House of Commons photo

Crucial Fact

  • Her favourite word was process.

Last in Parliament April 1997, as Reform MP for Surrey North (B.C.)

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

Statements in the House

The Constitution November 22nd, 1996

Mr. Speaker, aboriginal women are concerned about their right of individual equality under aboriginal self-government.

What guarantees can the minister offer aboriginal women that their right of individual equality is not endangered by self-government?

The Constitution November 22nd, 1996

Mr. Speaker, the report on the Royal Commission on Aboriginal Peoples notes: "The Constitution allows federal and provincial governments to use the notwithstanding clause to step outside of the charter in certain circumstances". The report goes on: "Recognized aboriginal government should also be free to exercise this option".

Will the Minister of Indian Affairs and Northern Development assure all Canadians their fundamental rights and freedoms are protected from any government invoking the notwithstanding clause to deny those rights, including equality and property rights?

Royal Commission On Aboriginal Peoples November 21st, 1996

Mr. Speaker, this morning the Royal Commission on Aboriginal People's report was tabled in the House.

This report costs $58 million over five years and consists of approximately 4,200 pages. Equating that out to roughly $13,000 to $14,000 a page I do not think very many Canadians will consider that a bargain.

Also the report itself on the aboriginal people notes that more than $10 billion is spent for aboriginal peoples at all levels of government. Yet the royal commission is recommending in the order of a 50 per cent increase in spending.

There are three levels of government spending money but only one set of taxpayers. It is time to stop using these billions of dollars to line the pockets of the Indian industry lawyers and consultants. It is time to start putting money where it is needed, with the grassroots aboriginal people.

Committees Of The House November 8th, 1996

Mr. Speaker, I would like to ask the hon. member to direct some comments toward the public's distrust of politicians. We have seen the public's trust in politicians erode over the years. This is the highest court in the land when it comes to setting rules and regulations by which to govern society. A certain onus falls on individual members when they are elected to a position as a member of this House to demonstrate leadership qualities.

To demonstrate these leadership qualities we certainly cannot embark on a "do as I say, not as I do" philosophy.

I would like some expansion on the perception of the public of how this kind of blatant disrespect for ethics in a position of this nature has come about and how it has eroded political credibility.

Divorce Act November 8th, 1996

Mr. Speaker, I thank the hon. member for his comments. As I mentioned in my speech, I share a number of his concerns. I do not think the bill as it stands will be able to achieve equity. I do not think it is progressive enough to achieve equity of assets for the two partners, nor can it address the issues of financial support and the raising of the children. I have an extremely difficult time trying to separate the financial aspect and the raising of the children.

I firmly believe this is an excellent opportunity for the government to do as it stated: try to decentralize some of the authority of the federal government. This is an excellent opportunity to put this in the jurisdiction of the provinces.

One other point has not been mentioned, that of the custodial parent obtaining the money that has been allocated for support. That is still a problem which the measures in this bill do not really address. It is still very difficult when payments are not made and the onus is still on the custodial parent to obtain the money, which in itself is a financial burden on them.

The points made by the member from Calgary Southwest in relation to the equity of payments, which I also made in my speech to some extent, are extremely valid. Are they prorated? What happens if the amount is $30,000 now, but then moves up to $40,000? These types of things are not addressed here at all. Basically, what we get is a table of guidelines that says if you make $26,000, this is what you pay. On top of that, a judge can sit there and make variations to it. Where have we gone? I do not know what we have achieved here.

Divorce Act November 8th, 1996

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to speak to this bill.

Bill C-41 deals with a specific component of the Divorce Act, child support. It has generated a lot of response not only from the public but here in the House with regard to debating other aspects of the divorce situation which are flawed.

We have talked about the problems of access. I also get letters like the one from Sylvia Richards in my riding expressing concerns with section 15(6) regarding spousal support.

Dealing with the one component, the financial support of children, limits the debate on what could be termed an extremely flawed bill, the Divorce Act. However, I suppose it is a place to start.

When the minister made his address the other day he indicated that there has to be a starting place with the support of children and that guidelines would be the way to go. It is my understanding that the concept of guidelines has been around for some time and the problem is actually identifying the amounts of guidelines.

To move that back one step before we actually get to the support aspect for children, when you look at a marriage it is a contract and the initial or main conditions are the sharing of everything. The second condition would be that the parties agree to do this for the rest of their lives.

When a divorce occurs both those conditions are challenged. If children are not involved in the family situation of the divorce then the sharing component is just a matter of totalling up the assets, deducting the liabilities and splitting the balance and that can negate the rest of our lives with that type of clause and the relationship is finished.

When children are involved, somewhere during the course of that marriage contract it was agreed to by the parties that they would indeed raise and support these children to their adult years. That tends to extend at the divorce time to the rest of our lives or to at least the adult years of the children.

The two components involved with the children are the support and the raising of, which tends to beg the argument that access has a direct bearing. This bill deals directly with the financial support.

In the minister's speech the objective he stated was to introduce child support guidelines as a way of determining what constitutes a proper amount of support according the financial capabilities of the payer. That phrase tends to open a number of possible scenarios, as previously mentioned by one of the speakers in the questions period with regard to the financial ability of the payer. What does this actually mean?

If the payer is not working does it mean that the capability is that he or she cannot pay anything? If the payer is earning $30,000 a year then he or she pays x amount in child support and if that increases to $35,000 does x increase proportionately? Or does it mean that if the payer could earn $60,000 a year but chooses to earn $30,000 a year, then is the support payment based on what he or she is earning or what he or she could earn? It does open up a number of concerns.

The payer's capability is a very broad statement and it would be nice if that could be defined a little more closely. One of the possible problems generating from that is that it certainly does not motivate someone in the paying position to work or to improve their salary.

It reminds me of a situation when the income tax tables came down. Getting a promotion and moving up into the next step, it was possible to actually take home less money. I certainly hope with these guidelines that as one's earning power increases that does not happen.

The minister said that the guidelines provide a starting point. They involved a numerical calculation which takes into account the amounts that families at similar income levels would spend on their children. He goes on to say that in this way child support awards can be consistent, fair and predictable. Yet further on in his statement he makes the comment that there are provisions in the bill which would allow the courts to adjust the award if it causes unfairness because of special provisions made in pre-existing agreements by the party. He illustrates that with an example using the house as being part of the child support.

I tend to caution here that this may violate the principle of sharing equally. We have spent years trying to establish what the equal share or the sharing component of the marriage meant.

It took quite a while to get to the 50:50 aspect of the sharing. I am wondering if we are opening an avenue here that when we look at the marriage situation and the sharing component one can actually take the material assets of the marriage and split them on a 50:50 basis or negotiate one way or another to come up with as close to 50:50 as possible.

I caution that if we start taking these assets and applying them to what I see is a separate issue, the amount of money that it costs to address the raising and financial support of the children, I think we may infringe upon the concept of the 50:50 sharing. That is one weakness I see there.

The other weakness tends to be in wanting to establish a level and fair playing field as far as the amount that the custodial parent would receive in relation to child support. The main argument seems to be that people in similar situations can go into a courtroom and come out with totally different end results. There does not seem to be a standard.

The minister suggests that this bill will certainly address that situation. Yet immediately following that, he makes several possible exceptions. The judge has the flexibility to award up or down. It can be changed if there is a preagreement between the two people, i.e. who gets the house kind of thing. Already we start to get it out of balance. I tend to wonder if we actually solved that problem.

The other thing the minister mentioned is that the bill does not address the access component of the situation. He bases that on input from various organizations, the bar association and this type of thing. I think this is quite a misdemeanour. I find it quite difficult to separate the two; viewing the raising and the financial assistance to the children and separating them totally. I think we will run into problems, guidelines or no guidelines.

There is another thing I would like to address here. In previous debates on this bill, we challenged the guidelines by putting amendments in at various stages but they were all defeated in one way or another. I think that is also a misconception.

The member for Quebec, in her response to the bill, made the point quite clearly that the guidelines provided by the provinces had been totally ignored which is a problem that they perceived. I believe that would be our position as well, that there should have been more in-depth study as to how those guidelines would work into this bill.

The other component I wish to mention at this point concerns the comments made by the member for Quebec. She tended to relate the fact that the divorce component should be given back to the provinces. The marriage component is under civil law and it would logically follow that the divorce component should fall back under provincial jurisdiction. I agree with that. That process of decentralization is an excellent concept here. It is certainly an opportunity for the government to show that when it says it would like to decentralize some of the authority back to the provinces this would be an ideal opportunity. I cannot agree with the member for Quebec that this example of decentralization is a component in recognizing Quebec as a distinct society. This divorce situation is applicable across the country. It does not distinguish any particular province in any special way.

I would also like to make reference to comments made by the hon. member for Port Moody-Coquitlam the other day in response to the minister's statement. She indicated that as the bill only addresses one component, the access problem was still very viable. She also brought to the attention of the House that there are three main principles in this bill.

I would like to quote to reinforce what she said earlier: "The first principle is the importance of families in our society and the importance of government to support those families". On the second principle she said: "We have a government that is seized with its own importance, a government that thinks that government can solve all problems, a government that thinks coming to a bill such as this in an easy, fast manner, that wants to put a legislative, legalistic quick fix to a problem that is much too major".

Basically the message my colleague is trying to get across to the House is we have too much government in our lives. Because of the different jurisdictions involved, we should seriously consider putting the divorce aspect back into the jurisdiction of provincial governments.

The third principle that she makes reference to is the true equality of the process. That brings me back to the sharing concept. When we marry we agree to share everything for the rest of our lives. We spend a lot of time attempting to put some sort of value system on that sharing component, a 50:50 balance system of the assets of that partnership. Children are an added commitment to that marriage partnership. It is a responsibility that is generated during the course of the partnership and indeed should be considered separate.

We have debated this for some time now and discussed almost all parameters. However, I would like to repeat before closing that the moneys that are required for the raising of children, from whatever their age at the time of the divorce until their adult years, I do have concerns that may somehow get infringed on with the 50:50 sharing concept.

I certainly think the three principles mentioned by the hon. member for Port Moody-Coquitlam have been overlooked and should receive more consideration.

Speech From The Throne November 7th, 1996

Madam Speaker, I find it ironic that when I address my remarks to family how it suddenly got into silos and grain, but here we are.

I think at the heart of what I want to say here is that the policies of this government and preceding governments over the last 30 years miss the point. We tried them but they are not working. It does not matter what we are looking at, replacement workers or whatever.

Basically what we are doing here is taking a policy and band-aiding it. My background is health and I feel we are addressing a symptom. We are not actually looking at the cause and treating the cause to resolve the problem or the disease.

The negotiating process where we have the type of thing that is being suggested by the government of bringing in these workers when a strike is threatening was not the original intent of the negotiating process.

The negotiating process initially was to give the employee, when things were perceived to be wrong by the employee, some clout to negotiate and bargain to get them right.

We have let that go to the nth degree. It is not working-

Speech From The Throne November 7th, 1996

Madam Speaker, I am pleased to speak in the debate today on the throne speech. I will direct my remarks to the family.

The throne speech was in February. I wondered if the government was going to take the opportunity, as is traditional, to utilize the throne speech to tell us what it intended to do to meet the needs and wants of Canadians. I am glad to see we are now debating it again so we can pursue that.

One of the areas in which Canadians want change is in the area of families and how governments treat families. Of course, work and the resulting income is an essential component for the establishment of a healthy family unit, yet the government and those which preceded it over the last 20 or so years have implemented social and economic policies and continue to enhance those policies which result in undermining the security of Canadian families. That contributes to the levels of stress, burnout and financial hardships which many Canadians face today. The policies of the last 20 odd years have created the situation in which we find ourselves today.

For example, one in four Canadians are worried about losing their job. Another two million to three million Canadians are underemployed. They are unable to find work in the area for which they trained. There are approximately 1.4 million Canadians who are on the unemployed list. That was the number in 1993 I believe. That number has not changed.

Not much of an inroad has been made into job creation. If inroads have been made, then other jobs have disappeared, because the figures are still hovering around 1.4 million. We all know that puts extra strain on people's lives and on their families. If we do not have a sense of job security we are left in limbo. We begin to wonder what kind of a future we will have.

Canadians are worried about making ends meet. Often two incomes are necessary. Often, despite the two incomes, we do not get enough time to spend with our families and raise our children. About 25 years ago one income seemed to cover the bills and there was some room to spare. Now, for many families, it takes two incomes to run the family.

When we consider that the tax freedom day falls in June, it is easy to see where that second income has to go. One income goes to the household and the other goes to government in some form or another, be it in taxes, user fees or a licence for this or that. It seems that the government wants both parents to have to work. It wants families to need two incomes to survive.

In a recent letter the Minister of Finance said he is opposed to changes in the day care tax deduction because levelling the playing field would be a disincentive for both parents to work. The day care tax deduction should not apply to those parents who work, it should be directed toward the children. It is a day care service for children, so it really should not matter if the parents work. If they have children, they should be entitled to it.

The priority of members of the Reform Party is the family. The best words to illustrate that goal are the words of the leader of our caucus, the hon. member for Calgary Southwest, who said: "Because of social and economic changes, many families are facing high debt, stress, bankruptcy and burnout. A Reform government will recognize the value of families as the most important building block in our society, so you can spend less time under pressure and more time with those that you care about most".

We are committed to Canadians and to the family. We want to make the family a priority and ensure that government regulations and policies are definitely family friendly.

Where do you start? One place to start is to extend the $3,000 to $5,000 child care deduction to all parents, not just to those who are working.

We could also increase the spousal deduction from $5,380 to $7,900, levelling the field for parents who choose to stay at home to look after their young children. Of course, that would help families to meet the needs of the more demanding economy.

Family time or family life is not a luxury. If families are to preserve health and happiness in a home it is not a luxury, it is a necessity. They need the time to spend building that core structure. It is time to make families a priority once again in our Canadian lifestyle.

The Reform Party believes that parenting has real value and if there is anything this whole House can agree on it is that children are the key to the future of countries around the world.

We must give parents greater freedom to spend time parenting and to succeed economically while they shape the lives of their children. Some ways we feel that can be done is to increase the child deduction to parents to $5,000 for every preschool child; $3,000 for every child age 7 to 12 years old. All this is in the fresh start program. We have to start somewhere and these are some of the targets we are looking at which will definitely assist the family situation.

To make it as fair as possible to all families with regard to income level, we will turn the deduction into a tax credit. That method will allow everyone to save.

My critic area is in aboriginal affairs. Consequently, I have spent a fair amount of time looking at that aspect of our country. One thing that comes forward there is family violence. It is not just in that group. It does not matter who we talk to in the country, it seems to be at all levels of society. It does not matter if it is in the north or in the south. I certainly believe that family violence, spousal and child abuse, has to addressed and there have to be some guidelines put out there. We have to identify the playing field.

This is one thing Reform would like to do. Instead of looking solely at the intent of the action, we would like to focus on the action itself. Assault is not something Canadians choose to have in society. We want to get more firm with people who assault, assault of any kind. However, this predominantly occurs in family circles, which we are not able to address because there tends to be a reluctance to identify the situation. Therefore many people live in these abusive situations who do not wish to come forward. We should create a situation that would encourage them to come forward.

Another thing is that when there actually is a situation of abuse and someone has been charged, in looking at the counselling aspect, the aboriginal community is trying to tell us that there is more than one way of getting to the bottom line. I really feel we should be looking at different methods and address the one which is most suitable to achieving the bottom line.

If a person wishes to read and understand the English language as written in Reform's fresh start, from the family point of view which I am addressing today our main concern is to leave more money in the hands of parents to allow them to build that home and the structure in which to raise their children, cloth, feed and educate them, and give them the choice as to how they wish to pursue that.

Divorce Act November 4th, 1996

Mr. Speaker, I would like to add a few comments to the debate on Bill C-41 and the motions in Group No. 2.

Bill C-41 in itself has some strong points and some weak areas. Viewing the overall bill we certainly feel there are some amendments necessary. In Group No. 2 there are eight motions specifically addressing the ability to pay or the grid payment aspect of a divorce. Of the eight motions there are two that we have some difficulty with, Motions Nos. 6 and 9.

Part of that reason is that if we go with Motions Nos. 6 and 9 there does not seem to be sort of a starting base, an expectation that people can have as to what may happen if they choose to divorce.

With the grid aspect at least they know before they go into the courtroom that there is a certain area that they are going to have to look at; they are going to have to pay this or they are going to have to pay that depending on what happens on their day in court.

What we argue is they have that grid, that guideline and then we look at their ability to pay and of course the needs of the child or children. At that point if they do not meet basic essentials of the grid, then they go into mediation or these kinds of things that would be applicable to the individual situation of the family involved.

The point is we must have somewhere to start. We must give the citizens some direction as to what it would mean or could mean if they went into the divorce court. The first priority of course is the needs of the child based on the ability to pay.

It has been mentioned in previous debate that within a family structure that is not divorcing we do not expect the same type of financial commitment. I would tend to suggest that we do in a different sort of way. I am sure that when people decide to have a family they obviously look at their present family income situation and whether they can support the family in the manner in which they choose, i.e. their lifestyle. The courts can do the same kind of thing when that partnership breaks up, that they would look at that family according to their lifestyle and assess the needs of the children according to the ability to pay. There must be a certain level that one who has to raise those children can expect from a financial point of view.

That is what we are talking about with having the guidelines for the judge and for the people involved in the divorce to at least start somewhere and then from there bring it into their own individual circumstances.

We tend to think when we say ability to pay of the lower income person and whether they can actually meet that basic standard. Of course, if they cannot we get into all these different penalties we are going to impose on somebody who cannot pay. Obviously we have to look at the ability to pay.

Also there is the other end of this scale where the money is not necessarily the problem from the point of view of having to support children. Then we get into value systems and lifestyles, which is another debate.

A previous speaker from the Bloc made reference to negotiating benefits different from the rules. I am assuming the rules would be the payment grid. I suggest this could be very precedent setting. When there are no parameters from which to work in we open a Pandora's box. If we had some parameters to work within and then allow the judges to assess the individual situation and go outside those parameters if necessary through a mediation of ability to pay and the needs of the child, I could see nothing wrong with that.

However, to start there puts a great onus on the judge with respect to the value system. There are no applicable guidelines. It would open up ongoing cases. We would probably get into the situation of judge shopping. If a person did not get a good deal with one judge, they might want to try again. This may not necessarily happen if the person is satisfied with the end result, but it could happen.

I am suggesting we should have the payment grid available but it should be flexible based on the ability to pay, the needs of the child and the individual situation.

In addressing these motions, the lack of flexibility in two of the motions with respect to the grid payment is our main concern. We would like to see that flexibility. The other six motions we have no particular difficulty with because we proposed them.

That is all I have to add at this point on Group No. 2.

Reform Party November 1st, 1996

Mr. Speaker, my constituents in Surrey North are worried. They face uncertainty about their health care and pensions. They are concerned about their children's education for the 21st century. Taxes have gotten out of hand and they are deeply affected by violent crimes committed on some of their doorsteps. Yet this government does little or nothing.

On pensions Reform's fresh start platform puts security back into old age security. On health care and education Reform's fresh start increases funding from Ottawa by $4 billion. On taxes, when the books are balanced, Reform's fresh start offers individuals and parents of young children tax relief. And Reform's fresh start offers victims of crime a victims' bill of rights and all Canadians assurance that violent criminals will not be let loose to harm someone else.

This government does little or nothing except when it comes to its own pensions.