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Crucial Fact

  • His favourite word was bay.

Last in Parliament September 2008, as Liberal MP for Thunder Bay—Rainy River (Ontario)

Lost his last election, in 2011, with 22% of the vote.

Statements in the House

Business of Supply December 6th, 2007

Mr. Speaker, I thank and recognize the hon. member for York West for her wisdom and her astute presentation and also for the fact that she deserves considerable commendation for the amount of work she has done as a municipal councillor.

When the Liberals decided that the federal government had a role to play in assisting cities, communities, municipalities, towns and villages, it was to include funding for all provinces and territories, and in Ontario, not only our municipalities but also the roads boards.

To completely correct the Conservative member for Abbotsford, as someone who was directly involved in the formation of those programs I was also there on many occasions not only as the past president of the Association of Municipalities of Ontario, but as the mayor of Thunder Bay. I know that the GST rebate, the gas tax and the infrastructure programs as Liberal programs were very much a reality. To say that they did not exist is quite comical. I am sure that municipalities that received funding assistance or transfers from the federal government, of whom there are many if not legion, will have a field day refuting that.

Our goal as municipal people was to ensure that funding was made permanent and dependable. This motion does exactly that. It was meant to give municipalities additional sources of revenue. That is why we no longer call other orders of governments “levels”. Liberals use the term “orders of government” to indicate respect for other elected representatives. The use of the word “level” by the government is another example of regressive, not progressive, thinking.

The Conservatives have rolled the $1.5 billion for 2007-08 and the $1.1 billion for 2008-09 in municipal infrastructure funding into a pseudo-fund or a rebranded building Canada fund. The government advises that municipal infrastructure will be a sunset program, so that next year will be the last year of this program.

So much for predictability and dependability. As municipal governments are wrapping up their current budgets for 2008, not one page of applications has been published, invited or even sent out. How do they plan for the coming construction season?

This government is by far the most incompetent possible, with no understanding whatsoever of municipal financing processes, needs or requirements. If municipalities only hear the announcement, which has been held maybe 20 times or so without one dollar flowing to them, we cannot blame them for feeling scammed by the government yet again.

Do we remember the Conservative promise to remove the 3¢ excise tax on gasoline? Or the removal of the GST once gas hit 85¢ a litre? That has been pulled on the public not once, but twice. As for small communities, and I will use Rainy River as an example, how are they expected to compete with a GTA city? This indicates that the government has totally missed the message from communities for fair funding. How can small communities pay for pre-design or pre-engineering studies if they cannot afford to replace the bridge in the first place?

All these environmental assessments and professional fees must be included in the total project costs, yet the Prime Minister has refused to listen to these very, very reasonable requests. The truth is that the Conservatives have cut infrastructure funding and communities are now worse off. The infrastructure program is $7.5 billion less than what was offered by the previous Liberal government.

To make things even worse for municipalities, they will now have to compete against each other. Last week, when the Federation of Canadian Municipalities was here presenting the data which confirmed that the cut had been $7.5 billion, each and every mayor and councillor here told us they were totally in shock that the government would do this.

Municipalities understand what has been packaged together here and, when it all came together, it was less. This flim-flam gets more deplorable.

By lumping this reduced fund into a catch-all basket, then, if there are large-scale projects, huge amounts of funding will not be forthcoming to communities. This will be disastrous and demonstrates a calculated lack of awareness of municipal requests.

The issue of infrastructure must be categorized by population. We cannot have a simple lumping of it all. The problems of congestion, gridlock and exhaust emissions in a metropolitan area should not have to share a program with smaller, rural towns that have problems with distance, underpopulation and financing. That is why infrastructure is perhaps the most serious problem facing rural Canada and, with these small populations and a reduced property base, rural Canada is having an even more difficult time.

To see $7.5 billion, which could have gone to them, lost altogether, rural Canada is starting to understand that it has been persecuted by the government. We have recommended, as a rural caucus, a policy that would renew and expand the rural infrastructure program, and make it permanent, dependable and achievable for communities of the smallest size. It would put emphasis on water, roads, sewers and bridges.

As someone who has been involved in the municipal field as a councillor, mayor and president of three major municipal organizations, and all of us in the House who have this municipal background, have some sort of camaraderie I believe, so that when organizations, such as the Federation of Canadian Municipalities or the Association of Municipalities of Ontario, come to see us, we relate in a way that they know exactly that we are speaking the same language.

When $7.5 billion is taken from municipalities, they know that they have been shortchanged.

As the programs were built up, they were championed by people such as the hon. member for York West and actually a whole raft of my colleagues. I see a former president of the Federation of Canadian Municipalities to my left. We understand this issue intimately and it is something we believe in passionately. Therefore, to see this scam going down is a great affront to everyone who serves in municipal office.

It is astonishing to have all these people come to us asking where the funds are. The minister keeps on making announcements about it but where is the flow? Where are the applications?

Municipal councils across the country are in this perpetual state of uncertainty right now. They have been told that there is an increase, but it is $40 billion to $33 billion, and they are wondering, as they deliberate their capital budgets for the forthcoming year, where the federal promise is. They do not have any paper whatsoever, except for a media announcement. How can they plan for a construction season that will begin either in the spring or summer? How can they allocate their share? How can they approach the provincial government?

When municipalities are faced with this dilemma, it breeds the kind of understanding of just what kind of bumpkins are running the show for the feds. It is amazing that someone would actually get up on a challenge and say that the members here have not been at projects that were delivered by the previous government. It is absolutely astonishing.

When we talk about things like time, it is very important that each hon. member recognize that and recognize the Speaker for his fairness.

Exhibition Transportation Services Program December 5th, 2007

Mr. Speaker, galleries and museums across the country are outraged at the cancellation of the exhibition transportation services program by the Minister of Canadian Heritage .

The exhibition transportation services program allows museums and galleries access to art and exhibits that would otherwise be too expensive to ship.

The Thunder Bay Museum, the Thunder Bay Art Gallery and the Fort Frances Museum are concerned with the dramatically increased shipping costs that they will face when this service expires in April.

There is also very real concern that shipping services to remote areas, such as northwestern Ontario, will be unavailable without this government-run program, leaving our museums and galleries without any travelling exhibits to draw patrons.

Arts and heritage programming is too vital to our communities to be put in such jeopardy. The Minister of Heritage must immediately renew the exhibition transportation services program.

Agriculture November 28th, 2007

Mr. Speaker, farmers are not fools. They know that the plan the government refers to is not even in place yet and will not be until April 1, 2008. Plus, they know the only way that they can benefit from this program is if they put their own cash up front first. Some help.

This is not even close to the immediate assistance that pork and beef producers need. When will the government actually help these industries in crisis?

Agriculture November 28th, 2007

Mr. Speaker, the government's ignorance on the economic development front is not only impacting manufacturing, it is also hurting the pork and beef industries.

High feed and fuel costs, dropping prices and the rise of the dollar have Canadian producers facing a crisis that could see the collapse of these industries. Jobs will be lost and farmers will become bankrupt.

When will the government start to help them?

Federal-Provincial Relations November 23rd, 2007

Mr. Speaker, do not try and divide our country. We support more seats for Alberta and British Columbia.

The minister has already had to apologize once this week for misleading the House on this issue, but he clearly has not learned his lesson. All he can offer Ontario is mudslinging. The people of Ontario deserve better. All Canadians deserve better. They want their government to work for them.

Does the Minister of Intergovernmental Affairs think this is how federal-provincial relations should be conducted?

Federal-Provincial Relations November 23rd, 2007

Mr. Speaker, the government House leader has chosen childish name-calling over constructive debate with the Premier of Ontario about the government's bill that shortchanges Canada's largest province. He cannot support his arguments with facts because the facts are clear: Ontario is getting the short end of the stick.

If the minister really believes in representation by population, will he show a little respect today and amend his bill and agree to consult with the Government of Ontario?

November 22nd, 2007

Mr. Speaker, the riding is Thunder Bay—Rainy River, as I would, in all fairness, recognize Regina—Lumsden—Lake Centre.

In my experience, the greatest proof of incompetence or irresponsibility is when someone, in this case the government, tries to put the blame on someone else. The government made a big mistake. We showed the government solutions but it continues to try to find fault with others, as if it is perfect or infallible.

I would just simply offer that the government admit it, fix it, stop blaming of others and recognize that haste makes mistakes.

November 22nd, 2007

Mr. Speaker, a few weeks ago, I was one of the several Liberal MPs who brought to the government's attention a glaring error in Bill C-18. It was the basic fact that the minority government had left one million voters off the voters lists. Imagine, with all the Prime Minister's drum pounding, if he had forced an unnecessary election, what one million eligible voters would have done if they had found themselves disenfranchised. In my great riding of Thunder Bay--Rainy River, a minimum of 5,000 voters would not have been able to exercise their democratic right.

Although all parties had missed the fine print, it shows us what can happen when bills are rushed through.

The standing committee was advised in May and after much deliberation, still the government ignored the public service's advice. Even after the Quebec byelections, the government should have leapt to the alert and proactively resolved the problem. Instead, an effective opposition was once again compelled to expose the government's haste and clean up yet another mistake.

It is unfortunate the government tried to avoid facing up to the problem. The straightforward solution is relatively simple. If the address contained in the identification provided does not prove the elector's residence specific to a domicile, but does reflect the most precise residential address typically available, then it should be deemed in compliance.

I am hopeful that after the events of the past few weeks the amendments will succeed in addressing the issues outstanding and that we can resolve this matter.

Privilege November 22nd, 2007

Mr. Speaker, I rise today on a question of privilege.

On Tuesday, November 20, 2007, my office received a call from a researcher at the Library of Parliament who asked “whether Mr. Boshcoff is travelling this week?”.

The researcher would not provide additional information regarding his request which led my assistant to call the Library of Parliament inquiries department.

An assistant at the inquiries desk explained to my assistant that the researcher was performing his duties in response to a request by a parliamentarian for the following information: one, is there a registry of member of Parliament activities such as committee travel or parliamentarian travel; and two, specifically, is Mr. Boshcoff travelling this week?”.

Mr. Speaker, I must protest this deliberate misuse of parliamentary privileges by the parliamentarian in this issue.

The Library of Parliament's resources should not be misused by any parliamentarian in such a way as to cloak such blatant partisan spying under the cover of parliamentary business.

Please know for the record, I am not faulting the staff of the Library of Parliament. I am very concerned about the effect of this request on my ability to perform my duties as a member of Parliament.

I interpret this action as a form of intimidation; a tactic that takes away my freedom to act in the best interests of my constituents; and a tactic that makes me believe I am under some form of surveillance. Clearly, any member of Parliament would find it very difficult to perform his or her duties under such duress.

In our parliamentary system there are publicly accountable reporting procedures and I completely agree and support these, but this is clearly something that no MP should have to face.

I therefore ask, Mr. Speaker, that this subject matter be referred to the Standing Committee on Procedure and House Affairs to determine which parliamentarian is so blatantly abusing the resources of Parliament in an attempt to intimidate me and to ensure that suitable action is taken to address this grievous action.

Should you rule, Mr. Speaker, that this is a prima facie case of privilege, I would be prepared to move the appropriate motion.

Sunset Country Métis November 20th, 2007

Mr. Speaker, I am privileged to rise and honour the Sunset Country Métis people.

These children of the fur trade carry a proud history in Canadian society, filling many key roles with wisdom, tenacity and quiet confidence as they helped to build the Rainy River district.

From their example, we have learned respect for the environment, a sharing of the harvest, and a caring for others.

I ask members to please join me in thanking the Sunset Country Métis people for their valuable contribution to the prosperity and development of Canada.

I am honoured to call many of them friends and also honoured to be able to represent such great communities in Parliament.