Crucial Fact

  • His favourite word was grain.

Last in Parliament April 1997, as Liberal MP for Brandon—Souris (Manitoba)

Lost his last election, in 1997, with 18% of the vote.

Statements in the House

Quebec Contingency Act (Referendum Conditions) April 23rd, 1997

Madam Speaker, I am here tonight to address once again what continues to be a worsening condition in my home province. The flood waters of the Red River are still on the rise. Yesterday Premier Filmon declared a provincial state of emergency.

Our minister responsible for Emergency Planning Canada, the Minister of National Defence, was in southern Manitoba recently and attempted to meet with Mr. Filmon and to inspect the situation.

During yesterday's question period I had the opportunity to discuss the situation with the hon. minister. Given the time constraints, the minister was unable to address the specific measures the Government of Canada has taken and is willing to undertake in the future. Tonight I greatly appreciate the opportunity to further discuss the matter.

I will put the present situation into a historical context. This is certainly not the first national disaster although it may be the worst flood the province has seen in 100 years. The memories of past floods are etched into the minds of those who suffered through them. We refer specifically to 1950, 1966, 1979 and 1996. In each of those years neighbours and communities pulled together to help each other.

The province of Manitoba did its share to co-ordinate emergency efforts. Along with the Government of Canada it was there to provide strategic support and in the end financial assistance to help recover some costs associated with the disaster.

When the incident is over the financial aspect bears some scrutiny and discussion. Financial assistance has been given according to a disaster assistance formula put in place back in the seventies. Since 1970 the federal government has paid over $53 billion to the province, a substantially higher amount in proportion to other provinces of similar size. This is due through no small part to the severe and devastating floods that have occurred on a fairly regular and repetitive basis.

Under the DFAA arrangements the federal government is permitted to assist provinces when the cost of responding to major emergencies such as the one we are facing now puts undue strain on the provincial economy. When this happens financial assistance is requested by the province of the federal government. The amount of federal assistance is in accordance with a cost sharing formula based on the provincial population and eligible provincial expenses as spelled out under DFAA guidelines.

The province receives invoices from the municipality, catalogues them and forwards them to the federal government for its scrutiny. The province may however provide more generous assistance than what the guidelines designed between the province and the federal government actually state. As a senior minister from Manitoba stated earlier today in a media interview, it is up to the province to develop and deliver its own program of assistance to victims of a disaster according to the nature of the disaster and the needs of the people deeply affected.

Recently the Government of Canada committed to compensate the amount of $1.25 million for funds for Manitoba in 1993 and 1995 regardless of what the disaster assistance guidelines clearly state. It is a one-time payment which does not set a precedent. It is a generous way of showing that the Government of Canada is committed to compensating equally and fairly all Canadians who have endured a natural disaster. It displays the level of generosity the federal government needs to express to those areas hit.

We would ask the minister's representative to kindly clarify what measures the Liberal government is taking to ensure that in the middle of such confusion Manitobans can be assured of equal and good treatment in the future.

Flooding April 22nd, 1997

Mr. Speaker, my question is for the minister responsible for emergency planning.

For the past week we have watched in distress as flood waters have destroyed property and entire communities in both Canada and the United States. In Manitoba, as the Red River rises, people are afraid that their homes will be destroyed and their communities devastated.

Can the minister assure Manitobans that he realizes the magnitude of this potential disaster and that our government is prepared to help both technically and financially in dealing with this potentially serious situation?

Vimy Ridge April 15th, 1997

Mr. Speaker, April 9 marked the 80th anniversary of the battle of Vimy Ridge. Following extensive planning and training the Canadian corps achieved victory where other armies before it had failed, but did so at a cost of 10,000 casualties and 3,600 dead.

The battle was a defining moment for the Canadian army but more particularly for Canada as a nation.

This past weekend CFB Shilo opened a special Vimy exhibit at its Royal Canadian Artillery Museum. At this time I salute all veterns of World War I but in particular three western Manitobans present at the ceremony: Bill Henton, Rosewell Mellick and Fred Burguess.

The Budget February 20th, 1997

I should have spoken a little longer.

The Budget February 20th, 1997

Mr. Speaker, I thank my colleague for his question. It is relevant to a member from southwestern Manitoba.

We have had a number of initiatives under way in Manitoba since the WGTA changes took place. We have probably had the most diversified investments occurring throughout the prairies in terms of our region and in terms of crop diversification.

We had numerous investments put in place of technologies that are going to lead to an increased economy. Working through our rural caucus colleagues here in Ottawa we have been able to spur debate, discussion and interest in investment. Might I comment that Manitoba has had more investment money coming in since the WGTA changes than any other region of the country. As it pertains to post-secondary education which was the essence of my discussion, it is going to allow more young Manitobans to stay in our region, live in our region, invest in our region and make a substantial contribution to the nation.

The Budget February 20th, 1997

Mr. Speaker, I will be sharing my time with the member for Vancouver South.

It is a pleasure to rise today to speak in response to the budget speech. I would first like to congratulate the minister and all the assistants who laid the foundation for this budget. It was a job well done. I think it has been well received across the country.

When I consider all the nuances of the budget, it is the human component that to me is the most significant. Addressing child poverty, support for the disabled, youth employment initiatives, health care reform and pension adjustments are just a few. It is my wish today to discuss post secondary education as the focus of my comments.

We live in a world where knowledge and education are the keys to long term industrial success. They ensure that a country's industries can apply innovation to seize new opportunities in global markets and they provide workers with the skills employers need.

The number clearly indicate this. In Manitoba, my home province, in 1995 only 4..8 per cent of students who dropped out of high school have found jobs, compared to 71.9 per cent who stayed in school, graduated and found employment.

Post secondary graduates fared even better. About 80 per cent of Manitobans with a post-secondary certificate or diploma or university degree were actively involved in the labour force. This pattern is virtually the same across the country.

It is for this reason that the government has increased federal support for post-secondary education by $137 million in 1997, reaching $275 million annually when the changes have all matured.

This funding is targeted to provide assistance for students and their families, including workers upgrading their skills to help them cope with the rising costs of post-secondary education, students facing higher debt loads after graduation, and parents saving for their children's educational future.

I should note that these issues build on the $80 million increase in direct federal tax assistance for post-secondary education that was provided in the budget one year ago and they are complemented by the creation of the Canada Foundation for Innovation which will ensure that post-secondary students have access to better facilities and equipment to prepare for the knowledge based economy of the 21st century. For this the government is making up front investments of $800 million.

I will get to the foundation in a moment, but first let me discuss the government's plans to increase access to higher education.

Specifically, the budget proposes several measures. First, the amount used to establish the education credit will immediately rise to $150 per month from $100 and to $200 per month for 1998 and subsequent years.

As tuition fees increase, the amount of assistance provided by the tuition fee credit increases automatically. However, as a parent of three daughters who are all attending university, and as an aside all three were in university in one academic year, I know that students also have to pay a number of mandatory fees on top of their tuition. The budget proposes to extend the tuition tax credit to cover additional mandatory fees imposed by universities to cover these costs of higher education.

Second, students or their parents may not have enough tax payable in a given year to fully benefit from the tuition and education credits. To ensure that all students can use those credits fully, students will now be able to carry forward all unused portions of these credits and to be applied against any future income.

At a time when university and college classrooms are filled with more and more mature students, it is important to note that this measure will also benefit workers who have decided to return to school after a short period in the workforce.

To demonstrate the effect of these budget measures I will give a simple example. By 1998 a student in full time attendance at a post-secondary institution faced with tuition fees of $2,800 and an additional fee of $300 will receive over $1,200 in combined federal and provincial tax assistance per year. This is no small amount. In fact, it represents an increase of more than 30 per cent from the $900 of assistance available to the student in 1995.

The 1997 budget also announced an important change to the Canada student loans program. Students are expected to start repaying their loan six months after graduation. But students facing hardship are allowed to defer making payments on these loans for up to 18 months. The federal government pays the interest accruing on the student loan during this period.

Recently a coalition of groups representing the post-secondary educational community agreed that while this system provides considerable help, changes needed to be made and they issued a proposal which pointed out among other things that some students are unfortunately left unable to meet these obligations. I supported this coalition in their call for change, as did other members of Parliament.

It is clear today that our government listened to what Canadians were telling it and subsequently agreed. As a result, the budget proposed to extend to 30 months from 18 months the period of time during which students are allowed to defer making payments. Combined with the initial six months after graduation when no payments are required, this means that students will have up to three years to deal with their financial debt load. This measure will come into effect on August 1, 1997. It is projected that it will provide an additional $20 million a year in assistance to students.

In addition, the federal government is ready to pursue with interested provinces, lenders and other groups a new repayment option that would offer students another choice. Students would be able to choose between current repayment arrangements and an income contingent repayment schedule. By tailoring payments to individual circumstances, the debt would be made more manageable.

We are also acting to improve incentives for parents to save for their children's education. Parents with young children are increasingly worried about whether or not they will be able to afford the rising costs of their children's education.

Registered education savings plans, or RESPs, exist to provide parents with incentives to save for their children's education. The full benefits of these tax sheltered plans are reaped by parents who start saving when their children are quite young.

The budget proposes that annual contribution limits to RESPs be doubled to $4,000. This will assist parents who are not able to start saving for their children's education when they are young and therefore have fewer years to make contributions.

Under RESP provisions, all RESP income must go for educational purposes and the family loses the investment income in their plan if their child does not pursue post-secondary education. Since this can discourage parents from starting an RESP, two measures are proposed to address this problem.

Individuals winding up an RESP will now be allowed to transfer all or part of this deferred income to RRSPs, provided they still have room in their RRSP accounts. Alternatively, individuals without available RRSP room or who do not wish to make RRSP contributions will be allowed to receive investment income directly, subject to an appropriate charge. This charge will ensure that assistance is not provided to those who might use RESPs for tax

shelter purposes which are unrelated to either education or retirement savings.

The government is proposing the creation of the Canada foundation for innovation. I would suggest that this is perhaps the crown jewel in terms of educational opportunities in this country. This new independent body operating at arm's length from the government is designed to help renew facilities and equipment, research infrastructure if you will, at Canadian post-secondary institutions associated with research institutions and hospitals.

Through this foundation we are saying to our young students that we want them to pursue their research career here in Canada. It is important for us to have a workforce with the capacity to put new technologies into practice. People who understand developments in science and technology are indispensable.

The foundation will help support innovative capital projects in the areas of health, the environment, science and engineering. Funded through an up front investment of $800 million by the federal government, it will provide an annual average of $180 million over the next five years. It will operate on the basis of partnerships with the private sector, universities and colleges, volunteer organizations and provinces to the extent they wish to participate.

In closing, I quote the hon. Minister of Finance who in his speech said: "What government does with scarce resources shows what its values are-"

Points Of Order February 18th, 1997

Get the blues out.

Canadian Wheat Board Act February 18th, 1997

Mr. Speaker, my colleague in our party who spoke earlier very clearly indicated that the wheat board is one of the institutions in the agricultural enterprise that is working solely for farmers. It is sharing with the farm community all the benefits of single desk selling at a fraction of the cost of revenues that are earned by that institution.

The Minister of Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada has explained the main objectives of Bill C-72 and I would like to discuss how we arrived at this legislation.

The Canadian Wheat Board has been serving Canadian farmers efficiently and effectively for over 60 years. During that time it has helped our grain sector build an international reputation for quality and reliability and has realized the best possible returns from the market for Canadian farmers. And as my colleague indicated earlier, shipload and boatload after boatload, the consistency is there and it is well received by those who are doing business with us.

The business environment is changing. We are doing business in an increasingly liberalized and competitive international marketplace. At the same time changing customer demands, reducing subsidization, new applications of biotechnology, booming markets for value added food products and a host of other changes mean that today's grain sector must be more innovative, more

self-reliant and market responsive than it was historically in the past.

In that context, the future of the Canadian Wheat Board has for several years been the subject of a sometimes very intense debate among farmers and other stakeholders in the grain sector, particularly in western Canada. As an aside I might indicate that in my riding of Brandon-Souris there have been court cases for those individuals who feel that they need to challenge the very authority of the Canadian Wheat Board Act and, for that matter, the whole method of marketing grain throughout the world.

The purpose of these amendments to the Canadian Wheat Board Act is to respond to some of the chief concerns that have been raised during that debate and to ensure that the Canadian Wheat Board is well positioned to continue as a reliable, responsive, single desk seller of Canadian wheat in the years ahead.

In preparing this legislation our goal has been to ensure that everyone on all sides of this tough issue has had a full and fair opportunity to have their say.

In 1995 the minister established the Canadian Western Grain Marketing Panel to develop recommendations in consultation with all stakeholders in the grain industry. That panel did an excellent job in fulfilling its mandate and in providing a forum for producers and other stakeholders to discuss the future of the Canadian Wheat Board rationally, openly and transparently on the facts rather than on rhetoric.

It was the most extensive consultation regarding western grain in modern history, one which involved a series of town hall meetings in Manitoba, Saskatchewan and Alberta. It was in this forum that farmers and others gave their perspective on the current marketing system for western Canadian grain. Alternative arrangements were also brought forward.

The panel also held 12 days of hearings in Winnipeg, Regina and Edmonton, during which it heard 69 briefs and an additional 78 submissions from individuals and organizations who did not appear before the panel but made submissions for its information.

Following the publication of the panel's report last July, the minister invited interested parties to forward written responses to those recommendations. After the panel submitted its report last summer the minister further distributed a summary of its recommendations to every farmer in western Canada and invited their feedback.

All in all, from that process, 12,000 individuals and organizations responded. I am confident that the legislative changes we are putting forward today represent the views of the vast majority of western farmers and will address many of the key recommendations of the Western Grain Marketing Panel report.

One way or another we are taking action on all points raised by the panel with regard to wheat board governance. One of the major recommendations of the panel in this area was that the Canadian Wheat Board Act be amended to provide for a change in governance of the Canadian Wheat Board and to provide for greater flexibility in its operations and in the services which it provides to farmers. In fact, of all the recommendations contained in the panel's report, this one received the strongest consensus of support among farmers.

Under this legislation the overall governance of the board will be placed in the hands of a board of directors, most of whom will be farmers. To help ease the transition of the new corporate structure, an interim board of directors will be appointed by the government next year and the intention is that by the beginning of 1998 a majority of the directors will be elected by farmers.

The election of directors will have some fundamental impacts on the operations of the board, mainly because the board will be no longer a crown corporation. As much as possible, however, we have tried to minimize those impacts.

For example, as an agent of Her Majesty, the wheat board's borrowings are automatically guaranteed by the Government of Canada. To minimize changes, the Government of Canada will continue to guarantee the board's borrowings. In addition, the government will continue to guarantee initial payments and the Canadian Wheat Board's credit grain sales.

Nevertheless, there are still implications of moving to an elected board of directors that need to be fully examined. That is why the legislation is permissive in this area. Farmers need to be aware of what they have now and compare it to what they will have with an elected rather than an appointed board so they can make an informed decision regarding their ultimate preference in this particular area.

Another major group of amendments relates to more flexible board operations and improved cash flow. Under these amendments the board will be able to, first, make cash purchases of wheat and barley. Second, it will be able to manage adjustment payments during any crop year on an expedited basis. Third, it will be able to terminate pool accounts at any time and pay out farmers returns as soon as possible. Fourth, it will be able to issue negotiable producers certificates. Fifth, it will be able to defray farmers grain storage and/or carrying costs. Finally, it will be able to fully utilize modern risk management tools in dealing with both farmers and customers. In addition, to allow cash purchases and to help the board manage adjustment payments quickly, the wheat board will be allowed to establish a contingency fund.

It is important to note that these amendments do not constitute the Government of Canada's full response to the concerns of Canadian grain producers and the recommendations of the Western Grain Marketing Panel. We are also pursuing many other avenues to address other issues related to grain marketing and transportation. Last November our government introduced legislation to modernize the Canada Labour Code.

Among other things, these amendments stipulate that while grain handlers and their employees will retain the right to strike and lock-out, in the vent of a work stoppage involving other parties in port related activities, services affecting grain shipments must be maintained.

With the amendments to the Canadian Wheat Board Act and many other changes we are making with regard to grain transportation and marketing, the Government of Canada is demonstrating that it is listening to the concerns of grain producers. It is taking actions to address those concerns and to lay the foundation for continuing growth and prosperity in the grain sector and Canada's rural communities into the next century.

I call on all members of the House to lend their support to this important legislation.

Petitions February 10th, 1997

The second petition, primarily from citizens in Brandon, calls on Parliament to zero rate books, magazines and newspapers from the goods and services tax.

Petitions February 10th, 1997

Mr. Speaker, I have the pleasure to present two petitions on behalf of the citizens of Brandon-Souris. The first, signed by residents of Melita, Killarney, Pierson and Virden, calls on Parliament to have our present laws on obscenity strictly upheld.