the pioneers of the Niagara wine industry, he is a most worthy recipient of the Order of Canada. Congratulations Paul Bosc Sr.
View Walt Lastewka Profile
Lib. (ON)
Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to rise on this occasion to offer my sincere congratulations to the staff, volunteers and all the board chairs on the 40th anniversary of the St. Catharines Museum.
From its humble beginnings in the old Merritton town hall in 1965 to the new location at Lock 3 of the Welland Canal, the museum continues to play a pivotal role in promoting and protecting the history of our community.
I have been an avid supporter of the St. Catharines Museum and will continue to do so. Through the work of dedicated staff, both past and present, our museum has earned the reputation as one of the finest facilities in Ontario.
I applaud curator Arden Phair and his staff for their commitment, promotion, understanding and appreciation of our heritage and the importance of maintaining it for future generations.
St. Catharines-Our Built Heritage is a new publication outlining the history of our community through pictures and stories. This book continues to show the importance of cultural and social history to the City of St. Catharines and Canada.
I congratulate the St. Catharines Museum on its 40th anniversary.
View Walt Lastewka Profile
Lib. (ON)
Mr. Speaker, I rise in the House of Commons today to offer my congratulations to Reverend Daniel Rupwate and the congregation of the British Methodist Episcopal Church-Salem Chapel on the occasion of its 150th anniversary and its role in the Underground Railroad.
Two weeks of celebrations will see the congregation and community remember one of the most famous conductors, Harriet Tubman. This extraordinary woman dedicated her life to saving the lives of others. She took tremendous risks which enabled countless people to find freedom.
In the 1850s St. Catharines and the BME Church became her headquarters for the Underground Railroad. It was a centre for religious, cultural and political activity. The Underground Railroad was the network of families and people that offered their assistance, food or shelter to slaves during their escape north.
I commend the congregation and the many volunteers who have worked so hard to help us celebrate the 150th anniversary of the BME Church. It ensures that we continue to remember the spirit and the strength of Harriet Tubman and her lifetime of courageous actions.
View Walt Lastewka Profile
Lib. (ON)
Mr. Speaker, on November 7, 2005, CKTB Radio will celebrate its 75th anniversary of broadcasting.
In 1930, Edward T. Sandall, owner of Taylor and Bate Brewery, brought radio to the city of St. Catharines. From its humble beginnings on the second floor of the Welland House, with 50 watts of power, to Oak Hill, the former home of William Hamilton Merritt on Yates Street where it broadcasts today.
CKTB has a rich history with colourful radio on-air personalities in the news, talk show, music and sports fields. CKTB has prided itself for being the voice of Niagara. It has been a leader in providing school and storm information. Quality, locally produced programs have kept thousands of listeners entertained and informed. It has also held important fundraisers when tragic events have hit other parts of the world or to help meet local needs.
On behalf of all members of the House of Commons, I congratulate CKTB on its 75th anniversary and wish the station many more years of service as the voice of Niagara.
View Walt Lastewka Profile
Lib. (ON)
Mr. Speaker, I rise this evening to join with my colleagues in speaking on an issue that could have a very serious and negative impact, not only in my riding but on the whole Niagara region, the province of Ontario and indeed, the entire country.
At first I was going to congratulate my colleague from New Brunswick Southwest and chair of the Canada-U.S. parliamentary committee leading in this debate tonight. Unfortunately, it has become more partisan than a good debate.
It is very important that all members of the House make our statements very clear, that we recognize a real threat to the economic state of our particular regions and to our country.
The proposed western hemisphere travel initiative is naturally a concern to Canadian and American citizens and the respective representatives who live near the Canada-U.S. border. We live on the border, we do business on the border and we have friends on either side of the border. Our communities are straddling the border.
In many cases local issues and concerns do not stop and start at an imaginary line called the international border. These issues and concerns are shared. In many cases common solutions are found. However, I feel this issue goes beyond being just a local concern and that every member of Parliament, whether they are close to the border or not, should be concerned about this proposal. The consequences could be damaging and could have a long, lasting consequence.
I recognize that this initiative did not originate from the Government of Canada. This is an initiative of the United States government. One may ask, what do we think we can do about it? Is it not a waste of time and effort to Canadian parliamentarians to debate the pros and cons of an American law? It probably would be if the implications for Canada and for all Canadians were not so serious.
The western hemisphere trade initiative could have and, in my opinion, would have a damaging economic impact on Canada as a whole.
The Government of Canada has raised objections with this in mind. The Canadian ambassador to the United States has raised objections. I believe that parliamentarians in Canada have an obligation to object and to work toward an alternate solution.
Our criticism of the western hemisphere trade initiative must be based on fact. I can understand the demand for further security within the United States, particularly in this post-9/11 world. The Americans want a secure country. I want the same for my country. I believe initiatives such as this do not further the cause of internal security. It could in fact have the opposite effect and create a sense of false security on both sides of the border.
Unfortunately, the motives of a passport holder cannot be obtained by either U.S. or Canadian authorities. Past experience shows us that those who have committed acts of terrorism have been in our respective countries while holding valid passports and valid visas. Therefore, is it possible to determine an individual's motive if they have a passport or if they possess all other types of personal and national identification? I think not.
On another point, I can see no other results from this initiative than disruption and damage to the large trading relationship on earth. Over $1 billion a day are traded over the Canada-U.S. border. The livelihood of tens of millions of people on both sides of the border depend on the free flow of goods and services across the border.
There is more than a possibility of this economic relationship being disrupted. If this initiative goes through, we can count on disruption at the very least, and probably worse.
The situation, even for the casual visitor, becomes strained. Eighty per cent of American citizens do not have a passport and 60% of Canadian citizens do not have passports. If the western hemisphere trade initiative becomes law, I would imagine that the casual, cross-border visit would almost become a thing of the past. What would this cost us?
Ambassador McKenna has been quoted as saying that we could expect a $2 billion hit to our tourism industry. As a member of Parliament for the Niagara region, I see every day just what the tourism industry means to the region.
Nationally the tourism industry tops $58 billion and Niagara is a major contributor and a major beneficiary of that industry.
More than 16 million people from around the world, many from the United States, visit the Niagara region each year. According to the Niagara Falls Chamber of Commerce, and I congratulate it for its work in this regard, the number of tourists has fallen recently due to the very mention of the passport requirement and many people thought the proposal was in fact law already. We can see the effect of this initiative before the requirement even comes into place.
In economic terms the effect of the western hemisphere travel initiative could be devastating. Tourism would be affected, cross-border commerce would be disrupted and cultural links that have developed over hundreds of years could be broken.
I need not remind members of Parliament that the United States is our largest trading partner by far. We all know that, but it is our job to remind our fellow legislators across the border in the United States that their largest trading partner, by far, is Canada. This is a fact that is all too often overlooked.
Former U.S. ambassador to Canada Paul Cellucci agrees that the recent congressional legislation could be disastrous. He said:
The problem is that so relatively few Americans have passports, so it's really on the U.S. side. Enforcing that could be a real problem, for tourism, trade, you name it. The White House gets it, the president has already voiced misgivings. On the other hand, there has to be some mechanism to track people's movements. I think technology will be our friend here again, that we'll figure out another way. My prediction is that (legislation) will be delayed.
I hope he is correct.
My conclusion is that the western hemisphere travel initiative would simply create a mess and further strain our cultural, social and economic links. This is something that none of us on either side of the border can afford. I urge the Minister of Foreign Affairs to continue pressing the United States government in the strongest possible terms on the consequences of this action. Security is and should remain a top priority for all North Americans, but I am afraid this initiative would do little if anything to create a more secure continent.
If a passport guaranteed security for our American friends and for those of us at home, I would be the first one for it, but the fact is that there is no guarantee. The only result from the western hemisphere travel initiative would the chaos and disruption at our borders, leading to chaos and disruption in the very fabric of the economy and society in both Canada and the United States.
View Walt Lastewka Profile
Lib. (ON)
Mr. Speaker, I understand what the member is trying to get at but he is trying to put a lot of rhetoric around it.
It has been made very clear. This is an American proposal. The Americans want to put this law forward. A lot of American congressmen and senators are against it and the President is against it.
The member should know better. He should be contacting each and every one of the congressmen across the border in Michigan and making sure they are speaking against it.
Mr. Brian Masse: We have done that.
Hon. Walt Lastewka: Is the member finished?
Mr. Brian Masse: Don't make accusations.
Hon. Walt Lastewka: The member needs to talk with his members. That is the key. I agree with the member for Niagara Falls who said that Canada was not the problem. This is bad legislation.
We should be getting out of the rhetoric business. All four parties in the House need to tell the American legislators that they do not agree with their proposal for this passport requirement. It is causing damage today because it has been misunderstood. No one knows when it will start in the U.S. People today think it is the law. The member should be talking about that. He should be speaking against the U.S. legislators who are speaking for this legislation. I have spoken about this issue many times. I met with congressmen and senators over the summer.
I agree with the member for Niagara Falls and the member for Welland who talked about the meeting held this morning. It is very important that we continue to work with the members. This was a topic at the Canada-U.S. committee held this fall. This is how things get done in the U.S. They work at every level to make things happen and the member knows that.
View Walt Lastewka Profile
Lib. (ON)
Mr. Speaker, I heard earlier from the parliamentary secretary that this discussion would be held with Ms. Condoleezza Rice and the Prime Minister. I know the member wanted to harp on it and did not want to listen to the parliamentary secretary but while he was doing all his tactics I noticed that he conveniently missed the fact that this government has had no deficit for eight years, that it has been paying down the debt and that his Conservative government left this country in 1993 with a $44 billion deficit, the highest debt ever in this country.
I noticed that he conveniently missed that. He needs to be reminded that his government was a total disgrace and left this country almost bankrupt in 1993 which is why the Conservatives got thrown out of government.
View Walt Lastewka Profile
Lib. (ON)
Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to have this opportunity to speak to private member's Bill C-306 which proposes to amend the Income Tax Act to provide an income tax credit for expenses incurred by individuals for public transportation.
As I understand the bill, eligible costs would include those incurred in travel by bus, subway, commuter train and light rail. To be eligible for a tax credit, individuals would need to submit supporting receipts indicating the amounts paid for use of an eligible public transportation system.
Let me start by emphasizing that the government supports encouraging more individuals to use public transportation systems to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. In fact, addressing the climate change challenge is one of the government's priorities and encouraging greater use of public transportation could certainly help us move toward this objective.
However, as stewards of the public purse, we, as members of Parliament, have a public responsibility to fulfill, the responsibility to ensure that the policies we put in place are in fact the best methods of achieving our goals. Although I agree with the intent of the bill, it is flawed. The consequences and the effects of the bill have not been considered and we should not be in the business of considering flawed legislation.
Regarding the specific option of a tax credit for public transportation costs, there are significant effectiveness and fairness considerations that need to be taken into full account before voting on the bill.
Let me take moment to explain some of the difficulties that the bill raises. As I stated, the bill is flawed and the thought process in presenting the bill has been insufficient.
Initial evidence has shown that a tax credit would have a limited impact on public transit usage. The federal government's transit pass pilot project has shown that only 10% of eligible participants actually took part and just over 5% of those participating were new to the system. Therefore, the pilot project attracted very few new users to the public transit system even with a financial incentive. This pilot project will be evaluated this fall and at the very least we should wait for the final analysis rather than drafting and passing legislation that is flawed.
We all know that the cost of public transit is one of many factors coming into play in an individual's transportation choice. Costs are weighed against other considerations such as accessibility, convenience, comfort and personal preference.
Ten thousand people leave the Niagara region and St. Catharines each and every day to work in the Hamilton and Toronto area. I would rather have infrastructure money to extend the GO Transit to Niagara Falls for the convenience of those people who would use and require such facilities. I am convinced that if there were $240 million to $300 million per year available, this would be a valuable thing to do.
In addition, for effectiveness we must also consider the fairness of introducing such a measure and the bill also fails on this ground. Indeed, the measure would mostly benefit individuals living in large urban centres with extensive public transit systems. Individuals living in small centres and rural Canada where accessible and convenient public transportation is not available would not benefit at all from this measure. Only three in ten of the communities in the Niagara region would benefit. What about the other seven?
The bill requires much more research. Nor would the measure benefit those Canadians who are already using more environmentally friendly modes of travel like walking and bicycling. For those people who have moved into an area and have the ability to walk or bicycle to work, would they get tax credits? These individuals also contribute to help achieve our environmental objectives and they would argue that they also deserve tax relief.
Modest income Canadians such as those receiving social assistance, the unemployed, seniors and students represent a good fraction of transit users, but would not fully benefit, if at all, from a tax credit as many of them do not pay income tax in the first place.
Moreover, there are other concerns about the bill as currently drafted. Let me elaborate. The bill appears designed to provide assistance for costs incurred for public transportation. However, the bill's definition of public transportation is very broad. It could potentially encompass costs incurred outside of Canada. I certainly hope that was not the member's intention.
Let me give some examples for illustration. For instance, based on the current wording, taxpayers could potentially claim a credit for vacation travel costs or travels by bus between cities. It could also cover the cost of local hop on and hop off tour buses. I know this was not the intention, but the bill needs a lot of work.
Imagine having taxpayers at large pay for others being able to claim their costs for having taken the London underground, for example, while on vacation. I know that was not the intent, but the legislation needs to be refined and worked over. Is it the hon. member's intention to cover these types of costs? I do not think so, but a lot of work needs to be done on the bill.
It is also important to remember that the government is pursuing a range of other initiatives which contribute toward better public transit and environmental goals. This includes initiatives such as infrastructure support, a new deal for cities and communities, and our climate change plan.
Since the mid-nineties, the federal government has invested $12 billion in infrastructure programs. A portion of this funding is going toward various transit projects. This includes funding for the Richmond airport; Vancouver rail transit lines; the GO Transit expansion to, hopefully, Niagara Falls some day; capital renewal at the Toronto Transit Commission; and light rail transit in Ottawa.
As well, the Minister of Finance announced in the 2005 budget a commitment of more than $5 billion over five years for environmentally sustainable municipal infrastructure, including public transit. This builds upon the federal government's commitment to deliver a full rebate of goods and services tax and the federal portion of the harmonized sales tax for municipalities. This will provide municipalities, including those seven that got left out in the Niagara region, with about $7 billion in new resources over the 10 years which they can use and they can choose to allocate toward transit priorities.
Last but not least, the federal government will be moving forward on climate change with a plan for honouring our Kyoto commitment which will guide the federal government's approach to reducing greenhouse gases. The 2005 budget targeted over $4 billion in investments over the next five years for key initiatives included in the plan. As a result, total federal spending in support of measures to address climate change has climbed to over $6 billion since 1997. The government is committed to do more as resources permit and as we learn from our investments in international experience.
I am sure all hon. members present today, like myself, would agree that increased use of public transportation systems can help reduce greenhouse gas emissions, but the question is whether providing tax relief for public transportation costs would be effective toward achieving this goal. To this question, I trust that hon. members will agree that the answer is a resounding no.
I want to thank the member who brought forward the debate tonight because it is debates like these which make the House productive.
View Walt Lastewka Profile
Lib. (ON)
Mr. Speaker, I rise on a point of order. I thought the member from the NDP spoke and there were supposed to be some questions for that member.
View Walt Lastewka Profile
Lib. (ON)
Madam Speaker, I am sharing my time with the member for Laval—Les Îles.
It is a pleasure for me to take part in the debate on the rapid increase in the price of gasoline and fuel costs. The price of gasoline has reached some high levels and the forecasts for the future also show little chance for too much relief.
There have been calls for all levels of government to ease gas prices by cutting their taxes, freeing up reserves, offering rebates, perhaps targeting rebates and so on. The fact is, and we have heard this over and over again tonight, that the federal excise tax on gasoline is calculated per litre. We have also heard that the 10% remains whether it is 80¢ or $1.80 per litre. The GST floats, but I believe very strongly, and I am reassured even again tonight, that it would be better to return some of the GST to communities rather than to the petroleum companies.
I hope that all parties involved, the federal and provincial governments, oil and energy industries, and consumer groups have more discussions and take some action on how we can better manage our energy resources.
I recognize that pump prices are a reflection of international conditions over which we have little or no control, especially when it comes to hurricanes and natural disasters. Embargoes or wars in oil producing countries have also resulted in higher energy prices. This has the potential of bringing our economy to a standstill. I believe that by working together and having some good discussions we can make some inroads. With winter approaching, every family could be further strained with gas prices and fuel costs. Eventually consumer goods and food will be impacted because all of these items are normally transported from point to point and as a result costs will go up.
I believe strongly that the plight of low income earners and seniors, especially those on fixed incomes this winter, must be a particular concern to all of us in the House. I understand there have been some increases already in Ontario with respect to the cost of natural gas. The increases this winter will cause a lot of hardship and will cause people to make decisions on where to spend their money. I was glad to hear the minister talk about work being done in this area. Hopefully in the coming weeks something will happen.
As mentioned tonight by the member for Algoma—Manitoulin—Kapuskasing, I was the chair of the industry committee in the fall of 2003. The committee recommended that we should have an independent petroleum monitoring information agency for the collection of information and the dissemination of gasoline prices.
Some of the debate tonight was about facts and questioned whether this was right or that was right. We need to have an agency that would provide that data. We need to make sure that we can trust the data we have in total. I know that Natural Resources Canada and Industry Canada have done some work on this, but I still believe that the government should set up a petroleum monitoring agency.
As we said in our report, it would be for three years and would ensure Canadians that they would receive information and that it would not be affected by any petroleum companies or other interference. It would be information that Canadians could believe and understand. The minister has said that he is still open to that so hopefully as a result of tonight's debate there will be some action on this.
When I filled up for gas on September 13, for example, in St. Catharines the cost per litre was $1.31 while the cost per litre in Grimsby, just several miles down the road, was $1.09. To the best of my knowledge the federal and provincial taxes in Grimsby and St. Catharines are the same. They are both located in the Niagara region in the same province of Ontario in our country of Canada. This is plain and simple gouging. I heard tonight that it is called panic marketing. That is something new.
I had a letter from one of my constituents, Sherri Hackwell of 339 Geneva Street, who asked me about the 10¢ differential between Grimsby, Beamsville and Stoney Creek and St. Catharines and the fact that neighbouring communities had different prices although the taxes pretty well remained the same. The only answer was gouging by those companies. I would hope that message has been heard loud and clear.
I would like to look at another debate and more debate from the standpoint of the complete energy situation. Should we still be in the world marketing scheme? Should we have a north-south marketing scheme? What other message should be applied for the long run? How much work do we need to do on energy conservation?
I was pleased to hear the acting minister speak to this today and give a few examples. We should know our usages per capita, by province and by region, to learn from others and how we are cutting down on the use of our energy.
I will give an example. On taxicab regulations, we can take a cab from the airport to downtown Ottawa, but that cab driver cannot take someone back to the airport, so his cab goes back empty, and vice versa.
I am sure there are many other ideas that Canadians have to save on energy. Perhaps that would help in the supply and demand and would bring the costs down. We need to be thinking outside the box a little bit.
I would hope that we would be encouraged to have more debate in the House along this line.
As a member of Parliament representing an urban and industrial riding in Ontario, St. Catharines, I recognize the need for swift action. I believe that the government will have some short term answers. However all members of the House, rather than getting into a lot of political rhetoric, should talk about how we can conserve energy, how we can better serve our country through having less demand on our energy and using our energy wisely.
I hope that we can continue on with this debate. I really enjoyed some of the comments tonight when we talked about the real things on how we can save our constituents' and Canadians' money.
View Walt Lastewka Profile
Lib. (ON)
Madam Speaker, I appreciate the member's comments concerning rural areas. I happen to live in the rural area of the city of St. Catharines. I would ask him to please understand that in communities like mine many people drive an hour to an hour and 20 minutes every day to go to work because of jobs in other areas depending on the various fields. The people in my riding are not any different than people in total rural areas.
I understand the comments by the minister about having some short relief and that it requires some time and some work with the cabinet and the minister. He has only been in the job for seven hours, or I guess a little longer now that it is almost 10 o'clock, but I would hope that following his comments there will be work done in that area.
However I also strongly believe that we need to talk about those things that can conserve energy. We do this only when there is a crisis it seems but we should be doing it more often. I would hope that the chairman of the industry committee would take on that responsibility. I have had some discussions with him that we should continue on these discussions on how we use our energy and how we can conserve our energy. I will go through the blues for tonight to see how much time we spent on badgering on data rather than on ideas on how we should move forward.
I believe strongly that all the members in this House, government and opposition, working together should be able to come up with ideas from their ridings on how we could still make energy efficient improvements for our country.
It is a known fact that we North Americans drive a lot, we depend on our cars a lot and we do a lot as far as moving around. We need to take a look at ourselves to see how we can do that more effectively.
View Walt Lastewka Profile
Lib. (ON)
Mr. Speaker, I will be voting no.
View Walt Lastewka Profile
Lib. (ON)
Mr. Speaker, I rise today to remember Bruce Erskine, a well-respected member of the St. Catharines community, who passed away on June 4, 2005.
Bruce Erskine's life revolved around rowing. Literally thousands of athletes and officials are involved in the amateur sport today because of him. He was motivated by his own positive experience as a young rower. He wanted every young person to share that same experience. His coaching philosophy was not how one placed but how one tried.
Bruce and Sue Erskine met as young teenagers, married and raised four children. Bruce was a supervisor at General Motors and retired in 1992. Bruce was as supportive of young athletes as he was of Sue's political career. He was fully supportive of her successful bid as a St. Catharines city councillor and as deputy mayor.
This kind and unpretentious man left an impact on the lives of everyone that he touched. Bruce did not coach rowing, he coached life. His patience and leadership will always be remembered and appreciated.
It was my privilege to know Bruce Erskine and to call him my friend. I extend heartfelt condolences to Sue and his children, Susan, Kathy, Harry and Jenny and his grandchildren.
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