House of Commons photo


Crucial Fact

  • His favourite word was aboriginal.

Last in Parliament September 2008, as Conservative MP for Portage—Lisgar (Manitoba)

Won his last election, in 2006, with 70% of the vote.

Statements in the House

Finance February 19th, 2001

Mr. Speaker, finally last week after an unusual prolonged silence the industry minister acknowledged what the opposition has been saying for a long time, that the current equalization formula impedes economic development in the Atlantic region. He promised to push his cabinet colleagues to change the formula.

Despite repeated urging by the opposition, other parties and now even the industry minister, the finance minister has refused to address the issue. Has the industry minister finally managed to convince the finance minister to change this counterproductive equalization system?

Ethics Counsellor February 14th, 2001

Mr. Speaker, let us see if it is as foggy over the Grand Banks. Last week we asked about the Prime Minister's stake in the hotel Grand-Mère and the industry minister replied, and I quote from Hansard , “There were no private benefits by the Prime Minister whatsoever”.

That statement counters the ethics counsellor's own words. It serves to heighten the suspicion of the Canadian people about the Prime Minister, his leader. Why does he not clear the air today and clarify the erroneous statements that he made in the House last week?

Ethics Counsellor February 14th, 2001

Mr. Speaker, yesterday the Deputy Prime Minister may recall saying “The Prime Minister did not own shares at any relevant time”. This is just wrong.

Canadians know that the Prime Minister owned shares at the time when he met with immigrant investors. Canadians know that he owned the shares at the time he recruited funding support from the president of the Business Development Bank.

My question is for the Deputy Prime Minister. If these are not relevant times, what are?

Minister Of Finance February 13th, 2001

Mr. Speaker, I thank the Deputy Prime Minister for letting us all know that truth is not in the purview of the Minister of Finance. My question—

Minister Of Finance February 13th, 2001

Mr. Speaker, it is time for somebody on the front bench of the Liberal government to stand up for the truth about the unethical conduct of the Prime Minister. Where I come from, a person who knows that a wrong has been done and remains silent about it is as guilty as the perpetrator of the act and becomes an accomplice.

It is time for the Minister of Finance to stop defending the indefensible actions of the Prime Minister by his silence. Will the Minister of Finance today distance himself from the inappropriate actions of his leader, or will he remain silent and condone them?

Speech From The Throne February 7th, 2001

Mr. Speaker, I thank the member for his comments, erroneous and misguided as they may be. He makes the statement that he used to farm. I guess that implies empathy for agriculture generally. He makes the statement that Ontario produces more commodities than other regions. Therefore he is dismissive of the plight of grain farmers in certain jurisdictions.

This dismissive and arrogant attitude that is so evident in his comments shows an unwillingness to address the very vital issues that face real people regardless of region.

The member made reference to western alienation. I referred to alienation by region. In the households of people, regardless of region, there is a sense of alienation from the government.

The larger issue is the very powerlessness, which that member no doubt feels—although he will not admit it today in the House—as he sits in the backbench and knows that he has no input into the government's policy direction. More power and decision making has been centralized into the Prime Minister's office and into the Prime Minister's hands than in the history of any prime minister.

The Prime Minister has made announcements without consulting members of his own cabinet. The member opposite knows the sad truth of that fact. The member behind him, from Prince Edward Island, a former director and president of the national farmers union, knows how truly powerless he is in the equation.

When the most powerless agriculture minister in our history, a minister who presides over a department that is so important to our country, comes out to Manitoba during a disastrous circumstance, meets with a group of farmers and then tells them in their hour of need that the best thing that ever happened to him was when he quit farming, and then I listen to a comment by another member telling me about his former farming practice, I wonder at the ability and willingness of those members to genuinely empathize with people who are trying to continue to farm and make a living.

These are the people who do not wish to give up and become members of parliament. There are only so many places over there for people to sit and pretend they care about farmers.

Speech From The Throne February 7th, 2001

Mr. Speaker, I will be sharing my time with the member for Surrey Central.

I begin by congratulating you, Mr. Speaker. I know you and I are just beginning our new roles and I am sure that we will both go through a wonderful learning curve very quickly.

I also offer my thanks to the constituents of my beautiful constituency of Portage—Lisgar. They have bestowed the great honour on me, an honour that all of us who are members of this parliament share, of having the opportunity to speak on behalf of those who we love dearly, who we care very much about and who we share so much with. I look forward to fulfilling, in any and every way I can, my role and obligations to those people who reside in my constituency, my province and my country.

I also thank my wife Esther and our daughters Quinn and Shawn. They have been a tremendous support and encouragement to me. Ultimately the sacrifices made by members of this Chamber are not sacrifices we alone make. There are sacrifices that are made by our families as well and I especially want to thank them for that.

I also thank our leader for giving me the opportunity to join a political movement where I am made feel welcome and where the openness to new ideas and new approaches on many issues is very real. The willingness to reach out and include other Canadians, not just in terms of theatrics or partisanship but in terms of real debate on real issues right from the grassroots level up, is a real and genuine thing.

Over the last several years I have tried to do my best to reach out to and get people across this country who share the goals of small


Conservatives to join together and fight for those goals effectively beside one another. The people of our country who share those goals to be divided plays only one role. It is a role of effectively perpetuating a government of people who do not share those values, the government that is presided over by the Prime Minister.

My constituency is Canada in microcosm and it is Canada in microcosm in many good ways. Portage—Lisgar has attracted people from around the world to settle there. It is an old constituency. It was a fur trading area originally. In fact, my home community of Portage la Prairie was one of the first settlements of Pierre La Vérendrye who was one of the first explorers of western Canada. He saw the shining mountains that some of my colleagues and other members of the House are so familiar with. It was that original sense of exploration, of reaching out, of going into new territory and into new lands that drove those people and that drives the people of my constituency to this very day.

If I can define the mindset of my constituents in an accurate and general way, I would say they are desperately fair-minded. They are people who are brutally honest and frank with one another. More than any people I have ever met, they are tolerant and understanding of the differences which exist within that riding and within Canada.

In Portage—Lisgar we have people who very much pride themselves on the diversity that exists within the riding and within the country. They see it as a source of great strength and as a brighter future for all of us. We are by every definition an inclusive people. I feel very comfortable and feel very supported by this inclusive political organization of which I am now a part.

The issue of regional equity is something that is not addressed in the throne speech to any satisfaction, in any way, shape or form. It is that inclusiveness that I, the people of Portage—Lisgar and the people on this side of the House value. That is missing from the throne speech. The lack of responsibility of the government opposite is so evident. There is a lack of a plan and a lack of any method or means to address the important issues of including everyone in this country.

There is a centrifugal reality of the way in which the government has governed. This centrifugal effect has pulled the people who do not reside in the centre of the country away from the centre of the country. The policies enacted by the government have exacerbated those circumstances. It has shown a disregard and a disrespect for the people outside that central area.

An example would be in my riding. Agriculture is such a key industry to us. The government has no food plan for the nation. It has shown no respect for the trials and tribulations of long time family farmers, not just in Portage—Lisgar but across the country. That disrespect is resulting in a playing field being perpetuated that is not level. Foreign nations are subsidizing their farmers and their agricultural producers and we are, by default, adopting a policy of rural depopulation in this country. We are letting the nations of Europe and the United States establish policies which we cannot respond to. That is what the government is doing.

By our failure to respond, we are saying to family farmers across the country that it is time for them to move to the cities. It is time for them to leave. That simply is not right. The damaging effect that has on rural societies across Canada is very obvious to all of us on this side of the House. Basically, the only effort the government made in the throne speech to address the problems of agriculture was a comment made about connecting farmyards to the Internet. That should be increasingly easy as the number of farmyards across Canada dwindle.

The problem is that when the government addresses the need for adaptation it looks elsewhere. When it looks for adaptation within it does not find it. The reality is that the most adaptable and diversified people, in terms of the challenges they have faced and the reality of their lives, are the farm families and farm producers of the nation who have been forced by necessity to made tremendous adaptations. One of the principle adaptations they have had to make is to say goodbye to their children.

We would like to see these issues addressed in a real way. That is what we are committed to doing.

Today we raised the issue of equalization. The equalization formula seems to have a perverse incentive. It seems to provide a disincentive for certain provinces to increase their industrial job component and to develop the resources that are within themselves because of the problems of the formula which benefit the federal government but punish the provinces. We need to see those formulas revisited.

Other regions such as Atlantic Canada and the west have many shared goals and concerns. They also have concerns that are specific to their regions. Nonetheless, if we do not see a need to address the problem, as it is clear the government does not, it will not be addressed. There is no plan in this throne speech to address these problems.

Another longstanding issue to many of us is the issue of parliamentary reform. Parliamentary reform would give a greater sense of involvement and representation, not just to the people here but far more importantly to the people we represent. It is those people who we hear from on a regular basis. They are telling us that they would like to see us have a more meaningful role.

What better evidence of the truth of the disdain which Canadians increasingly feel for this institution than the absence of these same Canadians from the polling booths. From their absence they have said to us that it does not really matter. I am told that fewer Canadians turned out to vote in the last federal election than had for over a century. More Canadians came out to vote when they were two horse families than when they were two car families. That is a shame.

Parliamentary reform and other reforms such as electoral and Senate reform, and other aspects of measuring and addressing in a real way the need to include Canadians, to make their representatives more effective and with a magnified voice of effectiveness in the House, have not been addressed by the government in perpetuity.

The government has taken an approach to many issues which basically is threefold. First, ignore the problem and hope it goes away. Second, belittle and blame those who advance and articulate the problem. Third, if that does not work, throw money at it and maybe the people who articulated the problem can be coerced into supporting it.

That is a disrespectful approach. It is that disrespect most of all that is reflected in the comments of the intergovernmental affairs minister, the immigration and citizenship minister of all people, and also in the Prime Minister himself. Disparaging remarks about one region or another should not come from any of us. They certainly should be apologized for by the members who made those disparaging comments.

I close by quoting Donald Savoie in his book

Governing from the Centre

who said:

While I argue that the centre and, in particular, the hand of the prime minister, has been considerably strengthened in recent years, this is not to suggest that the federal government is better able to define new strategic direction or a coherent plan to which all government departments can contribute. It is ironic perhaps that as the hand of the centre has been strengthened, its ability to manage horizontal issues has been weakened.

I will close by saying that we need to reinforce the fact that the members of the House are not puppets of the Prime Minister. They are the tools for the people of our constituencies. The reality is that we have a plan to address those issues and we will do so. I look forward to doing this to the best of my ability with the support and help of all of my colleagues in the House.

The Economy February 7th, 2001

Mr. Speaker, besides the basic inaccuracy of the response, its insipidness is just what we would expect from a government that pays no attention and has no plan to face up to the regional diversities that exist and to deal with them.

The industry minister knows from his experience as the premier of Newfoundland the problems that exist in the system. So do members of that backbench. So do members of this party and those parties. When will the government face up to the challenges of dealing with this issue? When will the industry minister stand and keep—

The Economy February 7th, 2001

Mr. Speaker, members of all opposition parties in the House agree that the current system of equalization payments is unfair and counterproductive to provinces that are struggling to develop their economies.

Many of the industry minister's Atlantic caucus colleagues have spoken out in favour of revisiting the equalization formula, as has he. However the finance minister and the intergovernmental affairs minister oppose any changes to the current system. They are clearly divided on the issue. Will the Prime Minister please tell us what his government's position is on the issue?

Speech From The Throne February 1st, 2001

Mr. Speaker, it is an extreme honour for me to have the chance to respond to the hon. member's comments and to elaborate on a couple of aspects which are of concern, particularly to the people in my riding and to people nationally.

The member spoke in glowing terms about his own riding. It was obvious the love he feels for it and his province. I feel the same way about my own riding and my country. He spoke of generations of expertise and of the concerns that he and his government have for the future and for the expertise we all want to see rise up inside our children in order for them to capture their potential.

Those are wonderful words and quite true. He also spoke of fair treatment, and that is of concern right now to many of my constituents and many farm families who have for generations done their best to adapt and to succeed. Right now they are facing a set of circumstances, largely not of their own making, that pose tremendous challenges to them.

As the minister knows, the level playing field we subscribe to and would like to see for all industries in all sectors of our economy does not exist for agriculture. That level playing field is something we desire to see. Until we see it, the unlevel playing field is largely in an uphill direction for our agricultural producers. The slope becomes ever steeper and causes many to fall and tumble downhill.

As farmers leave the industry, depopulation follows. Fewer and fewer people reside on the farmlands of our country. We are allowing other countries, which value their agricultural industries very highly through policies of subsidization, to shape the policies of this country. This government has adopted a policy of rural depopulation, which severely impacts on all of us who are thinking about the future as much, as the minister has alluded to, as his government apparently is thinking about the future.

Recently the minister made the decision to subsidize the aerospace industry through the tax dollars of Canadians. Knowing that was a difficult decision for him, has the minister considered that Brazil, through its own policies of reprisal against Canada for this decision, will very likely reduce its purchases of grain from Canada? Has he considered that the very people who have not been favoured by such subsidies by our government, the agricultural producers of our land, will be the most disaffected now and the most penalized by the decisions the Brazilian government will make?