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Track Ralph

Your Say


Crucial Fact

Liberal MP for Wascana (Saskatchewan)

Won his last election, in 2011, with 40.80% of the vote.

Statements in the House

Fair Rail for Grain Farmers Act March 28th, 2014

Mr. Speaker, in answer to some questions earlier, the Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Agriculture said that the agriculture committee will ultimately determine the witness list and the way the bill will be dealt with at the committee stage. With regard to all the witnesses who may want to be heard, I recall a year ago, when Bill C-52 was before the standing committee, that there was a long list. The committee had six or seven meetings to accommodate all the witnesses.

Between now and the Easter adjournment, there would likely be only four regular sittings of the agriculture committee to deal with this legislation. It needs to be dealt with surely before the House adjourns for Easter. I wonder if, from the NDP perspective, the hon. member would agree that if necessary, to accommodate the witnesses, we would all agree to extend the hours of the agriculture committee, have the committee meet around the clock if necessary, to ensure that every single farmer and representative of a farm organization who wants to be heard on this vital legislation has the opportunity to present to the committee.

Fair Rail for Grain Farmers Act March 28th, 2014

Mr. Speaker, I appreciate the hon. member's remarks. I know that she has taken some time to travel to western Canada, specifically to Saskatchewan, to meet with farmers. I think that is a very good thing.

I wonder if the member could offer some opinions on what would have prompted the Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Foreign Affairs to take the rather extraordinary step of disagreeing with his own government about the content of this legislation. He has pointed out, in particular, the likelihood that under the present draft of the legislation, short-line rail operations would be treated unfairly.

I wonder if the member could elaborate a bit more on what that unfairness would be. Again, why are we experiencing the rather unusual situation here of having a parliamentary secretary criticizing his government's own legislation?

Fair Rail for Grain Farmers Act March 28th, 2014

Mr. Speaker, I wonder if the parliamentary secretary would give us the specific assurance that in any regulations that may be published under the legislation, the situation affecting producer cars and short-line railways would be taken into account and that they would be afforded the kind of priority in the system that farmers would expect them to have?

Fair Rail for Grain Farmers Act March 28th, 2014

Mr. Speaker, I am sure that the hon. parliamentary secretary would agree that the minister of agriculture in Saskatchewan, Mr. Stewart, has the interests of farmers at heart, consistent with his long-standing reputation in the public life of Saskatchewan. He says there are serious defects with this legislation.

We have also heard concerns expressed by the Saskatchewan Association of Rural Municipalities, the Saskatchewan Canola Growers Association, and the Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Foreign Affairs. A number of people have said this legislation is far from perfect.

I wonder if the parliamentary secretary could assure us simply that when this does go to committee—and there is, I think, a will in the House to move this through quickly today and get it before the Standing Committee on Agriculture and Agri-Food—that the affairs of the standing committee will be organized in such a way that every representative of farm organizations from western Canada who wants to be heard on this subject will have the opportunity to be heard, that none of their testimony will be curtailed, and that the government will at least have the flexibility to listen to the recommendations where improvements could be achieved?

Everyone here wants the same result. We want the grain to move effectively and in a timely way. Will the government show some flexibility and undertake to at least listen to those who have concerns?

Agriculture and Agri-food March 27th, 2014

Mr. Speaker, the grain crisis in western Canada is six months old. By the government's own calculation, the hit on farmers is $8 billion. The legislation tabled yesterday mostly authorizes regulations to be made, which are still secret. There is no comprehensive monitoring, no better transparency, no logistical coordination, no railway costing review, no new capacity, no definition of service levels, no way to measure performance, and no damages to farmers when services fail.

Why was all of that left out? When will farmers actually get to see these draft regulations?

Privilege March 25th, 2014

Mr. Speaker, it is a different question of privilege. Further to the brief verbal notice I gave you, Mr. Speaker, and the House yesterday, I rise at this time on a question of privilege flowing from the actions taken by the government of the Russian Federation.

In the course of its aggression against Ukraine, Russia has purported to impose personal sanctions directed against certain specific Canadian citizens, 13 in total so far. They include Mr. Paul Grod, the distinguished national president of the Ukrainian Canadian Congress; Wayne Wouters, the Clerk of the Privy Council; Jean-Francois Tremblay, deputy secretary to the cabinet; Christine Hogan, an advisor to the Prime Minister; a cabinet minister; the government House leader; two Liberal members of Parliament, the members for Mount Royal and Toronto Centre; a New Democrat MP, the member for Ottawa Centre; three government members, the members for Niagara West—Glanbrook, Selkirk—Interlake, and Etobicoke Centre; a senator, Raynell Andreychuk from Saskatchewan; and the Speaker of the House of Commons.

These sanctions are obviously intended to be insulting and intimidating. They are designed to interfere with the normal and proper behaviour of the named individuals. Typically, those who have reacted, so far, to their being included on this Russian blacklist have worn their sanction status as a badge of honour for standing up for freedom, democracy, human rights, and the rule of law for defending the independence, integrity, and sovereignty of Ukraine. I am sure that all of us in this House endorse that principled Canadian attitude and reject the notion of these Russian sanctions.

It is bad enough that such sanctions are directed against a prominent Canadian citizen like Mr. Grod. It is bad enough that they are directed against several professional public servants. It is bad enough that the Russians are purporting to sanction Canadian members of Parliament to punish them, to interfere with their public and parliamentary duties, and to seek to intimidate them in their defence of freedom and rights. All that is bad enough.

However, it is worse still that a foreign power has attempted to insult and demean the Parliament of Canada as a whole by purporting to sanction the Speaker of the House of Commons. The Speaker represents the rights and privileges of all MPs, regardless of partisanship or any other distinction, and through them, the Speaker represents the basic values of our democratic way of life. The Speaker reflects the fundamental dignity of the House of Commons.

Sanctions by a foreign power against the Speaker of the House of Commons are a fundamental affront to Canada. They are, in my view, an unmistakable contempt of Parliament, and they should not go without a response.

I will not belabour the point. I believe it speaks quite eloquently for itself. I would simply refer to one short paragraph on page 82 of the second edition of O'Brien and Bosc's House of Commons Procedure and Practice. It reads as follows:

Any disregard of or attacks on the rights, powers and immunities of the House and its Members, either by an outside person or body, or by a Member of the House, is referred to as a “breach of privilege” and is punishable by the House. There are, however, other affronts against the dignity and authority of Parliament which may not fall within one of the specifically defined privileges. Thus, the House also claims the right to punish, as a contempt, any action which, though not a breach of a specific privilege, tends to obstruct or impede the House in the performance of its functions; obstructs or impedes any Member or officer of the House in the discharge of their duties; or is an offence against the authority or dignity of the House....

I believe that a sufficient prima facie case of contempt exists in the circumstances of these Russian sanctions. If the Chair so finds, I would be prepared to present a motion, that, in summary, would first, reiterate the clear support of this House for freedom, democracy, human rights, and the rule of law in Ukraine and the independence, integrity, and sovereignty of Ukraine; second, express our united condemnation of the behaviour of the Russian Federation in relation to Ukraine and our rejection of Russian sanctions against Canadians; and, third, call upon the appropriate committee of this House to investigate the full meaning and consequences of a foreign power showing contempt against the Speaker of the House of Commons and the Parliament of Canada.

In the alternative, given what I think is a strong common view in the House around these points, I would be happy to see the House leaders convene to discuss an appropriate all-party motion on this matter of contempt to deal with what is an unprecedented situation, and to give some guidance as to how we can and should respond, as a Parliament, in cases of foreign contempt.

Questions on the Order Paper March 24th, 2014

With regard to applications received from Saskatchewan for Western Economic Diversification Canada’s Western Innovation (WINN) Initiative: (a) how many applications were received for the first intake, completed on December 8, 2013; (b) how many are complete and meet the program’s criteria, and how much funding did they request; (c) how many proceeded to stage two of the application process, and how much funding did they request; (d) how many passed stage two, and how much funding did they request; (e) how many applications did the department expect to receive from Saskatchewan, (i) how many did it expect to proceed to stage two, (ii) how much funding did they expect be to requested at each stage; (f) what research was done to determine the need for the program in Saskatchewan; (g) did the department find that the demand for the financing available through WINN was not being met by the private sector in Saskatchewan; and (h) how many of WINN’s contributions does the government plan to be repaid in ten years?

Privilege March 24th, 2014

Mr. Speaker, I rise on a matter of privilege. Under our rules, we are obliged to raise these items at the earliest possible moment, which I am now taking the opportunity to do.

Earlier today, we learned that Russia had imposed certain sanctions against 13 Canadians, including several members of Parliament, and indeed, the Speaker of the House of Commons—you, sir.

The sanctions are, and are intended to be, deeply insulting. They are intended to punish, intimidate, and interfere with the functioning of the House of Commons and the ability of members of Parliament to do their jobs.

The Speaker embodies the rights and privileges of all MPs, and indeed, the very dignity of the whole House. The Russian action constitutes, in my view, a very grave matter of privilege, which I intend to raise tomorrow, and I wanted to give the House full notice of this mattter today, because I suspect a number of members of Parliament would want to express their views on this Russian action taken against the Speaker of the House of Commons of Canada.

Agriculture and Agri-Food March 7th, 2014

Mr. Speaker, the so-called emergency action announced today on grain is little more than what the railways had already projected to do themselves in the weeks ahead.

Second, the government needs to fix the useless railway service legislation, Bill C-52, designed by the government, which fails to define service, fails to measure performance, and fails to impose damages payable to farmers.

Third is compensation. The system designed by the government has imposed costs and losses of $5 billion over the last five months. Will farmers get any of that money back?

William MacRae March 7th, 2014

Mr. Speaker, this afternoon at the RCMP's Depot Division training academy in Regina, hundreds of people will gather to pay their final respects to the late William MacRae.

Retired Superintendent MacRae was an icon of Canada's national police force. He passed away last week at the age of 87.

Born in Manor, Saskatchewan, Bill served in the Royal Canadian Navy in World War II. He joined the RCMP in 1948, trained in Regina, and was assigned to J Division in New Brunswick before coming home to Depot in 1960.

He was a superlative trainer. He commanded respect. He inspired excellence. He was an innovator and helped bring police training into its modern era.

After his retirement in 1979, Bill remained active in public service and was involved in everything from working with disabled children to serving as aide-de-camp to the Lieutenant Governor. I got to know him working on the RCMP Heritage Centre.

Thank you, Bill MacRae. Our thoughts and prayers are with Muriel and the family.