Crucial Fact

  • His favourite word was industry.

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

Lost his last election, in 2004, with 34% of the vote.

Statements in the House

Petitions April 2nd, 2001

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased today to present a petition to the House signed by 1,300 British Columbians regarding their concern over genetically modified organisms.

Lumber Industry March 30th, 2001

Let us hope we get an answer, Mr. Speaker. Will the government allow the softwood lumber agreement to automatically expire tomorrow night? Yes or no.

Lumber Industry March 30th, 2001

Mr. Speaker, the Deputy Prime Minister just asked for a question on softwood lumber. Here it is. Will the government—

Summit Of The Americas March 27th, 2001

Mr. Speaker, obviously my colleague has a very valid concern. It is very obvious. I recognize the member for Yukon over in the corner there.

It is very strange that there is not more interest in this extremely important debate. Looking around the House, my colleague is quite correct. There are, I believe, nine of us here now compared to one across the floor. It is not particularly—

Summit Of The Americas March 27th, 2001

Mr. Speaker, my party and I support equal and open access to the market for all Canadian producers. I firmly believe that the industry across Canada has the ability to compete very effectively with its U.S. counterpart. It is a matter of having free access to that market on a equal basis across the country. Until we achieve that, there will be no satisfaction or consensus from the producers across Canada. They all require equal access to the U.S. market on an equal footing and on a free and open basis.

Summit Of The Americas March 27th, 2001

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to rise today to speak on the matter of the upcoming summit of the Americas in Quebec City on April 20 of this year. I will address my remarks to the issue of trade and, more specifically, trade in softwood lumber between the U.S.A. and Canada.

It would seem the Liberal government is not taking the matter seriously. We on the Alliance benches want to see the current agreement end and free trade instituted, as was supposed to be the case when NAFTA was signed. We do not feel enough is being done to ensure that.

Trade in softwood lumber will revert to NAFTA rules in the absence of a softwood lumber agreement. On June 7, 2000 the Canadian Alliance posted on the Internet its position to return to free trade in lumber. During the November election we could not smoke out the Liberals on their free trade position, and only in dribs and drabs since January has it been clarified somewhat.

After signing a misguided agreement in 1996 that placed all kinds of restrictions on Canadian lumber producers, Canada is now staring down the barrel of the U.S. trade gun. The Liberal government let down Canadian lumber producers by not staking out its ground a long time ago in favour of free trade in lumber. One wonders what it has been up to.

I will give some background as to why the matter is important to me and to my riding of Skeena, British Columbia. B.C. accounts for more than 50% of Canada's softwood lumber exports to the U.S.A. Those exports have an approximate value of more than $5 billion annually. With the end of the Canada-U.S.A. softwood lumber agreement and no free trade agreement in place, my riding, as well as many others in B.C., Alberta, Ontario and Quebec, will suffer.

In my riding the major producer, Skeena Cellulose Inc., has no U.S. quota as it has focused their exports on the Asian market. However now that those markets have gone cold, SCI is looking to the U.S. as a potential market. The problem is that the softwood lumber agreement is based on trade history. What one has shipped into the U.S. in the past determines what one is allowed to ship now. SCI, a major producer of lumber, has no history of shipping to the U.S. The potential for shutdowns and layoffs is imminent.

Over the past five years, the four provinces that signed the 1996 agreement have struggled to meet and not exceed their quota to the U.S. while the six exempt provinces have seen an increase in market share of up to 130%. B.C. alone has seen its share reduced by 20%. Quebec's share has seen a modest increase of 2.8%. The four covered provinces combined have seen a total reduction in U.S. market share of up to 14.5%.

The government needs to set things straight with the U.S.A. before the argument costs Canada billions in countervailing and anti-dumping duties. The ministers on the government benches do not even have their stories straight. The Minister of Industry has been quoted as saying that a renewal of the existing agreement will be part of the negotiations, while the Minister for International Trade said there would be no renewal at all. Which is it?

How can Canadian lumber producers have any faith in what the government is willing to do for them when it does not know what it is doing? It does not instil a great deal of faith in my heart.

Meanwhile, 50 U.S. senators from both sides of the political spectrum have sent a letter to the president saying they need action to keep Canada from flooding lumber into the United States. What course of action will they be taking? According to the letter, they are calling for Ottawa to voluntarily impose a 20% export tax on Canadian lumber. That is a measure we had in the 1980s. Are we so far advanced that we must go back in time?

The U.S. is also looking into launching an anti-dumping and subsidy investigation under a rarely used trade law to make sure Canada pays when the current agreement is over at the end of the month. The critical circumstance law is used only when a flood of cheap imports threatens to enter the country. Under normal U.S. trade laws, import duties cannot be imposed for at least 90 days from the end of a trade agreement. Should the investigation find in favour of the subsidy claim by the U.S.A., the critical circumstance law will then allow the U.S. government to impose punitive duties retroactively for those 90 days.

What does that mean? It means that even though we will have some form of free trade for three months, when that time is up Canadian producers will be hit with duties for that month as well as for the months prior that were supposed to be open to free trade.

To make matters worse, Canadian producers have no idea what the duty amount may be. It could be anywhere from 15% to 45%. That could cost Canadian producers tens of millions of dollars. According to the Byrd Amendment enacted last fall, that would be paid to United States lumber producers. Not only would Canadian producers be unable to ship lumber into the U.S. without paying heavy duties, the payments would go to their U.S. competitors.

There is a subsidy there, Mr. Speaker, but it is too bad it is the Canadian producers subsidizing the U.S. producers. The real victims are American consumers and Canadian jobs and the recipient is a noisy U.S. lumber coalition. This could turn into a national crisis, but we would never know that by the way the government is handling the situation. Is it prepared to meet with its U.S. counterparts during this summit to ensure free trade in softwood lumber? Or, when the ministers meet later on in Buenos Aires to discuss the new free trade area of the Americas, the government should be prepared to ensure free trade in softwood lumber with the U.S.

At the moment President Bush is prepared to fast track the approval of the FTAA. This is the time for the Liberal government to take control and look out for the interests of the Canadian lumber producers and their tens of thousands of employees.

If under NAFTA the Canadian government cannot guarantee that the softwood lumber industry will ever have free trade with the U.S., then how can we be certain that, with the FTAA, when a U.S. industry feels threatened by a counterpart from Canada it will not go into protectionist mode like it has done with our softwood lumber?

Canada is just one of the major industrialized countries that is dependent upon trade. The trade sector accounts for one out of every three jobs in Canada. This nation has been a strong advocate of the FTAA as an opportunity to promote regional prosperity, increased business activity and jobs in Canada. It would stand to reason that part of this opportunity would come from the lumber industry, yet it would seem that the Canadian government would rather see trade centre on what is termed the new economy, the high tech industries. Do not get me wrong. There is always a need to improve our technology. However, should it be done at the expense of the other more traditional industries? No.

Every industry in Canada should be afforded the same opportunity to grow and prosper. It would be interesting to see, for example, if there had been a five year trade agreement with the U.S. in fibre optics that was to run out in three days whether the government would be sitting around on its hands or working toward a resolution of that situation to keep the industry from losing millions of dollars at the hands of their American counterparts. Would the government not try to work out a free trade agreement in that industry? Why then does it leave the softwood lumber industry to fend for itself when it comes to trade interests?

We get the strange feeling that the government does not realize that the country, as it grows, depends on these industries as much, if not more, than it did in its fledgling days. These so-called old economy industries are what drive the high tech industry into research and development. They are one of the biggest consumers of high tech advancements. Why would the government not fight for free trade in the lumber industry?

One thing this country does need is consensus. We need to join together as a country and face the American lumber industry as a whole, with all provinces in agreement, not the west versus the east as we are seeing at the moment.

We are all in this for the same reason. We must see that we do indeed have allies in the U.S., such as the group called American Consumers for Affordable Homes, which has much in common with the Canadian Free Trade Lumber Council. This group also enjoys support from 49 members of the House of Representatives, members who introduced a resolution at the beginning of March to simply allow the softwood lumber agreement to lapse. Why would they do that? It is because the homebuilders' coalition has said that restrictions placed on Canadian lumber add approximately $1,000 U.S. to the end cost of each new home built in the United States.

Former U.S. president Jimmy Carter came out in support of Canadian lumber in an editorial on March 24. He calls for an end to the current softwood lumber agreement and a permanent free trade agreement to be used to give both countries equal footing in the softwood lumber market. If members of the House of Representatives, U.S. citizens and even former presidents are willing to fight their own American government for Canadian lumber, why then will our government not?

We need action on this issue now, not later. I am calling on the Liberal Government of Canada to take a stand and save the Canadian lumber industry. Do not leave Canadian lumber producers out in the cold.

Lumber Industry March 23rd, 2001

Mr. Speaker, the minister has been buffeted by requests from various interest groups for special treatment on the softwood lumber front. However there is broad consensus for a return to free trade in softwood lumber.

Would the minister accept this consensus and agree not to initiate any action which will short-circuit returning to free trade after March 31?

Lumber Industry March 23rd, 2001

Mr. Speaker, some large American forest companies own Canadian operations. The American lumber coalition is asking these American companies to petition the U.S. government to initiate countervail penalties against Canadian producers.

Would the minister responsible tell these American corporations through his U.S. counterparts that he will not stand for Canadian companies being held hostage by their corporate brothers?

Supply March 19th, 2001

Mr. Speaker, obviously there are a number of flaws in the system and questions like that are not being properly addressed.

I know in my riding the previous member received many letters from various concerned groups. It happens right across Canada. Our party is aware of a lot of these problems. Through proper accounting and proper auditing processes, many of these problems will definitely be highlighted and will possibly be dealt with in a better manner.

I certainly agree that the government should institute some kind of official reporting process so that when these problems occur they can be documented and dealt with. Possibly, when funding is being allocated to the various groups, these concerns would be taken into account and dealt with so that there would be proper accountability all the way down the line. In this way, dollars would be properly spent and would go toward the programs for which they were earmarked.

Supply March 19th, 2001

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to rise in the House today to speak to the business of supply proposed by my Canadian Alliance colleague, the member of parliament for Nanaimo—Cowichan, which reads:

That the government stipulate that in all Contribution Agreements between the Federal Government and individual Indian Bands, the use of any public funds be publicly reported and accurately audited.

This motion is important in that it asks the government to ensure that the amount and use of public funds by an Indian band are accurately accounted for and those details made available to the public.

This may seem like a normal request but it is not. Currently Indian band books are exempt from requests under the Access to Information Act. Members of parliament or any other member of the public cannot request a band to account for the spending decisions they made with taxpayer dollars.

This motion, if passed, would dramatically change the way Indian bands handle their public funding. This would mean a positive change for the individual band members and an end to the potential for corruption which currently exists. I am not saying that every band council in Canada is corrupt. On the contrary, I am saying that the system is currently set up to allow for, and some would say foster, that kind of endeavour. This motion ensures clear accounting and auditing of public funds used by Indian bands. This should be the norm, but it is not.

Let me talk a bit about accountability, a word that in today's society is sometimes less valued than it should be. To be held accountable for one's action should be the norm in society. Whether we are talking about a government, a corporation or a member of the general public, we must all be accountable for our actions. When it comes to the public trust, and as such, public funds, accountability means much more.

With regard to government spending, the public and members of parliament have access to the public accounts report generated each year on the spending of each federal government department. This report is generated to ensure spending accountability by each department.

As a member of the opposition I will say that we still do find fault with some parts of government spending, but at least we have the ability to review the spending and call the government to task on it. In the case of Indian bands we do not and that is the crux of the motion.

Furthermore, a standing committee of the House can call any minister to its meeting to be held accountable for spending within his or her department. This is a process which begins very soon with part III of the estimates being tabled in the House in April. We do not have this kind of access to the spending intentions of Indian bands. Since public funds are being used, we should have that ability.

It is quite simple. An open, accountable process to review and audit the spending of public funds by Indian bands ensures the reduction, if not elimination, of abuse. That is an endeavour I strongly support.

Some may ask why does the public need to make Indian bands accountable for their spending and to ensure that accurate auditing takes place. Should we not just trust that funding as being put to good use and that the individual band members would ensure their band council which receives the federal funding spends this money wisely?

That is basically what the federal government has been doing, and individual band members will tell members themselves the system does not work. There are cases where band councils hold open meetings and ensure that band members are advised of and agree to their spending priorities. Unfortunately it is those band councils that do not subscribe to such an open process that have abused the system. That necessitates the change.

I am concerned for the members of those Indian bands when I say that the system does not work and needs to be changed. Open and accurate accounting and auditing of federal funds would force band councils to spend their federal dollars on items deemed a priority to the entire band and its members, and not just those of the band council, its chief or other individual members. Such openness would ensure that the department would be held accountable if it continued to fund Indian bands which have a history of misusing their funds.

The situation faced by Indian band members on reserves in many cases is deplorable. Driving through some reserves we find absolutely terrible housing conditions tremendously below national standards. It may surprise some to know that one-third of aboriginal people on reserves live in overcrowded conditions, that 50% of aboriginal children live in poverty, and that the infant mortality rate is twice as high for aboriginal children and three times as high for Inuit than for other Canadian children. This is a nightmare.

More than that, alcoholism, suicide, illness and crime rates are three times higher than for non-aboriginal people. It is deplorable, and yet with all the funding the federal government sends to Indian bands on reserves to try to curb these problems, to address these concerns it still persists.

Why? It is a fact that 25% of Canada's aboriginal bands are being run under remedial management plans, with a combined debt of just over $139 million. A survey of 300 band councils done by the Department of Indian Affairs and Northern Development found that the most common problem was a lack of control on conflict of interest. This is incredible. Yet just over $18 billion was spent on aboriginal specific programming over the fiscal years 1997 to 2000 from the Department of Indian Affairs and Northern Development and other departments to create a myriad of programs exclusively to remedy this situation, but to no avail.

I must ask if the government really believes that sending more money without the needed accountability will solve this problem. I do not think so.

Members in the House may wonder why I am so passionate about this issue. They probably think my only concern is the public purse. To that I say that in my riding of Skeena there are some 32 reserves, with a total population of just over 30,000 people. As their elected member of parliament I have a responsibility to ensure that their concerns and interests are met, along with those of the rest of the population of my riding.

To that end an ongoing overall level of accountability from elected on reserve representatives is paramount. I am supporting the motion because I truly believe it will make a difference, not only to those 30,000 constituents of mine but to the many hundreds of thousands of band members living on reserves throughout Canada.

We owe it to the individual band members, the ones coming to us complaining about the system, wanting change, to do just that. We must institute positive and needed change, as well as accountability where there previously was none. This can make an enormous difference in the lives of everyday aboriginal people living on reserves.

With accountability comes proper spending priorities and, as such, ensures that money earmarked by the department to help deal with some of the problems I mentioned earlier actually makes it to those programs.

Yes, we have a huge problem on some of our reserves. Let us take this opportunity, in the House, with this motion to make a difference.

I urge all members, particularly Liberal members, to support the motion. Accountability in public funding to Indian bands can only help. I urge members to join the Canadian Alliance in supporting the motion that is truly in the best interest of band members.