Crucial Fact

  • His favourite word was billion.

Last in Parliament April 1997, as Reform MP for Calgary Centre (Alberta)

Lost his last election, in 2000, with 22% of the vote.

Statements in the House

Members Of Parliament Retiring Allowances February 8th, 1994

Mr. Speaker, I can assure the Prime Minister that we will not want to have that double option. I have a supplementary question.

As Reformers we want to save the taxpayers' money.

Members Of Parliament Retiring Allowances February 8th, 1994

Mr. Speaker, my question is for the Prime Minister. On January 24 in this House the Prime Minister promised to accommodate any MP who chooses to opt out of the current MP pension plan.

How soon can we expect these administrative changes to be made?

Department Of National Revenue Act February 4th, 1994

Mr. Speaker, I appreciate the comments from the hon. member.

I would like to add that as a businessman over the last 23 or 24 years I have gone through downsizing, right sizing and cuts. I have always found that the best and most effective cuts are made at the top, but leave the people at the point of service, the point of sale. The people at the top make the most money. By eliminating one or two of those people we then in effect, perhaps

as we evaluate our service ability to give taxpayers value for their money, can hire three or four more customs officials.

The way some of the bureaucrats get criticized by taxpayers that some of them are rude and some of them are using their powers abusively comes from the fact that they are probably overworked. There is strain and stress in their jobs and it is up to the Minister of National Revenue to make this determination and find out if there are more people required in the field or not.

If we concentrate on what gets us the most compliments, it is always the person, just like at a bank, who interfaces with the customer. The tellers give the major banks a good reputation or a bad reputation, not the VP in the ivory tower. It is the tellers, the customs officials, the people the minister sends out to the field to do tax audits. Those people who interface with the taxpayers are the ones who give government a good reputation or a bad reputation. Human resources is an important element and it must be evaluated on the basis of the workload, what is expected, proper compensation and a good working environment at that level.

In the last two administrations in this Parliament, because a lot of the members in the Liberal party are also new, the previous government spent most of its time improving the executive level of operations and expanding it rather than improving the real important areas of operations which were in the field.

I hope the minister plans to concentrate in that area. I believe the reputation of all bureaucrats will rise accordingly.

Department Of National Revenue Act February 4th, 1994

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to rise today on the issue of Bill C-2, an act to amend the Department of National Revenue Act and to amend certain other acts in consequence thereof.

In the interests of reducing duplication and overlap of debaters, today I will speak on behalf of the Reform Party which in principle supports Bill C-2 in the spirit that has been put forward by the Department of National Revenue and the minister himself.

According to this department the approval of Bill C-2 will enable it to be more responsive to changing needs, to streamline operations, to reduce the administrative burden on taxpayers, to reduce costs and duplication, and to improve the quality of its services and programs.

My party supports the initial steps taken by the Liberal government in an attempt to streamline departmental activities. Combining immigration and citizenship, customs, excise and taxation, and eliminating altogether the department of public security will help reduce duplication and overlap. However the Reform Party stresses the need for increased financial reviews and reforms for all government departments to ensure that taxpayers' money is being spent efficiently and effectively.

The Minister of National Revenue has stressed that his department is responding to the needs of Canadians and encouraging confidence and faith in revenue administration. We hope that Bill C-2 will not represent the only step his department is taking to reduce costs.

The reduction of costs associated with departmental consolidation and the removal of a few individuals at the executive level are just the tip of the iceberg when one considers the amount of government waste that has existed over the years.

Superficial or cosmetic attempts to correct the injustices in fiscal and political accountability will no longer be tolerated by taxpayers.

Our party would encourage the minister and his government to initiate line by line, item by item reviews of the departments to find out where the money is going. Perhaps asking questions like: Do certain departments have too many employees or not enough? Are they best serving the interests of the public with the resources allocated to them or not? Should they be living in the town or city that they are working in, or should they be 60 miles away with the government and taxpayers paying for mileage?

These results should be made public in their entirety in the form of an annual report which could then be distributed to all parties for a review. The Minister of Finance spoke yesterday about the vast amount of experience of the individuals assembled in this House. The government should take advantage of this to help find new ideas to better manage its money.

My party wants the federal government and its departments to demonstrate fiscal responsibility and exercise restraint. Our philosophy is that the size of government can and must be reduced without affecting the level of service taxpayers expect.

I congratulate the Minister of National Revenue in amalgamating or intending to amalgamate two huge infrastructures into one with the objective of streamlining operations with the purpose of better delivery of service, as he has said, less red tape, as he has said, and the co-ordination of collecting revenues

with the provinces. This certainly appears to be a page out of the Reform Party blue sheet and I appreciate that.

As mentioned, my party supports the idea of increased government efficiency and cost cutting in the Department of National Revenue provided that the quality of services to Canadians is not affected in the field. Our constituents have concerns, as also mentioned by the member for the Official Opposition who spoke just prior to me, that Bill C-2 would reduce the level of service in the field. I would like to voice some of these concerns for the record so the standing committee on finance, which will review this bill in detail, will be aware of them.

It is feared that the combination of Revenue Canada Taxation and customs Canada is designed to place more of an emphasis on revenue collection, controlling the underground economy and smuggling. customs officials must not be hindered in any way by legislation from performing the important duty of protecting Canadians from illegal drugs, weapons and criminal elements by reducing their ranks.

By masking administrative cuts at the top, the minister is leading by example. However, he must not reduce the number of customs personnel in the field which would hinder their ability to function effectively.

Individuals in the Manitoba riding of Lisgar-Marquette for example are concerned that the savings from eliminating one deputy minister may be lost tenfold by other problems arising from the passing of Bill C-2. In their ports of Snowflake and Crystal City, people are concerned that this bill represents the first of several steps that would ultimately see the cutting back or elimination of customs personnel at certain border points.

This concern stems from a pilot program in the United States to establish automated permit ports at specified ports of entry on the northern border. The main thrust of the U.S. program is to expand the hours of low risk entry points so that they can be open when staff are not on duty. Canadian and U.S. citizens will be allowed to enter the United States unimpeded at specific crossings when the port is closed.

This program was developed to promote efficiency and the results, according to the constituents of Lisgar-Marquette, may encourage the Department of National Revenue to follow suit. However, constituents fear that ports like Snowflake and Crystal City would become more attractive to criminal elements looking for a trouble-free point of entry.

The illegal gun trade is a lucrative business. With easy access to handguns in the United States this area could become a real problem for customs border patrols and the RCMP. I am expressing a concern and I hope the minister acknowledges that. Increased efficiency must not come at the expense of effectiveness.

One of the natural roles of government should be to protect its borders and sovereignty, and I do not mean the definition of sovereignty as used by the Official Opposition. Concerns have also been raised by the customs union, several municipalities and the media that with the consolidation of the two departments, the resources for customs officers to effectively defend the border will be strained.

The customs union is under the impression that increased emphasis on these activities will lead to a reduction in resources for other activities, such as controlling illegal immigrants, firearms, pornography and stopping abducted children.

The customs union is seriously concerned about the effects of this legislation upon the quality of services demanded. For example, it is concerned that drug seizures will be reduced.

In 1991 there were 10,000 seizures at the border. In 1992, there were 25,000 and in 1993 when there was an increase in trafficking, there was a reduction in the number of seizures to 15,000. According to the union smugglers are using more innovative and effective techniques to move illegal items into Canada. It must be able to respond with the latest techniques to catch them.

This is why the union is concerned that a lack of emphasis is being placed on to these activities. By amalgamating two departments into one, possibly the idea of making cuts at the top would end up in the field. Once again, I know the minister does not intend to do that. I hope he does not. He is shaking his head. Therefore, these concerns should be laid to rest.

The union is concerned that these activities will only get worse with the implementation of this legislation.

The Canadian Police Association has also criticized the merger because the border is the first line of defence for guns and other weapons which ultimately end up on Canadian streets.

Even with an elimination of a deputy minister, ensuring that the level of service is strictly monitored and adjusted accordingly should overcome these fears.

The Minister of National Revenue stated that he believes a unified Department of National Revenue will build on the strength of our existing customs, excise and taxation administrations. It will better serve Canadians and strengthen their confidence in Canada's revenue administration.

Consequently the Reform Party supports the principle on which Bill C-2 has been proposed. We ask that the parliamentary standing committee examining it take into consideration the

possible negative effects expressed by our constituents through my comments.

Improved efficiency and effectiveness can result from this bill provided that reorganization and government cost savings will be done with the security and best interests of Canadians in mind.

Once again, we commend the Liberal government for removing a piece of duplication and overlap from a government agency and encourage much more of the same in areas where government waste is evident.

As the minister of revenue stated in his speech today while he was supporting Bill C-2, giving taxpayers value for their tax dollars is definitely a most honourable objective and should be supported by all members of this House.

Pre-Budget Consultations February 1st, 1994

Mr. Speaker, I feel that was a supportive comment by the hon. member and therefore I do not feel I have any need to add to his comments.

Pre-Budget Consultations February 1st, 1994

Mr. Speaker, in response to the hon. member, I would like to clarify a couple of points the member asked about.

I did not say that we did not support or justify spending on infrastructure. The government has $126 billion. It should priorize spending. If it means including infrastructure, by all means it is the government's responsibility now to decide how that money is spent efficiently and effectively.

What we are talking about and are concerned about is increasing the revenue take through increased taxes. If the government wants to balance the budget by increasing the revenue just through that infrastructure program, it is not enough to generate new tax dollars to cover increased costs.

With respect to another point, we also want to create jobs as does the Liberal Party, but our philosophy or suggestion is that jobs are created by the private sector which does a much better job. We should redistribute the wealth and put it back in private sector hands, not keep the money in government hands which has proven over and over again for the last 26 years that it does not know how to create long term meaningful jobs. All it knows how to do is take in money and mess it up. We would like to put that money back where it should be.

The hon. member asked a tricky type of question regarding whether I supported the will of the majority of the Canadian public. We all know how the electoral system works. We all know how they got their majority. We all know where they got their majority.

Many people in the country also support our point of view. It is not just that the Liberals have carte blanche. It is also their responsibility as government to listen to some constructive alternatives and to listen to some constructive suggestions. Members of the opposition are here to help them improve their programs. If they do not do that and if they just dictate to us, they will breach their commitment and responsibility just as the previous government did and will end up with the same fate.

Pre-Budget Consultations February 1st, 1994

Mr. Speaker, I would like to begin by complimenting the government on its use of pre-budget conferences in the House of Commons. A debate like today is an attempt to open up the budgetary process to Canadians and House members. I realize there are problems with two-way communication because the government cannot do what everyone says, but the process will be a real sham if the finance minister suffers from selective hearing to justify his budget.

We look forward to his budget which will be the proof of his ability to listen and to keep his promises. Because previous Liberal and Conservative governments have neglected the deficit and the growing burden of debt for so long, the easy options for correcting the problem no longer exist.

As a constructive alternative today I forward the idea that less means more. Less taxation means more revenue for government and commerce. Less taxation means more money in the hands of people who know how to spend it better. Less government spending means more revenue can be applied to the debt. The vehicle through which the government can achieve economic revival is a new simple, visible and proportional tax which will also eliminate the need for the GST.

The need for tax reform is obvious. The Minister of Finance has said that many Canadians "have withdrawn their consent to be governed and are demonstrating that by resorting to the underground economy and refusing to pay taxes". The government is losing billions of dollars on an underground economy which is valued at $60 billion to $80 billion because the public has lost confidence in the government's ability to manage money, resources and live within its means like taxpayers have to do.

Even the Prime Minister himself has acknowledged the fact that our present system is not working. This is not surprising. The present tax system is too complicated, too high and too unfair. These factors in combination with consistent government overspending are stifling our economy. The current government is presently acting as though there is a revenue problem, not a spending problem.

However when we examine the facts we find revenues in excess of $126 billion. Total expenditures excluding the interest payments on the debt are less than $126 billion. It is the interest on the debt that creates the deficit. Does that sound familiar? Interest expenses on federal debt now total 33 cents of every tax dollar.

I submit it is the debt and the interest expense to service the debt that put in jeopardy the viability of existing programs. Therefore we should not be adding to the debt annually at a rate of $35 billion to $45 billion.

We have misspent and overspent money for the last 25 years. Since 1968 we have spent more money each and every year than was brought in. We cannot survive like this. Creditors are watching this 35th Parliament very closely. The problem needs solving now, not next year.

It is my belief that to stimulate the economy and to increase revenues for government, lenders, investors and consumers must possess a larger pool of disposable income. If the current government continues to take more money out of the economy through higher taxation, it will in actual fact serve as a deterrent to the economy creating higher unemployment and keeping us in this recession much longer.

That is why I recommend the implementation of a flat tax on individual and corporate income. A creation of a flat or proportional tax is a way to increase constructively the revenue side of the budget, remove incentives for an underground economy, restore fairness and, most important, stimulate economic growth which is a priority of the Liberal red book.

This concept is not new to the House or the government. The member for Broadview-Greenwood who supports a single or flat tax wrote: "Lower marginal rates and more take home pay would be an incentive to work harder and smarter. The new incentives plus elimination of avoidance and evasion would lead to this tax taking in more revenue, even with this lower rate".

The objective of this tax would be threefold. First, it would simplify current complicated tax forms so that all Canadians could understand them. This would increase savings for the Department of National Revenue in the collection of taxes and the monitoring of all personal and corporate tax exemptions.

Second, it would restore equity into the tax system eliminating the perception that one group of taxpayer is favoured over another.

Third, it would restore integrity and bring effectiveness to the system by eliminating the need for so many tax concessions and loopholes, an objective that was also stated today by the finance minister.

The finance minister said today that he planned to build equity into the budgetary process. He then proceeded to commit the Liberal government to the preservation of the current social system without reducing any expenditures on it and hinted that he planned to close tax loopholes and exemptions.

Our social programs are gold plated Cadillacs we cannot afford. They can be replaced with a less expensive model without hurting the efficient delivery of the same social programs. The finance minister stated that Canadians can expect another deficit in the range of $40 billion.

Once again for the 26th year in a row government will spend more money than it brings in. When will it stop? There is no commitment by the government to balance the budget or cut the deficit. One does not build equity as the finance minister wants by continually adding to the debt.

Should the finance minister be serious in his comments that he is seeking input on how to balance the fiscal scales, here are some suggestions. First, he could target social spending to the truly needy and perhaps eliminate OAS payments to seniors whose household income is in excess of the national household average of $54,000. The saving would be $2 billion to $3 billion.

Second, he could make UI self-sustaining, not by increasing premiums but by tightening benefits and eliminating payments to abusers and seasonal workers whose incomes are above $54,000 per year. The saving would be $3 billion to $6 billion.

Third, he could eliminate subsidies to businesses, megaprojects and regional development programs. The saving would be $1 billion to $3 billion.

Fourth, he could cut the Department of National Defence budget by 6 per cent. The saving would be $660 million.

Fifth, he could privatize crown corporations and apply the sale proceeds to our national debt. The saving would be $2 billion to $3 billion and perhaps a reduction of the debt by $5 billion to $10 billion.

Sixth, he could rationalize spending on government programs to generate growth and confidence in the economy and eliminate the money guzzling programs in government operations. The saving would be $600 million, plus or minus.

Increased taxation and a reliance on infrastructure spending alone will not significantly reduce the deficit or encourage a economic recovery. Make work programs do not create long term jobs. They are simply another way to spend taxpayers' money.

When the money runs out for the contractors and construction workers under the Liberal plan, the jobs will stop. Taxpayers will then be left with an even bigger debt to be serviced through increased taxation. What if the interest rate goes up? How will we service that debt? Where will the money come from? Canadians are still paying for programs created by previous governments during the seventies and eighties. The federal government's responsibility is to create a healthy economic environment that favours investment, encourages initiative and risk taking, and protects the environment.

It is widely known that outside investors prefer to do business where governments are fiscally responsible. This is why the government must get a firmer handle on expenditures, not just raise taxes.

Alberta Treasurer Jim Dinning said recently: "If you put more money into government hands they don't save it; they spend it". If the purposes of taxes is to provide peace, good order and good government in Canada then let us do it and let us not just talk about doing it.

In conclusion I hope the Liberal definition of fairness in the taxation system does not mean let them overtax everybody.

Pre-Budget Conferences January 31st, 1994

Mr. Speaker, having spent $800,000 on these conferences, is the finance minister now going to waste this money and go against those constructive alternatives offered and proceed by increasing the tax haul?

Pre-Budget Conferences January 31st, 1994

Mr. Speaker, my question is for the Minister of Finance. At the final pre-budget conference in Calgary this past Saturday the finance minister said: "The government cannot be expected to heed all advice".

Has the finance minister come to this conclusion because he does not like what he has heard, that deficit and debt is the major problem and not revenues?

Speech From The Throne January 27th, 1994

Mr. Speaker, my question is for the member for South Shore. First of all I congratulate him on his maiden speech.

With respect to the resource industry of which the hon. member said his riding has a cross-section, specifically in forestry, he said there were over 270 companies employing 5,000 people. When these companies strip the trees, are they forced to replace them at intermittent stages during their contract? Or, is it like some other companies in Canada that are allowed to wait until the last days of their contract and walk away from that commitment?