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Crucial Fact

  • Her favourite word was grandparents.

Last in Parliament April 1997, as Reform MP for Mission—Coquitlam (B.C.)

Won her last election, in 1993, with 37% of the vote.

Statements in the House

Supply November 21st, 1996

Madam Speaker, it is my privilege today to speak on Reform's supply day motion which reads:

That, in the opinion of this House, the government should provide tax fairness for all Canadian families by extending the child care tax deduction to all families of all income levels and converting it to a credit, thereby removing the tax bias against parents caring for their own children.

Canadians have told us that they want a tax system that is fair to all families. Let us take a look at the taxes paid by families today. The average family pays an incredible 46 per cent of its income each year in taxes, almost half of its income.

High taxes have stripped families of the disposable income they need to plan for their future and exercise choice in how to arrange their lives. A Reform government will provide real tax relief for all Canadians and simplify the tax system to make it fairer for families at all income levels.

Children are this country's key to the future, but more often than not the policies and programs of the federal government have a negative impact on Canadian families. We must give parents greater freedom to spend time parenting and to succeed economically while doing so.

That is why Reform will extend the following child care deduction to all parents, including those who care for their children at home: $5,000 for every preschool child and $3,000 for every child seven to twelve years of age. To make this as fair as possible for families at all income levels we will turn the deduction into a tax credit so everyone gets the same savings.

These changes are necessary since fiscal burdens and government intervention both mean that Canadian parents have fewer choices about how to raise and care for their children. Big

government programs such as universal day care, which the Liberals promised in the 1993 election campaign, only add to the burden of government debt and high taxes and contribute to removing choices away from Canadian families.

The Reform Party believes that parents are the people best equipped to make these decisions and wants to leave them as much choice and decision making power as possible. Reform believes that returning money into the hands of families will provide them with the choice and the flexibility they need to make the best decisions for their children.

Reform therefore opposes state run day care, supporting in its place child care programs that subsidize financial need, not the method of child care chosen, and that subsidize children and parents, not institutions and professionals.

These initiatives are important because more parents are choosing to stay at home to look after their young children.

According to Sherry Cooper, the chief economist for the Canadian investment firm Nesbit Burns, birth rates are rising in Canada and traditional families, father working and mother at home with the children, are growing from a record low of 28 per cent of all households in the 1980s toward the level of 44 per cent by the year 2005. Demographic trends, she says, point to the resurgence of traditional family life. Canadian parents who want to stay home to raise their children find that government policy penalizes them for their decision. Consequently many spouses are forced to work outside the home even if they do not want to.

Given today's unemployment rate of 10 per cent surely the government would have enough sense to realize more jobs will be available for the unemployed if working parents can stay home and raise their children rather than go out to work and take up the jobs that are in the marketplace.

Consequently Reform supports a revision of the federal income tax regulations to end discrimination against parents who provide for child care at home.

How does Reform view Canadian parents? We are convinced that the majority of Canadian parents are caring, are capable and are responsible. They know what is best for their own children. What is more, they demonstrate it every day through the large and the small sacrifices they make, that the well-being of their children is their top priority.

In the case of divorced parents we want to see fair and equal treatment for all parties involved in a support ruling. It is vital in any child access or custody settlement that the needs of the child and the parents' ability to pay are the first consideration. This government constantly puts forth flowery phrases of how supportive it is of family. Yet its actions makes lies of its words. Children need the loving care and visits from all family members.

Yet this government, in contradiction to Canada's acceptance of the convention of the child and of a child's right of access to their families, voted down the grandparents bill which would have given grandparents the right to ask the judge at the time of divorce if they could continue to see their grandchildren.

How could this government do this, knowing that many of our seniors have already died without seeing their grandchildren in their later years? How could it be so cruel as to continue to deny families the right of access?

This government cares about families, we heard the Liberal member say a few minutes ago. Oh, yes.

What about this government's promise to remove the GST on reading material and thereby enable families to have reading material in their homes without paying GST on those essential? Remember, the Deputy Prime Minister promised that there would be no GST on books which were as necessary as food.

The member for Glengarry-Prescott-Russell said it would be undemocratic to put GST on books. Yet Atlantic Canadians are now paying 15 per cent on books at retail book stores in the Atlantic provinces. That is not helping families.

Who are the victims in the terrible crimes across this country? Good law-abiding families have been made to suffer while the rights of criminals have been upper most in Liberals' minds since 1971 when the Liberals at the time decided that the rehabilitation of criminals was more important than the victims of crime and the families of victims.

What did the government do when Mr. Niven, a good family man, was kicked to death outside a 7-Eleven store just outside my riding? This government passed Bill C-41 which dealt with sentencing. It stressed that the murder of a gay deserved a stiffer sentence than the murder of a family man like Mr. Niven.

The new Bill C-41 deals with punitive measures for support payments in arrears. Once again this government did not help families. This government was concerned only with punishment. It could have dealt with a comprehensive package which would have included access and visitation rights.

In the American legislation under the Florida statutes its package was comprehensive. It did deal with all those issues. This government did not even care about families. What is worse, this government took the drawing up of guidelines out of the hands of parliamentarians. It ended up with inflexible and unrealistic guidelines.

Elected members of Parliament could have ensured that families were encouraged to make realistic settlements, settlements which

dealt with the needs of the child and the ability to pay and add that these agreements be considered first by the judge rather than going first to the inflexible guidelines, which is what that bill instructs the judge to do at this time. That is a recipe for failure.

In the guidelines there are a number of omissions and additions that would result in many unfair awards. For example, the lack of an adjustment of awards for the time the child spends with a non-custodial parent. However, that is not in there. There is also the completely different and extreme treatment of joint custody situations, which is getting very common in our country today.

Mr. Bouchard, co-ordinator of the National Alliance for the Advancement of Non-Custodial Parents, stated: "Fair and equitable guidelines would go a long way to bring some consistency to support awards". Support awards must be paid and it is essential that parliamentarians be responsible and set guidelines which will help prevent future arrears in these necessary support payments.

In fact, the Equitable Child Maintenance and Access Society stated that the federal, provincial and territorial task force was supposed to deal jointly with the issues of custody, access and maintenance. This government ignored two-thirds of this mandate and gave the area of child support preferential and exclusive treatment.

Studies in the area of divorce show that children suffer more from the custody and access conflicts and therefore priority must be given to these areas in conjunction with financial support.

The result is that Bill C-41 is designed to specifically exclude the paying spouse from the definition of family. The finance minister brags about all the wonderful things this government is doing for families.

What about the new tax treatment of child support payments? No deductions and no inclusions. Who benefits from this set up? It is not the families, Mr. Finance Minister. It is a major tax grab at the expense of families. The spouse paying support, usually the higher earner in family settlements, will now not be able to claim deductions and consequently will pay higher income tax to the government, causing him to have less money to look after his new family and his first family.

In short, by eliminating the deduction inclusion system there is less money to go around for divorced families and both sides suffer while government revenues obviously rise.

It is essential that we as parliamentarians put families first. In this way we do not only help to build character and self-respect in our children, we also help our literacy rate to rise and help prevent crime.

By including those parents who are able to stay at home and raise their children without state run day care and by giving them child care deductions which can be turned into tax credits, we are also helping those who are unemployed in our society. After all the fanfare this government made about supporting families, it seems it is up to the Reform Party to raise a motion in the House to reinforce support for families.

It is time to make a fresh start for families. Therefore I move:

That the motion be amended by deleting the word "should".

Petitions November 21st, 1996

Madam Speaker, it is appropriate that I rise today during child week, pursuant to Standing Order 36, to present my petitions on behalf of all British Columbians to ask the government to amend the Divorce Act to include grandparents standing in the courts at the time of a divorce to ask to continue to have access to their grandchildren.

National Child Day November 20th, 1996

Mr. Speaker, the best interests of children should be a benchmark against which government policies are measured. There is no better way to ensure the well-being of children than to make families a priority in our society and in our decision making starting right here in the House, this home of Canadian values, if you will.

Today is National Child Day. I remind this House that in 1989 the United Nations passed the convention of the child which gave children around the world access to their families. Canada recognized that convention in 1991, so why do Canadian children not have access to their families?

The best interests of children reside in the family. The first step was taken in October when the House supported my motion to recognize the family as a building block of society and then unanimously agreed to protect and enhance family interests.

Now is the time for the government to fulfil this commitment on behalf of children, to commit to a fresh start for children. Surely on National Child Day it is not only time to acknowledge each child's right to his or her family, including grandparents, but also time to act on it.

Petitions November 18th, 1996

Mr. Speaker, the second petition is pursuant to Standing Order 36. It asks Parliament to proceed immediately with amendments to the Criminal Code that will ensure that the sentence given to anyone convicted of causing death by driving while impaired carries a minimum sentence of seven years and a maximum of 14 years as outlined in the private member's Bill C-201 sponsored by the Reform member from Prince George-Bulkley Valley.

Petitions November 18th, 1996

Mr. Speaker, I rise today to present two petitions.

The first one is that the petitioners are concerned about the 7 per cent GST, that it is an unjust taxation of reading materials. They urge all levels of government to demonstrate their support of education and literacy by eliminating the sales tax from reading materials. That is from petitioners in British Columbia.

Literacy November 18th, 1996

Mr. Speaker, Wednesday is national child day and there is no better gift to give children than literacy.

Canada's children are among the most fortunate of the world and yet they may be facing an ever-increasingly complex world with a false sense of security. More than 40 per cent of Canada's current adult population do not have the literacy skills for today's information based economy and worse, many of these Canadians do not recognize that this is a problem. Young people are getting mixed messages on the home front about the value of education and may not understand that high level literacy skills can bring a personal joy as well as economic prosperity.

Although it is a life-long process, literacy begins at birth and flourishes, we know, when reading is encouraged in the early years by parents in the home. It certainly does not help that the government is still forcing Canadian consumers to pay high GST on books for the family.

We cannot change attitudes but we can change circumstances. Children are the key to this country's future and right now parents need to purchase books for their homes without punitive taxes. We can give the gift of literacy, the best tool for our future prosperity, a fresh start by helping parents read to their children.

Persons Case October 23rd, 1996

Mr. Speaker, I rise today because I believe in the strength, the capability and the equality of women.

This week is the anniversary of the pivotal Persons case where Canadian women against all odds finally won the basic right of equality: the recognition of women as persons in law and the equal right to vote.

I feel it is most fitting for me to encourage women of today to honour the memory of Nellie McClung and her compatriots by embracing our freedom and exercising our equality by denouncing special status. Special status is divisive. It is the very issue that Nellie McClung fought against.

Today we can honour those women whose struggle was against true inequality and who gave us all the ability to participate equally. We can recognize that they would not have sought further protectionism in the guise of affirmative action.

Our charter of rights and freedoms clearly states that we are all equal before the law and I believe that would have been enough for Nellie McClung.

I thank the women of the Persons case for their legacy. I am proud to say again, women are persons and equal today, without distinction.

Lighthouses October 21st, 1996

Mr. Speaker, last month on Canada's west coast, just out of Bella Bella, a light keeper reported a downed float plane and initiated an immediate response which allowed the pilot to be saved by a search and rescue team.

And, last week's storm is being called the worst to hit the west coast in 35 years.

In fact, the media reported: "Coast guard officials were breathing a sigh of relief that no sailors were killed during a powerful storm that hit the west coast".

Their relief, I am sure, stems from the 100 per cent failure of four newly automated light stations in B.C.

Speaking to our lighthouse experts, besides lacking crucial up to date local conditions, critical pieces of information appear to be missing from the automated data. One is visibility, another is sea state and a third is alerting the coast guard. None of these can be judged adequately by a machine.

And further, as the destaffing program is completed, Canadians will have to purchase their navigational information from a U.S. satellite at whatever price the U.S. government wishes to charge.

Seniors' Bill Of Rights October 11th, 1996

Mr. Speaker, the member for Guelph-Wellington is very sincere in putting forward this private member's bill. I know she has senior's issues at heart and she wishes nothing but the best for them.

In recognizing me, Mr. Speaker, I would like to let you and members know that I have been speaking on senior's issues since I came to this House. In fact, I have spent the last three years talking to more seniors probably than anyone else in the House. My time has been mainly spent working for their rights.

As many members here know, I took up the cause of access of grandparents, our seniors, to their grandchildren shortly after I was sworn in as an MP. The issue had been the subject of private members' bills in previous Parliaments. In fact, the member for Nepean had a bill which basically made similar changes to the Divorce Act as the one I proposed.

My bill, having been chosen as votable, gave me the opportunity to meet and talk with many of Canada's senior citizens from all parts of Canada. I have often marvelled at the tenacity of this group, our seniors, and their ability to organize in support of issues of which they approve.

I have enjoyed every minute of my contacts with grandparents' associations across the country. I have had many conversations with them about seniors' issues and how they should be approached. This is a segment of our society which is very vulnerable: vulnerable to abuse, vulnerable to poverty and vulnerable to poor health. These are the issues we should be addressing. This vulnerability will be neither addressed nor resolved by a bill of rights. The seniors of our country need to have these issues addressed in a positive fashion by the government. They need legislation and they need laws.

Quite frankly, after the way the members of the government voted against a private member's bill which would put in place a mechanism to allow easier access for grandparents to their grandchildren, I have no faith in the government to address seniors' issues. Liberal members opposite had the chance in the justice committee just a few weeks ago to support the seniors of Canada by voting in favour of a grandparents right of access to their grandchildren. It was a special bill. They voted against each and every clause and then they voted not to return it to the House of Commons for third reading.

The member for Guelph-Wellington spoke of the right to food, health, housing and dignity. A very major part of the equation is missing: the right of access to one's family. I have visited a number of care homes and hospitals. Each Christmas I go to the hospitals, unannounced, no press or anything, and I visit the terminally ill. What I notice most is the absence of family members.

If we in the House of Commons really care about our seniors and if we really want to address their rights, a bill of rights is not the way to do it. Make people more aware of how important it is for seniors to have family members visit them when they are sick and dying. Let members of the House realize and support how important it is that they see their grandchildren before they die.

The government had a chance to help seniors and its members took the opportunity to heap more abuse on our seniors, on our grandparents, by defeating that bill. All the bill asked for was the

right to go to the courts to ask to see their grandchildren. What a terrible thing to have to ask for.

How dare members of the government propose a seniors' bill of rights when in the committee rooms of this place they voted against the legitimate aspirations of our seniors, of our grandparents.

What else have government members done for seniors? Have they resolved the CPP problem so those collecting it now can look forward to collecting it in the future? The answer is, of course, no. Have they looked seriously at the problems of old age security payments and the income supplement? The answer again is no. There was a promise in the last budget that these issues would be addressed, but only after the next election. What has been done with health care for seniors? Again, the answer is nothing.

If the seniors of Canada needed a bill of rights it would only be to protect them from the arrogance and the inaction of this Liberal government.

What do our seniors need? What are the issues that we should be addressing? In June 1993 the subcommittee on senior citizens' health issues of the House standing committee on health and welfare issued a report entitled "Breaking the silence on the abuse of older Canadians: Everyone's concern". It starts with the phrase: "Abuse thrives in secrecy". If you can break the silence you can often break the abuse. Let us try to break this silence.

This report breaks abuse down into four categories. Physical abuse includes the wilful, direct infliction of physical pain or injury, rough handling, shoving, slapping, pinching, hitting, kicking, restriction of freedom of movement and sexual abuse.

Let us look at psychological abuse, which refers to socially isolating, threatening, yelling at, infantizing or withholding affection or denying privileges to a person. That happens often.

Financial or material exploitation is another abuse. It is involved in the theft or conversion of money or objects of value belonging to the senior by a relative or caretaker. How often do those pension cheques go into the hands of some member of the family? Once a month they come to visit the elder, pick up the pension cheque and are gone. That is happening in Canada today all too often.

Neglect is another abuse. It involves failing to provide the necessities of life including adequate heat, clothing, hygienic conditions and the denial of social interaction. For those seniors whom I see so much on their own, there is no social interaction unless they are in a seniors' home where they can interact with each other. That is the only opportunity.

I believe these categories of abuse can be addressed in many varied ways. Financial abuse, which also means uncertainty of income would be addressed through the Canada pension plan, old age security and income supplement; real legislation to make real laws, not a plaque to hang on the wall. That is not going to help them at all in their old age and when they need money. Let us ensure that the elderly of our country who need assistance from the state get it. It is not any more complicated than that.

With regard to neglect, let us look at our health care system to ensure that it meets the needs of our seniors. We must ensure that inequities in the system do not appear and rob seniors of needed care. We must look at prevention of illness rather than just treating the sick. We must look at enhancing people's capacity to cope.

In this regard emphasis should be placed on treating our elderly where they live, home care that takes place in surroundings that are familiar to our seniors. We all know that when seniors leave their own homes often they die much quicker.

We should also address the issues that confront those who provide care to the elderly. We all can recite stories of families we know who are stressed to the limit as they look after their own children as well as aging parents. The demands on this type of family situation are enormous. They must be addressed as part of our health care issues.

We also should do more to educate all members of the public, but especially seniors, that elder abuse is a crime. It should be punished. Whether somebody is 20 years old or 80 years old, theft is theft. We should tighten the rules by which powers of attorney are obtained from seniors. We should make sure by passing laws to make it more difficult to get a power of attorney. We should ensure that their consent is given freely and legitimately.

Physical abuse or assault, or sexual assault is punishable under the Criminal Code and should be treated as such. Psychological abuses could be addressed by sections of the code on assault by means of threats and intimidation. Neglect could be provided for by the section imposing a duty to provide necessities of life to a person under one's charge if that person is disabled by virtue of age, illness or other cause.

The issues affecting our seniors are many and they are serious. They will be solved by action, not by writing a bill of rights, not by putting another piece of paper on the wall. Discrimination on the basis of age is protected under the charter of rights and freedoms. Action is needed on the fronts that I have listed, action which I am afraid will not be forthcoming from this government, given its track record to date.

The Family October 11th, 1996

Mr. Speaker, I rise on a point of order. There has been some consultation with the other parties. I hope you will find unanimous consent to move the following motion in recognition of family week.

I move:

That this House recognize the family as the building block of society and that the protection and enhancement of the interests of the family be promoted through legislative and administrative actions of the government.

(Motion agreed to.)