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Crucial Fact

Last in Parliament August 2013, as Conservative MP for Brandon—Souris (Manitoba)

Won his last election, in 2011, with 63.70% of the vote.

Statements in the House

Petitions June 12th, 2013

Mr. Speaker, I have the privilege of presenting two petitions calling on Parliament to impose a moratorium on the release of genetically modified alfalfa in order to allow proper review of the impact on farmers in Canada.

Committees of the House June 12th, 2013

Mr. Speaker, I have the honour to present, in both official languages, the 10th report of the Standing Committee on Agriculture and Agri-Food.

“Toward a Common Goal: Canada's Food Supply Chain—Part 1”.

Pursuant to Standing Order 109, the committee requests that the government table a comprehensive response to this report.

Fair Rail Freight Service Act May 29th, 2013

Mr. Speaker, I thank my colleague for the question, but I would suggest that sometimes Manitoba and Saskatchewan are not always landlocked, since they are surrounded by water.

It is interesting, because the whole debate about this rail service agreement was to find a way to satisfy both the shipper and the rail companies. We understand that choices are limited, so the rail companies have to understand that they have to provide good service, while the shippers have to understand that they have obligations to make and commitments to keep in a deal. If either one makes a mistake or creates an impasse, there are legal ways of resolving it and coming to the solution and ways of moving forward without being tied up. Previously they were tied up in courts forever, and it was just a waiting game. Now we have a direct resolution.

I think producers like it. I think shippers like it. I think the rail companies will grow to like it as we move forward. Canadians will benefit from it.

Fair Rail Freight Service Act May 29th, 2013

Mr. Speaker, I have read most of the transcripts of the debate and the discussions that went on in moving this bill forward. A number of organizations, particularly the shippers, came forward and expressed discontent that they did not get it all and that there were other things.

Negotiation is that way. Whenever I go to negotiate, I always want to get more, but at the end of the day, when both sides are a little bit happy and a little bit unhappy, they have probably reached a fairly good compromise.

When we have comments by the leaders in the industry saying that this is a good thing for their suppliers and their people, I suggest that it is a good thing for all Canadians.

Fair Rail Freight Service Act May 29th, 2013

Mr. Speaker, it is important to note that recently producers from western Canada were before the agriculture committee. One of the questions raised was whether they had seen a service level improvement, even without the agreement but with the idea that it is in place and looks to be moving forward. To a person they suggested to us that the shipping, through the west coast particularly, had become better than ever before. We have obviously seen an increase in wheat grown this year, and I think it is because of the freedom of choice that people have.

The fact that agreements can be struck with any individual, any organization or any business suggests that the companies, particularly the rail companies, are very serious about doing business. They got the message loud and clear, and other than a few glitches this winter with weather and other conditions, we have seen the ability to provide service. We have seen them making great efforts to satisfy their market. They know very well that their success depends on getting that product to market in a timely fashion.

Fair Rail Freight Service Act May 29th, 2013

Mr. Speaker, it is important to note that no matter how big or how small we are in this industry, it is individual producers who ship grain cars. They are reliant on not only agreements but on working arrangements with the rail line companies.

For the shippers and the people who use that service, with the ability to have service agreements and contracts, a commercial deal will always stand up. Lack of service has always been the challenge and the question the shippers have put out there. What do they do when they are shorted? They have no alternative.

Having it in the agreements and having commercial agreements will go a long way toward resolving a lot of those issues, and not only for people in the hon. member's community. I respect that, but we have the same issues and the same situation, and we are trying to resolve them. I think this measure will help.

Fair Rail Freight Service Act May 29th, 2013

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to rise and put some comments on the record in regard to this bill. I had the opportunity to serve as the chair of the transport committee that listened to most of the presentations, and we certainly listened to the concerns expressed.

Before I begin my comments, I would like to give congratulations to the Minister of Agriculture and Agri-Food and the Minister of Transport. This has not been an easy file. It has been a file where if they do not get it right, they will not get a lot of second chances. They have spent a lot of time working together. They have listened to stakeholders and they have listened to the people who have vested interests in producing a fair deal at the end of the day. This particular bill we are putting forward would address many of the issues that were proposed and put forward by the stakeholders in the negotiations.

I do want to start right off by saying that I support this bill. Particularly in my new role as chair of the agriculture committee, it is one that will benefit the agricultural sector, and also the people I represent in the communities of Brandon and Souris.

The decision to move to a fair rail freight service act was discussed in 2011. It was an act to provide shippers with the right to a service level agreement and a process to establish such agreements when commercial negotiations fail. Many people would ask why this new bill is important. Why it is important to agriculture and to farmers? Like any business, it is one thing to have a great product, which I believe our farmers in Canada have, but it is another to be able to get it to market in a timely and efficient way.

Across Canada, producers and processors export 50% to 85% of their production, and they rely on an efficient and effective rail service to get their products to their customers. Farmers today ship 65% of their soybeans, 70% of their wheat and over 83% of their pulses beyond our borders. Last year alone, Canada reached a new record of exporting $47.7 billion in agricultural food and seafood, with significant increases in key markets, such as China, Hong Kong and Russia.

We are not done. We are on track to increase those export dollars and expand our markets. A full one-third of those exports are driven by Canada's world-class grain industry, which is also a powerful engine of our jobs and our economy and what our government has been all about for the last several years. It brings $15 billion to the farm gate. Jobs and growth depend on exports. An efficient rail service upholds the reputation of our agricultural exporters in foreign markets, and if our buyers are happy with delivery they will come back for more Canadian products rather than moving on to other sources of supply.

Our government remains very focused on trade because it drives one in five jobs across our great country. As part of our government's strategy for economic growth and prosperity, we have been pursuing a very ambitious trade agenda. I suggest to the members opposite that regrettably they were not able to participate in approving the trade agendas we have put forward, but they continue to move Canada forward, particularly our agricultural producers.

In fact, a key part of our economic action plan is the most ambitious trade agenda in Canadian history. Since taking office, we have concluded trade agreements with nine countries and have many more in the hoppers. We recently released the Agriculture and Agri-Food Market Access Report, documenting some of the keys wins we have had on the trade front over the last few years. Those wins include restoring beef access to South Korea, a potential market of $30 million by 2015; expanding access for canola to China, a market worth $1.6 billion; and, just recently, expanding access for our beef to Japan, which will double our market there.

I understand that numbers being put out there sometimes confuse people, but the bottom line is this: our Manitoba producers, our Canadian farmers, our food processors and our economies depend on trade to prosper.

What would the bill do to ensure a more efficient and reliable rail system for farmers? Most importantly, the fair rail freight service act would give shippers new tools to level the playing field in their relationship with the railways. The fundamental change would help to ensure the smooth and uninterrupted delivery of Canadian products to our customers. Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada is backing this commitment with the crop logistics working group, which provides a forum for transportation-related issues. On November 20, 2012, the Minister of Agriculture announced a new mandate for this working group to continue finding efficiencies and driving costs out of the entire food value chain.

We all know that the potential for growth lies beyond our borders in this great country, and our Conservative government continues to work closely with industry to open up new markets while strengthening and expanding our existing trade relationships. We cannot afford to put that business at risk. Canadian grain farmers and grain marketers have sales orders to fill around the world and are heavily dependent on the railways to move their product to market.

I am pleased to note the strong support from industry for this new bill. Stephen Vandervalk, president of the Grain Growers of Canada, said:

This new legislation will go a long way to address our farmers’ shipping needs. We are thrilled to see this legislation moving through Parliament. A lot of hard work has gone into this.

Pulse Canada also stands behind this new legislation. Gord Bacon said:

We're very pleased to see the government taking some action, because we have a long history of wanting to see improvements in the predictability and reliability of rail traffic.

The Keystone Agricultural Producers have expressed their support by stating:

The ability for shippers to acquire service level agreements is something we’ve been requesting for a long time. Reliable rail service is a major concern when we market our grain, so the sooner this passes, the better.

This legislation is a no-brainer. We have both sides at the table. We have both sides in agreement. Rail service disruption damages our entire reputation for exporting into foreign markets. If our buyers are concerned about delivery disruptions, they will soon move on to other sources of supply. We do not want our customers to think twice about buying from Canada. The livelihood of Canadian farm families depends on uninterrupted, timely and efficient rail service. I ask that we act now. I ask that we move forward on the bill as quickly as possible.

I would also like to add a couple more comments from people who have passed them on to me.

Richard Paton, president and CEO of the chemistry association said “...this legislation is critical — not only for our industry’s competitiveness, but for Canada’s overall productivity and prosperity”.

I want to congratulate all parties involved in this. It was a difficult challenge laid before parliamentarians, but also for members of the committees who met to try to hammer out this deal. Mr. Jim Dinning was very effective in creating the groundwork that we needed to come to this. At the end of the day, I believe with the ability to create service agreements, the people who have had issues with rail delivery and rail service in the past will have a way of resolving this.

I want to congratulate the rail companies, the short-lines and all people involved in that transportation industry. They have worked very hard to create an atmosphere where we can grow, where our opportunities will continue to grow, and where service will become the mainstay of western Canada and Canadian deliveries, not only to our markets to the south but to markets around the world.

I encourage all members to support this legislation.

Airline Service in Manitoba May 22nd, 2013

Mr. Speaker, the City of Brandon and all of western Manitoba received great news last week. I was pleased to join WestJet Encore President Ferio Pugliese and the mayor of Brandon in announcing a new passenger air service between Brandon and Calgary. Community and business leaders welcome this long awaited and tremendous news. Air service is key to our economic growth, and it will connect western Manitoba business to the rest of the country.

This government has made strategic investments to improve Brandon airport, which made it possible to secure the service that WestJet will be offering.

I want to congratulate the thousands of people from Brandon and southwest Manitoba who signed a petition of support and Mayor Decter Hirst and her team for all their incredible work. I also want to acknowledge Art Peters for his tremendous contribution toward this announcement. I encourage the people of Brandon and western Manitoba to get on board.

WestJet Encore, welcome to Brandon.

Economic Action Plan 2013 Act, No. 1 May 6th, 2013

Mr. Speaker, I appreciate that question, because I often tell people that Brandon is the major part of my community, but I represent 40-plus smaller communities that make up the fabric of my community. The municipalities are now collectively saying they know they cannot do this themselves, but they have guaranteed income. They would like to develop a plan for a road, a bridge or some sort of infrastructure that benefits the region. That is what has happened. People are now thinking beyond their own community and thinking of the bigger picture. Similar to what I said about the national projects, we do not always see the direct benefit, but we do see the benefit to all of Canada. Brandon and Brandon—Souris have benefited greatly from the government's programs.

Economic Action Plan 2013 Act, No. 1 May 6th, 2013

Mr. Speaker, I do gladly admit that it is a real challenge living in southwestern Manitoba on the border of Saskatchewan. Investors come to our part of the country and they drive 15 minutes and they are into Saskatchewan, into a whole new tax regime, a whole new opportunity where their investment is secured. The ability to draw those people is so much easier because they can be offered such a benefit in their tax regime.

I have been a part of this government and I am very proud of the fact that we have reduced taxes. We have given people more opportunity to spend their money. I met with a young family yesterday with a new child. They commented that it may not seem like a lot, but $100 a month means something to them to put away for their child's future. That was brought forward by our government, and we will continue to do what is right for Canadians, families and all of Canada.