House of Commons photo


Crucial Fact

  • His favourite word was saskatchewan.

Last in Parliament March 2008, as Liberal MP for Desnethé—Missinippi—Churchill River (Saskatchewan)

Won his last election, in 2006, with 41% of the vote.

Statements in the House

Aboriginal Affairs May 8th, 2006

Mr. Speaker, the Prime Minister has killed the Kelowna accord, taken early learning opportunities away from aboriginal children, tormented residential school survivors with needless delays, and excluded the Métis from the budget.

To add insult to injury, why has the Prime Minister anointed the member for Saskatoon—Wanuskewin as chair of the aboriginal affairs committee, who insists that Canada's judicial system is race based and too lenient on aboriginal people?

Business of Supply May 4th, 2006

Mr. Speaker, I think the hon. member for Malpeque is an outstanding individual who has done a great service to the House and to the people he represents.

In rural Saskatchewan, I have met with people with families who say, “The $1,200 is fine, but what do I do with it? Where do I spend it to get the spaces? I need that support”.

Business of Supply May 4th, 2006

Mr. Speaker, back in the riding that I so proudly represent, we talk about the opportunity that the Kelowna accord presented, that the child care plan presented and that the actions that were talked about with regard to health and economic development presented.

Unfortunately, the people in my riding of Desnethé—Missinippi—Churchill River realized that it was the NDP that prevented all of that from occurring. That is an unfortunate reality but that is what we have to deal with. Now we have to hope that the government across actually responds and stands up for aboriginal Canadians.

Business of Supply May 4th, 2006

Mr. Speaker, I cited some statistics in my speech that talked about how the actions of the Liberal government actually helped. We began to set the stage for making even bigger differences in the lives of aboriginal children.

What we see across the floor today is that Kelowna has been tossed aside, child care has been tossed aside and there is no mention of health care. These kids need the help of the government today.

The Liberal Party is proud of its record when it was in government. The Kelowna accord set the stage for bigger and better things.

Business of Supply May 4th, 2006

Mr. Speaker, I will be splitting my time with the member for Mississauga South.

It is a pleasure to speak to the issue before the House today which is one that touches the very heart of this great country and each of its citizens. Health care is an incredibly important concern for me and all my colleagues and, indeed, the future of Canada.

I know that I as a parent have always wanted the best for my children, the best opportunities, the best learning and the best care. I am truly thankful that my wife and I have been able to provide a safe and loving home for them.

However many of our fellow Canadians do not have this. Far too many in a land of such wealth and prosperity have little and must engage in a daily struggle for survival. Their pain far too often does not have a voice, rather, only cold, unfeeling numbers tell the undeniable story of their unspoken tragedy.

Infant mortality is a clinical phrase, one that only suggests the terrible anguish it brings. In 2000, Health Canada reported that the first nations infant mortality rate was 6.4 deaths per 1,000 live births, a rate 16% higher than the general Canadian population. Those who survive are often brought home to live in a house that overcrowded and need of repair. Indian Affairs and Northern Development reported that in 2005 12% who live in a first nations community live in overcrowded conditions in comparison to 1% elsewhere in Canada.

Moreover, 27.6% of these homes are in desperate need of major repairs or need to be replaced outright. Many of these children suffer greatly because of the twin scourges of poverty and disease. The rate of child poverty in Saskatchewan, for instance, is already far too high at 17.6%, but for off reserve first nations and Métis in Saskatchewan, the number shows a truly dire situation. Fully 55.9% of first nations children and 36% of Métis children live in poverty.

I ask members to please not confuse the culture of poverty with the culture of aboriginal people.

Too often poverty also means disease. In 2000, the gap between first nations and Canadian rates of enteric, food and water borne diseases among children aged 0 to 14 were reported by Health Canada to be 2.1 times higher for shigellosis, 6 times higher for rubella and 7 times higher for tuberculosis.

These horrible statistics are linked to other troubling and chilling numbers. Aboriginal youth are eight times more likely to be incarcerated than other Canadian youth. In Saskatchewan, 75% of all youth incarcerated are aboriginal. As a terrible last act, 22% of all deaths of first nations youth were as a result of suicide. We need more than anything to listen to these silent voices for their anguish says the most.

I ask the House to try to fully comprehend the tragedy of these numbers. This is a tragedy with silent voices, voices that all need to be given strength, to be listened to and to be responded to.

The response we need to give is one of compassion, support and help. This support is not a hand-out but a helping hand up. Right now there are little or no supports for aboriginal children aged 0 to 4 in first nations communities, especially children born with disabilities. With no services and few accessible quality early childhood intervention programs try to imagine the anguish that parents and children who want and need but they cannot get. This is what it means to be powerless.

Saskatchewan as a whole needs more spaces in order to meet the needs of dedicated working parents. A University of Toronto report recently found that Saskatchewan does not have nearly enough spaces to meet these families' needs. In fact, only 4.9% of Saskatchewan children under age 12 had access to regulated child care spaces, the lowest in the country.

The Progressive Conservative Party recognized this country's obligation to protect and nurture children. In 1959, Prime Minister John Diefenbaker, a Saskatchewan boy, signed the United Nations Declaration of the Rights of the Child. In 1989, Prime Minister Mulroney signed its successor, the Convention on the Rights of the Child. By doing so, they entered into a pact with the world to ensure that all children, including the ones living within their own country, would not be left behind.

The Liberals, however, implemented commitments, 13 years of commitments and results, to ensure no children would be left behind. Head Start is an excellent example of this commitment. This comprehensive early childhood development program for aboriginal children and their families now serves 3,500 children in 114 communities across Canada. The on reserve component provides services to 7,700 children in 265 communities.

The national child benefit also introduced by the Liberals has also helped Canadian families greatly. The national child benefit helps: one, prevent and reduce the depth of child poverty; two, supports parents as they move into the labour market; and three, reduces overlap and duplication of government programs.

For Saskatchewan, the Liberals entered into an agreement with the province to commit $146 million in funding over five years devoted to creating 7,600 funded child care and early learning spaces, spaces that the parent experts asked for.

For first nations on reserve, the Liberals committed $100 million to child care spaces and, on top of that, committed to an additional $100 million for northern aboriginal early learning and child care agreed to at the Kelowna first ministers meeting in November 2005.

As a result of these initiatives, Canada's strong economic performance, which has been aided by eight consecutive balanced budgets, the number of low income families with children has dropped from close to 16% in 1996 to 11% in 2000. These are real achievements. This guaranteed parents and children real support and help.

Unfortunately, the Conservative government is slowly tearing these commitments down. For Saskatchewan, the funding for spaces has been choked off, closing off the opportunity to create more spaces. For aboriginals, the Kelowna accord has been tossed aside.

Instead, the government offers $3.25 a day to parents, taxable in their hands and subject to a myriad of clawbacks and hocus-pocus tax credit plan. There are few guarantees that this money could even get to families who need it most.

First, $3.25 a day will not allow needy parents to quit work when they need to earn at least $6 or $7 an hour to provide for themselves and their children. What is worse, this small amount could actually lead to more problems than it solves: clawbacks on child tax benefits, missed eligibility for GST credits, clawed back social assistance payments and so on. On top of this, these working parents will be taxed. It will be the harshest for parents who are barely at the poverty line.

At the end of day, April 30 being that day, the Caledon Institute reports that families with two working parents with a combined income of $30,000 will only take home $199 a year. The $3.25 plan becomes the 55¢ plan. Meanwhile, families making $200,000 a year with a stay at home parent will take home $1,076 a year.

Low income aboriginal Canadians need support. This $3.25, or rather 55¢, will not help with threats of disease and terrible living conditions. This is an attempt to explain away the problem without dealing with it, without building capacity, creating opportunities for early learning and care, and giving parents the support they need.

The tax credit plan will do even less. It will not create spaces on reserves with their different tax environments or in inner cities and economically marginalized areas. It does not respond to the challenges of remote and rural communities which need real commitments and real funding.

I know the government will consider this old hat but the Conservative plan is inadequate. The government needs a lesson about the differences of equality and equity. Legislating the equality of opportunity and treating everyone the same does not eliminate discrimination. The measure of equality is in the equity of results, not the equity of opportunity.

We must strive to listen to the silent voices and the voices of all Canadians who struggle and need real help and real commitment. I call upon all members to support the opposition motion.

Aboriginal Affairs May 4th, 2006

Mr. Speaker, yesterday the finance minister and the Minister of Indian Affairs and Northern Development defended a budget that scrapped the Kelowna Accord.

There is no new funding to address serious health issues like TB, diabetes or HIV in aboriginal communities, no new funding for education or water, and no funding increases for economic opportunities. The government will never understand the pain our people feel. The government promised funding contingent on a budget surplus.

Will the minister admit there are no real dollars for aboriginal peoples in the budget?

Aboriginal Affairs April 28th, 2006

Mr. Speaker, instead of a round table, we get more of a bully pulpit. Each first nation government already files a minimum of 168 financial reports every year to the federal government, all of which the Auditor General gets access to.

The parliamentary Standing Committee on Aboriginal Affairs and Northern Development stated that 96% of first nations are fully compliant with all the regulations and rules. When will the government get off the pulpit, get back to the table, and begin consulting with first nations people?

Aboriginal Affairs April 28th, 2006

Mr. Speaker, imposing legislation upon aboriginal governments without prior consultation does not work, not to mention that it is an insult. Aboriginal organizations, the federal Auditor General, and the previous government had established a round table joint policy initiative to build capacity toward the establishment of a first nation's auditor general.

Why is the government imposing its colonial wards of state attitude upon the first nations and not respecting this agreed to initiative?

Aboriginal Affairs April 27th, 2006

Mr. Speaker, I rise in the House today to commend the Saskatchewan legislature, Premier Calvert, opposition leader Brad Wall and all members of the assembly for passing an all party motion calling upon the Conservative government to honour and implement the full scope of the Kelowna accord.

The Kelowna accord is not only about the fiscal commitments but also about the successful negotiations of the accord in setting a high water mark in the relationship between the federal government and aboriginal Canadians.

Prior to the 1970s, federal-aboriginal relations could best be described as “ad hoc crisis response”, with aboriginal issues largely ignored and the federal government responding to a crisis. From the 1970s to the mid-1990s, the relationship changed, perhaps best described as adversarial. Aboriginal Canadians used the courts to advance and protect their rights. It was a time also marked by conflicts such as Oka and Ipperwash. The courts said, “Enough is enough”.

The Kelowna accord was the culmination of the efforts by provincial premiers, the federal government and especially the aboriginal leaders themselves. I call upon the government to stand up for aboriginal Canadians.

Resumption of debate on Address in Reply April 7th, 2006

Mr. Speaker, in my riding there is a significant population that is on reserve. Unfortunately, 80% of the on reserve residents are on social assistance, a federal program.

There is a significant baby boom occurring in our communities as well. With over 60% under the age of 25, 50% under the age of 18, approximately 25% under the age of 5, the need for child care is desperate. This proposal may actually create a situation where choices for proper child care are taken away.

Will the on reserve residents be receiving the $100 a month payment without a clawback from the federal social assistance program?

Will the Conservative government and the minister commit to the $100 million that the previous Liberal government committed to the aboriginal day care program and allow parents to pursue training and get off the social assistance system?

How will the tax credit proposal build day care spots on reserve when there is a different tax environment?