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 November 24th, 2006

Mr. Speaker, it will be a year ago tomorrow that the Liberal government concluded the landmark Kelowna accord. The agreement set aside $5.1 billion for health, education, housing and infrastructure, and economic development for Canada's aboriginal people and communities.

Perhaps the Conservative government does not realize that when it attacks the Kelowna accord, it is attacking the first nations people. It is attacking the Métis people. It is attacking the Inuit people.

Let me read for members what Inuit leader Ms. Mary Simon recently said about the cancellation of the accord:

Abandonment of this promise, combined with an absence of any alternative plan, is not a mere detour. It would be a self-declared admission of defeat. A focused, federally funded attack on the social problems that beset aboriginal people is a necessity, not an ideological indulgence.

The government's cancellation of the accord is not acceptable. It is not honourable. It is not in line with Canadian values.

Aboriginal Affairs November 23rd, 2006

Mr. Speaker, the tradition of aboriginal Canadians is to value the promises made to them. It is in that tradition that aboriginal Canadians will remember one simple thing that a promise was made and that promise was broken.

The minority Conservative government has betrayed aboriginal people. The Conservative government budget cancelled the $5 billion agreement and replaced it with chump change, $450 million over two years, about nine Conservative cents to every Liberal dollar that was promised. Not only that, the Conservatives cut funding to aboriginal languages, women, health and the list goes on.

Will the minister stand up to his bosses and demand that the fiscal update include Kelowna--

Early Learning and Child Care Act November 21st, 2006

Mr. Speaker, I rise today to speak to Bill C-303, the early learning and child care act. Early learning and child care spaces are a necessity for Saskatchewan. Creating spaces are incredibly important for addressing the growing labour gap in Saskatchewan and providing parents the option of affordable and accessible child care spaces as they take on employment, learning or training opportunities, or simply desire a child care choice.

Although I am supportive of the intent of this bill, it calls attention to the loss of the early learning and child care agreements that the previous Liberal government reached with the provinces, as well as the Kelowna accord. Child care agreements were created in consultation with each of the provinces, and met unique challenges and opportunities for each province.

The Kelowna accord met concerns of aboriginal leaders and encouraged the first nations, Métis and Inuit communities to proceed with their own plan that responded to the challenges of their own communities and opportunities as well. As a result, communities and provinces were able to take the lead and ownership of their own child care programs.

The NDP has reasons for attempting to claim to be child care champions. To openly admit the truth that it played a major role in scrapping the Liberal child care agreements causes it the same unease and discomfort it has had to confront about assisting the Conservatives in scrapping the Kelowna accord. Perhaps this resulted in short term political gain, but it represents terrible progressive policy.

What is most disappointing to me about the NDP's and the Conservative Party's betrayal of the child care agreements is that they strike a blow against Saskatchewan. Both the Saskatchewan NDP government and the conservative official opposition Saskatchewan Party recognized this and have advocated for the agreements to be honoured.

This March both parties joined together in the Saskatchewan legislature to unanimously pass a motion introduced by the Saskatchewan learning minister. The motion expressed Saskatchewan's dissatisfaction with the federal government for cancelling early learning and child care agreements with the provinces, and not fulfilling the previous Liberal government's commitments.

The reason for this show of unity is clear. The situation in Saskatchewan is dire. A recent University of Toronto study revealed that only 4.9% of children under 12 years of age had access to regulated child care spaces in Saskatchewan.

The Liberals responded to this alarming situation. The Saskatchewan NDP government and the previous Liberal federal government signed a five year $146 million agreement in principle last year, with Saskatchewan receiving about $22.6 million in the first year and $20 million for the next year.

The province's child care plan would extend pre-kindergarten services to all four-year-olds in the province, add 7,200 new child care spaces and increase training for early childhood educators. Moreover, with the Kelowna accord $100 million was dedicated to early learning and child care spaces on reserves. In Saskatchewan on reserve populations are increasing at an incredible rate and early learning and child care opportunities are very limited.

The Saskatchewan legislature is also united in its support of the Kelowna accord as well. In March the provincial NDP government and the Saskatchewan Party joined yet again to pass a unanimous motion calling on the federal Conservative government to implement that accord, but the Conservatives have not listened to this show of unity. Instead, they have decided to cover up the truth.

One of the most often repeated lines by many Conservative MPs is that the previous Liberal government did not create any child care spaces. On April 11 the Prime Minister stated in question period that “the Liberals did not create any child care spaces”. On April 25 the Minister of Human Resources and Social Development went further stating in question period that “spaces were never created by the previous government”. This would be a fantastic argument if it were true. However, it is false.

Spaces were created and the Conservatives are taking those spaces away. For example, in Ontario where the federal-provincial child care agreement had time to be implemented, 8,000 spaces were created. These spaces benefited all regions, rural and urban as well.

The Regina Leader-Post in fact revealed on May 29 that child care spaces were created in the social development minister's own riding of Haldimand—Norfolk, with more on the way. Badly needed spaces were created in the minister's own rural riding.

Here is what her constituents are saying, which she would hear if she were not so busy avoiding Caledonia. Norfolk County Mayor Rita Kalmbach stated, “I do know we are in need of spaces, no doubt about it. We the country, the municipality couldn't kick in its own money to establish these spots that we've lost, nor could the school board”.

Jodi Guilmette, who oversees child care programs in Norfolk County, said that the Conservative plan “limits the flexibility we have in terms of offering services to families in our community. We don't have any capital funds to create the structures to house the programs families need and that's our biggest challenge”.

Many other rural voices added their support to the Liberal plan as well. In the August 10, 2006 issue of the Western Producer the Canadian Federation of Agriculture, the largest agricultural organization in Canada, voiced its support for the Liberal plan saying that without direct investment spaces in rural areas will not be created.

The Conservatives are using a plan of deliberate deception saying that no spaces were created because they have no plan of their own to create any child care spaces. They have simply tried to ignore the problem and fake up a plan while abandoning the child care agreements and the Kelowna accord.

Their fake plan is a tax credit plan which has a proven history of failure in Canada. In Saskatchewan the exact same plan was tried, did not have any take up, and simply withered away.

No spaces in rural or economically disadvantaged areas of cities will be created since there are few large organizations that operate in those areas and they are the only ones who can afford to set up the spaces. Moreover, the plan completely ignores large youth populations on reserve because of the different tax environment.

Finally, there is literally no plan of maintaining any spaces even if they could be created. There is only a one time credit or grant. This is a hollow, fake plan. There is not much hope that the Conservatives will learn from any of these mistakes since key players in child care are not involved in the advisory committee, notably no aboriginal organizations.

In fact, when the social development minister was questioned on November 1 by the member for Churchill on the involvement of aboriginal people in making the child care spaces initiative, the minister's reply was: “We do not do racial profiling”. What kind of garbage answer is that? Nobody asked a question about race. It was a question about how to ensure that the fastest growing population of Canada was fairly represented in this initiative.

No doubt, sooner or later the Conservatives will realize that the only plan that can reliably open up spaces is the Liberal plan. The Liberal plan provided the predictable reliable investment that rural and remote communities need to set up these spaces.

As for the Conservative family allowance, misleadingly referred to as the universal child care benefit, I am fully in support of giving parents assistance to help with raising their children, but there are inherent flaws in the family allowance and tax changes that have been made that hurt families and need to be changed.

The family allowance is taxable with new Conservative tax grabs introduced in the 2006 budget. Families stand to lose a lot of the payment. First, the Conservatives threw a lot more parents on to the tax rolls, 200,000 in total, by cutting the amount that people can earn tax free by $400.

Second, they hiked up the lowest income tax rate from 15% to 15.5%. This hike affects people making up to $36,000 which is slightly above the average income in Saskatchewan.

Third, they did a double whammy on all families and married taxpayers. They slashed the amount people could claim for each eligible dependant and also their spouse or common law partner, both by $340.

These outright tax grabs claw back not only what families can get from the Conservative family allowance, but also leech family income far before and far beyond the time families can receive the benefit. This is shameful.

As a final insult, the low and middle income monthly young child supplement has also been clawed back, pretty much drying up any new support that the family allowance would give to low and middle income families.

The Conservatives could have honoured all of these child care agreements this year and fully funded the Kelowna accord, and could have still dedicated over $11 billion to paying down the debt. But the Conservatives chose not to support the early learning and child care spaces. They chose not to support first nations, Métis and Inuit children and young families, and then they went after adult literacy, health programs and funding to museums.

If the Conservatives really wanted to cut wasteful spending, they would do well to look no further than their useless tax credits for spaces. Freeing up that money would go a long way to adopt the Liberal plan of direct investment.

Canada Student Financial Assistance Act November 20th, 2006

Mr. Speaker, it is a pleasure to speak in support of the bill introduced by the hon. member for Halifax West and it is a pleasure for two reasons.

The first reason is that the hon. member has family roots in Meadow Lake, a town in my riding celebrating its 70th anniversary this year and a town that is well-known for its community spirit and hospitality. The second reason is that the bill would create real opportunity and respond to challenges in Saskatchewan.

Expanding the Canada access grants gives students from low income families and students with disabilities tremendous aid to meet Saskatchewan's emerging labour force gap.

Saskatchewan is at an unique place right now. Many of our baby boomers are starting to retire. As a result, many jobs, ranging from teachers to nurses, to welders, need new people to come in and fill these positions. To respond to this gap, there is an emerging youthful population in northern Saskatchewan where much of the wealth-generating natural resources are. Thus, northern Saskatchewan represents, in many ways, an emerging new Saskatchewan.

Meeting Saskatchewan's labour gap and building this new Saskatchewan will require many strategies but, most important, we need to enable all young people, regardless of background, to have access to the best skills training and education Canada provides.

Currently, Canada access grants provide financial assistance to students from low income families and students with disabilities for their first year of study. Bill C-284 would extend the availability of this grant to all four years of study. The bill would also give Canada access grants a statutory base that would make it difficult to end or change without parliamentary scrutiny, giving the grants program long term stability. The bill meets a need I saw time and again when I was a student, a teacher and now as a parent.

My wife and I have watched, with immense pride, our oldest children go on to post-secondary education at the University of Saskatchewan. Their accomplishments were as a result of many years of dedication and hard work. Added to that pride is knowing that they are attending a school with the best college football team in Canada, the U of S Huskies.

The biggest challenge for all students is trying to meet numerous costs, like housing and food, while paying for tuition. I know people who simply could not make ends meet and had to drop out regardless of merit and ability.

When I graduated from the U of S, I became a teacher back home in Pelican Narrows. I had the opportunity to meet with some of the greatest emerging minds of Canada, my students, and to help them explore their potentials. However, I was far too often faced with the terrible sight of youth, regardless of obvious merit and tremendous ability, being denied the opportunity to go on to post-secondary only because of a lack of funds.

Over this last week I saw many of the new future leaders of Saskatchewan as I spoke and met with students across my riding. At Meadow Lakes Carpenter High School and Creighton Community School, I spoke with grade 12 students who asked tough questions and had insightful opinions that showed sharp, inquisitive minds and remarkable potential.

I also met and spoke with NORTEP and SIIT students in La Ronge, students who are further along in their journey of learning. They will soon be assuming the leadership role they have worked so hard to achieve. I am very proud of all of them.

All of these students are on the cutting edge of Saskatchewan. They represent the new Saskatchewan. However, many challenges still must be addressed. Many communities face poverty, need improved roads or basic infrastructure. There also needs to be more investment into education at all levels.

The bill would help so many to contribute by taking away much of the burden of tuition and unmanageable debt. Students would l get the opportunity they need and I know many will take this opportunity and run with it for the rest of their lives.

I also had the opportunity to meet with students from the northern adult education class in Green Lake. These students are making education a priority for their lives and their children's lives. This commitment and dedication is an inspiration. However, there is also a deep disappointment with the impact of the Conservative government cuts to literacy. There are feelings of deep betrayal and of being targeted for no good reason.

I have heard of the disappointment from other groups as well. Community access programs and youth employment opportunities are threatened without the commitment of the Conservative government. Industry Canada officials also admit that there are no plans to continue first nations SchoolNet, a huge blow to learning at schools on many first nations reserves. The cuts and lack of commitment to educational tools have hurt northern Saskatchewan. We need to take advantage of all learning opportunities and build more of them.

The bill would help students gain financial stability and encourage them to fulfill their potential. I ask the Conservatives to take a lesson from the bill and fully commit to building opportunities for our future leaders and the new Saskatchewan.

Frank Calder November 9th, 2006

Mr. Speaker, the Nisga'a Nation lost its Chief of Chiefs when the Honourable Frank Calder passed away last Saturday at the age of 91. He will always be remembered as a leader, an advocate and a proud Canadian.

Raised during the time of the repressive blue book, he brought aboriginal issues to the forefront of Canadian politics. In a life of achievement, such as being the first aboriginal cabinet minister and being named a member of the Orders of Canada and B.C., his lasting legacy will be the victory he secured in the court case that bears his name, Calder v. the Attorney General of B.C.

His father, Nisga'a Chief Na-qua-oon, foretold a great future when Mr. Calder was just an infant. Although many elders considered the Nisga'a land claim to be an immovable mountain, the chief responded that his son would move the mountain. The historic Calder case fulfilled that destiny. The Supreme Court of Canada affirmed the existence of aboriginal title. This affirmation directly led to the success achieved in 2000 and it was proclaimed law.

Rest peacefully, Chief of Chiefs.

Aboriginal Affairs November 7th, 2006

Mr. Speaker, the time has come. The House unanimously supported the residential school agreement. A centrepiece to this agreement was to secure an apology to the survivors of the residential school for the atrocities that they suffered.

On behalf of my mother, my aunts, my uncles and my community, when will the Prime Minister offer a simple human apology to the survivors of the residential school?

Veterans Affairs November 3rd, 2006

Mr. Speaker, as we approach Remembrance Day, they deserve to be honoured.

Action needs to be taken immediately, but all they get are hollow excuses. These veterans gave up more than their security when they signed up. First nations veterans gave up their treaty rights. Métis veterans were not allowed to identify as Métis, yet they signed on to fight for this country in unprecedented numbers.

The Conservatives and the Prime Minister made a sacred promise when they pledged immediate action to compensate aboriginal veterans. Why did they break this promise?

Veterans Affairs November 3rd, 2006

Mr. Speaker, hot on the heels of the broken income trust promise, here is another example of the Conservatives failing to honour campaign promises. As we now know, the Conservatives' election platform was apparently a farce. Nevertheless, they promised real compensation for first nations, Métis and Inuit veterans. The Prime Minister even repeated as much in a radio campaign in my riding.

It is now clear, after 10 months, that the promise of immediate action has been broken. There is no sign of any action whatsoever. Why is the government refusing to keep its promise to aboriginal veterans?

Criminal Code November 1st, 2006

Mr. Speaker, there have been about three dozen aboriginal justice reports and inquiries over the last number of years, each pointing to the utilization of the strategies that the member talks about.

Would the member tell the House how she thinks Bill C-9 will continue to contribute to that negative stereotyping and those systemic barriers that are in the system today?

Primrose Lake Agreement October 30th, 2006

Mr. Speaker, just like the Kelowna accord before it, the Conservatives are trying to get out of another agreement with Saskatchewan aboriginal people.

Métis in northwestern Saskatchewan have long deserved justice for being displaced during the establishment of the Primrose Lake Air Weapons Range. The previous Liberal government responded to this call for justice. Working with the leadership of the Primrose Lake Air Weapons Range negotiating committee and its chairman, Alex Maurice, a $19.5 million economic development agreement was secured to benefit the communities of Jans Bay, Cole Bay, Ile-á-la-Crosse and Beauval.

However, the Conservatives, in tandem with the NDP and the Bloc, threw the agreement into jeopardy by forcing the last election. The former Conservative MP from my riding repeatedly stated that a Conservative government would honour the agreement, pledging this to even Métis elders and yet 10 months later there is no action, only stall and delay tactics.

These Conservative tactics are inexcusable and an insult to the Métis elders and communities. In the name and the honour of the Crown, the government must honour the Primrose Lake agreement.