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Crucial Fact

  • His favourite word was certainly.

Last in Parliament November 2005, as Conservative MP for Westlock—St. Paul (Alberta)

Won his last election, in 2004, with 67% of the vote.

Statements in the House

Social Security System January 31st, 1994

Mr. Speaker, the whole thrust of my presentation was not that we must cut social spending, although when 60 per cent of government spending goes to social programs we clearly have to examine the benefit of those programs and assure Canadians that we get real value for every tax dollar spent on social programs.

As I said in my presentation there is a tremendous lack of accountability for dollars spent. In my view a tremendous number of dollars can be saved, or at least greater benefit received by the poorest people in our society, for those dollars spent.

Social Security System January 31st, 1994

Mr. Speaker, I rise in the House this morning to discuss the sustainability of our nation's social programs and how this discussion will relate to Canada's aboriginal peoples since this particular segment of society in my constituency is one of the most vulnerable to the social program changes.

I would like to congratulate the minister on his presentation in the House this morning. Certainly he can count on support from the Reform Party for the goals he set out for us this morning. They are certainly goals we can all agree with. We look forward to seeing some substance added to the goals in upcoming months.

The minister spoke of fear of change on the part of members of the House. I assure him that members of our party do not fear change. In fact we stand for real, basic change in the way government operates and the services it provides. We can support him in some real change.

I only hope the government is prepared to act on the root cause of why Canada's social programs are on the brink of collapse. Members opposite say that we do not have a spending problem in the country, that we have a revenue problem. Since arriving in Ottawa I have heard much debate in the pre-budget consultations about broadening the tax base. By my calculations and from the admissions of members opposite this broadening of the tax base can perhaps add, at most, $5 billion a year to the revenue of the federal government which has a $40 billion plus deficit and 60 per cent of government spending, excluding interest costs, going toward the cost of social programs either in direct payments to people or transfers to provinces. It is very clear that we must examine our social program spending in a real and basic way.

The root of the problem is the enormous and increasing debt of the country, a debt with interest payments eating up the amount of tax dollars available for social programs. In less than one decade the debt has more than doubled. In 1984-85 the national debt was $206 billion. By 1994 the federal debt is exceeding $500 billion. Not only has this debt increased by $300 billion in less than a decade, the rate of increase is gaining momentum at a frightening speed.

Interest payments on the debt are not getting any smaller. It is quite the contrary. They are increasing by billions of dollars every year. Interest payments last year were $39 billion while our revenues were only $121 billion. This means that the government will be paying more tax dollars toward interest payments on the debt and less and less on social programs.

While interest payments in support of the debt increase so does the amount of money the government is spending on social programs for Canadians. In 1984 the total amount of money

transferred to Canadians was $25.1 billion. By the end of that decade the cost had increased to $30 billion, an increase of $5 billion in only five years. Transfers to other levels of governments in support of social programs have also increased from $17.7 billion in 1984 to $24.3 billion by the end of the decade.

With less and less money available for social programs spending because of the spiralling debt costs while program spending is increasing at an alarming rate, it is only a matter of time before we can no longer sustain social programs which make Canada such a unique and wonderful place to live. If we cannot sustain our social programs it will be the poor and disadvantaged of our nation who will suffer most.

My riding of Athabasca has a significant aboriginal population. While some reserves are financially capable of sustaining social spending because of revenues from oil and gas reserves, the majority of the reserves of my riding mirror that of the national aboriginal statistics.

Let me give some staggering statistics on natives in Canada and why the sustainability of these social programs is so important to our native communities. The native population today is experiencing a baby boom similar to what Canada experienced in the 1950s. Because of this baby boom natives rely more on Canada's social programs to build houses and schools, to provide health care services and to raise their standard of living above helpless poverty. If the government does not take control and reduce the debt, how can we continue to provide these basic services to the native communities that depend so heavily on these programs as well as other Canadians?

Also, 60 per cent of our natives live in remote rural areas of Canada. It is obvious that because of their location the delivery of social programs becomes very difficult and expensive to provide. Forty per cent of the total status Indian population receives social assistance. Approximately half the adult male population is unemployed, although on some reserves these rates can increase to as much as three-quarters or four-fifths of the able bodied population.

Additional problems face Canada's native communities including the tragedy of alcoholism, gasoline sniffing, suicide and many other problems. Davis Inlet is but one example of what these horrible inflictions can do to a community. How will government be able to help these communities by funding addiction clinics, counsellors and doctors if the debt continues to increase and eat up available funds? If the debt continues to increase we will not be able to sustain the programs we have today, let alone fund new ones.

Federal spending on Indian and Inuit programs has doubled since 1982-1983 and is the fastest growing area of federal spending. Under legislation federal program spending is capped at 3 per cent annually by the Spending Control Act, but for some reason native programs are exempted and far exceed this rate. Total federal spending on Indian and Inuit programs now exceeds $7 billion in non-taxable dollars or $60,000 per family of four. With this level of funding why do we have problems like those in Davis Inlet?

When I review the Auditor General's reports of the last 20 years I notice that every time he examined part of Indian affairs programs concerns were raised about accountability for money spent. He continually questioned whether funds were used for the purposes intended or managed with due regard for economy, efficiency and effectiveness.

Not only must we reduce the debt to be able to sustain Canada's social programs, we must seek ways to lower the cost of providing social programs to natives. Abusers of the system must always be exposed and dealt with in an expeditious manner.

I believe the administration and management of some of these social programs can be much more efficiently and effectively delivered to the native community by natives themselves which in fact appears to be the direction the government is going.

By providing a system of block funding and allowing natives to decide for themselves what their priorities will be, we could cut a lot of red tape and inefficiency out of the system which natives themselves claim is contained in the department. The only qualification I must add to this proposal is that native bands must meet rigid standards of accountability for tax dollars received which is exactly what the Auditor General has been demanding for the past 20 years.

We must end the waste and squandering of dollars that is going on today. The natives must set their own priorities. Are water and sewers a higher priority than Ovide Mercredi travelling to Mexico to assess the aboriginal uprising or other natives travelling to England to protest in front of Buckingham Palace, as well as native leaders taking trips to Geneva, South America, South Africa? The list goes on and on.

Safeguards must be put in place to monitor more closely the funding of projects in aboriginal communities, to end the provision of substandard housing and other infrastructure projects which could possibly pose health hazards and safety risks to the people occupying them in these communities and provide better accountability for the tax dollars spent.

Another recommendation I would like to make is to provide incentives for native students to be educated in fields which are needed back on the reserves, examples being medicine, business management, nursing and so on. By encouraging this type of

training the government can save thousands of dollars in transportation costs to give native people access to the programs because they could receive them in their own communities.

Arctic Winter Games January 28th, 1994

Mr. Speaker, I take this opportunity to inform all Canadians about an event that is taking place in my riding of Athabasca.

The Arctic Winter Games will take place in the community of Slave Lake, Alberta, from March 6 to March 12, 1994. These international games are open to athletes north of the 55th parallel. They will provide an opportunity for athletes from small, remote communities to take part in international competition. Many of these athletes will go on to much higher levels of competition.

The games will be opened March 6 by Governor General Ramon Hnatyshyn and will welcome teams from the Northwest Territories, Yukon, Alaska, northern Alberta, Greenland and Russia, involving 1,465 athletes, coaches and cultural participants.

The $3.1 million cost of the games will be funded half by the federal, provincial and municipal governments and half by a very successful local volunteer fund raising effort.

Please join with me in wishing the town of Slave Lake and all the athletes great success.

Cruise Missile Testing January 26th, 1994

Madam Speaker, I very much agree with the hon. member that in a perfect world there would be no need for armed forces and there would be no need for weaponry. Unfortunately, we are in a far from perfect world and as long as there are greedy people in this world with aspirations to conquer other countries and take over territories we will always need a means of defending ourselves. I support the testing on this basis.

Cruise Missile Testing January 26th, 1994

Madam Speaker, I believe the debate in the House today is not about nuclear weapons. It is about the testing of a specific weapon known as the cruise missile which is quite capable of carrying non-nuclear weapons as was demonstrated quite effectively during the gulf war, in particular the guidance system of that particular weapon. Therefore, I do not think it in any way affects our commitments of non-proliferation of nu-

clear weaponry. I support the continued testing of the cruise missile and the guidance system thereof.

Cruise Missile Testing January 26th, 1994

Madam Speaker, as this is the first opportunity I have had to address this House I would like to congratulate the Speaker for his election to Speaker of this House as well as those designated as deputy and acting speakers. I am sure your jobs will be challenging and rewarding and I pledge my full co-operation with the House rules and proceedings.

My congratulations also to all members on their election or re-election to this Parliament. I look forward to meeting and debating with them on the important issues concerning Canada in a civil and productive manner.

Also I would like to thank the constituents of my riding of Athabasca for entrusting me with this most important job during this most important and changing time in Canadian political history. I truly feel honoured by the great responsibility with which they have entrusted me and they can be assured that I do not take this responsibility lightly. I will do my best to represent their needs and Canada's needs in this new Parliament.

I would like to send a special thank you to my wife, Evelyn, who has provided so much support and encouragement to me in meeting and accepting the challenges in this new role as member of Parliament.

I became involved in politics and became a member of Parliament because of a great concern I have for the future of our country, the greatest country in the world to live in. Also I have a great concern for this country because of the apparent out of control public spending and spiralling debt at a time of declining of natural resources and high unemployment.

Although this is my maiden speech, I wish to focus on the proposed cruise missile testing by the U.S. Although the Primrose Lake air weapons range, which will be the final destination for these exercises, is not in my riding, the flight corridor over which these missiles fly is in fact in my riding. Therefore these tests are of concern to my constituents and anything that could affect my constituents affects me as their representative in this House.

I would like to commend the government for allowing this debate on such an important topic. I hope that this government will have the same open forum in the future when this government reviews its defence policy as promised.

Before I speak to this issue let me tell a bit about my riding. The riding of Athabasca is in the northeastern part of Alberta and is approximately 196,000 square kilometres which makes it one of the largest ridings in Canada. To put this in perspective, if one combines the area of the provinces of New Brunswick, Nova Scotia and Prince Edward Island then the area of the riding of Athabasca would still be larger. These provinces have 25 representatives between them in this House compared to one for Athabasca. You can imagine the enormity of my task in representing the constituents of Athabasca, however, I am ready and eager to accept all the challenges that await me.

The principal industries of Athabasca are agriculture, forestry, mining, oil and gas and tourism. More specifically, the diversity of my riding includes ALPAC, the largest bleach kraft pulp mill in the world. It will soon include a paper mill. Also, some of the most productive conventional oil and gas fields in Canada are located through Slave Lake and High Prairie in the northern areas of my riding. The Fort McMurray tar sands projects are in the northeast corner of my riding. These companies add enormously to the economic viability of the country.

For example, the companies that work the tar sands make a huge contribution to both the federal and provincial governments. These companies employ thousands of people, all of whom pay taxes to support this government's programs. Syncrude, which is only one of the consortiums working the tar sands projects, employs 10,500 people directly or indirectly from which $1.5 billion has been paid out in corporate and personal income taxes. These tar sands deposits are very significant to the energy needs of Canada. In fact, it is estimated that there are enough oil reserves in my riding to provide self-sufficiency for Canada's oil needs, given the current consumption of 1.5 million barrels per day, for centuries to come.

For example, the four known oil sands deposits are located in Alberta, two of which are in my riding. The total estimated bitumen contained in these four deposits is 1.7 trillion barrels. Of that, 307 billion barrels of bitumen recoverable with today's technology from the tar sands alone could supply Canada's energy needs for 475 years.

My riding of Athabasca also has a large aboriginal population with 12 bands, about 50 reserves and a number of Métis settlements. This large population has led to my interest in native self-government and it is why I sit on my party's aboriginal committee.

My riding also contains some of the most productive agricultural areas in Canada. The Westlock-Athabasca area has well known producers and exporters of high quality grain, oilseeds, pork and beef. I have been involved for many years in beef ranching and am proud to say that this is one of the least subsidized sectors in agriculture. It should be a model of free enterprise and free market operation for other areas of agriculture.

I agree with the comment my hon colleague from Essex-Windsor made in the House this past Monday when she said that a country that cannot feed itself is soon not a country and is at the mercy of every other nation.

Taking this one step further, I also believe and history proves that a nation that cannot protect its sovereignty cannot long survive. This brings me to the topic of discussion before the House today.

In 1983 the current Minister of Human Resources Development and Western Economic Diversification, who was then minister of defence, signed the original test evaluation agreement with the U.S.

Recently this minister claims that Canada no longer needs these tests because the cold war is over. The cold war may be over but this world is still if not more unstable than during the cold war period.

Instead of having one major threat, we now have many smaller threats. Although the Iron Curtain has fallen and they have opened their arms to us, this does not mean we live in a Utopian world. The recent gulf conflict in which both the Canadian Armed Forces and the cruise missile took part in made us astutely aware of that fact.

Canadian participation in these tests enables us to fulfil our obligations under the NORAD alliance but also to keep abreast of the latest developments in defence technologies. By participating in these tests our forces gain valuable operational experience that would otherwise not be available.

Also, if Canada is to be a member of such organizations as NORAD and NATO, my constituents and I believe we must be willing to participate in these organizations simply because we currently do not have the capacity without the support of our allies to defend our national sovereignty. I am not only speaking for myself but also for my constituents who are in the flight path of these exercises.

The records which I have researched do not contain one complaint, one petition or one letter opposing these exercises from the constituents of Athabasca. My constituents are also aware that there is no environmental threat to them.

The missiles used in these exercises are not armed. In fact, section 8 of the original Test and Evaluation Agreement states: "In no case shall nuclear, biological, or chemical warfare material be brought into Canada, and that the Cruise Missiles shall be unarmed".

Furthermore, the Department of National Defence has informed me that an extensive initial environmental assessment was conducted in 1983 and reviewed in 1989 and 1992. These studies showed that the cruise missile testing has no significant or adverse environmental impact.

Furthermore, section 13 of this same agreement states that the flight corridors in Canada which are used for testing cruise missiles shall be selected in consultation with Canadians to ensure minimum disruption to civil aircraft operations and minimum disturbances to people on the ground.

If this government were to rescind this agreement, an agreement that was signed by the Conservative government only last year, Canada as a participant in organizations such as NORAD would lose credibility as a nation that can be depended upon by our allies to co-operate in the preservation of peace and sovereignty in North America and the free world.

As I stated earlier in my speech, I have consulted with my constituents. They are willing to accept their responsibility as a member of NORAD. I believe Canada should do the same.