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Crucial Fact

  • His favourite word was children.

Last in Parliament October 2000, as NDP MP for Saskatoon—Rosetown—Biggar (Saskatchewan)

Lost his last election, in 2006, with 24% of the vote.

Statements in the House

Resignation Of Member May 13th, 1999

Mr. Speaker, with these, my last words in this House, I would like to take the opportunity to thank the constituents of Saskatoon—Rosetown—Biggar, and before that Saskatoon—Clark's Crossing, and the hundreds of workers in election campaigns who granted me the privilege of being a member of the House for almost 11 years. It truly has been a privilege to be one of the 301 members who come here to serve the people of Canada.

I also extend my thanks to the House of Commons support staff, people like Tom, J. P. and Ray, who really make this place work, to my own staff over the years, and to my present staff, Mike, Adrian, Doris and Erika, in particular.

I thank members on all sides of the House for their many courtesies over the years and for their many friendships.

Lastly, I want to thank you, Mr. Speaker, and each and every member of the House for the privilege of working with them, as we all, each in our own way, strive to make Canada an even better place in which to live.

Petitions May 12th, 1999

I am glad people are happy that it will be my last one.

The petition is from people all over Saskatchewan who confirm what everybody knows, that the Senate is undemocratic, unelected and unaccountable, costs $50 million and undermines the institutions of this House. They call upon parliament to undertake measures to abolish the Senate.

Petitions May 12th, 1999

Mr. Speaker, it is my privilege to present what is probably my last petition.

Budget Implementation Act, 1999 April 12th, 1999

Madam Speaker, the member will know that the primary beneficiaries of the tax cuts he mentioned in Ontario and Alberta are the wealthy, not middle income Canadians. I share his view that it is the middle income Canadians who face the brunt of our tax system. In the 10 years I have been here we have seen middle income Canadians face an ever increasing tax burden. As a result of the important and necessary attack on the deficit they have seen themselves receive less and less in return. They are not getting good value for their money. They know that. That is the reason they are so disgruntled.

However, it is still the case across the country, no matter what the Reform Party says, that Canadians recognize the importance of the kinds of services that define the country—health care, education and social programs—and the need for those services to be paid for by tax revenues. That support, no matter what the Reform Party says, is there. It is there solidly and it will not go away.

Budget Implementation Act, 1999 April 12th, 1999

Mr. Speaker, I appreciate the member's earlier comments. Of course I regard him as a friend as well.

The point the member makes is an interesting one. If it were the case that tax cuts were the answer to problems faced by countries at the turn of the century, we would see countries with very high tax burdens being totally unsuccessful in the economic ventures we see ourselves facing. Countries with high taxes like Germany have very successful economies. There is no panacea to tax cuts as an instrument of ensuring economic success.

We would all favour lower taxes rather higher taxes, but in the context of ensuring that we provide the kinds of services Canadians demand, not just want, we need to ensure the level of taxation is adequate to meet those demands.

I would not necessarily put the member who spoke in this category, but the unfortunate aspect of those who argue for tax cuts is that it is a smoke screen for eliminating social services, social programs and government initiatives that those people find undesirable but the population at large finds quite desirable, continues to vote for and continues to see as important.

Health care is perhaps the greatest example of this. It seems that people will always take health care over tax cuts. There is no clamour across the country for the kind of tax cuts which the Reform Party and to some extent the Conservative Party argue for. People know they have to pay taxes for the services they need and they know there is a balance. The appropriate question is how to find that balance.

Plainly we do not have that balance with the present unfair tax system. I recognize that we cannot have a tax system that is far out of whack with our competitors' tax systems if we expect to be able to compete with them in terms of ensuring that our young people stay in this country to work, in terms of ensuring that employers invest in Canada and in terms of ensuring that we are competitive.

Canadians deserve tax cuts. I do not believe they should be the millionaires who received an $8,000 tax cut; they should be the people making $10,000 who only got a $51 tax cut. I would rather have given them something more meaningful than giving something to the millionaires. We need a more fair tax system which also reflects our international competitive situation.

Budget Implementation Act, 1999 April 12th, 1999

Mr. Speaker, it is a pleasure to rise in the House for what might be one of my last times to talk about the budget.

The budget sets out a road map for the government. It gives an indication of its priorities and hopefully it gives an indication of the priorities of the population at large. The extent to which a budget is successful is the extent to which it represents the priorities of Canadians.

The government has made much of arguing the budget to be a health care budget, with which I will deal in a moment. If we look at that issue we see a government which has over the last five years cut over $21 billion out of health care and is about to put $2 billion back. This is not the kind of health care commitment that would qualify most budgets in the minds of most people as a health care budget.

The budget did many things and omitted many things. I will focus for a moment on the things it omitted and could have done in order to meet the priorities of Canadians. Canadians, as we know, face a number of crises at the present time. Canadians face a health care crisis which the budget addresses in a small way.

The population at large faces significant challenges with regard to job opportunities for both parents and younger people. The country also faces challenges with regard to the accessibility of students to education and a whole range of other questions including homelessness, our infrastructure problems and a tax system which remains extremely unfair.

The budget could have but did not address the priorities of Canadians with regard to their challenges in looking for work. The budget did nothing to increase the chances of any unemployed person finding work or of a person in a job feeling any greater security in terms of keeping that work.

The budget did nothing to improve the benefits for those most vulnerable in society, the unemployed, a group for which the federal government has responsibility in terms of its legislative jurisdictional powers over employment insurance and as a result of its control over fiscal and monetary tools which leads to certain levels of unemployment in the economy.

Over the last 10 or 11 years I have been in the House unemployment has been used as an economic tool for various other purposes dealing with interest rates, the value of the dollar and so on.

Nothing was done in the budget to combat the homelessness crisis with which we are all familiar. The Prime Minister has taken some steps since, but there is nothing in the budget or in the finance minister's set of priorities to ensure that those who are facing life's most severe problems, the unemployed and the homeless, have those matters addressed by the government. That is a priority which is askew.

There is nothing to address the unfair tax system. There is nothing to reduce the GST. As we all know, the government has given a tax break of $8,000 to millionaires and a handful of dollars to those at the lowest income levels. This hardly addresses the problem. It seems to make the problem worse.

There are other things too. There is nothing in the budget to tackle what are environmental concerns across the country, even the simple issue like a transit pass being available to employees in the same way as parking passes are. This modest and easy to administer environmental change did not find its way into the budget. As we probably all know, there is no adequate or proper funding for our cultural institutions.

Major Canadian priorities are not being addressed in the budget even though some tax changes were made. A person who makes $10,000 a year in income will receive from the budget tax savings of $51, a dollar a week. A person who receives $25,000 a year in income will receive a tax break of $115. A person who receives a $50,000 income will receive $160. A person who receives a $75,000 income will receive $595. A person who receives a $105,000 income will receive $813.

The more we make the better off we will be. That is not the priority of those who are fighting to survive in what is an ever increasingly challenging world. If one is making $1 million a year one will get a $8,000 tax break from the budget.

Let us remember all the fuss about whether or not hockey players should get tax breaks to stay in Canada. They did because those millionaire hockey players will get $8,000 extra a year to play in Canada while a family trying to get by on $10,000 will make $51 a year more, probably not enough to buy one ticket to go to a hockey game to watch that millionaire hockey player who gets an $8,000 tax break play in Canada.

Even where changes are made we see them made in the interest of those who are better off rather than in the interest of those who are less well off. We know our tax system is one of the most unfair in the developed world. Yet there is nothing here to make it more fair. Indeed we see a strategy of making it increasingly unfair.

Let me raise a few comments about health care spending. The government made much of the budget being a health care budget. Over the years of the Liberal government and over the years of the hon. member for LaSalle—Émard as the Minister of Finance, we have seen $21.5 billion taken out of the health care system. Only a couple of provinces have been able to fill that gap.

In my province of Saskatchewan each year the NDP government has consistently put more money into health care than what the Liberals took out, at a great burden to a province with a small tax base and significant financial problems left over from nine years of provincial Conservative government mismanagement. The Saskatchewan NDP government saw health care as a priority, as did the residents of that province and Canadians as a whole, and thereby committed more money than was cut by the Liberal government in Ottawa.

What is the response of the Liberal government? As a result of the budget it will put back $2 billion, one dollar for every ten that was taken out of health care. We know the angst across the country over the state of our health care system. That angst is exacerbated when billions of dollars are cut from the health care system.

This is a modest prescription for the health care crisis caused by the federal government over its years of belt tightening. This modest prescription will not satisfy the needs of Canadians or do anything very significant to improve our health care system.

I would add in terms of the priorities of the most recent budgets of the Liberal government that it is plain the brunt of deficit reduction was borne by the most vulnerable in society. That deficit reduction was called for and was necessary. The minister is to be credited for having steered Canada through this difficult time.

However, the way in which he did it meant that he attacked the most vulnerable in society. That is in sharp contrast with the way in which Saskatchewan balanced its budget, the first province to do so. There were increased commitments to the things that are most important to Canadians, not the Liberal model of increased cuts to the things that are most important to Canadians.

In that strategy, in that model of Saskatchewan NDP government's deficit reduction, we saw continued increases in funding for health care, education and social programs, not cuts. That is a distinct contrast with the way in which the deficits were addressed in the two jurisdictions.

We remain with some serious problems that could have been addressed by the government but were not. For example, as students have indicated the budget does nothing to solve student debt and the base funding crisis facing post-secondary education. Tuition fees will continue to rise while the quality of education continues to erode according to the students. Those of us who spend any time on university campuses can ensure that is the case. Without increasing accessibility, without increasing the numbers of Canadians who have access to post-secondary education, it is difficult to see how we can solve the economic difficulties we face.

On a personal note, as someone who is the only person from my extended family to attend university, and it was 30 years ago at least when I was at university, the question of accessibility is a critical one that we cannot leave in the state in which it is at present. It takes a lot of support for those who come from families who do not traditionally see university education or post-secondary education as a tool for their children to find a way to break through and to have access to post-secondary education.

It is an obligation of the country as a whole and of the government which represents the country to ensure that accessibility is there. It is the only way we will individually ensure that we can make the greatest contribution to our economy and to our society. Education is critical in this regard and yet nothing in the budget addresses this matter.

Children in poverty is surely the most serious problem we face. Not only Catholic bishops but practically everybody in the country has called this issue a national disgrace. There is nothing in the budget for Canada's poorest children, even though there is much rhetoric on this point in a number of committee reports and so on from the Liberal caucus.

There is nothing for homelessness, nothing for those who do not even have a place to live in what is one of the richest countries in the world. As the Minister of Finance indicated in the past, only the national government has the financial resources to address the full dimensions of this problem.

There is nothing for child care. We have the problem of parents, single parents in particular, wanting to access the job market, wanting to make a contribution and wanting to ensure their own independence, being denied that opportunity simply because child care is out of their grasp. Either there is not enough accessible quality child care available to them or the cost is simply prohibitive. Again this is holding people back rather than enabling them to move forward.

I mentioned the problems of our tax system and how unfair it is. Even a reduction in GST of 1% would have meant a lot to everyday people. The Minister of Finance could have taken a lesson from the Saskatchewan NDP government's book and in fact given everybody a break, particularly those on low income who spend all their money on the most basic items. There is no commitment to assisting those at the lowest end of the economic scale with a tax break.

Perhaps the most glaring omission is with regard to those who are unable to find work in Canada and are forced to rely on what is becoming an ever more meagre unemployment insurance system. There is nothing to address this concern. Indeed everyone has to be reminded that it is the employment insurance surplus which has made the deficit reduction record of the government as credible as it is. In other words the taking of money from those who are working and those who are unemployed in order to balance the country's books. This is not something many people would be proud of.

We face significant problems across the country both in highways and in other infrastructure elements. There is nothing in the budget for them.

While budgets set out a course of action and a set of priorities which should represent the priorities of Canadians, it is clear that the budget has not done that. More important, it has left the most vulnerable, the most in need, out of the picture almost entirely. That is to be regretted.

Justice February 1st, 1999

Mr. Speaker, in 1993 this House passed Bill C-121 which made the production, dealing and possession of child pornography indictable offences. But the recent B.C. court decision has reminded us that child pornography remains a serious problem in Canada.

Depictions of child pornography comprise a permanent record of a child being sexually abused. People who possess child pornography may not have participated in the original crime, but they are certainly accomplices. Each time a pedophile taps into this pornographic underworld the children portrayed are victimized over and over again.

Preventing the sexual abuse of children is a battle that must be fought by all Canadians, regardless of their political stripe or ideological stance.

I and my colleagues in the NDP caucus urge parliament and all parliamentarians to reaffirm their commitment to Canada's children by voicing loudly society's utter condemnation of this form of child sexual abuse. We must send a clear message: When the rights of children, our most precious resource, and the rights of pedophiles and predators come into conflict, the rights of children must prevail.

First Nations Land Management Act November 26th, 1998

Mr. Speaker, on behalf of the New Democratic Party I am pleased to participate in the debate of Bill C-49, an act to provide for the ratification and the bringing into effect of the framework agreement on first nations land management and to offer my party's support for this important bill.

I am proud to be part of a party that has done so much to ensure the issue of aboriginal self-government has received its rightful attention in Canada. I am proud to be part of a party whose provincial governments have done so much to ensure the implementation of our obligations enshrined in treaties long agreed to in the context of 1998. These treaties have provided the rest of Canada with huge benefits. It is a privilege to be supporting Bill C-49. I am glad the government has seen fit to agree with 14 first nations in this context. I am pleased to see that two Saskatchewan first nations, the Muskoday and Cowessess are involved in this historical agreement.

In the spirit of the royal commission this bill honours a federal government commitment to aboriginal people and the implementation of new ideas oriented toward creating a new relationship between the Government of Canada and first nations peoples. Bill C-49 is an act to implement an agreement between the federal government and 14 first nations. It relates to the establishment of a new regime under which these first nations will finally be have the power and the right recognized by the Government of Canada to manage their own reserve lands and their own resources.

These 14 first nations are opting out of the Indian Act land management provisions but the act ensures that first nations lands are protected for future generations by prohibiting any surrender or sale or any expropriation by provincial or municipal governments. It is a new partnership that increases the self-reliance of aboriginal peoples in the management of their own resources and their own futures. For that we must all be very pleased.

This legislation must be viewed as a commitment by Canada to aboriginal peoples, to the political evolution of first nations and to the concept of self-government and self-determination to which surely we are all fully committed. The process needs to be linked to an orderly transition to a new relationship between Canada and the first nations peoples.

First nations are plainly looking forward to obtaining the responsibilities for managing their own lands and resources contained in Bill C-49. This is a good agreement that will help create employment and economic opportunities for aboriginal people. It will also help to increase their own stewardship of their own environment. In renewing the partnership with first nations the federal government must implement policies and government to government relations at a pace that works for first nations and for all Canadians.

We support the idea that the framework agreement will be open to other first nations. They may join if they feel ready and that it is in their best interest to do so. We hope many more will do so. We call on the government to ensure the right to self-determination for first nations peoples and to maintain the territorial integrity of each first nation.

The legislation supports the capacity building initiatives for the implementation of self-government. We must be sure the resources will be provided to facilitate the participation of first nation women in the governance process.

It has been unfortunate that members of the official opposition have chosen to drive a wedge between Canadians and aboriginal peoples in their discussion of not only this piece of legislation but almost every other piece of legislation, policy or other issue dealing with aboriginal peoples.

It is unfortunate that in the process members of the Reform Party, including the members for Prince Albert and Athabasca, have really attempted to accentuate any divisions that exist within Canada regarding Canadians of non-aboriginal and aboriginal descent.

It is not helpful, as we build relationships and move forward, to accentuate the difficulties and to drive a wedge between decent minded Canadians who want to find a solution to this problem and aboriginal peoples. It is doing a disservice to all of us as we see the incitement to disagreement, the incitement to disregard and the incitement to lessening respect perpetrated by members of the Reform Party.

It is good to see first nations within the constituencies of Reform MPs pointing this out to their MPs in the hope that their MPs will be more accurate, truthful and better represent their constituents who are first nations. In particular the Muskoday First Nation has being explicit, clear and firm with regard to misleading comments by the member for Prince Albert, calling on him to clear the air and to make sure he rectifies the statements which he has made that give the impression that this is not an agreement accepted by first nations people.

The Muskoday First Nation in its referendum voted 309 to 40, an 89% approval rating, for this agreement, almost as good as the last NDP byelection in Athabasca where the NDP candidate received 94% of the vote. Those approval ratings are not only significant but we do not see them very often.

Here we have both men and women in a first nations supporting overwhelmingly the opportunity to finally take control over their own resources.

It is time the Reform Party stopped baiting and antagonizing Canadians. It must stop focusing on the negatives and start building partnerships with aboriginal peoples. Bill C-49 is a good example of this partnership between the federal government and the 14 first nations that will strengthen the first nations governance and support the development of strong communities and strong local economies.

The NDP is fully in support of Bill C-49. We look forward to its implementation and expansion to other first nations. We also look forward to it ensuring that first nation peoples will finally be able to express themselves in an appropriate way in Canada with the full support of the federal government and the Canadian people.

Employment November 25th, 1998

Mr. Speaker, this must be why our offices are inundated by people on EI, trying to get EI, trying to find work. The government's policies are simply not working.

My supplementary is to the Prime Minister. When the Prime Minister recognized there was a crisis in health care he established the national forum on health.

Surely the Prime Minister knows the crisis in employment and joblessness is just as severe. Will he set up a national forum on unemployment to hear ideas on how we can solve this question? If not, is it that he does not care about the unemployed?

Employment November 25th, 1998

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

In spite of his and the government's rhetoric about job creation Statistics Canada, the government's own agency, paints an entirely different picture.

The jobless rate in Canada is almost 50% higher than the in U.S. Among older men it is 140% higher and almost twice as high among older women.

The tragedy behind these numbers is manifested in every community across the country. The government has this don't worry, be happy attitude. That is an insult to all Canadians who cannot find work and feed their families.

Does the Minister of Finance dispute Statistics Canada's analysis of this crisis situation?