It being Wednesday, we will now have the singing of the national anthem led by the hon. member for Scarborough—Agincourt.
[Members sang the national anthem]
I remind all hon. members that they cannot refer to their colleagues by name in the House, including when they are reading something from a newspaper.
Questions and comments, the hon. member for Scarborough—Agincourt.
Mr. Speaker, David Dodge says current low interest rates and excess manpower makes it the ideal time to make needed infrastructure investments. Instead, the government is slashing infrastructure spending by almost 90% this year. Voters in Trinity—Spadina and Scarborough—Agincourt are asking why the government is turning its back on their needs for more affordable housing, better transit, and other critical job-creating investments.
Will the Minister of Finance listen to the experts and immediately commit to these investments that will boost our economy and create jobs now?
It is my duty to inform the House that a vacancy has occurred in the representation, namely Mr. Karygiannis, member for the electoral district of Scarborough—Agincourt, by resignation effective Tuesday, April 1, 2014.
Pursuant to paragraph 25(1)(b) of the Parliament of Canada Act, I have addressed my warrant to the Chief Electoral Officer for the issue of a writ for the election of a member to fill this vacancy.
The hon. member for Cape Breton—Canso is rising on a point of order.
Mr. Speaker, I too want to say a couple of words of congratulations to the member for Scarborough—Agincourt on his many years in this place. One thing is for certain, that his love and affection for his family is something that we have all known and something that, when I was first elected, he talked to me about. I congratulate the hon. member and wish him good luck.
I want to complete what I was talking about before question period, and that is how disappointed I am that a motion like this was brought forward in the House. An entire day has been devoted to talking about the fact, as the Leader of the Opposition in question period said, that in over eight years, somebody has joined the Prime Minister on the government Challenger jet five times.
Let us take a look at what the government has done with respect to the Challenger jets. This is a government that, when in opposition, campaigned on the fact that the use of the Challenger jet was out of control by the previous Liberal government. We campaigned on the fact that when we were elected, we would change how that is done and would significantly reduce the use of Challenger jets. The use of the Challenger jet by both the Prime Minister and members of cabinet has been reduced by some 75% since we become government. What that has enabled us to do is to sell four of the six Challenger jets because they are just not being used.
Moreover, this Prime Minister put in place something new, which was that when the Challenger was going to be used for non-governmental purposes, the equivalent cost of a commercial flight would be reimbursed to the Department of National Defence. That is why the Conservative Party has repaid thousands of dollars to the Department of National Defence and why, in instances where the Prime Minister has used the Challenger for personal reasons because he cannot fly any other way but through secure government aircraft, he also reimburses the taxpayers the equivalent cost.
We also heard during question period today the Leader of the Opposition say that he could not find any equivalent fares that were paid by some individuals. I have in my hand the fares of WestJet. It is a commercial airline. The opposition was unable to find fares. I found 12. I will stop at 12, but the list goes on. The fares are $282, $261, $266.10, $261.58, $266.10, and on and on.
Ultimately, with this motion New Democrats have clearly signified that they actually have nothing to talk about of any substance because they know, like all Canadians know, that when it comes to issues that actually matter to Canadians— balancing the budget, cutting taxes, supporting small, medium and large job creators—this government is on the right track.
Moreover, when we talk about the Canadian Armed Forces, Canadians know that it was this government which ended the decade of darkness we inherited from the Liberal Party and increased the budget for our armed forces by some 27%. We bought new aircraft, the Globemaster. We all remember the sad spectacle when there were international crises and Canada had to beg and borrow from our international allies to get our troops around the world. Those days are done and our allies know that they can always count on Canada.
The list goes on. It is this government and the leadership of this Prime Minister and this cabinet and the support, of course, of all members of Parliament on the Conservative side that have helped restore Canada, that have seen us through the global economic downturn. New Democrats are bringing silly motions like this forward because they know full well that on all the issues that matter to Canadians, this government is on the right side of Canadians and will continue to be.
Mr. Speaker, I too would like to join my colleagues in the House in wishing the member for Scarborough—Agincourt all the very best after this announcement today. I think I may be one of the few people in the House who was here when he was first elected back in 1988. I remember it very well.
The representative for the NDP pointed out his enthusiasm and determination with respect to human rights issues. I actually do remember that, going back to the late 1980s and early 1990s in the House, and so it was of particular interest to me when I had the opportunity to come back in 2004.
Mr. Speaker, you might remember that you and I were members of the transport committee when he was the parliamentary secretary to the transport minister. So we had the opportunity to work with him on that committee. Again, he brought that same determination, that enthusiasm, and that commitment to that role that he has demonstrated over the years.
I am glad to have the opportunity to wish him all the very best. It is not an easy career to choose. It is very few who ever get the opportunity to serve for about twenty-five and a half straight years, but the hon. member has been able to do that.
Again, I join everyone in the House in wishing him all the very best in the future.
Mr. Speaker, it is an honour to rise in the House to thank a colleague, a friend, and a fellow member of a community that I am proud to belong to, the Greek Canadian community.
The news that my colleague will be resigning today came as a surprise to me. Only a few short days ago, we talked about common interests. We talked, in fact, on March 25, a day that is important to us both and to many Greeks in Canada and around the world.
Even so, here we are today and I rise in the House on behalf of my colleagues in the New Democratic Party to thank our colleague for his service and his commitment to his constituents and to our country.
Regardless of political differences, I stand here to acknowledge the tremendous work done by the member for Scarborough—Agincourt and to recognize the tremendous commitment and service he has given to our country.
I want to especially acknowledge the way that he has blazed the trail, when it comes to issues of human rights that are important to many people who live in the diasporas in Canada.
I want to recognize his work in putting forward the private member's bill that finally recognized the death of 1.5 million Armenians as a genocide.
I want to thank him for his work around the importance of recognizing the Greek province of Macedonia as being an integral part of the Hellenic Republic.
I want to recognize his work in ensuring that Canada's trade interests were not exercised at the expense of the security of the Greek people, or anyone in our world.
I want to recognize the way he has been a strong champion. I have had the honour of working with him on the issue of justice for Cypriots and recognizing that the issues faced by Cypriots, no matter what side they live on, are issues that Canada can help address and that there must be justice for Cypriots today.
I want to particularly recognize the way in which he has been an important force in a very important community in Canada. Again, despite our political differences, I have only appreciated the strong voice he has been for Greek Canadians, for Canadians of all backgrounds, including Armenian Canadians, Kurdish Canadians, and others, in the fight for human rights and recognition.
We are fortunate to live in a country like Canada that has been built by many. Canada only becomes stronger when we recognize the importance of recognizing everyone's human rights at home and abroad.
I want to thank my colleague, the member for Scarborough—Agincourt, for being a tireless voice for human rights, for the diasporas in Canada, and for showing that children of immigrants and those born abroad can become not just great Canadians but also leaders and take our country forward in ways our parents could only be proud of.
I want to thank him very much.
[Member spoke in Greek]
Mr. Speaker, I rise today in recognition of a long-time, dedicated member of the House, the member for Scarborough—Agincourt. Over the years, he has held a number of positions, both in opposition and in government, including as Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Transport and as Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Human Resources and Skills Development and the Minister responsible for Democratic Renewal .
Throughout his career, this member has made his riding, which is one of the most ethnically diverse in Canada, his priority.
For 25 years now, he has embodied what it means to be a constituency MP. There is no better reflection of his dedication to his constituents than the fact they elected him to this chamber in eight straight elections.
Today, we remember the member's dedication to relief efforts following many natural and humanitarian disasters. He never shied away from calling for action, notably following the 2010 floods in Pakistan, the devastating earthquakes in China and Haiti, and the typhoons that have ravaged a number of southeast Asian countries in recent years.
I would also like to recognize the member's role in 2008, when he travelled as an official election observer to Pakistan. He has also witnessed elections in Somaliland and Russia.
We know him as a passionate man who has never been afraid to express his opinions.
Proud of his Greek heritage, his is a story shared by millions of immigrants who arrived on these shores and created new lives for themselves.
On behalf of the Liberal Party of Canada and our parliamentary caucus, I would like to extend my sincere thanks and best wishes to the member for Scarborough—Agincourt and his whole family, knowing that his father is up there somewhere, still beaming with pride. I know I join with many in the House in wishing him only the best.
Mr. Speaker, I rise today on a point of order. This will be the last time I rise to speak in the House. Effective immediately, I am tendering my resignation as the member of Parliament for Scarborough—Agincourt.
It has been over 25 years since I walked into this place, and I still get goose bumps every time I walk in here. There was an article written in the Toronto Star on December 18, 1988 by Susan Kastner, which concluded:
The national news cameras caught [the member for Scarborough—Agincourt] strolling to the Senate ballot box to cast his vote for Speaker. The diamond-pattern red tie blazed and his face, as he took it all in, was the face of a fellow who was having the time of his life.
I have to admit that over those 25 years, I have had the time of my life.
This is a place where one can make a difference. I think I have made a difference. This has been possible with the continued support of my family.
The same article describes when I was sworn in for the first time:
Smoothing their taffeta and organza dresses, the four little girls spilled into the halls.
It was describing my four daughters, Emily, Penny, Joanna, and Gina on the occasion of my first swearing in ceremony.
My family has grown since then. Toula and I have another daughter, Dina, who is now 23. We have two son-in-laws, Mike and Jeremy, and a few waiting in the wings.
We hear about a lot of hanky-panky going on here. In the same article, I said:
You hear things about the Ottawa cocktail circuit. Me, I'm very, very close to my family. I'm proud to say I've been married 13 years. Never even looked at another woman....
I am proud to say that this has not changed. I am even more in love with my wife today than the first time I saw her 38 years ago, and I thank her, my daughters, my sons, and my mother. The article goes on:
As his son swore to honor the Queen, tears came into Kosta Karygiannis' eyes. Afterwards, he pressed his son to him hard, and kissed him on each cheek.
Unfortunately, my father passed away last year and we truly miss him. My mother is getting on in age. She will be 85 soon, and I need to spend more time with her.
Then there is my staff who have supported me over the years. On my current staff, Kathy Gooch, my executive assistant, has been with me for close to 21 years; Margot Doey-Vick, for ten years; and there are Nick Manta; Lori Sweetapple; Shirley He; Annie Zhou; Letitia Lee; Daron Mardirossian; and Debra Dorion.
There have been other staff who were with me for a long time. Here, the article continues:
Jim left Toronto at 2:30 in the morning, driving all the way with Ian Perkins, his executive assistant. They had to make an unexpected stop in Kemptville, because Perkins' '78 Mustang ran out of gas.
Ian Perkins was with me for 16 years; Nina Adamo, 16 years; and there are Robert Kernoghan; Anton Kanagasuntheri; Steve Chatzibasile and Aglaia Kalogeropoulos, now married to each other; Vicky Balogiannis; Zain Dossal; Frank Caligiuri; Laura Maria Nikolareizi; Demetre Dellis; Grace Miao; Mandy Lo; Tina Kapelos; Shana Ramsay; and many more who were summer students or interns. I thank them all.
Then there are the volunteers who helped me get elected and then re-elected time and time again. On May 2, 2011, election day, we had close to 1,000 volunteers, scrutineering, getting the vote out, calling voters to vote, and driving food to volunteers.
While, unfortunately, other Liberal ridings were going down, we were able to get the highest Liberal plurality west of the Maritimes.
I sincerely thank all my volunteers over the years and look forward to working with them very soon.
However, the people I want to thank the most are the constituents of Scarborough—Agincourt. They put their trust in me time and time again for eight continuous terms. I am proud to have served the people of Scarborough—Agincourt and hope to continue to serve them in the future in another capacity.
I am leaving this place to be closer to my family and spend time more time with them. Being here has not allowed me to pass by my mother's home every night and see her before I go home. I am looking forward to doing just that.
In the article I quoted earlier, I said:
Three weeks ago, the morning after I won my daughters said to me, 'Dad, now can you drive us to school?' Gosh, it hasn’t hit them yet, their dad isn’t gonna be able to drive them to school again for a long, long time. Oh, it’s gonna be tough. The first morning when the kids wake up and find daddy’s not there, and the wife reaches over in bed and finds that empty space....
Well, there will not be an empty space and maybe in the near future, God willing, I will be able to drive grandkids to school.
Then there is this place and the colleagues whom I started with and the colleagues who have moved on in private or public life. There has been the Liberal Party that, to me, is my political family. There have been nine leaders whom I have served under: the Rt. Hon. John Turner, the Hon. Herb Gray, the Rt. Hon. Jean Chrétien, the Rt. Hon. Paul Martin, the Hon. Bill Graham, the member for Saint-Laurent—Cartierville, Michael Ignatieff, the Hon. Bob Rae, and the member for Papineau. There have been colleagues from the other parties for whom I have much respect and others with whom I have had a difference and I will remember.
I am sure that in the next election, coming in the near future, there will be a collegial fight, and in my heart and mind the Liberal Party will form the next government. I am entitled to my own opinion. I want to wish my Liberal colleagues good luck in the upcoming election. I look forward to working hard to return a Liberal as the member of Parliament for Scarborough—Agincourt and to see my party form the next government.
Over the years, I have served in many different positions in the House and on committees. I have worked and advocated for many communities and groups. I will continue to work with and advocate for rights and privileges in this country and around the world. I have travelled, advocating and watching democracy and human rights evolve around the world. I have led trade missions and spoken about Canada on four continents and made many friends with international leaders, members of legislative bodies, governors, first ministers, and prime ministers. I am humbled to call these people my friends. I will continue working with them for a better world.
Do not be surprised, Mr. Speaker, if you see me in the future in these halls advocating and fighting for the underdog. The Rt. Hon. Paul Martin wrote in a letter on November 22, 2013, to mark my 25th anniversary in the House, the following:
Since he was elected [he] has been a powerful advocate for his constituents who he loves and cares for as few other members of Parliament do. He built a legendary reputation in Ottawa, fighting for the most vulnerable among us. Reuniting families and combating injustice are in particular close to his heart. As Prime Minister, it was my pleasure to ask [him] to join the Privy Council and serve as Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Transport where he worked hard to keep Canadians safer and the economy firing on all cylinders.
[He] can out campaign and out organize above anyone. He has built an impressive record of election victories over the years and has shared that expertise with grassroots Liberals in ridings across Canada. His strength and support have been invaluable to me and to the Liberal Party of Canada.
There are very few people who have the capability to organize and help others to get elected. Many people say I am the last samurai of our party.
I have made reference to working with my volunteers in the immediate future and continuing to serve the constituents of Scarborough—Agincourt. I will be running in the next municipal election for the position of councillor in the City of Toronto for Ward 39 Scarborough-Agincourt. The current councillor, whom I helped get elected and who has done tremendous work, Mike Del Grande, announced a few months ago that he will not be seeking re-election. I will continue working and fighting for the issues that are important to the people of Scarborough—Agincourt: new immigrants and providing settlement services for them; ensuring that our local hospital, Scarborough Grace, remains open and functions as a complete hospital; upgrading our public transit and bringing the subway to Scarborough and Sheppard Avenue; and ensuring that our neighbourhoods are safe places to live and raise our children.
I would like to thank all of the people across this country and in many places around the world whom I have worked with, helped, and from whom I have received help in return, who have made a difference in my life and my work here in the House of Commons.
As I depart this place, I would like to mention two people who are special to me, my political mentors Styli Pappas and Judi Longfield. I would like to thank my wife, who is here with me today. I would like to thank my staff. I would like to thank my family and my mother.
I say a special thank you to my political family, the Liberal Party, and the Liberal leader, the member for Papineau.
Mr. Speaker, I am somewhat disappointed, yet not surprised, that the member for Scarborough—Agincourt has again attempted to proceed this way. Consultations are indeed going on between the parties. The member for Laurier—Sainte-Marie, I believe, will be proposing some language that has achieved at least some momentum.
However, the whole point of the exercise is to have the House of Commons recognize the plight of Venezuelans and the seriousness of the situation in Venezuela, which requires House leaders to speak with one another and to respect one another. If the member does not have that same respect for this place and for the House leaders who do the work on his behalf, his party and all the parties, as my colleague across the way and I are doing, then that is his choice, but to continue to do these types of activities in the House, where he knows full well that unanimous consent can be sought but not achieved without proper consultation, is wrong.
We will seek language, as is the member for Laurier—Sainte-Marie, about this very serious issue and will hopefully achieve the kind of consensus that will actually show the people of Venezuela that members of the Canadian Parliament can in fact work together on the seriousness of the crimes being committed in their country.
The electoral district of Scarborough--Agincourt (Ontario) has a population of 111,867 with 74,734 registered voters and 185 polling divisions.
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