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Crucial Fact

  • His favourite word was money.

Last in Parliament May 2004, as Canadian Alliance MP for North Vancouver (B.C.)

Lost his last election, in 2004, with 36% of the vote.

Statements in the House

Electoral Boundaries Readjustment Act October 21st, 2003

Mr. Speaker, we cannot conduct our business in the House on the basis of what court cases might happen and rulings that might occur. I am well aware of the concerns of the member. I heard them at length in the committee, and I am aware that the minister spoke with him. There were extensive discussions to try to come to some sort of accommodation.

The fact is that in western Canada, as well in my caucus, many people and communities are very upset, particularly in the Edmonton area with the way the boundaries commissions did their work. However this bill is not about the process of boundaries redistribution. The bill is about bringing certainty to something that is inevitable, and that is the change of boundaries. It occurs and it will happen. All this does is give us the certainty that it will be in place for the next election.

With all due respect to the member, he has a point, he has a problem, but it is not directly related to this bill and I do not feel that it is appropriate for me to comment further.

Electoral Boundaries Readjustment Act October 21st, 2003

Mr. Speaker, how ridiculous can we get? I am not blocking anybody's ability to speak to the bill. I simply asked the Bloc members to reconsider their strategy. That was all I did. I do not have the power to block them. They can go on as long as they want.

All I was trying to do was point out the background, in agreeing with the minister as to what happened here and the reasons for it. The fact is the people in the west want their entitlement to an additional four seats and the one way to ensure that happens at the time of the next election, whenever it occurs, either the spring or the fall, is to try to bring the process forward so that we have certainty.

Now the first step in that process, as I said when I stood before, was to meet with the Chief Electoral Officer to ensure that we would not do anything in the House that would cause him difficulty, that would upset or be seen as political interference.

When I sat down at that lunch meeting with the Chief Electoral Officer, he told me he could do it by April 1. I do not have the power to impose a date on the Chief Electoral Officer. It was only after a civilized discussion about the problem and how to address it, he gave me a suggestion. I then approached the government, the parties discussed it, and the end result is this bill.

It is a good bill that gives all of us certainty. It tells us for certain we will have the new boundaries in effect at the time of the next election, whenever it occurs. It gives us the certainty of additional seats in western Canada. I do not understand why the member does not understand that. It seems perfectly clear to me.

Finally, I would just like to repeat this. For him to accuse me of trying to block their opportunity to get their word out, is just ridiculous.

Electoral Boundaries Readjustment Act October 21st, 2003

Mr. Speaker, I wish to confirm something that the minister just said in response to the question from a Bloc member. It is very unusual for me to agree with the minister on something, but he was actually giving a factual account of what happened when he said that it was the Canadian Alliance which began to push this idea as far back as the summer of last year.

In fact, I had lunch with the Chief Electoral Officer, which I think was in the early fall of last year, and discussed the idea of bringing certainty to this process. The Chief Electoral Officer was first aware a year ago that there was a party in the House that was interested in bringing certainty to the actual implementation date of the new boundaries.

Mr. Kingsley told me at the time that he felt that he could comfortably, with a little stress, get it in place for April 1 as a potential date. It was on that basis that I approached the minister before the end of the session last year to talk about the possibility of bringing this date forward.

The logic did not escape the minister. It makes sense to everybody because the way the system was set up with the coming into force in August, which would be the normal timetable, we had the potential for an election to either occur in the spring, April-May, with the new Prime Minister when he is selected or it could be in September-October.

There was tremendous uncertainty because the riding associations of the parties would have to prepare for two different scenarios at short notice. On top of all that were the complications introduced by Bill C-24, which was suddenly requiring the registration of riding associations or electoral district associations, as they would be known after January 1.

We were faced with an administrative nightmare, not only getting used to the idea of having to fill out paperwork and all the reporting that goes along with Bill C-24, but we would have to do it twice. We would have to do it once on January 1, 2004, in case the election was called under the old boundaries. Then, immediately afterward, during the summer recess everybody would have to re-register under the new boundaries with a whole new set of paperwork and all of the stress that goes with that if an election had not yet been called.

Another motive for us in the west, of course, was that we were getting two new seats in Alberta and two in British Columbia. The process itself is extremely slow. It takes a decade to even get to the point where we get the two seats we were entitled to 10 years ago. We are already entitled to at least three more seats and it is going to take us another decade to get those. We were anxious to ensure that at the time of the next election we would see those additional seats in the west that at least go partway in recognizing the growth in that part of the country.

That is a bit more background for the member. There was a push from this party to obtain that certainty. I am sure that if he was to check with the administrations of any of the other parties in the House, other than the Bloc, they are all behind this initiative. In fact, the party people spoke behind the scenes and all agreed it was a good idea to get some certainty into this process.

Associated with that, though, I would like to inject the comment that it only becomes necessary to do this because of the government's focus on elections every two and a half or three years. We have an electoral cycle that should ideally be at least four years, with the potential to be as long as five years, and now we have elections coming every three to three and a half years. Right now the House is fixated on the suggestion that there may be an election coming up in the spring of next year when what we really should be doing is focusing on the affairs of the country, the things that really matter to the people of Canada.

For example, people want to see an end to the wasteful gun registry. They would like to see the sex offender registry backdated to take into account people who are already in prison. They would like to see the problems fixed with the refugee and deportation processes because they are in disarray. They would like to see an end to the race based fisheries in British Columbia in accordance with the court ruling that came out there last month that criticized the government for its race based policy for fisheries.

All these major issues need to be addressed. Instead of that we are focusing the time of the House on issues that are important to political parties because of the government's irrational approach to elections. It is throwing the whole country into disarray.

It is almost certain that we will prorogue before November 16. For people who may be watching and who do not understand, the term prorogation means that the Prime Minister simply chooses to close the place down without calling an election until it suits him or his successor to open the place up again with a Speech from the Throne and then perhaps an election almost immediately. What a terrible waste of resources and time that this place could be closed down for six months. However some of my constituents say that is pretty good. When we are not sitting, we are not doing any damage, and they think that is not a bad idea.

In summary, because we do not particularly want to hold up the bill, we would like to see the certainty that comes with it.

I will just round off by saying I hope the Bloc does not hold this up too much. It is unnecessary to consume the time of the House arguing about the bill. It is something we need to do so we have certainty. I hope the Bloc will rethink its strategy of trying to hold this up endlessly. It is not really necessary, and the Bloc knows the government will only move closure on it anyway. Let us get on with the job and get the bill passed.

Supply October 2nd, 2003

Mr. Speaker, on a point of order. This is election day in Ontario. It seems there is some electioneering going on. Would it not be appropriate for us to restrain ourselves from commenting on who might be winning elections on election day?

Supply October 2nd, 2003

Mr. Speaker, I know that Ottawa feels left out when compared to Toronto for the money that it gets from Queen's Park, but the fact is that when we look at federal money, almost all of the equivalent of the gasoline tax taken by the federal government was poured into the Toronto area to build highways there.

Even the freeway through Ottawa is wider than the only freeway in Vancouver. The freeway in Vancouver is three lanes in each direction and here in Ottawa it is as wide as five lanes in each direction in some areas and this is in a city that is only one-fifth the size of the population on the lower mainland.

There is something wrong and it is blatantly obvious to anybody who travels backward and forward that the money is being sucked out of the west and poured into this part of the country. It is wrong.

Members may recall the cartoon that was drawn in the fifties. It was a map of Canada with a cow standing on it. The head was in B.C. and Alberta, and the udder was in Ontario. Guess where it was being milked? It was right in Ontario.

Supply October 2nd, 2003

Mr. Speaker, I thank the member for those comments. It enables me to expand a little on the price of gasoline and how that relates to these taxes.

During the summer I visited Ottawa a number of times and I noticed that the gasoline price was consistently between 63¢ a litre and 68¢ a litre, while at the same time in Vancouver it was close to 80¢ a litre for that entire time. Every time I came back, I was shocked to see that it was still 76¢ to 80¢ a litre while here in Ottawa it was 65¢ a litre.

At one point during the SARS crisis in Toronto there was that special sell off weekend when gasoline was being sold at 35¢ a litre. Ours shot up to 90¢ a litre that weekend and I suspect we were subsidizing that effort.

What is really important about the price of that gasoline in Vancouver is the huge amount of federal taxation we are paying, not only the excise tax but the GST on that excise tax. We paid $360 million a year a few years ago. It is probably more now. That should have been sent back to us for our infrastructure.

The member is quite right about the difficulties that we are having. British Columbians are getting angry with their local governments, however, their focus should really be on the federal government because the high price of gasoline is related to these federal taxes which suck huge amounts of money out of British Columbia.

That money is rightfully ours. It should be put into the highway system and other transportation systems. This government has to smarten up and do something about it.

Supply October 2nd, 2003

Mr. Speaker, today we are debating a motion from the Canadian Alliance regarding the use of federal gasoline taxes.

I noted earlier in the day that the member for Erie—Lincoln said that we were chasing the parade on this issue. He has it backwards. The Reform Party was talking about this issue 10 years ago. The trouble is that his party is full of slow learners. They take a long time to get with the program and to understand exactly what are good ideas in this world.

All his blustering when he delivered his speech earlier today was simply a smokescreen designed to try to cover up the flip-flop that has taken place on the opposite side. In June of this year they voted against a motion that is almost identical to the one that we put forward today. In addition, I think he is trying to cover for the former finance minister, soon to be prime minister, who suddenly has stolen this Canadian Alliance idea and is out there peddling it as if it was his own bright idea.

Any researcher looking through the archives of the Hansard records of this House will see that what I am saying is absolutely correct. That side of the House has consistently argued against what the former finance minister, soon to be prime minister, is now promoting. We have always supported that approach.

However I am not sure that we can even trust the new prime minister to follow through on the promise, and I will tell the House why.

I was in Vancouver last week when he delivered his speech to the union of municipalities. I heard him say that he would give them a portion of the federal gas taxes, no matter how long it took. What exactly does that mean?

First, what percentage of the gas tax is he promising? He says a portion. That could be 1%, or .5% or 100%. We have no idea what it means. Second, he said, “No matter how long it takes”. What does that mean? Is it 10 years, 20 years or thirty years? We have absolutely no idea what that commitment means.

I have never seen so much ado about nothing. Everybody is excited. The media is charged up and the municipalities are charged up about this new promise that has been made by this soon to be prime minister without actually promising anything at all, not a single solid piece of concrete material of which we can use to critique or approve. There is no percentage, no amount and no time frame. Heaven knows what that might mean. It might mean exactly nothing. The new prime minister might find 101 reasons to never implement his promise. I will believe it when I see it.

In the meantime I will continue to promote the Canadian Alliance policy which is something I have been doing for the last 10 years. For example, earlier today I looked back in my files and found recent mentions I made of this issue in columns that I wrote for my local newspapers in North Vancouver. I found interventions I made in the House in the last few years. I can get some examples.

On November 3, 1999, I wrote a column for my local newspaper in which I pointed out that while the price of gasoline at the time was 57.4¢ a litre. It is amazing. In the Vancouver area it is close to 80¢ a litre today but in 1999 it was 57.4¢. Of that 57.4¢ price, 13.7¢ was going to the federal government. Unfortunately, the federal government, those Liberals, were returning less than 2% of that amount for our roads.

On September 18, 2000, I stood in the House and made the following statement:

Mr. Speaker, this year alone the Liberal government will take more than $350 million from the people of B.C. in the form of fuel taxes. That is an annual tax grab of $20 million more than the entire Vancouver area budget for new highways to the year 2005. Yet the Minister of Transport stubbornly refuses to return to B.C. a single cent of those taxes in support of our transportation network.

While greater Vancouver residents line up in gridlock on a four lane Trans-Canada Highway built back in the 1950s, the minister pumps our fuel tax money into election goody projects elsewhere.

Our taxed-to-the-hilt drivers have had enough. They are sick of topping up the minister's pork barrel every time they gas up and they are not going to take it anymore. They want their share of the national highways funding returned to B.C. and they want it now. When exactly is the minister going to deliver?

On September 27, 2000, I wrote an article for the local newspaper talking about the federal gas tax, much the same as the earlier one I quoted.

Then again, on March 14, 2001, I stood in the House and asked a question of the finance minister. The exact text is recorded in Hansard and I stated:

Mr. Speaker, there is a transportation infrastructure crisis on the lower mainland of Vancouver, but the government continues to suck $360 million a year in gas taxes out of British Columbia. That is more than five times the annual highway budget for B.C. How could the Minister of Transport justify this $360 million tax grab when he does not return a single cent of that money to B.C. for highways?

It is interesting that although I asked the question of the Minister of Transport, it was the then minister of finance who stood to answer the question. The then minister of finance, the soon to be prime minister, gave this answer in the House on March 14, 2001. He said:

Mr. Speaker, the hon. member knows that the government does not operate and no government can operate on the basis of dedicated taxes.

That is what he stood and said and now he is out there with our policy pretending it is his own, that he is going to give some of those taxes to the municipalities.

Then he said:

If we look back over the course of the last seven years, the fact is that the government has invested very heavily, whether it be in the Canada Foundation for Innovation or the national child tax benefit. A multitude of moneys is going to universities in British Columbia. Right across the board, we have reinvested enormous sums and ought to do so in British Columbia.

He completely ignored the highways question, other than saying that his present policy at that time was completely unacceptable.

There is some evidence just from my own files of the number of times that I have raised this issue since 1999. For government members to stand there and say that we have never raised this issue is absolute bunkum.

The member for Erie--Lincoln also went off on a bit of a tangent talking about low cost housing. I feel compelled to respond to some of the comments he made.

One of my colleagues in the House, the member for Edmonton Centre-East, has carried out more than five years of extensive research on this particular subject of homelessness. He has turned up some interesting statistics which I would like to put on the record in response to the member for Erie--Lincoln.

There is no shortage of federal money. We will acknowledge that. Presently, 780 million tax dollars are being spent on new or expanded shelters and $680 million is poised to go into the building of so-called affordable housing. That is $1.46 billion and is equivalent to $103,180 for every one of the 14,150 homeless persons identified by Statistics Canada in the year 2001.

We have already committed enough money to give every homeless person $103,180. There are many people in Vancouver who are not homeless and who are buying apartments for that price. There are plenty of other smaller cities in Canada where people can buy an apartment for a whole lot less than that.

How come the government cannot solve the problem with $103,180 for every homeless person? The reason is because, without any rules or guidelines for restraint, it continues to write cheques for extravagant projects that may be designed for low income, but they are certainly not low cost.

I will give one example. Don Mount Court on Dundas Street East in Toronto is a project completely off the rails. Heated sidewalks that were installed in the entrance to this building have been left running continuously for years. The hydro bills are so extreme in that building that taxpayers have had to bail out the cost every year since it was introduced. For the people who live there it is a very low cost, but for taxpayers it is absolutely outrageous. The fact is that the money is being wasted on hydro, and it is probably the money from this tax that is collected on gasoline in B.C. that is subsidizing heated sidewalks in Toronto.

The incompetence is unbelievable. It is time the government adopted more of our policies and got this country back on track.

Supply October 2nd, 2003

Mr. Speaker, I listened to the entire speech given by the member opposite. I heard him go all over the map talking about taxation issues without really addressing the motion before us today. I will read our earlier motion for his benefit:

That, in the opinion of the House, Canada's infrastructure needs should be met by a regime of stable funding and that accordingly, this House call on the government to reduce federal gasoline taxes conditional on an agreement with the provinces, and with the creation of this tax room the provinces would introduce a special tax to fund infrastructure in provincial and municipal jurisdictions.

I have just one question for the member. Why did he vote against this almost identical motion in June that was put forward by the Canadian Alliance and today he is going to vote for it? Can he give us any rational explanation as to why he has flip-flopped on that issue if it is not simply to put up a smoke screen for his soon to be prime minister, the former finance minister, who has suddenly glommed on to this Canadian Alliance policy?

Election Campaigns October 1st, 2003

Mr. Speaker, on June 27 the Supreme Court of Canada struck down the government's mean-spirited 50 candidate rule, a rule designed to prevent small parties from participating in elections. The government House leader wasted tens of millions of dollars on legal fees after he refused to accept the realistic 12 candidate rule I had negotiated for him with Canada's small parties more than three years ago.

It is time the Liberals stopped wasting taxpayer money on frivolous court cases like their hugely expensive and ongoing defence of their election gag law, or will they wait yet again for the highest court in the land to tell them that it is unacceptable and unconstitutional to try to limit freedom of expression during an election campaigns?

Unfortunately, the minister is a walking disaster for the taxpayers of Canada. Every bill he has ever brought to the House has ended up costing taxpayers their freedom to participate in election campaigns, tens of millions of dollars in legal fees, or both.

Supply September 30th, 2003

Mr. Speaker, I agree with the member. That is a great risk. I did mention some advantages of that type of system while I was speaking in terms of a previous member, Mr. Grubel, but my personal preference out of all the systems is actually the one used in Australia, the single transferrable ballot, because I think that gives legitimacy to a member who ends up with more than 50% of the vote.