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Crucial Fact

  • His favourite word was colleague.

Last in Parliament May 2004, as Canadian Alliance MP for Dewdney—Alouette (B.C.)

Won his last election, in 2000, with 58% of the vote.

Statements in the House

Supply October 28th, 2003

Mr. Speaker, I would ask the member directly whether she will be voting yes to the motion tonight. She said that she supports it but that she also supports Bill C-20. Some of us have been left with the impression that perhaps that may be an out; that supporting Bill C-20, the government's bill on this issue, would then allow for her to take an out on this.

Supply October 28th, 2003

Mr. Speaker, my colleague speaks with a great deal of knowledge being the former attorney general of the province of Manitoba.

I want to ask the member a specific legal question with regard to what the Supreme Court said in the Sharpe case. The Supreme Court said with regard to the public good clause that while the public good defence might prevent troubling applications of the law in certain cases, it would not do so in all.

My colleague mentioned that in his speech. I would like him to elaborate on that. I was chagrined and dismayed when the justice minister earlier today seemed to say that the fact the Alliance has brought the motion forward was a bad thing. I say it is a good thing. We need to discuss the problems with the government and its Bill C-20.

I would appreciate my colleague's comments on the public good defence as referenced in the Supreme Court decision.

Supply October 28th, 2003

Mr. Speaker, contrary to what the justice minister claims, Bill C-20 simply will not provide adequate provisions to protect our children against those who would exploit our children through the use of child pornography.

Why does the Minister of Justice refuse to listen and remove the artistic merit defence under the public good clause of Bill C-20?

Supply October 23rd, 2003

Mr. Speaker, my colleague points out the truth of the matter, which is that there is a parallel government in place right now. It is simply behind the scenes.

We see the member for LaSalle—Émard, the next Prime Minister, travelling around the country, visiting disaster sites and doing the kinds of things a Prime Minister would normally do while in office.

Earlier we heard from the government House leader. He was making the assertion that because the motion was before the House today, it was a confidence motion and that because members would possibly support the motion, this would replace the government with the same kind of government.

Something that the House leader forgot to mention was that members of the Liberal Party have called on the current Prime Minister to step aside. He must apply that same argument to his own colleagues if he is saying that about opposition members, which he did not allude to. That is surprising.

We will have an unusual situation here. We will have the leader of the Liberal Party who will take the reins of his party likely on November 14 yet not take the office of the Prime Minister until February some time. There will be a lag time of several months, unprecedented in Canadian history, when these kinds of important decisions will have to be made. How will that be operationalized? It is for that reason that the motion is before the House, so that democracy can be served.

My colleague alluded to that. I was wondering if he might be able to elaborate specifically on how the country will operate during the lag time between the time the next leader is leader of his party and when he formally becomes Prime Minister, even though he is acting as the Prime Minister behind the scenes now?

B.C. Floods October 22nd, 2003

Mr. Speaker, the recent floods in British Columbia have resulted in the loss of life and millions of dollars of damage. Communities, such as Pemberton, Victoria and Hatzic Lake, in my riding have been hurt by these floods.

We have been warning the government for years that its water course management plan is ineffective and could result in this kind of disaster. For years my colleagues and I have pleaded with the fisheries minister and the government to take the preventive measures necessary to ensure that dikes are properly maintained, that appropriate levels of gravel extraction be permitted, and that local municipalities be allowed to clean out their waterways.

Why does the government care more about fish than the safety of thousands of citizens?

The minister must now take immediate action to prevent future flooding in communities like Agassiz in my riding. The minister has continually refused to allow appropriate levels of dredging.

Instead of putting up roadblocks, the government should allow our communities to implement the tools necessary to solve this problem and prevent future flooding.

Statistics Act October 20th, 2003

Mr. Speaker, my colleague brings up some good questions. He has been involved in this issue and has some expertise in this area.

One of the questions that we have on this side of the House is, why is there a two-prong approach to access the information? Genealogists are filling out a simple form and historians must go through a more rigorous process to have access to that very same information. That is one of the concerns that we have.

One of the other main concerns is the time limit on the release of the information. My understanding is that there are two time periods: 92 years and 112 years, both within the same bill. Why is there that particular discrepancy? The Alliance believes that 92 years would safeguard information for people and be appropriate. That would be my response to my colleague.

Statistics Act October 20th, 2003

Mr. Speaker, my colleague raises a grave issue, one which he has raised in the House before. It is one that has been asked during question period a number of times and one that has not been answered by the government. We do not know why that is, or we do know why and part of the reason is that it is called question period, not answer period. It is a rare day when we actually get an answer to that kind of question. It would be a good question to further probe the government on that contract.

The first point my colleague mentioned was the information that is gathered and the sensitivity of that information. Canadians do have concerns about the sensitivity of information that is gathered through the census by Statistics Canada. One of the questions that comes up is should one give consent now for information to be released, how does that impact changes in questions that are asked at a later date?

As I mentioned in my speech, is that a one time thing? What if the forms change and people are not comfortable with releasing the information gathered later on down the road? These are questions that have been left floating out there that we cannot quite put our finger on because they have not been outlined or answered by the government at this point. Hopefully we will get to those issues during this debate and also in further examination of the bill. We will be putting forward some amendments to address those questions.

My colleague asked a good question. I would like to hear what the government has to say. I wish it would actually answer that rather than skate around it.

Statistics Act October 20th, 2003

Mr. Speaker, obviously my colleague has spent a great deal of time on this issue. He has had a number of constituents with concerns, as we all have. They have come to us wanting access to information for a number of different reasons. This bill lays out much of that information.

My colleague's question is mainly focused on the time aspect. We believe 92 years is an appropriate amount of time. I believe 112 years is being outlined in the current bill. There seems to be a balance between privacy and the release of information.

At the same time, one of the bigger concerns is the two-pronged approach to access to the records for someone looking at census data for genealogical purposes versus someone looking at the information for historical research. There is a dual track system that is going to limit historians' access to the information in that they will have to fill out more forms, which may include taking up more of our time as members of Parliament, as outlined in my speech.

I do think that 92 years is an appropriate period of time that should be in place for the release of all the information. There should not be the 92 year and 112 year time periods in the bill. It should be 92 years for the release of that information.

Statistics Act October 20th, 2003

Mr. Speaker, it is my pleasure to speak to Bill S-13. This bill has been a long time coming. Members of the Canadian Alliance have answered hundreds of letters and have received many petitions concerning the release of census data over the last three years.

My colleague, the member for Edmonton Southwest, is the official opposition critic for census records and his offices receive letters almost daily on this issue since it left the Senate. I would like to pay tribute to the hard work of my colleague from Edmonton Southwest on this issue, as well as my colleagues from Calgary Southeast and Peace River who have also had a great deal of input and hard work on this bill and on this issue as well.

The Canadian Alliance voted unanimously in favour of the motion by the member for Calgary Southeast which stated:

That, in the opinion of this House, the government should take all necessary steps to release the 1911 census records once they have been deposited in the National Archives in 2003.

The member for Peace River shepherded this issue through our caucus when it first came up in 2001.

As we all know, census records are an invaluable source of information for those conducting historical or genealogical research. In fact, the 1906 census, the document which gave rise to this bill, was a special census that was conducted only in the prairie provinces after the massive influx of immigrants at the turn of the century. The release of the 1906 census generated more than four million hits in the first 12 days it was online. The same story holds true for the 1901 census, which received more than 50 million hits for its first six months online.

The problem, as I understand it, is the nature of the census data or one of the issues that we are bringing forward. Statistics Canada strives to protect the integrity of the information it gathers. In Canada we have kept census information secret for a long period of time after the data is initially collected. We have kept census information secret for 92 years on average. That is 28 years longer than in the United States and eight years shorter than in the United Kingdom. In my opinion, 92 years is a reasonable period of time to keep information under wraps, so to speak.

At the turn of the century some ambiguities were raised as to how long such information should be kept from public release. According to Statistics Canada, census takers were given conflicting instructions on how to collect census data. It may have led some Canadians to believe that their information would be kept secret forever. Obviously that is not the case.

This situation was clarified when confidentiality and disclosure regulations that had existed for previous census operations were enforced by law for the 1911 census. The Canadian commissioner of privacy and a legal opinion received by Statistics Canada have led some groups to push that census records be kept secret for 20 years longer, a total of 112 years, due to the provision in Canadian law to keep personal records secret until 20 years after the death of an individual.

Bill S-13 attempts to reach a compromise between concerns for privacy and the covenant agreed to by Statistics Canada and the Canadian public through the census. It was originally proposed that this bill be passed in a single sitting. The Canadian Alliance, the official opposition, could not agree to such a course of action for three reasons that I will now touch on.

First, we are seeking clarity concerning the conditional release of information. Second, we would like to discuss the creation of a new bureaucracy and new regulations to police the conditional release of information. Third and finally, I want to debate the appropriate passage of time before census information should be released to the public.

As I understand it, the only information that will be released after 92 years is what is often referred to as tombstone information, basic information: name, address, age, date of birth, marital status, sex and occupation. At the turn of the century this scope of information comprised the bulk of the census. However some interesting questions have been asked over the years, ranging from the mental state of members of one's family to the type of private company one keeps, questions that understandably Statistics Canada would like to treat gently and that Canadians have concerns about in terms of the privacy issues.

One has to wonder if the questions that need to be treated differently need to be asked at all. That is a point of debate as well. Nevertheless, the Alliance is hoping to clarify why there would only be a partial release of information, especially since researchers would be required to fill out an application in order to access this information.

That brings me to my second point. The lion's share of this bill deals with section 17 of the Statistics Act which governs secrecy. As I understand it, the information released after 92 years would be reviewed by those who fill out an application to view the records. There would be two separate sets of researchers allowed to access census records after 92 years, genealogists and historians.

Genealogists would be required to fill out a very simple form and their qualifications, to the best of my knowledge, would not be reviewed. Historians, however, would have to be vouched for. According to the draft regulations proposed to cabinet, persons applying to conduct historical research would be required to submit an application on their own behalf accompanied by a form from a list of people who have “assessed the public and scientific value of the research”. The people who can approve historical research are presidents or faculty deans of universities, senior elected community officials such as a mayor or a reeve, president of an ethnic or cultural association, a member of Parliament, a senator, a member of the provincial legislature, senior clergy, a native chief, a chief librarian, provincial archivist, the national archivist of Canada and the chief statistician of Canada. Clearly, this list of people who can approve access to census information should be included in the bill.

Taking a member of Parliament as an example, many people may ask about our qualifications in assessing the public and scientific value of proposed research. Members of Parliament are busy, as are their staff members. In addition to being seen as unqualified by some in this regard, it could take us a long time to respond to requests from historical researchers which may affect their research.

Further to the release of information, there is a section of the bill which states that with the 2006 census, those people filling out the census would have to give their consent at the time they fill out the census forms for the information to be disclosed after 112 years. This section is a bit puzzling. It is the subject about which our critic's office has received the most amount of mail, with concerns about this particular aspect of the bill.

Will there be a campaign to educate people about this clause? Is it a one time offer? Can a person go back and change his or her decision? Who is allowed to check the consent box for children? How many people does the government expect may opt out of a public release? If more than 50% of Canadians choose to keep their census records secret until the end of the time period, how would that skew the other 49% of records that are released? How much would it cost Canadians to administer and keep these records secret? These are all questions that need to be answered. They are not clearly laid out in the bill in its current state.

Finally, we wonder why we need to create a new bureaucracy to police this endeavour of trying to obtain access to census information. A form is being created for those who wish to conduct research on census information. As I have outlined, that could create a whole new level of bureaucracy.

Reading the speech from Liberal Senator Lorna Milne, the champion of the bill, she states, “The government does not want to make it difficult to conduct historical and genealogical research”. If that were the case, the government would not be imposing new and complicated procedures in order to access census information. It is my experience that regulations and forms make things more difficult, not easier.

As the opposition, we therefore must ask, has the government conducted a cost benefit analysis on these new regulations? Does the government have any idea how many people would be applying to review these records? How is the government going to police the use of these records? Will there be fines or jail time for those who misuse their privileges?

The Canadian Alliance will be proposing amendments to this bill. Many of them will focus on the questions that have been raised in my speech today and which have been championed by my colleague from Edmonton.

One of the most important questions facing the House is how much time is appropriate to respect the privacy rights of those who have completed census forms. Today the average life expectancy of Canadian males is 75 years and of females is 81 years. In all likelihood our personal information will not be made available until long after we are gone.

The Canadian Alliance believes that 92 years of secrecy is sufficient to protect the integrity of census records. At the same time, we do not belittle the privacy concerns of Canadians and the Privacy Commissioner on the subject. In fact the Canadian Alliance is very concerned about the breadth and scope of the current census forms. Many of us know people who have heard from constituents who feel the long form of the census asks for too much personal information.

Statistics Canada is the depository of highly sensitive and private information of private citizens and corporations. Many individuals and corporations believe that Statistics Canada collects too much information these days and then, because of the sheer volume of information, is delayed in releasing analysis in a timely manner, but that is a debate for another day.

I want to close my comments by thanking members for the opportunity to discuss these issues. I realize it has taken a long time to create this bill. Many consultations have taken place. I cannot support this bill in its current form unless it is amended and many of the questions that I have addressed and the official opposition has addressed are answered in the process.

Canadian Forces Superannuation Act October 20th, 2003

Mr. Speaker, I will simply sum up by saying that my colleague from Wild Rose is one the hardest working members of Parliament. Whatever his critic's role is, he travels the country, whether it is in his role as Solicitor General critic, when he travels to visit the prisons, or whether it is in working with the Indian affairs department, when he visits across the country talking to people.

He knows what he is talking about, and in this situation he is talking about his own family. He has highlighted the fact that when a government makes something a priority, like the United States has with military housing, it makes a difference, and that if our government were to do that it would make a difference in the lives of our personnel here at home. It needs to be done.