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Crucial Fact

  • His favourite word was province.

Last in Parliament September 2008, as Conservative MP for St. John's East (Newfoundland & Labrador)

Won his last election, in 2006, with 47% of the vote.

Statements in the House

Committees of the House April 16th, 2007

Mr. Speaker, I have the honour to present, in both official languages, the 12th report of the Standing Committee on Citizenship and Immigration entitled “Detention Centres and Security Certificates”.

Transportation March 28th, 2007

Mr. Speaker, last evening I wound up debate on my motion on improving transportation to and from the island of Newfoundland.

In my motion, I call for an improved Maritime Atlantic gulf ferry service. I also call for a fixed tunnel link between the Island of Newfoundland and mainland Canada in southern Labrador.

Key to the fixed tunnel link is the completion of Highway 138 on Quebec's north shore which would allow people on the island to drive to southern Labrador, down Quebec's north shore, on to Quebec City and central Canada.

For the first time since the Quebec-Labrador border was established in 1927, the mayors on both sides of the border have come together in support of this project.

The railway was a national dream that opened up the Canadian west. The tunnel and Highway 138 is another national dream that would open up the Canadian northeast.

I call upon the House to make this dream a reality.

Transportation between the Island of Newfoundland and Mainland Canada March 27th, 2007

Mr. Speaker, I want to thank all hon. members who participated in this debate. I want to thank the member for Humber—St. Barbe—Baie Verte for his kind personal remarks, also the member for Bonavista—Gander—Grand Falls—Windsor, the member for Labrador, and of course the member for Burnaby—New Westminster. I want to thank all members for their participation in this debate as well.

Needless to say, the comments on my motion have been many and varied. It is sufficient to say that we do need an improved gulf ferry service.

In concluding this debate I want to concentrate a little bit, if I may, and make specific reference to the fixed link, a proposal connecting Newfoundland to the mainland of Canada in southern Labrador. I am encouraged by people such as Mr. Tom Kierans, a great visionary, a professional engineer who was instrumental incidentally in the development of the Upper Churchill. The Confederation Bridge has already done wonders for Prince Edward Island. I am sure that a fixed link would do wonders for the people of Newfoundland and Labrador.

Connecting to the mainland of Canada by tunnel would also relieve the pressure being felt on the Marine Atlantic ferry service. Much of the freight and tourism business would certainly make a tunnel venture worth pursuing.

A tunnel link would allow tourists to come to our province via the gulf ferry service and then leave through a tunnel under the Strait of Belle Isle, which is the great circle route.

I am told by one of my constituents who knows Newfoundland's coastal area very well, Mr. Burf Ploughman, that many of the mayors from the region have recently held meetings with the mayors around the northern peninsula area to support this issue. This is the first time they have come together in a long time. As a matter of fact, it is the first time they have come together since the boundary was drawn in 1927.

A tunnel across the strait not only would be good economically, it would be good for national unity as well. It would provide an opportunity for the governments of Canada, Quebec and Newfoundland and Labrador to work together for the common good of this underdeveloped northern region of our country.

I have no doubt that the money for a tunnel could be found if there was a collective political will to find it. Economically speaking, this region of Canada is ripe with hydroelectric and mining potential. By building a tunnel and, as the member said, Highway 138, we would be greatly enhancing the economic potential of the whole area.

Our Lower Churchill and hydro projects in Quebec could see upward of about $50 billion for the region and for the area. Instead of sending our sons and daughters to far-flung parts of the world, we could send them north to high paying jobs in the mining sector.

A number of people would say it is a pipe dream, but maybe not. Building the tunnel would save millions in annual subsidies to the federal, Quebec and Newfoundland governments for subsidies to the ferry service. A tunnel would allow Lower Churchill hydro power easy access to the island of Newfoundland, thereby allowing us to close our polluting oil fired generation. A tunnel would greatly enhance our tourism potential. It would open up the general economic potential of the whole area.

A recent feasibility study put the cost of the tunnel at about $1.5 billion. The cost of route 138 would be in the order of about $600 million. I am somewhat troubled by the estimated tunnel cost because Norway built the world's longest road tunnel, 24 kilometres in length, at a cost of $125 million U.S. Perhaps we could make use of that kind of technology.

Let me conclude by saying that a chain is only as strong as its weakest link. It is time to strengthen our national chain to provide an improved Marine Atlantic gulf ferry service. The railway was a national dream as well. It opened up the west. Let the tunnel be our national dream. Let us open up the northeast for the benefit of the people who live there and strengthen the nation as a whole.

Firefighters March 22nd, 2007

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased that the recent federal budget meets a long-standing request from Canadian firefighters. In particular, the budget approved $500,000 per year to assist firefighters in implementing a hazardous material training program.

Since coming to Parliament 10 years ago, I have met with many firefighters from my riding and with representatives of their local and national organizations. These meetings have always focused on ways that the federal government could positively impact the work and the daily lives of Canadian firefighters.

Dealing with fires that contain toxic substances is becoming more and more an occupational hazard, so it is important to set up and maintain a training program in this area. Hopefully, this $500,000 annual commitment will provide for better trained firefighters and help protect the public from the hazardous materials that are all too much a part of our modern world.

Bank Act February 27th, 2007

It's the other way around. There wasn't any fee for your own bank.

Committees of the House February 27th, 2007

Mr. Speaker, I have the honour to present, in both official languages, the 11th report of the standing committee entitled, “Question of Privilege”.

Committees of the House February 8th, 2007

Mr. Speaker, I have the honour to present, in both official languages, the 10th report of the standing committee, entitled “Issues raised by the use of security certificates under the Immigration and Refugee Protection Act”.

Transportation between the Island of Newfoundland and Mainland Canada February 1st, 2007

That is a very good question, Mr. Speaker, and one which has been a sore point with many people. When we look at the needs for shipbuilding in the country, especially for Marystown Shipyard, I think that is the goal for the province of Newfoundland and Labrador. Any ferries that might be built will have to hopefully utilize Marystown Shipyard as much as possible.

Transportation between the Island of Newfoundland and Mainland Canada February 1st, 2007

Mr. Speaker, I have spoken to the minister quite extensively on this particular issue. While we do not have anything that I can report to the hon. member at this point, I am encouraged by the fact that the minister is going to bring forward a long term strategy on the future of Marine Atlantic and it will allow input from the people.

I am told as well that something very important is going to happen. We are going to be looking at fleet renewal which is part of that strategy and heaven knows we need some of our ferries replaced.

I have spoken to the minister on a whole range of topics as it relates to Marine Atlantic. Rates will be very important and rates will be very much a part of it.

I have a guarantee from the minister that he will look at rates. He will look at fleet renewal in consultation with the people and the new directors, and the new chair of Marine Atlantic. Quite frankly, I am very confidence that at the end of the day, when the minister is finished looking at all matter pertaining to Marine Atlantic and to transportation generally as it relates to the people of Newfoundland and Labrador, we will all be very pleased.

I am confident that he has a very intense interest in this issue and no sooner had I presented the motion, the minister contacted me to say he was very much in favour of it. Therefore, I am hoping that we will see some great improvements.

Transportation between the Island of Newfoundland and Mainland Canada February 1st, 2007

moved:

That, in the opinion of the House, the government should, in cooperation with the government of Newfoundland and Labrador, examine all measures to improve transportation between the island of Newfoundland and mainland Canada, including a fixed link and renewal of the Marine Atlantic ferry service.

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to put forward this motion on behalf of the people of Newfoundland and Labrador who are very anxious to improve the transportation system in our province.

Everyone will notice that the motion makes reference to the examination of all measures to improve transportation links. It stands to reason that if we, as an island province, are to realize our social and economic potential, then we need to examine the air, the water and the land transportation. Lately, of course, we are even examining under the land, which is very novel, indeed.

At one time, Newfoundland was strategically located with respect to air travel. Geographically, of course, we were a stepping stone for air travel between North America and Europe. People in places like Gander, Stephenville and Goose Bay earned their livelihoods on Newfoundland's strategic location. However, that is not the case today because modern jet aircraft no longer need these locations for service and, therefore, bypass these communities.

Combined with that reality is the fact that Air Canada is no longer truly a national carrier. These days Air Canada is just another commercial airline that happens to carry the country's name. It only goes where it will make money and very often it will go only where it can make an awful lot of money.

Air Canada also plays a large role on the world stage and, in competition between domestic and international air travel, our province is generally the loser. However, that is enough on Air Canada, which is an ongoing battle, and I will now talk about the gulf ferry service.

The gulf ferry service is our constitutionally guaranteed sea connection with the rest of Canada. For us, the gulf ferry service is an essential part of the Trans-Canada Highway, linking our section of the Trans-Canada to other sections crossing the nation. It is essential for getting fresh produce from all over North America to the supermarket shelves.

The complaints about the service are legion. It is usually crowded and messy, it is hard to get good sleeping accommodations and often it is unpredictable as well. Needless to say, numerous studies have pointed out the inadequacies of that system and there is hardly a Newfoundlander or a tourist in the country who cannot give chapter and verse about the shortcomings of that service. Therefore, an improved and upgraded system is very much in order, which is why this motion has been presented today.

We have all heard about the fixed link, which is mentioned in the motion, the fixed link between the island and southern Labrador connecting to Quebec's North Shore Highway and on to central Canada. That is an excellent project to pursue in the long term but we need to look at the fact that it costs $1.7 billion to even talk about a fixed link. In the long term, it is a very good project to talk about but even if the project were started today, that kind of a project would take approximately 11 years to finish. However, in the short term, we need a vastly improved gulf ferry service.

I have raised the issue with my colleagues in caucus and I have received a very encouraging response. I am very pleased that the minister of transport is committed to improvements in that service and judging from the conversations that I have had with the minister, I feel confident that these improvements are on the way to being initiated.

The minister of transport should be commended. I am so pleased that he has an intense interest in my motion, that he was very quick on the draw to say that he supported the motion, and I want to thank him for it.

I am encouraged by the fact that the minister is going to bring forward a long term strategy on the future of Marine Atlantic, which would allow for input from people all over Newfoundland and Labrador.

I am told, as well, that a fleet renewal would be part of that strategy. Given the fact that we now have a new chair of Marine Atlantic and five new directors with business experience, I believe that there is hope for that.

I want to congratulate Mr. Robert Crosbie on his appointment. He is one of my constituents and I feel confident that, given his background, we are going to make some progress in improving that service.

I know I could mention other modes of transportation in the province; however, I only have 15 minutes. So, Marine Atlantic is my main focus.

I believe the province of Newfoundland and Labrador cannot become the tourist mecca that it is capable of becoming if we do not have a top notch marine Atlantic ferry service. We have only begun to scratch the surface of the tourism potential in our province. However, what we have to remember, when the tourist travelling by car arrives in North Sydney, is that we have to give that tourist every good reason to get on a ferryboat to cross that 90-mile expanse of water and come to the province of Newfoundland and Labrador. It is very important that we have a good service.

By coming to the province of Newfoundland and Labrador, let me tell the people of Canada, they are going to have a great experience. The people are second to none in our country, in terms of friendliness and wanting to welcome the tourists. When we look at the province itself, in terms of scenery, it is second to none anywhere in the world. We have to encourage the tourists to come to Newfoundland.

We are somewhat disadvantaged in that regard if the tourists are hearing that the ferry service is not what it should be for the modern day tourist. It must not be messy. It must not be crowded. Sleeping accommodations have to be excellent. When they get on board the ferryboat, it has to be a good experience for them. That has not been the case in the past. I think, and I hope, and I know, that is going to change. I am confident it will change under this government and I am confident that the minister is on the right track.

Another very important area of concern to me and to, I am sure, the Government of Newfoundland and Labrador, with respect to any new policy that might be developed for Marine Atlantic, is the stabilization of rates. We need a stable rate regime to ensure that the service does not become cost prohibitive, not only for the tourists, however important the tourists might be, but for the consumer as well.

Today the people of Newfoundland and Labrador feel that the ferry rate should be approximately equivalent to the cost that would be incurred travelling the same distance by road. I heard that roughly 15 years ago when I was the provincial minister of transportation. I am looking across at my colleague from the Burin Peninsula who is smiling, but people would say to me that the rate has to be equivalent to what it would cost if we drove a car on that 90-mile stretch of road.

It was less important 15 years ago, I suppose, rates were down somewhat. However, today we have to look at rates and we have to make sure it is not going to become cost prohibitive because rates tend to sneak up and it becomes cost prohibitive for the consumer generally as well as tourists. After all, it is an extension of the Trans-Canada Highway, I agree, and it is a constitutionally guaranteed service. It was part of our Terms of Union in 1949, so it is reasonable given that we are an island province, that we should not be discriminated against in that regard.

Our tourism industry is dependent upon a reasonably stable rate. A reasonably stable rate is also very important for the average consumer because in a supermarket the price of virtually every item on the supermarket shelf is reflected by the cost of crossing the gulf and trucking produce to the supermarket shelf. Generally speaking, the price is going to be higher than what it would cost on the mainland.

No one is saying for a moment that it should not be higher. That is expected when we have to use two modes of transportation to get produce to the supermarket shelf. However, if rates do not remain stable and if we were subject to the vagaries of rate increases to reflect the cost of the service, then the price of shipping goods to the supermarket shelf and to our province generally would certainly be out of control. I am told that virtually 90% of our produce comes in by truck. Therefore, that gulf service is an absolute must for the people of Newfoundland and Labrador.

Another very sore point I hear quite often in our province is the lack of freshness in fruits and vegetables. I know that is unavoidable in some instances. However, the reliability and speed of the service is important. The turnaround time is important. Good maintenance is very important as well to ensure a minimum of breakdowns. All these things enter into making the service a top notch, 21st century transportation system. As I said before, I know the minister is aware of all these points and I am confident he is going to address them.

I only have a couple of minutes left and I will devote that to our roads system. About 15 years ago we let our railway go in exchange for a deal from the federal government of approximately $1.2 billion called “roads for rails agreement”. I was minister of transportation at the time who signed that agreement which allowed for an awful lot of road improvements. It allowed for the twinning of our Trans-Canada Highway and of course it allowed for a lot of infrastructure to be put into the city of St. John's and the neighbouring communities.

As important as that is, we have to remember as well that we have to have a good ongoing maintenance system in the province so it is imperative that we have an ongoing Trans-Canada Highway federal-provincial upgrading agreement. There are over 900 kilometres of road between St. John's and Port-aux-Basques where the ferry from Nova Scotia docks. In the winter and in rainy conditions that can be quite a nightmare.

My time is up and I thank you, Mr. Speaker, for your indulgence.