House of Commons photo

Elsewhere

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

Social Security System January 31st, 1994

Madam Speaker, certainly we recognize what the government is trying to do with their program and we do recognize it as a program.

My point was that we have 10,000 people at $10,000 each. This amounts to a fantastic amount of money. I think we are trying to push the chain rather than drag it which is ultimately a lot more simple, Madam Speaker, as you will know if you ever tried to push a chain.

We should be trying to alleviate some of the tax burdens on Canadian business and they will provide 10,000 jobs and some to boot.

Social Security System January 31st, 1994

Madam Speaker, in my opinion, the best employment program is private enterprise, especially private enterprise that is not overburdened by taxation. That would be the only make work program I would support.

Social Security System January 31st, 1994

Madam Speaker, let me say how pleased I am to participate in this debate on social programs. I would like to commend the minister for embarking on a path of consultation through the Standing Committee on Human Resources Development that will allow Canadians the opportunity to express their opinions and suggest ways of improving social programs.

My colleagues before me have addressed some of the problems with the traditional income security program. I want to speak today about health care and health care spending.

Let me make it clear at the beginning that the Reform Party favours the preservation of adequate health services for Canadians. We believe that no Canadian should be denied health care for financial reasons.

The current level of federal funding should be maintained but we in the Reform Party believe that the time has come to make health care users more accountable and more aware of the actual costs of health care. How do we do this?

The Alberta government's public round tables on health summary entitled "Starting Points, a Recommendation for Creating a More Accountable and Affordable Health System", dated December 1993 recommends: "Other consumer education concepts should be considered to dispel the myth of free health services. For example, receipts could be provided to consumers immediately after receiving health services". This in my opinion would let consumers know what these services cost.

Under the Federal Provincial Fiscal Arrangements and Established Programs Financing Act or EPF as it is commonly known, the Government of Canada provides funds to the provinces to support and administer health services and education. The 1994 federal spending booklet states that the 1992-93 EPF transfers amounted to almost $16 billion for health care. Ten years ago the total EPF entitlement for health care according to the Department of Finance was $8.7 billion. It has nearly doubled in 10 years.

One would assume that the provinces would have the sole right to determine how to provide health services to the people. This is not the case. The previous government passed the Canada Health Act in 1984, eroding traditional provincial rights. In 1987 all of the provinces complied with the criteria and conditions set out in the Canada Health Act. This was necessary if they were to receive their EPF funds.

What did the provinces give up? They gave up all rights to charge for health services. We believe that the provinces should have sole jurisdiction over the administration of health care. The provinces currently possess the legal and constitutional responsibility to provide health insurance and services. Federal funding and support of such insurance and services should be unconditional and should recognize different levels of economic development in the provinces.

In 1991 total health care costs amounted to $66.8 billion. Put another way that is $2,470 for every man, woman and child in this country. Of every dollar spent 72 cents came from government revenues with the remainder coming from private insurance plans and individual taxpayers. We spent 10 per cent of our gross domestic product on health care in 1991. Compare that to 7.2 per cent in 1975.

Why have costs escalated so dramatically? Is it possible there is more illness or is it possible there is some abuse of the system? We do have a larger population and I am happy to say that people are living longer. We also have more doctors and more hospitals. In 1979 the patient-doctor ratio was 656 to 1. In 1989 the ratio dropped to 515 to 1.

We do have better access to health care but does this allow an opportunity for abuse? Is it reasonable to ask the Canadian taxpayer to pay for unnecessary hospital procedures, unnecessary surgery or prolonged hospital stays? Is the average Canadian aware of what these services cost or even the cost of a visit to the doctor?

It is interesting to note that in the last fiscal year interest on the national debt amounted to some $40 billion or 24 per cent of government spending while transfers to the provinces amounted to 18 per cent of government spending.

Imagine how much easier our jobs as members of Parliament would be if there was no national debt. For one thing we would not have those exorbitant interest payments to make. For another, we would not have to consider spending restraints for health care and social programs. That would leave us more time to deal with other pressing issues. In reality we are saddled with a $500 billion national debt and we cannot continue to live beyond our means.

Health care is threatened because of the current financial crisis and the effects of 20 years of deficit spending. The government has an option: return the rights and responsibilities of administration of health services back to the provinces where it belongs.

What effect will the foregoing have on our youth? What will they inherit? We have mortgaged the future of our youth. Canada has an aging population and the income support programs that those people have come to rely on are debt ridden. We cannot pay for them now. Therefore is it fair to expect our children to carry the burden of our extravagances?

The best inheritance we can leave our young people is a country free of debt, a country where they can obtain training and education so they can become contributors to Canadian society.

The Canadian youth service corps announced in the throne speech, according to the Red Book, will teach 10,000 young people a year work skills and provide them with valuable experience by engaging them in social and environmental programs that will improve the quality of life in communities across the country.

This program is estimated to cost $10,000 for every participant. I hope this is not just another glorified grant project, another stop gap measure. What real training will there be for the participants? What skills will they learn that will land them real sustainable jobs?

I was pleased to note that the motion before us today places time limits on the deliberations of the Standing Committee on Human Resource Development. We cannot afford to linger any longer over these problems. Now is the time for solutions. I ask that a meeting of the committee be convened this week so we can begin the consultation process without further delay.

Speech From The Throne January 20th, 1994

Certainly there is no chance of it ever working unless we place a spending cap on the budget, live by it and plan to honour it.

To ignore the problem certainly is not going to be the answer either so let us all recognize that this is a problem, but not a revenue problem. My party believes very strongly that we do not have a revenue problem. We have a spending problem. That is the way you would run your business. That is the way I would run my business. If I find that the income does not balance the expenditures the first thing I have to do is look at my expenditure side of the ledger.

Speech From The Throne January 20th, 1994

Sounds good to me.

My concept of Canada is a Canada economically strong and self-reliant. If we are ever to achieve self-reliance we must eliminate the federal deficit. This year alone the deficit could reach $46 billion. The national debt has topped the $500 billion mark and it increases by $85,600 a minute. The time has come to take serious steps to control spending. Federal departments are still spending on frivolous, unnecessary schemes.

Here is an example. Just the other day there was a news report stating that federal government departments had commissioned videos that had cost the taxpayers of Canada $18 million. Couple this and other examples of irresponsible spending highlighted in the Auditor General's report and one comes up with a soap opera that stumps the average Canadian. This has to stop.

The government must put a halt to this type of luxury spending. The Canadian taxpayer cannot afford it, Mr. Speaker, and your constituents and mine deserve better.

I want to ask this government how it plans to control departmental spending. The new initiatives announced in the throne speech are commendable and worthwhile, but can we afford them? Who is going to pay for them? Will we have to borrow more money and increase the debt load in order to pay for these programs?

All parties in this House acknowledge that we must reduce the deficit but we differ in the method. In my view, we will never accomplish this task unless we face up to the reality that we simply cannot continue to live beyond our means. Canadians do not want to rely on the government for their retirement so it worries me when I hear that this government is considering the elimination of the capital gains tax exemptions. Does this also mean that the $500,000 capital gains tax exemption for farmers and small businesses will be axed?

People who work for large corporations and governments often have access to a pension plan, but the farmer and the small business person does not. Most often, he or she counts on the sale of assets accumulated over a lifetime to finance retirement and maintain their financial independence.

We must undertake a joint effort to deliver the best possible representation to the people of Canada. It is important to ensure that we are productive and co-operative in order not only to make this Parliament function better but also appear to function better, in a less offensive manner.

The constituents of Wetaskiwin can expect availability, accountability and austerity from me. What I plan to deliver is the same kind of representation they may have received from my dad.

Speech From The Throne January 20th, 1994

Mr. Speaker, it is a great honour for me to participate in this debate on the speech from the throne.

I would like to take this opportunity to congratulate the Speaker on his being elected as Speaker of the 35th Parliament. Indeed, I would like to pass on my congratulations to the Deputy Speaker. I want to assure the Speaker that we will endeavour to make your job easier and you can always count on us.

Mr. Speaker, with your permission since this is my maiden speech in this Chamber, I would like to dedicate my remarks today to the memory of my late father, Glen Johnston, who served from 1952 until 1967 in the Alberta legislature, in fact in the party that the Prime Minister this morning referred to as the grandfather of the Reform Party. In those years he served as the member of the legislature for Ponoka-Rimby.

It is my pleasure to carry on the legacy of hard work and caring support of his constituents, many of whom I represent today. To those people of the federal constituency of Wetaskiwin I thank them for their overwhelming support and their vote of confidence in me. I would like to assure them that I am dedicated to serving them and their interests in this House.

Let me say a little bit about the constituency of Wetaskiwin. It is located in central Alberta just north of the constituency of Red Deer and south of the Edmonton ridings. We are bounded on the north and northwest by the North Saskatchewan River and the terrain varies from heavily treed areas to the west to the prairie-like grain fields on the east. I am proud to say that we are a resource rich area. Agriculture, gas and oil are the engines that drive our economy. Our rich farmland is ideal for raising prime Alberta beef.

The Ponoka Stampede is an annual event. It is the second largest stampede in the west. I would like to invite the Speaker of the House and all members to join us on the Canada Day weekend for an exceptional stampede and rodeo.

Over the last year I have travelled extensively throughout the constituency speaking with many people and the message was loud and clear. People are concerned about the economic future of Canada and what kind of Canada their children and grandchildren are going to inherit.

Two days ago His Excellency the Governor General delivered the government's plan for the next four years to anxiously waiting Canadians. The election results from across Canada indicated a desire to depart from the status quo and it would appear the government MPs received the same message. I would like to congratulate this government for embarking on a path of dialogue and consensus.

We commend the initiative to cut $5 million from the House of Commons budget. I am pleased that the government acted on a few of the suggestions contained in the Reform Party's paper on pensions and perks. We encourage the Minister of Finance to incorporate our other recommendations in his budget.

The Canadian public have lost faith in their politicians. It is time for the elected people to win back that trust. Being elected does not mean that we are automatically respected. We have to earn back that trust.

Canadians have the right to expect their representatives to act with dignity and decorum of office. An end to double dipping and a limit of age 55 before MPs can collect their pensions would be steps in the right direction.

The whole issue of MPs' pensions, however, must be addressed. The voters told us that they would no longer settle for a plan that gives members of Parliament substantially more than average Canadians. The Members of Parliament Retiring Allowances Act must be overhauled, not just tinkered with. It must be brought into line with the private sector.

The MPs' pension plan is not self-supporting. How can we in good conscience ask the overburdened Canadian taxpayer to pay for this generous retirement plan? I cannot, Mr. Speaker, and I am sure you feel the same way.

Canadians are looking to this government to restore their hope and to restore their jobs. The widely acclaimed $6 billion infrastructure program must be recognized for what it really is, a joint project equally funded by the federal government, the provinces and the municipalities. This short term project will cost the taxpayer threefold. There may be three levels of government participating in this scheme but there is still only one taxpayer.

The talk of creating jobs and restoring confidence are only small steps in encouraging economic growth. We can no longer tell small business people that they can be the impetus to get the economy moving while they remain overburdened with heavy taxes.

The government plans to replace the goods and services tax, but what with? The GST, the most despised tax in Canadian history, does provide almost $15 billion in net revenue. This is an issue that the Reform members on the finance committee are looking forward to tackling. Earlier today my colleague from Calgary Centre suggested that this caucus supports and proposes to replace the goods and services tax with a flat tax system.