House of Commons photo

Crucial Fact

  • His favourite word was students.

Last in Parliament October 2000, as Progressive Conservative MP for St. John's West (Newfoundland & Labrador)

Won his last election, in 1997, with 44% of the vote.

Statements in the House

Newfoundland School System October 27th, 1997

Mr. Speaker, I think there would be a pretty enthusiastic group in Newfoundland if we were to suspend the House in January and members came to Newfoundland and renegotiated the terms of the union. We would be pretty delighted to take back fisheries management and give the government health care and education and a few other things that we find it difficult to afford.

The whole business is very serious and I for one would be more than happy to see the deadline of December 5 extended somewhat, not ad infinitum, but until another time. Maybe a practical suggestion would be that when the House is not sitting in January and part of February to take some time and go to Newfoundland and do this thing properly. Certainly I think the people of Newfoundland would benefit from it and the whole House of Commons would as well.

Newfoundland School System October 27th, 1997

Madam Speaker, there are several reasons for it. Partly it was the summer. Having education reform or something like that in the middle of July and August when many people are on holidays, travelling outside the province is difficult. We had the Cabot 500 celebrations where there were a tremendous amount of volunteers involved. Many were parents and teachers and there were school board activities.

I think the timing of it, having it on September 2, gave little or no input certainly made it difficult. The other part is that we are just so sick and tired of it.

It has been an ongoing debate in Newfoundland. I taught school in the early 1970s and it was there then and long before that. People just got tired of it. The people of Newfoundland are beginning to realize that this information age is going to pass us by if we are not careful. So let us get on with the reform.

A lot of people have just said that it is going to happen anyway. Let us just do it and have it over with.

Newfoundland School System October 27th, 1997

Madam Speaker, to understand what we are doing, we are simply voting on a resolution to set up a joint committee of this House and the Senate to further study this issue.

I thank my colleague from St. John's East for sharing his 20 minutes with me. Under the strange rules of procedure, we know we are not going to discuss a lot in our 10 minutes but we do want to make our point. I assure you we will be taking a very active role in committee.

As the leader of the opposition has suggested, we would like to see the committee travel to Newfoundland to take presentations and to listen to the people most directly involved. I know we have a December 5 deadline and it does not provide very much time. The issue is crucial and important to many people in Newfoundland and I think we should have the courtesy of allowing the joint committee of the House of Commons and Senate to visit Newfoundland.

In 10 minutes it is pretty hard to discuss an issue that takes into account minority rights, majority rights, the responsibility of government to govern as it sees fit and to take into account religious rights and freedoms which may or may not be impinged on by this whole process. One also has to take into account a group of people I do not often hear very much said about and that is the students of Newfoundland and Labrador.

The issue debated first by the government of Premier Wells and later by the government of Premier Tobin is on who controls what, who has the power and who has the authority. These matters have become all-encompassing for the individuals involved, both on the church side of the argument and on the government side. In many cases the persons who are lost are the tens of thousands of students in Newfoundland schools. They are the ones that first and foremost must be considered.

I agree with my colleague from St. John's East on certain of the points that have been made. I do not believe the referendum process was done fairly. It was not done the way it should have been done. The referendum was held quickly and in the middle of the summer. It was held in great haste because the public opinion polls of Mr. Tobin showed that this reform could be rushed through to get it over and done with. I do not think that was fair to the churches, to the parents or to many of the other participants in the program.

The result did get the objective that the government wanted at the time. It did get a reform vote that said 73% of those who voted were in favour of reform. They wanted the system changed. A lot of people did not vote. In our democratic system we really have to discount those because, as we often say, if you do not vote you really do not have a say. We cannot come back here and say in total only 54% of the people voted. This House of Commons could never be filled if those were the rules. No one would ever be elected. It is not just who voted, it is how they voted. We have to take that into account.

The referendum passed. However, one thing the referendum showed loud and clear was that a lot of people wanted change. They wanted reform. The other side of the coin was that Newfoundland, under the Liberals in 1989 of Premier Wells and later Premier Tobin had gone through very significant cost cutting measures in the Newfoundland education system.

People are very sceptical of a government that says “Give me this great new power so I can reform the system” when it spent nine years gutting the system, laying off teachers, closing down schools and raising the pupil-teacher ratio. It did not support the Newfoundland Teachers Association requirement for teacher retraining or for students to have access to decent equipment, which you now need in schools.

Newfoundland has many schools. My district has 800 students and 30 computers. That did not happen overnight. These 800 students in the high school system are expected to compete in this new information age. It simply will not happen. It is substandard.

Part of this might be the responsibility of the churches or their bureaucratic system and the waste that went on in the denomination educational system. The fact is they did not co-operate nearly as much as they could have or should have. We do have an integrated system in Newfoundland where Anglican, United and some other Protestant faiths work together. They have an excellent system of education. When that was established back in the 60s and 70s a lot of people thought an integrated system was going to be terrible for Anglican and United students. It did not happen that way. The teachers are still Christian, the community is still Christian and the teaching is done in a slightly different way.

The Government of Newfoundland deserves a significant amount of blame for the confusion. It did not say in one simple way what it wanted to reform toward. All it has done is find a way to lay off some teachers, balance the books, cut the deficit. But the government has not done what it wanted to do for education which was to reform it. The Newfoundland system is in significant need of help.

Everyone in the House knows what the Newfoundland economy is like. We have the highest unemployment rate and the lowest per capita income. Newfoundland is always at the wrong end of every scale. Education, a lot of us believe, is probably the only way matters can be resolved. It will not be resolved by putting more money into income supporting programs like TAGS in the long haul. We will not solve that problem by simply allowing Newfoundlanders to out migrate and become a problem in Calgary or in Toronto or somewhere else. We will not help Newfoundland society unless we give the Newfoundland students the tools to contribute and compete within Newfoundland.

That is really what the whole reform business is all about. It is about how we get a better school system. I have come to the conclusion, having looked at the referendum results of 73%, that the majority of Newfoundlanders are willing, albeit with some significant question marks attached, to give the Government of Newfoundland and Labrador the responsibility to deliver and implement a new education system.

For the benefit of all Newfoundlanders, it has to work. If it does not work, then an awful lot of Newfoundlanders are going to be very seriously handicapped in the future by not being able to earn a decent living, not having the educational tools to do it.

With no side voting 27%, it is a grave concern. Many of them are in my riding. Many of them have previous concerns about the trust they can place in any government, that is, the government in Newfoundland or the government here in Ottawa.

In my case, I am willing, as I think most Newfoundlanders are now ready to give them the benefit of the doubt, that a new system has to be implemented in Newfoundland, but it has to be a new system that is significantly reformed.

If anybody is going to be on the hook after the amendment and the resolution are passed by the House of Commons and the Senate, it will be the Government of Newfoundland and Premier Brian Tobin. If a better system cannot be delivered, if a higher percentage of people do not finish high school, if the university participation rate is not higher, if the unemployment rate is still high after the education system is reformed, it will be a terrible shame to all those persons involved, in particular the Newfoundland government.

I just hope there is a willingness in the Government of Newfoundland to forget the idea of deficit reduction at all cost. That deficit reduction means our schools are going to be much less better served. If it is just going to be deficit reduction, laying off more teachers, then this reformed school system in Newfoundland, I assure all the people in this House of Commons, will not serve our people any better.

It is important for everyone in the House of Commons to realize that every Newfoundlander wants to contribute to Canada. However, they cannot contribute unless they have the tools so to do. One of those fundamental tools in our modern society has to be an excellent education system.

As a former teacher, I am convinced that we can have a better education system. It is most unfortunate that we have to come this route to get it. One advantage is that we are here, in a democracy and basically we have a chance—as the member for St. John's East and I disagree on this issue—to come here to express our ideas, our values and our viewpoints. We will make the decisions and live with them as best we can. At least we can do it that way.

I can only say again that I am voting in favour of the resolution because I think it will give a better school system to the students of Newfoundland and Labrador.

Canada Co-Operatives Act October 22nd, 1997

Mr. Speaker, I would be delighted to check with Canada Mortgage and Housing officials to see exactly where their program now stands. I know that during the election campaign in St. John's West it was of great concern to some persons who were in co-op housing.

I say to members opposite that it is an excellent program. It probably does not really cost the Government of Canada any money because the money gets repaid. I just hope it continues to put some emphasis on those types of programs.

Canada Co-Operatives Act October 22nd, 1997

Mr. Speaker, I thank the member for his question.

Obviously in Newfoundland we do not have the same degree of co-operatives as there are in western Canada. We do have several very successful fishing co-ops, one being Fogo Island co-op which has been in existence for many years and has been a model for many of the smaller co-ops in Newfoundland and Labrador.

We have the Newfoundland Teachers Credit Union of which I was a member for many of my earlier years when I was teaching. It is a very successful credit union and it gives excellent services to the people of St. John's West and to Newfoundland and Labrador.

One of the things we might have missed in Newfoundland was a greater degree of co-operation and the co-operatives which could have resulted from that. I mentioned the Petty Harbour co-op. The community was catching lots of fish in the early 80s, but had no means to sell that fish, no means to process it. Through the leadership of people like Mike Hearn and Tom Best in that community they ran a pretty successful co-op for a period of time, but then ran into fishery problems.

Co-operatives in Newfoundland could play a much greater role. One of the greatest problems we have in Newfoundland is finding access to capital for small business. The Canadian banking establishment does not aggressively get involved in the Newfoundland business community. Maybe co-operatives could play an active role there as well. I hope to see it grow over the years.

Canada Co-Operatives Act October 22nd, 1997

Mr. Speaker, it is a real honour to represent the people of St. John's West. This is my first speech in the House, after having asked a couple of questions.

Although having represented a riding called Ferryland, part of St. John's West, in the Newfoundland legislature for about 17 years I am pretty reluctant to call my first speech a maiden speech.

I thank the people from the constituency of St. John's West for giving me this tremendous honour. It is a real honour for anyone to come here and serve the people of Canada. I am very grateful for that.

I would be a little remiss if I did not also thank the wonderful team I had who helped me put together my campaign which was very successful in getting me to the House of Commons.

Tomorrow I will be making a real speech about some Newfoundland issues. Just so that people understand, one of the duties of parliamentarians besides representing their own constituents is to be a critic of certain industries and certain portfolios in government. My critic responsibility is industry where the co-operative legislation lies. Thus today I will debate the bill on co-operatives.

Bill C-5 is a good piece of legislation. It will be supported by all colleagues in the Conservative caucus. It is a piece of legislation that has evolved after much discussion with many of the principals and parties involved, many levels of government, and the associations of co-operatives both in Quebec and in the rest of Canada.

It is not very often that we will see such a large degree of co-operation in the House of Commons. Co-operatives involve people organizing around a common goal, usually not for profit but rather for the economic benefit of their members.

I might point out in my first chance to speak in the House of Commons the purpose of Canada in the beginning: a group of people organizing together for common goals where everybody works for the good of everyone else.

In the short period of time I have been here I have seen that some of us have forgotten that principle of Canada, the principle of co-operation, the principle of a co-operative, the idea we should work together.

We are now all broken down into the regions of Canada and each region seems to lose some of its empathy and compatibility with the rest of Canada. That is most unfortunate and something that simply should not be allowed to continue in the House.

Co-operatives come from the grassroots movement. As such ordinary people are trying to make their ordinary lives a little better by organizing in certain elements which we now call co-operatives.

Co-operatives are also in many ways leaders in our community in environmental issues. They think the economies they are involved with must be sustainable and must not do any damage to the environment. As such I want to commend many of the co-operatives in this country for taking a very progressive leadership role on the environment.

Many co-operatives—I presume all co-operatives—are committed to Canadian economic prosperity. They do this through links with other international co-operative associations and in doing so they are able to participate in worldwide trade and many marketing ventures.

In doing research on Bill C-5 I found the role which co-operatives have played in Canada to be absolutely amazing. It started back in the 1800s with the Mutual Farm Insurance Company. By the late 1800s farmers wanted to have the same security in producing and marketing their products as successful large businesses. The farmers decided it was in their best interests to band together to gain better control over the marketing of their products and purchases. Today agricultural co-operatives play a major role in the Canadian economy.

I will be sharing my time with my colleague from Brandon—Souris, who will elaborate on and emphasize the importance of agricultural co-operatives.

Agricultural co-ops supply 36% of fertilizer and chemical sales. They have over 221,000 members and employ 18,000 people full time. That is something which I, coming from Newfoundland, would not have understood if I was not the critic responsible for debating Bill C-5.

There are also many fishery and forestry co-operatives. I was involved with a fishery co-operative in the small town of Petty Harbour, Newfoundland, where fishermen had real difficulty in marketing and selling their product. They formed their own co-operative. Although they ran into the same difficulties which all of the Newfoundland fishing companies ran into, they certainly showed that if people in small communities want to pool their resources and work together then success stories can evolve.

There are many consumer co-operatives in Canada. In 1995 there were 582 consumer co-operatives, with almost three million members. In 1995 there were also 28 health care co-operatives that generated $268.3 million in revenue and had over 316,000 members.

There are child care co-operatives that involve either day care or nursery school services. In 1995 there were 437 day care and nursery school co-ops in Canada. Where would all those children receive their day care and nursery schooling if these co-ops were not in place?

Co-operatives in many areas play a very major role in our economy.

There are also housing co-operatives. The number of housing co-operatives has been on the rise since the mid-1970s. In 1995 there were 1,946 housing co-ops across the country, with over 107,000 members. When I was campaigning in St. John's West I encountered people who were members of a housing co-op. They were very upset that the Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation, the agency which had funded their co-op, seemed to have classed them in with social housing, which is a different kind of housing, and was becoming reluctant to get further involved in co-op housing.

I talked to the participants of the project which I visited that day. They are very soundly proud of having co-op housing, which was funded through the Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation.

There are workers co-operatives, which reflects the need for people to have more control over their own employment. In 1995 there were 225 of these co-operatives, with about 14,000 members.

Essentially, there are more than 7,000 non-financial co-operatives operating in Canada, with over 4.5 million members. Therefore it is important that we examine Bill C-5 to see exactly what it means because it affects so many Canadians in so many different ways.

Our role in the House is to do what we are doing today. Although I said that Bill C-5 is an excellent bill, and there has been a lot of discussion, there are still small parts of it which we want to discuss. I am sure we can do that in committee at a future time.

While the principle of a co-operative is to function outside a market economy, it must nonetheless respond to the same pressures and logic of that market. Therefore competition compels co-operatives to adopt the operating style and environment of the market oriented firms which dominate our economy. This point has fueled the necessity for change in this legislative environment.

It is also why the proposed changes in Bill C-5 mirror some of the existing rights for businesses which are granted under the Canada Business Corporations Act. Thus it is called enabling legislation. Powers are expanded and existing rules are clarified, but no co-operative is forced to change the way it currently operates.

While the provinces have been updating their co-operative legislation over the years, there have been no changes to modernize the framework of the federal legislation since its inception.

The proposals put forward by all of the co-operative associations, both in Quebec and in Canada, were based on consultations with both memberships. As previously mentioned, the most notable feature was that the changes would more closely align the Canada Co-operatives Association Act with the Canada Business Corporation Act.

It is time to get these changes moving forward, adding more flexibility, more competitiveness and the principle of using surplus funds to allow members to access additional funds for expansion. Finally the principle of education is also emphasized.

There is also an important principle in this bill which reduces ministerial authority, which is always good in legislation.

I would like to point out that Bill C-5 is not a controversial bill. Agreement between all parties was slow. It took over five years to develop. I believe a reasonable compromise was reached. Overall this bill is a positive step in bringing co-operatives into the 21st century by making them more flexible, more efficient and more competitive.

The changes in Bill C-5 are wide scale adjustments but I am confident the overall co-op membership of some 4.5 million Canadians will benefit greatly.

Newfoundland September 30th, 1997

Mr. Speaker, the minister's answer is simply not good enough.

In Newfoundland we have the highest level of unemployment and therefore the highest requirement for training. If the minister cannot find additional funds in his department, which he refused to answer, will he then access the $12.8 billion in workers funds in the EI surplus account? Does the minister not find it embarrassing to have to tell so many citizens who have so much need that they cannot access training programs simply because of a shortage of money while he is sitting on $12.8 billion of their money.

Newfoundland September 30th, 1997

Mr. Speaker, the throne speech set out the government's agenda for this session of Parliament. In it the government claims to be committed to “developing the brains and skills of our people to ensure that no Canadian is left behind as the country moves forward. Education and training are key to this new economy and job opportunities”.

My question is for the minister of human resources. How are Newfoundlanders expected to participate in this new economy when his department in Newfoundland is completely devoid of any funds for the rest of this fiscal year? Will the minister find the additional funds required to make sure that Newfoundlanders have equal and fair access to training and that they will not be left behind?