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Track Bob

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Crucial Fact

  • His favourite word is farmers.

Conservative MP for Prince George—Peace River (B.C.)

Won his last election, in 2011, with 62.10% of the vote.

Statements in the House

Birthday Congratulations November 25th, 2014

Mr. Speaker, Albert Flett, a constituent of mine from Chetwyn, B.C., was born in northwestern Alberta in 1914. His actual birthdate was never recorded, but he was assigned the day of August 21 by a Canadian Army recruiter in 1939.

He served Canada with distinction in World War II, leading his own platoon and achieving the rank of lance corporal. He still pledges allegiance to King George on Remembrance Day.

Albert worked for years in many jobs in B.C. and Alberta, from farm hand, to logging truck driver, to rodeo bull rider, until he retired from bull riding at 70 years young.

Throughout his time, he remained an active carpenter, and many of his works in and around Chetwyn are still in use today.

He met the love of his life, Pauline, in 1957. They eventually settled down in Chetwyn, staying together until her passing away in 2011.

Albert credits his longevity to staying close to his Métis heritage and says that he has the best of both worlds with a combination of modern and traditional medicine.

He remains immensely proud to be Canadian and I am told he is watching today from the assisted living quarters at the Chetwyn Hospital.

I congratulate Albert on his 100th birthday.

Agricultural Growth Act November 24th, 2014

Mr. Speaker, the member is another colleague on the agriculture committee.

Absolutely, we always get this falsity or inaccuracy stated, and it seems to be from the opposition, that innovation and research dollars have gone down. However, they have actually gone up by 10% since we formed government in 2006. The simple fact is that we believe in innovation and research, and protecting breeders' rights is even more of an enhancement of that and more of an encouragement for breeding seed in Canada.

It is clear that we are for farmers on this side. We want to see this bill passed and see more benefits for western Canadians and all Canadian farmers.

Agricultural Growth Act November 24th, 2014

Mr. Speaker, being a member of agriculture, we have heard many of the arguments stemming from one particular organization when it comes to plant breeders' rights and the use of seed. It stems from one organization that really perpetuates the myth that farmers cannot use their own seed for their own use on their farms. In the agriculture committee we asked over and over again whether it was a myth. Over and over again, it was stated that was a myth propagated by the opposition and this one particular organization. This is on the record many times.

I would challenge the member across the way to check her facts, read the bill and read the positive comments on the fact that rights of farmers are protected in this bill. Check the facts and please state them in the House.

Agricultural Growth Act November 24th, 2014

Mr. Speaker, I happen to be sitting beside another member in the House who is a farmer.

I found this a little interesting, too. In dealing with marketing freedom for farmers in past legislation, farmers from the west actually sat on the panel, making these decisions and supporting some of these motions. The bill we are putting forward today is not just a bill by some politicians. It is a bill for farmers, by farmers and passed by farmers.

Farmers are in good hands with us. We want to ensure that we do what is right for Canadian farmers across the country, and we are doing that in this bill.

Agricultural Growth Act November 24th, 2014

Mr. Speaker, being a long-standing member of the agriculture committee, certainly we have our differences when it comes to UPOV '91. We see predominantly that the world and most Canadian producers want to see UPOV '91 introduced into Canada and really played out on the Prairies.

The member alludes to the fact that members of her party made amendments and they were not supported. The fact is that it is democratic place, it did pass as it was. Although it was extensive, debate was there.

I, for one, supported the bill as it was and wanted to see it go forward. We heard from many stakeholders that wanted to see UPOV '91 and the modern things that really would give plant breeders the protections, while protecting the rights of farmers by using their own seed.

For us, it is good the way it is, and that is why it went forward and passed democratically.

Agricultural Growth Act November 24th, 2014

Mr. Speaker, although we have not studied that issue in depth at agriculture committee, the issue of TFWs, as it relates to the agricultural industry, is an important one.

From our perspective on this side of the House, we absolutely want to ensure that every Canadian is employed before any temporary foreign workers get jobs in our country. We want to see Canadians get these jobs first and foremost.

That said, there are areas that have needs, but again, we hope Canadians respond to the job opportunities that are there on the Prairies. If they need a job, we need them on the Prairies.

Agricultural Growth Act November 24th, 2014

I would first like to say that my thoughts and prayers go out to Pat Quinn's family for their loss today. He was a great Canadian.

Mr. Speaker, I stand today to express my support for Bill C-18, the agricultural growth act. This is a well-informed bill.

The proposed legislation is the result of extensive consultation with Canadian farmers, producers, and the organizations that represent them. In my view, this is the mark of a progressive, responsive, and responsible government. It is one that identifies, reviews, and establishes laws, policies, and programs in collaboration with the citizens most likely to be affected.

I support Bill C-18 because it would foster the continued growth and maturation of this country's agriculture and agri-food industry. One of the ways the proposed legislation would achieve this is by supporting the Canadian Food Inspection Agency's modernization and transformation agenda.

To fully appreciate the last point requires a good understanding of the larger context.

The CFIA is dedicated to safeguarding our food supply, along with animals and plants that contribute to that food supply. Ultimately, the CFIA serves to enhance the health and well-being of Canada's people, environment, and economy.

The Government of Canada established CFIA in 1997 as the federal agency responsible for the regulation and enforcement of key food and agriculture legislation. Prior to that time, several departments and agencies shared responsibility for this legislation.

Since the agency's inception in 1997, almost 20 years ago, there have been many significant changes in the agriculture and agri-food sectors across Canada and around the world. These changes include dramatic increases in crop yields due to advances in science.

In general, farms are getting larger, and economies of scale continue to grow. Land that produced enough to feed only 10 people a century ago can today feed more than 120. That is a dramatic increase.

Another significant change is the growth of international trade in agricultural products. Today Canadians regularly eat foods produced in countries around the world. In Canada's agriculture and agri-food industry, the focus is more and more on international markets. Last year, in 2013, the value of Canada's agriculture and food exports set a new record, topping $50 billion for the first time in our history.

The legislation now before us would modernize existing statutes and support the CFIA's transformation so that it could provide the best and most efficient and effective service possible.

The next step is up to us in Parliament. By endorsing the legislation before us, members of this House can help make sure that Canada's legislation remains in step with modern processes and practices. Here is why.

Some of the laws Bill C-18 proposes to amend date back to the 1950s. Although they have served Canada well, they must be updated to support further progress to help our home-grown entrepreneurs harness innovation, add value, and create jobs and growth right across this country.

According to stakeholders who appeared before the House standing committee, Canadian farmers spend as much as $4 billion each year on fertilizers. That is more than they spend on any other crop input. It is estimated that without fertilizer, crop production in Canada would decrease by half.

The Feeds Act and the Fertilizers Act provide the legal basis for the regulatory framework that govern the use of fertilizers. During his testimony in committee, Mr. Clyde Graham, acting president of the Canadian Fertilizer Institute, had this to say about the current state of the regulatory framework:

The federal regulatory system has served the industry well for 50 years. It has ensured a science-based and consistent regulatory environment for fertilizers and supplements, which emphasizes the principles of safety and efficacy for all products.

...That being said, the fertilizer and supplement industry supports new provisions in the bill that would enable tools such as incorporation by reference, licencing, export certificates, and acceptance of foreign equivalent scientific data.

Bill C-18 includes the provisions and tools Mr. Graham referred to in his comments. The proposed legislation now before us proposes new, broader controls on the safety of Canada's ag inputs through the licencing and registration of feed and fertilizer manufacturers.

I would like to share another relevant comment from a stakeholder who appeared before the committee. Reg Schmidt is with the Feeder Associations of Alberta, and this is some of what he told the committee:

When the Feeder Associations of Alberta was first notified last fall of the new set of amendments, we were not anticipating this exceptional amount of change that is being proposed. We were thinking more of a lipstick and makeup approach. Instead what we got are a very well thought out set of amendments that bring another round of comprehensive updates to an otherwise excellent program

As Mr. Schmidt pointed out, Bill C-18 involves a series of improvements. Among other things, the legislation proposes to authorize CFIA to license or register fertilizer and animal feed operators along with facilities that import or sell products across provincial or international borders. This would enhance the current system under which feed and fertilizer products are typically registered. Adding the provision to license or register facilities and operators would provide a more effective and timely approach to verifying which agricultural products meet Canada's stringent safety and other standards.

This approach would allow for better tracking and oversight of production processes and the products being produced, a more efficient system that identifies issues early, and a faster response if and when a product recall was required.

To license or register feed fertilizer facilities and operators, regulations would have to be developed. The government would work closely with stakeholders to design an effective regime.

It is important to recognize that the new requirement would not apply to farmers who make these products for use on their own farms. It would only apply to businesses that sell their animal feed and fertilizer products across provincial and international borders.

It is also important to note that the proposed amendment would better align Canadian legislation with that of our international trading partners and would help our feed and fertilizer industries maintain their export markets, especially in the U.S.

Bill C-18 also proposes to address international trade in agricultural products in another way: by strengthening border controls for agricultural products.

Bill C-18 would authorize CFIA inspectors to order imported shipments of feeds, fertilizers, and seeds out of Canada if they failed to meet legal requirements. This would be similar to the provisions already in place that authorize the CFIA to order imported plants and animals removed from Canada if they do not meet legal requirements.

The CFIA already takes action now and sometimes seizes illegal products related to animal feeds, seed, and fertilizers. Under the current process, after seizure the CFIA assesses the ability of the importer to bring the products into compliance. Where this is not possible or where the importer refuses to fix the non-compliance, the CFIA may have to destroy or dispose of the product, sometimes at taxpayers' expense. In some cases, court proceedings may be launched. While this process works, it sometimes leaves Canadians paying the bill for the disposal of illegal products that have been seized.

Bill C-18 would give CFIA inspectors the ability to allow the importer to fix the problem in Canada but only if it was not a matter of safety and if they could be sure that the issue would be addressed properly and in a timely manner.

The legislation would also provide the agency with even stronger tools to protect Canada's plant and animal resource base. It would also provide additional reassurance that imported agricultural products met Canada's strict requirements. For Canada's farmers it would mean that they would compete on a level playing field.

Now I would like to again touch on the issue of UPOV '91. The Canadian Food Inspection Agency consulted broadly on plant breeders' rights. The agency conducted formal consultation sessions across Canada and received valuable feedback from plant breeders, farmers, horticulturalists, seed dealers, and the general public.

The feedback led directly to a series of proposed amendments that would increase investment in plant breeding in Canada and would encourage foreign breeders to protect and sell their varieties here. The amendments would also align the rights of Canadian plant breeders with those of their counterparts abroad.

This would effectively level the playing field for Canadian farmers and give them greater access to innovative new varieties bred to enhance crop yields, improve resistance to disease and drought, and meet specific market demands. It is what farmers want. In other words, the amendments would support the continued success of Canada's agricultural producers.

Amendments in the proposed legislation would also explicitly recognize the traditional and popular practice known as farmer's privilege. The practice involves saving, conditioning, and replanting seed generated from protected varieties grown on Canadian farms.

As members will be aware, a further amendment has been brought forward on the issue, one that makes the language in the act explicitly clear that storage of seed is included in farmer's privilege. This amendment, once again, shows that the government listens and responds to farmers.

Canada's farm community is very supportive of the reforms proposed in Bill C-18. For instance, the Canadian Federation of Agriculture, Canada's largest farm organization, posted a page on its website entitled, “C-18 is Good News for Farmers”. Indeed it is. The page includes a quote from federation president Ron Bonnett, as follows:

The proposed changes reflect a number of recommendations made by industry over the years and showcase the government has been listening. We're pleased the government has taken action and followed-up in a concrete way with legislative changes and formal consultations on these proposed amendments.

That is a certainly a ringing endorsement. The federation's web page also points out that the proposed legislation will boost innovation in the agricultural sector and inspire more farmers to plant new crop varieties. The bill is designed to modernize Canada's agricultural legislation and encourage innovation in the sector.

Joe Brennan, chair of the Canadian Potato Council, said the following about Bill C-18 and what we did as a government at committee stage:

The proposed amendments will encourage the development and availability of superior potato varieties that will further enhance the competitiveness of the Canadian potato industry.

Keith Kuhl, president of the Canadian Horticultural Council, emphasized that the proposed legislation would make Canadian companies more competitive internationally. He said, “Ensuring that our plant breeders' rights regulations are aligned with our global trading partners is imperative”.

We heard more of this support from witnesses at the Standing Committee on Agriculture and Agri-Food.

The Agricultural Marketing Programs Act was enacted more than 15 years ago. The act requires that the Minister of Agriculture and Agri-Food, in collaboration with the Minister of Finance, review the effectiveness of the legislation every five years. The last review was completed nearly two years ago and a report on the review was tabled in the House in November of 2012.

The review included a series of activities during the spring of 2011. For instance, stakeholders participated in a series of nine engagement workshops held in communities across the country. The sessions attracted a cross-section of Canada's agriculture industry, producers and administrators, along with representatives of producer organizations and financial institutions.

During the sessions, the stakeholders freely expressed their views on both the act and on the program that it authorized. Participants discussed program relevancy, performance, operations and delivery. They outlined specific strengths and weaknesses, and provided suggestions for potential improvements.

The review also involved a targeted survey. Questionnaires were sent out to approximately 3,000 producers who participated in the advance payments program, also known as APP, in 2008. These engagement sessions and questionnaires led directly to many of the proposed amendments to the Agricultural Marketing Programs Act included in Bill C-18.

In general, the amendments would reduce the administrative burden that producers and producer organizations must bear to participate in the program. More specific, the amendments would provide additional ways for participants to repay their loans. They would also broaden the criteria used to determine eligibility in the program and foster multi-year advance guarantee and repayment agreements, with administrators to streamline delivery.

I now wish to talk about the consultations with stakeholders that took place to inform the proposed amendments in another key part of Bill C-18, the Plant Breeders' Rights Act, administered by the CFIA. These stakeholder views are positive and tell only part of the story of Bill C-18. This is because the proposed legislation will inspire further consultations as resulting regulations are readied.

This government remains committed to consulting in order to determine the best path forward for farmers. Should the legislation now before us receive royal assent, some changes will come into force almost immediately, while others will be phased in or require regulatory amendments.

The overarching goal of the agricultural growth act is to strengthen Canada's agriculture and agri-food industry in a way that protects our food supply and promotes economic growth. Bill C-18 proposes to achieve this goal by ensuring that Canada's legislative framework is effective, innovative and nimble enough to deal with 21st century realities. Updated, streamlined and harmonized legislation would benefit Canadian farmers and industry, support the Government of Canada's and CFIA's modernization initiatives, and meet the interests of Canadians and Canadian farmers.

I encourage my hon. colleagues to join me in supporting Bill C-18.

Agricultural Growth Act November 24th, 2014

Mr. Speaker, I would like to recognize the hon. member across the way. We serve on the agriculture committee together. We like to work together on issues, and I want to ask the hon. member a question.

We talk about breeders' rights. We heard a lot of witnesses speaking to what we need in terms of a modern-day plant breeders' rights system, and UPOV '91 addresses that. There have been a lot of concerns around this in terms of what farmers can and cannot use, but there is a lot of misinformation out there. I would like the member across the way to reiterate what we heard from most witnesses about UPOV '91 and their support for it.

Citizen Consultation Preceding Natural Resource Development November 21st, 2014

Mr. Speaker, I am thankful for this opportunity to comment on Motion No. 533 and to reinforce my colleague's comments that much of what it proposes to do is already being accomplished. Indeed, Canadians can take pride and have confidence in our world-class safety standards, which our government has worked so hard to improve in recent years.

We have introduced multiple measures to strengthen the regulatory process for major resource projects. Among the most effective is our plan for responsible resource development, which has led to economic growth, increased environmental protection, and enhanced consultations with aboriginal peoples. This policy is rooted in our commitment to develop our natural resources in an environmentally and socially responsible way. This means ensuring that natural resource development benefits all Canadians, including the aboriginal peoples of Canada.

As a result of our plan, our natural resource sector is among the most stringently regulated in the world. Specifically, we have strengthened environmental protection by ensuring that no natural resource project will receive federal approval unless it is safe for the environment and for Canadians. For the first time, our government has introduced enforceable environmental assessment decision statements. Components of major projects now have to comply with conditions set out in these decision statements; if not they could face tough financial penalties, which I will talk about more in a moment. Our government is also providing federal inspectors with the authority to examine whether conditions set out in an environmental assessment decision statement are met.

As well, we have introduced tough new financial penalties to preventively address contraventions of environmental laws quickly under the National Energy Board Act and the Canadian Nuclear Safety Act, so that larger issues do not arise in the future. Especially important is the fact that responsible resource development has an entire component dedicated to ensuring that consultations with aboriginal peoples are consistent, accountable, meaningful, and timely. For example, consultations with aboriginal peoples are integrated into the new environmental assessment and regulatory processes. We also provide significant funding specifically to support consultations with aboriginal peoples.

We have also designated a lead department or agency as a single crown consultation coordinator for each major project review. This reduces the previous redundant consultations that frustrated many aboriginal communities. Not only that, we also negotiate consultation protocols or agreements with aboriginal groups to establish more clearly what the expectations and level of consultation should be. Better still, we know that resource development cannot thrive without the contributions of our aboriginal peoples. We have taken significant action to facilitate greater participation of aboriginal people in resource projects. This is being accomplished through initiatives such as the major projects management office–west, which we recently set up in Vancouver. The office is working with aboriginal peoples and first nations to ensure their meaningful involvement in assessing and managing the environmental safety of proposed projects.

Therefore, as members can see, our improved regulatory regime for major natural resource projects is not only among the most efficient, effective, and competitive in the world, but is also among the most inclusive, ensuring that there are numerous opportunities for active public participation. As proud as we are of this approach, we are determined to do even better. That is why our government has also addressed safety concerns by implementing world-class pipeline, rail, and tanker safety systems that all Canadians can trust. As just one example, we have given the National Energy Board the necessary resources to double the number of annual inspections of pipelines. The board also doubled the number of annual comprehensive safety audits to identify pipeline issues before incidents occur. The NEB now can issue administrative monetary penalties of up to $100,000 a day per infraction for companies that do not comply with safety and environmental regulations. Ironically, but not surprisingly, that member and the NDP voted against these enhanced pipeline safety measures. To us that does not make sense.

There are more tough measures on the way. We have announced plans to give the board even greater authority so that it can strengthen incident prevention, preparedness, response, liability, and compensation. Even though more than 99.999% of the oil and gas transported on Canada's federally regulated pipelines arrived safely between 2008 and 2013, we are committed to trying to achieve zero incidents.

As more and more energy products are being shipped by rail, our government has also announced measures to improve railway safety and ensure the safe transportation of dangerous goods by rail, including the introduction of new regulations for DOT-111 rail cars. This includes thicker steel requirements, as well as the addition of top fitting and head shield protection.

We also have nine acts of Parliament governing marine safety. These laws complement and reinforce international regulations established by the International Maritime Organization, and we are always working to improve them.

For example, we proposed new regulatory oversight and enforcement capabilities provided under Bill C-3, the safeguarding Canada's seas and skies act. These measures underline that when it comes to transporting our natural resources, whether by pipeline, rail, or tanker, our government will not compromise on public safety or environmental protection.

We all know that some in the NDP are opposed to all forms of resource development for the benefit of Canadians. They are opposed to the building of infrastructure that would create hundreds of thousands of jobs and to projects that would generate billions to fund critical social programs. Further, some would rather see our resources stranded and our legacy squandered. Again, it does not make sense. A lot of jobs come from these projects.

Our government understands the enormous benefits resource development can provide to all Canadians. This is why we have implemented such a rigorous review process for projects and have ensured that local communities and aboriginal peoples can actively participate in and benefit from resource development.

I simply cannot see a need for this motion, when clearly, as I stated, our current regulatory review process is already robust, independent, based on science, and among the best in the world.

An Act to amend the Statistics Act (appointment of Chief Statistician and long-form census) November 7th, 2014

Mr. Speaker, I rise today to speak to Bill C-626 and its proposed amendments to the Statistics Act.

Our government is committed to balancing the need to collect reliable statistical data, while protecting the privacy of Canadians and reducing costs to taxpayers.

Canadians expect their government to put in place meaningful statistical programs that provide the information needed for governments, businesses, municipalities, associations and university researchers, while reducing the response burden and cost to taxpayers.

This government understands the importance of collecting reliable data in order to make informed decisions. We are not, however, prepared to force Canadians to give detailed private information to government officials at a great cost to taxpayers.

As with all activities across government, Canadians deserve to see clear lines of accountability in the programs their government puts in place. It is the government's responsibility to ensure these programs respond to the needs of Canadians. The amendments my colleague across the floor is proposing would negatively affect the governance and accountability of Statistics Canada and the timeliness of data collection. They would be costly to taxpayers and would reverse steps the government has already taken to alleviate this burden on Canadians.

This bill attempts to change the method for appointing the chief statistician, shifting part of that responsibility from the Governor-in-Council to other players. This government is committed to ensuring clear lines of accountability for all Governor-in-Council appointments.

These amendments would blur the accountabilities of the chief statistician, who is currently appointed like other deputy ministers. Canadians expect accountability in government decisions, and we have continued to make appointments in a fair and consistent manner.

The bill also attempts to shift decision-making powers from the minister and the Governor-in-Council to the chief statistician with regard to the overall statistical program.

The bill would see the chief statistician rather than the Governor-in-Council deciding on content for any census. Any questions that are asked on a mandatory basis, with legal penalties for non-compliance, should be approved by our elected officials. The change my colleague is proposing would upset the current balance between the advisory and implementation role of officials and the decision making accountability of the minister to Parliament.

Moreover, the chief statistician already has a broad range of powers and responsibilities to ensure the integrity of the statistical program and to protect the privacy rights of Canadians. The proposed changes will strip accountability away, changing what is already a robust and balanced process.

The bill also unrealistically would commit Statistics Canada to adopting ambiguous international best practices regarding data collection and ethical standards and guidelines. Statistics Canada already employs international standards when these standards are suitable to the Canadian context. To prescribe the adoption of international best practices in law would not give Statistics Canada the flexibility it needs to apply best practices, ethical standards and guidelines that meet Canadian values and norms.

The bill also seeks to mandate the publication of all surveys in the Canada Gazette that meet the same ambiguous international best practices. This is an unnecessary and unrealistic requirement as Statistics Canada already publishes detailed information on all surveys on its website. To force the publication of over 350 surveys per year would significantly increase costs and red tape associated with surveys and reduce the timeliness of data. This obligation would grind Statistics Canada operations to a halt, would increase the cost of operations, and would seriously limit its ability to respond to user needs for data in a timely manner.

Bill C-626 also attempts to reverse the important decisions this government has made to reduce the burden on Canadians and to protect their privacy. It prescribes that all Canadians be forced to respond to a long form questionnaire and also defines the parameters of such a survey. This would be a regressive step as it would legally compel Canadians to respond to all census questions however intrusive.

This government has already taken steps to ensure that certain census questions, the ones pertaining to establishing the population, calculating transfer payments and determining government policy, remain mandatory. The government has also decided that other questions are unnecessarily intrusive and a breach of the privacy of Canadians.

The bill fails to respect that balance and seeks to reverse these decisions, compelling Canadians to answer mandatory questions with legal recourse if they fail to comply. Therefore, these aspects of the bill cannot be supported.

Our government committed to removing the jail-time penalties for Canadians who refused to participate in mandatory surveys. The bill before us would partially accomplish this, yet it does not go far enough in removing this threat. When Canadians respond to surveys about their private lives, they should be able to do so without the threat of jail time. They should be able to provide their responses without having to face the threat of jail should they choose not to answer private questions.

Canadians expect their government to be tough on crime and to stand up for victims. Prison sentences are penalties meant for criminals—murderers, drug traffickers, and child abusers—not for people who do not comply with mandatory surveys or who fail to provide administrative data.

As promised during the last election, the member for Elgin—Middlesex—London has brought forward legislation that would go further in removing this penalty. I would encourage my colleagues to support that bill when it comes forward for debate.

This government takes the statistical program seriously and has taken many steps to establish a fair balance between the collection of relevant data and protecting the privacy rights of Canadians. Statistics Canada has long been one of the world's most respected statistical agencies, and Canadians deserve an institution that continues to remain at the forefront of its field.

This government will continue to work hard and ensure that statistical programs remain relevant and cost-effective while respecting the privacy rights of Canadians.