Last in Parliament April 1997, as Reform MP for Kindersley—Lloydminster (Saskatchewan)
Lost his last election, in 1997, with 32.57% of the vote.
Statements in the House
Canadian Wheat Board Act April 24th, 1997
Motion No. 1
That Bill C-72 be amended by deleting Clause 2.
Motion No. 17
That Bill C-72 be amended by deleting Clause 10.
Mr. Speaker, we are at report stage of Bill C-72. Clearly it is impossible for the bill to pass. Even if the Prime Minister chickens out at the last minute and does not call an election, it will be very difficult for the bill to pass.
I will refer to the history in brief of Bill C-72. After the election in October 1993 there was division on the prairies over how wheat and barley should be marketed. The minister was very tardy in taking action. Finally in 1995 he initiated the western grain marketing panel. It brought a report back on proposed changes to the Canadian Wheat Board in the middle of 1996.
The minister was not happy with the western grain marketing panel report. It called for more consultation and a letter writing campaign. It was not until December 1996, more than three years after the minister was first elected, that he introduced legislation in the House.
The bill was given first reading in December 1996 but was not referred to the committee until late February or early March. Then there were some whirlwind hearings across the prairies and in the third week of March the government only allowed three days of clause by clause discussion.
Finally here we are on probably the second last sitting day before the House is prorogued and we are at report stage. Yet to occur is third reading and passage by the Senate. Clearly the House would have to sit for several more weeks if Bill C-72 were to have the slightest chance of seeing the light of day.
I want to make clear that the bill is a haywire and bailer twine attempt to reform a terribly outdated Canadian Wheat Board. The Liberals, in drafting the bill, have failed to heed the advice of the industry. They have refused to honestly debate good amendments put forward by Reform in committee. These amendments are supported by a broad range of farm organizations and by a majority of farmers on the prairies.
The Liberals have left no choice for Reform but to oppose the bill. We do not want it to pass because we do not want to further disappoint farmers who have been betrayed many times by Liberal and Tory governments.
We oppose the bill and we will vote against it, but that is not the reason it will not pass in the 35th Parliament. The real reason it will die on the Order Paper is that the Liberals and the minister of agriculture know it is a third rate bill. They are afraid to pass it and let farmers experience how terrible it really is.
The Liberals could have passed Bill C-72 if they really wanted to. I am rather astounded that the minister of agriculture has been publicly saying the opposition has held up Bill C-72. We know very well in this Liberal majority Parliament the Liberals pass whatever they darn well feel like passing. They set the agenda. They place Government Orders. They use time allocation far too often and they use closure. For the minister to blame the opposition for not allowing Bill C-72 to pass is beyond stupidity and lying. It extends to the realm of desperation and bizarreness in the extreme.
Let us examine the bill even though it will not pass. Clause 2 says the bill will be binding on all provinces. We asked the ministers of agriculture of the provinces of Manitoba and Alberta if they had been consulted on clause 2, the clause we are debating in this group of amendments to Bill C-72. Both ministers of agriculture said there had been absolutely no consultation with the provinces on clause 2.
Clause 10 and other clauses in the bill give the minister an ironclad grip on the board. All the discussions across the prairies were to make the board more accountable to farmers and more in the control or in the hands of farmers. The bill fails miserably in accomplishing that. I believe Bill C-72 gives the minister more control over the Canadian Wheat Board than he currently has.
The minister's actions and words clearly say he does not trust prairie farmers to manage their own Canadian Wheat Board. Therefore let us see what powers the minister clutches to himself. The minister will choose the CEO or president of the board over the heads of the board of directors, even though some of the board of directors are elected by farmers. The minister will place the CEO on the board of directors as a voting member, placing him or her in a powerful conflict of interest position.
Time after time we heard representation from farm groups that the CEO of the board should be chosen by the board and should be accountable and responsible to the board, that the board should hire him or her, that the board should set that person's salary and that the board should terminate the CEO's employment on the board if it felt that were proper.
The minister has the power to choose the interim board of directors in its entirety and to tell it how to chose its successors. This is not democracy. This is Liberal arrogance at its finest. It is all pretty cushy.
The minister and his appointees lay all the plans for a partially elected board. It reminds me of Liberal MPs establishing their own fat cat pensions. If they call the rules, if they make the decisions, farmers are left on the sidelines watching to see what kind of a board will unfold, who the directors on the board will be and what kind of rules, guidelines and bylaws will be put in place for the further election and appointment of future directors to the board.
Even more disturbing is the fact the minister can dismiss directors and employees if they are not serving the best interest of the corporation in the opinion of the minister. Farmers who pay for the board are left out in this case. It seems odd employees can be dismissed in the best interest of the corporation, not in the best interest of farmers. Therefore farmers have their hands tied behind their backs. They are not able to adequately make and press for changes in the board as they see fit.
The minister refuses to bend on the request of farmers for a voluntary board even for barley. There is a consensus. Poll after poll indicated the majority of prairie barley producers want a voluntary Canadian Wheat Board even for organic wheat. We heard many organic growers and their associations suggest the Canadian Wheat Board was not the best marketing agency to effectively market organic products.
The minister went against the recommendations of his own western grain marketing panel in denying the ability of the board, at least in a small way, to become a voluntary marketing agency for some products best marketed through other avenues than through the Canadian Wheat Board.
The minister moved in this direction against the wishes of farmers and according to his own Angus Reid poll which indicated a majority of barley producers called for a volunteer Canadian Wheat Board. Furthermore, the minister will allow the Canadian Wheat Board to make cash purchases in a monolithic environment where livestock producers can be destroyed by artificial feed prices and international retaliation for unfair trading practices. We heard this as we travelled across the prairies. The minister has done nothing to correct this problem in the government amendments to the bill at committee.
The government is prepared to add crops to the monopoly. This measure would not go over very well with farmers. In fact, if a few farmers are crossing the border now, if crops such as canola were added to the monopoly powers of the Canadian Wheat Board, I suggest there would be a civil war on the prairies rather than a few farmers taking truckloads across the border to the U.S. in protest.
Obviously the minister does not understand the needs and wishes of the majority of prairie producers.
The minister is acting like the captain of the Titanic, so arrogant as he blindly steams toward the icebergs. His record on the Crow rate is pathetic. His record on grain transportation is tragic. His record on the Canadian Wheat Board is dismal and dangerous. He is responsible for his lack of action over three and a half years. He is responsible for the division over the Canadian Wheat Board on the prairies. He is responsible for this comedy of errors entitled Bill C-72.
Reform has called for constructive changes to the Canadian Wheat Board. Our vision for the Canadian Wheat Board would not only give it a fighting chance, it would give it good odds of being a first class, farmer controlled marketer with a great chance to be a success story in the 21st century.
The truth is that our opposition in the next election campaign will be the Liberals and the NDP suggesting that Reform is trying to destroy the board. That is not true, as are their allegations that we would hurt medicare and seniors pensions. We have shown in our fresh start document that they are wrong on medicare, health care and seniors pensions. They are also wrong on the Canadian Wheat Board.
Ours are the only proposals that will bring peace to a very divided farm community. Ours are the only proposals that will ensure the viability of the board in the future in a climate where farmers want to market through the board rather than have to market through the board, such as members opposite are proposing.
This bill cannot possibly pass through the House of Commons. This is a matter of each party's putting its position on the record, and I thank the House for the opportunity.
Canadian Wheat Board April 23rd, 1997
Mr. Speaker, it is early March and the phone rings at the Canadian Wheat Board office:
"And good morning to you, Mr. Minister. Did you consider our request for an increase in initial wheat prices for farmers?"
"No, no, of course not, Mr. Minister, we haven't said anything publicly. We certainly know how you feel about that. But that is nearly two months from now, Mr. Minister. Do you not realize that we are over half the way through the crop year? With this horrible transportation mess you have allowed, our phones are ringing off the hook. Farmers need cash. You know it is their money and there is quite a bit of it considering how low you made the initial price last summer."
"An election in the spring. Oh I see, I see. You certainly are a wily old politician."
"Yes, yes, okay sure. You bet. We will definitely delay our request for another six or seven weeks. We will await your call in late April. You have a nice day too, Mr. Minister. And good luck in the election. You are going to need it."
Grain April 21st, 1997
Mr. Speaker, in light of the fact the Liberal government is currently attempting to paper over 3.5 years of failures in a frantic pre-election flurry of deal making and vote buying the minister of agriculture has the cloak of secrecy around which the Canadian Wheat Board operates, allowing him to use the timing of increases and interim prices for political purposes.
The crop year is nearly three-quarters complete. Will the minister of agriculture announce any increases in interim prices prior to the pending election, probably this week? Or, is he saving his announcement as yet another Liberal election goodie for during the campaign?
Grain April 21st, 1997
Mr. Speaker, the Liberals have bungled their responsibility for grain transportation. Grain shipment delays have cost prairie farmers almost $100 million this year alone due to demurrage charges and lost sales. The Liberals have created a cash crunch on the prairies.
Tragically the best the minister can do is announce he will merely start to probe the problem sooner rather than later, knowing that we are on the verge of an election call.
In light of his failure to create a more efficient and accountable grain transportation system, and given current world prices for wheat, does the minister intend to increase the interim prices paid by the Canadian Wheat Board?
Parliament Of Canada Act April 21st, 1997
Mr. Speaker, I rise on a point of order. I wondered if I might take a minute before we proceed to government business to thank all members of the House who spoke on the bill. Many of them spoke in favour of it and I appreciate that. I also thank the Canadians who have communicated their support.
Criminal Code April 8th, 1997
Madam Speaker, we think the House is nearing the end of this session. We expect an election soon. It is unfortunate that just when everyone has learned to say the constituency name of Kindersley-Lloydminster it will cease to exist. We will have to learn to pronounce some new names.
I thank the House for giving me the opportunity to speak to Bill C-17, in particular the amendment regarding victim statements. It is very pertinent to what is ongoing today in the country.
A headline in today's Star Phoenix in Saskatoon reads ``Seeking rights for victims''. I will not read the entire article but in summary it states:
A grieving grandmother went to Parliament Hill to condemn a justice system she says coddles criminals and ignores victims. Theresa McCuaig whose grandson was tortured to death by four Ottawa street gang members backs Reform's proposed victims bill of rights.
Often the victims are the ones ignored not by Canadians and certainly not by those who care about people but certainly by our legal system, by our justice system, by the government and in particular by the Minister of Justice.
I have been a member of the House now for over 3.5 years. When I first came to the House many of the debates were on justice issues. I have heard my colleagues raise justice matters a number of times.
I come from a rural riding where people tend to trust one another and where the crime rate is probably among the lowest in Canada. Even rural Canada is beginning to see more victims of crime all the time. Certainly in our medium sized and larger cities the problem of crime is rampant and the list of victims is growing. The fact that victims are not given a proper set of rights in Canada's charter of rights is absolutely unacceptable.
When I was the Reform House leader I heard many bills and motions debated. It was always the same story. The Liberals would refuse to acknowledge there was a problem. They would be exposed to the truth time and time again, mostly by Reform members of Parliament. Case studies were presented to the House. The issue was raised at the justice committee. The issue was raised in the House. The issue was raised in Reform supply day motions.
Time and time again we would be heckled from the other side. They would ignore the problem and pretend there was no problem. There were all kinds of ridiculous statements from the Liberal side whose members were totally out of touch with the citizens of Canada who were telling us about the problems they were experiencing: we were extremists; we were raising an issue that was not important to Canadians; we were glorifying crime.
I remember being in Winnipeg in 1992 on the eve of the Charlottetown accord. A good friend's car was broken into while visiting Winnipeg. I thought gee, crime was starting to affect people close to me. Just the other day the wife of one of my staff had her car broken into right here in Ottawa.
When it starts happening to people we know and we start hearing about it not on an odd case by case basis but regularly, we start to wonder if as members of Parliament we are doing our job in correcting the problems with the justice system, in providing adequate protection for our citizens and in providing adequate protection for the victims of crime who are growing in number.
In her interview with the Star Phoenix Mrs. McCuaig said no. She said that the Reform Party's proposed bill of rights was the right thing. We also propose to allow victim statements and to allow the victims to have a proactive role in dealing with this issue rather than being reactive and having the rug pulled out from under them on a regular basis.
We have wasted time over the last 3.5 years. We have seen inaction on the part of the Liberal government. The Liberals said
there was no problem, that we were imagining things, that we were alarmists on the Reform side. Suddenly on the eve of an election the bells are ringing among the electorally challenged people. They are starting to wonder if they are going to be re-elected. They realize they have fallen short on the issue of correcting inadequacies in our justice system and in protecting the victims of crime.
We finally started to see some action by the justice minister. The government has agreed to Reform amendments that were proposed to strengthen Bill C-17 which we are currently debating.
The riding of Kindersley-Lloydminster will disappear. As a result I will be running in a new riding called Saskatoon-Rosetown-Biggar. The new portion of the riding that I will be seeking election in includes the west portion of Saskatoon. It has probably the highest crime rate in the city of Saskatoon.
I have been talking to citizens of this area. It is interesting to know who currently represents the area of Saskatoon I am seeking election in. One of the members of the legislative assembly is no less than the premier of Saskatchewan, Mr. Roy Romanow. It is interesting that an NDP premier of the province of Saskatchewan would be representing a high crime area. He has represented that area for some time. He has been in power for some time and from a provincial level has not been able to deal with the issue of crime.
Prior to the current justice minister in Saskatchewan, this area of the city of Saskatoon was represented by the provincial minister of justice, Mr. Mitchell. Mr. Romanow and Mr. Mitchell, two of the most powerful New Democrats in the province of Saskatchewan, were not able to reverse the trend of increasing crime in their own constituencies.
Then I looked to see who represented this part of the city federally. Lo and behold some of the most severe areas in which crimes occur are represented by the current member for Saskatoon-Dundurn. I looked at his resume. He has been involved in the justice committee. I believe he even chaired the committee for some time.
Seldom have I heard the member for Saskatoon-Dundurn speak in the House about the problems in his constituency. I have not sensed any concern on his part. He is one of the members who would often heckle us for raising the subject in the House of Commons. One would think he would have more concern for his constituents.
The current chair of the justice committee or parliamentary secretary is the member for Prince Albert-Churchill River. He also heckles us in the House when we raise the issue of crime. While the riding I want to represent is not one that he is currently involved with, it is just to the north in Prince Alberta.
Another person who is trying to represent this part of the city of Saskatoon and currently represents part of it is New Democratic justice critic, the member for Saskatoon-Clark's Crossing. It is interesting that I have not heard him speak in the House on crime issues. As the justice critic he is very silent. I hear our justice critics raising the issue in the House at every opportunity. I do not hear the NDP critic being concerned about victims. He has been very silent on the issue. He is more interested in the price of gasoline at the pumps than victims and victims rights. That concerns me.
Today I watched the Minister of Justice in question period who was sitting right across from me. Several members of our caucus asked the minister about his failure to act more quickly to correct some injustices in the justice system. I watched the minister talk about what he had done in the past and what he was proposing to do. It reminded me of lip sync. His mouth was going. He seemed to be saying words but I was not hearing anything. I do not think he really meant the words that were being broadcast over our public address system in the House of Commons.
It seemed like his heart was not in it. It seemed like he was saying it because he had to as we are on the eve of an election. It seemed like he was only pretending to be concerned about justice issues. He rather dismissed some of the serious concerns we brought forward. The only reason he has addressed this issue and allowed the amendments that we have put forward is because he fears the electorate.
That is the good thing about elections. Citizens' concerns can be ignored for a few months, perhaps for a few years, but then an amazing transformation overcomes government. We saw it previously with the Conservative government that did nothing at all in the justice area for the years that Prime Minister Mulroney was at the helm of his government. We have seen nothing of significance during this Liberal administration until the eve of an election. Suddenly the minister is talking about some of the reforms that could have been implemented in the first year of its mandate. There is only one way the Canadian public can rectify a problem if the members of its government refuses to listen and that is to replace it.
We expect that the most likely date for an election is June 2. Canadians will then have a chance to tell some of these Liberal members what they think of their performance in the House of Commons. They will be able to judge whether or not they voted the right way on justice issues. Some of those victims of crime, like Theresa McCuaig, their relatives and neighbours will finally be able to make their voices heard in the loudest possible way. That is the dropping of a ballot in the ballot box.
I want to close my comments this afternoon by saying that while I represent a rural riding I am becoming more and more aware of
the seriousness of the growth of crime in our country, not only in the urban areas but the rural areas as well. I am convinced that one of the primary reasons that my party is achieving more and more support by Canadians is because of the positions we have taken on the crime issue. We have been responsible. We have been aware. Perhaps the most important quality that has helped us is that we have been aware of the problem and then put forward constructive proposals.
It is with great joy that I support the second amendment to Bill C-17 that would allow for broader and better victim impact statements. I would ask all members to not only support this measure but also the many others that we have proposed. Let us fix the justice system together.
Canada Labour Code March 11th, 1997
Madam Speaker, I thank the member for Wetaskiwin for his question. He raises a very good point.
When we talk about emergency back to work legislation or essential services we usually think about health care workers like doctors or the police force. If they remove their services we could have chaos, death or serious injury that is unattended to.
We have never really considered the impact of our labour-management resolution process when it comes to industries at risk. We cannot necessarily categorized it as having an impact on public safety, for instance, or as bringing the country's security into question. That is not the case but it is just as real a problem.
The member raised a very real problem which is why I agree with him. Economic issues should be considered when we are discussing and putting forward this type of legislation, in particular where innocent third parties are affected.
If we had good train and port facilities on the four borders of the country and the west coast were on strike, we could go to Mississippi or Churchill or the east coast. We would have other options and we would not need legislation.
That is not the way it works. Almost all our product goes to the west coast or through the St. Lawrence. The greater amount goes through west coast ports. There is no other way. We need to make more ways and we are in favour of making more ways to get our product to port and to our customers. The infrastructure in place is not adequate to allow competition to have its proper role in the marketing and transportation of our goods.
With that restriction upon our industry it is important that we have a resolution mechanism in place to prevent serious economic injury which can almost reach the intensity of being harmful to public safety. We need that resolution mechanism in place in such serious instances as the shutting down of an entire industry through labour disruption.
Canada Labour Code March 11th, 1997
Madam Speaker, I thank the member for Lethbridge for his question. He has very accurately pointed out a problem. As usual farmers have been overlooked in the entire process. The new structure does not put innocent third parties in a position of being involved in creating solutions to the labour disruptions we have seen in the past.
Farmers are the spectators in the whole process. They have always been the spectators. It is a painful sport to watch. They are the ones being hurt. They have no defence mechanisms.
The minister proposed Bill C-66. We are now into third reading stage and it is pretty hard to fix it. The government has missed its opportunity to bring about some constructive solution. It could hear from all the affected parties in the dispute, not just the management and labour sectors. The whole industry may be permanently injured when there is a major disruption in the movement of grain or any other Canadian product to export.
The member is correct in his observation that farmers have been overlooked. It is not unusual for farmers to be overlooked by the Liberal government. It is not for lack of alternatives that have been suggested by the Reform Party.
As I mentioned, the hon. member for Lethbridge put forward a private member's bill that would have resolved the situation. Reform MPs brought forward briefs to the west coast port inquiry that would have brought resolution to the issue. We have also brought constructive amendments to Bill C-66 which would have included farmers' voices as well as those of other innocent third parties. It would give them a role in resolving labour-management disputes. It just has not happened because the Liberals were not prepared to see it happen.