- On the Parliament site
Last in Parliament May 2004, as Canadian Alliance MP for Skeena (B.C.)
Lost his last election, in 2004, with 33.70% of the vote.
Statements in the House
National Forest Week May 7th, 2004
Mr. Speaker, this week various government and non-government organizations are sponsoring activities across the country to promote and support the 2004 National Forest Week.
The slogan for this year's week, “Canada's Forests--A Fine Balance”, sums it up. It is a reminder of the vulnerability of our forests and their inhabitants. We must ensure the continuing health and sustainability of our forests.
For generations, Canada's forests have contributed immensely to the quality of life in our communities and they will continue to be a major source of employment and recreational activity for thousands of Canadians.
In B.C., especially in areas such as my riding of Skeena, forestry is an integral part of the overall economy. Challenges such as the softwood lumber dispute and the devastating mountain pine beetle epidemic continue to face the industry, but these challenges are being met head-on through innovation, investment and research.
Canada's forests are a sustainable resource that we must use wisely and with respect. Our future lies with our resources, and our forests and the forest industry deserve continuing support and recognition.
Port Security April 30th, 2004
Mr. Speaker, Canadian ports cannot be expected to absorb all costs related to security and customs services.
For example, the new container port facility in Prince Rupert has been told that it must pay customs-related costs when it becomes operational. How can it be competitive with existing major ports that do not pay these costs? When will the minister change this very unfair policy?
Port Security April 30th, 2004
Mr. Speaker, Canada's national security police announced this week that the RCMP has established national ports enforcement teams at only three Canadian ports: Vancouver, Halifax and Montreal.
My question is simply this: What federal assistance will be given to enhance security at other significant Canadian ports, such as the port of Prince Rupert in my riding of Skeena?
Bill C-250 April 30th, 2004
Mr. Speaker, this week the Liberal majority in the Senate passed Bill C-250. It was indeed a sad day in Canadian politics.
Many of my constituents in Skeena and I as their MP vigorously and vociferously opposed the bill as it moved through the House of Commons. The Liberal majority, with the help of both the Bloc Quebecois and the NDP, supported Bill C-250 on its way to the Senate.
A government that supports such biased and undemocratic legislation as Bill C-250 does not deserve to be in office, much less re-elected.
I urge all Canadians to remember which candidates stood for freedom of speech, freedom of religion and freedom of expression in this country whenever the upcoming election is called.
Income Tax Act April 29th, 2004
moved for leave to introduce Bill C-523, an act to amend the Income Tax Act and the Income Tax Regulations (Queen Charlotte Islands).
Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to introduce this private member's bill. The intent of the bill is to amend the Income Tax Act to make the Queen Charlotte Islands a prescribed northern zone for the purpose of section 110.7 of that act in recognition of the high costs associated with living in such a very remote area of Canada.
It would also amend the income tax regulations so that the Queen Charlotte Islands would no longer be a prescribed as an intermediate zone for the purpose of section 110.7 of that act.
(Motions deemed adopted, bill read the first time and printed)
Mining Industry April 22nd, 2004
Mr. Speaker, last week I attended the Minerals North Mining Conference in Smithers, B.C. Highlighted was the mining industry's interest in the northwest.
This year, mineral exploration expenditures in B.C. should exceed $100 million, four times the $22 million of a few years ago. New mines in the northwest should be developed over time, including: the Red Chris Copper Project; Galore Creek Copper and Gold; Klappan Anthracite Coal; Kemess North Copper and Gold; and the Tulsequah Chief. Operating mines include the fabulous Eskay Creek gold and silver property, the Huckleberry and Kemess Copper Mines, and the Endako Molybdenum Mine. All of this is in the northwest.
I am excited about these opportunities and encourage both levels of government to cut the red tape. I believe that we must encourage development of our mineral resources to create new jobs and opportunities for Canadians.
Projects that create wealth pay for essential services like health care and education. B.C.'s mining industry has contributed and does contribute to our economy in a major way.
Westbank First Nation Self-Government Act April 20th, 2004
Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to address this very important issue.
I come from British Columbia and probably have a different view on the whole situation with regard to treaties, land claims and agreements. The B.C. situation is quite different from that in the rest of Canada. Elsewhere treaties have been in place for a lot of years. In B.C. there were only two very small treaty areas prior to the Nisga'a agreement of some years ago. B.C. is wide open and subject to setting a lot of precedents for the future perceivably right across Canada.
I want to say right off the bat that I am very much in favour of resolving this whole land claim and native agreement issue. It is something that is seriously impeding progress especially in British Columbia where any project now has to be vetted by the local aboriginal group. I do not have a big problem with that, except that the vetting process should not be a veto process, which it tends to become from time to time. Resource development projects, which is usually what they are in my part of the world, affect people who live in the area and it is only right that they should have input. I am very concerned when that input for all intents and purposes becomes a veto. This is a huge concern.
Bill C-11 is intended as an act of Parliament to give effect to the Westbank First Nation self-government agreement. The Westbank First Nation is an Indian band within the meaning of the Indian Act. Its principal reserves, IR 9 and IR 10, are located in an area known as Westside adjacent to the city of Kelowna and the unincorporated community of Westbank. The population of the band is 594, 383 of whom lived on the land as of December 2002 but there may be a few more now.
The land is about 24 acres and is partially developed prime residential and industrial land. There are about, and I think this is a really important matter, 7,500 non-Westbank First Nation people who either live or own businesses on the land.
The purpose of the bill is to incorporate by reference the agreement, approve it and give it the effect of law. The agreement is defined as including any future amendments to the agreement. Thus, the bill incorporates by reference and gives the force of law to a document, part of which is not yet in existence. That has to be a major concern. How can we put something into force of law when we do not know how it will be worded or implemented?
This is known as Westbank law. It is to be enacted from time to time by the Westbank council. Westbank law on numerous subjects may be inconsistent with and will prevail over laws passed by Parliament.
The Westbank First Nation has all the attributes of a self-governing enclave. Canadian citizens, both aboriginal and non-aboriginal, living or working there will be subject to a form of government that for most of them is not elected by them and is unrestrained by any of the checks, balances and safeguards that apply to other governmental institutions in Canada.
I quote lawyer Mr. Chris Harvey, who did a fairly significant indepth review of this agreement:
The substance of the act is contained in the agreement of some 84 pages which is referentially incorporated in the act. This is a remarkable piece of legislation. It amounts to an abdication of the sovereign law-making and executive authority of the Crown in Parliament. Its effect on the people residing and working in Westbank is to remove many of the fundamental political and legal safeguards that support their freedoms and security. This is completely out of character in a modern liberal democracy committed to equality of opportunity and individual rights. It is surprising to see basic legal rights which have been acquired gradually over many years of political struggles being so abruptly discarded.
Many of the provisions of this legislation are contrary to accepted norms of parliamentary practice in Canada. Some of the provisions are so clearly inconsistent with such norms that they may be said to be unconstitutional in law.
Every citizen of Canada, aboriginal and non-aboriginal alike, is entitled to be governed by laws which are passed or authorized by a democratically elected parliament, provincial legislature, or town council for that matter. Law-making authority may be delegated down to subordinate institutions, but it is not acceptable in such an arrangement that the subordinate institutions be authorized to supplant Parliament and Parliament's laws by passing laws that are inconsistent with the laws of Canada and prevail over them.
The municipal style government is obviously very successful and is the closest form of government to the citizens of Canada. I was the mayor of a small town for a number of years and was on council for 24 years. I certainly understand how answerable to the people municipal style government is. It is the most direct and closest form of government. It is still delegated down from the province and the federal government.
It has long been held by the highest court in Canadian law that constitutional powers in Canada are wholly and exhaustively distributed between the federal and provincial governments. The concept of a third order of government, though much discussed in economic and political circles, has never gained recognition in Canadian constitutional law.
The academic debate as to whether there exists in law an inherent right of self-government is reflected in section 1(a) of the agreement which provides:
The purpose of this agreement is to implement aspects of the inherent right of self-government by Westbank First Nation on Westbank lands based on the recognition that the inherent right of self-government is an existing aboriginal right within section 35 of the Constitution Act, 1982.
The inference in this statement is that such a right was an existing aboriginal right when the Constitution was passed and that Parliament has been asked merely to recognize that fact in this section of the agreement. This is plainly incorrect.
In a recent case the Newfoundland Court of Appeal again affirmed the sovereignty of Parliament. In Dawe v. the Town of Conception Bay South, the judge stated that Parliament and the provincial legislature are established by the Constitution as the supreme and only legislative bodies and given that all power must be founded on the Constitution there is no remaining room for inherent powers of government.
A concern with the Westbank agreement is the protection under the inherent clause that basically would set aside any right for non-aboriginals to make any sort of claim or go to court based on a constitutional matter. That is a big concern.
Although the agreement is expressly not a treaty, it is brought within section 35 of the Constitution Act by the government's recognition of the inherent right of self-government, as I have already said.
It must be remembered that all those living and working on Westbank lands, approximately 90% of whom are not aboriginal or members of the WFN at present, have their full rights and freedoms guaranteed under the charter. Section 15 of the charter provides:
Every individual is equal before and under the law and has the right to the equal protection and the equal benefit of the law without discrimination and, in particular, without discrimination based on race, national or ethnic origin, colour, religion, sex, age, mental or physical disability.
The charter further provides:
Notwithstanding anything in this charter, the rights and freedoms referred to in it are guaranteed equally to male and female persons.
Without altering the legislative authority of Parliament or the provincial legislatures or the rights of any of them with respect to the exercise of their legislative authority, Parliament and the legislatures, together with the Government of Canada and the provincial governments are committed to promoting equal opportunities for the well-being of Canadians.
Although I have a lot more to say on this issue and hopefully will have the chance, I will close by saying that these fundamental rights which have been developed in Anglo-Canadian law and reach back to the Magna Carta are today more or less all grouped together in the charter. Rightly or wrongly, they are referred to as charter rights.
This is why Bill C-11 and the agreement need careful scrutiny. A simple amendment is needed to remove reference to the inherent right of the aboriginal right of self-government and to section 25 of the charter, so that all citizens would have unimpeded access to the Charter of Rights and Freedoms.
Softwood Lumber April 1st, 2004
Mr. Speaker, I would like to speak briefly to Motion No. 397. While I think the motion is very well intended, it definitely has some flaws, which my colleague spoke about earlier.
I will make just a few comments. Coming from British Columbia, I am very familiar with the softwood industry in British Columbia. B.C. exports 50% of the softwood lumber that goes into the U.S. market. That is basically a third of the total U.S. market in terms of consumption down there. It is a very significant industry in British Columbia, as it is in other parts of Canada.
We are very concerned about the effects of the softwood lumber situation. Any move to try to alleviate that or improve the situation and in fact come to a final solution would be welcome. I am not so sure, though, that Motion No. 397 would do that.
There is no doubt in my mind and in the minds of many of my colleagues that the ultimate solution we have to work toward is free and open access to the U.S. market through that border. We have to concentrate on that and make every effort to achieve it, hopefully in the short term but certainly in the mid term to long term.
Any negotiations in the meantime will have to continue at the WTO and NAFTA and we certainly hope that they will conclude as soon as possible with what I think will be positive results for Canada.
One of the members across the way spoke a short time ago about the softwood lumber community adjustment program. That has been a big concern. It was announced a year and a half ago or so with the intent of helping the communities across Canada and of course in British Columbia that were affected by the softwood lumber dispute. That program in British Columbia was worth some $55 million. To date, $5 million has been spent on bureaucracy, which is a heck of a chunk out of that program; almost 10% is already gone without achieving anything to speak of.
I understand that some $30 million has been approved in various projects for communities around British Columbia, but again, not a lot of that money has hit the road yet. The cheques have not been written to any large extent.
Two or three projects in my riding of Skeena have been approved, for which I am very grateful. The timing was late. The intent of the program was to assist some of these communities through the fall and winter months when times are very difficult and opportunities are somewhat limited. Unfortunately that did not happen, but certainly we are grateful for what we did get.
I am just a little bit concerned that the bulk of this money could end up being distributed just prior to an election, which to me appears to be a little cynical. We will take it whenever we can get it, but we have to be a bit cynical about it.
Budget Implementation Act, 2004 April 1st, 2004
Mr. Speaker, the handling of the softwood lumber issue has been very distressing to many Canadians and especially British Columbians because we are the major producer of softwood lumber into the U.S. Some 50% of what goes into that market comes from British Columbia.
We are almost three years into the dispute and there has been no real resolution. It has been going through the process. It would have been nice if the government could have resolved this on a more equitable basis, on a government to government basis, rather than having to rely on NAFTA and the WTO. Decisions are coming down slowly but surely. The recent WTO decision was positive for Canada. A NAFTA decision is due fairly shortly and we will have to see what happens there.
Certainly it has not been handled well. We await the conclusion of this matter so that the borders can be opened to our lumber once again on a free basis. The only solution to this is to have free and open access to the U.S. market.
When it comes to the softwood lumber community adjustment initiative, my colleague is correct. This $110 million program, of which $55 million was to go to B.C., was announced with great fanfare in December 2002, but B.C. has seen very little of that money.
Many communities have applied for funding but very little of that funding has been allocated. It may have been allocated but the cheques have not been written. I have asked questions in the House as to when the cheques will be coming. I am very much afraid the cheques will come out during an election or shortly before an election to buy voters.
Budget Implementation Act, 2004 April 1st, 2004
Submarines, as the hon. member said. I guess they submerged and did not come back up. That was definitely a problem. I think that was some $700 million.
There were jets for $100 million on the whim of a prime minister at the end of a budget year while virtually ignoring all the rules and regulations of purchasing.
There is the sponsorship ad scam scandal right now and we are trying to get to the bottom of it. The granddaddy of them all, in my mind anyway, and certainly in the minds of a lot of northern Canadians, is Bill C-68, the $1 billion heading toward $2 billion gun registry boondoggle. It virtually penalizes legitimate gun owners and allows criminals to run rampant with illegal guns and do their bad deeds. They will never register their weapons. It is a totally wasteful program and huge amounts of money continue to be frittered away.
They are dollars that should have been in the budget to help the provinces with their badly underfunded health care and education systems. Money has been taken away from the provinces over the last decade by the federal government. Some $25 billion has been cut from health and social transfers. This has seriously stressed the ability of provinces to deliver especially health care.
Certainly there is $2 billion that was reannounced in the budget for the provinces to go to their health care systems but out of the $2 billion, I believe my province of B.C. gets in the neighbourhood of $450 million. That would fund the health care system in B.C., according to my calculations, for approximately nine days. It is totally insufficient. It is a drop in the bucket in terms of what really needs to be done to support the health care system in Canada.
Program spending in the budget is up $10.1 billion. It is up to a record $143 billion. It pledges another $12 billion jump over the next couple of years. It is constantly spend, spend, spend. Canadians are taxed to the limit already. We have to look at ways of spending more wisely and prudently. Hopefully we can save the taxpayers some money and cut taxes in the future, not spend more and more as we go on.
The federal debt is estimated to be at $510.6 billion as of March 31 this year. That is still $23.1 billion higher than when the current Prime Minister first became the finance minister. Even though the government takes credit for reducing the debt, it is still higher than it was when the Liberals came into office. That certainly does not help things very much.
In terms of income tax, there are a few minor goodies in the budget. The income tax exemption for Canadian forces personnel on high risk missions is very welcome. There is a problem in terms of who gets that and who does not get it. That is definitely going to be a bone of contention.
Our military would have been better off, in my opinion, with an across the board raise for everybody. It is highly deserved and when it comes to determining who gets the bonus and who does not, I think that will create problems down the road.
The GST rebate for cities and towns is certainly useful. Again, that is a reannouncement of something that was announced some time ago. They were only paying a portion of the GST already. They were getting back a portion. Eliminating the portion 100% is good and it will help the cities, but overall it is a relatively minor boon to them.
The money for the cattle industry for BSE is certainly welcome. It took a long time to get it. It is very late in coming. The industry is very badly stressed. It would be nice if we could deal with these issues face to face with the U.S. government to try to get the border open in a more timely manner. It would be nice to see some of these dollars delivered to the farm gate to make sure they go where they should go.
In terms of education, there are grants for low income families. Although it sounds very nice, and I certainly do not begrudge them that, the amount of money that is involved is relatively minor. When we look at the increases in education due to the cutbacks by the federal government in transfer funds to the provinces and the increase in education tuition costs, a few dollars here and there is really not going to help.
I have grandchildren that will be going to university in the not too distant future and their parents are going to be very stressed in terms of coming up with enough money to pay for it. A few hundred dollars thrown at it is not really going to help the situation too much.
As I mentioned earlier, the $25 billion that has been cut from the health and social transfers has created a lot of problems for the provinces in terms of the health care system and the education system.
In the equalization budget proposal, there is a payment to the provinces that is actually $2 billion lower than was estimated last fall. They are going to be asked to pay back some $2.5 billion in overpayments. That is certainly not good news for the provinces. Again it puts a burden on them. It is a burden that the provinces do not need at this stage of the game.
Health care I mentioned previously. The $2 billion supplement is a big help, but what is really required is long term stable funding for the health care system. The provinces need to know where they are going, what they are going to get and what they are going to have to work with well into the future, not on an ad hoc, year to year basis. Again it is dribs and drabs, but it really does not affect the whole issue in any sense of the word.
There are a lot of old regurgitated promises and a lot of new promises that may or may not be kept. Let us look at infrastructure. When the Prime Minister was seeking the leadership of his party, he spent a lot of time running around Canada promising a lot of things to a lot of people. One of the big promises was that the gas tax would be shared with municipalities for infrastructure purposes. This is not happening.
He has given the rebate on the GST, which I believe amounts to $7 billion over 10 years. It is about $580 million this year. The federal government collects $7 billion a year in gas taxes. On the GST they are going to get back about 8%. It is nice to have it and I am not knocking that, but it really is not addressing the problem.
The municipal infrastructure deficit in Canada is somewhere in the neighbourhood of $50 billion to $60 billion. That is what is required to rebuild it, to bring it up to modern standards and $580 million a year is just not going to do it. There are a lot of things that need to be addressed and they certainly were not addressed in the budget. Overall it is very disappointing, extremely disappointing.
I do not want to forget the military and how badly underfunded it is. The military is chronically underfunded and needs huge injections of capital to bring its equipment up to a standard to allow the members of our military to do the job that we expect of them. We are very proud of our military and we should show that pride by funding it properly, not cutting its budget and taking money away from it. We need to allow the military to do its job.
The $300 million that was announced to go to the Afghanistan and Haiti missions is relatively unsuitable. It is not enough. It is not going to fund those missions properly. The military is stretched to the limit.
As a member from a resource dependent area of Canada, I am extremely disappointed in the total lack of recognition or understanding of the challenges facing these rural areas. The area in which I live is a rural area that is very badly stressed.
I will close by saying, big promises, big spending, big government, Canadians deserve and demand better.