Crucial Fact

  • His favourite word was reform.

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

The Economy November 18th, 1998

Mr. Speaker, Canada's economy is falling behind. We are drifting to the bottom of the class in innovation and R and D investment.

Our productivity growth in recent years has been the lowest of the G-7 and we have the second lowest investment in R and D of all the G-7.

The Liberals have presided over an economy that has failed to invest in new skills and technologies that are the basis for success for the future, thus handing Canada's economic competitors a huge advantage.

The time has come for this government to recognize that we cannot afford as a country to continue with the policies that deepen our innovation and productivity gap. Canadians are asking why this government has presided over this travesty and when it will do something about it to improve the lives of Canadians and ensure they have the resources to pay for the social programs we all need.

Questions On The Order Paper October 23rd, 1998

With regards to the four recently acquired British submarines, what are the precise figures for: ( a ) the installation of the Air Independent Propulsion (A.I.P.) refit; ( b ) the new communications systems; ( c ) shore facilities; ( d ) modifications to meet Canadians standards; and ( e ) the total overall cost of the submarines?

Questions On The Order Paper October 7th, 1998

Is the Department of National Defence planning to change the communications systems on the Aurora aircrafts and, if so, what is the cost?

Competition Act September 23rd, 1998

Mr. Speaker, Bill C-20 can easily be divided into two parts.

The first part deals with telemarketing fraud and the significant consequences which have befallen many Canadian consumers at the hands of those who would defraud them of significant sums of money through the telephone. Like all other members of this House, New Democrats fully support the thrust of the telemarketing fraud provisions. There are things we would do differently and I will raise them in a minute. As my colleague from the Bloc Quebecois has indicated, mostly it has to do with enforcement and the seriousness with which we take the enforcement of these crimes.

The second part of Bill C-20 is much more troublesome. It deals with basic aspects of competition, with offences committed by businesses to further their economic aims. This includes the various misleading, fraudulent and deceptive practices they pursue as well as some matters dealing with mergers. It is that part which falls short of what Canadians need.

I will talk briefly about the telemarketing fraud provisions. We have all had an opportunity to speak on this question in the past. I am sure we have all heard from constituents who have been cheated out of considerable numbers of dollars by these fraud artists.

I can think of one couple in particular who responded to the heavy duty pressure from a telemarketing operation. That couple handed over some $10,000 or $12,000 in response to this pressure. These senior citizens could ill afford $500 let alone $12,000.

We might ask how could that ever take place. As we know, the telemarketing fraud operators prey on the most vulnerable members of society. They make extravagant claims which we might not accept but which many others do. Those operators have made a lot of money in the process.

We all know the plight of many who have been bilked for thousands of dollars and the apparent ease with which these fraud artists continue their work over and over again. They work for different companies under different names but use the same offices with the same telephone equipment. They have basically thumbed their noses at the law and at Canadians over a very long period of time.

Project Phonebusters is a relatively small operation headed by Barry Elliot, an OPP officer. It has essentially the sole responsibility of chasing after these guys across the whole of Canada. This small unit is not funded well enough of course. It does not have enough people to pursue these claims in a timely way. Consequently the situation in Canada is we have not been enforcing our laws seriously enough. Had we been more serious enforcers, we would have saved many Canadians many thousands of dollars.

It is incumbent upon the solicitor general as the minister responsible for the RCMP to take a leadership role in fighting this fraud at the national level and to ensure that there are more RCMP officers engaged in this activity. Project Phonebusters and Barry Elliot need more help to do an even better job. They have done quite a remarkable job with very limited resources.

There is an obligation on the part of the Government of Canada following the provisions in Bill C-20 which deal with telemarketing fraud to actually put some resources where its mouth is. The government should not just pass legislation in the hope that something will improve. It should rigorously and completely enforce the legislation and commit more resources to it.

I also want to commend my colleague for Lévis-et-Chutes-de-la-Chaudière for proposing to the government some significant changes which would have also protected many, many Canadians.

We know about the issue dealing with the Internet. We know that this is just the beginning of an incredibly important market for commercial transactions. Many, many people have already begun to do business on the Internet, whether it is the buying of stocks and bonds, holidays, or other goods and services. We have all probably used the Internet for these purposes.

Technological advances will ensure that the Internet is more secure and safe and that we can use our credit cards on the Internet without fear of incurring bills that we were not intending to incur. Once all of that technology is in place, and it is just around the corner, we will see a huge burgeoning of trade on the Internet.

The member for Lévis-et-Chutes-de-la-Chaudière who was trying to move the government to take this matter seriously made some very good points in proposing that the Internet be added to this section. The argument was that it did not quite fit within telemarketing.

It does not fit perfectly but it does not fit badly either. We have a new form of marketing which is based on technology. It is not all that different from telemarketing. There is the one element that a person is not on the line forcing someone to make a decision but the mechanism of the Internet also makes it very, very attractive and persuasive.

I would have hoped that the government would have taken note of these suggestions. I know the parliamentary secretary is very diligent in these matters. I hope we can do more than hope that the parliamentary secretary will help us, that we will see some movement to deal with some legislative action after proper study on the question of the Internet. He is nodding his head so I am sure that is what will happen.

The government is making a fundamental mistake regarding the competition provision. It has simply not regarded the importance of having a fair and fully competitive market so that not only consumers are protected but legitimate, honest businessmen and businesswomen are protected too. That part I cannot accept. It is not because of what is in it; it is mostly because of what is not in it. It should have been made tougher, not weaker. We will therefore be voting against this bill although we are very, very supportive of the telemarketing fraud provisions.

Questions On The Order Paper September 21st, 1998

Is the Department of National Defence planning to change the communications systems on the Sea King helicopters and, if so, what is the cost?

Competition Act September 21st, 1998

Madam Speaker, the provisions which have been recommended under Motion No. 6 are pretty standard provisions of most competition legislation and, in particular, of all legislation dealing with warranties and guarantees, basically dealing with representations made not only by someone who makes a product but also by someone who sells a product.

The warranty is a larger legal term than just the type of guarantee you get from a manufacturer for a product that is being sold, statements made about the efficacy of a product, about the standard and quality of a product and indeed about the prices at which products are traditionally being sold are not only made by the person manufacturing the product, who in this day and age is probably in another country altogether, but also by the importer, the wholesaler and the retailer.

Therefore, it is important to include a provision of this sort for greater specificity, for greater protection for consumers and for greater protection for businesses which are honest and forthright because they are being penalized by the deceptive practices of other businesses.

It is important to add this kind of provision. It is a common practice amongst most legislation of this sort. It would add extra specificity to the section dealing with telemarketing practices. It would provide an extra person, who might be responsible, to be pursued legally for damages above and beyond the manufacturer, the importer, the wholesaler and any other retailer. It seems to widen the net a bit to bring in more deceptive practices perpetrated by those businesses which are dishonest and out to cheat Canadians.

I would like to emphasize a point made by last the speaker. It is odd to suggest that a provision such as this, which would prohibit misleading representations to the public concerning the price at which things are sold, which would prohibit representations which are untrue as to the performance, efficacy or length of life of a product, with respect to a warranty or guarantee of a product with regards to repair, replacement and so on, could be damaging to business, at least damaging to legitimate business. If the member wants to protect illegitimate business that is another matter. It would be damaging to those illegitimate businesses which are out to cheat consumers and their competitors in the marketplace.

Surely we are here to present a level playing field for businesses and protection for consumers. If the hon. member looked back at other consumer protection legislation, not only in other parts of the world but throughout Canada, he would have seen that this is a very normal provision and one which would add to the protection of consumers and to the protection of legitimate businesses. It seems to me that it is in everyone's interest.

Competition Act September 21st, 1998

Mr. Speaker, I do not think adding the word Internet to this particular provision in a number of places complicates matters very much.

At the OECD the government, along with the secretary general who is a Canadian, is aggressively pursuing the very question of Internet commerce and how we deal with the abuse of it and how we deal with fraud on the Internet. We are still in the relatively early stages in dealing with the protection of the interests of Internet users in this regard. We are still not sure that secrecy and confidentiality can be fully observed but we are moving in that direction.

To suppose that there is less pressure upon the users of the Internet, the kind of pressure that we have seen forced particularly on older people to send large amounts of money to telemarketers is open to debate. It is not clear to me that the pressure is any less pressing, that we should not respond by adding the Internet in the context of telemarketing. We are talking about a fairly new type of commerce, a new type of interaction, a new type of communication and a new type of media. To walk away from the problems that are already on the Internet and the problems that we can easily foresee seems not to be wise.

I congratulate the member for Lévis-et-Chutes-de-la-Chaudière for adding the provision relating to the Internet and for drawing attention to the implications of the potential for fraud or coercive activity, for misleading representations which persuade people to engage in commerce on the Internet.

With regard to the government's commitment at the OECD level, it was odd that it would not also provide some sort of commitment locally. What does it say about its commitment at the international level that there is no provision within a piece of national legislation which is presently before the House, that the government has left it out altogether.

It is important to draw attention to this question to consider the Internet and the abuse of the Internet in not a very different way than the abuse of telephone marketing. It would be useful if we ensured that our competition policy was up to date to the extent that it was dealing with the way in which commerce is being carried on in the country today. More commerce will be dealt with over the Internet, so we had better get organized to do something about it and not wait until we find out whether or not it is more or less coercive, whether or not it is worse, or whether or not it tricks more people because we know the potential is there.

I urge that we support this provision and not in the words of the member for the Reform Party see it as something terribly complicated. It does not look very complicated to me.

Competition Act September 21st, 1998

Madam Speaker, unlike the last speaker I do not think we should be watering down the competition legislation that we have in Canada. We do not have very tough competition legislation as it is and I think it is important that we maintain close scrutiny over the competitiveness of our marketplace.

It seems to me to be at the cornerstone of the way in which we are to protect consumers and the way we are to create a dynamic economy in the country.

With regard to the specific measures proposed by the Bloc Quebecois, it is important to ensure that there are not easy ways out of misleading representations on the part of corporations. Not only does that harm consumers when they are tricked into buying goods or services that are not as they were represented to be, but legitimate, honest and decent businessmen and women competing with those deceptive businesses suffer losses as well.

We want to ensure that a whole range of options is available to the Government of Canada, to the competition bureau, to ensure that we have vigorous competition in the various marketplaces across the country. Consequently I think it is important to be quite specific about what we expect businesses to do and we need to require them a rather greater standard of care than the government is suggesting here.

It is not surprising that the Liberal government and the Progressive Conservative Party would want to respond to the difficulties businesses face in trying to keep themselves honest and straight with consumers. After all, they receive considerable support from all businesses, those who might be misrepresenting statements as those who are being perfectly above board.

I think we have to call businesses to account to make sure that they actually pay some attention to what they say. I might call attention to the whole raft of letters people may be getting from Reader's Digest and Publishers Clearing House. In the letters, on the envelopes and all across these things they say one has won hundreds of thousands of dollars when quite plainly one has not.

We might say that's a load of nonsense and throw that into the garbage but plainly Publishers Clearing House and Reader's Digest would not be distributing that kind of promotional literature were it not persuasive to some consumers in the marketplace.

In this context it seems to me with these changes Reader's Digest, Publishers Clearing House and others like that would be even freer to distort the marketplace, even freer to gyp honest, hardworking Canadian citizens.

Rather than weaken these provisions I think we should be toughening them. We should be moving toward tougher competition legislation, not because it is hard on business but because it is good for business and it is good for Canadians.

Internet Child Pornography Prevention Act June 11th, 1998

moved for leave to introduce Bill C-424, an act to prevent the use of the Internet to distribute pornographic material involving children.

Mr. Speaker, the purpose of the bill is to prevent the use of the Internet to unlawfully promote, display, describe or facilitate participation in unlawful sexual activity involving young persons.

We know that the possession of child pornography in most circumstances is a crime in Canada but there are significant difficulties with regard to the Internet.

What the bill would do is require the Internet service providers to be licensed by the CRTC and then to constitute an offence for an Internet service provider to knowingly permit the use of its service for the placing of child pornography on the Internet by anyone who has been convicted of an offence or by somebody who is committing an offence under the act.

It also provides for the Minister of Industry to block access to certain types of materials when he or she becomes aware of them. It provides for the use of search warrants on the Internet on the same grounds that would be available for search warrants under the Criminal Code in general.

(Motions deemed adopted, bill read the first time and printed)

National Defence June 4th, 1998

Mr. Speaker, it is pretty evident that this defence minister has been a disaster.

Bearing in mind that the minister has presided over the mishandling of the recommendations of the Somalia inquiry, the mishandling of sexual misconduct and black market activities in Bosnia, outrageously expensive going away parties for retiring generals, low morale and working conditions in the armed forces, untendered sweetheart deals with Bombardier and continuous numerous allegations of sexual harassment in the military which he has called poor performance, when will the Prime Minister get rid of this defence minister? How many strikes does there have to be before he is out?