House of Commons photo

Last in Parliament May 2004, as Progressive Conservative MP for St. John's East (Newfoundland & Labrador)

Won his last election, in 2000, with 53.22% of the vote.

Statements in the House

Fisheries May 4th, 2004

Mr. Speaker, let me indicate to the minister that citing these 319 foreign fishing vessels has happened over the last 10 or 12 years. Given such a lax enforcement system and given that these fisheries violators are raping a world food resource to the point of extinction, can the minister tell me why he continues to ignore this disaster?

Fisheries May 4th, 2004

Mr. Speaker, in response to a question on the order paper, the Minister of Fisheries and Oceans sent me a list of 319 foreign vessels that have been issued citations over the last decade for breaking NAFO rules in the east coast fishery. Issuing a citation is one thing. Actually punishing a violator is another.

Can the Minister of Fisheries and Oceans explain why only 21 of these offenders, 7%, were actually convicted of their crimes?

Fisheries May 4th, 2004

Mr. Speaker, over the past decade, 319 citations were issued to foreign fishing vessels acting in violation of NAFO's rules outside the 200 mile limit on the nose and tail of the Grand Banks and the Flemish cap. Only 21 of these violators were ever fined.

How are we going to protect our fisheries or prevent the total extinction of the northern cod under such a lax enforcement system? NAFO has proven to be a toothless tiger.

For the sake of Atlantic Canadians and to preserve a world food resource, Canada should act and declare custodial management outside 200 before it is too late. The House of Commons fisheries committee, including all Liberal members, unanimously agreed. The Conservative Party agreed. Why does the government not agree?

Budget Implementation Act, 2004 May 4th, 2004

Yes, that is a good point, Mr. Speaker. They bought Challenger jets.

The government balanced the budget, so not only did it balance the budget on the backs of the sick but it has balanced the budget on the backs of the unemployed as well.

A few minutes ago, the member for Toronto--Danforth talked about the sponsorship scandal and I would love to say a few words about that. I would be remiss if I did not mention that, because the member for Toronto--Danforth continues to spin that none of this money is missing and that the people of the country have been misled by the Auditor General and The Globe and Mail , the National Post , the Ottawa Citizen and the national news generally.

The people of the country have not been misled by the media. They have been misled by this government. This is a scandal of unbelievable proportions. Of the $250 million spent on the sponsorship program, a full 40% of that money, or $100 million, was given in commissions to Liberal-friendly ad agencies. The member for Toronto--Danforth can spin it as long as he wants, but the fact of the matter is that this money is indeed gone, to their buddies and friends, and in one manner of speaking, the money is missing and has yet to be accounted for.

The Liberals can bad-mouth the Auditor General all they want. The fact remains that the people of this nation want to know what happened to that $100 million. They want to know how it was spent by Liberal-friendly ad agencies that probably funnelled a great deal of that money right back into the federal Liberal Party coffers to run the next election.

I was minister of municipal affairs at one time. In my department, we signed contracts for tens of millions and billions of dollars over the three year to four year period that I was minister of that department. Contracts were signed for various things such as water and sewer projects and so on, but we always had engineering consultants who did a great deal of work on these projects before they were actually approved. They charged a commission fee of roughly 15%. Fifteen per cent is reasonable, I think, for an engineering firm that draws up the plans, supervises the project and does the work.

But a commission of 40% going to an ad firm for a telephone call saying “we have a cheque here for $40,000 that we want you to deliver to this particular group under the sponsorship program”? An ad firm would get a 40% commission for delivering that cheque. It would get a 40% commission for not doing anything. There was no paper trail to indicate that any work had been done to justify that, and then the member for Toronto--Danforth has the gall to try to spin this as something that the Auditor General is confused about and should not be mentioning and says that the press has treated the government in an unfair manner. That is absolutely outlandish and is something that could only be conceived of by the federal Liberals.

Members opposite are treating the Auditor General quite unfairly. I think we have a great Auditor General, one who has done a tremendous job in uncovering these scandals of this government. The Auditor General stated that the invoices were paid for minimal service and sometimes no service at all. I commend the Auditor General for doing a great job in that regard.

We are supposed to believe that the current Prime Minister, the second in command of that administration, knew absolutely nothing about this sponsorship scandal. He was second in command when the health, education and EI programs were gutted in successive budgets. He knew all about that. He knows very well--and I will sit down because you are telling me to, Mr. Speaker--that he was there as finance minister writing the cheques under this sponsorship program that has led to the biggest scandal to ever plague this country.

Budget Implementation Act, 2004 May 4th, 2004

My colleague asks what the Liberals are doing with the money. They are amassing great surpluses. The money is not going back to the workers or the employers in this country.

The net result of the changes, as I said, is that one-third of Canada's unemployed now qualify for employment insurance benefits, compared to the two-thirds who qualified under the old system of unemployment insurance. It became employment insurance when they changed the name and only one-third of the people actually qualified, but under the unemployment insurance scheme, two-thirds of people who became unemployed qualified for it.

That left the EI fund with an annual surplus of several billion dollars. Was the money given back to the employers? Was it given back to the unemployed people? No, all of those extra funds went into general revenue. I do not know if it is accurate, but we are hearing now that there is no surplus in the unemployment insurance fund. I think they have spent it all in general revenue. None of it has gone back to the workers.

Budget Implementation Act, 2004 May 4th, 2004

Mr. Speaker, that is a rare opportunity indeed. I thank my colleague for the opportunity to go on for a little longer until the Speaker raises his hand again.

The equalization formula is one thing, of course, and I think I have explained fully to the House the drawbacks and the disadvantages of it. Another item of concern that comes up every now and then has to do with the unemployment insurance system, and I notice that the government once again, this time around, is starting to talk about it. It seems to me that every time we get close to an election the government raises this whole issue of unemployment insurance. I still call it unemployment insurance, not employment insurance, because it was always meant to be an insurance against unemployment, not against employment.

After coming to power, the Liberals changed the unemployment insurance system to the employment insurance system, and their new employment insurance system made it harder for seasonal workers to qualify for employment insurance benefits.

Here is how it changed. When they do qualify, they now get fewer benefits if they happen to be seasonal workers, and those benefits that they are able to access are for a shorter period of time. That should be made perfectly clear. The net result of the changes is that now only a third of Canada's unemployed people, people who become unemployed, qualify for unemployment insurance, and that is not right.

Budget Implementation Act, 2004 May 4th, 2004

Yes, it can get worse.

To compound that tragedy, offshore oil--Voisey's Bay Nickel Company Limited is the largest nickel development in the world--is a non-renewable resource. An oil field can only be pumped dry once. A province has only one chance to get a project right in terms of jobs and in terms of economic rent that it might be able to generate from it. When it is gone, it is gone. We cannot say that we will fix the problem tomorrow because the oil and the nickel will not be there tomorrow. It is a non-renewable resource.

In the case of the massive development that will get underway at Voisey's Bay Nickel, it is not only subject to clawback provisions but it is subject to clawback provisions at a rate of 90:10, meaning that 90% will go to the federal government and other sources, such as the company and so on, and 10% will go to the province. Oil is a non-renewable resource and once it is gone, it is gone and we can never hope to have made any progress in terms of economic rent from it. Yes, jobs will be created but we will not get the kind of economic rent that we should be getting from our natural resources.

When we talk about the oil part of the Atlantic accord, it said that the Atlantic provinces were supposed to be the primary beneficiary of their offshore oil and gas development. Under the Conservative Party policy we would ensure that those provinces under the Atlantic accord would become the principal and primary beneficiary of the money that is generated.

However the equalization program, through its clawback provisions, counters that commitment by making Ottawa the primary beneficiary. Ottawa gives with one hand and takes away with the other. Is it any wonder that the Atlantic provinces have been screaming for a change to the equalization system? The term equalization is supposed to make one province equal with the other. It is not supposed to make one any better off. It is supposed to give a province a chance, through its resource development, to become an equal province with the rest of Canada but that is not happening.

Budget Implementation Act, 2004 May 4th, 2004

Mr. Speaker, since coming to Parliament back in 1997, like most people, I have endeavoured to raise issues of concern to my riding and to the Province of Newfoundland and Labrador on a number of occasions. I have tried to raise these issues in the media and I have tried to raise them here on the floor of the House of Commons.

While some progress has been made, there are a number of matters that I find myself talking about today that I was talking about back in 1997 when I came here, which indicates of course the very little progress that has been made on these very important issues.

The issue, first and foremost, not only in the Province of Newfoundland and Labrador and not only in the riding of St. John's East, which plagues Canadians generally is health care.

There was much ado about a meeting that was held a few months ago by the Prime Minister with the various premiers right across Canada. It had to do with a payment. I will not say an additional payment because it certainly did not represent additional moneys into the health care system, but it was a payment of about $2 billion which had been made to the various provinces. It was a promise that was made by the previous Prime Minister.

This money in no way represented or was in any way an indication of a new fit of generosity on the part of the federal government. We should make that perfectly clear right off the bat. This was not new money. The $2 billion in question is only a very small part of the many billions of dollars that have been cut to the provinces in transfer payments over the last number of years.

I never cease to be amazed, that given the fact that health care is the number one issue in the country, that the federal government still does not seem to be getting it. It does not seem to be getting the message that Canadians generally from coast to coast are concerned first and foremost with the health care system in their respective part of the country. The federal government just does not seem to get it.

Yes, the federal Liberals balanced the budget, but it was at a tremendous cost to the people of Canada. It was at a tremendous cost to the various provinces, including my own. It is easy to fix a problem if all one does with that problem is pass it along down the line to the next level of government.

Years ago Ottawa, as we are all aware, paid roughly 50% of a province's health care budget. Today it is down, I think I read it recently in an ad in one of the local papers, to 14% or 16% that the federal government is actually paying in to the health care system. That is one of the reasons that we have lineups at the various hospitals and health care institutions. That is why it is very difficult to recruit nurses, doctors and medical specialists generally. We have somehow lost sight of the fact that the health care system in the country actually needs more money and it desperately needs leadership at the federal level.

We often hear the Minister of Health and the Prime Minister say that the problem in health care cannot be fixed by throwing more money at it. Does it not stand to reason that if, over a 10 year period, we take vast sums of money out of the health care system when the federal government's contribution to health care was 50% and is now down to about 15%, that the health care system would need that money back in order to fix the problems that exist now?

Therefore, for the government to say that just throwing more money at the health care system will not solve the problem, is an absolute farce. Since the federal government has cut large sums of money out of the health care system, it is only reasonable to assume that it would at least put some money back, which would go a long way toward fixing it. To date the federal government has not put any money back into the health care system.

The government comes along every now and then and offers $2 billion but it has cut so much out of it that we are not yet back to 1997 levels of spending. Still the federal government says that it is putting additional money into the health care system.

Health care needs more money and it desperately needs leadership at the federal level. One of the reasons why we have a bit of a patchwork of health care services across the country is that the federal government has lost its moral authority in setting national standards. Simply put, when we pay only a small fraction of the piper's wages, we cannot expect to call the tune. That is the real problem here.

Our health care system used to be one of the hallmarks of Canadian citizenship. Our nation is crying out for visionary leadership on health care, to put the system back on the rails. It has gone off the rails over the last five years in particular. People are looking to their government and to the Prime Minister to show some leadership and vision.

It is hard to know what the government will do. In this pre-writ period it seems to be satisfied to be all things to all people. We have the Prime Minister travelling around the country and if he hears something about education in one part of the country he is implementing or writing the policy on the fly to satisfy that particular group. He then moves to another part of the country and does the same thing. The problem we have with our leadership right now is that it has no vision.

The problem of mounting student debt was also in the recent throne speech. I have mentioned that issue on several occasions here on the floor of the House of Commons. The source of the problem is the cuts made by the government that we have in power right now to transfers to the provinces for post-secondary education. For example, in Newfoundland and Labrador the provincial student grant program was the first to go and was replaced with the provincial student loan. Less federal funding at the post-secondary education level also drove up tuition rates.

Today I was reading a story from last week in the Globe and Mail that said that student debt had risen 76% over the last few years. Students are in desperate shape. Many students come to my office on a daily basis telling me that they have a student debt load of $40,000, $50,000 and $60,000. What that means is that students are graduating today with tens of thousands of dollars of debt while search for or starting a job, which presumably will be their first job and a low paying job.

One wonders how an individual with that kind of a debt load could possibly start a family, buy a new car, rent an apartment, get a mortgage on a house or whatever, when he or she has that kind of debt load. The federal government has not addressed the problems of students.

The Liberals, under the current Prime Minister's term as finance minister, have created a generation of impoverished students and debt-ridden graduates. However more than lip service is needed to fix that problem. It remains to be seen whether the Prime Minister is serious about dealing with the serious underfunding in post-secondary education.

I have a feeling, and I hope I am wrong, that the Prime Minister and the government are just making these promises pre-writ because they want to be all things to all people and, when the election is over, students and the health care system will find themselves in the same positions they are in today.

That is an awful commentary to make on the government but one has no choice but to make it when we see how the government has performed over the last number of years in not keeping its promises.

I want to speak for a moment to an issue that is very important to a lot of provinces, the equalization issue. The equalization program is another good example of where the government talks a very good line but it rarely does anything practical to assist the smaller provinces that want to see some meaningful changes made to the current equalization system.

Instead of truly equalizing the have not provinces with the have provinces, the equalization program over the years has kept us stuck in a semi-impoverished state. The funding under that program prevents the poorer provinces from drowning but it also prevents them from learning to swim on their own. That is the chief problem with the current equalization system.

This sorry state of affairs arises because of the clawback provision in the equalization formula. When a resource rich province like Newfoundland and Labrador earns a dollar in resource revenues, roughly about 80% of that dollar is clawed back by Ottawa through reductions in the equalization payments to that province. It is very difficult for a small province to make any headway under the “earn a dollar, lose a dollar” formula.

We have not been successful in making the country fully aware of the drawbacks of that formula, especially the clawback provisions. I think if people in the country were truly aware of how unfair that formula really is they would insist that something be done about it to help the smaller provinces.

I want to give an example that outlines the problem in graphic detail. I would truly love for everyone who is within hearing of what I am saying to give a little bit of attention to this example.

I will only talk about my own province of Newfoundland and Labrador right now. In six years the revenues flowing to the Government of Newfoundland and Labrador from three oil fields, Hibernia, White Rose and Terra Nova, will be $1.1 billion. The federal government, through its corporate tax structure and the clawback provisions in the equalization program, will claw back $900 million out of that $1.1 billion.

I am flabbergasted when I think about that. We are a resource rich province struggling with an $827 million deficit and in six years, when we will have $1.1 billion flowing from three oil wells, the federal government, through its corporate tax structure and the clawback in equalization payments, will take $900 million out of that $1.1 billion.

How can a province like Newfoundland and Labrador ever expect to make any progress under that kind of a system? What that means is that the provincial government, which has an $827 million deficit, will get to keep $200 million of the $1.1 billion, which represents 18% of what is being generated. Something is wrong in how the country operates. Provinces do not have a chance to become equal or to get a foot up and try to swim on their own when the federal government makes those kinds of demands on poorer but, at the same time, resource rich provinces.

To compound that tragedy--

Newfoundland and Labrador April 28th, 2004

Mr. Speaker, Newfoundland and Labrador's minister in the cabinet says that he cannot obtain changes in the equalization program that would allow the province to keep its offshore oil revenues.

However, the minister indicates that he can help the province in project specific ways. Given that the federal government is selling its shares in Petro-Canada, now is the time for the minister to make good on his commitment to have the 8.5% federal share in Hibernia dealt with and turned over to the province.

The Atlantic accord promises to make Newfoundland and Labrador the primary beneficiary of its offshore oil revenues. This has not happened, and I look forward to hearing how the minister intends to achieve that goal.

In the meantime, dealing with the 8.5% share of Hibernia would be a good start. We are still waiting for Newfoundland and Labrador's minister to deliver on his promises. He must deliver before, not after, the federal election.

Port Security April 27th, 2004

Mr. Speaker, the RCMP have been assigned to police only the three ports of Montreal, Halifax and Vancouver. There is no new money being allocated for additional port security. The RCMP will patrol only these three ports but the rest of Canada will be protected by commissionaires.

Why are Canadians being left unprotected?