House of Commons photo


Crucial Fact

  • His favourite word was province.

Last in Parliament September 2008, as Conservative MP for St. John's South—Mount Pearl (Newfoundland & Labrador)

Won his last election, in 2006, with 45% of the vote.

Statements in the House

Fisheries February 19th, 2001

Mr. Speaker, fishermen and industry representatives are questioning why several fishery research vessels are tied up at various ports in Newfoundland when there is critical work they could be doing offshore. As an example, the Wilfred Templeman has been tied up in Burin since early December.

The department always uses a lack of research as an excuse for poor decision making and now we understand why. The future success of the fishery will depend greatly on scientific knowledge. As our fishermen would say, “it looks like we are depending on a rotten stick”.

Employment February 16th, 2001

Mr. Speaker, my question is for the Minister of Human Resources Development. Yesterday I raised concerns about the fact that under the summer student placement program this year municipalities are being treated like the private sector and must contribute 50% of the wages.

Many municipalities cannot do that. Could the minister review the regulations to make it possible for municipalities to hire students this year in worthwhile employment?

Fisheries February 16th, 2001

Mr. Speaker, concern has been expressed about the state of the snow crab stocks in Newfoundland. Last year when such concern was expressed the minister made an across the board cut. This year he has committed to zone by zone management.

Zones 8A and 6C have managed their stocks extremely well. In fact, experimental fisheries have shown that returns are four to five times the acceptable rate.

We are asking the minister to make sure this year that instead of being cut these areas are rewarded. It is also about time that fisher persons in that area are given licences to fish crab rather than having the permit system under which they presently operate.

Supply February 15th, 2001

Mr. Speaker, I listened to the member talk about the movement of goods and services between countries. How does he rationalize his government's stand on the movement of hydro power from Labrador to the markets when the government has always opposed a power corridor through Quebec?

Student Employment February 15th, 2001

Mr. Speaker, just a short while ago the minister responsible for HRDC announced the summer career placement program. Unlike other years, this year municipalities are expected to contribute half the cost of hiring students and are treated the same way as the private sector.

What this will do is eliminate the opportunity for many students to be employed, since many municipalities, especially those in the smaller areas that are now taking out street lights in order to meet their budgets, cannot afford to pay to hire summer students. Consequently, the opportunity is lost for a great contribution to be made to the municipality and a great opportunity for students to receive good, solid, supervised employment.

We ask the minister to make sure that this regulation is changed before the programs are implemented.

Youth Criminal Justice Act February 14th, 2001

Mr. Speaker, I have a question for my hon. colleague. We talk about addressing the needs of young people, more of whom seem to be getting involved in crime, particularly violent crime. Instead of addressing it through legislation, does he not think that one of the ways in which we could perhaps solve this problem, or at least partially solve the problem, is by addressing the educational, social and recreational needs of many of these people? I believe governments generally have abandoned our young people when it comes to leisure and recreational needs. I would like his comments on that.

Agriculture February 13th, 2001

I hear my friend from Prince Edward Island say that I was not listening. I was listening very carefully, and I know that the farmers in Prince Edward Island are listening tonight too and still wondering when the federal government will step in and help them, as their own provincial government has done in the present crisis they are facing. They are asking if their help will come before Easter or after Easter. Hopefully it will come very soon. Whether it will be the Easter bunny or not who delivers the help to them, I am sure they certainly will need it.

The farmers in western Canada are listening tonight and wondering where the solutions are. We hear the problems being raised and enunciated on both sides, but we hear the excuses being given about all the government is doing, which is a sign that it intends to do very little to help them in their present crisis.

There are two things we have to look at. One is a long term plan for farming. In my own province of Newfoundland, the farming industry is also basically neglected by governments, both federal and provincial, yet dairy farming is an extremely important, lucrative industry. We do have plenty of land for vegetable farming. We do have people growing specialty crops and doing very well, but very little attention is being paid to the agricultural industry.

If somebody comes in and wants to create a few new jobs with a call centre or some other weird and wonderful idea, governments flock in with all kinds of handouts. The fly-by-nights come in, grab the money, last a few months and then are gone. Yet our own solid industries, our own solid working people who can create all kinds of new jobs in industries like the agricultural industry, get absolutely no encouragement and no help. These things have to change. That is where the long term plan comes in.

However, the immediate plan that is needed right now is immediate action to help farmers who need help today, not tomorrow, not next month or not the month after. They are preparing now for spring planting and if these farmers do not receive help, if they do not receive a cash injection immediately, this coming year is shot. If this year is shot for them, the same thing will happen to farmers in Saskatchewan, Alberta, Manitoba and Ontario that happened to fisherfolk in rural Newfoundland. They will pack up and leave the rural areas to find work somewhere else. The primary resource, the food producing areas in the country, will die, and we know what happens when food is not produced. More than the areas die. People die also.

I will conclude with words from a song by a great Canadian singer and songwriter, Murray McLauchlan. It is called The Farmer's Song . He talks about “these days when everybody's taking so much, somebody's putting back in”. The farmer is the one putting back in and perhaps it is time we here in this great establishment recognize that.

Agriculture February 13th, 2001

Mr. Speaker, perhaps people will wonder why somebody from Newfoundland, mainly known as a fishing area, would want to enter into a debate on agriculture.

There are two reasons. One is the similarity between what is happening now in the agricultural industry and what happened in Newfoundland a few years ago when we had a total collapse of the fishery. Earlier tonight one of the members mentioned that comparison. We once saw a resource where people made a reasonable living, giving and taking over the years. Then, perhaps because of mismanagement, perhaps because of overfishing, perhaps because of climate conditions or migration patterns, or perhaps more realistically because of a combination of all of them, we had a total collapse of the ground fishery.

The government at the time, being a good Tory government, stepped in immediately and helped out in that crisis. Now we see a similar crisis in the west. In comparison, besides the crisis and besides the need for help, there is the effect afterwards. Once the present government moved in and realized the magnitude of the problems, it seemed it was easier to turn control over to the larger corporations, which is what we see happening now in the fishery. The smaller, independent fisherperson is being frozen out of the industry. More and more control is being taken by the bigger players.

What we fail to see sometimes when we look at rural Canada, whether it be a farming area or a fishing area, is that it is the work, the product and the income generated in the rural areas that make our urban areas a success.

Why have our major towns and cities grown so fast? Is it because of the office work, because of the stores that are built there? Yes, but these offices and stores only exist because they serve the needs of many of the people in the rural areas who come into the larger areas for all their needs and services. Consequently, one is dependent on the other.

We also forget quite often to look at the spinoff from the primary industries, from the fishery or the farming industry, not realizing that when a farm goes out of business and the farm family is affected and has to go into bankruptcy or move away, a number of other people are also affected by that move.

Listening to the members on the government side speak tonight reminds me of Nero, who fiddled as Rome burned. Each one stood up, many with prepared texts, and talked about all the good things government is doing to assist the agricultural industry.

Employment Insurance Act February 13th, 2001

Mr. Speaker, it is certainly a pleasure to be able to say a few words on the bill, which certainly affects rural areas more than the more lucrative urban areas, and perhaps areas like Atlantic Canada and parts of Quebec more than any other area of the country.

There are a few changes in the bill that are looked upon as being positive, one of them being the throwing out of what we call the intensity rule and reverting to letting people who draw employment insurance draw 55% of their regular wage. That in itself is a bit deceptive and I will comment on that.

The ability for family members to get back into the workplace after staying off because of the birth of children without having to be looked upon as new entrants certainly is positive. The minor changes to the clawback arrangements will also benefit some of those at the higher end.

However, the people who are affected most by employment insurance are the ones who receive no reprieve at all from the new legislation.

There are three issues that should have been addressed in the bill and have not been addressed. The first issue is what we call the divisor rule. It is bad enough to see a person who is generally living and working in an area where unemployment is meagre and quite often where the wage is low having to resort to drawing employment insurance knowing that he or she will start with only 55% of what he or she normally makes.

If the intensity rule had not been changed, people would have drawn less as each year went by. However, besides drawing just 55%, they find their week's work is not what is divided into the total income. The number of weeks is, as we say, exaggerated. The divisor rule means that for somebody who obtains 12 weeks or 420 hours, when the amount of money that person should receive is factored in, the total income is divided by 14. This means the individual is getting much less than the 55%, which appears on the surface. That rule is completely unfair and should have been eliminated.

The second concern is the 420 hour minimum in areas of high unemployment and the 520 hour minimum in areas of low unemployment.

There are pockets in the country that depend entirely on seasonal employment. Occasionally these people do relatively well. There may be an exceptionally good fishery, a good construction season, or a good year in forestry. That is the exception lately rather than the rule, for a number of reasons.

The mismanagement of the fishery, and perhaps we could say the mismanagement of our forestry resources to some extent, has led to very meagre employment. The lack of concern for the processing end of our fishery means that we are seeing a lot of our resource going out of our provinces and out of our country in a non-processed or semi-processed state.

This means there is less work for the people involved. This past year in Newfoundland, for example, the main source of work in the various fish plants was processing crab, which has replaced cod as the most lucrative species now caught and processed in our province. However this past year saw a 15% to 20% cut across the board in relation to quotas, which meant 20% less work for people working in our fish plants.

Along with that the markets this past year, in particular the Japanese market, dictated that the commodity they wanted was crab sections rather than the extruded crab meat, the main product exported over the last x number of years. Sending the crab out in sections meant less work for the people who worked in our plants. Mechanization has also eliminated a number of jobs. Consequently we saw people who worked in our fish plants receive much less work this year than previously, not because of their fault but because of resource, market demands and mechanization, which is attributable to the employers.

Teachers have also been affected. Because of what is happening in our education system with consolidation and tightening up of belts economically, we see a lot of substitute teachers who no longer even get work enough to qualify for employment insurance.

There are times in certain parts of the country where conditions are completely outside the control of the individuals involved. It is practically impossible for the average seasonal worker to obtain enough employment to qualify for employment insurance.

I am certainly not advocating that we return to the old 10-52 method: if they obtained 10 weeks of work and a few hours each week they could qualify to draw employment insurance for the rest of the year. I do not think anyone is advocating that, but the pendulum has swung too far.

During the election campaign the Prime Minister apologized to working people in New Brunswick, especially seasonal workers, for a mistake that was made some years ago when new employment insurance regulations were brought in. Instead of changing them last fall before the election, he ran the election promising to make the changes. Now we have the bill before the House. The changes that were brought in last fall are still the same ones.

Despite the fact that many people expressed concern during the election, there have been a few minor amendments, but the real changes that would affect people in the areas where they are hurting most have not been made.

The hours required are too stringent in certain parts of the country during periods when there are downturns. In the construction industry, for example, because of lack of input from federal and provincial governments into the great infrastructure agreements we hear about, the hours fail to materialize or the money is spread so thinly that many smaller regions cannot avail themselves of it.

In terms of federal-provincial-municipal cost sharing, most small municipalities, because of the financial situations they face, cannot avail themselves of the infrastructure agreements. They cannot come up with their share of the total input.

These areas are hit extremely hard. There should be provision in the new legislation to modify the regulations during times when working conditions, lack of resources or whatever make it impossible for seasonal workers in those areas to obtain enough employment to qualify for employment insurance.

Another concern is the length of time. We are not advocating the 10-52, but we are finding that as people continue to draw employment insurance, as they always will in the areas with seasonal employment, it is getting to the point where they find themselves with absolutely no income during the periods of the year when it is needed most. Quite often the employment insurance benefits end in March or April during times when heating costs are extremely high and when the cost of living in rural areas is extremely high.

These issues should be addressed in the new legislation. I certainly hope that the minister takes them into account as she reviews and hopefully provides us with amendments that we can all pass.

Equalization Program February 9th, 2001

Mr. Speaker, my question is for the Minister of Finance.

In responding earlier to my colleague, he talked about the changes to equalization. However, it is really the clawback arrangement that concerns us. When Newfoundland, Nova Scotia and other provinces develop their resources, most of the royalties from those resources go to the federal government and we are left with very little. If we could keep our royalties until we reached the Canadian average, we would be a contributor.

Would the minister look at that? What we need is fairness. We certainly do not need another snow job in Newfoundland.