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  • His favourite word is first.

Conservative MP for Palliser (Saskatchewan)

Won his last election, in 2011, with 47.00% of the vote.

Statements in the House

Economic Action Plan 2014 Act, No. 1 April 7th, 2014

Mr. Speaker, I think the question was, is there some cutting of taxes that we are suggesting and how do we view that?

If we look carefully, the reduction is very minimal. In fact, the 6% that has been allocated for health care and education has been well accepted by the provinces. The bill talks about the fact that those responsibilities will be continued to try to find favour with budgets, not only this budget, but budgets in the future.

Economic Action Plan 2014 Act, No. 1 April 7th, 2014

Mr. Speaker, this is the bill. Have I read it? Yes, indeed, a couple times actually.

The bill answers a lot of questions that people have that are minor in nature but affect a lot of people in one way or another. The budget addresses that. Budgets are designed to express a government's position as it moves forward in a fiscal manner. That is found in the bill.

Does everyone like the bill equally? No, I am sure they do not. I am sure that if we took the bill apart page by page, it would generate a number of questions that we would perhaps have a hard time answering. At the same time, the bill would cover what it is designed to do, which is to bring forward the position of the government in a fiscal manner.

Economic Action Plan 2014 Act, No. 1 April 7th, 2014

Mr. Speaker, let me say this in reply. The bill is what it is. Are 400 pages too many in a bill? Are 300 pages too few? Are 500 pages too many? We have to read the bill and then ask if the bill covers what needs to be covered in a budgetary year. If the answer to that question is yes, then the length of the bill is not really of major concern. It is what is contained within the bill.

Economic Action Plan 2014 Act, No. 1 April 7th, 2014

Mr. Speaker, it is an honour and a pleasure for me to stand in this House to talk about how Bill C-31 would positively impact residents of Palliser in Saskatchewan and in all of Canada.

Our government is focused upon building strong communities with prosperous businesses and creating good high-wage jobs for Canadians. We know that this vision is achievable through creating an environment in which for business can flourish.

Just as we promised in the 2011 election and in budgets since then, we are working toward a balanced budget while not raising taxes or cutting transfers to the provinces. This budget bill would provide support where needed while being mindful of the bottom line.

I would like to add that there is $3 billion in the contingency fund to adjust for risk in the event of disaster, as we unfortunately witnessed last year in Lac-M├ęgantic and with the floods in southern Alberta. Canadians can be confident that we will achieve a balanced budget this year, and we will.

In my address, I will focus largely on initiatives to train the workforce of today and tomorrow. Canada needs to do much better to ensure that training reflects the needs of the labour market.

Members might be wondering what issues are facing our labour markets.

We have regional and sectoral job vacancies coupled with unemployment. We have a number of groups that are being used to fill different potentials, including recent immigrations, aboriginal people, persons with disabilities, and older Canadians. I am very pleased that this budget contains a number of measures to encourage and foster skills training to help these people find meaningful employment while filling job vacancies. Creating highly skilled and well-paying jobs is very much in the national interest.

To emphasize the importance of finding solutions to skills shortages, I will mention that the Canadian Chamber of Commerce lists skills shortage as the number one barrier to Canada's competitiveness. One of the most exciting aspects to foster skills training involves allowing apprentices to qualify for interest-free loans during their four-year training period. The Canadian apprentice loan would build upon substantial support already in place to help apprentices with costs. This loan of up to $4,000 per period of technical training would assist apprentices as they complete their training and would encourage more Canadians to consider a career in the skilled trades.

It is important for apprentices to complete their training to ensure their qualifications are recognized in other parts of the country. At least 26,000 people are expected to apply for and ultimately benefit from this $100 million annual investment.

Robert Blakely, of Canada's building trades union, has indicated his support. He said:

...the way apprentices are being treated has changed and they are now, thanks to measures introduced in the 2014 Budget, treated more like their colleagues in college and those involved in university training.

Another exciting feature entails modifications to strengthen the labour market opinion process to ensure Canadians are given the first chance at available jobs. This would be partly accomplished through limiting the use of LMO programs in high-employment regions. This $11 million investment over two years, and $3.5 million ongoing, would realign applications to high-demand fields.

We will continue to better meet the demands of the labour market through the newly created expressions of interest system to allow the federal, provincial, and territorial governments to actively target highly skilled immigrants who wish to establish permanent residency in Canada. This program represents an investment of $14 million over two years and $4.7 million per year ongoing.

So far my words here today have focused on meeting the needs of our workforce, because this is the primary obstacle to growth facing Saskatchewan. Indeed, Saskatchewan's unemployment rate ranks among the lowest in the country, while Regina ranks the lowest among Canadian cities. In fact, as of yesterday, there were more than 15,500 jobs listed at saskjobs.ca.

As a government, we are primarily concentrating on securing the long-term financial security of Canadians. We work toward this vision through creating jobs and economic growth and keeping taxes low to allow Canadians to keep more of their hard-earned money. Our government is known for saving Canadians money through the 160 tax cuts already in place, which save the average family of four approximately $3,400 annually. Also, one million people are now entirely off the tax rolls.

New indications of our ever-expanding list of tax cuts include increasing and indexing the adoption tax credit to $15,000 to make adoptions more affordable. Adoptions can be costly, and this measure would greatly help young growing families.

Helping Canadians save more of their own money extends to ensuring that they get better value for their service in the marketplace. Wholesale domestic roaming rates will be capped to allow the smaller cellphone companies to be better able to compete, which would lead to increased competition and ultimately to lower prices. We can look forward to lower cellphone bills.

These measures build upon existing consumer-friendly items, including reduced tariffs on baby clothing and athletic equipment and clearly displayed airfares without hidden fees.

With the keen judgment and steady hand of our former finance minister, Canada is well positioned to continue leading nations of the world down the path of economic recovery. I know that our new finance minister will continue to steer our economy down the right track, given his discipline, work ethic, knowledge, and depth of experience.

Through Bill C-31, we are continuing to support Canadians of today and tomorrow. All in all, it is a good budget that would encourage economic prosperity not only in the short term but also in the long term. We are investing in our economy today while not mortgaging our future.

I have mentioned just a few points that would greatly improve the situation for issues facing Saskatchewan and, indeed, all of Canada. I hope all members will appreciate the forward thinking demonstrated in Bill C-31 and support it.

Seniors April 2nd, 2014

Mr. Speaker, Canadian senior citizens have worked hard, paid their taxes, and contributed to our nation's success. With tax season upon us, many seniors in my riding would like to know and be assured that their taxes will remain low.

Can the Minister of State for Seniors help us understand what is happening with taxes and that keeping them low for seniors is one of the objectives?

Canada-Honduras Economic Growth and Prosperity Act March 31st, 2014

Mr. Speaker, let me share this with members:

Canada's Stabilization and Reconstruction Task Force (START) and the Deployment for Democratic Development [the DDD] have supported the implementation of recommendations of the Honduras Truth and Reconciliation Commission [the TRC]. The TRC was established following the 2009 coup d'├ętat to identify mechanisms to avoid repetition of similar events. START supported the TRC Monitoring Office, working under Honduras' Justice and Human Rights Secretariat, for the effective implementation of recommendations....

It is safe to say that it takes time to create change, so Canada is not only working on the trade agreement, it is working with the human element to create that change. I am sure that we are going to see the evidence of that in the very near future.

Canada-Honduras Economic Growth and Prosperity Act March 31st, 2014

Mr. Speaker, the Partnership for Development Innovative Branch is from the province of British Columbia. The Honduras budget, $1,099,278, is working with the Honduran law enforcement and justice institutions to reduce impunity and improve human rights.

There is something in place. It is through the University of British Columbia. It works with the Honduras program. There are also trainees from the training program working in internships in the Canadian justice sector. There is work between Canada and Honduras in terms of human relationships. That is in effect and it is growing.

Canada-Honduras Economic Growth and Prosperity Act March 31st, 2014

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to rise today in the House to talk about the Canada-Honduras free trade agreement.

Our Conservative government has made very clear the priority it places on implementing free trade agreements that will help Canadian business compete in overseas markets. In an export-driven economy, Canadian companies, producers, and investors grow when they have greater access to international markets. One in five jobs in Canada are related to trade. It is clear that jobs in communities across Canada depend on the business we do with other countries.

Our Conservative government committed to protecting and strengthening the long-term financial security of hard-working Canadians, and this is why this government has established the most ambitious pro-trade plan in Canadian history. We recognize that bilateral and regional trade brings ever-increasing prosperity to Canada and Canadians.

By signing these trade agreements, the Government of Canada helps increase the export of Canadian products to rapidly growing markets around the world, such as Honduras. Deepening our trade relationship with these emerging markets is important for jobs and for the long-term prosperity of the Canadian economy. Trade agreements promote Canadian exports to foreign markets by increasing the flow of products to FTA partners. In fact, statistics demonstrate that trade flows more than double with our FTA partners after 10 years.

Numerous studies have demonstrated the positive impact of trade agreements on various sectors of the economy. For example, it has been shown that the free trade agreement between Canada and the United States led to an improvement of 13.8% in productivity in the Canadian manufacturing sector, a remarkable trade-related achievement. In turn, this increase in productivity led to higher wages and higher standards of living.

The Conservative government understands that by improving access to foreign markets for Canadian businesses, we are supporting domestic economic growth and are creating new opportunities for Canadians. The benefits these trade agreements provide are clear. That is why our government is in the midst of the most ambitious pursuit of new and expanded trade and investment agreements in Canadian history.

Since 2006, Canada has concluded free trade agreements with 10 countries: Colombia, Jordan, Peru; the European Free Trade Association member states of Iceland, Liechtenstein, Norway, and Switzerland; Honduras; Panama; and most recently, South Korea. As well, the historic agreement with European Union represents the most significant trade initiative since the North American Free Trade Agreement and could potentially boost our bilateral trade with this important partner by 20%. It would also provide a $12 billion annual boost to Canada's economy, which is equivalent to a $1,000 increase in the average Canadian family's income, or almost 80,000 new jobs.

At a time of such economic uncertainty, Canadian companies welcome the many benefits a Canada-EU trade agreement would bring. We are also intensifying our focus on the Asia Pacific region. On October 8, 2012, Canada officially joined the trans-Pacific partnership. This initiative is currently being negotiated by a group of 12 countries, which includes Australia, Brunei, Chile, Malaysia, Mexico, New Zealand, Peru, Singapore, the United States, Vietnam, and now Japan. TPP membership will bring jobs, growth, and prosperity to hard-working Canadians. The potential benefits of this initiative are enormous. The TPP market represents more than 658 million people and a combined GDP of over $20.5 trillion.

Just last week, the Minister of International Trade announced the launch of the fifth round of negotiations toward a free trade agreement with Japan. In addition, Canada is working to modernize its existing bilateral free trade agreements with Chile, Costa Rica, and Israel. These were signed under the former Liberal government, so of course we need to improve them.

All these initiatives are critical for the economic future of our country. To grow at home, Canadian enterprise must be allowed to succeed abroad. It must be able to compete in a predictable, transparent, and rules-based trading environment. More importantly, Canadian firms must be able to compete on a level playing field. They must not be at a competitive disadvantage in markets where other countries have trade agreements in place.

There are a growing number of countries where Canadian companies are at a competitive disadvantage, because their competitors have preferential market access under some form of preferential trade agreement. This is precisely what will continue if we do not sign these trade agreements. Honduras is an example of this.

While the House debates the merits of a trade agreement with Honduras, the United States and the European Union are moving toward implementation of their respective trade agreements with this prosperous economy. The United States-Honduras trade promotion agreement entered into force in 2006. Honduras signed a free trade agreement with the European Union that entered into force on August 1, 2013.

Many Canadian goods and services are in direct competition with those of the United States and the European Union in Honduras. Those trade agreements will provide American and European firms with preferential access to the Honduran market for a number of products that are key exports of Canadian firms. Right now, Canadian firms exporting goods such as frozen french fries, pharmaceuticals, pulp and paper, and vehicles are at a competitive disadvantage. They continue to face difficulties because products from the United States enjoy preferential access.

In my home province of Saskatchewan, export sectors include linseed oil, industrial machinery, plastics, pulses, and beef and pork. All of these sectors would have preferential access after ratification of the agreement.

Canada cannot afford to sit on the sidelines while other countries vigorously pursue trade deals to secure better market access for their products and services. The Conservative government will not stand by and let Canadian companies compete on an uneven playing field. It is imperative that we implement the Canada-Honduras free trade agreement to ensure that Canadian companies remain competitive in the Honduran market and reap the benefits of this trade agreement.

The benefits to Saskatchewan and to all of Canada that would be generated from this trade agreement are very clear.

Kinsmen Foundation Telemiracle March 5th, 2014

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to extend congratulations to the Kinsmen Foundation on another successful Telemiracle to help families with children with disabilities and people with special needs.

Over the 20-hour telethon last weekend, viewers were asked to open their hearts and wallets and to ring those phones, and indeed, the viewers responded to the tune of almost $5,286,000. Along the way, more than 40 musical and dance ensembles from across the country entertained viewers.

Now in its 38th year, the Telemiracle has raised more than $100 million to benefit thousands of Saskatchewan residents.

I would like to extend thanks to the warm-hearted Saskatchewan population for supporting their community and to the thousands of hard-working folks at the Kinsmen Foundation for their efforts year-round to improve the quality of life for Saskatchewan residents.

Veterans Affairs February 14th, 2014

Mr. Speaker, last year our government committed to Canadian veterans and their families that we would make substantial improvements to the Last Post Fund. We all want to ensure a dignified burial is possible for veterans of modest means or those who have been injured in service to Canada.

Would the parliamentary secretary please update the House on how economic action plan 2014 delivers on that commitment?