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Last in Parliament September 2008, as Conservative MP for Palliser (Saskatchewan)

Won his last election, in 2006, with 42.99% of the vote.

Statements in the House

Criminal Code April 9th, 2008

Mr. Speaker, I believe you were one of those individuals who stood twice, but that is for another day.

I want to get back to the gravity of the matter at hand and this very important private member's bill that I bring to this honoured chamber tonight.

As I was saying, two weeks before Kevin strangled Michelle to death, he waited for her inside her darkened Regina home until she arrived later that night. Then he raped her, assaulted her and threatened to kill her if she went to the police. Despite this threat, Michelle made the brave choice to go to the police and ensure that he was charged for these awful crimes.

Unfortunately, after spending one night in jail, Kevin was released on an undertaking not to contact Michelle and to keep the peace and be of good behaviour. The undertaking was reached by an agreement between the crown prosecutor and Kevin's defence lawyer. The judge who made the decision to release Kevin did not hear the facts of the case. I believe that if all pertinent information had been presented to the judge that day, Kevin would not have been freed on bail and, thus, we would have had a much different outcome.

With Kevin released from jail, Michelle tried to take measures to protect herself from him. She cut down the hedges outside her home. She installed extra lighting and locks. It was not enough.

A Regina Leader-Post article, based on the trial transcripts, details what happened on November 4, 2003. It states:

Michelle left the office shortly after 4:30 p.m. on Nov. 4, 2003 and drove the 20 minutes to Kevin's house after he had declined a request from Michelle—relayed by her oldest son—to instead drop off the younger children at her home.

The article goes on to state:

“You used your children for bait, didn't you?” prosecutor Al Johnston charged in cross-examining Kevin at trial. “I did not,” he replied.

The couple's two youngest sons, then aged five and three, were in a bedroom when Michelle arrived. Within minutes of grilling Michelle about her boyfriend, Kevin grabbed her by the neck and squeezed for at least two minutes until she died.

He then took their children to a neighbour's house, returned to Michelle's body, washed her face, and called police. It was 5:18 p.m., less than an hour after Michelle left the [comfort of her] office.

Kevin Lenius was convicted of second-degree murder and sentenced to life without parole eligibility for 12 years.

These are the tragic circumstances which prompted me to propose this private member's bill, which I will refer to as Michelle's law. The passage of the bill would give our hard-working crown prosecutors another tool to help them in their very difficult jobs.

The bill deals with those accused of a serious personal injury offence, as defined in the Criminal Code. It proposes that in those cases, before a judge rules on that person's release, the crown prosecutor shall present the judge with the prosecution's evidence relevant to the release of the accused. Subsection 515(10.1) would be added to the Criminal Code to achieve this amendment.

It is my hope that the bill will be passed by my hon. colleagues in the House. This legislation would place another check in our criminal justice system to help victims and would-be victims of serious violent crimes.

Michelle's law is designed to apply only in limited circumstances. In order for this legislation to apply, the accused must be charged with a serious personal injury offence, as defined in section 752 of the Criminal Code. In order to alleviate claims that the bill would create too much pressure on our criminal justice system, I have deliberately not proposed that this provision be used in all cases where an accused is seeking bail.

According to that Criminal Code section, a serious personal injury offence must be an indictable offence of a certain severity. Examples of the types of offences included in this definition are attempted murder, manslaughter, criminal negligence, discharging a firearm, aggravated assault, assault with a weapon, or causing bodily harm, sexual assault, sexual assault with a weapon, and aggravated sexual assault.

The heinous nature of these crimes warrants that the victims of these crimes be adequately protected. I want to emphasize today that I strongly support our crown prosecutors and the important and often unheralded work they do every day to keep us as citizens safe. Michelle's law is in no way meant as a criticism of their efforts. Instead I am trying to provide them with yet another tool to assist them in their difficult jobs with hectic criminal docket court schedules.

Many members of the House may be familiar with another very recent case, which I suggest may not have occurred if the type of law we are debating today had been in place.

In September 2007, in Oak Bay, British Columbia, just outside Victoria, Peter Lee murdered his wife, his six year old son and his wife's parents before he committed suicide. This terrible crime received significant national media attention, with its shocking brutality and ugly contrast to the beautiful Oak Bay neighbourhood in which it occurred.

There is a striking similarity between this case and Michelle's case. Only about a month before Peter Lee took the lives of that entire family, he was charged with aggravated assault of his wife causing bodily harm and two counts of dangerous driving causing bodily harm. Police said that they believed Lee tried to injure his wife when he crashed his vehicle into a pole, causing his wife to break her arm.

According to media reports, the Victoria police recommended to crown counsel that Lee not be released on bail. They were concerned that he posed a serious risk to his family. Unfortunately the crown prosecutor consented to Lee's release. This decision was signed off by a justice of the peace. Lee was placed under conditions not to contact his wife, visit the family home, visit their restaurant or possess any weapons. Again, this was not enough to prevent a horrific tragedy.

According to media reports, British Columbia's Attorney General Wally Oppal has said that crown prosecutors may not have had all the facts when they agreed to release Lee.

Shortly after the murder-suicide, the province of British Columbia announced a coroner's inquest to investigate the handling of this matter. That coroner's inquest will take place in Victoria later this month. The findings from that inquiry will result in recommendations to try to prevent such a situation from happening again.

Since introducing my private member's bill, I have discussed my proposal with a highly respected crown prosecutor. In his view, a more effective solution to the problem which occurred in these two cases would be to place a reverse onus on an accused charged with a serious personal injury offence. That way the burden would be on the accused to satisfy the judge that the accused should be released pending the next court date.

Currently many offenders in serious personal injury cases, even those involving murder, are released pending trial, even when a bail hearing is held. Thus the problem may be rooted in this system of judicial interim release.

Since the Bail Reform Act was put into place in the 1970s, the onus for bail hearings in almost all criminal offences has been on the Crown. This has resulted in violent criminals being released, endangering our citizens. In fact, I understand that in many cases, crown prosecutors do not even pursue bail hearings because it is seen as a foregone conclusion that the accused will be released.

Clearly this situation must be addressed. The needs and the rights of victims are not being protected under our current system. It is incumbent upon us as parliamentarians to change this law to protect the potential victims of heinous violent crimes.

Michelle's law starts the process. I ask all of my parliamentary colleagues to support this bill, to get it to the justice committee where members of all parties can look at amending this bill to institute a reverse onus clause for cases involving “serious personal injury offences”. This type of amendment would give this bill the teeth it requires so we can truly improve our criminal justice system.

The specific amendment I would present to the justice committee would be to amend the Criminal Code by adding the following short clause in the reverse onus section, subparagraph 515(6)(a)(v). I would add, “(vi) with a serious personal injury offence as defined in section 752”. That section 752 definition of “serious personal injury offence” is the same definition as the earlier provision included in my private member's bill.

We in the House must take decisive action to make our communities safer. In our nation, among solved homicides, half of the women killed were killed by someone with whom they had an intimate relationship.

Further, in a Regina Leader-Post article from December 2006, Saskatoon psychologist Deb Farden stated:

Studies show the point at which a woman leaves a relationship can be the most dangerous--when there needs to be the most vigilance by all the systems.

We need to help these women who have made those difficult choices to leave abusive or dysfunctional relationships. I think that Michelle's law can provide some real assistance to these vulnerable people.

I respectfully ask every member of the House to support this bill at second reading stage, to get it to committee where it can be amended and fine-tuned. I have proposed Michelle's law to protect victims of violent crime from suffering at the hands of offenders who are released on bail without the judge being informed of relevant prosecution evidence.

I thank all hon. members for considering my submission.

Criminal Code April 9th, 2008

moved that Bill C-519, An Act to amend the Criminal Code (bail for serious personal injury offence), be read the second time and referred to a committee.

Mr. Speaker, before I begin I will take a moment to explain the medal I am wearing on my right lapel. To explain to the many people across the Canada who would have watched at home, riveted to their television sets, throughout the vote that just took place, the medals we are all wearing commemorate the 91st anniversary of the Battle of Vimy Ridge. We commemorate the courage of those soldiers, who did what many people thought was impossible and took that hill. It was a day when Canada truly came into its own.

As a member of Parliament, one feels a great sense of responsibility when choosing the subject for one's first private member's bill. I have focused my private member's bill, Bill C-519, on a matter very close to my heart. It is rooted in a tragic criminal case, which became one of the main reasons that I entered federal politics.

On November 4, 2003, Michelle Lenius, a 32 year old woman with three children, was murdered by her estranged husband, Kevin Lenius. Michelle was my friend and the friend and co-worker of my wife Denise. Kevin was out on bail at the time of this terrible incident.

Two weeks before Kevin strangled Michelle to death, he waited for her inside her darkened Regina home until she arrived later that night. Then he raped her and assaulted her and threatened to kill her if she went to the police. Despite this threat, Michelle made the brave--

Petitions March 5th, 2008

Mr. Speaker, pursuant to Standing Order 36, I have the honour of presenting petitions on behalf of a number of concerned citizens from my home province of Saskatchewan and also from Alberta, led by Ms. Shawna Silzer.

The petitioners call upon the government to proceed with changes to the criminal justice system and all necessary legislation to ensure truth in sentencing for violent crimes; to make mandatory that victims of violent crimes are informed about their offenders' whereabouts during temporary release, parole and after completion of their sentences; furthermore, to pass legislation that a violent offender found guilty of subsequent, serious violent or sexual offences should automatically be designated a dangerous offender unless he or she could demonstrate why this would not be appropriate; place greater focus on the rights and needs of victims of violent crimes within the Canadian criminal justice system; and, ensure that victims of violent crime do not bear the financial burden of medical and psychological treatment arising from the crimes perpetrated upon them.

Criminal Code March 3rd, 2008

moved for leave to introduce Bill C-519, An Act to amend the Criminal Code (bail for serious personal injury offence).

Mr. Speaker, I am honoured to present my private member's bill entitled, An Act to amend the Criminal Code (bail for serious personal injury offence). I will refer to this bill as Michelle's law.

The bill was inspired by the terrible circumstances surrounding the murder of Michelle Lenius in 2003. Michelle was my friend and my wife's friend and co-worker. Michelle's ex-husband was convicted of her murder. Unfortunately, this man should not have been out on bail when he killed Michelle. This tragic case was one of the main reasons I entered federal politics.

The passage of this bill would give our hard-working Crown prosecutors another tool to help them in their difficult jobs. This bill would provide that for those accused of a serious personal injury offence in the Criminal Code, before a judge rules on that person's release, the Crown prosecutor shall present the judge with the prosecution's evidence relevant to the release of the accused.

I ask all members to support Michelle's law.

(Motions deemed adopted, bill read the first time and printed)

The Budget February 28th, 2008

Mr. Speaker, our Conservative government's budget delivers for all Canadians.

Our tax-free savings account will allow Canadians to save $5,000 a year for their own priorities. The money will help SIAST students buy their first car, help a Regina couple afford the wedding they are planning, help a family in Caronport with home renovations, or help a senior in Moose Jaw save more for retirement or a trip to see the grandkids. The best part is that this money will grow outside the grip of the taxman.

With this budget, our government continues its significant investment in Saskatchewan. We are investing $240 million in a carbon sequestration project and $10 million in the synchrotron. We are making gas tax funding permanent for municipalities and funding police officer recruitment for our communities. We are investing in our farmers and livestock producers, our students and our seniors.

With this budget, our Conservative government is building a better future for the people of Saskatchewan and for all Canadians.

The Budget February 28th, 2008

First, Mr. Speaker, my friend opposite is a little misinformed on the first question. This is not money for the oil sands or the oil industry. This is $240 million for Saskatchewan for carbon capture, carbon sequestration and storage.

This is innovative work being done at the University of Regina. This money is going to be matched by the Province of Saskatchewan, and when SaskPower, a crown corporation in Saskatchewan, kicks in money, it is going to be a $1.4 billion investment.

What is the ultimate benefit going to be? The environment. The environment is going to benefit most from capturing carbon and then using that carbon for enhanced oil recovery.

Regarding the second question on how one makes these decisions, it is done with leadership and prudence. We are just so proud of the Prime Minister and the finance minister. It would pay off--

The Budget February 28th, 2008

Mr. Speaker, certainly I am very happy to see all of the money that the Minister of Finance has dedicated to the province of Saskatchewan. This is great news for our province. Certainly we are deserving of these investments. They are investments in the future of the people of Saskatchewan.

Regarding debt repayment or a possible deficit situation, this budget is prudent. Let us keep in mind, though, that the main goal is to get this country out of debt so that we do not shackle not only our kids but their kids and their kids' kids with the huge debt that exists in this country. This is a very bold move to reduce the debt by an additional $10.2 billion. We have reduced it by $37 billion since getting into power. The saving in interest amounts to about $2 billion per year and will be passed on to ordinary individual Canadians in the form of tax cuts.

Talking about spending, when the member for Wascana delivered one of his budgets in the 38th Parliament, we were up to about $60 billion in promises. Of course, it is tough to remember which budget we are talking about, whether it is the original one or the one from the NDP--

The Budget February 28th, 2008

Mr. Speaker, I am proud to rise in the House today and speak in favour of our Conservative government's 2008 budget. I will be splitting my time with the member for Nanaimo—Alberni.

I am especially honoured to support the budget for my constituents in the great riding of Palliser. Canadians like them will benefit most from the government's economic plan. I have already received a lot of positive feedback from my constituents about the budget. These constituents, like other Canadians who watched the unveiling of budget 2008 on television or who heard it on the radio, found something in our economic plan for them.

The budget offers all Canadians a reason to celebrate, regardless of age, income level, geographic location or marital status. Even though budget 2008 has something for everyone, it is also balanced, focused and prudent.

Aptly entitled “Responsible Leadership”, it lays out our Conservative government's blueprint for careful stewardship of the Canadian economy in the face of challenges presented by global economic uncertainty. The Regina Leader-Post stated in its editorial yesterday:

This was not a sexy, free-spending budget that saw the federal Conservatives buy Canadians' votes. It allowed them instead to say they are managing Canadians' hard-earned money well.

The budget builds on our decisive, pre-emptive action taken in the 2007 fall economic update and during winter 2008 to lower taxes for people and businesses, pay down debt and provide targeted support for troubled industries. We are building on a record of soundly managing Canada's finances.

Since the Conservative government came to office in 2006, we have reduced the overall tax burden in Canada to its lowest level in nearly 50 years. We have paid down our federal debt by $37 billion and instituted a tax back guarantee to ensure that any interest savings on debt repayment would returned to Canadians in the form of personal income tax cuts.

Under the Conservative government, Canada's unemployment rate is at its lowest level in over three decades. If we want to continue this economic success, it will require a steady hand on the rudder as we navigate the current volatility in world markets.

Our Prime Minister, the Minister of Finance and our Conservative government have demonstrated our commitment to the required prudence in budget 2008.

In this fiscal year we will pay an additional $10.2 billion down on our national debt. By 2012-13, our Conservative government will have reduced the debt by $50 billion. We believe that future generations should not be shackled by the debt of previous generations.

We are taking the same responsible approach to federal finances that Canadians apply to their own family finances. In times of economic uncertainty, people do not overextend themselves by running up bills that will need to be paid later. Instead, they pay off their bills to give themselves and their families peace of mind and security in the future.

In budget 2008 we have also given Canadians an inventive new tool to allow them to save and also an incentive to save. Our new tax-free savings account is the most significant personal financial innovation since the RRSP. It will allow all Canadians over 18 to invest up to $5,000 per year for their own priorities. They can withdraw that money whenever they need it and any interest, dividends or capital gains will not be taxed. Any unused contribution room will be carried forward to future years and no amount earned in or withdrawn from the account will count against Canadians when determining their eligibility for federal income tested benefits, such as the child tax credit, GST tax credit or the age credit. This tax-free savings account offers all Canadians a powerful incentive to save for their individual future goals and priorities and watch their savings grow tax free.

Through the establishment of this account, our Conservative government has truly provided something for everyone. All adult Canadians can benefit from this measure: young people saving for their first car; couples saving for their first home or a wedding; families looking to fund home renovations; or seniors who want to stretch their retirement savings further or save for a trip south in the winter. This is great news for all Canadians who want to invest in their goals, their families and their futures.

Through this budget, our government is also investing in the future. We know that one province with a very bright future is my home province of Saskatchewan. Budget 2008 introduced several measures that will help sustain that growth.

Our Conservative government is committing $240 million for Saskatchewan to develop one of the first and largest clean coal and carbon capture demonstration projects in the world.

According to the Government of Saskatchewan's announcement yesterday, the proposed SaskPower demonstration project is a seven year, $1.4 billion government-industry partnership that rebuilds and then re-powers a major coal-fired power generation unit at Estevan's Boundary Dam. I am very proud to say one of my first summer jobs was at Boundary Dam in Estevan, Saskatchewan, the sunshine capital of Canada, so I take particular pride in this investment.

In terms of carbon capture, there has been some very exciting work done in this field at the University of Regina. I am encouraged to see our government's commitment to this kind of endeavour for Saskatchewan and for our environment. The new Government of Saskatchewan has asked our federal government for funding of this nature and we are delivering. With this commitment, we see the dawn of an encouraging new era of cooperation between the Government of Canada and the Government of Saskatchewan.

Budget 2008 delivers for our communities in Saskatchewan and across Canada. We are making the gas tax fund a permanent funding measure for our municipalities to allow them to better plan and finance their long term infrastructure needs.

Also, Saskatchewan will receive $36 million through the community development trust to help vulnerable communities adjust to global economic uncertainty. It will receive $15 million over two years through the public transit capital trust 2008. Saskatchewan will also receive $64 million for infrastructure initiatives, $15 million for labour market training, and $10 million for the Canadian Light Source synchrotron.

Budget 2008 is also investing in the future of Saskatchewan's agricultural producers. Since 2006 our government has provided $4.5 billion to farmers. With this funding, we have put in place an improved package of farm income stabilization programs that are responsive, predictable and bankable.

In this budget, our Conservative government is providing funding of $72 million over two years for farm programs. We have also improved producers' access to $3.3 billion of cash advances, a move that will help our livestock producers in particular. In addition, Saskatchewan will receive $4.2 million through the cull breeding swine program to alleviate financial pressures faced by the Canadian hog industry.

This is all very good news for the agricultural producers in my riding, in communities such as Pense, Avonlea, Caron, Rouleau, Wilcox and Mossbank, who are so vital to Saskatchewan's economy.

The good news for Canadians does not stop there.

Our Conservative government has introduced new measures in this budget to assist our valued senior citizens. The budget provides for a full exemption of the first $3,500 of earned income from the guaranteed income supplement, or GIS, calculation for seniors. This is up from a previous maximum exemption of $500, a significant increase that will make a difference for many seniors.

I am proud to have the military base 15 Wing Moose Jaw in my riding of Palliser. As such, there are many families in Moose Jaw and area who are survivors of war veterans. Budget 2008 will provide $282 million over this and the next two years to expand the veterans independence program, or VIP, to support those survivors. This is a move that I know will benefit many seniors in my riding.

Further, budget 2008 will continue this Conservative government's commitment to fighting the largely hidden problem of elder abuse. We will direct an additional $13 million over three years toward this issue.

I would like to congratulate Senator Marjory LeBreton, Secretary of State for Seniors, for ensuring that this important initiative was included in budget 2008. When Senator LeBreton recently visited my riding and with seniors in Regina, elder abuse was a key concern discussed at those meetings.

We are also funding other initiatives to keep our communities safe. In budget 2008 our Conservative government is giving the province of Saskatchewan $12 million to recruit frontline police officers to protect our citizens. In addition, we are providing over $60 million for crime prevention and prosecution nationwide. I could go on, but my time is almost up.

It is worth mentioning as well that we are investing in our Canadian Forces, providing stable and predictable new funding to ensure that our CF members--

Prebudget Consultations February 8th, 2008

They have thought that about you for a long time. Keep your word and resign.

International Aid February 7th, 2008

Mr. Speaker, when it came to international aid, the Liberals talked the talk but they did not walk the walk. They hung out with rock stars and lectured the world, but they just did not get it done.

The Prime Minister and the Minister of International Cooperation have set realistic and achievable goals to meet our commitment of doubling aid to Africa. The Prime Minister's announcement of $105 million for the Canadian-led initiative to save a million lives is just the first step.

Could the Minister of International Cooperation tell us the latest steps this government is taking to meet her commitment?