House of Commons photo

Crucial Fact

  • His favourite word was grain.

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

Won his last election, in 2004, with 74% of the vote.

Statements in the House

Interparliamentary Delegations November 24th, 2005

Mr. Speaker, pursuant to Standing Order 34(1) I have the honour to present to the House, in both official languages, the report of the delegation of the OSCE Canada-Europe Parliamentary Association which represented Canada at the winter meeting of the OSCE Parliamentary Assembly held in Vienna, Austria on February 24 and 25, 2005.

I would like also to present to the House pursuant to Standing Order 34(1), in both official languages, the report of the delegation of the OSCE Canada-Europe Parliamentary Association which represented Canada at the annual session of the OSCE Parliamentary Assembly held in Washington, D.C. in the United States on July 1 to 5, 2005.

Petitions November 22nd, 2005

Mr. Speaker, it is my pleasure this morning to present a petition from constituents in New Brunswick and other areas who call upon the Government of Canada to assert its sovereign right and to declare no rights of passage for LNG tankers through Head Harbour Passage based on Canadian law and the precedent set in 1976 when oil tankers were refused passage.

Agriculture November 1st, 2005

Mr. Speaker, it is a pleasure to speak to the motion of my colleague from Vegreville—Wainwright, the goal of which is to put a tool in the hands of farmers to combat this very destructive pest. This may not be the sort of issue that makes a lot of impact in downtown Ottawa or Toronto, but it is a very important issue for farmers.

The Richardson's ground squirrel, otherwise referred to on the Prairies as a gopher, does a lot of damage to farmers' crops and machinery and does so in many different ways. They are burrowing pests that dig holes in the earth, which could actually be construed as aeration of the soil, I suppose, but they put up big mounds of dirt behind the hole and they attract predators.

The main predator is the badger. The gopher makes a hole about the size of a drinking glass, just large enough for him to slip down into an enlarged borrow at the end of that where there is a very complex maze of tunnels. The badger comes along and digs out the gopher, because the badger is a meat eating animal and the gopher is his prey.

However, the badger digs a hole about the size of your head, Mr. Speaker, or maybe larger, and that is what really causes damage to machinery and livestock. When people ride their horses across their pastures in pursuit of cattle, for instance, and the horse steps in that hole, not only is it damaging to the horse, it is very perilous for the person who happens to be riding the horse.

One of the tools that farmers have traditionally used for decades and decades, with good results and with safety, is the 2% strychnine. Over the last few years we have been able to purchase a 0.4% strychnine premixed base. This comes in small pails, a 20 litre pail or a 10 litre pail, at a cost of $75 a pail, and there is only enough to use on a few acres.

Two of the biggest problems with the premixed strychnine are, number one, the solution is so weak that it is not all that effective, and number two, the grain is damp and sealed up, so if we do not have timely delivery of the stuff in the first place and the proper weather to put out the bait or if we are delayed in putting it out, it very rapidly moulds, making it worthless.

Then the farmer has a $75 per pail investment in a product that is, number one, useless and, number two, difficult to dispose of. Thus, it has to be disposed of properly and if the farmer tries to use it he gets very poor if not negligible results.

Some people who have talked about this have made it quite clear to me that they have no idea of what a gopher even is. They hear “squirrel”. It is not the red squirrel, which we have in western Canada. It is not the grey squirrel, which is common to most of the boreal forest across Canada. It is certainly not the big black squirrel that people see around the Parliament buildings here in Ottawa. These are just nice furry little friends that basically live in the trees. They do not do any harm. They do not do a whole lot of good. They are just there.

What we are talking about is a Richardson's ground squirrel. They are prolific breeders. They have two and three broods a year. If left unchecked, they can ruin a farmer's cropland. Their method of living is to graze off the grain as it comes out of the ground. Each family of gophers will clear off an area that is probably 40 by 40 feet square. They will completely graze that grain off when it is growing up. The reason they do this is that most of their predators come from the air, so they like to be able to see their predators coming. If they are in high grass, it is difficult to get away from their predators and they rely on their speed and the fact that they can go down into their burrow to get away from their predator.

Therefore, when the crop grows up, not only is there the danger to livestock of stepping in the holes made by the badgers that go down digging for the gophers, but there is a loss of crop and a loss of grade.

“Grade” means the quality of the grain that is harvested. There was a grade of oats years ago called “gopher oats”, because after a while the crop did get ahead of the gopher and it headed out way too late to be harvested. When it was harvested the crop had immature and green kernels of oats, so the grade went down the drain. Of course it reduces the yield.

That is the problem. What is the solution?

For years and years the solution has been to use strychnine. Every agricultural service board in the provinces of Alberta, Saskatchewan and Manitoba, in the areas affected by Richardson's ground squirrels, has been utilizing these poisons very reliably and very responsibly with good results for decades and decades.

This problem has resulted in hundreds of millions of dollars in lost revenue for the farmers who cannot really afford to lose any more money. The farm community is really struggling now with poor commodity prices and high input costs. Farmers do not need another blow like this that restricts their control of this rodent.

The other method, other than poisoning, was to trap them. Trapping gophers on a thousand acres of land is a formidable task. It is very time-consuming and very labour intensive. If we were to advocate in the House for trapping with leghold traps, there would be a hue and cry even from the speakers we have heard from today who have been opposing the bill. If they oppose the poison, they would certainly oppose using leghold traps. So not only is that ineffective, it is expensive and labour intensive and there would be great resistance to it from our urban friends.

The other method, of course, is to shoot them. The problem with that is that we never get rid of the problem. If even 1% of the gophers are left on the land, they will do what gophers do and that is reproduce. The more they are hunted and the more pressure put on them, the larger their litters are. Then we end up with more gophers, so we would not get the results that we need.

This is a tool that farmers need. The question that we have to ask ourselves is whether the House cares whether farmers need that tool or not. If members do care, then either we should give them this 2% solution strychnine so they can mix it with their own grain, putting it on a timetable so that it is going to be effective and do the job that it is intended to do, or else we should come up with an alternative.

Has anyone offered an alternative in the 12 years that the 2% solution has been outlawed? No. Nobody has come up with any alternatives. Besides that, no one has done any studies to see whether or not birds of prey and pets and other unintended animals get into the poison. No one has done any of those things. They have just made a lot of assumptions. What has been assumed is that it is poison, it has to be dangerous, and therefore it has to be bad.

What has been done is that this tool has been taken away from the farmers. We might just as well take away their fuel as do this. It is one of those things that farmers must have. Farming is a very complex business. It has become a very marginal business as well, so anything farmers can do to improve their bottom line is absolutely essential for the economy of the farm.

Why have there not been any proper studies done on this? The government has to answer that question. There have not been any proper studies and I want to know why. I am certain that my colleague from Vegreville—Wainwright would like to know as well why there have not been any studies on this. I commend him for having stuck with this issue since 1993. Basically he has been the lone voice crying out for a method to control this pest.

If this were a pest causing as much damage to Highway 401 in Toronto, for instance, there would be a solution to this by now. Somebody would have come up with a solution to make sure that the 401 was freed of such a pest if it were causing the same kind of havoc to that highway as the Richardson's ground squirrel is causing for the farmers that my colleague from Vegreville--Wainwright and I represent.

We look forward to the day when we can use 2% strychnine, mix it with our own grain, and create our own bait to get this job done.

An Act to authorize the Minister of Finance to make certain payments June 16th, 2005

Mr. Speaker, I certainly appreciate the hon. member's hyperbole, but that is exactly what it is, hyperbole.

What my leader said was that this is not a budget with which we are thrilled, this is not a budget that we feel is sufficient to bring down the government, and this is a budget we can live with.

Just for the sake of the people who are watching and for the sake of Hansard , let us not confuse the budget that the hon. member is talking about, Bill C-43, and this back of the napkin or back of the envelope budget, whichever we like, Bill C-48, which was cobbled together at the last minute by the Liberal government, the finance minister, the NDP and of course Buzz Hargrove. I do not know how they could ever have managed to get this just right without Buzz Hargrove. Apparently that is what it takes.

That is what we are discussing here today. They are two separate and completely distinct bills. Bill C-43, on which I have answered the previous questioner, is the one that we did support, and Bill C-48 is the one we do not support.

An Act to authorize the Minister of Finance to make certain payments June 16th, 2005

Mr. Speaker, it is really quite simple. Because we voted to support Bill C-43, we did not vote to prolong the life of the government across the way. We voted for Bill C-43 because it contains some measures we supported, some measures of which we were actually the instigators.

Some things in Bill C-43 came right out of the Conservative policy book. For instance, although the gasoline tax rebate is watered down somewhat in Bill C-43, that was a Conservative plan some eight or nine years ago. I know that the hon. member who asked the question will recall that my colleague Mr. Morrison, from Cypress Hills--Grasslands in Saskatchewan, put forth a private member's bill suggesting exactly the same thing.

The other reason that I personally voted for it was that it gave Newfoundland and Labrador and Nova Scotia control over their natural resources. This is also a policy that we have long advocated and are glad to see come in.

Why did we vote for the bill? Because we were not in a position to separate out the things we like about Bill C-43 and vote for them, and separate out the things we do not like about Bill C-43 and vote against them. Therefore, we had to vote to support the entire bill, because it did contain at least two measures that we both instigated and support.

An Act to authorize the Minister of Finance to make certain payments June 16th, 2005

Mr. Speaker, we are talking about Bill C-48 and I would like to remind members that the title of the bill is “An Act to authorize the Minister of Finance to make certain payments”.

It is a pretty short title and it does not tell us a whole lot. It does not tell people across Canada whether this means that we are going to pay the power bill or that it includes $4.6 billion. It is a deal that was written up on the back of a napkin between the government and the NDP.

The member who just spoke prior to me talked about the unholy alliance between the Conservatives and the Bloc Québécois. Let me point out to him and to Canadians watching that there is no such alliance on this side of the House. There is, however, one on the other side of the House and it is the NDP propping up a corrupt government that does not deserve to be propped up.

The goal of a Conservative government would be to provide Canadians with the highest standard of living of anyone in the world. We would do that by reducing taxation. Taxation has brought us to the place where we are today.

The last surplus forecast was $1.9 billion. It turned out that whoever was looking after the books was dyslexic because it happened to be $9.1 billion and what did the government do with that surplus? In the face of an impending election it ran around the country and tried to run the cupboard completely bare. That is the whole idea behind running these large surpluses.

I will get back to the unholy alliance, or the shotgun wedding perhaps, between the two parties over there. I do not know which one of them is the bride and which is the groom. I would suggest that the smaller party be very wary of doing business with the Liberals because they have a practice of not following through with their promises.

I would refer that party to the long gun registry where the Liberals said to trust them because this was a bill that was going to reduce crime. It was going to take the guns out of the hands of the people in Canada who should not have guns and it was going to make us all a lot safer in our homes. It was going to reduce gang violence, it was going to do all these wonderful things, and it was only going to cost Canadians $2 million. Guess what? We are at $2 billion and counting and today we heard the Deputy Prime Minister vow, and brag actually, that the annual payments into the long gun registry are going to be capped at a mere $68 million a year. What wonderful news. I am sure that all Canadians are going to be thankful that they will be safer now because of the $68 million.

A Conservative government would put more decisions into the hands of the people who actually pay taxes. How would we do that? For one thing we would tax fewer dollars away from them. I have a daughter who is teaching school in Edmonton. I have another daughter who is married and has two young children, and they are scraping to get by in order to put a few dollars away for the education of their children. The children are two years and six months of age, but the parents are doing their best to put some money away to ensure that those kids get a college education if that is what they want.

How are they trying to do that? They are both working, so that one of them can pay the bills, the mortgage and put groceries on the table, and the other one works to pay their taxes. While we are talking about taxes, why is it that there was no tax relief in the budget? Why is it that there was no debt reduction in the budget? Why indeed was the budget ever written up?

It is pretty obvious that the reason it was written up was to save the political skin of the Prime Minister and his corrupt party. It was pretty obvious also that if all of these things were such wonderful Liberal ideas, they would have been included in the original budget. They were not.

I again warn my colleagues in the NDP to be very cautious of who they are dealing with here. If people want to do business with someone or invest in a company, they should have a look at the prospectus and the track record. I think the NDP members have been here long enough that they should know the track record of the outfit they are dealing with. I just say to them caveat emptor , let the buyer beware.

We talked about the huge reserves that have been built up over the years. I find it passing strange and difficult to comprehend how this thinking goes. Here is a government that has in the neighbourhood a $10 billion surplus in its last budget. There was no mention of help to agriculture in Bill C-48 at all.

At one time I believe I do remember people such as Stanley Knowles and Tommy Douglas saying that they were the friends of the farmer. As a matter of fact, the birthplace of the CCF, the forerunner of the NDP, was Saskatchewan, a province famous for its agriculture. There is no mention whatsoever of agriculture in this napkin budget.

I want to remind people that in 1994 the previous government made a commitment to upgrade the military helicopters. The Conservative government had made a deal to buy some EH 101 helicopters, so that the military would have machines that would fly when required, and the military would not have to go to the archives to obtain parts for these machines.

The helicopter deal was scrubbed, as everyone knows, at a cost of $600 million. Thanks to the Liberal government the taxpayers of Canada were on the hook for $600 million just to get out of the deal. We still do not have those helicopters.

That was a big commitment. Former Prime Minister Chrétien said that the government was working on that. I believe the terms he used were ones that the Deputy Prime Minister likes to use, “without further delay” or “in due course of time” or whatever. It did not happen. We still do not have the helicopters.

It is now 12 years after the promise was made to upgrade the helicopters for our Canadian military. We still do not have those helicopters. Today we have helicopters that require 30 hours of maintenance for every hour of flight. That is the kind of deal that the NDP has entered into. This is the type of party that it has entered into with this deal. It is a party that is notorious for not keeping its word. I do not know if it is parliamentary for me to say so, but I think that the Liberal Party is being duplicitous about this.

I have been here since 1993 and the government has continually racked up surpluses. The government has done very little, although it has made token payments on the debt, about $3 billion a year. In this budget and actually in Bill C-43, I did not see any payment on the debt.

I know that if the government were paying down the debt, it would reduce the $40 billion a year that we pay out in interest. That money, that we pay out for the party that we have had, is money that could be returned to the taxpayer in the form of just leaving more money in their pockets. I am a great believer that a dollar left in the hands of the taxpayer is far better used than a dollar that is sent here for the government to squander.

Agriculture June 8th, 2005

Mr. Speaker, entering year three of the beef ban, Canadian cattle producers are struggling to survive. Consumers continue to support the beleaguered cattle industry, but its future rests with United States judges. Why? Because the Canadian government has not stepped up to open the key U.S. border or even stood up for our producers in the court proceedings.

The Conservative Party is standing up for Canadian cattle producers. Sixty-nine Conservative MPs and senators have applied for intervener status in the R-CALF and USDA court dispute. If R-CALF is successful in expanding its injunction to include boxed beef and other ruminant products in addition to live cattle under 30 months of age, the possibility of a complete collapse of our cattle industry becomes a reality.

Farmers and cattle producers are a resilient lot, but when they are in dire straits, they and all the communities that rely on their success should be able to count on their government to help them fight for their livelihoods.

Petitions June 6th, 2005

Mr. Speaker, on behalf of constituents in Wetaskiwin, Ma-Me-O Beach, Millet and Westerose, I am pleased under Standing Order 36 to present a petition on their behalf.

The petitioners say that marriage is the best foundation for raising children. They note that the institution is under many challenges in Canada. They also note that the institution of marriage and its definition is the exclusive jurisdiction of Canada's Parliament. The petitioners therefore pray that Parliament pass legislation to recognize the institution of marriage in federal law as being a lifelong union of one man and one woman.

Petitions June 1st, 2005

Mr. Speaker, I have the honour to present a petition from some 300 people from Bluffton, Winfield, Rimbey, Westrose and points west in my riding.

The petitioners call upon the government to allow, in the same sex issue, a free vote by all members of Parliament and an opportunity for those members to petition their constituents to find out how to vote on such a matter and the opportunity to vote freely on that same matter.

An Act to Authorize the Minister of Finance to Make Certain Payments May 16th, 2005

Madam Speaker, I want to add my voice to those who wish our colleague from Glengarry--Prescott--Russell well in his retirement. In all the time I have served here, I have found that whenever he gives his word on something, we can pretty much take that to the bank.

However, I would like to question him a little on his theory that Canadians are not ready for an election 10 or 11 months, or 12 as it may turn out, after the last one. If the tables were turned and if it were a Conservative government on that side of the House that had been charged with one of the largest scandals in Canadian history, of funnelling hundreds of millions of dollars into their private constituency associations, would he find himself more benevolent perhaps than we are or would he go for the jugular vein, kind of like the rat pack that he used to lead?