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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

Coastal Fisheries Protection Act April 16th, 1999

Madam Speaker, I have two questions for the hon. member for Bonaventure—Gaspé—Îles-de-la-Madeleine—Pabok.

We also are not in perfect unity with the government on this bill. All of the amendments made by the member, which were done with a lot of concurrence on the fisheries committee, were excellent amendments which could have made the bill stronger.

However, we have come to the conclusion in the Conservative caucus that it is better to support this bill and have it ratified so that it becomes more of an international agreement with the other countries which are signatories to it, to at least go that far. I suspect what will happen is that we will be back here in a couple of years, which often happens with this government, making amendments to Bill C-27 when the government finds that the enforcement mechanisms will not work.

Government members will come to the House one day with a great show of pride and patriotism to bring amendments, the amendments which the member suggested and the amendments which I suggested, and will be back here to make this bill stronger and make it do what we want it to do.

We in Newfoundland have always been very concerned and alarmed that when it comes to NAFO Canada is much too soft. We accept too many violations with respect to some of the things that happen on those vessels. This is just not strong enough to do what we want to do in Newfoundland and Labrador, and indeed in all of Atlantic Canada.

Yes, we would like a much stronger bill, but we have decided to support this bill because at least it goes in the right direction.

Coastal Fisheries Protection Act April 16th, 1999

And congratulate the government for finally doing something which was so obviously right that it should have been done many years ago. It has taken so long to bring the bill before us that both governments, the previous one and the current one, deserve some blame for not doing it earlier. However, it is a bill we are more than happy to support.

Our fisheries critic has spoken to the bill and to its amendments on several occasions. Obviously we are very supportive of any act that adds to our conservation and management skills to control the fisheries resource as best we can. In this case we are talking about the straddling stocks outside and inside the 200 mile limit. We are talking about cod, flounder, turbot, tuna and swordfish.

We need to protect all these fish for the livelihood of all those who depend on them. We need to protect the fisheries resource because it is a tremendous source of protein for the whole world, a world that is often starving and hungry. If that resource is managed properly, if we make sure it is a renewable resource that remains renewable, all the world will be well served. Hence we are very supportive of the bill.

Unfortunately it has taken way too long to get the bill approved by the House of Commons. We hope Canada becomes a signatory to the agreement very quickly. After many years only 59 countries have become signatories to it. There have only been 17 ratifications and we need 30 before the agreement has any international effect. We may have missed an opportunity that we certainly should not have missed.

We on this side of the House congratulate the Liberal government for doing this, but we were surprised that all the amendments put forth by the member for Bonaventure—Gaspé—Îles-de-la-Madeleine—Pabok, the member for Sackville—Musquodoboit Valley—Eastern Shore and myself were voted down by the majority of government members. Some of the amendments that were discussed fully in the fisheries committee could have made the act an awful lot better and an awful lot stronger. All amendments should not have been voted down.

One amendment I am sure should not have been voted down by members opposite is my amendment to section 701(1) which would allow for enforcement. Everybody on this side of the House interprets the act as being very weak when it comes to the enforcement side. The principle of the act is good, but it cannot be enforced by our fisheries protection officers, the RCMP and coast guard officials designated under the act to do enforcement. There was a real opportunity to strengthen the act so that it would add to the conservation and protection of our fish resources.

My colleague who spoke before me mentioned the amendment I am talking about. The problem with section 701 is that a foreign fishing vessel caught in Canadian waters illegally cannot be charged right away. Permission of the home state has to be obtained. That might be okay when dealing with the signatories to the agreement.

Canada or the other signatory countries might say that if one of our vessels is caught doing something wrong, the enforcement officers can lay a charge and let the chips fall where they may. However, what happens when the real culprits in international overfishing are pirate ships of countries flying flags of convenience registered in Panama or Belize or someplace else? As the former speaker just mentioned, what happens if someone is caught on a Christmas Eve? How would fisheries officers get permission?

What should a fisheries officer off the coast of Newfoundland do in a situation similar to the Estai ? How could a fishing captain who is breaking the law by using a liner inside of his regular trawls to can catch small fish and destroy a resource be charged? How would the officer get control of the vessel?

If in Newfoundland waters the enforcement officer would call the federal Minister of Fisheries who would then contact the federal Minister for International Affairs who would then try to contact somebody in a place like Panama and get permission to lay a charge on the Grand Banks of Newfoundland and Labrador. It will simply never happen.

My amendment was pretty straightforward. All it said was that enforcement officers in our fleets would have exactly the same set of rules and regulations. If they found a Canadian vessel inside Canadian waters breaking the law, the captain could be arrested, the ship seized and taken to port, and the legal process would set in. Why is there a different set of laws in the bill, one that applies to foreign vessels inside Canadian limits and one that applies to the vessels of Canada and other signatories to the agreement inside Canadian waters?

It is a real shortfall in the bill. We proposed an amendment which was agreed to by this side of the House. I believe all members on this side supported the amendment and everybody on the opposite side voted against it. On the one hand the government deserves credit for finally bringing in the bill. On the other hand it certainly could have made it a lot better and could have protected more of the fish stocks off the coast of Newfoundland and Labrador or indeed any part of Canada.

That being said, we will still support the bill because it is badly needed. Anything that conserves and protects our fish resources is obviously something we will support. It is not just the fish resources. I have heard the minister of fisheries say sometimes that his first priority is to protect fish, not fishermen, fisherwomen, or workers, or other people who depend on the fishery. I take a different approach. The first responsibility of the minister of fisheries is to the people he represents. That means he has to conserve and protect fish stocks. As long as it is done on a scientific basis, we are more than happy to support him.

In Newfoundland and Labrador a lot of things are happening that do not preserve and conserve our fish resources. Our fishermen, fisherwomen, plant workers, truckers, suppliers and other support industries have a way of life based upon an inshore fishery in Newfoundland. That inshore fishery is now again at very serious risk, which I raised in committee yesterday when the Newfoundland delegation was here. We have done many things to preserve, conserve and protect our resource, and we are allowing one part of the ecosystem to completely destroy and diminish all other efforts we have taken.

In the case of seals we have a very serious problem. As I said in committee yesterday, sometimes we are destined to repeat history because maybe our memories are bad. We should not be destined to repeat events. In the 1980s when the cod stocks were being seriously depleted there was always the argument that we did not have enough scientific proof to significantly reduce quotas. Every fisherman in Newfoundland could say it was getting harder and harder to make a living, more and more difficult to find fish, and when fish were found they were smaller than they had ever been before.

I was in government in Newfoundland from 1979 to 1989. I know the premier and the other politicians in Newfoundland fought hard to get the federal government to reduce the quotas and to do something about management of our fish stocks. Nobody listened to us or in particular to fishermen.

Now in 1998-99 we have another problem where everybody in Newfoundland, every politician of every political party, every fisherman who lives around the coast of Newfoundland, sees the great predation by seals.

Seals have gone from roughly two million in the mid-1980s to close to seven million now. They eat millions of tonnes of fish per year. In Atlantic cod alone, a stock which the government has tried to preserve, $3 billion in TAGS and income support has been put in place to try to regenerate roe in Newfoundland. That $3 billion is going to be lost because we have not been willing, we have not been brave enough and courageous enough, to take on the International Fund for Animal Welfare and other lobbyists who have their axe to grind and use anything they can to raise significant amounts of money for their organizations.

We read in the news today how the Government of Canada deals with environmental problems. We are afraid for our lives to touch the seal issue. No one wants to touch seals. No one wants to get involved with the seal issue.

In western Canada, on a similar environmental issue, we have a problem with snow geese. There are not many people who make a living on snow geese. In Atlantic Canada this year seals ate 210,000 tonnes of Atlantic cod. That would employ almost everyone who was previously involved in the Atlantic fishery; 210,000 tonnes of cod and one million tonnes of caplin. If protected, that resource could create a significant amount of jobs in Atlantic Canada.

However, it cannot be dealt with. The government says that it cannot justify an increase in the seal quota, the total allowable catch, because it does not have scientific data. In effect, it is a repetition of what happened with the cod stocks in 1980.

We are afraid to listen to fishermen. We are afraid to listen to people who can see evidence on the shoreline on any given day of seal predation. Now we are in the situation where the Government of Canada says that we cannot cull the herd. We cannot do anything.

However, the Canadian program aims to cull snow geese by 1.25 million this year, 1.9 million in 2000 and 2.6 million in 2001. We are almost doubling our cull of snow geese because of an environmental disaster. We are doing it, in a way, to protect the snow geese. If we do not, they will simply eat themselves out of house and home and nature will find a way to bring the numbers down.

I am saying to the minister that when it comes to conservation, protection and enhancement of our fish stocks, we should do what Environment Canada has authorized be done for snow geese. Many more people make a living in Newfoundland based upon the fish resources that we have.

That being said, I believe that some of our amendments, especially on enforcement, should have been approved, but Liberal members chose not to accept them. However, members on this side of the House and we in the Conservative caucus will support Bill C-27. If nothing else, it is an improvement to what we now have. On behalf of our caucus I give our support to this bill.

Coastal Fisheries Protection Act April 16th, 1999

Madam Speaker, it gives me pleasure to rise today on behalf of our Conservative caucus to support Bill C-27.

Health April 16th, 1999

Mr. Speaker, let me remind the minister that at least for the nine years that we were in government we had a decent health care system which we do not have today.

Everyone in the country knows that nurses are underpaid, overworked and understaffed. Will the minister acknowledge that even with the Minister of Finance's recent so-called health care budget there is still a significant crisis in our health care system?

How many more health care budgets will we need to get back to the level of funding that was there when the Minister of Health took office in 1993?

Health April 16th, 1999

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

Deep cuts to CHST transfers over the past six years have had serious consequences. All Canadians, and in particular our patients, have lost faith in our health care system.

These cuts have also been deeply felt by those who deliver our health care services, particularly our nurses. Their compensation and working conditions have deteriorated continuously for the last six years. Nurses are on strike in Saskatchewan and have just been legislated back to work in Newfoundland.

Will the minister acknowledge that the real source of these job actions is the federal health transfer cuts to our provinces?

Fisheries April 14th, 1999

Mr. Speaker, one of the reasons for the demise of the cod stocks is the absence of a seal management plan. There is adequate scientific evidence which proves that harp seal populations have doubled, if not tripled, over the past seven years.

The minister acknowledged on Monday to all provincial fisheries ministers that for reasons of international trade there would be no increase in seal quotas. In particular, he mentioned sanctions against canned salmon from his home province of British Columbia.

Will the minister accept his responsibility and implement, based on scientific data and not politics, a seal management plan for Atlantic Canada?

Fisheries April 14th, 1999

Mr. Speaker, we are now in the seventh year of the cod moratorium in Atlantic Canada. However all scientific data show that cod stocks are at a lower level now than they were in 1992. A particular cause for alarm is that there are very few juvenile fish to be found.

Could the Minister of Fisheries and Oceans provide us with an explanation as to why, in the absence of a commercial cod fishery for seven years, cod fish numbers are so low? Is it possible that seven million harp seals might be a factor?

Kosovo April 12th, 1999

Madam Speaker, the hon. member has an excellent record on human rights issues in this House and a long service to Canada. He has certainly come to the same conclusion as I, that really we had no alternative as a member of NATO but to do what we did.

However, I also think that certain planning and other things should have been done. It seems that we planned for the military campaign as part of NATO, but we seem to have forgotten that when bombs start to fall one of the natural things that occurs is that the number of refugees tends to increase. In effect, we seem to be doing some of the dirty work of Milosevic in driving more Albanians out of Kosovo.

Could the hon. member comment on the fact that NATO seemed to be very prepared for the military action but not prepared at all for the human consequences of that military action?

In Argentia, Newfoundland we have tried to find a way to open up Canadian government housing for refugees if they were to come to Canada. Many Newfoundlanders were willing to collect toys and clothes and do everything they could for these refugees had they come to Canada, and maybe some of them still will come.

Would the hon. member not agree that NATO certainly prepared for the military campaign but did not take into the account the human consequences of that military campaign?

Kosovo April 12th, 1999

Mr. Speaker, I want to go back to the role of the House of Commons and parliament in this debate. It seems that speaker after speaker from the government benches has defended the idea that the House of Commons should not be involved in this decision except to have a general discussion, but not to actually have a vote.

Sometimes in this place we vote on the most absurd and silly things. However, we cannot seem to get the government to commit to a vote if we are going to have a declaration of war. It is my belief that that should never happen.

I am in full agreement with the comments made by the Prime Minister and the Deputy Prime Minister in 1990-91 regarding the Iraq war. At that time they said that we should not go to war, and we should not commit troops, unless we hold a vote in the House of Commons.

I would even go so far as to say that in the Constitution of Canada there should be a provision that we cannot commit troops to a military engagement, attacking another country, unless it comes to the House of Commons first. No cabinet, no 30 or 40 individuals in this country, should have that kind of power.

How can this government member not agree with me when I say that there must be full and complete disclosure, that there must be full and complete discussion in this House on the costs, the refugee problems, how many troops are going to be committed and the danger as this conflict escalates to a ground war? How can anyone in this House not say that we should have a vote before we commit any further to this conflict in Yugoslavia?

Kosovo April 12th, 1999

Mr. Speaker, I want to make a comment and then ask a brief question of the member for Red Deer who gave an excellent speech on the history of the whole Balkan area and the nature of the many hundreds of years of conflict and hatred which have existed in that area and have flourished for some strange reason.

This whole undertaking could have probably been best done under the United Nations, but we must look at the United Nations and the ineffective way it conducts its mandate to try to keep peace in the world.

Like the hon. member I asked many of the same questions during discussions in our caucus. I too am very concerned about Canadian soldiers and Canadian personnel being involved in a conflict where there may be no apparent solution, or if there is one it will not last for very long.

I ask all those questions and I come up with the answers. I have to say to the hon. member that I would not want to have lived during 1939 to 1945 when the world sat on its hands for a long period of time and watched what happened with the Nazis, Hitler and the Holocaust.

I have come to the conclusion that even with the ineffectiveness of the UN somebody had to step in. NATO seems to be the only body willing and able to do it. Did the hon. member not come to the same conclusion? When nobody else will step in to keep the peace in the world, does NATO not have the obligation to do it?