House of Commons photo

Crucial Fact

  • His favourite word was grain.

Last in Parliament April 1997, as NDP MP for Mackenzie (Saskatchewan)

Won his last election, in 1993, with 31% of the vote.

Statements in the House

Genuine Progress Indicator Act April 25th, 1997

moved for leave to introduce Bill C-439, an act respecting the measurement of economic activity by criteria that reflect resource consumption and environmental stress.

Mr. Speaker, this bill is an attempt to provide for the establishment of a genuine progress indicator which would reflect the cost of all natural resources consumed and the environmental debt incurred during the process of production, to give a more realistic measure of real progress.

It would also require that whenever a change in the gross domestic product is cited in official documents, the genuine progress indicator or change therein must also be cited.

(Motions deemed adopted, bill read the first time and printed.)

Agriculture April 24th, 1997

Mr. Speaker, this government leaves the impression of being on the side of farmers when it discusses the need for supply management of dairy products.

Recently the agriculture minister agreed to a scheduled phase out of the consumer subsidy, but now he assures dairy farmers that the $12 million agreed upon to delay the price pass through until February is off because he was "unable to persuade his cabinet colleagues". We could blame the minister. Once again he has failed in a commitment made to farmers. But is the problem not really greater than the minister himself?

It was the Liberals who were going to protect supply management, then they signed it away in NAFTA. It was the Liberals who were going to keep the Canadian Wheat Board, but negotiated it away at the World Trade Organization talks. It was the Liberals who were going to keep the Crow benefit, but they eliminated it 18 months after gaining government.

It is true that the minister has a fatal character flaw: his word means nothing. But hey, he is only a Liberal.

Broadcast Act April 22nd, 1997

Mr. Speaker, on March 17, I rose to ask the Minister of Agriculture and Agri-Food if he would be changing the Canada Transportation Act to provide some rebalancing in the relationship between shippers and railways by including a shipper's right to performance guarantees with appropriate penalties for poor rail performance.

The question arose because of the abysmal performance that the railways have shown over the past winter, leaving almost 50 ships waiting in the harbour in Vancouver for which farmers, through the Canadian Wheat Board, were paying demurrage costs.

The problem with the Canada Transportation Act is that there is no way for the shipper, in this case the farmer or the Canadian Wheat Board, to extract penalties from the railways.

The act was fairly silent on this. The justice system has ruled that farmers are not shippers. It has also ruled on other occasions that the wheat board is not a shipper. Therefore it is virtually impossible for the people who are damaged by non-performance to arrange contracts with the offending party to make certain that performance does take place.

I did not ask the question in a vacuum. I had done considerable research and found that the elevators in western Canada were full of the grades of grain required for the ships. The terminals which load the grain after it is received at the port from the railways, from the prairies, were empty and unable to fill the ships. It does not take a genius to decide that something had gone wrong with the rail system.

I found that the rail system had performed very badly. It had made some attempts to correct the bad performance. It had brought in locomotives from the United States but for some reason it did not bring them up to performance standards for northern conditions. Apparently they were filled with summer fuel and they froze. They would not work. They were usually left out in the middle of somewhere which clogged up the system at the same time. While 50 to 100 cars were sitting full, there was no transportation to pull them. When the railway did start pulling them the transportation conked out. Taxis would have to go to rescue the crew. Other crews would come in to try to get the engines drained and working.

The management on the railway's part was absolutely abysmal. It is not that it was not being well paid with the new CTA changes. It no longer is bound by the 20 per cent limit on the amount of money it can claim back for investment costs. Those are now estimated to be somewhere between 30 per cent and 40 per cent.

Under the old act the railway was required to provide certain performance guarantees which the government was able to manage

by the payout of something in the order of $700 million annually. With that club over its head there was a lot better performance.

Now that the club is gone, now that there is no possibility of signing performance guarantee contracts with the wheat board or the farmer, there has been no compliance and there has been no performance.

While the railway can complain that the weather was bad, it is bad every January and February. The farmers manage to get their grain through that weather to prairie elevators. Why could the railway not run similar equipment with diesel fuel like the farmers do through the mountains?

Copyright Act March 17th, 1997

Madam Speaker, some weeks ago I asked a question in the House to which the minister of agriculture chose to respond. It had to do with the establishment of branch lines after the change in the Transportation Act that occurred in the House the last year. The protection of branch lines which was intended to last until the end of 1999 simply disappeared.

As a result we have seen at least the CNR post its list of branch lines that will be abandoned. That list is becoming very instructive for communities looking to see what will happen to them if they are living on branch lines.

The point I was trying to make with the government was that we are finding time after time the railways have announced that they will no longer maintain or provide service to branch lines. When community groups or others investigate to see whether or not they should buy them, they find the railway has already achieved an agreement with the elevator companies along the lines to agree they will not sell to anybody attempting to use the elevators and purchase them later.

The point I was trying to make with the minister of agriculture because he represents a seat on the prairies was that the envisioned creation of a whole bunch of short lines will not happen.

We have several actual examples. One is in my riding. It is light rail. A short line could exist if they moved traffic out slowly and they are willing to set up a short line. There is a large alfalfa dehydrating plant at the end of that short line which provides quite a lot of tonnage. To make the short line efficient and effective economically they will also have to continue to haul the grain gathered on those lines.

The two companies that have elevators at three or four points along that line decided to build inland terminals 30 or 40 miles away. They do not want their own gathering outlets competing against the capacity of those inland terminals. They have an agreement which seems to be held by the railway that the line can only be purchased by someone who refuses to move grain on the line. That makes it uneconomical for the community short line to exist.

The minister being a political person decided to make some politics with his answer. He decided to ignore the question completely and say that if there were no short lines in Saskatchewan it would be because of the provincial law.

If he had listened at the short line conference he and I were in attendance at, he would have heard existing short line operators point out that it was not a problem for them at all. They could simply constitute themselves first off as a Canadian corporation and use Canadian successor right laws. In fact the operators already in existence say Saskatchewan successor right laws are not an impediment whatsoever. Their real problem is having the elevator companies stay in existence along those lines.

We are back to the situation we had 100 years ago before we started regulating rail lines and elevator companies, where the elevator companies and the railroads simply have farmers at their mercy.

Transport March 17th, 1997

Mr. Speaker, my question is for the Minister of Transport.

In moving grain to the west coast it is obvious the railways have failed to perform. Yet they bear no responsibility. The $65 million of losses due to demurrage and non-performance of contract are borne by farmers. Non-performance is not the fault of farmers, of grain companies or of grain handlers. Only the railways were responsible.

Does the government now realize this and is it prepared to amend the Transport Act to rebalance the relationship between shippers and railways by including the right of shippers to performance guarantees with appropriate penalties for poor rail performance?

The Economy March 17th, 1997

Mr. Speaker, for more than a decade this government and the previous one have pursued the same economic policies: deregulate, cut spending, lay off workers.

Both business and government have sung the same tune. Has it worked? We have 45 per cent more child poverty in the country than in 1989 when this House passed a motion to do away with it. Today's Globe and Mail reports that the working poor are now6 per cent worse off than 10 years ago.

University of Saskatchewan economists tell us that realized net farm income for their province was $315 million in 1996, or about $5,000 per farm. The projections are that it will be lower in 1997.

Bankruptcies hit record levels in 1996 under these policies. Real income for most Canadians is declining as are living standards. However, big business profits are up and so is the stock market. But for ordinary people, nothing but harder times.

Railways March 3rd, 1997

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

During the government's move to deregulate the branchlines in our railway system it assured Canadians who lived on those branchlines that the loss of protection to the year 2000 would not matter because they could set up short lines to provide their own service.

We are now finding out that the railways and the elevator companies seem to have an alliance whereby the lines will not be sold without the condition that no grain will move on them.

What does the government plan to do to offset this, now that it has set this program in motion? How will these communities be able to use their short lines if no elevators can be situated on their rights of way?

Public Safety Officers Compensation Fund February 12th, 1997

Mr. Speaker, last Friday I rose in my place to ask a question concerning the results of the labour force statistics which showed that there was an appalling lack of employment opportunities for the youth of this country and that the appalling situation has existed throughout the mandate of this government.

The data were quite clear. The participation rate for most Canadians runs between 63 per cent and 64.8 per cent, but for young people the participation rate dropped from 62.7 per cent back in 1989, which made it fairly close to the average for all Canadians, to an abysmal 48.8 per cent at the end of 1996.

It seemed to me that the loss of these 25,000 or 30,000 jobs among the youth group alone last year was reason enough for Canadians to begin to ask their government why this situation has resulted.

I know that in the answer the government is going to talk about the youth employment strategy which it unveiled today, but I would remind it that when the electors made it government they were assured in the red book that there would be apprenticeship training programs and programs where the government and employers would join together to provide the experience needed for young people to become acceptable full time workers. None of that has happened.

What is being proposed is basically a subsidy for private business and government departments to hire university students. The strategy is almost exclusively in that direction.

The opportunities for young people under 25 and even under 30 are so abysmal in this country that we are beginning to look like some of the less developed countries across the world.

Young people are not lazy. They are not stupid. They are well educated. They just have not had the chance to work in a job.

In the less developed countries young people have begun to invent jobs for themselves. They are street musicians. They are buskers. They are entertainers on the streets. They are squeegee kids who dart in and out at stoplights to clean windshields. That is the kind of stuff which ten years ago we saw only in less developed countries. Now we are seeing it in Canada. Right here, close to Parliament Hill in Ottawa, at the corner of Colonel By and Wellington we see it every day.

This is the only way these people have of making any kind of a living. It is time the government took more responsibility and lived up to the promises it made to the people when it took over the responsibility of running the federal government. It should be more attuned to the special needs of the very young, to make certain that the jobs program as promised is worked on.

After three and a half years all we have is program that is basically a repeat of most of the old programs that were tried years ago before expenditure became something government was extremely worried about and so those programs were cut.

There should be programs that encourage or force large employers to take on young people as apprentices. Instead what we have is a non-policy, and what has resulted is young people are volunteering for jobs, working in restaurants as waiters and waitresses for nothing hoping to get some tips. They are volunteering in offices for nothing-

Employment February 7th, 1997

Mr. Speaker, the labour force statistics that have been recently issued show that the employment participation rate for all Canadians hovers between 63 per cent and 64 per cent, and yet we have watched as the participation rate for young Canadians has dropped from 62.7 per cent in 1989 to 48.8 per cent in 1996.

Why has the government chosen over the past three and a half years to ignore the needs of young Canadians for work?

Transport February 7th, 1997

Mr. Speaker, today I have found out something that has been going on for a few weeks.

The double tracking of Canadian Pacific between Winnipeg and Thunder Bay is being torn up. This was a wonderful infrastructure program that was the pride of many previous governments to speed up the delivery of grain, potash, sulphur and so on. Along with this we are watching the deterioration of the terminals in Thunder Bay and the tearing down of some of them. This was the big infrastructure program the country was so proud of. The seaway has now become redundant. It has been described by transport officials as a wonderful heritage park.

If the government were truly interested in jobs and infrastructure, it would have taken more care with its other policies of deregulation and of signing international trade agreements which have made those infrastructure investments redundant and useless.