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Conservative MP for South Surrey—White Rock—Cloverdale (B.C.)
Won his last election, in 2011, with 54.60% of the vote.
Statements in the House
Refugees in Iraq November 7th, 2013
Mr. Speaker, in front of the American Embassy here in Ottawa, five members of the Iran Democratic Association have been on a hunger strike for the past 65 days to bring attention to the plight of a large group of Iranian refugees in Iraq. The 3,000 pro-Iranian democracy activists, known as the MEK, who are refugees in Camp Ashraf and Camp Liberty, are being harassed by Iraqi security forces.
The hunger strike started after the latest assault on Camp Ashraf on September 1, in which 52 unarmed refugees were killed by Iraqi forces and another 7 individuals, 6 of whom are women, were taken hostage. The world community has condemned this outrage, and Canada has called for those responsible to be brought to justice.
It is time for Iraqi Prime Minister Maliki and his government to stop pandering to the Iranian regime, free the hostages and assist these refugees in getting to western nations.
B.C. Provincial Soccer Champions May 22nd, 2013
Mr. Speaker, May 11 was a big day for soccer in British Columbia. The adult provincial championships were held at West Hills Stadium in Victoria. The women's final was claimed, 1-0, by Surrey United when Chelsey Hannesson took advantage of a pass headed by Ally Benes and squeezed a tight-angled shot past the keeper into the net. The Surrey United Women have now won an unprecedented 10 consecutive provincial championships.
A few hours later, the Surrey United Men's team also won its final, 1-0, for its second consecutive provincial championship. The game was won on an early goal when United's Colin Streckman stepped up for a penalty shot and scored with measured accuracy into the bottom corner, giving the goalkeeper no chance.
Both Surrey United teams are from Cloverdale, in my district, where our ideal climate allows teams to practice and play year-round. Surrey United men and women will now move on to the nationals in Halifax this October.
Congratulations Surrey United.
Hoops 4 Hope April 25th, 2013
Mr. Speaker, I would like to recognize a constituent of mine from Cloverdale, British Columbia who is serving young people in a unique way.
After a career as a six-foot-seven-inch basketball player, Rick Gill is using his talents to give back to others through his organization, Hoops 4 Hope.
Rick has been taking his inspirational message to young people in Canada's Arctic. This June, as in previous summers, Rick will be in Baker Lake, Nunavut for two weeks running a basketball summer camp for children.
Along with improving their basketball skills, Rick will be challenging them to learn some important life skills by addressing such topics as suicide, drug abuse and peer pressure and helping them make positive and informed choices. As Rick says:
Making jump shots is the easy part, but affecting the behaviour of young people is difficult, as any parent or teacher will tell you.
To learn more about Hoops 4 Hope, see its website, www.hoopsafrica.org.
Privilege April 16th, 2013
Mr. Speaker, I rise today to speak to the privilege raised prior to our break regarding Standing Order 31, known as members' statements.
Other members have already addressed a number of important points, which I will not dwell on in detail in my comments, including: one, that without the right of all members to speak freely, this institution simply cannot function properly; two, that the period of statements was originally intended to give members equal opportunities to raise issues; three, that other opportunities for debate in the House, such as debate on a bill, reflect the principle that all members have the right to speak, even if their name does not appear on the list submitted by a party; four, that the decision by Speaker Sauvé to ask parties for guidance or lists of members to speak was done solely as a matter of efficiency for the Speaker and was never intended to give the various parties a veto over who could speak; five, that conventions are not the same as rules and can be revised when needed to reflect current realities; six, that S. O. 31s were not intended to be used a partisan tool; and seven, that even if we view our parties as akin to hockey teams, the Commons is more like a House league than the NHL, and you, as the convener, Mr. Speaker, need to step in when some players are not getting equal time on the ice.
As I said, I will not examine these points in further detail, but instead I hope to add to your understanding of the issue, Mr. Speaker, by examining the history of Standing Order 31.
It is perhaps not surprising to learn that members have used various conduits to make statements since at least the time of Confederation. According to the Annotated Standing Orders of the House of Commons, second edition, the rules which guide the period for statements by members place the antecedents back to at least 1867.
For about 60 years following Confederation, a rule existed which permitted motions to be proposed without notice, provided unanimous consent had been granted by the House. In the early to mid-1920s, however, the use of such motions experienced a marked increase.
In 1927, the House agreed to a recommendation that the Standing Orders be amended so that unanimous consent would only be sought in cases of “urgent and pressing necessity previously explained by the mover”. The rule, as amended, was thereafter infrequently employed for decades, until around 1968, when MPs increasingly began to rise daily, choosing to do so in the time before question period to move motions that often demonstrated no urgent or pressing necessity.
In 1975, the House amended its Standing Orders to stipulate that such motions could only be moved by non-ministers during a restricted time period to be held before oral questions.
It is noted by O'Brien and Bosc that the moving of these motions prior to oral questions became, throughout the remainder of the 1970s and into the early 1980s, a common, although misused and often time consuming feature of the proceedings of the House.
In 1982, the House accepted the Special Committee on Standing Orders and Procedures recommendation that it abolish this rule, which was called Standing Order 43, and institute a new renumbered standing order, Standing Order 31, that would have as its purpose to allow MPs to make statements on current issues on a daily basis during the first 15 minutes of a sitting.
I believe the key point that history teaches us is that members need to be assured reasonable opportunities to speak in the House, and should they be denied fair access, they may feel forced to use other opportunities the Standing Orders provide to ensure that their constituents concerns are represented.
The House has wisely recognized this tendency and rather than allowing certain rules to be used in unintended ways, to better accommodate the needs of members, the House has instead set aside specific times for members to have their say. Thus we have Standing Order 31.
However, S. O. 31s are not unique to our House of Commons. The Australian House of Representatives has a practice that is broadly similar to the period our Parliament has and it too set aside time for statements by members. During the time designated for non-government business, a 15 minute period is set aside prior to its question time for members' 90 second statements. During this time, any member, other than a minister or a parliamentary secretary, may be called by the Speaker of the House to make a statement on any topic. In calling which member is to speak, the Speaker alternates between government and non-government members, with those who have not spoken given preference over those who have spoken already. Independent members are also called upon with the frequency appropriate to their relative representation in the House.
Likewise, the British House of Commons provides time for members' statements, as do the legislatures of Alberta, British Columbia, Manitoba, New Brunswick, Newfoundland and Labrador, Ontario, Quebec, Prince Edward Island and Saskatchewan.
I will spare the House the details of each of these variations on the times allotted, the number of speakers each day and so on, but I will emphasize that there are two important points to be drawn generally from the various legislatures.
The first is that such statement periods are reserved for legislators who are not members of the cabinet. As ministers, they generally have a separate set of speaking privileges and opportunities assigned to them in each legislature. Fundamentally, the widespread and codified existence of a period for statements in so many different legislative bodies recognizes the need of legislators everywhere to have an outlet to briefly express their various needs or concerns.
A second lesson that we can draw from Westminster and the provinces is that in many instances, it is the codified practice that the Speaker alone decides on the rotation of the speakers and not the various parties. This is to say that the Speaker can be aided by a list, but is not bound by one. The Speaker is rightfully seen in these many legislatures as an impartial referee who will determine that the right to speak is apportioned equally to all members, regardless of party affiliation.
I would urge you, Mr. Speaker, to consider that if members in this place are to be accorded equal speaking rights under S. O. 31, then you and you alone can guarantee that these rights are respected.
Indeed, our own House recognizes this very principle of equal time already when it comes to private members' business. Under private members' business, every member who is not a member of the cabinet has an equal opportunity to participate. The schedule of who gets to participate in introducing private legislation is arranged in a rotation, regardless of party affiliation, as we all know. The same principle should apply to S. O. 31s. A rotating schedule would allow every MP an equal opportunity to participate in this critically important speaking opportunity.
I am aware of members who have suggested that if we want to speak freely in this place, we should become an independent. I know we all agree that free speech is fundamental to the proper working of this institution. The idea that someone should have to leave his or her party just to be able to make a one minute statement in the House is simply not justified or reasonable. Nor is there any precedent for this drastic step in other parliaments.
Considering all the points that have been made, Mr. Speaker, I would urge you to consider this. There will always exist in our parliamentary system a tension between the demands of a party and the direction an individual member might want to take in representing his or her constituents. It is clear to me that under our system of government, sometimes the demands of the party will need to take to precedence if the government is to govern effectively, such as when it comes to support for a budget or other key government legislation.
However, there are also times when the rights of a member to speak freely should be paramount. Standing Order 31 speaking slots are one of those times. After all, these statements are merely words, no matter how contentious some of the subjects raised might be. There is no vote or any other action that can be taken during a one minute statement that is going to topple a government or cause an election. There is nothing to fear on the part of any party from ensuring members' rights to speak freely in the House are guaranteed.
In conclusion, Mr. Speaker, I would ask that you certify that the true spirit and intent of S. O. 31s are upheld by accepting the arguments in favour of the member for Langley's question of privilege and ensuring that members' statements be assigned equally on a rotating basis to all qualifying members of the House.
Petitions March 27th, 2013
Mr. Speaker, I stand today to present petitions from hundreds of constituents who are calling upon Parliament to condemn the worst form of discrimination against females and who are asking members of Parliament to support Motion No. 408.
Labour March 7th, 2013
Mr. Speaker, earlier this week we heard about the blatant misuse of union dues and public funds by the Canadian Union of Postal Workers.
CUPW accused Canada of helping to commit war crimes in Israel. Later, CUPW was given a chance to apologize for discriminating against their own membership, but refused to do so. Instead, they repeated their anti-Israel rhetoric.
Could the Minister of State (Transport) update this House on whether the CUPW position will change Canadian foreign policy as it relates to our relationship with Israel?
Commonwealth Day March 6th, 2013
Mr. Speaker, on March 11, 54 independent nations, including Canada, will be celebrating Commonwealth Day. This year the theme of Commonwealth Day is “Opportunity through Enterprise”.
Canadians understand the concept of entrepreneurship well. Innovation and risk taking, along with property rights, individual rights, the rule of law and free trade are many of the keys to our economic success as a nation. Encouraging entrepreneurship in less developed nations will help them move forward too, as economic growth allows for better nutrition, education and health care.
I am proud of the work our branch of the CPA has done over the years to promote entrepreneurship, as well as basic democratic and legal principles in so many of the new democracies within the Commonwealth.
On another note, after seven years as Canadian chairman of the Commonwealth Parliamentary Association, I will be stepping aside. I want to thank all my colleagues in the House for granting me the tremendous privilege and honour of serving Parliament and our nation in this role.
Burma January 30th, 2013
Mr. Speaker, despite committing to a ceasefire last week, the Burmese military continues to shell Kachin state using heavy artillery and mortars, causing thousands to flee for their lives.
Last Thursday, the state capital, Laiza, was hit by mortars, killing three and injuring four more. The mayor reports that this city of 15,000 is largely deserted as people have fled into the countryside or into refugee camps. One camp, in a school on the edge of town, is now home for 7,500 people.
Some relief groups estimate as many as 100,000 people have been displaced within Kachin state. Without access to crops, clean water and proper sanitation, disease will be next.
This is a disaster in the making.
I call on the Burmese military to live up to its commitments and immediately cease offensive military operations in Kachin state and hopefully, as peace talks begin, bargain with the Kachin people in good faith.