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

Fisheries February 26th, 2003

Mr. Chairman, I am pleased to rise today to speak on fisheries issues right across Canada. The House has heard and will hear members of Parliament representing many different views on the serious problems facing our fisheries. My view is from the perspective of a Canadian having lived his entire adult life in coastal British Columbia. I have seen firsthand the economic impact, both positive and negative, that the fishery can have on a community, particularly a remote community.

I am a member of the Standing Committee on Fisheries and Oceans and, as such, I have had the opportunity to learn more about some of the problems the fishery has faced on the east coast. I will share those views this evening. First, I would like to look at the overall problems with DFO.

In my riding, I am asked more questions and hear of more problems and concerns regarding DFO issues than probably any other matter. It all boils down to a real serious lack of understanding and proper management with DFO. There is too much top heavy management and not enough on the ground. The bureaucrats tend not to listen to good scientific advice. They are slow in implementing quota change and bad timing on salmon runs is an example.

My colleague spoke earlier about the loss to the British Columbia economy on the sockeye run on the Fraser River last year. Some $200 million were lost. On top of losing that economic impact, there is the possibility of damage being done to the spawning beds with over-escapement. I am not sure if that is clearly understood.

Over-escapement is as bad as under-escapement. If there were not enough fish spawning there would not be the returns, but if there were too many the damage to the fish beds and spawning grounds would be serious and there would not be the return either. Proper management is absolutely critical. It appears to be badly lacking not only on the east coast but the west coast as well, and it is getting worse.

We have a prolific river in my riding, named Skeena, which has some significant runs at times. The DFO manage it on a weak-stock management basis, which again eliminates access to a lot of the fish that could be harvested. Two years ago it cost the economy of Prince Rupert some $40 million because of this weak-stock management practice. It just does not take into account the adequate harvesting of these resources at the proper times which can be done if done properly.

Another major issue in British Columbia is the aboriginal fishing strategy itself, which is creating problems and will create more problems in the future. It has even been found to be illegal and that is something the government has not dealt with or has dealt with in an offhand manner. It will be a huge problem if we do not deal with it properly, as I am sure my colleagues will agree.

As far as enforcement officers on the ground, there are too many bureaucrats in the big cities. There are not very many fish spawning in the city of Ottawa and yet there is a huge fishery bureaucracy. It is not much different in a lot of the bigger cities across Canada. We must have people on the ground who are close to the resource and work with the fishery. It can work for everyone if it is done that way. We have huge problems the way it is right now.

There is the whole licensing issue where more licences have been concentrated in the hands of fewer owners and it too is creating a problem. Instead of a fishery that created jobs for literally hundreds and thousands of people in the past, we are now concentrating those jobs on fewer boats and with too much control on the part of one group.

The Heiltsuk Band in my riding is having problems with its spawn on kelp fishery, which has traditionally been fairly significant to them. The harvesting of that resource in the past has gone on in a fairly large commercial way, which it does not have a problem with. However, it is not being consulted in terms of management. Again, it boils down to local input into management issues. We need to have more hands in the management of these resources, whether it is an Indian band or local community.

An issue that is becoming fairly controversial and significant on the west coast is the issue of aquaculture and where it might go in the future. It is an opportunity, if it is done right, that could probably be successful. However, there are problems and these problems must be dealt with.

The issue of sea lice and those types of things that are creating problems with the fish farming industry and with the wild stocks must be dealt with. It behooves DFO and the fisheries minister to deal with these issues. To date they have not been dealt with properly or adequately.

That being said, I firmly believe the industry does have a future. It is like any other industry. It must be properly regulated, and allowed to have some rules and regulations that it can live by. That has not occurred to date and it must be dealt with on the west coast.

There has been a lot of discussion this evening about seals. Quite frankly it is a growing problem on the west coast. There is not a commercial seal harvest on the west coast at this point in time. I think there has to be. I would encourage the minister and the government to consider seriously a west coast seal harvest policy in the near future because we will have the same problems. We are starting to have the same problems on the west coast as exist on the east coast and a lot of it has to do with the explosion of the seal population.

I am aware of at least one group that is seriously looking at creating an industry on the west coast based on the harvesting of seals. I encourage the minister and the government to give that proposal serious consideration. It would not only create a new industry for British Columbia, but it would also help to deal with the serious problems that we have with the decline of the salmon resource in British Columbia, just like the cod resource on the east coast.

There are so many issues with the fishery. The Coast Guard has serious underfunding problems which has not allowed it to do its job adequately. It does an excellent job with the resources it has. It has good people but it needs the resources to do its job in an even better manner.

On the north coast, for example, there is absolutely no radar coverage. Radar coverage in British Columbia goes only as far as about halfway up Vancouver Island. The north coast is absolutely wide open.

Firearms Registry February 21st, 2003

Mr. Speaker, on this side of the House we know the government's billion dollar failed firearm registry has done nothing to curb crime or improve public safety in Canada. A majority of Canadians, 53% according to a recent poll, agree with the Canadian Alliance position and are calling on the government to scrap the failed registry. The registry is not even supported by most frontline police officers.

Why will the minister not cut his losses, scrap the registry today and instead direct the money toward more police officers on the street?

British Columbia February 14th, 2003

Mr. Speaker, the economy of British Columbia is in dire straits. The softwood lumber dispute, downturn in mining, lack of progress in proceeding with offshore oil and gas development have all created unprecedented economic difficulties, especially in northwestern B.C. and my riding of Skeena.

In his upcoming budget, it is to be hoped that the finance minister sees fit to level the playing field tax wise. Equalizing the corporate income tax rate is necessary to encourage new investment in these vital industries.

Furthermore, it is incumbent upon the federal Liberal government to encourage its provincial counterpart to move on offshore oil and gas development. The B.C. equivalent of a Hibernia plus awaits direction from both senior governments.

The B.C. economy needs the jobs and revenues. Northern British Columbians require new employment opportunities. The resources are there. Government must cut red tape and taxes to create the opportunity for economic recovery in our resources sector.

Foreign Affairs February 12th, 2003

Mr. Speaker, Canadians are being prevented from obtaining their passports under the guise of increased national security. In the last six months my constituency office has been inundated by hundreds of angry constituents. Some have even been forced to cancel trips, costing them thousands of dollars, due to the incompetence of the government.

I have repeatedly raised their concerns with the passport department of foreign affairs to no avail. When the advertised processing time is 45 working days, why are my constituents waiting months for their passports?

Canadian Coast Guard February 6th, 2003

Mr. Speaker, at this time I would like to review some of the events that have led the minister to make the decision and announcement he has made in the House today.

Make no mistake, the minister would not be making these changes to the Coast Guard if fatal accidents had not forced him to take a closer look at the irresponsible cuts his department made to the funding of our Coast Guard and its rescue dive operations.

On February 16, 2001, the then minister of fisheries cancelled the rescue dive team. Two days later, Paul Sandhu died after his car plunged into the Fraser River, only 400 metres from the dive team's home base. The dive team came to the scene but were ordered not to dive. Not long afterward, the minister of fisheries ordered a review of his decision to cancel the rescue dive team.

On July 19, 2001, the fisheries minister reinstated the dive team but not as a rescue dive team. Divers were only allowed to retrieve someone floating on the surface. As a result, those trapped in submerged fishing vessels were to be written off. The divers protested. They wanted no part of it. They claimed that the rules now meant that the only person they would be able to rescue would be someone who had fallen off a dock. Divers were told to follow orders and shut up.

An internal directive on the new no dive policy dated September 3, 2001, stated:

...procedures have been written to comply exactly with the Minister's announcement...Penetration of submerged...vessels is prohibited, exactly as stated in the signed off Fleet Safety Manual...

This is not open to interpretation, Mr. Speaker. It continues:

I would expect...divers to support our efforts to meet the requirements of the Minister's announcement as quickly as possible.

On August 13, 2002, when the Cap Rouge II went down with the loss of five lives including a mother and her two children, the minister said that the dive team ought to have known they could have dived.

Nothing could have been further from the truth. First, the directive of September 3, 2001, made it abundantly clear there was to be no diving because the minister had ordered that there be none. Second, our Coast Guard divers could not have safely dived because their surface air equipment had been disposed of. They were forced to rely on air tanks which ran out of supply shortly after arriving at the site.

The Coast Guard talking points on the Cap Rouge II incident made it very clear that the Coast Guard did not believe in rescue diving. They state:

Resources must be put where they will do the most good. --It's absolutely clear that a dollar spent on prevention or surface rescue activities will do more, by far, to save lives than a dollar spent on diving.

I hope that is not the message to the next person who is trapped in an overturned fishing vessel.

Today, the minister does not want to be held to account. He claims we should only look at his latest promises for the future. The truth is that after those two tragedies the government would have us believe that this time it is actually going to reinstate the rescue dive team.

Well, it is not so; not yet anyway. The fleet safety manual has been partially changed, but it only allows rescue dives to submerged vessels when divers have been given surface air equipment to do those dives and have been trained to use it.

While the surface air equipment has now arrived, training will not be completed for at least six months. We do not yet have a rescue dive team that is back in the business of doing rescue dives. We only have promises.

When the rescue dive team is called to the scene of an accident, our divers must have the training and equipment to make the dives and must have the authority to make that dive. I am not sure we are there yet. I pray we will be soon.

The Minister of Fisheries and Oceans did not offer in his statement an apology to the families of those who died aboard the Cap Rouge II as a result of the funding decisions taken by his department. There was no apology offered to the divers who were ordered not to dive and who the minister publicly claimed could have dived if they had known the rules.

In closing, lives have been lost and the Coast Guard's rescue divers have been tortured by memories of events. It is high time the government once again put a priority on saving lives.

Antipoverty Act February 4th, 2003

Madam Speaker, I appreciate the response but what I am trying to point out to the minister is that this goes far beyond any one situation. I think that is really the problem.

The initial situation is being resolved. I have spoken to the chief and the school board and we hope it will be resolved. My point is that I think there are some accountability issues here on the minister's part. He needs to be aware of these things. It is a problem across Canada. It is not localized. It is a huge issue.

Under the provincial school act, the school districts must provide the service. They must educate first nations people whether they are paid for it or not. Does the minister not agree that by abdicating his responsibility to ensure that funds transferred to a band be used for the express purpose for which they were transferred? I think that is the crux of the matter. What this is doing is putting a further burden on the taxpayers.

Antipoverty Act February 4th, 2003

Madam Speaker, back in December I asked the Minister of Indian Affairs and Northern Development a question relating to a specific Indian band regarding education funding and non-payment of bills.

I am not on a witch hunt, but this is a serious problem and it is not just localized. It is a problem right across the country. The crux of the matter is that Indian bands are allocated federal funds earmarked for education costs. School districts in my riding and other ridings are contracted to deliver education to these children. Education is provided by the bands. Some pay and some do not and this is what is creating the problem.

The federal minister has refused to make the Indian bands pay their debts. School districts as a consequence, some in my riding and some in other ridings, are owed millions as a result and have no recourse.

When the last master tuition agreement expired in 1992, school boards and bands were encouraged to enter into local education agreements under which bands would purchase services for their status, on-reserve students, using the federal grant provided for tuition.

At first the existence of such an agreement was a prerequisite to the band's receipt of federal funds. Later the federal government commenced direct funding under which a band could elect to receive tuition directly whether or not an LEA was in affect. Boards were expected to invoice such bands. Some paid and some did not. The receivables in some school districts grew and this of course was the crux of my question.

Boards were advised by the ministry to work on relationships and that eventually payment would come. They were informed that, “A recent judgment by the B.C. Supreme Court necessitates that DIAND take steps to ensure this funding is consistently directed to the purpose for which it was appropriated”.

In a letter from the provincial minister to my school board regarding INAC funding, it states that, “INAC expects its school districts will invoice bands and that it is working with these first nations to resolve any unpaid tuition accounts and to ensure that payment to school districts continues”. The letter goes on to say, “School districts are encouraged to bill the bands as soon as possible. The ministry is continuing to work with INAC regarding the funding of first nations students”.

On March 1, 2002, Indian and Northern Affairs Canada wrote to all first nations in the B.C. region that for fiscal year 2003 a signed local education agreement outlining terms and schedules for tuition payment must be in place before the DIAND would be able to place provincial school tuition funding in first nations funding agreements.

Reference was made to this and I repeat, “A recent judgment by the B.C. Supreme Court necessitates that DIAND take steps to ensure this funding is consistently directed to the purpose for which it was appropriated”. I feel that is the job of the minister to ensure that.

A letter from Kevin Langlands, B.C. special adviser to the minister, stated that, “Concerning tuition arrears, outstanding, up to and including March 31, 2002, I anticipate that this issue will be resolved by July 31, 2002”.

The problem is far from resolved. Senior levels of government have a clear duty to make financially whole the school boards who have been providing educational services to these aboriginal students. School boards must not be left to borrow funds, incur interest costs, and spend scarce education dollars on legal fees chasing questionable legal remedies for non-payment and late payment of tuition fees.

If the federal government has made unconditional grants to bands and paid out money that it should have paid to the province and thus to the school boards, that is not the fault of the school board or of the students.

I wish to ask the minister, is the minister washing his hands of this type of debt?

Aboriginal Affairs January 31st, 2003

Mr. Speaker, in December I questioned the Indian affairs minister with regard to a financial dispute between an Indian band and a local school board in my riding. Although that particular instance is partially resolved it has come to my attention that millions of more dollars are owed to school boards by Indian bands, not only in my riding but across Canada.

Why will the minister not face up to his responsibility and demand more accountability for the billions of taxpayers' dollars his department sends to Indian bands?

Petitions December 13th, 2002

Madam Speaker, the second petition calls on Parliament to focus its legislative support on adult stem cell research to find cures and therapies necessary to treat the illnesses and diseases of suffering Canadians.

Petitions December 13th, 2002

Madam Speaker, I have two petitions to present today. The first petition calls on Parliament to make the Coast Guard an independent body separate from the Department of Fisheries and Oceans, and whose priority is the saving of lives, with all the necessary resources for staffing and equipment. The petition is signed by several hundred citizens of British Columbia.