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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

Civil Marriage Act May 2nd, 2005

Madam Speaker, marriage is a time honoured institution that has stood the test of time and is one of the key foundations on which our society has been built. For thousands of years, marriage has been recognized as the union of one man and one woman. Since Confederation, marriage in Canadian law has been defined as the voluntary union of one man and one woman to the exclusion of all others. I believe that this definition of marriage has served society well and should be retained.

Since I was first elected here in 1993, Parliament has passed legislation to provide benefits formerly available only to heterosexual marriage spouses to common law partnerships and same sex couples. These initiatives were designed to bring equality into the system and we were assured time and again by the Liberal government that these changes would not affect the definition of marriage.

Canadian Alliance MPs were concerned that our constituents wanted more assurances that there would not be a change, so in June 1999, as my colleague just referred to, we proposed a motion that said:

That, in the opinion of the House, it is necessary, in light of public debate around recent court decisions, to state that marriage is and should remain the union of one man and one woman to the exclusion of all others and that Parliament will take all necessary steps...to preserve this definition of marriage in Canada.

Liberal MPs, cabinet ministers, the prime minister of the day, the current Prime Minister and the former justice minister, who today is the Deputy Prime Minister, all voted to reaffirm the traditional definition of marriage and to take all necessary steps to preserve that definition.

Here is what the Deputy Prime Minister, the only Liberal serving in Alberta in Edmonton at the time and right now, had to say about the government's intentions, “Let me state for the record that the government has no intention of changing the definition of marriage or legislating same sex marriages”. She went on to confirm her support when she said:

I support the motion for maintaining the clear legal definition of marriage in Canada as the union of one man and one woman to the exclusion of all others.

I fundamentally do not believe that it is necessary to change the definition of marriage in order to accommodate the equality issues around same sex partners which now face us as Canadians.

With the full support of the current Prime Minister and the key players on the government frontbench, the motion passed overwhelmingly: 215 to 55.

In September 2003 we proposed a motion to reaffirm that marriage is and should remain the union of one man and one woman to the exclusion of all others, just four years after the first time. This time the Liberals did an about face and the Prime Minister and the Deputy Prime Minister voted against reaffirming the traditional definition of marriage. What a flip-flop. When they do not dither, they flip-flop.

If Canadians cannot trust the Prime Minister's word on this, how can they be expected to trust his word on anything?

Conservatives believe that the vast majority of Canadians believe that marriage is a fundamental distinct institution, but that same sex couples can have equivalent rights and benefits.

The Leader of the Opposition, my leader, has tabled reasonable and thoughtful amendments to the bill. We believe the law should continue to recognize the traditional definition of marriage as the union of one man and one woman to the exclusion of all others. We would propose that other forms of union, however structured by appropriate provincial legislation, whether they are called registered partnerships, domestic partnerships, civil unions or whatever, should be entitled to the same legal rights, privileges and obligations as marriage. Where there are issues affecting rights and benefits within the federal domain, our party would ensure that for all federal purposes those Canadians living in other forms of union would be recognized as having equal rights and benefits under the law.

We believe this is what most Canadians want. Recent public polls, and apparently even polls that the Liberals themselves have taken, show that nationally two out of every three Canadians are opposed to changing the definition of marriage.

The issue of same sex marriage may have divided some Canadians, but not in my constituency of Wetaskiwin where there is overwhelming support for the traditional definition of marriage. I did a survey and I received overwhelming support for the traditional definition.

This is what is said by some of the hundreds of letters I received on the subject. These are letters from my constituents. One resident from the town of Calmar, who feels the definition is critically important to the health of our society, said, “I hate to think what will happen to our society if same sex marriage is allowed. “What a disaster”, this person writes.

From Wetaskiwin, other constituents voice their opinions:

Marriage is an institution with deep religious, social and cultural significance. I want it to remain as a relationship between a man and a woman. History proves that when the traditional family unit is strong, a nation prospers.

I am not opposed to recognizing contractual relationships between two men and two women, which ensures them the same legal benefits as married couples. However, such a contract should not be called marriage.

Another man from Wetaskiwin wrote:

Marriage is a unique institution and it is not equal to any other form of relationship due to its status and character. Same sex unions should have their own special status and unique character under the law as heterosexual marriages are currently defined by our constitution...

Another person from Ponoka wrote, “I am not opposed to a civil union for homosexuals, but churches should not be forced to marry them and they will be if this law is passed”.

A couple from the historic town of Rocky Mountain House wrote:

We seek the preservation of the current definition of marriage. Rights for all individuals in our society are already protected by existing legislation. Any further protection can easily be provided without any need to attempt to change the definition of marriage”.

Canadians want to have a say on legislation and we were hopeful when we learned that the Prime Minister promised to expand the mandate of the legislative committee studying Bill C-38, but there is a wrinkle. There is always a wrinkle when we are dealing with the Liberals. As usual, the promise is not all it is made out to be. I think that is something that the NDP is rapidly learning. So far the legislative committee does not have the authority to hear anything but technical evidence. According to the Standing Orders of the House of Commons, special legislative committees can hear witnesses only on technical matters and, as such, the committee itself has no jurisdiction to change its mandate.

I agree with my colleague from Provencher that the Liberal decision to refer Bill C-38 to such a legislative committee is part of a broader Liberal pattern to ignore the views of Canadians on the legislation.

The Liberals do not want Canadians to know that their government cannot adequately protect religious freedoms in federal legislation. It is troubling that the Liberal bill provides little in the way of assurances that religious freedoms will be protected if the legal definition of marriage is changed. It is bound to be challenged. We already saw some precedents just last week in a court decision when a judge said that the freedom of religion was not absolute.

The Liberals try to assure the public that they will protect religious freedoms, but in reality, the solemnization of marriage is a provincial responsibility. Bill C-38 does not do what the government is promising Canadians it will do.

The problem is the Supreme Court has already ruled that this clause is beyond the federal government's authority because provinces are responsible for performing marriage ceremonies. There is only one clause that protects and it is not a good one. They are not provided any specific statutory protection of religious freedom in the areas of their own jurisdiction.

I know my time is running short and I want to get two more quotes in.

This quote is from Lang Michener and is a legal opinion. It states:

There is little doubt that, if passed, Bill C-38 will be used by provincial governments and others to override the rights of conscience and religion of ordinary Canadians. Public officials will in all likelihood lose their employment simply because of their conscientious convictions. It is our view that your constituents, including religious groups and the members of religious groups, will face expensive and ruinous lawsuits.

I would like to quote a Catholic organization leaflet that I saw the other day which sums this up nicely. It states:

As an institution, marriage has an enormous significance, and has existed for thousands of years. The word we use for this institution--marriage--is full of history, meaning and symbolism, and should be kept for this unique reality.

I oppose this bill at every stage.

Canada Grain Act April 18th, 2005

Madam Speaker, that certainly is a shortcoming in the whole WTO. The way it is set up now, the Americans would be foolish not to challenge our goods entering their country.

Even when we win the dispute, we do not really win the dispute. We are not properly compensated. I think that if they put up an embargo against our hogs, lumber or whatever and it goes to the tribunal, the tribunal rules in our favour, we should be in a position to apply for recompense. Otherwise, if they find in our favour over and again then it gets to the point where it appears that the challenges are frivolous and vexatious, and I think there should be some kind of a penalty attached. At the moment there is not. I think that is a true shortcoming.

Canada Grain Act April 18th, 2005

Madam Speaker, I see an opening. I really cannot speculate as to why the government would wait until the last day at the eleventh hour, other than to speculate perhaps that it just simply places a low priority on something like this, which is a tremendous mistake.

As I said in my comments, not only is agriculture in a financial crisis, but in the west we suffered through a drought for the last four years when we just barely got by, fortunately not so far this year. Members will recall the hay west initiative that started in this part of the country where hay was shipped out west to us. It was very unusual thing, but it was a very neighbourly gesture. It is the kind of thing one would expect a farmer to do for a farmer. We were overwhelmed by the generosity of Ontarians.

However, we are completely underwhelmed by the performance of the government when it comes to agriculture. I have been asked to speculate and I can only speculate it is because the Liberals place such a low priority on this. To put this into perspective, imagine farmers with herds of cattle and land bases. They can put up enough feed to keep the cattle through the winter and enough pasture to keep the cattle through the summer. Then they are faced with several years of drought where their feed supplies dwindle off and they should be selling off the cattle, but the cannot because there is no market for them. Can we think of a worse situation than that? I cannot think of a worse situation for any business to be in.

It is like being in the shoe business in a community of people who have no feet. That is exactly the kind of situation in which they are. There is no market and there is no feed for the cattle. Every year there are more cattle because they cannot be sold.

For some years now we have been trying to get this message across to the government that there is a crisis in agriculture because of the BSE, the low commodity prices, the drought and the high debt load. If farmers cannot sell their product, they have to borrow money. Now the banks will not loan the money.

Why has the government not dealt with this sooner? I am at a total loss as to any logical reason why it would wait so long and leave this until the last minute. The only thing I can think of is that it does not place much priority on the western Canadian farmer.

Canada Grain Act April 18th, 2005

Madam Speaker, consultations are good, but we have to act on the consultations. Every time I go back to my riding, I consult with my constituents. They are not shy about sharing their thoughts with me and I am sure that is the same with all members, regardless of what side of the House they are on.

A formal consultation absolutely is worthwhile. I now have the amendment that our critic has put forth, and it is a very good one. We need to ensure that the people affected by this legislation have a voice in it. We need to ensure that they tell us how this affects them rather than have some bureaucrat in Ottawa tell them how we will fix their problems.

It only makes sense to me to have this review completed within 12 months. We need to talk to as many actual producers, not necessarily farm groups or interest groups or lobbies, who are willing to share their experiences with us and the problems they have encountered from first-hand experience.

We can get an awful lot of good information from the grassroots. If we go to the grassroots and talk to people, we will find out where the pitfalls are and where improvements can be made. I would concur with the comments of my colleague.

Canada Grain Act April 18th, 2005

As my colleague from Yellowhead says, it is not a joke. If people try to set their kids up in farming, what they do is saddle them with huge debt. They pay exorbitant prices with the taxation on fuels. They pay exorbitant prices for their machinery with the taxes and excise taxes, all that goes with buying machinery. They have very little expectation for profit. They can do almost anything else. They can train to become tradespeople and make many times more money and work far fewer hours.

My reason to speak to the bill today is to give my grudging support to it, but also to draw attention to the fact that agriculture has been and always will be the backbone of the country. Certainly we have manufacturing and service jobs and all the jobs in the information, tourism and energy sectors. Those jobs are all important, but without agriculture those people will go hungry. There is another old expression that says, “If you ate today, thank a farmer”. That is an absolute truth.

We have been neglecting the farm community far too long and have not placed high enough priority on its needs. We should be searching out markets for farm products. We should be helping to secure capital at least for individuals who want to set up packing plants, have good business plans and secure markets in other countries of the world. We should be helping people to realize that goal so they can kill off some of the old cattle that are plugging up our system and piling up more and more all the time. There are markets all over the world. It is a hungry world. People want beef and are willing to pay for it. We need an opportunity to realize that processing and packaging.

As my friend referred to earlier, we feel as though we are hewers of wood and drawers of water. To me that means we put everything in its most primal form and that is the wrong thing to do. When we ship raw product off our borders, we send jobs along with that product. There should be more processing in Canada. We should have more pasta and packing plants for beef.

Those markets are out there. All we need to do is have the packing and the processing capabilities of doing that. We need a farmer-friendly government to help that happen. We do not need its subsidies and we do not want to have it saying, “Check the mailbox because that is how you make your living”. They do not want to make their livings by checking the mailbox. They want to make their livings by a reasonable expectation of profits. I could go on and on.

Canada Grain Act April 18th, 2005

Madam Speaker, I am pleased to be able to speak to Bill C-40 today. I wish to remind the House of what Bill C-40 is actually about. It is “an act to amend the Canada Grain Act and the Canada Transportation Act”.

One thing I noticed right off the bat is that this refers to the Canada Grain Act and the Canada Transportation Act, but really it is what I would call “the western Canadian grain act and the western Canadian transportation act”. It has very little if anything to do with Ontario. Ontario falls under a set of circumstances that is different from the western grain marketing system.

Agriculture is in a tremendous crisis and has been for some time. For the last four years we have dealt with droughts and low commodity prices. Since the spring of 1993 we have had to deal with the fact that the border has been closed, so any time that grain farmers are able to export their grain and make a profit doing so certainly is desirable. It is much more desirable than to have the government coming up with programs.

I have been a farmer for 35 years. I do not know of a farmer yet, and I have known a lot of them, who would want to have an income from the government. Farmers want to be able to raise their crops and their livestock. They want a market for their crops and livestock and they want to sell them at a decent price. A reasonable expectation of profit is all that farmers are hoping for.

As my colleague from Yorkton—Melville pointed out, it is becoming more of a struggle all the time. We are having a tremendously difficult time trying to attract young people to the farm and the agricultural way of life because that expectation of profit is simply dwindling all the time.

Bill C-40 seeks to make amendments in order to comply with the WTO ruling. Although my colleagues are much more versed in this, I find it rather unusual that we would in fact win the Canadian Wheat Board issue and the railcar allocation issue--we won them, but the U.S. immediately appealed--but be ruled against on the railcar revenue cap and the grain entry authorization and mixing issues. We did not appeal this and I am wondering why.

Why would Canada not appeal that? Why would we stand by and watch our neighbours to the south appeal the decisions that did not go their way while we simply stand back and accept the ruling that we did not win?

It is unfortunate that we are on such a short timeline on this bill. We need to have these amendments in in order to comply by August 1. My colleague from Haldimand—Norfolk has suggested that we amend this bill. I certainly hope there is time to do so. I am confident that the amendment will not only be an amendment but an improvement.

Bill C-40 is necessary to respect our international trade obligations. We recognize that this tight timeline certainly puts us under the gun. I really admonish the government because it did not do something sooner about this. I think it is a tremendously important issue, one that we should not rush through the House or take lightly or not give due and appropriate consideration to.

Our amendment would draw attention to concerns raised both by farmers and by the grain industry. I think that is what is important. It is not just the farmers who are concerned about this. The grain industry is very concerned.

What is also at stake is our credibility as an international supplier of a quality product. Canadians grow some of the finest quality grains and oilseeds in the world. As my friend from the Battlefords said, we have to clean it to a very high international standard. Once it reaches port we have to clean it down to 1% dockage, that is, 1% foreign material. Once it is loaded on the ship it can contain up to 4% of foreign material. I think that is totally unacceptable. I think it is damaging to our international reputation. It is also not fair to our customers, who then have to clean all the foreign material out of the grain in order to process it.

Our grain is used for livestock feed but most of our customers buy it for human feed, so as agriculturalists we should try our very best to keep it pure and clean. We should also expect that much from the people who handle it and ship it and certainly our customers should expect that.

I am interested to hear what my colleague from Haldimand--Norfolk has in the way of an amendment. Unfortunately, I do not have it in front of me. I would like to see it and I look forward to debating that too.

Other colleagues who have spoken on this issue have said they are going to have great difficulty supporting this legislation, but I do not think we have much choice. I think our backs are against the wall. We have to support this legislation in order for it to get through the House and in order to comply with these extremely short timelines.

The United States of course has been a big customer of ours as far as agricultural commodities are concerned. There is an onus on us to provide the Americans with a high quality product. Time and time again we have provided that high quality product and yet the United States has been challenging us under the WTO because it feels we are unfairly subsidized or for some financial reason. The United States challenges the WTO decisions, but we win these challenges over and over again. It does not seem that we benefit all that much from winning all these challenges. I have to agree with my colleague from the Battlefords who said we entered into this back alley fight but did not emerge as victors. We were beaten up pretty badly.

With respect to Bill C-40, I will go with the recommendation of our agricultural critic, who I think has been doing a great job on this file. I will be supporting the bill, but only in the hope that we can get an amendment to it and get agricultural products back on the front burner of Parliament.

I asked my colleague from Yorkton--Melville about western alienation. I really think the way this government has treated agriculture in general and western agriculture in particular has a lot to do with this whole feeling of western alienation. I am probably a bit off topic, but in the western alienation realm, let me say further that the way the Liberal government has treated the petroleum industry, the energy industry, which is largely in the west, has certainly contributed significantly to the feeling of western alienation.

The Prime Minister talked about fixing the democratic deficit. What is definitely a big part of the democratic deficit is the fact that western Canadians feel there is little or nothing being done to correct the injustices taking place as far as agriculture and, for that matter, petroleum and energy products that come out of the west.

We need the Canadian government to pay attention to our agricultural industry. It has reached the point where I own a farm and neither of my children want to have anything to do with running it. What will happen to it? Will it become part of a large conglomerate, a large factory farm industry, or will we expect young people to run it?

There is kind of a joke, and there is a lot of bitter irony in it, that says if farmers insists that their children stay home and farm, that is one of the most severe forms of child abuse. The fact of the matter is--

Canada Grain Act April 18th, 2005

Madam Speaker, I listened with great interest to the comments of my colleague from Yorkton—Melville. Certainly he knows whereof he speaks, because he is also in the agriculture business himself.

I realize this is a bit of a loaded question, but what relation does he see between the fact that this particular bill has not been dealt with before now and the fact that there is a great feeling of alienation in the west and particularly in his area? How does he relate the two?

Canada Grain Act April 18th, 2005

Madam Speaker, I congratulate my colleague on a very well researched and well presented speech. The farm community is very fortunate to have someone of his calibre to advocate on its behalf.

I do have a question for him. My understanding is that if measures are not taken by August 1 Canada would be in a position where there could be retaliation through the WTO. Could the member explain to the House and for those who are watching today what he thinks the possibility of retaliation is, what the extent of it could be and of course what effect it would have on producers?

Petitions April 11th, 2005

Mr. Speaker, I have two petitions to present today from constituents in my riding with regard to marriage. The petitioners pray that Parliament pass legislation to recognize the institution of marriage in federal law as being the lifelong union of one man and one woman to the exclusion of all others.

Agriculture April 11th, 2005

Mr. Speaker, I am sure members will be familiar with the farm aid concerts organized by Willie Nelson to raise money for cash-strapped farm families in the United States.

He got the idea from the original band-aid concerts where British and American rock stars banded together to help starving people in Africa. Perhaps that is where the Minister of Agriculture got his idea of how to deal with the Canadian agricultural crisis.

So far he has applied liberal amounts of band-aids across the land and done nothing to secure foreign markets for Canadian agriculture commodities and beef in particular. The agriculture industry is so plastered with band-aids that farmers look and feel like the walking wounded.

The role of government is to show leadership and to actively promote Canadians and their products.

The minister must act in the best interest of Canadian farmers instead of just plastering Liberal band-aids on Canada's farm crisis. He should know that band-aids may stop the bleeding but they do not cure the ailment. A long term solution is far past due.