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Crucial Fact

  • Her favourite word was children.

Last in Parliament September 2008, as Conservative MP for Saskatoon—Rosetown—Biggar (Saskatchewan)

Won her last election, in 2006, with 46% of the vote.

Statements in the House

Agriculture March 12th, 2001

Mr. Speaker, in the whole agricultural community not a single agriculture minister, not a single agricultural organization and not a single producer agrees with what this minister has done.

When will the agriculture minister quit apologizing to Canadian farm families? Will he commit to get back to his cabinet colleagues and get the amount of money necessary for Canadian agriculture to survive?

Agriculture March 12th, 2001

Mr. Speaker, last week the minister of agriculture met with his provincial counterparts and was told emphatically that his announcement of $500 million in aid was totally inadequate. Indeed the minister of agriculture walked out of the meeting saying that the government, the federal government, clearly did not care about farmers.

Will the minister commit to give farmers the $1 billion in new aid that the provinces and farmers are looking for?

Agriculture February 28th, 2001

Mr. Speaker, I wish to quote a letter I received from two teachers expressing concern over the situation on Canadians farms:

I have travelled in Canada from coast to coast and I have pride in this beautiful country. I have been humbled and grateful to be part of such a vast land filled with generous and friendly people. I've agonized with the people in Quebec and Ontario during the ice storm that was so devastating. I've watched in horror the flooding in Quebec and Manitoba. And in each instance I've sent a cheque because this is my country and my country needed help.

I can't understand why the rest of Canada does not realize that the prairies are now facing the same kind of economic crisis—a crisis not of their making.

I am adding my voice to the rest, imploring those in power to seek justice and economic fairness for those employed in perhaps the noblest of professions—growing food for a hungry world.

Yours Sincerely,

Mike and Elaine Kowpak.

I urge the government to heed these words and take immediate action to deal with the crisis facing farm families.

Trade February 26th, 2001

Mr. Speaker, Canadian elk and deer producers have built an exciting industry of valuable breeding stock and the promising velvet antler market.

Antler has been renowned for centuries in Asian countries for providing many general health benefits and is gaining a positive reputation in North America as a beneficial nutraceutical.

Korea and New Zealand are the largest markets for Canadian velvet antlers, but recently both countries announced a ban on antler imports due to the occurrence of chronic wasting disease on the prairies.

The Canadian Food Inspection Agency is confident it has the disease under control and will eradicate it. However, if this trade ban continues, the industry here will be devastated.

Today I ask the ministers of agriculture, foreign affairs and international trade to immediately begin a dialogue with Korea and New Zealand that will see this ban on Canadian elk antlers lifted as soon as possible.

Hockey February 23rd, 2001

Mr. Speaker, this morning I recognize an event that will be going on this weekend in my riding of Saskatoon—Rosetown—Biggar. The Hull Canadiens, an over 50 hockey team from Hull, Quebec, have travelled to Biggar, Saskatchewan, to play hockey in the communities of Landis, Saskatoon and Biggar.

Twenty people from Hull are staying in Biggar this weekend and are enjoying the hospitality of the Biggar Oldtimers and the Biggar community.

Last year the Hull Canadiens, with hockey players from Hull and Montreal, and Stuart Busse from Biggar, travelled to Austria, Germany, Italy and Switzerland to play hockey as ambassadors of Canada and Canadian recreational hockey.

I congratulate the Hull Canadiens and all the organizers from Biggar for this wonderful cultural exchange and I wish them a great weekend.

Agriculture February 13th, 2001

Mr. Speaker, it is with tremendous pride that I rise to speak to the emergency debate on agriculture. That pride comes from being a farm partner. I was born and raised on a farm. I have spent my 36 years of married life farming. I know firsthand how farming has changed in the last 50 years and the challenges today's agriculture community faces.

I could stand here and talk for hours about agricultural subsidies, the failure of the AIDA program, the transportation costs and the Canadian Wheat Board's monopoly. I could talk about the decimation of our rural communities, the loss of young families to urban centres and the fact that our small town can hardly keep its school open let alone field a minor hockey team, but I felt this was an opportunity to let the farmers speak with their own words.

Last year, prior to entering the political arena and during the ongoing farm crisis, I took some personal action. I was very discouraged with the words and actions of the agriculture minister and the federal government toward struggling farm families. I thought that if I put a face on the problem perhaps the importance of the issue would be noticed.

I appealed through the media to farm women and children in Saskatchewan, Manitoba and Alberta to write letters about the circumstances that they were facing on the farm and to send them to me. I vowed to somehow try to get the minister of agriculture's attention with those letters.

Well the minister of agriculture is not here tonight but we shall have it in Hansard . I am going to speak their words. I received letters from farm women, farm men and children. They are amazing letters with words that speak of hard work, sacrifice, heartbreak and of feeling forgotten by the nation and their government.

Some of the letters were agonizing to read but most of the agonizing letters did not come from farm women and children, they came from men.

This evening I want to read short excerpts from just a few of the letters. I urge all members of the House to sit back in their chairs, close their eyes and listen. I wish there were more members here to hear them. I want members to really listen to the words they are about to hear. These are not words of a politician. These are the words of farmers, farm wives and the children.

Letter No. 1 reads:

I am a farm wife raising four sons age 4 to 15. I work full-time. Due to low grain prices and excessive moisture, my husband was forced to work full-time in town. So that left our 4 sons on the farm for long hours. I did not realize how stressed my eldest son was until he expressed concerns, weeping to me one evening. He felt he had to (be the) head of the farm while his dad was away. He's 15. He should be a kid while he can.

Letter No. 2 reads:

Everything that my mom and dad ever made went back into their 12-quarter farm. They never splurged on anything and definitely don't have any luxuries. They never took my sister and I on a holiday because they couldn't afford it. I always thought my sister and I were deprived because we didn't have lots of clothes and we didn't have our own brand new vehicles when we turned 16. I have to sit back and watch everything that my dad achieved in his 37 years of farming go down the drain. Their retirement is going down the drain because everything always went back into the farm so they could keep up and make the payments. Years of hard work and tears are down the drain. Even if my mom and dad survive another year on the farm, it won't be the same. The hurt of knowing this cannot even be said. It won't be passed down to any more family ever again. And that's not because I don't want to continue in my father's footsteps, it's because we can't make a living. The government is slapping farmers in the face. Could I charge the government with abuse? They would slap me in the face and laugh at how pitiful I am, and continue on with turning Canada into their goal of becoming the next Third World country.

Letter No. 3 reads:

It is difficult to explain the toll and the effect that the farm crisis has had on my husband, myself, and my family. Who would have ever guessed that the year 1998 would be so disruptive for our family. As usual, the crop was put in this spring, despite the fact there was basically no moisture. My husband had to have his gall bladder removed and so he had scheduled his surgery sandwiched between seeding and springtime. My husband has never been hospitalized before in his life. The stress mounted daily as he awaited his surgery and as he awaited the growth of the crop. Now, only a wife knows and understands the pride that men have that does not allow them to speak of their innermost concerns and fears. This is what the government does not see. It does not see farmers losing their pride and self-respect. It does not see the wives who try to improve their husband's frame of mind only to have their husband turn against them. And the government does not want to see the despair in the eyes of the farmer. The beginning of 1999 of course brought no relief—take extensions on the loans, buy a little at a time, hope for AIDA. I don't think so; hope is long-gone, not even a subject to be brought up on the farm these days. This is the real farm crisis—the loss of hope, continued discouragement and deep depression and a disregard for government figures who are clueless as to the plight of farmers.

Letter No. 4 reads:

Our family is in a farm crisis. We are durum farmers in southwest Saskatchewan who farm two sections of land. My husband and I both were both raised on farms and we chose to raise our family on the farm. We were not gifted with a family farm and realize only too well the stress of trying to make a farm work financially. We have applied for AIDA but we have heard nothing. We cashed in on all the RRSPs that we had to make last year's payments. What more are we expected to do? We do not want a handout. We want a fair value for the product we grow. We need the government to see our family as worthwhile contributors to our Canadian society. I need the government to understand that I am working as hard as I can to support my family in our chosen lifestyle of farming. Times are very financially tough for us right now. The big banks do not care about us but our government should. We farmers are talking about survival; not acquiring the newest truck; not travelling to Hawaii for the winter, not building the biggest, newest home. Please listen to us. Please understand our situation and help us through it.

Letter No. 5 reads:

Farming in Saskatchewan has never been a cakewalk. My forefathers came to this country shortly after the turn of the century with a sense of adventure, a need for opportunity, and a keen desire to succeed. My ancestors no doubt endured hardships that tested their endurance. Canadian prairie agriculture is characterized by people determined to succeed. One thing that has not changed is the farmers' sense of pride and many farmers still prefer to put on a stiff upper lip regardless of how bad things get. We still have our pride and fortunately the facilitator of this letter campaign has pried a few stiff upper lips into telling their story. The insolence and cold-hearted responses of our nation's politicians show a pathetic lack of appreciation for what farmers are sacrificing in terms of economic stability, mental anguish and family discord.

I hope all members of every political stripe have truly heard these words. I have one more letter. It reads:

To Someone Who Cares. It has been another one of those days. Tears at breakfast and again at dinner and probably at supper too. I have a constant pressure in my chest and nausea all the time. I have never been so depressed. I have a million things to do but what is the point? Why work so hard for literally nothing? Production costs far outweigh what our crop is worth. Bills are still outstanding.

I am sharing my time with the hon. member in front of me but I want to state that the government must heed these words. It must recognize how Canadian agriculture is struggling. It is time for action from the federal government to support and stabilize an industry that is so vital to our whole nation.

The words I have read are full of meaning and a heartfelt plea for help. On behalf of these farm families I would like to table these letters in the House today. I urge the Liberal government to immediately and meaningfully address the agricultural crisis in Canada.

Speech From The Throne February 6th, 2001

Mr. Speaker, the hon. member raises an important issue. In rural Saskatchewan we have lost basically a whole generation of farm families. They have all moved away, either to the city or to another province, because there are no jobs available for them in the rural communities. We find that they are having trouble getting into technical schools to further their education because the seats are already spoken for. We are losing that whole generation of agricultural people in Saskatchewan.

Speech From The Throne February 6th, 2001

Mr. Speaker, we all know about the soaring price of natural gas. This immediately increases the cost of fertilizer. Any farmer who wants to get fertilizer is finding it very hard to obtain. We have fuel dealers who are on the verge of bankruptcy because their bills from last year have not been paid.

Farm families need immediate assistance. Unless assistance is given immediately, we will not have a crop put in this spring.

Speech From The Throne February 6th, 2001

Mr. Speaker, there is desperation at our kitchen tables in Saskatchewan. People need their money. We have people waiting who filed their AIDA forms last September. They have been told by the AIDA office that their forms will not be looked at—for the first time—until March. These people need their AIDA payments at this moment. We would like the Liberal government to make sure that this is done as soon as possible.

Speech From The Throne February 6th, 2001

Mr. Speaker, I thank you for your guidance and your help this morning. As well, I acknowledge and thank my colleague from New Westminster—Coquitlam—Burnaby, who I will be splitting my time with today.

At this moment it is important that I express my sincere gratitude to the constituents of Saskatoon—Rosetown—Biggar, as they are the people who are responsible for me being in this wonderful House of Commons. My job as a member of parliament for my riding is that of a servant. I am very proud and humbled that they have chosen me to represent them. The people of Saskatoon—Rosetown—Biggar put their faith in me and the Canadian Alliance Party that I represent. I know they want to see things done differently. I know they want their voices heard. I will do my very best to make sure that happens.

The constituency of Saskatoon—Rosetown—Biggar is a beautiful part of Canada, a large rural riding with an urban component. Agriculture is of vital importance to the people of Saskatoon—Rosetown—Biggar, not only in the rural communities but also in the city of Saskatoon, where the spinoffs from the industry are prominent. It is very unfortunate that there was only a passing mention of Canada's agriculture industry in the throne speech. I find it hard to believe that an industry so important to our nation was not given more emphasis.

In the throne speech, the government says it will “help Canada's agricultural sector move beyond crisis management, leading to more genuine diversification and value-added growth, new investments and high standards of environmental stewardship and food safety”. I do not believe there are many members in the House that know more about agricultural diversification, value added growth and new investment in agriculture than I do. Perhaps that is why I find the Liberal government's flippant use of the words ringing hollow and so without meaning and true intent.

Under the Liberal government, the farming industry has been left in dire straits. Continuing international farm subsidies, thin trade negotiations, low commodity prices, government indecision, bureaucratic red tape and the gross inefficiency of farm income assistance programs have driven farm families across the country to desperation.

With all due respect, we have diversified. There is not one farm family I know of that has not moved from traditional grains to trying oilseeds and pulse crops. Some have developed community based investment options to diversify into seed production, seed cleaning or larger livestock operations. Farmers are turning grain land to grass and raising traditional livestock. Some are taking on huge debts to convert traditional livestock operations to specialty livestock. Others are experimenting with herbs, spices, vegetables and an assortment of other products that boggle the mind, anything to try to make ends meet and to diversify as their governments keep telling them they must.

There is not one farmer I know of who relishes the fact that he and his wife must work off the farm to keep the farm running. There is not one farmer I know of who likes going to farm rallies or who likes lobbying the government for help.

There is not one farmer I know of who watches sons or daughters leave the farm and is not literally heartbroken, just as my husband and I were when both our sons, their wives and our beautiful granddaughters left our farm and our small community for jobs in Regina and Edmonton because they could not make a living.

The government's loose use of catchphrases like diversification and value added is very convenient for its speech writers and bureaucrats, who cannot in a million years understand the situation on Canadian farms right now.

That is precisely why it is so disappointing, discouraging and infuriating for farm families to repeatedly be told by government that this is what they must do to survive in agriculture today. Yes, the agricultural industry is changing quickly, as is any other industry affected by our fast paced, technology reliant global economy, but do not tell us what we already know. Help us adapt, help us get there and help us continue to be the best food producers in the world.

In order for farmers to move past crisis management, the government must seriously and immediately deal with international agricultural subsidies. It has been all talk and no action from the Liberal government. While Canada has reduced agricultural subsidies, the American and European governments continue to subsidize their farmers at high levels. It is a simple case of competition, and we cannot compete.

International subsidies are crippling the agricultural industry in the country, and while the Liberal government took a tough stance to protect Quebec airplane manufacturer Bombardier from international subsidies, its stance to protect Canadian farmers against U.S. and European countries has been positively limp and lethargic.

I would like to believe that the weak mention of agriculture in the Speech from the Throne was an oversight by the Liberal government. It is a very sad situation if that is the case. However, it may very well be the start of a tough love demonstration promoted by the Prime Minister for western provinces. If that is the case, it is a demonstration that affects agricultural producers from our nation's eastern shores to the coast of British Columbia. It is an insult to the industry that built this country and that has fed our people, an industry that has fed the world and that needs our support.

I am committed to working on behalf of the agricultural community in my constituency and on behalf of all Canadian farmers. Before my term is up, I intend to make sure that each and every member of the House understands the importance of agriculture to the economic and social fabric of our country. The members of the House will be diversified right up to there.

If there has been one thing that has become clear to me since my decision to seek a position as a member of parliament, it is how important family is. There is nothing more precious to me than my own family. Since the election it has become increasingly obvious that my work on behalf of families in my constituency will be some of the most important work I do.

In my first few weeks on the job, I was approached by people with a variety of concerns: a woman in a situation of domestic violence who was dealing with the justice system; a couple who were not getting any answers from the AIDA program; and an elderly man who could no longer look after his ailing elderly wife in their home. There were others. The one thing all these people had in common was family, family members who were there trying to help them and support them through their problems.

What is so discouraging about the direction of the Liberal government over the last decade, and which continues to appear in the direction of this throne speech, is that it continues to put politics ahead of family. Families are forgotten. It does not matter what one considers: health care, where families cope with long surgical waiting lists; a mom who is a nurse and who is hardly home because of the tremendous numbers of shifts she works; financial issues, as families struggle to pay skyrocketing fuel bills; justice; child poverty; and agriculture.

Canadian families need our attention, especially the members of our family who have helped build this country. I especially look forward to spending time with and working for the senior citizens of my riding. They are special people who have contributed so much to building our communities, our province and our nation. They are our roots.

I want to recognize and pay special tribute to my mom, Irene Winacott, and to my mother-in-law and father-in-law, Roberta and Roland Skelton, for their love and their support. They are incredible people. The challenges they have faced in their lifetime were great and many, but they are wonderful examples of strength, grace and love.

I also want to thank my husband Noel for his patience, his whole-hearted support and his hard work, not only through the nomination process, the election campaign and consequently this new commitment, but for the last 36 years. I want to thank my children, my daughter Terri and sons Ted and Mark and their spouses, for being great cheerleaders, listeners and advisers. I want to thank my five beautiful granddaughters, Wendi, Tenille, Victoria, Shelby and Shae, for keeping me young.