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

The Budget March 20th, 2007

Mr. Speaker, one of the things that we have to realize in Saskatchewan is that we have dipped in and out of the ability to be a have and a have not province. One of the future successes of remaining a have province is to exclude the non-renewable resources that the province generates, which is exactly the promise that the Prime Minister made.

I think a more relevant question would be why the Prime Minister and the members from Saskatchewan would make that promise, make strong moves toward implementing that promise in various comments and correspondence, but actually not do it at the end of the day. This hurts Saskatchewan. This hurts the future prospects of many opportunities that could otherwise be realized in Saskatchewan over the next little while. To me the real question is why that promise was broken.

The Budget March 20th, 2007

Mr. Speaker, I rise today to speak on the budget presented yesterday and I look forward to some discussion on this as we move forward.

On May 14, 2006, a Meadow Lake Progress editorial stated that with the 2006 budget, northern Saskatchewan communities “have been left behind”.

The editorial listed three major ways in which our communities have been left behind: first, no specific help for forestry workers and communities in Saskatchewan; second, nothing to help farmers with spring seeding; and third, abandoning the Kelowna accord.

It is unfortunate that a year and a budget later, little has changed. Once again, Saskatchewan forestry workers and industry have not been given any specific assistance, farmers will not receive any help for spring seeding, and of course the Kelowna accord has not been honoured.

Northern Saskatchewan is once again being left behind.

However, this budget is even more of a disappointment for northern Saskatchewan because of all the Conservative broken promises. Income tax rates have increased and income trusts have been taxed. There are no plans to reduce health care wait times. The promise of removing non-renewable resources from the equalization formula has been abandoned.

Let me first address agriculture. The agriculture announcement is all headline and no substance. After a year of the Prime Minister being distracted by fighting with farmers over the future of the Canadian Wheat Board, he forgot to deliver any assistance to them for spring seeding this year.

As the Western Producer reported on March 15, 2007, farmers and the provinces know they are being played as pawns by the Conservatives with the budget as well. This has given rise to frustration and cynicism.

Farmers know that the Conservatives are playing political games by claiming the budget must be passed in order for money to flow. Farmers need assistance with spring seeding now to pay for fertilizer, fuel and other costs of production.

The Prime Minister can and should deliver the money now but is leaving the producers waiting. There is no reason to wait. This aid needs to be delivered now. Farmers who need the aid now might not be in business by the fall or next year.

We must make no mistake: for the current government, farmers are on their own.

On top of that, the farmer savings accounts that require provinces to buy in were unilaterally introduced by the Prime Minister without consultation. Provinces were caught by surprise by the announcement. No timelines or details have come out yet, making the announcement an empty headline.

Moreover, during the Prime Minister's photo op in Saskatoon, he could not resist taking potshots at the Saskatchewan premier even while admitting he needed the premier's support to create these savings accounts. So much for creating goodwill and working together.

The situation for Saskatchewan forestry workers, the industry and the communities is also deeply disappointing. In the past year, the Conservatives did not announce any Saskatchewan-specific plans to help workers or businesses. In the softwood managed trade agreement, they left $1 billion of illegally collected duties in American hands and traded away half of Saskatchewan's traditional U.S. market share.

With tough market conditions, forestry workers and industry deserve a strategy about how to move forward. The Liberals had responded to this challenge by creating the five year and $1.5 billion forest industry competitiveness strategy. This strategy offered long term stability and a plan to build sustainability for forestry communities.

However, the Conservatives abandoned that strategy. This has meant incredible hardship for Big River mill workers, who have been out of work for the past year, and uncertainties for Meadow Lake mills. The pain and uncertainty for these workers are real and the Prime Minister needs to offer his support to them. These workers deserve a plan. It is time the Prime Minister delivered it.

Northern Saskatchewan has also been hurt by broken Conservative promises. The Conservatives breaking their health care wait time promise by not offering any timelines or plans and the health minister's lack of leadership on health issues have hurt rural and northern communities.

However, other challenges also need immediate attention. Accessibility to treatment and facilities remains a major concern. Recurring doctor shortages in Spiritwood led to its hospital closing, forcing residents to travel at least an hour to get emergency care. For remote communities, there is double the hardship.

As for taxes, the Conservatives broke their word to lower taxes, hiking the lowest income tax rate to 15.5% in the last budget and refusing to cut it in this budget. Also, the amount that people can earn tax free has been lowered and the Conservatives refuse to increase it to the levels the Liberals had it at. This move has meant that tax credit savings for Canadians have been cancelled out or that their taxes have actually increased.

The broken income trust promise has been a bitter disappointment as well, as many relied on the Prime Minister's promise not to tax income trusts. His sudden move to tax income trusts took away $25 billion from investors overnight.

But breaking the equalization promise is perhaps the most bitter of all for Saskatchewan. For over two years, Conservative members of Parliament had vocally advocated excluding non-renewable resources. The member for Battlefords—Lloydminster changed from saying that “people were getting angry about equalization” to saying it was priority 11 out of 10. The member for Regina—Lumsden—Lake Centre switched from introducing a motion in support of the promise to saying he would “be happy with whatever announcement was made” by the Prime Minister.

With this broken promise it is clear that not one of them is willing to speak up for Saskatchewan. Their voices do not even amount to a whisper in the government.

Considering the amount cut by the Conservatives by scrapping the child care agreements and the Kelowna accord, the income tax rate hikes and personal tax free amount decreases and social program cuts to literacy, museums and youth investments, Saskatchewan is not even at a break-even point because of this broken promise.

As for aboriginal issues, the scrapping of the Kelowna accord and the meagre funding for first nations, Métis and Inuit, despite the quickly growing aboriginal population, hurts Saskatchewan in particular. The last year had already been very disappointing for aboriginal Canadians. Only $150 million of new money was specifically dedicated to first nations, Métis and Inuit. With cuts to INAC and aboriginal health and languages totalling at least $220 million, this means that funding was cut by about $70 million, a net loss over the course of the last year.

What a loss scrapping the Kelowna accord has been. There has been more of a loss than simply the $5.1 billion that was budgeted for economic development, housing, water and health. It is more than the loss of the new consensus reached between premiers and the aboriginal leadership.

The investments in the Kelowna accord would have provided increased economic development for all of Saskatchewan; more jobs for aboriginal and non-aboriginal workers, as investments in housing and water would have created a need for construction workers, water treatment specialists and housing firms; more economic activity, particularly for all northern Saskatchewan communities, as business opportunities would be created to meet the needs of suppliers, workers and capacity. Most important, investments in our youth for education and child care would have enabled aboriginal youth to achieve their goals in post-secondary education because they would have the necessary supports from their communities for funding and services.

However, the narrow and short-sighted vision of the Conservatives never saw the Kelowna accord for the opportunity it held for Saskatchewan. They saw it as something to cut. With this cut they have cut down the aspirations of many first nations, Métis and Inuit youth, youth who deserve much better, youth who are the competitive advantage of a new Saskatchewan. Without investing resources, this will increase the social pressures upon which these young people have to survive and battle every day.

A few weeks ago I was in Sandy Bay, a community that suffered through several suicides by despondent youth. The small community was in shock, reeling from the loss of so many lives. Many spoke about how they needed hope, jobs and something to do, someone to talk to. Community members came together in the face of this tragedy. The many divisions of the town joined together: Métis, first nations and municipal; health, justice and leadership; youth, elders and parents. They all came together for a common cause, the young people who needed the attention in order to survive and prosper in the new Saskatchewan.

This is what the Kelowna accord was about for Canada, all Canadians united, working together, a meeting ground, an understanding, a commitment to get the work done that needed to get done.

At their meeting, Sandy Bay residents spoke of their considerable need. They need resources for health, basic infrastructure, community halls, youth centres and such. Will they be able to achieve that? Only if we, the Liberals, the NDP, the Bloc and Conservatives commit once and for all to respect that it is people in those communities that have the answers and we exist only to empower them. We cannot afford to waste any time.

Aboriginal Affairs February 19th, 2007

Mr. Speaker, this past weekend I participated in a conference with survivors of the Ile-à-la-Crosse boarding school. They are frustrated that the Prime Minister will not honour his repeated promise to compensate them. Why? Because the Prime Minister was too negligent to check if the school qualified for the settlement and then proceeded to trample on their spirits.

A recent Meadow Lake Northern Pride editorial stated that “the Ile-à-la-Crosse survivors are victims of not only physical, sexual and emotional abuse...but also of the [Prime Minister's] negligence”.

The Prime Minister directly promised compensation in radio ads in my riding. When will he honour his agreement and his promise?

Aboriginal Affairs February 12th, 2007

Mr. Speaker, last week we found out that the Indian affairs minister seems to consider taxpayer funded trips called personal and political by his department as more valuable than improving child welfare.

While he fancies himself as being the pipelines minister, he is dismissing the child welfare crisis. As well, a report on his own department's website warns that the current child services program lacks authority and funding to pursue effective care options. Perhaps the reason the minister would rather talk about pipelines than child welfare is that he knows he is responsible for the funding crunch hurting aboriginal children.

This past Wednesday the Calgary Sun quoted a source as saying that INAC is redirecting all non-core funding, such as funding for child-welfare services, to deal with the lack of funding for the water crisis.

Why is there no money for water? Because the minister refused to devote any new money and refuses to implement the Kelowna accord.

Canada's first nations, Métis and Inuit people deserve much better than the minister's complete lack of leadership.

The Environment February 9th, 2007

Mr. Speaker, northern Saskatchewan is known for its pristine beauty and for the significant number of people who live off the land. As a result, environmental concerns have always been important for us but recently, with reports of melting Arctic ice and more evidence of climate change, this concern has gained a greater sense of urgency.

A recent Meadow Lake Progress editorial captured the sentiment stating:

It’s easy to put environmental worries on the back burner, but when we get an entire winter without snow, or we see the polar bears disappear for good, we will get a slap in the face.

These concerns are close to home. In northern Saskatchewan, climate change could have a terrible effect on ice roads and could change traditional animal migrations.

The Conservatives' clean air act risks putting the environment on the back burner. Targets are being set as far back as 2050.

A real strategy is needed now, one that recognizes the leadership role our agricultural and forestry producers can have in land use and in biofuels and create a strong consultation plan with aboriginal peoples.

Everyone can prosper when we take full advantage of tradition and innovation.

Aboriginal Affairs February 7th, 2007

Mr. Speaker, yesterday the Minister of Indian Affairs and Northern Development told the House that his trip and four night stay at a luxurious hotel in Washington was very valuable.

However, documents we obtained show that his officials beg to differ. Here is what departmental staff said about the trip: “Much of the agenda in Washington is personal/political/non-INAC--”.

If the minister wants to accomplish something very valuable, why does he not turn his attention to my people who are sleeping in shifts in mouldy overcrowded housing and maybe the child welfare crisis at the same time?

Aboriginal Affairs February 6th, 2007

Mr. Speaker, the Minister of Indian Affairs says that money is not the answer to the child welfare crisis in first nations communities. That is rich given his own spending habits: $2,000 of taxpayers' money hobnobbing in Washington with Dick Cheney and staying four nights at the ritzy Mandarin Hotel for $500 Canadian a night. The hotel itself claims to have redefined what luxurious means.

Why is the minister wasting tax dollars in Washington while 27,000 children, not 9,000 as his blinders suggest, are in care?

Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms December 11th, 2006

Mr. Speaker, Canada is the home of the just society, a noble vision that affirms the rights of Canadians, including the rights of minorities and the most vulnerable.

We have seen the terrible cost of ignoring basic human rights, such as the internment of Ukrainian Canadians in World War I, and the injustices of the residential school system.

The Charter of Rights and Freedoms is an enduring solemn oath to Canada. These historical abuses and shames must never happen again. The courts safeguarded these charter rights and freedoms, which are sacred to all Canadians.

The charter and the courts have protected many, including in Eldridge where deaf Canadians were found to have a right to sign language interpretation to avoid medical misdiagnosis; in Wu, which determined that imprisonment should not result simply because someone is too poor to pay a fine; in Williams, which found that an accused has a right to be judged free of racial bias; and in Mills, which asserted that victims of sexual assault have a right to maintain their privacy.

All court affirmed charter rights promote the vision of the just society and it is our duty as members of Parliament to respect diversity and maintain the rule of law.

Canadian Wheat Board December 8th, 2006

Mr. Speaker, when the Prime Minister was president of the National Citizens Coalition, he said, “Gag laws are unconstitutional and unenforceable”. He has shown time and time again his hypocrisy knows no bounds. Not only does his government gag the Wheat Board from advocating on behalf of its single desk, but next week it will fire the president for doing his job.

This behaviour is scandalous. When will the Prime Minister cut the hypocrisy, obey the law, rescind the letter to Mr. Measner and stop threatening him for doing his job?

First Nations Jurisdiction Over Education in British Columbia Act December 5th, 2006

Mr. Speaker, I applaud the minister for introducing the bill. I also applaud the B.C. first nations for all the outstanding work they have done over the last number of years. I know they are going to enjoy tremendous success as they move forward.

I also see success happening in other parts of the country as well. For example, in northern Saskatchewan on reserve graduation rates have gone through the roof. In 1998 the graduation rate was 34%. In 2004 the graduation rate of students in grade 12 was 92%. It is great to see that kind of success across the country. I can envision different models being implemented across the country as we move into the future.

What kind of resources is the Department of Indian Affairs and Northern Development committing to the First Nations Education Council and how is it going to help them to support and build their capacity as we move forward?