Elsewhere

Last in Parliament May 2004, as Canadian Alliance MP for Nanaimo—Cowichan (B.C.)

Lost his last election, in 2008, with 37.59% of the vote.

Statements in the House

Member for Nanaimo--Cowichan May 13th, 2004

Mr. Speaker, it has been my privilege for the past seven years to represent the beautiful British Columbia riding of Nanaimo—Cowichan. It has been an incredible experience to participate in the Parliament of Canada with distinguished colleagues on all sides of the House.

I have worked on many different issues. Some of the most notable ones for me personally have been to represent the victims of hepatitis C, who were excluded from the 1986 to 1990 window; to fight for compensation for workers and aid for the forest industry damaged by a prolonged softwood lumber dispute; to work on behalf of disabled Canadians who were in need of better disability benefits; and to listen to and represent many grassroots aboriginal people who found no compassionate ear to listen to their voice in this government.

I would like to pay particular thanks to my wife Louise and family members who have endured my long absences from home. I thank them for their understanding and support.

My thanks to the voters of Nanaimo—Cowichan who twice elected me to represent them here in this place. It has been a privilege and a pleasure. Now I am retiring from this place to take up another vocation.

I wish to thank all my colleagues. God bless them and God bless Canada.

Supply May 13th, 2004

Mr. Speaker, I believe this scandal has very much been one that has been concerning the Canadian people. I am sure not everybody is concerned but I think a large majority of Canadians are concerned about it. It is probably not the greatest scandal in terms of the amount of money that we have seen the government fritter away in other areas, but I think it has become concerning to Canadians because of some of the implications of linkages to the Liberal Party and to the patronage problem we have in our political system.

The accusations have been made that the advertising companies, which received these contracts, were companies known to be very friendly to the Liberal Party and that they were awarded these contracts sometimes without proper documentation. The Auditor General and others have been concerned that there is no paper trail to connect the awarding of the contract to the individual company.

Has the public accounts committee really been able to discover where the money has gone? Is it true, from anything that the member has seen in his deliberations on that committee, that this money has then been kicked back to the Liberal Party or any political party?

Petitions April 21st, 2004

Mr. Speaker, on behalf of approximately 1,200 Canadians from right across the country, these petitioners add to the growing total of thousands of people who have petitioned the House asking that Parliament take whatever action is required to maintain the current definition of marriage in law in perpetuity, and to prevent any court from overturning or amending that definition.

It is a pleasure to present these petitions.

Petitions April 21st, 2004

Mr. Speaker, it is a pleasure to rise in the House to present several petitions today.

As the father of two adopted children who suffer from fetal alcohol syndrome, members will appreciate how I feel about the first petition. It calls upon Parliament, subsequent to a motion that was passed in the House on April 23, 2001, to enact legislation and regulatory changes that would prohibit the sale of alcoholic beverages in Canada unless the container in which the beverage is sold carries the following visible and clearly printed label: Warning: Drinking alcohol during pregnancy can cause birth defects.

Westbank First Nation Self-Government Act April 20th, 2004

Mr. Speaker, it is a pleasure to speak today to Bill C-11 and the amendments that have been brought forward by members of the official opposition.

By way of preamble to what I have to say and for the benefit of those who may be listening in the gallery or perhaps on television to the debate in the House of Commons, I would like to state where I as a person am in this whole thing.

Over the last 25 years my wife and I have been foster parents. We have actually been foster parents for 32 years but 25 years ago we brought into our house a native child. He is almost 25 years old now and he is on his own. He is working his way through a degree at a college and is a very fine young man. He is part of the first nations community on the west coast of Vancouver Island.

After that we fostered a number of other children, among them a number of native children. We now have three native children in our family. One is a 19 year old daughter who is part of the Blood Tribe from southern Alberta and another is a 17 year old daughter who is part of the Siksika nation from around Gleichen in Alberta.

Because of our involvement with first nations children, we were drawn into involvement with the wider aboriginal community in Canada and have continued over the years to keep very current on what was happening with our aboriginal brothers and sisters across the country.

At the present time, after 32 years of fostering, we have a three year old native child who has been in our home since she was six months old.

I am also the member of Parliament for Nanaimo—Cowichan. Because of that role, I have sometimes struggled with the native and non-native communities as they try to come to agreement over the treaty process that is in place in British Columbia. We have the Snuneymuxw First Nation in my riding that is attempting to hammer out an urban agreement with surrounding neighbours in the Nanaimo area.

For a year and a half I was the senior critic for Indian affairs for my party and in that role I touched base with a lot of native people across Canada. Before that, I had been part of accountability groups that had sprung up across the country where native people were coming with their concerns about what was happening on reserve. I do not come to this in a vacuum. I come to it with a lot of heartfelt tugs because of my native children and I come to it with some pretty practical observations of what I have seen happen on reserves and with our native population across Canada.

Then we come to a treaty like this, the third major treaty that will be struck in British Columbia since the 1870s when we only had the Douglas treaties on Vancouver Island. How do we balance the need to free up our aboriginal people to manage their own concerns in a way that brings economic prosperity and stability to them and which helps to bring them into the mainstream of Canadian life in some kind of equality? I am not talking about assimilation. That is something that will or will not take place depending upon people's individual choices.

However, how do we get over the hurdles that are in our native communities where in some native communities in my riding there is 80% to 85% unemployment? When I walk down the street of one of the major shopping areas in my riding I see many native children, teenagers, young adults simply lounging around on the streets with an aimless look in their eyes because they have no hope for the future. They have been hit by some of the social problems that invade native communities and non-native communities as well. I think of alcoholism and fetal alcohol syndrome which, incidentally, is troubling two of our children. We know the effects of that and what parents go through. We know the pain that it brings to people's lives.

How do we get rid of those problems for our native people, let alone the non-native population? We have to do something. We have to move forward with our native brothers and sisters so they can start taking control of their own destiny and not have it in the hands of government all the time.

I come to an agreement like this and I am torn. I see within the agreement steps that can be taken to move aboriginal people forward in terms of economic prosperity, where they can take charge of the economy and create jobs for their people to get them out of this cycle of social welfare dependency. Yes, that is what we need to see take place on reserves. We need to see that take place for urban aboriginals who often are a forgotten people within the whole context of the native situation in Canada.

At the same time, in this particular agreement, we do have some problems, and they are not just problems for the Westbank or for the city of Kelowna. They are problems for the whole of Canada as we move forward with trying to bring a resolution to the treaty process and to bring prosperity to aboriginal communities.

Therefore we have proposed some amendments to the bill today that would, for instance, remove references to inherent right of self-government, which I know we talk a lot about but which has never been settled as to what it means. We do not really know what that means.

In all its years of negotiating with native people, the government has never been able to come up with a real definition that would help move this across the country so we would not have this kind of uncertainty at the end of the treaty process.

It does bring uncertainty. It is bringing uncertainty into the Snuneymuxw agreement that is being hammered out in the Nanaimo area where it is just natural that non-native people wonder what will happen to lands that may be available under fee simple purchase in the centre of Nanaimo or the centre of Gabriola Island. Unless these things are very carefully hammered out and there are good applications of both law and justice in this process, we will have lingering festering problems after treaties are struck for a long time.

There is a need for certainty, transparency and for clarification around some of these issues so that we can truly go forward together.

I do not think we should be rushing into things that would cause us more problems in the future than they have in the past. If, at this point in our history, we are here debating this simply because there is an election coming and it has to be rushed through to be put up on the Liberals' trophy wall some place as another accomplishment, then that is wrong.

I want this treaty to go forward. I want native people to have economic prosperity but I want all of us as Canadians to have equality and justice before the law and before each other.

Budget Implementation Act, 2004 April 1st, 2004

Mr. Speaker, my hon. colleague and I both come from, as he has already said, resource based ridings, particularly forestry.

One of my biggest concerns in my seven years in the House has been the softwood lumber dispute which has been responsible for closing markets, closing mills and laying off thousands of people in the province of British Columbia which supplies approximately 52% of the exported softwood lumber from this country to the U.S.

I am sure my hon. colleague would agree with me that the kind of response from the government has been absolutely pitiful. When an aid package was announced it was not in the form of any kind of direct help to industry in terms of loan guarantees. It was not really helping out individual workers with extended EI benefits. It did not help workers, in any direct way, who had lost their jobs through the softwood lumber displacement. This has been dragging on for year after year with no resolution in sight. We are still in a trade war with the United States over it.

The softwood lumber adjustment program was supposed to put money back into communities that had suffered greatly from this problem, but I do not think anyone in my riding has actually seen a single dollar from that program.

In view of all of that, I wonder if my hon. colleague could give me the benefit of his wisdom as to whether the budget helps people like that and whether he has seen any money put into his riding that would substantially help displaced forestry workers.

Budget Implementation Act, 2004 April 1st, 2004

Mr. Speaker, both the hon. member and I will be retiring at the same time. I think both of us are well aware, as many members of the House are, I am sure, that in the final analysis we are not accountable to our electors. We are accountable to God. I want to thank the member for the way she has been accountable to her faith. She has done that through many trying times and perhaps when it was not the easiest thing to do.

On behalf of the Christian community in Canada, I wish to thank her for her witness, for her faith and for her stalwart perseverance.

Petitions April 1st, 2004

Mr. Speaker, this will probably be the last time that I will be able to present petitions on behalf of constituents, as I am retiring at the next election.

I want to add to the total of perhaps 3,000 people in my riding who have contacted me on this issue, 98% of them being in favour of the traditional definition of marriage. The petitioners ask that this be not left to the courts, but that Parliament take action on this and retain this very important definition of marriage that has been the foundation of our society for hundreds of years.

Petitions March 31st, 2004

Mr. Speaker, it is a pleasure to rise today in the House to present three petitions from Canadians in Ontario, Saskatchewan and Alberta. All of them are calling upon the government to enact legislation that would enshrine the traditional definition of marriage into law, that being the union of one man and one woman to the exclusion of all others. I am very proud to be able to present these today.

Employment Insurance Program March 25th, 2004

Mr. Speaker, I said in an earlier speech that I thought it would be my last speech before retiring, but here I am again. I am sort of like a dirty penny.

It is with pleasure today to join in the final hour of debate on Motion No. 475. For clarification, the motion reads:

That, in the opinion of this House, the government should modify the Employment Insurance (EI) program to establish specific status for seasonal workers, regardless of the EI economic region in which they live.

In effect, as I understand the previous debate on this motion, the hon. member who introduced it is seeking to establish this special status for seasonal workers regardless of where they happen to live in the EI economic regions across the country. In effect, this would create special eligibility requirements for all seasonal workers.

I believe that in order to fully debate this kind of motion, it would be profitable for us to take a step back and review the employment insurance program overall. That will set the context by which we can adequately look at the workings of Motion No. 475.

As we all know, the employment insurance program, or unemployment insurance as it was once known, was originally intended to provide temporary assistance to workers who found themselves unexpectedly out of work. Its original and intended objective was that both employees and employers would contribute to an insurance fund that would provide workers with the short term means to continue to meet their financial obligations in the event that they were laid off.

Unfortunately, however, past governments, and the Liberal government in particular, have used and abused the financial and political implications of the EI program much to their own advantage, regardless of the implications to the individual workers and employers.

In the November 2003 Auditor General's report, with which I am certain all Liberal members are now very well acquainted, there were several crucial points brought forward. The unfortunate point is that while the Auditor General has been able to confirm the numbers, the official opposition has brought forward many of the same points in the past, only to be ignored by the government.

Here are just a few of the points that came out of the November 2003 Auditor General's report. In 2001, 15.1 million Canadians contributed to the employment insurance benefits program and 2.4 million actually received benefits. The EI account surplus has reached $43.8 billion. This is money that has been wrongly taxed from working Canadians. This is money that should have remained in the taxpayer's pocket. This is money that the current Prime Minister, when he was finance minister, used to balance the budget. He simply balanced it on the backs of working Canadians.

Furthermore, and this is nothing new, the Auditor General has brought this same issue to the attention of Parliament since 1999.

Another point from the Auditor General's report of last year is that the current surplus is about three times the maximum reserve that the chief actuary of HRDC considered sufficient in the year 2001. Three times is a 300% overrun collected from employees and employers. That is money that could have been used by the employees for personal expenses, put toward their child's education or to enjoy a well deserved family holiday. That is money that the employers could have used to hire and train new staff, to replace old equipment or expand their market share.

In 1996, the Employment Insurance Act went through a series of changes. Unfortunately, neither the Canada Employment Insurance Commission nor Human Resources Development Canada have reported on what savings have resulted from these changes. It is indeed unfortunate that HRDC is so selective with its own performance measurements.

In her closing remarks of chapter 7, the Auditor General made several recommendations concerning EI. Among them were the following: First, that HRDC ensure performance targets are met across the country and that the causes of performance problems be further assessed. This seems like an obvious target. Unfortunately, the EI program has not always been properly monitored and acted upon.

The second recommendation was that HRDC should design and implement an evaluation plan for the EI income benefits program.

The third recommendation was that CEIC should ensure that all changes to the EI Act are monitored, assessed and evaluated.

Unfortunately, the EI program has been used by this very tired old Liberal government as a regional and industry subsidy for many years now. Due to these past actions, different benefits go to different groups of people. I agree with the motion's attempt to ensure that the EI program is consistent all across Canada. Unfortunately, the motion seems to be a bear bones type of motion that lacks many key components and much information which we would use to make an intelligent decision as to how to vote.

Simply put, we must ensure that the EI program provides adequate income protection for Canadians in all regions in the event of unexpected income loss, all the while ensuring that there is a fair eligibility requirement and payments into the fund.

Clearly, the original intent of the program was to ensure that the payments by employee and employer alike were reasonable to maintain it as an insurance fund, rather than to be used by the Liberal government to simply balance the budget. I believe we need to return the program to its original goal.

While I respect the intent of the motion, I am concerned with the vagueness of the terms used. “Specific status” does not really describe for us as legislators what is included. It would appear that there are financial implications involved in the motion. However we currently are unable to determine what those implications and those options may actually be.

The real story behind the EI program and something which needs to be addressed far more than the motion is not seasonal workers, but the abuse that the Prime Minister and the failing Liberal government have inflicted upon the program and the payment mechanisms themselves.

Once again Canadians are being overtaxed by the government. Once again we see the Liberals using $1.5 billion to serve their own needs. Once again we see a tired Liberal government that simply needs to be replaced with a government that will provide a vision and will provide hope, not only for workers but for every Canadian.

I suspect that in the coming weeks Canadians will decide that the government will be the new Conservative Party of Canada.