House of Commons photo

Elsewhere

Crucial Fact

  • His favourite word was lumber.

Last in Parliament November 2005, as Independent MP for London—Fanshawe (Ontario)

Won his last election, in 2004, with 38% of the vote.

Statements in the House

Supply October 21st, 2004

Madam Speaker, the member was so busy being emotional that he did not pay much attention. I feel we have turned a corner because I indicated--

Supply October 21st, 2004

It will not dissuade me, because I feel every bit as strongly about the Canadian Forces as members across the floor. Some of them over there know it because we worked together. They should tone down the rhetoric, because I will have my say whether they like it or not. We can holler. We can turn up the volume too. It serves nobody. Let us all tone it down and show some respect as colleagues. I do not interrupt other members and I do not expect to be interrupted when I am speaking, so do us all a favour.

I want to talk about equipment, because much of the hyperbole we hear revolves around equipment. We hear it in the press, we hear it from members of Parliament on both sides, I am sorry to say, and in my own caucus, and we hear it from some of the public, that all the Canadian equipment is junk. It is too old, it is junk and it is inadequate. I invite people who feel that way to come to my riding of London—Fanshawe and visit a plant now owned by General Dynamics, formerly General Motors, on Oxford Street East. I know the defence critic is well aware to what I am referring. I do not suggest that he has made the “all the equipment is junk” statement, but members of his party have. At that plant, the very latest state of the art light armoured personnel carrier is produced. It is leading edge equipment and is the best in the world. The Americans think so highly of it, and they have an enormous military budget, that they are spending some $6 billion to purchase this equipment. It has been exported to various countries around the world. It is the very best piece of that type of equipment. It is not a panacea. It does not solve all our needs in a military vehicle, but it is excellent for what it does, what it is built to do and it is leading edge.

I will attempt to wrap up by simply saying that the defence review is under way. I believe it is certainly high time that it go to the defence committee. I look forward to participating in that review. The Irish rock start, Bono, said that the world needed more Canada. He was right. That means the Canadian Forces as well, working for peace and security both here at home and around the world. We ought to acknowledge the outstanding work the men and women do. We ought to admit we have shortchanged the Canadian Forces over the past probably quarter century, both Conservative and Liberal governments. I acknowledge that. I believe we cut too deeply. We have turned the corner. The Prime Minister and the government are seriously committed to reinvesting in the Canadian Forces, have done so, and will continue to do so in the very near future.

Supply October 21st, 2004

We can have a look the blues, but that is clearly what the Leader of the Opposition was suggesting and, quite frankly, he is wrong in that. My plea for toning down the rhetoric is falling on deaf ears.

Supply October 21st, 2004

He said something very close to that. I originally said that he said something to that effect.

Supply October 21st, 2004

Perhaps. I understand that the opposition whip feels strongly about this, as do I. I want to encourage him to let me say my piece and I will listen very carefully when he has his chance to say his, as we have normally done at the SCONDVA committee.

The point I am trying to make is this. If we go on mission and talk to men and women in the Canadian Forces, my experience is that their morale is extremely high and they know exactly why they are there. They believe in what they are doing. They may wish they had a little more up to date equipment, no doubt, and I acknowledge that. The reality is it is simply an exaggeration and an unhelpful piece of hyperbole for the Leader of the Opposition to suggest that our men and women, when they are in the field on a mission, have no sense of their purpose. I simply do not believe that.

Supply October 21st, 2004

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to join the debate today on the opposition motion. I have listened with great interest to my colleagues on both sides of the House.

I am certainly pleased to see some of the new members in the House of Commons, such as the defence critic for the opposition party with his obvious expertise and experience in the Canadian Forces. I believe a commitment exists in all parties in the House to try to do the best we can for the men and women in the Canadian Forces.

At the outset I want to thank the men and women of the Canadian Forces for their hard work and commitment on behalf of Canadians, both here at home and in working for peace and stability in what is surely a dangerous world.

I have a few observations about the tone of today's debate and the tone of the larger debate that is taking place and needs to take place in this country, whether it be in the Standing Committee on National Defence, in the media or in the public generally.

The tone of the debate is very important. I feel the best efforts of members ought to be directed toward trying to keep their comments as non-partisan as possible. I understand this is a competitive place and that it is partisan by nature. I know we will seriously disagree from time to time and perhaps even vehemently on various points related to defence or anything else.

However, given that we are talking about the Canadian Forces and doing the best we can for the men and women who risk their lives, often daily, in the service of their country, I think it behooves all of us to tone down the rhetoric and the volume a little. It has been pretty loud in here today already. Maybe we could be a little more respectful and tone down the debate, not by any means deleting our disagreements or watering down our points. We were elected to come to this place to make those points but I hope we tone down the rhetoric and volume just a little so that in the spirit of cooperation on both sides of the House we can look to what is the future that this country wants for its Canadian Forces and the resources they need to carry out the tasks with which we charge them.

I want to now make reference to the fact that members opposite, primarily from the official opposition, have made the point that the previous Liberal government significantly cut spending on national defence. That is true. I was elected in 1993. I was not enamoured of the fact that we were cutting as deeply as we were, but the reality is those cuts were made. I honestly and sincerely believe that we cut too deeply but I believe we are turning the corner on that now and that we need to turn it more quickly.

I want to recall for my friends opposite that this did not start with the previous Liberal government. Many of my colleagues know that from 1984 to 1999, under the previous Conservative and Liberal governments, there were, I believe, 15 straight years of cuts to the military budget.

What I have been hearing from the other side, which is called a selective recall of history, with all due respect, is that the cutting started 10 years ago with the 1993 Chrétien government coming to power. The fact is that it actually started at least back in 1984, or perhaps sooner, when the governments of various political stripes cut the defence budget significantly and, I would agree, probably too deeply.

I will maybe put a little more of a non-partisan perspective on the fact that if we want to point the finger of blame about cutting defence in this country, we have to point in several directions and not just in one.

I would like to make a point about some of the hyperbole or exaggeration that I have been hearing and have heard from members of Parliament in the debate today and in past debates, within the Liberal caucus and within the opposition caucuses. We hear this hyperbole or exaggeration in the media from time to time and I certainly hear it from various members of the public when I go out and hold my regular town hall meetings in my riding in every season of the year. I am sure my colleagues, when they interact with their constituents one way or another, would probably acknowledge that they hear some of this exaggeration or hyperbole about the state of the Canadian Forces and the state of the equipment.

I think the opposition motion moved by the opposition critic is well-intentioned. However, we must look at some of the wording and look for some of the hyperbole. The motion states that the forces “have been permitted to decay”. That sounds as if they have been destroyed or that they no longer exist, which is not, I believe, what the mover intended. In days past I had the opportunity to teach and one of the subjects I taught from time to time was English. I find there is a very clear connotation in the words that would suggest that if the forces have been permitted to decay, they are rotten or they have been destroyed. I do not believe for a minute that is what my hon. friend intends but it is very important. Words have power and meaning and it is very important that we focus on that.

Let me talk about that point. I do agree that the Canadian Forces have been in decline, probably for the past quarter of a century or longer, in decline in the sense of probably we are under-peopled in the Canadian Forces. I think there is an acknowledgement of that. I believe there is an acknowledgement in the current government that we are falling behind in terms of replacing our infrastructure. Some of our equipment needs have to be and have been addressed very recently and will be addressed in the next budget and in future budgets.

It is far different to acknowledge that there has been a decline in the Canadian Forces, which ought fairly to be laid at the footstep of past governments of different political stripes and not just past Liberal governments, and that the decline needs to be addressed and is being addressed. That is very different than saying that they do not exist or that they are total non-functional. I wanted to make that point because I know that is not the intention of the mover's motion but it is a proper understanding that one could take.

The reality is that since 1999 there have been some $10 million of new funding directed toward the infrastructure needs of the Canadian Forces. The reality is that I was chair of SCONDVA, the Standing Committee on National Defence and Veterans Affairs. I am honoured again to have been elected chair of that committee and am pleased to be working with some of the colleagues in the opposition and on the government side who are really committed to doing good work there.

The first time I had the opportunity to chair that committee was in 1999. We produced a report, largely under the chairmanship of a former colleague of mine, Mr. Robert Bertrand. I became defence chair toward the end of the study on quality of life. The report was considered by most as an outstanding report. I was told this repeatedly by people in the military, not the generals but the ranks, the troops, some of whom I personally know and some of whom I taught in a former life. They said it was an outstanding report and, if it is, it is because it is their report. Members of the defence committee went coast to coast to coast in Canada. We went overseas to engage the men and women of the Canadian Forces. We said that we did not want any military brass in the room, that this was their chance to tell us what was really on their mind or they should not complain in the future. Well, they did. They laid it out in spades. The result was what is now considered an outstanding quality of life report on the state of the Canadian Forces and the challenges they and their families face.

It was in the 1999 budget when we saw the first increase in at least 15 years in the Canadian Forces. It was directed at trying to improve a very badly needed and deserved salary increase, and more funding to recognize the housing challenges. It was a direct result of their work that we were trying to do more to improve the situation of our men and women in the forces and their families.

I believe we began to turn that corner in 1999. Every budget since has seen some new money for the Canadian Forces. We need to turn that corner more quickly, but we have to acknowledge the facts of the matter. There is a strong recognition and commitment by the Prime Minister and the government to seriously reinvest in our Canadian Forces.

When I talk about this hyperbole, I want to go back to the comments earlier today of the deputy leader of the opposition party. I took him up on them a little, trying to do it in a cooperative way. I think maybe he took umbrage. The reality is there are some serious problems with the Canadian Forces and we acknowledge that. They need to be addressed. The government is trying to address them and I hope we will do better in addressing them in the very near future, in the best spirit of cooperation on both sides of the House. However, as my friend the defence critic from the NDP indicated, it serves no one to perpetuate falsehoods about this.

I do not think the deputy leader intended to mislead the House, but perhaps he was not aware of the statements of Major General Leslie at the SCONDVA around last April or May. That was when the whole issue, which got so much play in the media, was overblown about our poor troops having to go into desert action without tan camouflage uniforms and that they were sitting out there in an unsafe situation or they were a target because they did not have these proper uniforms. That is simply not the fact.

Do not take it from me. Take it from Major General Leslie who was our commanding officer in Afghanistan. I have his testimony here which I could quote. I could table it if anyone wants it. He came to our committee and very clearly said, “We had tans for most of the soldiers”. He said that it was his choice that they not use them. He very clearly explained why he made that choice. He talked about much of their action being at night and that they were better off in the green uniforms. He talked about wanting to distinguish Canadians from other troops there, so many of whom were wearing the tan uniform. There was no distinctive look for the Canadians and the Canadians wanted to have that. It was very positively reinforced by the population that they recognized the Canadians instantly.

We have heard the word nonsense many times on both sides in some heated exchanges. Let us stop the nonsense where we play the partisan game, and let us not continue to say something that we know is wrong. We acknowledge there are real challenges that exist for the Canadian Forces and we need to deal with them. However, let us not continue to perpetuate something like the myth that our troops in Afghanistan did not have tan uniforms, because it is not true and Major Leslie was very clear in pointing that out.

I simply bring this point back up because I do not think the deputy leader, in answering my earlier question, answered it at all. He then went on to say that I was blaming the military. I was not blaming the military. I was recalling the testimony, which I am prepared to table, of Major General Leslie at the SCONDVA around last April or May. Those are the facts he gave us.

It would behoove all of us to tone down the rhetoric, tone down the volume, tone down the hyperbole, acknowledge the real problems that exist and work cooperatively to try to address those. When we have new facts that put a different light on something which has been stated incorrectly, let us be candid enough to acknowledge that, get past it, and move on.

I agree with some of the points made by the hon. Leader of the Opposition. He made some good points, but again he gave into the temptation for hyperbole. How? He stated in the House pretty much something to the effect that Canada sent troops around the world on missions where they were unsure of their purpose on those missions. I invite the hon. Leader of the Opposition to go into the field and talk to the men and women of the Canadian Forces on mission. I did so in Kosovo along with colleagues on both sides of the House.

Supply October 21st, 2004

Madam Speaker, I thank the deputy leader for his comments. I also want to thank the Leader of the Opposition for his comments, much with which I agree, and I think with which many of the colleagues on this side agree. Obviously, there are some points with which we disagree.

I welcome the deputy leader's comments about not scoring partisan points. That is the spirit in which we have tried to operate at the SCONDVA. That has been my experience and certainly all members on both sides hope that will continue to be the spirit in which we operate.

I would like to ask him to help me debunk one point that has been repeatedly stated. It was the subject of a conversation last night between myself and the official defence critic for the opposition party. It relates to this continued talk about sending our troops into harm's way in a desert situation in green uniforms.

About last April at the SCONDVA, the defence committee, we heard from the former Canadian commander in Afghanistan, Major General Leslie. He indicated that it was his decision to send those troops in with that equipment. He did not want the desert uniforms. This was testimony from the man who was there. He indicated very clearly the rationale for that was that much of the work Canadians were doing was at night and that it was for the safety of his personnel.

I am sorry if the opposition does not want the facts from Major General Leslie. I heard an indication of not wanting to score partisan points. We agree there are some real needs and real shortfalls in our equipment, but let us not give in to hyperbole. Let us admit it when we are wrong. The deputy leader is wrong on that point. According to the testimony of Major General Leslie, he deliberately chose the uniforms for safety and to distinguish the Canadian troops.

I the member aware of that testimony? Could he help debunk the idea that somehow they were sent in with the improper equipment?

Petitions May 12th, 2004

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to present a petition from some 200 citizens of London, Ontario calling upon the Government of Canada to uphold the traditional definition of marriage as it has been known throughout the centuries and since the start of this country. The petitioners note that marriage is understood as between one man and one woman, which predates any existing state and crosses all cultural and religious lines.

In presenting this petition, it concludes the presenting of petitions of some 25,000 citizens of London, Ontario calling upon the government to take action and be consistent in defending the traditional definition of marriage. I am most pleased to support it.

Constitution Act May 3rd, 2004

Mr. Speaker, I listened to my colleague's comments. I am not sure that he heard all of my comments, because I wonder if he heard that I said--

Constitution Act May 3rd, 2004

Mr. Speaker, the first point my colleague made was that my bill went against the Constitution. I guess it is a matter of semantics. My bill clearly states on the front page that it is an act to amend the Constitution Act of 1867. It certainly seeks to amend the Constitution to put forward a principle that I find more democratic and more effective and efficient for Canadians. That principle is to cap the size of the House of Commons rather than to continue to see it grow and grow.

As I said, under our current rules, had we the population of the United States, we would have some 3,000 MPs. One has to laugh at that because of course we all know how ridiculous that would be. We would have to hold our meetings in the Corel Centre, or Lansdowne Park or someplace.

There is no question that the bill does seek to amend the Constitution to bring a cap to the size of the House of Commons, that being 308 seats, as will happen after the next redistribution is effective the day the writ is dropped. That is the first point.

My colleague asked a very relevant question of who would lose under this kind of an idea. I would submit that the answer is no one. The basic principle of democratic representation, as we all know, is representation by population. That is the basic democratic principle on which the country tries to operate.

Given the size of our country, given the disparity and the size of some of the provinces and given the history of our country as it has evolved, we have to deviate somewhat significantly from this rep-by-pop democratic principle. However, one ought to adhere to it as much as possible. That is what the bill seeks to do. It seeks to put a cap on the size of the House of Commons.

As the bill says, if my colleague's riding were to increase in size in terms of population, there would not be a redistribution to split his riding. He would be allocated additional staff resources under an agreed upon formula, to allow him to serve that larger number of constituents. This also would avoid the disruption and expense of the redistributions that we so often have in this country, roughly every 10 years.

At some point, if his riding or my riding shrunk below a sensible minimum that it no longer justified having a member of Parliament, which does happen in Canada, then there would have to be a combination with another riding. However, the point is that redistribution, increases and decreases and shifting of population, would still be accommodated but within the principle of a cap on the size of the House of Commons.