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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

Agriculture October 12th, 2004

Madam Chair, that is all very well. We all would love to see the American border open and we would love to open new markets in Asia and all the rest of it, but my question is a little different. For many years now in Canada, we have not had an industry to speak of for the slaughter of aged bulls and aged cows. We have shipped them across the line to slaughter, for the most part, in spite of the fact that we import huge amounts of manufacturing beef, baloney, jerky and corned beef.

Why has the government never provided any interest or any incentive to develop an industry in Canada to utilize those cull animals? When the government took a mind to, it certainly did not hesitate to provide incentives to develop an aerospace industry in Montreal or to provide incentives to bring the auto industry into Ontario.

Why is it that the government has never taken the initiative to try to stimulate and create some interest in creating a manufacturing beef industry in Canada so that these baloney bulls and these aged cows are in fact slaughtered in Canada? We would meet the demands of the fast food industry and the demands of the consumer for manufacturing beef and those kinds of products. That has never happened.

I have never been able to understand that. It does not seem to be a priority of the government now. Even in the middle of this crisis, the government certainly is not looking at creating and helping to nurture this industry and get it on its feet.

All the government does is provide a backstop for the chartered banks in Canada to help protect them. It is not doing anything to help entrepreneurs in Canada to take advantage of this opportunity to create a new niche industry in Canada and actually do these things in Canada for Canadian consumers.

Gasoline Prices May 11th, 2004

Mr. Speaker, I am not surprised the minister did not want to answer my question. A study that the Minister of the Environment commissioned speculated that the price of gasoline would have to double to change Canadian driving habits to meet the targets within Kyoto. This would produce increased revenue to the Canadian governments by over $33 billion a year.

Is it not a fact that his government's position is that we need higher gas prices to meet his Kyoto targets?

Gasoline Prices May 11th, 2004

Mr. Speaker, the price of gasoline has been going through the roof across the country. This morning the price of gas in Victoria was 95.9¢ a litre.

The Minister of the Environment is on public record, indicating that he believes motorists are not being charged enough for their gasoline. Could the minister tell his constituents in Victoria how much more they should expect to pay?

Prime Minister of Canada May 11th, 2004

Mr. Speaker, on May 5 the Prime Minister said that the Leader of the Opposition should prepare to be accountable for everything he has said over the course of the last eight years.

I am glad the Prime Minister has decided to take the idea of accountability seriously. The next election will be about accountability and he is a man unable or unwilling to take responsibility. We believe in ministerial accountability and the Prime Minister must be responsible for his record over the past 10 years.

Canadians will remember the former finance minister when they think of ad scam; CSL's tax haven; his use of the private health clinic; the GST flip-flop; the 5,000% cost overrun in the gun registry; the HRDC boondoggle; the Challenger jet purchase; Sea King replacements; tainted blood; the Bronfman billions; the Pearson airport debacle; and the list goes on.

The Prime Minister has much to be accountable for.

Income Tax Act May 4th, 2004

Madam Speaker, I am pleased to join in this debate on Bill C-303, which proposes to amend the Income Tax Act to provide a tax deduction for automobile expenses that forestry workers incur when they travel to work sites that are far from their homes.

The proposed bill would cover daily out of pocket expenses for operating a motor vehicle. Examples of such costs are maintenance, gasoline and insurance. It would also cover interest charges on money borrowed to acquire a vehicle. It would also include depreciation costs.

I think the initiative is a worthy one but fraught with all kinds of problems. I would like to go over some of those problems.

Certainly I would not take away from any of the comments made about forestry workers by my colleague who just spoke. Forestry workers are the backbone of the forestry sector and forestry is a sector that contributes significantly to our economy. In 2002 alone, forestry exports contributed more than $32 billion to our economy and our trade surplus. Today more than 350,000 hard-working Canadians are directly employed in this sector.

The core of the bill would give a special package of tax benefits to a narrow group of employees. It is incumbent upon all of us to make sure that we uphold the basic principles of fairness and even-handedness in public policy matters and in taxation matters.

Travelling in the forestry business is an expensive part of the job. There is just no getting around it. Providing tax relief on this type of isolated basis certainly is problematic. Let me raise some of the concerns about this approach.

We know that other groups of employees incur exactly the same kinds of commuting costs as forestry workers. People who work in construction or in the oil and gas sector are obvious examples. I certainly have some experience from working in the oil industry in terms of travelling back and forth to work. These workers travel huge distances, often up to seven and eight hours' worth, to work sites. I am sure there many more examples of people who have to travel as part of their job description.

We know that all employees, no matter where they work, incur some form of mandatory employment related expenses. Employment expenses can vary in their nature and in their amounts. There seems to be no reason that one group would be more deserving than any of the others in access to an employment expense deduction.

The cost of getting to and from work is one of a range of costs that employees incur. Like virtually all employment related expenses, there is no specific income tax deduction. Instead, there is a general tax recognition by way of the basic exemption. The basic exemption is one that applies to all employees and indeed all taxpayers.

Prior to 1988, there was a $500 deduction for employment expenses. The general deduction recognizes that all employees incur some work related expenses. The employment expense deduction was integrated into the basic exemption. The basic exemption has steadily increased since 1988 and now stands at just slightly over $8,000.

The member for Scarborough—Rouge River proposed that the general $500 deduction be reintroduced as a way of recognizing the broad array of potential employment expenses. However, this would cost approximately $1.3 billion per year in revenue foregone in the tax system.

Once we have opened up the door to this type of employment expense, in fairness we would also have to recognize volunteers and their expenses. Statistics Canada reports that there were 6.5 million volunteers in Canada in the year 2000. Giving each one of them a $500 tax credit would cost $3.25 billion in lost tax revenue.

The bill tries to address an obvious problem facing the forestry industry. However, it does not address the root of the problem: this government's inability to properly manage its books and to resolve trade disputes with the United States. The softwood lumber issue has caused dislocation, unemployment and problems, especially in our rural communities. It needs to be resolved. It needs to be resolved at the highest level.

I would suggest that the other thing we should consider here is the whole employment insurance program. Not only does the employment insurance program consistently overtax people in the forest industry, but when they are laid off due to softwood taxation, tariffs and so on, it sometimes takes months for them to get their EI cheques.

I believe we have to address this issue globally. It means broadly based tax relief for all Canadians who are looking for some help. We want to specifically help people in their personal income taxes, allowing them to reduce the amount of taxes paid. We need to stop the gouging in the EI system. We need to ensure that the money goes to the people who need it in a way that helps them out properly.

In closing, let me say that due to the concerns I have raised, I will not be supporting this private member's bill.

Budget Implementation Act, 2004 May 4th, 2004

Madam Speaker, the hon. member gets quite passionate about this issue and rightly so. I wish Canadians would get more passionate about it.

If Canadians re-elect the Liberal government after what it has been doing for the last 10 years, then I do not have a lot of faith in the future of this country. I would never advocate physically throwing them out although that idea is tempting sometimes. It certainly does have appeal.

I hope that if and when the Prime Minister ever gets around to calling an election, that Canadians will throw them out of here and elect somebody to run this country in a more principled, ethical and honest way.

Budget Implementation Act, 2004 May 4th, 2004

Madam Speaker, the issues that my colleague raises are certainly valid ones.

One could not be blamed for suspecting that some of this secrecy, and some of these efforts to hide crown corporations and other foundations from scrutiny by the Auditor General is not deliberate. One would hate to think that. We must believe that all members in this place are ethical and honest, and I believe they are.

How do we get into these situations if these things are approached in an honourable and ethical way? Many of them are good causes. Why not make them transparent? If an issue such as education, the homeless, or whatever needs to be addressed, then a program should be put in place to address that issue. One puts in place solid criteria that needs to be met to qualify for funding under that program.

Any Canadian or any organization of Canadians anywhere in the country can then apply for funding. If programs are put in place and designed so that only certain people might qualify or they are non-tendered funding to friends of the Liberal government, then that is a corruption of the system. This is unethical and it should be stopped.

The use of the supplementary estimates is another corruption of the system. Estimates are put in place to cover the budget. The only time the government should go back to the well under the supplementary estimates is for extraordinary expenses like SARS or BSE, or a requirement to send our military somewhere in the world.

This government and past governments for years have been using supplementary estimates simply to gather more money for more of these unaccounted projects. This has to stop.

Budget Implementation Act, 2004 May 4th, 2004

Well, it might be a very worthwhile program and something that we could really get excited about and get involved in but I very much doubt it.

On top of that, these government dollars seem to flow from one department to the other. Some of the expenditures that one would think would be within the Department of Natural Resources would be for projects like streamlining the regulatory process in preparation for the northern pipeline project to come on stream but it pops up under Indian Affairs and Northern Development.

We see one line under the Department of Natural Resources which reads contributions in support of aboriginal consultations on the long term management of nuclear fuel waste in Canada. I asked the minister what that was doing in there. We passed a bill in the House that transferred full responsibility for those consultations to the corporations that produce the waste and yet we are spending $1.3 million on this process of consultation.

It is no wonder the government gets into the kind of problems it does, such as the ad scam, when this process of accountability is so convoluted, so general and so vague that no one can see where the government has spent its money.

We sit around here with our eyes glazed over like a bunch of robots and we automatically vote against the government's spending estimates because we have no idea why it is spending the money. The government, because of its majority, votes for it and it passes. Life goes on and another Parliament comes along and we begin the process again.

Every once in a while there is a glitch in the system and the government is exposed for money laundering through the ad agencies in Quebec. However that will go away too, and the sooner the better as far as the Prime Minister is concerned.

If he goes to the polls and gets what he hopes for, which is another mandate from the people of Canada and a majority government, what happens to the issue of the $100 million, for which we received no value, or, as the former prime minister said, “there may have been a few hundred million dollars stolen but it was worth it. In the big scheme of things we saved Canada,” he said. “So if someone stole some money it was okay?”

If we as Canadians give the government another mandate for another five years, we can bet that the investigation into the ad scam will end. The government will be able to say that it does not need to investigate it any more because Canadians are confident that it can look after their money properly.

I am sure after I have long left this place there will be similar scandals that will come forward and they will be treated in the same way. That is wrong. The system that we have set up for transparency and accountability is there but it has been corrupted over the years and it needs to be fixed.

Before Canadians vote in the upcoming election they need to know from the parties running how the government will fix the system so that it cannot be corrupted and abused in the way it is being abused now. The system should work and it should be transparent. The government should be accountable and it should be answerable to the Canadian people for every last cent of money that it spends. However, under the current system, it certainly is not and I think that is absolutely unacceptable.

I have no confidence that the Liberals are prepared to change that system. They will simply get past this scandal, move on to the next one and we will get more of the same.

Budget Implementation Act, 2004 May 4th, 2004

Madam Speaker, I am pleased to get in on the debate today. It has been interesting listening to my colleagues and their discussion. I want to follow along in somewhat the same direction as my colleagues have gone this afternoon because I get very frustrated.

I think my colleague from Dauphin—Swan River said that he has been here seven years. I have been here going on 11 years and it has not changed in that 11 years. I suspect if anyone has been here longer, and many have, that the process has not changed even longer than that. As governments come and go, the process and the discussion seems very familiar. It should not be that complicated a process.

A government comes into the House to start a session. It brings in a Speech from the Throne in which it outlines its priorities on where it would like to see the country go and some of the issues it would like to discuss. It follows that up with a budget to allocate funding to those priorities outlined in the throne speech. Then, after the budget, we have a never-ending budget debate. After all the budget was a month ago or longer and we are still debating it. After that, the government produces the estimates, which is a line by line estimate of the expenditures. Then the estimates are sent off to the various committees where the committees and departments scrutinize the estimates and hold the government accountable. The committees then are required to vote on the estimates from each department. They come back to the House and the House has a chance to vote on them. Rarely do we ever see the House vote down any of the estimates. Occasionally, it happens.

I recall the House did get its back up and vote down an estimate on money going to the gun registry sometime ago, but it did not make much difference. That particular department just took the money from somewhere else and continued on its way. It really did not take direction from the decision of the House that it was not a good expenditure of money. It just found it somewhere else.

Even this would not be bad if that was how the process worked. After the estimates are voted on, that is not the end of it. It does not, in a public way, show where the government is spending tax dollars. If the government is short funds later on in the year, it comes up with the supplementary estimates to cover any money it might have spent which it had not figured on when the estimates were put out in the first place.

The system should be presented in a way that Canadians can understand and see where their money goes, but it is not. The government indignantly tells us that this item of spending or that item of spending was in the estimates and if we were diligent in our job, we would see that and understand it. I am thinking about the unity fund. That is just rubbish. I defy anybody to find these things in the estimates.

This has been a favourite subject of mine for the 10 and a half years I have been here. The government should report spending and present the estimates in a form that we as members of Parliament can really understand. We should be able to see where the government is spending money. Then when it comes to a vote, we can determine whether we want to support that particular spending. However, I will get a little more into that later, particularly as it applies to the department I am most familiar with, the Department of Natural Resources. I am the party critic for that department and that is where I have the responsibility to scrutinize the spending.

Moving back to the process of presenting the budget. The government presents a budget on where it will spend money and on what programs it will spend money. It is not a lot different from what Canadian families or businesses do. They depend on a certain amount of income. They prepare a budget and determine on which programs they will spend that money. At the end of the day, that budget has to balance in most households and businesses.

Unfortunately, it does not seem to work like that in government. If it did, we would not be $500 billion in debt. No business or family could run up that level of debt and still exist, but governments do not have those restraints on them. It seems they have an endless amount of money because they can always go back to the well for more tax dollars.

This government produced a budget. Then the Prime Minister, instead of going out and defending the budget, has been on a never-ending spending spree across the country. We heard some talk about the EI fund. The minister just recently announced a program for funding seasonal workers. I kind of got a chuckle when the minister talked about governments making quick surgical changes to the EI program to help these seasonal workers. Quick surgical changes are not something this government is noted for, or any government for that matter. Therefore, I was surprised. Maybe the government could look at some of the other programs.

However, that was only one of them. The deputy government leader announced $1 million in government funds for official languages in Sudbury, Ontario on April 27. That was not in the budget. From April 1 to 14, a survey of press releases showed Liberal ministers and backbench MPs from the departments of agriculture, fisheries and oceans, human resources, Canadian heritage and industry took credit for $1 billion in funding announcements, none of which were presented in the government's budget.

One of the announcements from Madawaska—Restigouche was to restore a replica of a historic railway. It came along with a cheque for $361,500. That is hardly something we saw in the budget. There was another $432,554 for an Acadian festival and another $400,000 to renovate a theatre in the labour minister's hometown of Moncton, New Brunswick. These may all be worthy projects, but certainly they were not presented either in the budget or in the estimates, at least no where I can see.

The Victoria Symphony Society received $150,000 from the environment minister, who happens to live in the riding. A magazine entitled, “Prairie North, Life in Saskatchewan” received $25,986 in funding from the finance minister who, ironically enough, represents a Saskatchewan riding.

For all I know, all these may be worthwhile initiatives. However, one gets suspicious when they are not in the budget or when they are not visible in the estimates, and it is weeks before the pending election. The money is coming from somewhere but we are not too sure from where, perhaps the discretionary spending.

The expenditures appear to be more like Liberal bait to get votes than planned, thoughtful expenditures of a government that has presented a budget to which Canadians can look forward.

I want to spend a few minutes on the estimates and the process that we have in this place of approving the expenditures of the government that comes out of the budget. It has frustrated me for 11 years. I will concentrate on the estimates that I know.

The Department of Natural Resources, which is a very small department in the big scheme of things because it is under the purview of the provinces and the federal government really does not have a large role to play there, has an expenditure of $1.1 billion. For a government that spends $180 billion, $1.1 billion is not that much. Lo and behold, this department increased its spending this year by $280 million. That is a pretty sizeable increase. Maybe that was all right, but when the estimates were brought to committee for us to have a look at, and I am not an accountant by any means, as most Canadians are not, this estimate process should be in a form that we can understand and see where the government is spending money.

In particular, the discretionary spending is where I have my biggest problem because legislated spending is pretty straightforward. A bill is brought through the House, a program is created and the money is budgeted to cover that program, but there are always pages of grants and contributions under discretionary spending. I ask questions every year on this spending but I rarely ever get answers.

The minister says that if I come to his office and spend time with him he will explain it, but that is not how the process is supposed to work. Spending priorities are supposed to be reported line by line in a transparent form that Canadians can understand. One should not have to make an appointment with the minister in order to understand it.

Under grants and contributions there are no less than eight places where it suggests line items in varying amounts of money, from $1 million down to $30,000. It says:

In support of organizations associated with the research, development, management and promotion of activities that contribute to departmental objectives.

How in the world would anyone know where that money is going? It really frustrates me that it is presented to us in committee and then we are asked to vote on whether the government should spend that money.

That was eight different places with eight different amounts of money with the same wording. It could mean anything. It could mean that the Liberal friendly ad firms in Quebec are organizations that certainly support departmental objectives because it pays for them to support departmental objectives, whether or not it did. The minister denied that it had anything to do with that kind of use of tax dollars. Maybe he is right but one would never know that from looking at these estimates.

Another item in the estimates is the $1.3 million to the Canada-China wood products initiative. That is very clear. What is the Canada-China wood products initiative? One of my colleagues spoke earlier about CIDA money going to China, the largest country in the world in terms of population, with its own nuclear weapons program, its own space program and seems to have a lot of money for those kinds of initiatives. Yet we are sending $1.3 million for the Canada-China wood products initiative, whatever that might be.

We are contributing another $1 million to the national community tree foundation. The list goes on and on.

Committees of the House April 29th, 2004

Mr. Speaker, I was amazed at that member for making those accusations against the opposition about filibustering and forcing the government to use closure. It is the responsibility of an opposition to use the tools available to it to bring amendments forward to change bills and put pressure on the government.

Perhaps the member would be the perfect one to explain why, in the last couple of weeks, the government has been filibustering its own bills. As a parliamentary secretary, he filibustered one of his own minister's bills. Everyone was at a loss to understand what possible purpose the government could have to filibuster its own bills other than the fact that it has no meaningful legislation to bring to the House.