Crucial Fact

  • His favourite word was terms.

Last in Parliament May 2004, as NDP MP for Regina—Qu'Appelle (Saskatchewan)

Lost his last election, in 2006, with 32% of the vote.

Statements in the House

The Acadians March 9th, 2004

Madam Speaker, I want to indicate at the outset that I certainly support the motion before the House today, and I want to say that people should read the motion very carefully. It does not ask for an apology. Indeed, it asks that the Queen recognize officially the wrongs that were done to the Acadian people between 1755 and 1763, and that the Queen, when she is there in 2005, recognize that a great wrong, a great injustice, was done to the Acadian people.

That is what this motion is asking. I do not find that a great problem. The motion is well drafted. It is a very polite motion asking that our Governor General convey to the Queen that Parliament wishes that she recognize, when she is speaking to the Acadian people, that there was a great wrong done in 1755 to 1763.

I really appeal to the House to support this motion as overwhelmingly as we possibly can. It is not a partisan motion. It is a motion to recognize that a wrong was committed. Historically it is one of the great wrongs of our history. People were deported from their homes to Louisiana, to the southern part of the United States. Families were separated and people were uprooted. They lost their properties, they lost their friendships and they lost their communities.

It was a sad day in Canadian history. A lot of sad things happened in our past that affected many people, whether they were Japanese Canadians, native Canadians, or our First Nations. Many injustices were carried out by our predecessors.

The Acadian people are among those who were very unfairly treated by the government of that time, a colonial government, not the Government of Canada. It was that colonial government that deported the Acadian people to the United States.

This was a great injustice. Communities were torn apart. People were deported. They were sent out of the country. All of this was done by the colonial government. I do not think we should be so timid and so afraid. It is not an insult to the Queen to make this kind of request that she say that something terribly wrong was done many years ago.

I want to state very clearly that this motion, proposed by the member for Verchères--Les-Patriotes and seconded by the member for Acadie--Bathurst from the New Democratic Party, is a motion that we all should be supporting.

Some people ask why we would do this. I was in the House in 1984 when Pierre Trudeau was prime minister for the last day, and Brian Mulroney, the leader of the opposition, the former leader of the Conservative Party of Canada, got up and asked that very question. The member of the Conservative Party from the Ottawa area read former Prime Minister Pierre Trudeau's response. I did not agree with that response. I think it is very important for the well-being of the whole of our country that we do recognize when wrongs are committed and that we do try to apologize--and this motion does not even say apologize--for those great wrongs and injustices that were committed many years ago.

It is rather sad to reflect upon the history of humans. Human beings have often been very inhumane in the way we have treated each other historically. We have had genocides in the world. We have had mass expulsions in the world. We human beings have executed thousands and thousands of people around the world. We are hopefully becoming a little more civilized. One way of being more civilized is to say to the Acadian people that what happened many years ago was wrong. It was an historical wrong. It was morally wrong, and it should not have happened.

We cannot do anything about it now in a substantive sense, but we can say officially, as the Parliament of Canada, that what happened was wrong, and ask that when the Queen, the sovereign, is speaking to the Acadian people, she also say that it was the wrong thing, that it was something that was regrettable and should not have happened. I think that would go a long way toward saying to the Acadian people that we respect them, that they are equal partners in this great country of ours, and that what happened was very wrong. The very least we can do is have the sovereign say this in 2005 when she speaks to the Acadian population.

I have studied the history of our country. In the last 300 years, the French-speaking Acadian people have made a truly great contribution to our nation. There are still many Acadians in Canada, and the hon. member for Acadie—Bathurst is among those who have greatly contributed to our country. I would like to commend the Bloc member for Verchères—Les Patriotes for his motion, and I hope members of all parties will vote in favour of this motion.

Criminal Code February 27th, 2004

Mr. Speaker, I want to first commend the member from the Conservative Party for introducing the motion before the House today. He is one of my favourite Conservative members of Parliament. I am not sure if that is a compliment or not. He is a very funny and gregarious fellow, likeable and liked. That will probably doom his re-election in Calgary, but so be it. However, I mean what I am saying. He has brought before the House today a very important issue, the issue of break and enter.

I come from Regina. I represent, along with the Minister of Finance, the inner city of Regina. I probably have about 80% of the inner city in my riding and the Minister of Finance probably has about 20% in his riding. We have had major problems with crime in the city of Regina, as in Saskatoon, Winnipeg, Calgary and Edmonton.

We have crime that is really ghettoized in certain areas, much more than in other areas. Unfortunately, Regina was the capital for auto thefts in North America. A couple of years ago a program was brought in by the city and the provincial government, and it has greatly reduced auto thefts in Regina.

We have also one of the highest murder rates and one of the highest rates of violent assault. Just recently it has been break and enter. There have been a lot of B and Es, and they have gone up. I saw the figures the other day in the Leader Post . They have gone up by a very astronomical figure in the last while. A lot of these people are young and young aboriginals. It is a problem we will have to resolve.

At the outset, we have to be tough on crime. I have always taken that stand. If people commit crimes, they have to be punished for those crimes in the appropriate manner. At the same time we have to also be tough on the causes of crime. We not only have crime in the inner city of Regina, it across the land.

Just today there is some controversy regarding Conrad Black in a courtroom in the United States. The judge is suggesting that he cannot sell his holding company. We have crime at all different levels. I am not saying that is a crime, but we have things that look inappropriate, according to what the judge has said.

Break and enter is a major problem in my province and in many communities in the city of Regina, Saskatoon and other places. A lot of the people who commit these crimes are young. One reason they do it is because they find themselves in total despair. These people do not have an education, a job, the training or skills, and they learn crime on the streets. Somehow we have to get the younger people off the streets and give them the training and skills. We have to give them some hope and inspiration that there is a better life.

As I walk the streets, I can see the despair and poverty of some of these younger people. I see houses that are not properly insulated. I see the alcoholism and prostitution. Many kids are born into these circumstances. This is what I mean by the cause of crime.

The member for Calgary East is suggesting something that is a novel idea for B and E. It is not a novel idea in terms of other crimes. He is suggesting a minimum sentence of two years when there is a second offence on a domestic dwelling. I certainly support his intentions, but I do not support the idea of a minimum sentence for break and enter for a few reasons. I just want to lay them on the record.

In principle, we have very few crimes where we have a minimum sentence. It is important that I put some of these on the record.

Under the Criminal Code, we have a minimum sentence now for 29 different criminal offences. Of those 29, 19 became effective in 1995 with the firearms registration. Before that we only had 10 offences where there was a minimum sentence. I want to go over them.

They are: drinking while impaired with a blood alcohol level of over .08; failure or refusal to provide a breath sample; betting pools; selling, bookmaking and placing bets on behalf of others. These five different offences have a minimum sentence of 14 days and a maximum sentence of anywhere between 2 and 5 years, depending on the offence.

In Canada there are three different offences where the minimum sentence is life. For high treason, first degree murder and second degree murder, the minimum sentence is life. Then there is the offence of living off the avails of child prostitution which has a minimum sentence of five years.

Those are the original 10 offences that had a minimum sentence in the country. Then came 1995 with the gun legislation. Parliament, in its wisdom or lack thereof, decided to add another 19 offences that had a minimum sentence.

Those 19 offences are: using a firearm during the commission of an offence; using an imitation firearm during an offence; criminal negligence causing death by a firearm; manslaughter by use of a firearm; attempted murder by use of a firearm; causing bodily harm with intent with a firearm; sexual assault with a firearm; aggravated sexual assault with a firearm; kidnapping by firearm; hostage taking by firearm; robbery with a firearm; extortion with a firearm; possession of firearm knowing it is unauthorized; possession of a weapon device or ammunition knowing its possession is unauthorized; possession of prohibited or restricted firearm with ammunition; possession of a weapon obtained by commission of an offence; weapons trafficking; possession for purpose of weapons trafficking; making weapon into automatic firearm; importing or exporting firearm or prohibited weapon, or restricted weapon or prohibited device, or prohibited ammunition.

For many of those offences there is a one year minimum sentence. For about 10 others there is a minimum four year sentence. For manslaughter, attempted murder with a firearm, the offender gets the minimum sentence.

I would be more inclined to support the member's motion if it were worded that we look at whether offences and other violations of the Criminal Code should have a minimum sentence. Break and enter is very serious but manslaughter with a knife is serious also. Manslaughter with an axe is serious. Attempted murder with a bow and arrow, knife or an axe is very serious. Yet for those offences there is no minimum sentence in Canada.

There is no reference here to sexual assault or to rape of many women in terms of a minimum sentence. As I said, for theft with anything else but a firearm, there is no minimum sentence. We are dealing with fraud allegations in the House of Commons and the sponsorship program scandal. Again, for fraud there is no minimum sentence. Also for assault, mugging, et cetera, unless it is with a firearm there is no minimum sentence in the country.

Rather than just cherry pick, we need a motion before the House that we review the Criminal Code and see whether or not there is anything else that we should add to the list of minimum sentences. Indeed, maybe there are some of these sentences that should not have a minimum.

I want to make two points why I would like to keep the list of minimum sentences relatively short.

I am concerned about flexibility. Minimum sentences may sound really appealing to a lot of people and serious crimes are bad and should be punished, but sometimes I think minimum sentences are wrong because they are not flexible.

An effective justice system must necessarily be an individualized justice system. Obviously not all cases are the same. The justice system must be flexible enough to respond to a specific need and the nature of each case. Our system must be fair and humane if it is going to be effective and mandatory sentences often simply strip away the fairness and humanity from our legal system. Because they are completely rigid and predetermined, minimum sentences can result in the gross miscarriage of justice.

I want to refer to a case on which I think most members would agree with me, and that is the Robert Latimer case. What he did, and I do not want to pass judgment, may have been very, very wrong. I happen to think personally that what he did was wrong. It may have been very wrong, but to have Robert Latimer and Karla Homolka, or someone like her, in the same situation for a minimum sentence I also think is wrong. One of the things the judge said was that he did not have flexibility in the case of Robert Latimer. That is why we need some flexibility in terms of our system.

There have been many studies indicating that minimum sentences often do not work as a detriment to serious crime or any kind of crime in this country or in other jurisdictions around the world.

Sponsorship Program February 27th, 2004

Mr. Speaker, Myriam Bédard, one of our Olympic stars, is said to have been forced to resign from her job at VIA Rail, because she refused to work for Groupaction.

To add insult to injury, Jean Pelletier, the former chief of staff of the prime minister, said:

“The poor girl is a sad case”.

Is this how we treat our star female athletes in this country?

I ask the government whether it will ensure that Myriam Bédard is immediately reinstated in her job with VIA Rail with all the appropriate apologies.

Conservative Party February 27th, 2004

Mr. Speaker,

In 1492 Columbus sailed the ocean west, Like the former leader of the Alliance Party, he tried his best. They both missed their mark, What a lark. And now they claim it was a mistake, But give us a break. I would suggest they look at a map, Before they fall into yet another trap. And stop blaming their office staff, For yet another oblivious gaffe.

What is more unfortunate is that this is not an isolated incident. The former leader of the Alliance and his party have a long history of inappropriate behaviour.

First he wanted to build a firewall around Alberta, then he accused Atlantic Canadians of being lazy, then his party offended thousands of Canadians of Caribbean background with their latest attack ad, and now they have offended aboriginal Canadians.

Perhaps it is time for him and his regressive Conservative caucus to attend a sensibilities training program. Aboriginal Friendship Centres across Canada offer Canadians of all races programs and courses to help build dialogue between communities. I would suggest that the Conservative caucus and the leader of that party book a session right away.

Agriculture February 26th, 2004

Mr. Speaker, my question is for the Minister of Agriculture and Agri-Food. We are now in a farm income crisis in Canada. In fact, Statistics Canada reports that realized net farm income in our country last year was a negative, at minus $13.4 million, the lowest since statistics started being kept in the 1920s. On top of that, the livestock industry, because of BSE, is in turmoil. Farmers need help immediately.

I ask the minister whether or not he will consider introducing legislation that would have a program of interest free loans for livestock and grain farmers in this country so they can pay some bills and stay on the farm.

Supply February 26th, 2004

Mr. Speaker, I want to ask the former member of the Progressive Conservative Party about this. Now that the members have dropped the word progressive, I guess that means it is the regressive conservative party. It used to be Alliance of course, and Reform, and Saskatchewan's Saskatchewan Party, and maybe it will be cold porridge next, I am not sure.

I have here from the Conservative Party of Canada website a statement on the Canadian Wheat Board. Does the member agree with his former Reform and Alliance colleagues when they say, “The simple process of eliminating the monopoly powers of the Canadian Wheat Board will relieve most of the trade tensions in this area”?

As he knows, if we do that, we will get rid of single desk marketing and single desk marketing is the basic principle of the Canadian Wheat Board. Does the member agree with this new policy that is dominated by the former Reform and Alliance members since he was a Progressive Conservative, or is he now one of those regressive conservatives?

Supply February 26th, 2004

Mr. Speaker, I want to ask the hon. member of the regressive Conservative Party a question regarding the Canadian Wheat Board?

She is from Saskatchewan. She knows how popular the board is in Saskatchewan, how it is supported by the overwhelming majority of producers, and how the NDP and CCF have long supported the Canadian Wheat Board. She knows all of that from her background.

I have been reading with dismay recently about a number of comments from members of the Alliance Party, now the Conservative Party, that used to be the Reform Party, that in Saskatchewan is called the Saskatchewan Party, that used to be called the Mulroney Conservative Party. I know that is kind of confusing.

Where does she stand on the Canadian Wheat Board? A lot of members of that party have been saying that they would like to get rid of the Wheat Board or that they would want dual marketing. Dual marketing is another code for getting rid of the Wheat Board, because it undermines the Wheat Board. Farmers want to know, where does this party of Brian Mulroney, Mike Harris and Grant Devine, stand on the Canadian Wheat Board?

Supply February 26th, 2004

Mr. Speaker, I will certainly second that hope about those out there watching this debate today, but I ask the member across the way, what is his solution?

The Americans are not playing fair ball. I have not talked to a single farmer in my riding who thinks the Americans are being fair to the Canadian people and yet the member is getting up and worshiping George Bush.

I know that 70% of our beef is exported out of this country and I know we want to export it. I have never said we should not be exporting. The Americans only export about 10% of their production. I think the hon. member across the way knows that.

What we have to do is stand up and tell the Americans that they are not playing fair. They are playing hardball and that member wants to throw a puffball at the Americans. He worships the ground that George Bush walks on. He supported the war in Iraq. The Canadian farmers want us to stand up for Canadians and for Canadian farmers, and not just kowtow to George Bush.

Supply February 26th, 2004

Mr. Speaker, my family and relatives are in Wynyard as well, which is an area that has always supported strong, orderly marketing, the Canadian Wheat Board and very progressive politics over the years. It has rejected the politics of the member across the way. Even in the Diefenbaker years, the Conservative Party did not win the town of Wynyard and the support of the farmers in the surrounding area and it was because the Conservatives in this country have never stood up for the farmers.

The member across the way should know that Atlantic Canada is importing beef from the United States while the Americans have cut off the export of live cattle from our country into the United States. I want the border re-opened but we have to stand up and talk tough to the Americans.

I know the Conservative Party across the way is really the republican party north but if we do not stand up and talk tough and tell the Americans that we want fair trade and a fair deal then of course they will not listen and they will keep their border closed.

I think the people in Wynyard and the beef producers want us to start talking tough. They want us to take a look at challenging the Americans under NAFTA and with the World Trade Organization. What is the member afraid of? They do not hesitate to do it to us. They closed their border. They put huge duties on our forest products. They do not hesitate to ignore the rules under the World Trade Organization or NAFTA so why do we not stand up and talk tough to the Americans as well?

We produce a lot of beef in this country. Some western beef can go into eastern Canada in the meantime. The main thing is to get the border open so we can have the free flow of beef on both sides of the border.

I understand the industry very well. I know it is very highly integrated, but the Americans do not seem to understand that. They are very protectionist. It is the George Bush regime, which is worshipped by the Conservative Party, that is discriminating against Canadian farmers. The Americans are going into an election and it does not look like they will open the border until after the election. I say that it is time for us to talk tough.

I just met with some farmers in Wynyard about three or four weeks ago in a shed in a farmer's yard. They want us to talk tough and stand up for the rights of Canadians.

Supply February 26th, 2004

Mr. Speaker, I rise to support the motion before the House today because I believe agriculture is in a real crisis, particularly the livestock industry. The government needs to be more aware of that and it needs to do more than it has done in the past.

I want to focus on the crisis by giving a few numbers that have surprised a lot of people and of which the general population is not aware. I have here the statistics for the cash receipts received by farmers in Canada. If we look at the year 2002, their realized net income, which is the income farmers have after depreciation, after paying all their expenses, after paying bank loans and so on, was exactly $2,744,000,000.

In 2003, the net realized income of farmers in Canada was minus $13.4 million. That is a negative income. To make this even more startling, this is the lowest income Canadian farmers have had since they started keeping statistics in the 1920s. Most Canadians are not aware of the seriousness of the situation. This is a major crisis.

I want to now look at my own province of Saskatchewan. In 2002 the realized net income was $606 million. In 2003 it was minus $465 million. That is a drop of 177% in the farmers' income in one year. We can just imagine the crisis when the net income of a group in our society in the province of Saskatchewan was minus $465 million and nationwide it was minus some $13 million. In Alberta, it was minus $229 million.

I want to talk primarily about the west because I am splitting my time with my friend from Sackville—Musquodoboit Valley—Eastern Shore, Nova Scotia who will talk about what is happening in Atlantic Canada and elsewhere.

We have a major crisis in agriculture today. The motion before the House today asks that we take some money from the sponsorship programs and the gun registry program and put it into the farm crisis. I could not agree more. The sponsorship programs have been major scandals. We have seen major corporate scandals all the way from Brian Mulroney right through to the present Prime Minister. They were a common thing during the Conservative Party government of Brian Mulroney and they continued through the Chrétien days to the present day. There is not much change except in magnitude. There is the same kind of coziness between the corporate elite and the government of Brian Mulroney and the government of Jean Chrétien.

I also think we should scrap the gun registry. We have now spent about $1 billion on the gun registry. I am proud to say that the NDP governments in Saskatchewan and in Manitoba are opposed to the gun registry and are not co-operating in the implementation of the registry. The NDP government in Saskatchewan is helping the Federation of Saskatchewan Indian Nations in its legal challenge to the registry as it affects its treaty rights to hunt.

We could have taken the $1 billion that was spent over the last while and put it toward the farm crisis. We also have money in the federal surplus which, according to many economists, will be about $6.2 billion, and that is after the $2 billion goes into health care as announced by the Minister of Finance about two weeks ago.

I introduced a motion in the House on Monday of this week saying that because of the crisis in farming, in health care and in education, for this year alone the federal government should agree to send half the surplus to the provinces to help them cope with the farm crisis, health and education. Most provinces are now facing a deficit or are dipping into their fiscal stabilization funds to balance their budgets.

The federal government has the money to help the farmers.

Agriculture in general is in a crisis but the livestock industry is in even more of a crisis because of what the mad cow disease has done to the industry. This has happened through no fault of the farmers. It was discovered that one cow in Canada and one cow in the United States had BSE, or mad cow disease.

The government should take some short term measures and provide immediate financial support in terms of interest free loans that would help the farmers in the immediate sense. It should move to temporarily reduce the cow herd by paying farmers to, unfortunately, slaughter some cows.

Canada has had one cow with mad cow disease and the United States has had one but the Americans have closed their border to our cattle and, consequently, we cannot export live cattle to the United States. What we should be saying to the Americans is that if they do not open their border to our cattle, then we will close our border in eastern Canada to the importation of American beef and start moving western Canadian beef into eastern Canada. The time has come to get tough with the Americans. They close their border to our beef and we keep our border open to their beef.

My final remarks on mad cow are that I believe the federal government should take a look at a challenge to the United States under both NAFTA and the WTO. If we look at chapter 7 of the WTO it talks about the importance of restrictions based on scientific evidence. All the scientific evidence shows that with one case of mad cow there is safety for the Canadian consumer, the American consumer and any consumer anywhere in the world to consume Canadian beef.

What we have been dealt here is a very unfair hand by the United States and I think we have the grounds to consider a challenge under NAFTA and the WTO.

We have to look at the long term stability of agriculture right across the country. The one thing on which I certainly disagree with the new Conservative Party is its stand on orderly marketing.

I come from a small farm near Wynyard, Saskatchewan. I have a lot of farmers and a lot of towns in my riding. I know how important the Canadian Wheat Board is to our farmers. The Canadian Wheat Board is extremely important for the marketing of Canadian grain from western Canada. The board is supported by the overwhelming majority of farmers across the prairies, particularly in Manitoba and Saskatchewan. It is important that we have strong support for the Canadian Wheat Board.

However, over the last number of years, many members of the far right, of the Conservative Party, the former Alliance Party and Reform Party, the Saskatchewan Party, the cold porridge party, whatever members want to call it, the Brian Mulroney party, the Grant Devine party, the Eric Berntson party, they have been standing up and talking about an end to the Canadian Wheat Board.

It has always been the Conservatives who have stood on the regressive side of things. They have now changed their name from Progressive Conservatives to Conservatives. They have dropped the progressive. I guess they are now regressive Conservatives. However we know where they stand and it is not on the side of farmers. They do not stand in support of the Canadian Wheat Board in Canada, and the member for Battlefords—Lloydminster knows that. A lot of them are talking about a dual marketing system, where farmers are offered the so-called freedom of choice to market their grain, knowing full well that it would undermine the Canadian Wheat Board which is there to market the grain of all western Canadian farmers.

I can tell members that we on this side of the House stand four-square with western Canadian farmers who have overwhelmingly indicated their strong support for the Canadian Wheat Board as a single desk marketing system to market western Canadian grain.

The Conservative Party is showing its true colours. It does not want the farmers to have this collective right in the marketplace. It wants to get back to a dog eat dog free market where the farmer is up against companies like Cargill grain.