- His favourite word was question.
Last in Parliament May 2004, as Progressive Conservative MP for Calgary Centre (Alberta)
Won his last election, in 2000, with 46.05% of the vote.
Statements in the House
Right Hon. Member for Calgary Centre May 13th, 2004
I have to say, Mr. Speaker, that I preferred these parliamentary tributes when they were about someone else but I appreciate deeply the tribute that the House has paid. I thank my fellow Albertan, the Deputy Prime Minister, for her remarks. I want to thank the Leader of the Opposition and, more particularly, his very engaging son, Benjamin.
I would of course, like to also thank the leader of the Bloc Quebecois. He is right, we do not see eye to eye when it comes to certain basic issues relating to Canada, but I think that we both, myself as much as he, appreciate each other's sincerity of commitment to our objectives. He is a little less bilingual than I, but these things happen.
My colleague, my friend and, dare I say, former youth member of the Progressive Conservative Party of Canada, when there was such a thing, has now, I am pleased to see, confessed his collaboration or the collaboration of his party with the Liberals in bringing down my government in the beginning of our life.
I have to express a particular appreciation to my friend and my colleague in the other part of the Progressive Conservative caucus in the House of Commons, the member for Fundy—Royal. I admire him as a parliamentarian and an individual, and I very much appreciate his words today.
Mr. Speaker, I think this will be one of the least controversial interventions of my career. I want to begin my remarks where I began my career, which is with the men and women who elected me in the four constituencies in two provinces which it has been my privilege to represent here in the House of Commons.
I am immensely grateful to the voters of that spectacular but short-lived riding of Rocky Mountain in Alberta; the riding of Yellowhead, which I had the privilege to serve for so long; and the riding of Kings—Hants, from which the Deputy Prime Minister comes as does her now colleague, the current member for Kings—Hants; and of course my constituency of Calgary Centre.
I want to express my thanks to literally thousands of other individuals in Canada and abroad, in this House and outside, who have helped me in good times or in bad times or in both.
Everyone here knows, and it has been acknowledged, just how much members of Parliament owe to our families. That is always true but I have to say that in no case has it been more true than in the case of Maureen McTeer and of Catherine Clark.
Maureen sought election here herself, in a difficult constituency and time. She would have been a formidable presence in this House of Commons. It may also be appropriate for me to say, and this is perhaps the most controversial thing I will say today, that Maureen, Catherine and I, under fire, have learned something about family values.
The spokesman for the NDP referred to the defeat of my government in 1979. I have had the privilege of several dramatic moments in this House. I will not recite each one of them.
I remember clearly how that defeat came about after a vote on our budget in 1979. On that vote, the Liberal Party wheeled in every member who could draw breath. They literally evacuated the hospitals. Members of Parliament, on whose desks cobwebs had grown, showed up miraculously to vote. The present Prime Minister should have seen it because I learned that night that just because a member of the Liberal Party might be worn out, battered and beaten up, he can still come back to haunt you.
Now, almost everyone who serves here leaves with a larger vision than they brought. The diversity of Canada becomes a personal experience which lifts most of us beyond the natural Canadian boundaries of region and language and local experience.
The real privilege of working here goes beyond service to our constituents or to our country. In an age of invention and uncertainty there is no other profession so consistently subject to change and to surprise. In an era where people are always learning, there is no better school than public life.
I learned the other official language here, learned it in my fashion. That helped me understand that the distinct society is not a dead phrase in a constitution, but the living reality of most of French-speaking Canada, and a defining feature of our history and our future.
Serving in this Parliament became my passport to communities and realities I would otherwise never have known so well: aboriginal Canadians, Canadian Jews and Canadian Arabs confronting ancient tensions, farmers seeing their way of life threatened, the transforming imagination of our artists and scientists.
But this Parliament is more than a school. It is a place to act. It is the principal place where the Canadian community can act together.
This House can reflect our country at its worst or at its best. I have been here for both experiences. At our best this House of Commons defines the public interest of Canada. That happened, I believe, when we argued for and against specific constitutional changes in at least two Parliaments; when we argued for and against a free trade agreement; and when we acted together, as others have mentioned, as a Parliament in a practical campaign against apartheid.
In such debates there are bound to be deep disagreements, because that is in the nature of a diverse country that is continent wide with roots and interests reaching literally everywhere. That very diversity makes it imperative that there be a place where broad public interest can be expressed. There are plenty of voices for private, regional or special interests. At our best in this House of Commons, the whole community can find its Canadian voice.
I have been honoured to serve here. Maureen and I look forward to the next chapters in our lives. I hope my colleagues in the House are able to draw as much satisfaction from their public service as I have from mine.
Health May 12th, 2004
Mr. Speaker, my question for the Prime Minister is about HIV-AIDS funding within Canada.
I commend his international initiatives, but he knows that HIV-AIDS is a major issue at home too. He knows that last year the Deputy Prime Minister said “it's important to at least double” domestic funding “on an annual basis”.
Will the Prime Minister honour the word of the Deputy Prime Minister and “at least double” domestic funding on HIV-AIDS?
Criminal Code May 11th, 2004
Mr. Speaker, I thank the member for those concluding remarks. I will be gone, I assure people of that.
The purposes here are not at issue. The minister said that the purposes of the foundations were vetted by Parliament when they were established. He knows that these are matters of such enormous complexity and that they were whipped, which is to mean that there was not the kind of scrutiny that would normally justify a $7.5 billion annual departure from the rules of parliamentary accountability.
What I am interested in hearing is that there will in fact be a deliberate review of this arrangement with an eye to finding some procedure that is consistent both with the independent actions of the foundations and the fundamental principle of accountability to Parliament. I would like to receive that now.
I would like to receive from the minister some indication that there will be regular reports to the House as to the nature of the consideration that he and his colleagues are undertaking. It seems to me that a simple place to start would be to make these foundations accountable not by choice but by requirement to the audit of the Office of the Auditor General.
Criminal Code May 11th, 2004
Mr. Speaker, I am pleased that the President of the Treasury Board is in the House for this point. In an earlier incarnation, he chaired a standing committee of the House of Commons that looked at the issue, which was a subject of exchange between myself and the Deputy Prime Minister the other day in the House.
The issue fundamentally is the degree to which the so-called arm's length foundations, which were established for good purposes to which I will come, should operate free from the normal instruments of accountability to the House of Commons.
I should say at the outset that I certainly do not question the value of these foundations. I do not question the idea that there needs to be some separation between the normal influences on governments and parliaments, partisan and short term influences, and the long term goals with which these foundations are seized. There is no doubt that it had to be done, and that something out of the ordinary had to be done in the establishment of these foundations. Therefore, the purposes are not at issue.
However, it ill-behooves the Deputy Prime Minister to respond as she did in the House in terms of the defence of the purposes of these foundations, when what is at issue is not their purposes but their accountability to the House of Commons.
The foundations, which include Genome Canada, Canada Health Infoway and a range of others, were set up, as I say, with a good purpose; to maintain a distance on issues that were too sensitive to be left to simple partisan consideration.
In setting them up in this way, the result has been that there is absolutely no accountability to the House of Commons. They are not subject to the audit by the Auditor General. It is true that they can choose to have an audit, but they are not subject as most agencies of government are to an audit without choice by the Auditor General of Canada. They are not subject to access to information regulations. They are not in most cases subject to the provisions of the Official Languages Act. They are not subject to any kind of intervention by a member of Parliament, or indeed by a minister, if something goes wrong.
I understand the reasons why they were set up in that way. I am not suggesting any malign intent. I am however suggesting that there is a fundamental principle at the base of this Parliament. The purpose of Parliament is to control all spending that occurs in the name of the Government of Canada.
Whether it was by design or by accident, we have established here a system amounting to billions of dollars a year in which major decisions regarding the public policy of Canada in issues of particular importance to our future are taken in flagrant disregard of the principle that Parliament has the right to hold government agencies accountable for public spending.
This issue can be resolved today if the President of the Treasury Board will rise in response to this point and give an undertaking to the House that his review of accountability of government will include a serious examination of ways by which we, on the one hand, retain the independence of these foundations and, on the other hand, respect the fundamental principle of their accountability to Parliament. I do not pretend that it is easy, but I am absolutely certain that it can be done. All it requires is a will.
Before I take my seat, I should raise a defence of this practice that was made to the committee by the president of one of these outstanding foundations. The president said that even though they were not required to, they tried to respect the rules of accountability. That is not good enough. Trying is not good enough. What one chair of a foundation might do one day does not impose an obligation upon subsequent chairs in subsequent years. There needs to be a rule.
I hope the President of the Treasury Board will indicate that there will be a rule henceforth.
Budget Implementation Act, 2004 May 5th, 2004
Mr. Speaker, I vote no.
(The House divided on the motion, which was agreed to on the following division:)
Question No. 75 May 4th, 2004
What public opinion polling has been commissioned by the Canada Deposit Insurance Corporation since December 31, 2000, and, in each case, specify: ( a ) the purpose of the poll; ( b ) the date of the poll; ( c ) the public opinion polling company involved; and ( d ) any other crown corporations involved?
Health May 3rd, 2004
Mr. Speaker, I have a question for the Deputy Prime Minister that is supplemental to those put by the member for Medicine Hat.
The Auditor General has automatic access to the books of government agencies and departments. She is denied automatic access to so-called arm's length corporations like Health Infoway, Innovation Canada, Genome Canada and others.
Why the double standard? Why does the government not fight the democratic deficit by giving the Auditor General automatic access to those entities which she seeks?
Yemen Water Project April 26th, 2004
Mr. Speaker, I draw to the attention of the House the signing by a Calgary company, Canadian Nexen, of the first community water project in the Middle East under the UN secretary-general's new global compact initiative. The pilot project in the rural village of Rassib in Yemen will be a model for other communities.
In rural Yemen only 17% of the people have access to safe water. Hygiene practices are poor. Sanitation and waste disposal facilities are inadequate. Children are particularly susceptible to water-borne diseases.
The agreement was encouraged by the government of Yemen and was signed in Sa'ana on April 24. Canadian Nexen will contribute up to $1 million U.S., and the UNDP up to $500,000 U.S.
As a corporate citizen, Canadian Nexen sets high standards for Canada and the world. Now it is taking the lead in making the UN's global compact initiative a reality, fighting poverty and improving the basic health of thousands of people in a part of the world where Canada can make a significant difference.
Health April 19th, 2004
Mr. Speaker, my question is for the Deputy Prime Minister. The Standing Committee on Health has unanimously recommended increasing annual HIV-AIDS funding to $100 million. Last June, the Deputy Prime Minister said, “It's important to at least double the funding on an annual basis”.
The current health minister said on March 10, “We will have to wait for the budget”. There was no mention in the 2004 budget about doubling annual funding for HIV-AIDS.
I have three questions. Why not? What specific commitment will the government make today regarding new funding for HIV-AIDS? Will the Deputy Prime Minister keep her word?