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Crucial Fact

  • His favourite word was forward.

Last in Parliament May 2004, as Progressive Conservative MP for Brandon—Souris (Manitoba)

Won his last election, in 2000, with 37% of the vote.

Statements in the House

Income Tax Conventions Implementation Act, 1997 October 20th, 1997

Mr. Speaker, my answer is unequivocally yes. I said in my preamble that it is nice to see a positive attempt to change an injustice. In saying that, the injustice was put in place by that very government in 1996 and it is trying to correct it now.

When you accept the fact that a mistake was made, trying to fix that mistake is very positive. We thank you for that. The unfortunate part is that there are still unknowns.

I am sure a number of these issues will be dealt with in committee and some fine tuning will be done to the bill at that point. I am sure the government would agree that if there are some inequities in the legislation they should be changed prior to the passage of the bill. That is democracy and I do appreciate that.

In saying that, as part of the body of my talk I also suggested that the timing for a lot of those very people that you talk about is still extended. Instead of a solution today we are looking to the summer of 1998 when a lot of these people who have already paid 1996 and 1997 taxation levels will not be able to get that refund. We are suggesting that perhaps the government should consider refunding those dollars to the people who need them. They are at the lower level income areas and perhaps we should refund those now rather than wait until the summer or fall of 1998.

Income Tax Conventions Implementation Act, 1997 October 20th, 1997

Mr. Speaker, the hon. member was obviously not listening to the full body of my presentation. There are some good things within the proposed legislation. I am sure even the hon. member would agree with that. Unfortunately there are inconsistencies in the bill, particularly the one with respect to the inclusion.

My colleague from West Nova indicated that very thing, that we could accept some of the proposed changes, good changes which the Liberals have put forward but that we could not accept them based on the facts, figures and numbers we have at this time with respect to the taxation rates which will be attached to this bill.

I spoke previously and I rise again as my colleague from West Nova did. We will speak and vote against this legislation until we are assured by the government there will not be any additional taxes raised on the backs of retired people.

Income Tax Conventions Implementation Act, 1997 October 20th, 1997

Mr. Speaker, perhaps I am in the wrong debate in this House. I thought that C-10 was going to be discussed. However I heard a lot of comments about CPP and Bill C-2 over the last couple of speakers; harmonized sales tax, which I thought was a rather interesting comment; RRSPs; and capital tax, which was really quite interesting but does not have a lot of bearing on Bill C-10.

I particularly enjoyed the comment about housing prices in the city of Winnipeg. I do not know how it relates to C-10 but I can tell the hon. member who brought it up that in fact in Brandon our housing prices are 15% higher than those in the city of Winnipeg. They are perhaps not quite to the level of those in Vancouver but that is okay.

I would like to bring this back to C-10. The issue quite frankly is very relevant to me. My constituency has a very large seniors population as do a number of constituencies throughout this country of ours, but my riding in particular through demographics has identified a very large seniors population.

It never ceases to amaze me that when the government tries to fix a wrong it does it for the right reasons but unfortunately when the legislation is brought forward the wrong seems to be exacerbated in some areas which it has been with Bill C-10.

In an attempt to respond to the protests of CASSE and CARP, which is the Canadian Association of Retired Persons, on the non-refundable 25.5% U.S. withholding tax imposed on social security payments to Canadian residents under the 1995 tax protocol which was brought in by the existing government, the finance minister announced on April 9, 1997 the signing of a new tax protocol with the U.S. Following ratification this protocol will be effective retroactive to January 1, 1996, the implementation date of the contentious 1995 protocol. Under the new protocol, the taxation power in respect of social security payments to Canadians will be returned to Canada while the U.S. will again assume power to tax CPP and OAS receipts of their residents.

Initially the finance minister's announcement brought great joy locally as it appeared we were returning to the 50% inclusion rate that prevailed prior to January 1, 1996. Further, the finance minister announced that upon ratification of the new protocol, refunds would be available to those Canadians whose tax in 1996-97 social security payments would be reduced under the new protocol. Apparently the two governments are working together in this regard.

CASSE's joy however turned to bitter disappointment when it was learned that under the finance minister's new system the income inclusion rate for the social security would now be 85%. This represents a 70% increase in the rate of taxation of social security jumping from a 50% inclusion rate to an 85% inclusion rate for everybody but those retirees who are not taxable having under $11,000 in income.

This new inclusion rate will also be retroactive to January 1, 1996 for the purposes of determining refunds, although no one will be required to pay more tax for 1996 and 1997 than the U.S. withheld. Low income Canadians who have been hit by the 25.5% U.S. withholding tax should not have to wait for both the ratification of the new protocol and then until the summer of 1998 for the processing of their return seeking a refund for tax withheld in 1996 and 1997. Retired people in this income bracket need the money now. Our government should undertake to do that forthwith through the GIS system.

The finance minister told CASSE that the first change to a withholding tax system was revenue neutral. No numbers however have been released as to the revenue earned by the Canadian government in the old system or what revenue was realized in imposing withholding tax on OAS and CPP to U.S. residents or what revenue will be realized under the new system in the 1997 protocol. These numbers are necessary for any policy debate in this area and we should be pressing the Minister of Finance to reveal these numbers immediately.

Not having the numbers means that we do not know whether the 70% increase in tax on social security first effectively occurred with the imposition of the withholding tax system in the 1995 protocol or with the changes announced with the 1997 protocol or a combination of both.

However, if the finance minister's budget is not based on the 1997 protocol just signed which affects 1998 and subsequent years, our party should be prepared to roll back in taxes immediately that portion of the revenue increase caused by the 1997 protocol.

Finally, after the year fiscal year 2000 when our budget moves into a surplus, which I believe very strongly should be this fiscal year, we should undertake to return to the old system of the 50% inclusion rate which reflects the fact that contributions to the U.S. system are made out of after tax dollars and that under the finance minister's protocol, cross border workers are being doubly taxed on their retirement income.

I would like to commend the government for recognizing the mistake that was made in 1995. I would further like to state that it is a sight for sore eyes that while it recognizes the mistake it made, it actually decided to do something about it. I wish I could commend the government further, however a few important items seem to be missing from this discussion.

The Progressive Conservative Party will not support this bill with the pittance of information that we seem to have here and without a much more significant, in depth discussion to determine the real effects of this bill on retired people.

The finance minister stated previously that this is a revenue neutral bill. The minister has further entered into a tax treaty increasing the income inclusion from a 50% inclusive rate to an 85% inclusion rate. The remove of the withholding tax is a step in the right direction.

The PC Party understands that some income earners, especially the lower income earners, may actually see a decrease in their level of taxation. This is another step in the right direction. The Progressive Conservative Party further notes that some income earners will see a huge increase in their levels of taxation. We in this House do not condone that action.

It is unfortunate today that after seeing the government recognize and correct the mistake in a positive and progressive manner, it must dig further into the pockets and raise tax levels like this. I hope this bill is in fact revenue neutral as the finance minister would have us believe.

It is with dismay that the PC Party must rise against this bill. However, I hope that through more in depth discussion and some changes we will be able to see a corrected mistake that will actually reduce taxation levels rather than raise them.

The Economy October 20th, 1997

Mr. Speaker, figures tabled by the government last April announced a $12.5 billion cash floor on the CHST. They showed that Manitoba's cash transfers were to fall from $600 million last year to $487 million within the next five years. Not only has Manitoba suffered a $250 million cash transfer loss since 1994-95 but it is facing a health care crisis. In fact the community of Delorine, Manitoba has lost all of its doctors and its citizens do not have access to health care.

Can the minister explain, despite the floor and in spite of a balanced budget, why seven out of ten provinces will continue to get less money for health care—

The Economy October 20th, 1997

Mr. Speaker, my question is for the Minister of Finance.

Last year the deficit was $8.9 billion. Expanded revenue growth combined with lower interest rates on a smaller marketable debt could very well balance the books this fiscal year.

Would the Minister of Finance after his recent mushy economic statement advise the Canadian public if the finance department's own internal forecast indicates a balanced budget this fiscal year?

Grain Transportation October 8th, 1997

Mr. Speaker, my supplementary question is for the Minister responsible for the Canadian Wheat Board.

Producers are sick and tired of hearing who is to blame for the grain delays of last winter. What producers want is a government that is not going to hide behind the CTA hearing in an effort to prolong the initiative. Producers want answers now.

The minister has the authority but will he have the political will? Will he walk out of the House, call the chief commissioner of the CWB, cancel the CTA hearing and get a review under way right now?

Grain Transportation October 8th, 1997

Mr. Speaker, my question is for the Minister of Transport. It is on an issue close and dear to the hearts of western Canadian farmers.

The CTA inquiry into the grain transportation delays that occurred last winter were supposed to start in August. It was then delayed to November and now it is delayed until April. Agricultural stakeholders have said repeatedly that they want immediate action taken on this issue and will no longer accept political juggling acts. Producers want to hear solutions now before more problems arise.

My question: Is your department prepared to immediately conduct—

Canadian Wheat Board Act October 7th, 1997

Mr. Speaker, it is the first time I have had the opportunity to speak in the House for an extended period of time so I would like to congratulate you and the other members of the Speaker's chair. I sit beside you and we have a good working relationship. I expect that will continue.

I would also like to thank the electorate of Brandon—Souris for putting me in this wonderful position in the House and for being able to speak today on Bill C-4 on their behalf.

I would like to begin debate on the bill which is now before us with the prophetic words of one hon. member of Parliament. He was a member of the Progressive Conservative Party and represented my riding over 40 years ago. He was the Hon. Walter Dinsdale. His words on the subject matter outlined in Bill C-4 are very relevant for someone who spoke on the issue 40 years ago:

Wheat is still the economic lodestar of the prairies—. Wheat made possible the building of Canada's first transcontinental railway, and I sometimes think the construction of the CPR was the last major effort on the part of this dominion government relative to the prairies.

It was also the rapid development of our wheat economy that made possible the great waves of immigration in the early years of this century and opened up that part of Canada to popular settlement.

Important as the wheat trade undoubtedly is, it nevertheless leaves our prairie economy in a particularly vulnerable position because it means that we are tied to a one-product economy. When disturbances inevitably occur in world economy and are reflected in our internal economy, it is the agricultural industry that is the first to suffer.

In this regard I would like to add, Mr. Speaker, that the wheat board has been particularly effective in smoothing out extreme swings in the economic cycle. The only difficulty with the wheat board is that it has tended to become used as an instrument of political manipulation, and wheat policies have been adapted to the welfare of the party in power.

I would add, though, that marketing boards do not necessarily increase the price to the producer. They merely iron out some of the wilder fluctuations. In the final analysis it is demand that determines price.

It is ironic reciting these words on an issue which was brought to the attention of the then Liberal government over 40 years ago by a Progressive Conservative member of Parliament. Is it not funny that 40 years later the current Liberal government continues to put a deaf ear to the concerns of western members of Parliament. It is sad how little things have changed around here. It is really sad for the producers who have to deal with a federal government which is so adamant on preventing change when it concerns the interests of farmers across western Canada.

I appreciate the fact that the government in power has a very difficult issue facing it today. I have spoken to many stakeholders across the country and I can say that they have very divergent needs. Some say to get rid of the board entirely and we recognize who those people are. There is also the range on the other side which says to leave it exactly the way it is, the status quo with no changes whatsoever. We recognize where that comes from.

There is in the middle however a number of stakeholders, a number of producers, who would like to see change, some of them within the Canadian Wheat Board system and some of them on a voluntary basis, so they would have the right to choose in which fashion they would market their grains.

The government today had an opportunity to embrace change going into the 21st century. It had an opportunity to show leadership with respect to marketing western Canadian grains. In fact with Bill C-4 before us right now, it has failed to show that leadership. The government has tinkered with the existing Canadian Wheat Board.

I am not naive enough politically to believe that we on this side of the House are going to change the direction of government. In saying that, when I came to this House I said to my constituents that I wanted to bring positive criticism, constructive criticism to the government. I would like to in the next little while show some of that positive criticism.

The first issue I would like to deal with in Bill C-4 before us today is that of the inclusion clause. I had the opportunity to actually speak to the commissioners of the Canadian Wheat Board. When I asked the question why must there be an inclusion clause to include canola, flax, rye and oats, the answer I received was if there is going to be an exclusion clause, then we should have an inclusion clause.

Never did they speak to the ability to market better. Never did they speak that it would be better for the producers. Never did they speak to the fact that it was the best way to market in the world today. They simply said because there is exclusion, there should be inclusion. This is not good enough. The majority of shareholders and stakeholders in agriculture do not want inclusion of those crops.

On the board of directors, it is a very good move considering the legislation that is before us. There should well be an elected board of directors. I agree with that. Of the 15 board of directors who have been identified, all 15 should be elected by the producers, not appointed by government.

They are going to say “but the government has an involvement in this financially”. In the Ontario Wheat Board right now, the government has involvement financially. All 10 board of directors are elected by producers and not appointed by government. There should be an elected board of directors, not one that is appointed by government.

In saying that as well, the CEO form of governance is great. I do not believe nor have I ever believed in management by committee or by commissions. I believe the CEO form of governance is a good direction this government has taken. In saying that, I also believe that the CEO should be appointed by the board of directors, not by government.

If the CEO is given the proper opportunity and the proper vision to plan for where we are going in the 21st century, I believe it is a step in the right direction. Give the chief executive officer the opportunity to put his or her positions forward on the basis of the board, not on the basis of politics.

The last thing I would like to speak to right now is that of accountability. The Canadian Wheat Board in the opinion of the stakeholders has not been accountable to the producers. It is a closed shop. They do not have the opportunity of getting the information that we would like to see.

The Canadian Wheat Board along with CSIS are the two organizations that are not affected by the access to information legislation. That is not right. There has to be transparency. There has to be openness and there has to be accountability by the Canadian Wheat Board to the people that they serve, the producers of western Canada. That accountability can come with a chief executive officer who is appointed by an elected board, and with the elected board.

In closing, there are improvements within the existing Bill C-4 over previous legislation on the Canadian Wheat Board. What I would like to see are those changes I talked about previously as well as the possibility and the opportunity of perhaps some voluntary co-operation of producers with the Canadian Wheat Board, an opt in and an opt out opportunity for producers. This has not been talked about. It has not been discussed.

Trust me, when it gets to committee I am sure there will be plenty of time to debate these very, very positive and constructive criticisms of this bill.

Agriculture October 3rd, 1997

Today, Mr. Speaker, the minister of agriculture has recognized October as agricultural awareness month in Atlantic Canada. Is this simply lip service as in last week's Speech from the Throne? Agriculture was conspicuous in its absence.

In this government's rush to embrace technology as the wave of the future it has disregarded agricultural sustainability. Since producers are the backbone of this industry it is they who have been disregarded by this government.

The federal agriculture minister recently, talking about the government's fiscal dividend, said that when agriculture producers came forward with ideas he would go to bat for them. Is the minister of agriculture prepared to go to bat for the agriculture producers?

Canada Summer Games September 26th, 1997

I do apologize, Mr. Speaker. It was a rookie mistake. I would like to thank the leader of my party for being there.

I would also like to congratulate the 4,000 young men and women who came from all 10 provinces and 2 territories and demonstrated both the spirit of sport and the spirit of unity.

I thank also the 6,000 volunteers that took part in my community and the surrounding area to put on the best ever Canada games.

I would like to conclude with a remark that was made by a father of one of those athletes. “There are very few things that seem to be able to bring Canada together lately and this is one of them. Our most valuable resource in this country is our youth and if anybody is going to pull it together it is going to be them”.