Crucial Fact

  • Their favourite word was farmers.

Last in Parliament October 2000, as Reform MP for Portage—Lisgar (Manitoba)

Lost their last election, in 2000, with 10% of the vote.

Statements in the House

Grain Transportation May 14th, 1999

Mr. Speaker, the Minister of Transport is moving forward on the Estey report toward a commercially driven grain handling transportation system.

Apparently not all of his cabinet colleagues share this position. The Canadian Wheat Board has publicly stated that it is opposed to the direction outlined by Justice Estey directly contradicting the Minister of Transport.

Will the government please clarify who the wheat board minister supports, the Canadian Wheat Board or the transport minister?

Budget Implementation Act, 1999 May 6th, 1999

Mr. Speaker, it is a pleasure to rise in the House. I will start my debate with a sentence that mentions Reform. I am sure my colleagues on the other side will listen.

We in the Reform Party have been after the government since 1993 to develop some foresight, identify some of the inevitable changes to agriculture and develop a plan to prepare our industry to meet these challenges head on and safeguard our farmers. Instead we got foot-dragging and inaction.

We pushed the government on its 1993 red book promise to decrease input costs and implement a whole farm income stabilization program. However, like so many Liberal promises, it was forgotten on election night.

This past fall the government even denied that an income crisis existed in agriculture and pointed to the NISA program as a suitable safety net for any disaster. Farmers know that NISA is just not designed for the type of crisis we experienced. By the time the Liberals acknowledged their mistake, it not only cost farmers severely but we lost a whole bunch of young farmers.

The Liberals stalled in coming up with a program and when they finally did come up with something, it was totally inadequate. They went through the motions of listening to people in the industry. Then they came up with something nobody asked for.

The AIDA program is poorly designed, costly to apply for and will not target the producers who need the compensation the most. What is more, when it was announced, the key details of the plan were missing. The government had enough time to study the problem and consult but it launched its program with no consensus with the provinces or farmers on how to implement it. It did not do its homework. It is widely recognized as a failure. It is not bankable, it is not providing relief.

Many farmers in my riding are not even bothering to fill out the application because it will not benefit them. The accountants tell them the cost of completing the form is going to be more than they will obtain from the AIDA program. That is how much Liberals care about westerners.

Look at the comparison when foreign governments were overfishing in Canadian waters. The Liberal minister at that time chased those foreign boats across the high seas and even fired a few guns. But when foreign governments attack our Canadian farmers with tens of billions of dollars in unfair subsidies, we get inaction and useless rhetoric.

Recently the Liberals struck a committee to travel in the west to try to understand why westerners will not vote for them. They do not understand that the answer lies in their own record.

This lack of foresight is so evident in our trade negotiations. One of the reasons for the agriculture income crisis is that the Liberal government dropped the ball in the last round of international trade negotiations.

Our negotiators agreed to a 15% reduction in subsidies to farmers, which is what everyone else was supposed to follow, but we reduced our subsidies by 85%. While the U.S. maintained 24% of its subsidies in a green box program, Canada only maintained 8%. Today European subsidies are providing farmers with an average of $175 an acre to grow a crop plus a $2 per bushel export subsidy in the event of a surplus. We created an unlevel playing field that is financially breaking every farmer in western Canada.

This is just a lack of anticipation and planning and this Liberal government has to take responsibility for it. That is why farmers will not vote Liberal. Farmers have no money left to tax. I heard the hon. member for Medicine Hat so appropriately recite that poem about taxation and it fits perfectly the bill of the western farmer.

On the whole, the government's high tax policy has undermined the productivity of the Canadian economy which in turn has reduced our standard of living. We have seen devastating results from the wrong-headed policies of this Liberal government and the Tories before it.

In 1970 Canada ranked number four in the world in terms of per capita income. In 1995 after 25 years of overtaxation and overspending our per capita income global rating fell to 12. Next year the average Canadian family will be paying $5,000 more in taxes than they were in 1993, and they were already overtaxed then.

Our finance critic has pointed out that our standard of living has fallen behind those of the poorest states in the U.S., such as Alabama and Mississippi. The downward spiral seems to be well established and there is an urgent need for a policy that will regain our standard of living and the stability of our economy.

Unfortunately the current government seems unwilling or unable to meet this challenge. The bill we are speaking to today is a prime example of how the government continues to overspend and still not reduce taxes.

I have heard a lot of complaints today about taxation and overspending. A lot of blame has been pointed in different directions, at provincial governments and federal governments.

We are getting to the point where we will finally have to blame Christopher Columbus for all the problems. The impression is that he was a Liberal. Why was Christopher Columbus accused of being a Liberal? When he started off from Spain, he did not know where he was going; when he got to North America, he did not know where he was and he did it on borrowed money.

Maybe that is where the fault lies because we do not seem to understand in this House that it lies with previous federal governments.

I remind taxpayers that an election is coming. Reform is on the move. No matter what the opposition says, we will be there in the next government and we will fix things properly.

Cornelius W. Wiebe May 6th, 1999

Mr. Speaker, tomorrow an extraordinary citizen in my riding will be awarded the Order of Canada in a special ceremony. Dr. Cornelius W. Wiebe will be given this honour at his home in Winkler by the governor general. Dr. Wiebe, now 106 years old, was born in a log home in 1893 near Winkler, Manitoba.

He began studying medicine in 1920. Soon after graduation he brought his family to the community of Winkler where he practised medicine for more than half a century. He extended his community service by sitting on the local school board and spending a term as a member of the provincial legislature. His insights into medicine, politics and agriculture were always highly respected and appreciated.

The community today has many health facilities made possible through Dr. Wiebe's initiatives: the Winkler Bethel Hospital, the Winkler Clinic, the Eden Mental Health Centre and the Valley Rehab Centre. It is an honour for—

Budget Implementation Act, 1999 May 6th, 1999

I see my hon. friends across the way are listening and I appreciate that. That is the only way we will get a few things done.

We noted yesterday on television the Premier of Ontario beginning an election based on the jobs he created. I was always under the impression that it was all due to the Liberal government. All of a sudden we hear a premier saying that because of his reductions and fiscal responsibility there are 585,000 new jobs.

Actually the events of the past few weeks have shown Canadians how confused the Liberals are on the issue of tax cuts and productivity. In fact they are all over the map. Some cabinet ministers suggest the country needs deep tax cuts to compete with the U.S. Some even seem to recognize that high Canadian taxes are driving away investment in Canada and are making it difficult to build businesses.

At least some of these cabinet ministers seem to understand that a policy shift is required, but the Prime Minister has been quick to reign them in. I suppose he does not want Canadians to get the idea that they actually deserve tax breaks. If they are given a little finger, the Prime Minister is afraid they might sudden ask for a hand. Then we would have a real problem because it would come out of the pockets of taxpayers and into the community for investment.

The Prime Minister has been quick to squelch any break out of common sense. Canadians want less taxes and smaller government, and he is giving them the opposite. Instead of the tax cuts that everybody wants, we get increased taxes and less health care under a Liberal government.

For good measure the budget also perpetuates discrimination against single income families in the tax code by requiring them to pay more tax than their dual income counterparts.

It has been pointed out that the government overspends its budget every year. Last year it went $3 billion over budget. This year it is about $7.6 billion. It does this to ensure there is not enough left in the coffers to start giving Canadians tax relief. It is a sneaky strategy, but the government has proven that it is quite willing to cook the books a little in order to maintain its strategy.

The government's legacy will be its lack of foresight and its stubborn refusal to listen to people who know how to make the country better and more productive. Whether they are everyday Canadians or industry experts, this is evidenced by the government's refusal to target money where it would be most beneficial.

Our treasury board critic uncovered some startling examples of misspent money by the government. They include thousands of dollars spent on golf balls for a government department and hundreds of thousands of dollars on silverware and china for bureaucrats. I included these examples in my most recent householder, and my constituents could not believe that their tax dollars were being wasted like that.

It is painfully obvious that the government cannot keep a lid on the out of control spending of its departments. The government spends money on wasteful things and keeps money away from the areas where it could benefit the economy. There is no better example than the agriculture sector. Everyone is familiar with the—

Budget Implementation Act, 1999 May 6th, 1999

Mr. Speaker, it has been an interesting morning listening to the debate. I am sure that it is a healthy debate, but my blood pressure rises once in a while according to the statements and arguments I have heard.

We know we are debating Bill C-71, the budget implementation act. This omnibus bill will implement programs from the 1999 budget. The first part of the bill includes an increase in the CHST for the purpose of health care funding.

Let us make no mistake. A shell game is being played. In 1993 when the Liberals took office the CHST was $18.8 billion. The measures in the most recent budget restore it to $14.5 billion, which is still $4.3 billion per year less than when the Liberals took office.

We see the pattern where the government guts health care and then a few years later tries to create the illusion that it is the defender of health care by throwing money back into the pot. At the end of the day we are getting less health care than when the Liberals took office.

These tactics have been used for years by federal governments that think the public is easily fooled by the shell game. The public is more aware than the Liberals think it is. The public is not being fooled. It knows the Liberals are removing $3 from the system for every $1 they put back in.

When the 1999 budget came down it amounted to a Liberal apology for their reckless gutting of the health care system. The government tried to regain some support by putting money back into the system, but Canadians realize that they have never paid so much for so little as they have under this government. There were 188,000 Canadians on waiting lists for health care services who would not accept this Liberal apology.

When I look at my own community I see a tremendous number of people going to the U.S. for easily accessed CT scans and health care services, I wonder what the government is thinking.

Nurses are on strike. Nurses are demanding that they get some more help. They are overloaded. Nurses are going to the U.S. When we look at the nurses going to the U.S., they are not the 40 and 50 year old nurses who are established. They are the younger trained nurses, the brain drain, the people who are leaving the country.

It is the same for doctors. They are leaving for the U.S., not just because of better pay but because of less taxes and more opportunities to practise their expertise. If it were not for South African doctors emigrating to Canada, we would be in a terrible mess as far as the health care system is concerned.

The 1999 budget shows that the Liberal Party is still not interested in listening to Canadians. Instead of providing tax relief, the government chooses to spend. The budget announced $8.5 billion in cumulative new spending initiatives over the next three fiscal years. The budget did not contain any significant debt or tax relief measures that would increase disposable income or create investment opportunities for entrepreneurs. This is despite mounting pressure from Canadians to lower taxes.

In the past few weeks we have been faced with the spectacle of large firms operating in Canada threatening to pick up and move south because they are no longer willing to contend with the high taxes and the high cost of doing business under the Liberal government.

The voices of these CEOs join the chorus of thousands of Canadians who have been trying to tell the government the same thing for years. However, the Liberals are ignoring the message just like the Conservatives did in 1993, and we remember what the results were.

Budget Implementation Act, 1999 May 6th, 1999

Mr. Speaker, that is what I am calling for.

Budget Implementation Act, 1999 May 6th, 1999

Mr. Speaker, I rise on a point of order.

I have been listening to this speech and I am really impressed. I think it would be very honourable for other members to come into the House and listen because there could be some lessons learned.

Canadian Wheat Board April 26th, 1999

Mr. Speaker, there are over 100 farmers being prosecuted for custom's violations for selling their own grain.

Hudye Soil Service, probably the biggest violator of wheat board and customs regulations, is now about to enjoy an out of court settlement. Meanwhile, the 100 poorer farmers are forced into lengthy legal battles.

Why is the government enforcing the letter of the law with poor farmers when it is willing to negotiate and settle out of court with this rich farmer?

National Agricultural Relief Coordination Act April 26th, 1999

Madam Speaker, it is a pleasure to rise in the House today to talk to Bill C-387.

The hon. member for Brandon—Souris has a lot of good points in the bill, but many of these issues have already been addressed. There is legislation in place to enforce some of these issues but governments in the past have failed to listen.

The safety net review committee and advisory committee are there to suggest to governments what should be happening as far as the three lines of defence are concerned.

The first line of defence is the crop insurance program, of which every farmer is aware and is making use. The second line of defence is the NISA program, which is very valuable to older farmers especially who are in a profit position. NISA does not help address the issue of young farmers who have just started out and whose revenue has not been such that they could make use of NISA.

The Liberals claim that in record time they set up the third line of defence. The AIDA program is probably a joke, as far as I am concerned. I was in my constituency for the last couple of weeks during the Easter break and did not find one farmer who would qualify for any aid from this program at all.

When I talked to farmers, they asked me whether I could at least tell the banker that something is coming. This is not bankable. The Liberal government promised before Christmas that the AIDA program would be bankable. No banks will look at it today.

Everyone with whom I talked in my riding had looked into the AIDA program, had gone to accountants who did a summary. They are wasting their money. It will cost from $500 to $1,000 to fill out the forms for this AIDA package. After that they probably will not recoup the costs of the accountants doing the job. People are not even filing them because they are so ridiculous.

The AIDA program has been designed for a few corporate hog farmers. If the Liberal government does not realize that, it better go to western Canada and find out. It has been invited a number of times by Saskatchewan farmers to come clean and come to talk to them about the AIDA program. Nothing has happened. Not even the parliamentary secretary has agreed to come to talk to them.

If the AIDA program is the third line of defence, God help those farmers. They will die before they ever get a dollar out of the AIDA program.

The government has been warned about this for the last five years by Reform. We told the government in 1993 that all the subsidies on the rail transportation system when done away with should go into some kind of trade distortion program with which farmers could fight the huge subsidies thrown at them by the Americans and the Europeans. This program will do absolutely nothing to resolve that problem. We need a long term fix for farmers in which they can participate. We must design it so it is useful to them, so that in good years they can build up an account on which they can draw in later years when there are poor crops or when prices drop to the point where it is not profitable to farm.

I will touch a bit on the Canadian Wheat Board. For the past four or five years I have tried to bring in a private member's bill to have the auditor general audit the Canadian Wheat Board and to make sure farmers get a proper price for their grain. I must thank and congratulate the auditor general. A week ago Saturday the wheat board announced that the auditor general would have a look at the books, that he would do a value-added audit, more or less, to see whether farmers are getting a fair price. The auditor general has finally heard the cries of western farmers that we need something done with the auditing of the board so that we can respect the board and have confidence in it.

About 100 farmers are willing to go to jail and this government is prosecuting them and putting them in jail because they have sold a few bushels of their own wheat, in some cases as little as five bags. And the government is talking about providing a safety net program? Maybe being behind bars is a better livelihood than being on the farm today. At least there they get food and clothing.

I do not know what the government is trying to do by prosecuting these farmers for selling their own product while we have sex offenders and robbers running loose on the streets. Are these farmers violent criminals because they have taken four or five bags of grain across the border to demonstrate that they want some accountability in the wheat board? Is that such a criminal act? If that is a criminal act, we should probably all be behind bars. I am sure that every member of this House has objected to some type of mechanism that is set out and that we have to abide by. Income tax is one of them. When I hear of the amount of income tax that is funnelled out through loopholes in the tax system, maybe every government and opposition member should be behind bars because they are objecting to overtaxation in the country.

I do not know what is going to be accomplished by Bill C-387. The idea is good. I can support it and I know this type of idea has been floating in the agriculture community for the past 10 years. I have talked to people who sat on the advisory board who were designing the third line of defence. The AIDA program does not have the character which people want in a third line of defence. They want a line of defence in which they can be participants in terms of designing it and establishing a fund.

The AIDA program is really doing nothing. I have held nine town hall meetings in my constituency. People have been phoning me, telling me that they do not qualify. What kind of line of defence is it if they cannot qualify when grain prices have gone from $5 a bushel to barely $3 a bushel? That is almost half the price, while input costs are still rising. Every year there are input costs for fertilizer and machinery. We hear again that there has been an increase of three to four cents a litre in fuel prices.

How are farmers supposed to continue when they have no marketing power? They cannot add one single cent of their costs to their product. They have to accept what the market will offer them. This is very discouraging for farmers. I see more young farmers having auction sales this spring than I have ever seen before. It is not the older farmers who are debt free and who can work on their savings for another year or two; it is the young farmers who over the past four or five years have risked everything and who are now at the point where they cannot dig themselves out, even if they have three or four good crops and good prices. They are disillusioned with the whole agriculture sector and with the income their families receive, so they are throwing in the towel.

The government better realize that. If we lose this generation of young farmers there is going to be a real problem in the country. It will not only affect the farming industry, it will affect any one of the agri-processors or agri-businesses: machine dealers, fuel dealers, pasta plants, millers, whatever.

When $1 is taken out of a farmer's pocket the community loses at least $5 or $6 of economic value. That is why the farming industry in western Canada has shrunk. We have about half the farmers now that we had two decades ago. If we want to continue this, let us simply follow the former Conservative and Liberal governments with their safety nets and we will have the situation very quickly where there will be no farmers.

Division No. 354 March 23rd, 1999

We will see about that. I know there is a change coming. Everybody knows that. Nobody has to gaze into a crystal ball because when the unions are against you, when the farmers are against you, when the doctors are against you, when the nurses are against you, who is left? The only ones supporting the government are in that other place and they do not have too much clout anymore.

It is very sad but it is true that under circumstances where we could have saved money for a rainy day, when we had a tremendous economy, we blew it. Now with an economy that is stretched to the hilt we are trying to rectify some of that. We are trying to rebuild a health system. We are trying to rebuild a railway system. We are trying to rebuild a road system. We are trying to rebuild everything. That will not fly well in the next election, that we have allowed the system to deteriorate to a point where everything needs fixing.

When there is one segment of an industry that is suffering or in trouble it is not that big a job. It is to fix everything. In Saskatchewan the roads are out of shape. The elevators are closing down. Everything is going against the economy. How in heaven can it continue? I do not think it can.

That is why I am trying to tell this government today that instead of taking a band-aid approach to this labour problem it should fix it properly. Give these people a chance to bargain in good faith with government. That is all they are asking for.

They told me they were so close to an agreement that it was not even worth mentioning the difference between what they would accept and what they were offered, and then the government had to order back to work legislation. It should not be necessary. Those people would go back to work if the government would sit down in good faith and bargain with them. That is all they want and that is all farmers want. Farmers want those people to work and to have a decent livelihood. When a farmer sees they are getting $24,000 a year and they have not had a raise in the last eight years, how can the government call them irresponsible?