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

Canada Post October 9th, 1996

Mr. Speaker, yesterday the government released the report of the Canada Post mandate review. The report made a number of recommendations, including privatizing some of Canada Post's commercial activities, which the minister says she will study. She also hinted that the government might consider privatizing Canada Post if it ceases to fulfil a public policy role.

The Liberals seem to be moving in the direction of withdrawing government from providing a public service, with decent jobs and decent wages, toward a low wage environment that would only benefit the large corporations and would not guarantee adequate service.

We have seen this movie before. With cuts to the CBC and the privatization of CN, Air Canada and Petro-Canada, this Liberal-Tory government's ideology is to destroy everything of importance to the Canadian interest and to move away from its core public policy responsibilities.

This ideology of the market rather than of the citizen is wrong and must be abandoned.

Patent Act October 8th, 1996

Mr. Speaker, on Friday last week the minister of agriculture was in Regina to make an announcement concerning the future of the Canadian Wheat Board.

Prior to the announcement I heard a rumour that the minister was considering the possibility of putting the question of barley marketing to a plebiscite. Indeed, the minister did say that he was considering a barley plebiscite to be put to producers next year.

My question, which the minister's parliamentary secretary could not answer at the time, can be answered today.

Of course, the minister did not call it a plebiscite. Instead he opted for the more friendly term poll, but the bottom line is the same. This kind of action is typical of the minister who has spent most of his time in cabinet finding ways to avoid making decisions. And when he does, he makes decisions that try to please everyone.

In this case it appears the idea of a plebiscite is aimed at appeasing barley producers, particularly Alberta producers who want an open market for their product.

Unfortunately if the Liberal government goes ahead with the plebiscite, the net result will be continued uncertainty over the future of the Canadian Wheat Board. If the results of the plebiscite support the open market over single desk selling, then the long term future of the Canadian Wheat Board itself remains in doubt.

The minister, knowing the vast majority of western Canadian farmers support a strong, even enhanced Canadian Wheat Board, has purposely chosen to support the corporate interests of the grain trade over the collective interests of the prairie farmer by doing so. Obviously the plebiscite continues the slow but determined process to ultimately do away with the board, as was started by the Tories in the last Parliament who removed oats from the jurisdiction of the board. Remember, they did that without a mandate from the people.

In Canada, the government is continuing the dismantling of the board by commissioning the marketing panel, which travelled the country earlier this year, and now on the plebiscite issue as well as internationally with a debate among officials at the World Trade Organization level.

Forgotten in the debate seems to be the fact that the minister of agriculture is not taking responsibility for farmers' interests. He is asking farmers who do not have sufficient technical or financial support to take on the major players in this debate, the grain companies and the Alberta government.

If the agriculture minister were truly representing farm interests and if he continues to insist on holding a plebiscite, he would consider enhancing, rather than disturbing, the board's jurisdiction.

There is strong evidence to support expanding the powers of the board. A good question would include the possibility of adding oats, rye and canola to the jurisdiction of the board. It should be done.

Perhaps the most troublesome element of the entire process so far is that the minister is proceeding with major legislative changes to the wheat board and is proposing to schedule a delicate plebiscite without consulting the producer elected representatives of the Canadian Wheat Board advisory committee.

This committee was elected by farmers to represent the interests of farmers across the prairies and to, in that capacity, advise the minister of agriculture on matters pertaining to the Canadian Wheat Board.

Each member of this committee has studied the operations of the board, has reviewed the recommendations of the Western Grain Marketing Panel and has evaluated how each will impact on their own regions of the country. Their input into this process should be invaluable, yet they have been ignored.

Worse, it is proposed that they be replaced by an appointed interim board if the government goes ahead with the announced changes to the way in which the board should be governed. The minister has really missed the boat on this one.

Agriculture October 7th, 1996

Mr. Speaker, the Minister of Agriculture and Agri-Food is being asked to talk to his counterpart in the province of Alberta with regard to that province's farm income security program, an ad hoc subsidy program which has caused that province to be called the Europeans of the cattle industry. Critics say the program is literally eating up the Crow advantage at the same time as Alberta is speaking out against the federal ad hoc subsidy program.

Can the Minister of Agriculture and Agri-Food tell us if he is at all concerned about Alberta's FISP, what role the federal government has in protecting the industry from a possible American challenge, and if he intends to do anything about this unusual provincial subsidy?

Canadian Wheat Board October 4th, 1996

Mr. Speaker, at this hour at a news conference in Regina the minister of agriculture is apparently making an announcement concerning the Canadian Wheat Board.

The rumours this morning suggest the minister is announcing a costly plebiscite on barley marketing.

Can the parliamentary secretary confirm these rumours and, if so, will he also acknowledge that this important decision was made without the consultation of the producer elected Canadian Wheat Board advisory committee?

Radioactive Waste Importation Act October 3rd, 1996

Mr. Speaker, this summer I watched as the prairies produced one of the best crops I have ever seen or ever heard about. Wheat, oats, barley, canola, peas, lentils and even the hay crops were good.

Prior to the harvest the sun came out and baked the fields for several days.

These were marvellous pre-harvest conditions. Farmers across the prairies began their harvest in earnest. Then the rain hit. For almost three weeks during the time when the combines should have been running full out, very little harvesting took place.

According to official records, about 50 per cent of the crop came off the fields and got put in the bins before the rain came. Just as the rain stopped and the weather forecasters predicted clearing and warming, the frost hit and then it snowed.

As members have seen on TV, more than an inch of heavy snow hit my part of Saskatchewan on the last weekend in September, a time that is a traditional prime harvest period. Now, during the past two days, more than a foot of heavy snow has hit standing crops in Saskatchewan, Alberta and Manitoba.

Farmers are beginning to worry. The summer had produced a lot of optimism at a time when optimism was sorely needed but hardly deserved. Farmers know they had just come off 10 very bad years. Incomes had dropped substantially, crops had been poor, interest rates were high, prices were depressed and bankruptcies were occurring too frequently.

More recently, Tory governments in Saskatchewan and Ottawa had changed the way agricultural emergencies were financed. In other words, what used to be a federal responsibility became a shared responsibility. The province had less of an ability to finance agricultural emergencies than did the federal government.

Therefore a new safety net program, the GRIP, came and went in a flash as a result. When the government changed, the Liberal government in Ottawa maintained the cost sharing principles and is currently negotiating with the provinces to establish a new crop insurance program.

The changes to be made to the crop insurance have not yet been agreed to, let alone implemented. At the same time, the new Liberal government did away with the Crow benefit, a program designed to share the cost of transporting grain from the farm gate on the prairies to the ports on the coast with all Canadian taxpayers. This move immediately increases the costs of operating the farm.

Other input costs have increased. As a result, a lot more money than usual has been put into the ground or paid to railways this year in preparation for the year's harvest.

A good crop this year was necessary not only to pay the bills but to make up for the debts created from past years. Let us face it, everyone was looking forward to a good crop and is still hoping that little damage has been done by the weather.

Yes, we may take in a good crop but we cannot ignore the fact that farming depends on the weather. If the weather does not co-operate, we as a nation cannot afford to just let farmers go. We cannot afford to lose our capacity to produce food for the world and to generate the revenues necessary to maintain rural populations.

Therefore even in good times it is important for governments to ensure that contingency plans are in place just in case there is a crop failure or something happens to reduce the incomes necessary to produce the next year's crops.

I ask the minister if these contingency plans are indeed in place so that we can reduce the stress already being felt in the farming community.

Agriculture September 30th, 1996

Mr. Speaker, my question is to the minister of agriculture.

Wet weather on the prairies for the last three weeks and snow yesterday have threatened a very good harvest of a very good crop on the prairies.

Is the minister of agriculture considering any contingency plan should the revenues expected from that harvest do not materialize?

Environment Week June 5th, 1996

Mr. Speaker, I appreciate the will of the House to allow me to say a few words today on Environment Week. I congratulate the Minister of the Environment for his strong words in support of the environment and I congratulate those who this week have been recognized for their environmental achievements.

There certainly are a great number of people across Canada who are actively engaged in environmental projects, activities and educational matters. They are doing a great deal to further the interests of this planet. I congratulate each and every one of them.

A great number of people are concerned about the future of the environment, about the future of the habitat on Earth and indeed about the planet itself. They may not have been able to participate in local projects or to initiate them, but they want to see those who are able to work on environmental matters have the resources to do so. They want to see the federal government take the necessary action to ensure there is a good strong federal presence on environmental issues.

I noticed a slight change today in some of the language the minister is using. I simply want to take a minute to point out a couple of things. Recently the minister has talked about the need for a strong federal role on the environment. The other day in question period I took the opportunity to congratulate him on his stand on a strong federal role. Following the meeting of the Canadian Council of Ministers of the Environment, the minister is now talking about strong national standards instead of the need for a strong federal role. The ministers have begun to talk about national standards rather than the presence of the federal government in the field.

Members of the public will recognize there is a big difference between the need for strong national standards, which we all adhere to, and the need for a strong federal role, a governmental presence in environmental issues. I can stress that by pointing to a couple of specific areas that need some attention, particularly when we look at what will be happening in the near future.

The Standing Committee on the Environment and Sustainable Development recently issued a report on the review of the Canadian Environmental Protection Act. The government response to the CEPA review fell short of expectations.

The amendments to CEPA that the government must put forward should be coming forward in the very near future. It is very important to people concerned about the environment across Canada that the message which was sent to the government by the Standing Committee on the Environment and Sustainable Development be fulfilled. That message was about the need for a strong federal role in dealing with toxic chemicals and other regulations under CEPA.

On the biotechnology chapter, to actually consider moving biotechnology to agriculture from the environment so that those who are promoting the business of biotechnology will also be charged with enforcing regulatory compliance makes absolutely no sense. We have to keep these matters within the context of the environment.

I do not want to abuse the time the House has given me today because I appreciate it very much. I mentioned the Fisheries Act in a question the other day. I want to reiterate that to the minister.

At the Canadian Environmental Network meeting in Hamilton on the weekend, the minister received a strong statement about the federal role in the environment which was signed by 100 organizations across Canada. I would ask the minister to review, support and act on that statement from CEN.

Environment Week June 5th, 1996

Mr. Speaker, I rise on a point of order. As the New Democratic Party environment critic, I would like an opportunity to respond today as well. I wonder if you would seek unanimous consent from the Chamber.

Civil Air Navigation Services Commercialization Act June 4th, 1996

Mr. Speaker, I thought we were agreeing to do it in reverse. However, since we seem to be putting it on the record, New Democrats will be opposed to this motion.

The Environment June 3rd, 1996

Mr. Speaker, the Minister of the Environment has said he believes in a strong federal role for the environment and he is to be congratulated on that. Yet late last week he agreed to a proposal of the Canadian Council of Ministers of the Environment which will see the eventual devolution of responsibilities for environmental matters to the provinces.

Can the minister explain what he will do to ensure that the necessary fisheries trigger remains in the environmental assessment act and that the federal government can indeed administer yet to be tabled legislation affording endangered species and habitat protection?