House of Commons photo

Crucial Fact

  • His favourite word was farmers.

Last in Parliament September 2008, as Liberal MP for Huron—Bruce (Ontario)

Won his last election, in 2006, with 40% of the vote.

Statements in the House

Mother's Day May 8th, 2008

Mr. Speaker, Canada is a nation that embraces various cultural lifestyles and groups. In spite of this obvious diversity, we also share many common traits. In particular, each one of us has a mother.

This Sunday we will observe the 94th annual Mother's Day, an observance that was originally set aside on May 11, 1914, as a way for us to remember the numerous and substantial personal sacrifices that our respective mothers made on our behalf. In many cases, our mothers put their own lives on hold to see that we were provided with the tools that we would require to enjoy a prosperous and rewarding future.

If we look back over our history, I am certain that we would see countless Canadians who made a difference to this country and to the world in general. If we look a little further, we would find that many of those remarkable achievements were made possible because of the selfless efforts and acts of caring provided to those people in their formative years.

I stand here today as a father, a grandfather, a husband, a successful businessman and a member of Parliament. I am blessed with success and have only one more thing to say to my mother, Seleda, who is preparing to celebrate her 100th birthday this fall, thanks, mother.

Livestock Industry February 13th, 2008

Mr. Speaker, yes, indeed, we need clear labelling indicating a product of Canada, not a product that is a substitute product from China with other dilutives added so that it can be called “product of Canada”. Apple juice concentrate from China does not constitute a Canadian product. That is an example of what I am suggesting.

I think we need clear Canadian labelling that it is grown, produced, packaged, all of those things, in Canada, giving Canadians a clear choice: if they want to buy a product from this country or from Chile.

On the question of free trade, using Korea as an example, 130,000 cars into this country and 75 cars out of this country does not constitute, to me, a fair trade with Korea. I think we have to understand that we can produce a lot of trade, but unless it produces wealth at the farm gate, it really does not achieve its ultimate goal.

Livestock Industry February 13th, 2008

Mr. Speaker, I want to thank my colleague, the member for Bruce—Grey—Owen Sound. We share borders. If we look at the bigger part of his riding, he has a few more cattle than I do in my riding. He indeed has the bulk of the cattle in Ontario when it comes to a particular riding. I have a few more hogs than the hon. member.

On the question of CAIS, there were always issues with CAIS that I did not like. The negative margin issue was one of those issues. There were many other issues, of course. The delivery was always a problem because, in Ontario, we have to go through Agricorp, as he well knows. There was always a delivery issue.

My greatest beef with these programs has always been that these programs take so long to be delivered. And again, getting rid of NISA was never something that many of us agreed to. It was one of those situations where the provinces, those that were involved in that program, decided to get out of it. The west basically got out of Agricorp earlier, in Saskatchewan and Manitoba, and that was the reason for them pulling away from that program. Those are the reasons for it.

I think we have to understand when a program is right, no matter which government brings it in, we need to support it.

Livestock Industry February 13th, 2008

Mr. Speaker, I thank all members who have attended this evening to make this debate a meaningful one. I believe we all bring a sentiment and a feeling to this debate because it is something that is very near and dear to us.

I also want to thank my colleague from Richmond—Arthabaska for having the courage to seek the approval of the House for a debate this evening.

Far too many times we have been called together on emergency debates on the issues surrounding agriculture, not only on the livestock sector, but on grains and oilseeds in the recent past. We need to find some long term solutions for an industry that we all love so dearly and also depend upon. Surely all of us as consumers know that we must have a consistent supply of food, and we know that in our country we have a consistent, constant, safe supply of food for our consuming public.

The issues have been addressed a number of times this evening. There are many reasons why we have depressed prices in the cattle industry and the pork industry.

For those who do not know, I must tell members that I come from a long line of farmers. My history in agriculture goes back many generations. I have spent almost all of my years in Ottawa on the agriculture committee and I have worked with some very fine people on both sides of the House during those years.

Most of us share a great deal of passion for what we believe is a very important industry. I have heard some very passionate statements this evening. If some of this evening's statements had some real meaning to them and we could believe them, we probably would not be here tonight.

When I heard the parliamentary secretary this evening, for whom I have a great deal of respect, speak about the way money is being delivered, I would have to think that the farmers would be pretty much involved in carrying cheques to the bank, but that is not what I am hearing.

Farmers are indeed in trouble. I could list a whole series of situations that have occurred in my community over the past number of weeks, particularly in the last couple of days. People I have known all my life, people who have farmed all their lives, are turning the key.

Tonight there may be some farmers watching us. I am interested in seeing what kinds of messages we get tomorrow morning from that community of people we are representing tonight. I will be interested to see whether they will be telling us tomorrow morning, yes, they received the cheque, or no, they have not received the cheque, or they have been given notice that there is money coming.

I think our programs have failed us. However, as we talked about hearing in the 2006 election, we were told that the CAIS program was going to be abandoned, that the government would get rid of it. We did get rid of the name for some parts of it. Occasionally that name crops up again, but I see some wordsmithing being done there. Basically not a lot has changed in terms of the way money is delivered. A CAIS program in part that used to be 6% is now 3% and only 50% of the margin. It is not quite exactly what we used to know as the CAIS program, which was a very good program.

Ontario used to have a program called GRIP, or the market revenue program, as we know it. Colleagues from across the way who are from Ontario know what I am talking about. They were good programs. Those programs delivered. They were constant. They were there. Not only was government involved in the changing of those programs, but so were farmers. Farmers were very much involved in that period.

What has happened in the beef industry particularly, and to some degree also in the hog industry, is the concentration and the balkanization of ownership of the packing facilities for the animals. Not only do they own the packing facilities, but the fact is that they also own the animals going into the slaughterhouse. Basically what we have now are employed feeders of these animals. They may wear a Cargill coverall. They may wear something that reads Smithfield in some parts, although not in Ontario, of course. It might be Tyson if they are in the poultry business. If they are in the hog industry, they might have a maple leaf ensign on their coveralls.

This is where we have gone. This is where we are once we have the concentration. In Ontario we had one major beef packing plant that was sold out to a multinational, which is now the Cargill plant, and there are rumours in my part of Ontario that the plant may eventually be gone.

To suggest that because they have a short supply of animals going into the plant, it would cause them to raise the price, it does not work that way. They have plants in the west and they have plants in the United States, and therefore they can send a lot of the animals, which is already happening, to the United States of America.

Last week the plant in Kitchener was short 500 animals on Friday, but it did not raise the price. It did not go out looking for anymore. How can small time farmers compete with that? They just cannot compete with that.

We have those kinds of concentrations that are taking place, and ultimately, we will find an industry that is no longer farmer-controlled and owned. It will be controlled by the multinationals, as I said before.

I know that in the past, we have looked at what the packers did. We do not have to go back very far, to May 1993, and think about the experience of BSE striking our industry. The committee did a lot of work and we did a lot of work in trying to get money to farmers.

The way that money was delivered, in hindsight, was not done in a way that was most effective because a lot of that money was clawed back by the packers, but we in turn, as a committee of the day, went after the packers because we wanted to know what was going on in that industry.

We knew what was going on, but we had to have the facts, so when we asked for these kinds of statements to be provided, there were three packing companies which would not provide the books.

Those three packing companies were found in contempt of Parliament and therefore, as a penalty for being found in contempt, we decided that we should maybe fine these people a substantial amount of money. We in committee agreed unanimously that we would come to the House the following day, which was four days before the election of 2006 was called, and ask the House for unanimous support to fine these packers.

The gentleman who is now the Minister of Agriculture met me at the corridor outside this room and told me that his members had withdrawn their support for that, and they were not going to go forward with that.

I think as people in government, we have to have the courage of our convictions to go against some of these large corporations. I also believe that if we want to go forward, we have to start thinking outside of the box. I believe food security is as important to this country as is our military security.

If we believe in a foreign policy that we should be in Afghanistan, and I believe we rightfully are there and we should stay there for awhile, we should also understand that we need food security to feed our people in this country.

We have, in this country, 10 provinces and one federal government competing as to how we can best deliver programs. If we look to the south for some direction, we find that the U.S. has one farm plan. We have to start looking at other ways.

When we are talking about looking at new ways of doing things, we have to look at possibly the federal government being responsible for Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada for the Canadian people. I really believe that and sometime in the near future we are going to have to look at those things.

I have neighbours who have resorted to driving a truck. One guy told me just a few days ago that his farm is now for sale. I could not believe it, but his farm is for sale. We have a desperate situation and that is why we are here this evening.

I trust that after we conclude our discussions this evening, we will go down in history as having been a group of politicians who gathered this evening to find and make changes for our industry because we believe it is important. I trust that all of us will forget our partisan ways and move forward in trying to do what is right for the industry because I believe it matters for all Canadians.

Livestock Industry February 13th, 2008

Mr. Speaker, I know the member for British Columbia Southern Interior is not an active farmer, but I do know that he has a tremendous passion for the industry. His work in the committee is not questioned at all. I have appreciated working with him over the years he has been here and this evening he has raised some great points.

However, all of us in this country, whether we are members of Parliament or whoever we are, are consumers. I am wondering whether he has ever, from his consumer public, heard the argument made that farmers are getting too much money from government or that basically food costs have risen too high, or whether he finds sympathy with the general consumer public for the cause of farmers, and that generally the consumer believes that farmers are not getting a fair share?

They should be treated differently, better than what they are, because we all know we have to be fed. We are so dependent upon Canadian farmers and we need to do a better job of telling consumers about the products that are truly Canadian, rather than offshore products.

Livestock Industry February 13th, 2008

Mr. Speaker, I sincerely appreciate the passion which the member for Saint-Hyacinthe—Bagot has put into this debate this evening.

As a farmer, as a hog producer, myself, I share some of the same sentiments that she has expressed. However, I find it rather odd to believe that we have a government now in power for two years and has as yet failed to deliver on many of the promises that were made.

Given the circumstances of farmers going broke, many of these farmers I believe, as they are in my riding and likely in hers as well, are working off farm to keep their operations going. Once they lose their operations, what impact does that have on their local communities, the schools, the churches and the small business operators? Could the member tell us what kind of a social impact that has on small communities?

Rural Canada February 5th, 2008

Mr. Speaker, rural Canada has a history of success in innovation.

Our rural population, with its entrepreneurial base, has pioneered countless initiatives over the years and will, given the chance, continue to lead and invigorate our national economy in the years to come.

Small town chambers of commerce, federations of agriculture and groups like the CFIB, who are with us in the House today, continue to be leaders on this front and governments must acknowledge and build upon this reality.

Today, knowing that the next federal budget is looming on the horizon, I am asking the government to provide the tools needed for our small businesses to continue to be successful.

Unnecessary and overly cumbersome regulatory regimes, coupled with vacillations in the marketplace, continue to hamper small business owners. The government needs to act now if rural Canada is to continue with a positive legacy.

The budget is a chance for the government to make a real, long term difference to small business owners and I challenge the government to finally step up to the plate.

Great Lakes January 29th, 2008

Mr. Speaker, the Great Lakes provide residents and industry with a source of fresh water. They support a massive commercial fishery, a tourist trade and industry of nearly every form.

Despite their importance, we have neglected the Great Lakes and treated them as a dumping ground, and as a result the health of the lakes is in serious question.

Water levels are down and bacteria levels are up. Beaches are closed during the summer and invasive species are ravaging the ecosystem.

Science tells us that the Great Lakes are facing challenges that, if ignored, will catastrophically impact upon those living in the region.

I am calling upon the government to take action, real action, to halt and reverse this environmental legacy. We need a national policy which seeks to engage governments, cottagers, farmers, businesses and private citizens. We must work to ferret out real solutions to the real problems facing the lakes and the surrounding basin.

Groups like the Point Clark Beach Association and the federations of agriculture each stand ready to assist. They and many others are waiting for this government to act.

Petitions December 13th, 2007

Mr. Speaker, pursuant to Standing Order 36 I have the honour to present a petition with numerous names of petitioners from my riding. It is the understanding of the petitioners that Canada is a signatory to the United Nations resolution calling for the members of the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development, OECD, to contribute 0.7% of GNP as official development assistance, ODA, to its designated developing countries.

To date, Canada's contribution is 0.3%. Canada is only one of six countries of the approximately 22 nations which constitute the OECD that has not agreed to a timetable to meet the agreed target date of 2015 to achieve the aforementioned 0.7% of GNP.

Therefore, the petitioners call upon Parliament to urge the government to live up to its commitment and to prepare a timetable which meets the UN resolution of 0.7% of GNP for ODA to the developing countries which have been designated as recipients.

Agriculture December 11th, 2007

Mr. Speaker, as most members will recall, the past several years have been difficult times for our grains and oilseeds producers. Simply put, our farmers experienced a massive and nearly unprecedented drop in commodity prices while, at the same time, input costs rose to a record high.

Unfortunately, that same kind of challenge is now looming on the horizon for Canada's beef and pork sectors. The beef industry is still recovering from the events surrounding the BSE crisis. Now, while still financially diminished, our beef and pork sectors are facing an impending financial crisis which could spell disaster for these cornerstones of the Canadian agricultural economy.

As agriculture is the second largest employer in Canada and a mainstay in our national economy, I would urge the government to take immediate and decisive action to assist our farmers to move beyond crisis management to preserving their industries for the future. Time is of the essence. Our farmers need action now.