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Crucial Fact

  • His favourite word was industry.

Last in Parliament November 2005, as Conservative MP for Peace River (Alberta)

Won his last election, in 2004, with 65% of the vote.

Statements in the House

The Budget March 8th, 2005

Mr. Speaker, I am grateful for the opportunity to speak today on the budget. I will be splitting my time with the member for Fleetwood—Port Kells.

Last week when the budget came down a lot of us were concerned about the way it was structured. In fact, I would almost term this budget 2008 instead of budget 2005 because so many aspects of it are back-end loaded. Given that this is a minority Parliament, I think this is a significant issue. There is a real likelihood that this government will not be here to implement the very programs that it is talking about in 2007, 2008 and 2009. That is probably a good thing in that Canadians will have an opportunity to shake things up in the near future.

To start with, for the government to bring in a five year budget is a problem for me. I would prefer to see a one year budget. I would like to see what the government intends to do in this next year. I think that is the most responsible position that a government can bring forward, because to some extent the rest of it is pie in the sky.

Even if the government were to be re-elected, there is no assurance that what it is introducing in this budget for the subsequent years will be implemented. In fact, we have seen just the opposite of that in many cases, where events overrun that five year timeframe and the government's priorities change significantly. Therefore, I think it is of little use to be projecting five years ahead.

Let us look at the budget for a moment. The budget the government did bring forward for this period of five years has been very severely back-end loaded. The government talks about changes to the income tax personal basic exemption, from $8,000 to $10,000. There is only a $100 change this year and next. The rest is all back-end loaded into the last three years of the budget.

What this really means is that the average Canadian would have a $16 tax cut as a result of this change this year. I hope Canadians do not spend it all in one place. Would that not be a major change in the economy? The fact that $16 is all that is really being talked about here is quite significant.

The same applies to the proposed corporate tax cut. It goes in the right direction, but it is not enough and it is not timely. Corporate tax rates are going from 21% to 19%.

I have been involved with both the industry committee and the finance committee. We have had a lot of different studies on this very subject of what should happen on corporate tax rates. Why have Canadians been stuck in a mould over the last 40 years where our GDP or our standard of living has been only about 85% of that of the United States? Some people say that we should not compare the two standards of living, but the United States is our major trading partner and competitor and I think it is relevant. In fact, group after group that has come to our committees over the years has said exactly that.

What does it mean when we say that our standard of living is only 85% of that of the United States? It means that the average Canadian family is taking home $24,000 Canadian less than the average American family takes home. What could Canadians do with that $24,000? They could put an extra $2,000 a month on their mortgages. That is pretty significant. That is the kind of opportunity we have given up as a result of the Liberals being in control for the last almost 12 years.

In fact, we have seen a number of other areas slip as well. We have seen Canadian investment on a constant decline. We have seen the world share of direct foreign investment in Canada decline every year for the last 30 years.

In fact, we have seen Canadians increasingly looking outside our country for opportunities, so we then have a net outflow of foreign investment. That is not good for the country. Investment in Canada brings in innovation. It brings in the newest technologies. When Canadians have an opportunity to upgrade their factories and their businesses with this new technology, they are able to compete better. We have to ask why it is that people are looking outside Canada or in other places for investment.

It comes back to the mismanagement of the economy by this Liberal government. The Liberals have a very short term vision and it is not good enough. Canadians are looking for opportunity. They are looking to realize their full potential. They are not able to do that under this administration, which is wasting billions of dollars of Canadians' money on the wrong priorities and in not getting off Canadians' backs and letting them achieve their potential.

Our standard of living is 85% of that of the United States. If we look at it structurally, what is the reason for some of this?

I would say that its genesis goes back about 30 or 40 years to the Trudeau era. Canadian unemployment rates are now consistently about 4% higher than those in the United States, even though for about 100 years preceding this we could chart the different sectors of the Canadian economy and the U.S. economy, the growth, the employment and the unemployment, and they looked very similar because we went through the same business cycles.

In the 1970s substantial changes were made to the unemployment or employment program, which structurally have factored in about a 4% difference between the U.S. and Canada, Canada being 4% higher. We have seen growth in the size of government over that same period.

Why is it that up until about 30 years ago all levels of government spending in Canada were at about 30% of the economy? In the United States it was about 30% as well. Let us look at the situation 30 years later. The United States government takes up 29.5% of the GDP of the country. Canada's has now moved to 41%. In 30 years we have increased the government's role in the economy by about 12%. If that was all constructive spending, maybe that would be good, but we see a lot of areas where it is not. We are into all kinds of areas such as subsidizing corporations and I do not think that is what Canadians want.

This budget should have addressed a number of issues that it did not. In prebudget hearings, our finance committee had a lot of input from Canadians who were saying that they are being taxed too heavily, but the government did not appear to listen on the issue of capital taxes, which were identified as a job killer. Why is it that a government would tax people on the size of their business, on the capital of their business, even though it does not make any difference if it is a profitable business or not? This has really inhibited growth and investment.

On corporate taxes, as I have said, the government is saying it will move them down from 21% to 19% over the next five years. There is nothing for the first three years. It is all factored into the last two years.

Even so, there is something called the effective corporate tax rates versus what shows up on paper, and there are a whole lot of other areas that enter into how corporate taxes are considered. These would be things like capital gains tax, capital tax and all of that, but the effective corporate tax rate difference between the United States and Canada means that Canada's corporate tax rates are roughly 31.5% right now. That is the effective rate when everything is factored in. In the United States it is 20.1%. That is a spread of more than 11%. That is not good enough when we have to compete with the very country next door that has opportunities which Canadians do not enjoy.

On the capital gains tax, we still have a 50% inclusion rate on capital gains tax. That again is described as a job killer, an investment killer.

On the capital cost allowance, there were numerous requests to change the capital cost allowance so that companies could write off certain sectors a lot faster when they make investments. For some investments in technology, for example, the technology is gone in a few years because it becomes outdated.

On unemployment or employment overcharges, we still see this government overcharging employers and employees every year.

Our personal tax rates are the highest in the OECD and there are surpluses that somehow magically are predicted to be low when the government brings down the budget but then when year-end comes they are about four times as high. The government is doing the same thing again this year.

This type of accounting is what was heavily criticized in the corporate sector, yet it is this same government and the same Prime Minister who, when he was finance minister, criticized the corporate sector for corporate malfeasance in this area, and they are in the same category year after year. For seven years the Liberals have underestimated and lowballed the surplus and they have done it again this year.

I would say that this budget, while it contains some good things, has many glaring errors in it and does not go nearly far enough.

Supply February 22nd, 2005

Mr. Speaker, I think that is pretty irrelevant to the issue. Quite frankly, if the member feels so strongly that this is a good program, and it probably is, what would be wrong with letting the Auditor General have a look at it? I see nothing wrong with it. It gets back to the credibility issue again. If the Auditor General is not allowed to look at it, it creates a problem.

The member raised the other issue about pre-funding. I think he will know, and the Auditor General confirmed yesterday, that departments are not allowed to pre-fund programs. An exception was made for the foundations. The member should know that. If he does not, I would advise him to check the Auditor General's response in the health committee yesterday.

Supply February 22nd, 2005

Mr. Speaker, my colleague's question was well put. He asked whether the Auditor General's being able to audit the foundations would inhibit the foundations' ability to act. I do not think it would. I do not think it inhibits the ability of the departments to act on the different programs within the departments that she audits now.

What she does bring to this is a measurement. There is some measurement that the public can see through their parliamentarians of whether the goals of an organization as outlined in its mandate and rules are being achieved.

It seems to me that the more transparency we can bring to this process, the better off we will be. Credibility in the whole process is very important. Canadians are participating less in the democratic process. The voter turnout in the last election was only about 60%. As people are really concerned about the way matters are being handled here in the nation's capital, it has the ability to turn people off in terms of voting. If they think they are not being listened to, or if elected members are not being listened to, or if they are not getting the proper respect, people get turned off in the process.

The more transparency we can bring to this, the more accountability of taxpayers' dollars, the better off we all will be, especially as it pertains to the corporate sector. The corporate sector has gone through some tough times. I remember the current Prime Minister when he was finance minister giving a speech in Toronto a few years ago. He lectured the corporate sector to get its corporate governance in order. I would give him the same advice.

Supply February 22nd, 2005

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to rise today in the debate on our motion with regard to the Auditor General. I would like to thank my colleague from Medicine Hat, our finance critic, for bringing this subject forward.

It is a very important topic. It is timely in the sense that the Auditor General has again come out and recommended that foundations be put under her purview in terms of auditing. It is also important to tell the House that it is not only the current Auditor General who has made that recommendation.

When the former finance minister, now the Prime Minister, brought this practice into being in 1997, we had a different auditor general. That auditor general, Mr. Desautels, also was very concerned about the practice. I think his concerns have been borne out.

We have seen the corporate sector struggle through some pretty bad accounting practices. I am not sure how the government of the land can lecture the corporate sector on cleaning up their corporate governance, corporate malfeasance, when we have the same kind of practices from our own government. I suggest the government tries to get things off the books for political purposes.

Of over $9 billion that has been set aside for these foundations, only $1.3 billion has been spent. This means there is $7.7 billion sitting in bank accounts or investments by those foundations. The bottom line is the foundations did not need that $7.7 billion at all. Why is that important? It is important because this is basically the tax money of Canadians. It is revenue that went into these foundations which has not been used. The money is sitting there gathering interest.

What does that mean to the average person? It could mean a substantial tax cut, or it was overtaxation during that period of time of $7.7 billion. It is fairly significant, considering that the Liberals brag about their tax cut in 2000 of $100 billion, although the real numbers are more like $40 billion. However, when we stack up that almost $8 billion against the $40 billion, it would be a significant tax cut.

Yesterday the Auditor General was at the health committee. I was sitting in committee for one of my colleagues. I normally sit on the finance committee. Yesterday the health committee was reviewing the federal government's administered drug program for aboriginal people, the RCMP and the different groups that fall under that purview.

I had the opportunity to ask her questions about why she thought it was important for foundations to be brought under her mandate. She said that it was for the purpose of parliamentarians. The Auditor General is an officer of this House. It also is for Canadians. My analysis of what she said is that in many cases, although there are internal audits done in organizations, the audits are fairly narrow in scope and they do not always uncover some of the problems.

I do not think I have ever seen an Auditor General's report that has been tabled in the House in the almost 12 years I have been here that did not identify some problems in practices with this federal government's administration. The hope is those practices will be corrected, and in many cases they are.

I suggest that if the Auditor General had not identified them, if the credibility of her office was not out there and she did not raise this in a public manner, then they may not have been addressed. In many cases she has to go back and review it, and some of those changes have still not been made.

The office of the Auditor General does Canadians a great service and it should be extended to the business of the foundations.

If we wanted to go to the really hypothetical, we could say why do not pre-fund all departments? That is basically what we are doing with the foundations. However, it is not allowed under the rules of Parliament. It was not allowed up until 1997 when the foundations were brought into being by the current Prime Minister. Then exceptions were made for the foundations. Therefore, if the principle is good enough for ordinary day to today operations in the department, then it is good enough for the foundations as well. I cannot see any harm in having the Auditor General look at these foundations.

One member raised the point that she was not aware of any problems. Looking from the outside, how could anyone see any problems? How could anyone see any problems with the sponsorship scandal? We did not know that some of the agencies even existed. They were hidden from Parliament. Therefore, it is important that the Auditor General has that ability to look at it

My colleague from Medicine Hat talked about the prebudget hearings, which both he and I sat in for almost two months in the fall and into early December. Hundreds of Canadians and Canadian organizations came before our committee to tell us what their priorities were. Many of them identified the problems with predicting budgets and budget surpluses, and rightfully so. I think for the last seven years the government has underestimated the budget surpluses by almost $95 billion.

I talked about credibility. The credibility of the government is at stake in these kinds of operations. These Canadians told us that they did not want this practice to continue. They wanted parliamentarians to be better informed about the fiscal numbers. In fact, we discussed that with them. My colleague raised the issue that the finance committee took direction from the House, from the throne speech amendments, that we set up an independent fiscal forecasting process that was responsible to the finance committee. In fact, I will be going over at eleven o'clock to hear the committee's first report, and hope to have questions for it.

What we would have from the fiscal forecasting committee would be a timely analysis of what Canada's fiscal situation would be on a quarterly basis so Canadians, through their parliamentarians, would have a better idea of the current fiscal status of the country. Whether it is surpluses, deficits or whatever, we need to know that because pertinent policy decisions need to be made. Perhaps the finance department has had it in the past but parliamentarians certainly have not, with the exception of the fiscal update in November of last year.

My understanding is that even since November, there have been substantial changes to those numbers. Therefore, if we have that on a timely basis, it would keep us better informed in the same way the Auditor General's auditing reports on foundations could keep us better informed. We could find out whether these foundations were following their mandates.

I think it is a natural flow. In fact, I would go so far as to say it is unnatural that we would exempt the foundations from the Auditor General's scrutiny. I am not sure why the government did that, although it is now clear that there is $7.7 billion in the banks accounts or investments of foundations that would normally have shown up as larger surpluses than we even had.

It is important to get hold of this. We think the government probably will embark on further endeavours with these foundations or trusts that will not be answerable to the Auditor General. She will not have a chance to look at their books, and that does not serve Canadians very well.

I have great faith in the Auditor General's department. The department does us proud. We hopefully can have better use of taxpayer money. Every time a dollar is wasted, it is a dollar of taxpayer money that could be left in their pockets or better spent in some other way.

It is all about that. Canadians are one of the highest taxed countries anywhere in the industrial world. If we can save some dollars by having less government misspending, that is important. We need the department to fully look at all the books of the operations of the Government of Canada, including the foundations. If there are further trusts or foundations anticipated in the budget tomorrow, I hope the House will vote to give the Auditor General the ability to audit these organizations.

Petitions February 18th, 2005

Mr. Speaker, I have one petition today containing 25 signatures. The petitioners call upon Parliament to recognize the institution of marriage as being the lifelong union of one man and one woman to the exclusion of all others.

Natural Resources February 14th, 2005

Mr. Speaker, it gets worse. We have found out that the entire arbitration process has been derailed after John Gill, one of the panel members, removed himself from the case before it was concluded. The Prime Minister rewarded Mr. Gill for chairing the last Liberal federal election campaign in Alberta by appointing him to the Court of Queen's Bench just a few weeks ago.

Five years of work has gone down the drain. Landowners are left with nothing. Why is the minister letting political patronage get in the way of justice?

Natural Resources February 14th, 2005

Mr. Speaker, while the Minister of Natural Resources considers pipeline applications for gas from the Canadian Arctic, there are still many unresolved disputes resulting from the last major pipeline that went through my constituency.

Just listen to the problems these landlords have had to face. In May 2000, landowners requested that the minister-appointed arbitration panel settle disputes. In May 2001, the minister finally appointed the panel. In March 2002, the panel finally began hearings, and in February 2005, there is still no decision.

After five years, can the minister not see that justice delayed is justice denied?

Finance February 14th, 2005

Mr. Speaker, we are witnessing history being made by the Standing Committee on Finance. In response to instructions from the Speech from the Throne concerning the provision of independent fiscal advice for parliamentarians, the committee has launched a new forecasting process. It will be based on the most up to date fiscal and economic data. It will be free of the Enron-style tactics we have seen from the Minister of Finance.

Canadians are tired of the games that Liberal finance ministers have played with the budget estimates and fiscal forecasts. Their history of lowballing federal surpluses has robbed parliamentarians and the public of an informed debate on federal spending priorities. Canadians deserve better. The members of the Standing Committee on Finance are doing their best to ensure this budget debate will be different.

Finance February 10th, 2005

Mr. Speaker, my question is for the chairman of the Standing Committee on Finance.

Today a motion was adopted at the Standing Committee on Finance instructing the chairman to sign the contracts for four specialists in budgetary estimates to conduct quarterly updates of the estimated fiscal balance, with the assistance of the officials of the Department of Finance, by the end of the business day.

This motion was a follow up instruction in relation to an earlier instruction from the committee and motion of the committee on December 1, 2004 that was approved.

Is it the intention of the chairman of the finance committee to comply with the instruction of the committee, or is he--

Department of International Trade Act February 7th, 2005

Madam Speaker, I do not know if I can answer my colleague's question directly. For a couple of years I have not been involved in that department. I would need to know a bit more about it, but I think it probably has the potential for doing a lot of good.

I know that some very good work has come out of the department and out of the standing committee, but what bothers me is that the member made the statement that we cannot do things today the way we did 20 years ago. I agree, but I have a problem with that because I see the same things being done by the government that it was doing 20 years ago.

Why is it that the government cannot afford to give a tax break to our Canadian companies? Part of the reason is that it has grown the size of government. All levels of government are involved. It is not just the federal government but all levels of government that are involved in this. Thirty years ago, the size of government in Canada was about 30% of GDP of the country. Our major trading partner and competitor, the United States, was at about 30% at the same time.

Today the size of the government versus the GDP in the United States is 29%, but Canada has grown our government to 42%. If that were all constructive, it would not be a problem, but I see a lot of waste in government. I do not buy into the fact that government can do things better than the private sector in the areas that the private sector has specialized in. I do not know why we are still in some of those areas. To some extent we have not recognized that we have a productivity problem in this country. It has been in the making for the last 30 years. I blame part of that on the size of the government itself, on the fact that we are collecting so many taxes from Canadians to pay for government.

In regard to what we can do at the World Trade Organization, the member said that Canada has been showing leadership. I would just point out that in the area of trade liberalization, as I said earlier, I think it is pretty well accepted that trade liberalization has enabled a lot of countries to really pick up their standard of living. I think it is pretty well an accepted fact that the fewer tariffs and subsidies there are around the world the better the economy works, with more flow of goods and services at a price that people can afford.

How can Canada go to the World Trade Organization talks, whether it was at the old Doha or Uruguay rounds, and say that it wants market access to be opened to Canadian products but in turn access to our markets would be denied on certain products? It is not consistent. What I have maintained is that it puts us in a position where we are marginalized, because people say we are not free traders at all, that all we want is a sweetheart deal for our own products.

Those are a couple of areas that I would point out to the member.