Crucial Fact

  • His favourite word was federal.

Last in Parliament April 1997, as NDP MP for The Battlefords—Meadow Lake (Saskatchewan)

Lost his last election, in 1997, with 28% of the vote.

Statements in the House

The Budget February 20th, 1997

Mr. Speaker, I have a couple of questions for the member from Nova Scotia. He has accepted the premise of the budget about improving the economy and moving us forward. In particular, I want to talk about the children of the working poor, many of whom I know live in Nova Scotia and for whom Nova Scotians are looking to the member for representation.

This morning in a news conference in Ottawa on Parliament Hill, the federal New Democratic Party leader Alexa McDonough urged the federal government to reverse plans hidden in the budget from Tuesday that will cut benefits for some 288,000 children of working poor in this country.

She released some evidence, including copies of newspaper clippings from Toronto yesterday, that women living in the Toronto area were shocked to find out that they will get less money under the new program once it is brought into place than they were getting to date.

It is noted that the combined working income supplement and the child tax benefit for families with one child will be $1,625 under the new proposal instead of the $1,770 that they are getting today. This represents a 20 per cent cut in benefits for roughly 40 per cent of those estimated to be Canada's working poor families.

I want to ask the member whether he believes that this information is correct. If it is, would he work to help change the direction that is being taken by the government with regard to this part of the budget?

My second question deals with the lack of attention that the budget paid to the goods and services tax. The House had a major debate here over the harmonization of the GST for three of the four Atlantic provinces. I was not present to hear comments from the hon. member from the Halifax area with regard to the harmonization of the GST.

I see that the Senate is about to hold hearings in Atlantic Canada, something the House of Commons and the government chose not to do. Therefore I am wondering if the member would appear before the Senate committee touring Atlantic Canada and what he would say.

The Budget February 20th, 1997

Mr. Speaker, I have a comment and a question for the member for Medicine Hat generally on the debate yesterday and today.

I see a tremendous circus spectacle being undertaken here. Jugglers from all sides of the House are throwing brightly coloured balls into the air, diverting the attention of Canadians from what is really happening behind them. The political agenda of both the government and the Reform Party is being ignored while the public watches all these coloured balls but Canadians see through this. They are not watching the balls in the air any more. They are concerned about what is happening behind the jugglers.

We see today in particular the Reform Party's finance critic talking about jobs and what would happen under the budget. I have to accept all of the critical words the member for Medicine Hat has put out with regard to the government's record on jobs. The government's record is abysmal in this regard and the government knows it.

The member for Medicine Hat also knows that the program which created no job creation in this country is the same type of program he would advocate were he the finance minister. There would be additional cutbacks in the public service and tax breaks to the large corporations which have not produced any additional jobs in this country.

I would like the member for Medicine Hat, who is Reform's finance critic, to comment on some of the numbers that have come out of the budget, in particular one set of numbers. In 1993, the last year of the Mulroney government, 5,250 taxpayers earning over

$70,000 a year paid no taxes. Under the current government there has been a 400 per cent increase in that 21,270 Canadians who earn $70,000 a year or more paid no taxes. There are more Canadians paying less taxes or no taxes-

Petitions February 20th, 1997

Mr. Speaker, pursuant to Standing Order 36, I am pleased to present a petition signed by residents of my constituency, residents of the cities of North Battleford and Lloydminster and the towns of Paynton, Onion Lake and Battleford.

The petitioners note that 38 per cent of the national highway system is substandard, that the national highway policy study identified job creation, economic development, national unity, saving lives and avoiding injury, lower congestion, lower vehicle operating costs and better international competitiveness as benefits of the proposed national highway program.

The petitioners call on Parliament to urge the federal government to join with the provinces to make the national highway system upgrading possible.

Main Estimates February 20th, 1997

Mr. Speaker, on a point of order. I am wondering if I might have unanimous consent to reply on behalf of the New Democratic Party to the tabling of the estimates.

Indian Act Optional Modification Act February 19th, 1997

Mr. Speaker, New Democrats in the House tonight vote no.

Indian Act Optional Modification Act February 18th, 1997

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to speak on Bill C-79, the bill that makes what they call optional modifications to the Indian Act. I was very pleased to hear the words of the minister in introducing the bill to Parliament and as well to hear a number of the Liberal members commenting on why they think the act needs to be changed and eventually eliminated.

I applaud the minister of Indian affairs for his work over the past three years in visiting with aboriginal people from coast to coast to coast. He has travelled more extensively than probably any other minister of Indian affairs that I am aware of.

It seems that while he was travelling he learned some of the language Indian people want to hear, but the actions he has taken are not the ones the majority of Indian people would like him to take. The Indian people in Canada would like the language being used by the minister and by government members to be more adequately reflected in the legislation proposed and in the actions the government takes in terms of removing some obstacles that are in their way, along with providing them with the resources necessary to assist them in getting themselves out of the difficulties past legislation and government practices have put them in.

In looking at Bill C-79 I recognize there are a number of positive aspects to it. However, they are almost insignificant in terms of what it is that needs to be done for aboriginal people in Canada today. The legislation allows the government to remove itself from certain aspects of Indian community life. It allows different First Nations to buy into the proposal or to leave things as they are. Let us look at some of the specifics.

For example, departmental officials will no longer have to approve the sale of farm produce. This is admirable but that has not been going on for years. This part of the Indian Act has basically been ignored by all the officials, the department and the minister for years.

The act allows for a First Nation not to require the instruction from the minister on road repair. I am sure most First Nations are glad they no longer have to ask the minister for permission to fix their roads, but they have no money to fix their roads. Their roads are in horrible disrepair and it is because the resources are not available to fix them. They do not have to ask the minister because they cannot fix them in any case. If the government were truly interested in assisting in this regard, it would ensure that the necessary moneys were there, not just for road repairs, but for the

establishment of new roads to connect with provincial highway systems which ignore a lot of the First Nations communities.

The bill also states that the terms of office for chief and council could be extended from two to three years. Obviously many of the Indian governments would applaud the move from two to three years, but most of them have been asking for an extension to four years. Because other governments around them have terms of office of four years, many of them see that the work they start is interrupted at the end of the second or the third year. Most of them have been thinking that four-year terms would be appropriate. Having the opportunity to set their own terms of office in conjunction with people in their own communities is very important.

I notice in the briefing papers that the government indicates it would "not fundamentally affect the crown's fiduciary relationship and treaty obligations". The word fundamentally is very important to aboriginal people in Canada. Fiduciary responsibility of the federal government is paramount. The fiduciary responsibility exists and cannot be changed, yet the government acknowledges that it will not be fundamentally affected. That means there may be an effect on the fiduciary responsibility. We must ensure that does not happen at all.

All of this follows the release of the report by the Royal Commission on Aboriginal Peoples. There has been a great deal of comment around the country about the expense and the expanse of the royal commission. Fifty-eight million dollars was spent on the royal commission, money that the minister even said he would rather have spent on housing than on the royal commission.

Regardless of what we think about the process and the financing of the royal commission, the fact is the documents released by the royal commission exist. This is the most extensive study of the relationship between aboriginal people and the rest of us that has ever taken place in this country.

I do not claim to have read the entire royal commission report. I am only almost finished the first volume of the several volumes of the report, but I am overwhelmed at the value of the information contained in the document. In skimming the other documents that I intend to read over the next few months, I can tell that the royal commission has done a tremendous job of identifying the problems that aboriginal people have faced and suggesting some solutions as to how to overcome those problems.

Certainly getting rid of the Indian Act is a part of that, but it is not negotiating the Indian Act away one Indian band at a time or one section of the act at a time. What this country needs is a thorough parliamentary First Nations provincial government review of the Indian Act and the overhaul of it in one fell swoop with the idea of ensuring that the resources are available to all levels of government to ensure that the replacement is a success.

It makes no sense to replace the Indian Act one nation at a time, one clause at a time. This does not seem to me to be the most efficient way of doing it. Certainly the words, the study, the thought, the work that has gone into the report of the Royal Commission on Aboriginal Peoples make it very clear that substantial changes are necessary both in attitude and in programming in order to fix a number of the problems that exist. Some of them cannot be fixed by this type of negotiation; they will simply be fixed within the Indian communities on their own.

When we ask First Nations communities what is at the top of their list for correction, they are not saying they want to get the minister off their backs from selling farm products. They talk about the need for more housing. They talk about the need to improve their health and justice systems. They talk about the need to fix their education system to ensure that their young people are well educated and skilled both in traditional knowledge and in the ways of the neighbouring communities, to ensure that their young people will be successful as they get older. They also talk about culture and language, economic development and self-government, land and resources which ensure their economic development packages are successful.

These are all matters which require a great deal of attention from all members of this House, from all members of provincial legislatures and from all municipal governments across this country. We as communities, as people living together, must understand the history of this country, how all of our people have worked together to get us in the position we are in today. Tinkering with the Indian Act, one clause at a time, one band at a time, certainly will not achieve the goals which we wish to achieve.

I wish the minister well as we go into the election period. I know there are major challenges in front of us. I challenge the minister to address those serious, important issues before we face the people.

Canadian Wheat Board Act February 18th, 1997

I hear comments from my colleagues that the minister should resign. I want to put it on record that I support that move. It sounds like a good move. The minister should resign but withdraw the bill before he does that.

We certainly need a stronger, not a weaker, Canadian Wheat Board working for us. Anything less is an abdication of farmers interests to the corporate controls of the artificial international marketplace.

In committee I hope we will look at the legislation in a lot more detail, so I will not be too specific today. However, there are a few matters I want to put on the record while there is still time. I note that in this shortened three hour debate members are allowed 10 minutes whereas there would be longer speeches provided for in a debate at second reading. Many of us would have much more of an opportunity to express our detailed concerns about the bill.

First and foremost is the question of governance. It seems very clear that farmers want more say in how the board is run. There are numerous ways to achieve this goal but the minister and the government have chosen in this legislation to create an elected board of directors with a government appointed chair and a government appointed chief executive officer.

Although the minister says that the vast majority of the board will be elected by producers, the legislation does not say how many members of that board will be elected. So we have some serious problems in dealing with a matter on which there appears to be a general consensus, more farmer control of the board's operation. Not only is there no guarantee that more than a couple of farmers will be elected to the board, but there is no guarantee that their influence will have any value. As long as the government appoints some members to that board and controls the appointments of the Chair and the CEO, the board will not be accountable to producers.

As a representative of Saskatchewan, of New Democrats and of a lot of producers in Saskatchewan, I feel there has to be some assurance of the long term guarantee represented in the legislation. Most of us in Saskatchewan support amendments that make the board more flexible and more responsive to producers, but at the same time we want a better balance between responsibility to producers and fiscal responsibility to the federal government. That needs to be struck.

Canadian Wheat Board Act February 18th, 1997

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to speak to Bill C-72, the amendments to the Canadian Wheat Board Act. This is an important bill. It is an important issue which I have been following for a long time.

I have discussed this matter with many producers throughout Canada and, in particular, throughout Saskatchewan and the prairies. I attended meetings of the Western Grain Marketing Panel when they were held in the province. I attended the meetings in Kindersley and North Battleford. Little of what was talked about is reflected in Bill C-72.

Bill C-72 is not being given the usual second reading in the House. Instead it is being introduced here for a short three hour debate and then sent directly to the agriculture committee for study. I definitely support the committee study but I oppose the process of fast tracking debate in the House in principle.

This process of sending a bill to committee before second reading is a recent innovation in the legislative process. In some cases it works very well, but in other cases it does not work well at all and I believe that is the case with Bill C-72. Bill C-72 is important to all Canadian farmers. Therefore, it is important to Canada.

Second reading is traditionally a time when members of Parliament address the principle of recently drafted legislation. It is a time to examine in public debate the concepts on which the bill, as written, are based. It is a time when MPs who have discussed the legislation with their constituents can put those comments on the record and share them with other MPs in the hopes of influencing the clause by clause discussion which follows when the committee studies the bill.

Not all MPs can speak during this shortened three hour debate. Not all MPs are members of the agriculture committee. Therefore not all MPs and, most importantly, not all of their constituents will have their voices heard on the principles contained in this legislation before third and final reading, when it is too late to make substantial changes to the bill. This process is simply fast tracking the legislation, despite the fact that perhaps there will be a shortened committee stage.

The process of shortening debate at second reading was designed for highly technical bills and not for ones like the Canadian Wheat Board legislation which also has political and subjective economic content. I object to this process being used for Bill C-72. I believe the minister of agriculture is simply using it to avoid lengthy public debate on a bill which he knows is flawed and which he does not want to fix.

I use as an example the fact that the day this legislation was introduced the minister said he was prepared to accept amendments. The next day the agriculture committee chairperson said: "This bill will in fact be amended". Today the parliamentary secretary, when introducing the debate, said that the minister would look at amendments to the bill. If the minister knew the bill was flawed and needed amendment he should have written it as such to begin with and not have introduced it the way it is today. He should have simply said: "I am prepared to listen, talk to me". If he knew it needed amending he should have done it originally.

I also object to the timing of the debate. It falls in the middle of the voting process on the future of barley within the jurisdiction of the Canadian Wheat Board. I and others had asked that the bill be delayed until voting had concluded on the barley motion to ensure that both these matters got the full attention of the public which they deserve. I am sorry that the minister has chosen not to listen to this advice.

On the other hand, so as not to seem entirely negative, I am pleased that the agriculture committee to which this legislation is being sent is talking about travelling outside of Ottawa to make itself accessible to farmers, farm groups and communities on this bill. I would argue that the success of the Canadian Wheat Board

certainly depends on the legislation changing, as the views of the farmers and the farm communities are important.

The committee, if it chooses to travel and if this House gives the approval of the committee to travel, would be doing the right thing in this regard. I can only hope that it has given everyone enough time to prepare adequately to respond to the challenge that is in front of all of us.

This is an important bill and therefore I want to once again express my concern and disappointment that the minister chose not to seek the face to face advice of the farmer elected Canadian Wheat Board Advisory Committee in drafting the bill. The advisory committee, which is being replaced in this legislation, is made up of the farmers most knowledgeable about the operations of the Canadian Wheat Board and the affect those operations have at the farm gate.

The minister should have involved the advisory committee immediately right from the beginning but he did not. Obviously the flaws in this bill are there because he chose not to consult and therefore it is obvious that we could be avoiding unnecessary debate, saving lots of time and money had the minister done this differently. The advisory committee's advice in designing and drafting this legislation should have been sought as a matter of course.

Many in the House today are not farmers and certainly not farmers of grains under the jurisdiction of the Canadian Wheat Board. Therefore they may not realize that the economies of grain farming during the last 10 years have been stressful. Last year's crop and price were probably the best in that 10 year period which generally was characterized by low prices, low yields, low grades and lower and lower morale. Bankruptcies and quit claims were high, as were farm debts, suicides and on farm accidents.

At the same, time huge changes in the international marketplace have been taking place, not the least of which have been the subsidy talks of the Uruguay round of GATT and the subsequent establishment of the World Trade Organization.

Canada agreed with the United States and Europe to do away with a number of programs identified, I think incorrectly, as subsidies, and as a result Canadian farmers have lost their ad hoc emergency programs, the Crow benefit and certain supply management guarantees. I might add that Canadian governments under Mulroney and the present Prime Minister have done this without seeking similar moves by Europe and the United States, both of which are maintaining their GATT identified farm support programs.

Into this volatile mix is thrown the Canadian Wheat Board, the agency that sells Canadian wheat and barley to the international marketplace. This agency which maintained sales and prices during the turbulent times of the last 10 years has been targeted by the United States as an unfair trading practice with support from a number of Canadians, many of whom are seeking ways to escape huge debts they have built trying to survive through the very tough times.

This is a most vulnerable time in the history of the Canadian Wheat Board and this government should be doing everything in its power to support and sustain it from those outside attacks. This legislation and, I might add, the barley vote as well are only fueling the debate which has the possibility to weaken the board and therefore jeopardizes its future and therefore the future of farm income.

If nothing else, the minister of agriculture should resist all pressures to make substantial systematic changes to the board. He should give the board his unconditional and unqualified support and ensure that on the operational side the board has the flexibility it needs to address the internal and domestic challenges it faces.

Therefore in looking at Bill C-72 we have to look at the bill in that larger context. Perhaps the best thing the minister could do right now is to withdraw the bill because it weakens the position of the board and jeopardizes the future income of Canadian farmers across the prairies at a time prior to an election when we should discuss this during the election campaign.

Petitions February 18th, 1997

Mr. Speaker, it is my pleasure to present a petition pursuant to Standing Order 36 concerning our national highway system. I think this is the fourth such petition I have presented from residents of my constituency. The residents signing this petition come from the city of North Battleford, the town of Cochin, Unity, Gallivan, Wilkie, and Meota.

The undersigned petitioners note that 38 per cent of the national highway system in Canada is substandard and that the national highway policy study identified a number of matters including job creation, economic development, national unity, saving lives and avoiding injuries, lower congestion, lower vehicle operating costs and better international competitiveness as benefits of the proposed national highway program.

The petitioners urge the federal government to join the provincial governments to make the national highway system upgrading possible.

Canadian Wheat Board February 13th, 1997

Mr. Speaker, prairie producers who are still considering their vote on the Canadian Wheat Board barley plebiscite should take a look at the recent Schmitz, Gray, Schmitz, Storey study which shows that the CWB puts more money in its pockets than it would receive from the open market.

The study showed that the Canadian Wheat Board single desk sales monopoly enabled it to extract higher prices for malt barley and for feed barley as well. The four agricultural economists who conducted the study pegged the price benefit at an average of $72 million a year during the 10-year period that ended in 1994-95.

With information like this, there should be little doubt about the pending outcome of the producer plebiscite. The power of the Canadian Wheat Board is a tremendous benefit not only to the individual farmers but also to the country as a whole. We should all be doing everything we can to support the Canadian Wheat Board and guarantee that it has a long and successful future.