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Crucial Fact

  • His favourite word was years.

Last in Parliament October 2000, as Reform MP for Cypress Hills—Grasslands (Saskatchewan)

Won his last election, in 1997, with 49% of the vote.

Statements in the House

Small Business February 22nd, 1994

Mr. Speaker, I have a copy of a letter from Harvey Wiebe, one of my constituents, to the hon. Minister of Finance. It reads:

As a small business person, I account for about 200 jobs. I know that many people like me have already moved their money and their energy off shore. The loss of these people is far greater than the loss from people who have gone underground. Just think, 25,000 people like me could create 5,000,000 new jobs.

Unlike big business, my group does not want subsidies. We can be compared to a carpenter building a house. Every time we reach for a tool the government has taken it away. We do not mind sharing our house, but for the sake of Canada, let us keep our tools.

I believe that you know what you need to do. I also believe that you lack the courage to do it. You will earn far more support if people have hope, than you will by pandering to the wealth consumers.

Prince Edward Island Fixed Link February 15th, 1994

Madam Speaker, the hon. member made reference to the inconvenience of waiting for ferries. I have waited for lots of ferries. I have also waited for bridges to be opened when they were closed because of the weather. It did not make any difference. It was just as inconvenient and just as uncomfortable waiting for one as waiting for the other.

The hon. member made reference to tourism. If this is going to be such a boon to tourism, I wonder why tourism operators on the island are campaigning to keep the Caribou Point ferry operating even if the bridge is built. They believe the tourists want tourism. They do not want just to get from point a to point b like a load of Prince Edward Island potatoes going to market; they enjoy the ferry. That was actually brought to my attention by a study done by a noted economist from the maritimes, Dr. Peter Townley from Acadia University who has panned this monument to vanity at every opportunity.

Prince Edward Island Fixed Link February 15th, 1994

I rise on a point of order, Madam Speaker. The hon. member misunderstood my question. When I talked of ice delay I meant delays to ferries due to the presence of ice in the channel. I was not referring to delayed breakup of the ice.

Prince Edward Island Fixed Link February 15th, 1994

Madam Speaker, I am a little surprised because I know the hon. member is quite an ardent economic nationalist. I now find him vigorously defending a project that is going to pour hundreds of millions of dollars into the pockets of two giant multinational corporations. I find this a little inconsistent.

Earlier the subject of ice delays came up. I will agree with the hon. member that one will get ice delays for ferries, even the

best of them, that one would not get with a bridge. On the other hand, one will not get the sort of wind delays, winter or summer, with ferries that one will get with this bridge.

The only bridge I am personally familiar with which is in any way comparable is the one across the Straits of Mackinaw. It is often closed because it is impassable in bad weather conditions. By going a couple of hundred miles out of their way drivers can get around but it is pretty hard to get around Northumberland Strait. Again I am trying to look at this from a practical, realistic point of view. I would like the hon. member's comment on that.

Prince Edward Island Fixed Link February 15th, 1994

It is surrounded by water. Water is a rather effective barrier to most means of transport. I refer to it as an enclave in those terms.

Prince Edward Island Fixed Link February 15th, 1994

Madam Speaker, I am delighted that the hon. member raised the question of the referendum.

First, it was not a referendum, it was a plebiscite. Second, the terms of the plebiscite were very clear in that they stated: "Would you approve of this project if it is going to be more economically feasible than improved ferry service and if there is no danger to the environment?" Since neither of those qualifications has been met, I would suggest that if we want to have a referendum we should have a real one, make it binding, have it now and see how far we get.

As far as referring to Prince Edward Island as an enclave, the hon. member says that is pejorative. He may think so. He obviously reads a different dictionary than I do.

Prince Edward Island Fixed Link February 15th, 1994

Madam Speaker, I concur most wholeheartedly with the hon. member.

Prince Edward Island Fixed Link February 15th, 1994

Madam Speaker, my colleagues have addressed the legal and political implications of the matter before us. I want to step back a little further and consider the basic premise.

Do we really need a 13 kilometre bridge across Northumberland Strait? Why do we want to do this? Do the benefits outweigh the costs? Can a near bankrupt Canada afford it? These questions have been debated for 30 years, but in spite of the signing last October as can be seen in this House the debate is by no means over.

Let us start by disposing of the fiction that this will be a privately financed venture. This is a typical government project with the deal structured so that bond holders take no risk and the private operators will repay principal and interest out of the complete 100 per cent subsidy, $42 million a year indexed to inflation for 35 years. This is compared to the current subsidy. I must take issue with the gentleman who spoke a few moments ago when he said that the subsidy was $42 million. The current subsidy is $21.7 million. That is from the public accounts. Therefore, we are talking about a virtual doubling of the subsidy with the alternate program that is being proposed.

The interest on the $662 million initial bond issue is going to be about $700 million, all courtesy of the Canadian taxpayer. The only difference between the deal closed on October 7 and a normal public works tender is that public money will be spent without public accountability.

This gets better. Of the equity 85 per cent is held by subsidiaries of foreign multinationals, Morrison Knutson of the United States and the French GTM International. I do not know what GTM stands for but I suspect it might mean get the money, because get the money they will.

While we are paying off the debt the operators will be able to do whatever they wish with the net revenue from the tolls and that includes shipping the revenue out of the country. I have nothing against foreign investment. In fact I welcome it. However, I strongly object to foreign profit taking without significant investment or risk.

Still it gets better. The consortium has to post a $200 million performance bond, but the premium is being capitalized into the project cost so that the taxpayer is going to pick up the tab as part of the subsidy payments.

If this proposed bridge was between two heavily populated areas or if it was on a major transportation corridor it would be easier to justify. To spend $25,000 per family to make road access marginally more convenient to an enclave of 130,000 people makes no sense at all.

Larger, faster ferries perhaps with better ice capabilities than those now in use could be had for a fraction of the cost. First class ferry service would not be a discriminatory burden on the people of Prince Edward Island.

There are unanswered questions regarding the technical superiority of a high, wind-swept bridge compared to a stable, well designed ferry. The consensus, even among proponents of the bridge, is that any storm severe enough to stop ferry service will also stop traffic from using the bridge. What is worse, even if the winds are not quite strong enough to stop traffic, vehicles will be forced to proceed at a crawl and empty trailers will not be permitted to cross.

If one is coming up from Boston for a load of potatoes and there is no backup ferry, one had better be prepared to park his or her semi until it gets a mite less breezy.

As an engineer I am well aware that almost anything is technically possible if there is a will to do it and if there is no limit to available resources. One takes an idea and just adds money. However, the fact that something can be done does not necessarily mean that it should be done.

Some people may invoke the memory of John Maynard Keynes to justify this massive public expense as a pump-priming exercise to stimulate the economy. Lord Keynes never envisioned a situation in which nearly one-third of a government's revenue is being eaten up to pay interest on its existing debt. If we had faithfully followed his prescription and built up surpluses or at least paid down our debt during the good times I could perhaps agree that more government spending might be of some economic benefit.

Unfortunately during the 1970s and the early 1980s the Government of Canada and most governments in the world piled up debts in good times, not for any lasting benefit but to finance current expenditures. Like spendthrift families, they borrowed money first to pay for the groceries and then to buy champagne and whisky. They stood poor old Keynes on his head and they put us into a financial box where we have no freedom to move about.

Even if one accepts the premise that jobs can be created at the expense of the greater economy, and I certainly do not, but let me play devil's advocate, if spending borrowed money is an effective economic stimulus, surely the same amount of money could be spent on something which would provide greater long-term benefits to more people. Even the people of Prince Edward Island are not united on this question. More than 40 per cent of them clearly indicated they do not want this gift. This is unprecedented. Ordinarily local people in any community will fight tooth and nail for a government project because they have this perception it is free.

Finally, this bridge deal was consummated in the dying days of the Tory government, as was the Pearson airport deal. It has the potential to be another Mirabel or another Olympic dome. Let us slow down and take a cold, hard look at what we are doing.

The last P.E.I. bridge project was further advanced than this one is now when it was axed by the government in 1969. Of course there will be economic penalties to pay to the operator and to the bondholders if we stop, but surely we can still get out of this with our hide intact before the project acquires irresistible momentum.

The one small lever that we have at our disposal in this House is to withhold approval of the proposed constitutional amendment. Let us leave the Constitution alone. Let us provide first class ferry service in perpetuity as promised and forget about completing another monument to Brian Mulroney.

West Coast Ports February 11th, 1994

Mr. Speaker, I thank the government for dealing with the labour dispute at the west coast ports.

Our constituents, including many farmers who depend on the operation of west coast ports for their livelihood and who suffered direct financial loss from demurrage charges during these tie-ups, were very anxious to see this dispute brought to a conclusion. I am glad the government was responsive to their concerns.

This is not the first time that the government has had to legislate the end to a port workers strike. I hope the government has learned something from this experience and the experience of previous governments and will move in the near future to declare grain handling an essential service.

Speech From The Throne January 28th, 1994

Madam Speaker, I begin by sincerely thanking the hon. member for so lucidly explaining to us our duties and obligations to our constituents as if we really did not understand them at all.

With respect to his thesis on the relationship between taxation and jobs I would respectfully submit that if governments could create jobs and if raising taxes and increased government revenue would create jobs, his university student with two degrees would have two jobs.

We have had 20 years of wildcat government spending, attempts by governments to manage the economy and to give jobs to people where there were no jobs to be had. It is time to discard this old and discredited philosophy and realize that we cannot continue to selectively bleed portions of the corpse of our country to bring in more and more revenue until we finally finish off everything.