DRYDEN, The Hon. Ken, P.C., O.C., B.A., LL.B.

Personal Data

York Centre (Ontario)
Birth Date
August 8, 1947
executive manager, lawyer, professional hockey player, writer

Parliamentary Career

June 28, 2004 - November 29, 2005
  York Centre (Ontario)
  • Minister of Social Development (July 20, 2004 - February 5, 2006)
January 23, 2006 - September 7, 2008
  York Centre (Ontario)
  • Minister of Social Development (July 20, 2004 - February 5, 2006)
October 14, 2008 - March 26, 2011
  York Centre (Ontario)

Most Recent Speeches (Page 4 of 68)

November 1, 2010

Hon. Ken Dryden (York Centre, Lib.)

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to have this chance to speak to Bill C-47, the second budget implementation act.

Everybody, rich and poor, young and old, doing well and not doing well, we are all looking for the same thing: a chance, a real chance. Even the rich who have been rich all their lives, to develop a new product or to break into a new market, at some moment they need a chance, too.

For those who are not rich and for those who are poor who have not had the same chances or who did not give themselves the full chance they needed, what do they do? Where do they go? For them, for all of us, at some moment, government matters.

A budget matters. A budget offers a path to our economic future as a country and for each of us as individuals. However, the impact of a budget is far more than just economic. It can add a piece to a life that up to that moment does not quite work. A budget has often to do with money in the form of an investment, in training, learning, health, research and development, housing, literacy, in things that might not make today much better than yesterday, but which will give us a shot at a better tomorrow.

I have watched the government for more than four and a half years. I have listened as it has brought down several budgets. A budget day offers many announcements about many things, so much it seems is about to be done. Then the next day and every day after that we also begin to see what is not being done. For me, the test for any budget of any government is, what will its impact be 5 years or 10 years from now? How will it make us better off, as a country, as individuals? How much is a budget just stuff and in truth will not have any real impact on our lives at all?

That is my disappointment with the government. More than four and a half years have passed with very little benefit to the future of Canada and Canadians.

Learning, we know, will be central to every country's future. As parents, we worry about our kids. As we look into the future, more than anything we want to know that they will be okay. We see these immense, unimaginable changes ahead and we do not know how our kids will adapt.

We know that passing on to them some money will help a little, but money gets spent. Over time, we have come to realize, to know that in their future their only real security, their only real opportunity is learning. Therefore, when things change, they have in them the capacity to learn and change with them.

Our kids need to learn more and better in their early lives, to have enriched opportunities outside their own homes as well, in early learning and child care, just as they do when they get to kindergarten and beyond. They need to have better chances at college and university so their learning is not interrupted constantly by the need for part-time jobs or years off to limit the debt they incur.

Many adults who do not learn to read early in their lives, who live under the suffocating ceiling of illiteracy need literacy programs to give them another chance at life.

What is the government doing in these regards, in this budget? What has it been doing in these more than four and a half years? Very little. Enough to say in question period and in scrums that it is doing something. Enough to meet its political needs, but not enough, not nearly enough, to meet the needs of those outside government, to meet the needs of Canada and Canadians for the future.

When this recession ends, one thing is certain, the world's economy will not go back to where it was before the recession began. Shifts have taken place. There are new ways to do things, new technologies, especially in the energy sector, new opportunities, new risks. The need for any government, for any company, is to move to where the world is going, not to where it was or is.

In this budget and in the last four and a half years what has the government done to prepare us to succeed in the future? It has done just enough to say it has done something.

It is even more dramatically the case for those who are poor and who need a chance in so many different directions, affordable housing, income assistance, child care, disability supports and even more so still, those who are aboriginal. The government has done just enough to say it is doing something, but not nearly enough to make a difference, to offer a chance at a real life.

For more and more families, it takes both parents in the workforce to make ends meet. We are living longer. We are living healthier. However, as extended families, less often do we live together. What happens when something goes wrong, when there is a major illness in the family, a child or an elderly parent? When lives are closer to the margin, how do we adapt? How do we help caregivers? The government has done just enough to say it is doing something, but not enough to make a difference.

If someone notices just how little the government is actually doing for Canadians, the government discourages those voices. According to how the government thinks, these problems should not exist. If government gets smaller, if a little more money is put into the pockets of people, everything will be fine.

The reality is, however, that life as it is really lived annoyingly gets in the way, unless of course the government does not notice. For the Conservative government, it is the miracle of ideology. If the Conservatives know something already, then they do not have to listen. The government does not have to listen to community groups, so why not cut their funding. It does not have to listen to people who oppose or criticize it, so why not fire or humiliate them. Because we cannot know what is not knowable, the census is cut. Everybody knows that if something is not measured, then it does not exist. If it does not exist, then it cannot be a problem. If it is not a problem, why have government programs to fix what does not need fixing? It is magic, magic for the government but not magic for those who need a chance.

In a time of global economic transformation, in a time of climate change, in a time when the gap between the rich and everyone else has grown, in this more than four and a half years, as exemplified by the second budget implementation act, the hallmark of the Conservative government has been political management, not national stewardship.

Topic:   Government Orders
Subtopic:   Sustaining Canada's Economic Recovery Act
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November 1, 2010

Hon. Ken Dryden

Mr. Speaker, it is a question for all of us. As much as we find a lot of the debate we have here fascinating, I am not sure many people at home do. We can see it in the problems with low voter turnout, especially among younger people. The majority of those who do turn out feel an obligation to vote, not necessarily out of a great engagement in the process. That is a problem for all of us.

Our biggest problem, and we can see this in the United States, comes when there is nothing really compelling on the table. That is when the problem arises. All of us have been around tables where we disagree with each other. Unless we have something to focus on, something we think is much more important than each other, we will focus on each other and the snipping begins.

That is our challenge and it is also the challenge in the U.S.

Topic:   Government Orders
Subtopic:   Sustaining Canada's Economic Recovery Act
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October 21, 2010

Hon. Ken Dryden (York Centre, Lib.)

Mr. Speaker, a few weeks ago I visited the Hincks-Dellcrest Centre in my riding. Among other things, the centre offers programs for children with suspected mental health problems and their parents. I sat around with some of the mothers and asked them why they were there.

Most of them are new to Canada, their own mothers live far away, no family and no mentors around, and this is their first child. Those 10 new things that happen every day in a child's life, why? Is this normal? Is this a problem? What should they do? They learn from the staff and they learn from each other. They have made friends. Their children have made friends. They feel comfortable. They feel at home.

If anyone ever for a moment wonders why governments can matter, why taxes can matter, why cutting is not the answer to everything; if anybody ever for a moment wants to know why multiculturalism in some countries struggles and why this multiculture of Canada works, go to Hincks-Dellcrest. It is inspiring.

Topic:   Statements By Members
Subtopic:   Hincks-Dellcrest Centre
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June 17, 2010

Hon. Ken Dryden

Madam Speaker, however the process worked or did not work to the satisfaction of the member in terms of how we came to present this motion, I think that the essence of the question is the functioning of the current government and how prorogation can be misused to shut down voices.

I would not be so distracted as that member is. I think that is an absolutely central question for all of us, the shutting down of voices.

Topic:   Government Orders
Subtopic:   Business of Supply
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June 17, 2010

Hon. Ken Dryden (York Centre, Lib.)

Madam Speaker, I am dividing my time with the member for Vancouver Centre.

Prorogation can be mostly for benign reasons but in this case it was not. Done arbitrarily and out of the government's own convenience, it was done to shut down voices that the government did not want to hear. That may be very human, but for a democratic society, for Canada, it is a big problem.

The Prime Minister does not like a lot of different voices, not in his caucus, not in his cabinet, not in committees, not in the bureaucracy, not in media, not anywhere.

During his now more than four years in office, think of any big public discussion his government has generated on the transforming issues of today and of the future, on the changing national and international economy, on global security, on climate change, on energy, on anything. Nothing. The Prime Minister does not like other voices. Other voices might be critical, embarrassing or inconvenient. They may simply be different from his own. He knows where he wants to go. He thinks he is right. So why do these voices matter?

Prorogation was just part of it. In his more than four years as Prime Minister, he has used and misused the power of his position, its rewards and punishments to entice an intimidate, to play on human weakness, to prop up voices he wants to hear and to shut down those he does not want to hear. All this may be very human, but for democratic society, for Canada, it is a big problem.

This past Monday we brought together about 20 community groups from across the country, some national and international and some small and local, that after years and sometimes decades of receiving federal government money to do important community services and to give voice to those who are less advantaged, to help them to live the way all Canadians should live, they had their funding cut. These were aboriginal groups, health groups, women's groups, learning and child care, international aid groups and others. However, this round table was not really about their funding cuts. It was about what the loss of the services and the voice they provided means to their communities and to Canada.

These cuts, this different understanding of the importance of public voice, represent a great change from previous governments, from the Liberal governments of 1970s and early 1980s, from the Progressive Conservative governments of the late 1980s and early 1990s and from the Liberal governments again until 2006.

When I was minister of social development, my responsibilities included those for seniors, people with disabilities, the volunteer sector as a whole and child care. People who worked for advocacy groups on these issues did so because they believed in these issues and knew that so much more needed to be done. These groups pushed hard. We got to know each other, maybe even trust each other a little, but these groups were intensely politically no-partisan and intensely issue partisan.

They had to deal with whoever was the government. At times they drove me crazy. Sometimes they were too right, uncomfortably right when it was not sure that I could deliver that right. Sometimes I thought they were completely wrong, that to meet their own goals and mine they wanted to go down the wrong path.

However, I knew what every party for decades had known, which is that these voices are part of the essential mix of voices necessary for a properly functioning healthy society.

Then in 2006 the Conservatives won. During the first three or four months there were signs of trouble for these groups but to them they hoped it was just a matter of getting used to a new government and a new government getting used to them. They had seen it before, whether a Liberal or Progressive Conservative government, and eventually they knew they would get through to that government and everything would end up roughly as it was. However, not this time.

There were cuts to the court challenges program, women's groups, literacy and child care, and aboriginal groups. The first groups in these areas thought they were the only ones affected. They kept waiting for the train to arrive at the station but I would tell them that the train was not coming.

The Conservative government thinks differently. It does not know why it should give money to these groups. It thinks it is its job to reflect the different voices in the country. It believes that if these issues had any real public support, people would give to these groups themselves. It believes that if any money does go to these groups, it should go directly to the people in need, to feet on the ground, not to mouths in corner offices. It cannot understand why any government in its right mind would support someone who just criticizes it anyway.

All this might be very human, but for a democratic country, for Canada, it is a big problem.

We all knew and the government knew what would happen next. For these groups, their effectiveness, their voices and their existences threatened, they would go nuts. Instead, most have gone quiet.

I think this even surprised the government at first, then it realized the power it had. Essentially it said to these groups, “You thought you were strong. You are not. You need our money and now you have a choice. You can go quiet and maybe get some money, but not likely and certainly a lot less, and by going quiet, you become powerless, or you can go loud and certainly not get any money and become powerless. What do you want, to be powerless or powerless?”

For the government it meant that it could keep its money and keep these groups quiet. Life does not get much better.

On Monday, together some of these groups told their story. Many others are still not willing to. There was also someone who took part but who decided to do so only by phone because a government contract was pending for a group she would like to work for and she did not feel that she could put herself or this group at risk by being identified. This is a person who has a reputation for fighting every fight, loudly, publicly and never taking a backward step. It is all about shutting down voices.

Another group, whose funding has not been cut, had intended to be there to show solidarity with the other groups because this group knows that but for the grace of one cabinet minister who has a personal interest in the issue that is its focus, its funding might be cut too. In the end, however, the group decided that it could not risk being there. In one way or another, again, it is shutting down voices.

The round table was not about groups losing their funding. It was about what the loss of funding means, what the loss of services and the voices that they provide means to local communities and the national community, and what it means to all of us.

Here is what some of them said. One said, “I am acutely aware that--today--there may be consequences associated with speaking publicly about social and political issues of importance to Canadians. ...few would deny that the "chill" is real and that this is a new development in Canadian democracy”.

Another person talked about organizations that are now afraid to be visible in a press conference and about groups that historically have had too few resources to act alone. The person said that they were divided by fear, divided by a race to survive financially. The person said that the result was distrust, fear and a lack of cohesiveness.

Another person said, “We are witnessing some of the most prominent organizations in this country being silenced, reduced. ...ensuring that the government will have little or no opposition to their actions and policy.“We are witnessing some of the most prominent organizations in this country being silenced, reduced, ensuring that the government will have little or no opposition to their actions and policy. It seems that NGOs have been given two choices--stay quiet and don't represent the challenges facing vulnerable Canadians or voice those issues and quietly disappear”.

Those words do not convey their full stories nor the tone of their voices. Their tone was one of sadness, anger, disappointment in themselves for being so weak in the face of their organization's survival, for turning against other groups, for turning selfish and greedy, for being so unlike what they ever thought they were. More than that, their tone was that of disbelief and denial. They could not believe this was happening. They could not believe it was possible to stop themselves before they could say what needed to be said. This was not Canada.

These groups knew their own stories and knew the stories of those in their own sectors but they were stunned by the other voices they heard and by how broad and how deep the problem went. I think it took so long for these groups to speak out because of this disbelief, because of a feeling that surely they were the only ones, that no one else would understand, and because to say something about losing their funding would sound to others like sour grapes and would sound self-serving, as if they really did not have the right to say something.

It is the same story for all the opposition political parties and for the media. We are losing our voice, but what right do we have to say something? It is called sour grapes and self-serving.

This is not, first of all, most of all, about us. It is about the public, about Canadians, and about how this country works. That gives us a right. That gives us an obligation.

Topic:   Government Orders
Subtopic:   Business of Supply
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