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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

Lawrence O'Brien January 31st, 2005

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to have the opportunity today to say a few words in tribute to our former colleague, a fellow Newfoundlander and Labradorian, Lawrence O'Brien.

I want to assure his wife, Alice and their family, Michael and Amanda, that our thoughts and prayers continue to be with them in these difficult days ahead.

I first met Lawrence O'Brien about eight years ago, in 1997. Immediately I was aware that even though we were on different sides politically, Lawrence was more of a friend than he was an adversary. It became evident very quickly to me that Lawrence was a result-oriented person. If political differences had to be set aside to achieve the greater good for Newfoundland and Labrador, then so be it, Lawrence was eager to accommodate.

Newfoundland in general, but Labrador in particular, has lost a great friend, a strong supporter, an individual whose commitment to his people was unprecedented.

When one reads about the political interests of Lawrence, as it relates to committee work here in the House of Commons, it soon becomes apparent that he was intensely interested in committee work that would advance the cause of his beloved Labrador. His membership on the Standing Committee on National Defence and Veterans Affairs assured him of keeping his finger on national defence issues in Goose Bay.

His membership on the Standing Committee on Aboriginal Affairs and Northern Development assured aboriginal constituents that they were well represented.

His membership on the Standing Committee on Fisheries and Oceans was beneficial in no small way, not only to the great Labrador fishery, but to the Newfoundland fishery in general. When the time came for Lawrence to advance to parliamentary secretary, is it any wonder that he would lobby exclusively for parliamentary secretary to the minister of fisheries and oceans, which he carried out with dignity, with commitment and with enthusiasm.

Lawrence O'Brien has left a leadership void in his beloved Labrador, but his presence will also be missed in the House of Commons. His good nature, his friendly attitude toward his fellow Newfoundland MPs of all political persuasion has given all of us cause to reflect on the things that really matter in life, which is very difficult to maintain here in this adversarial role we have, namely, good relationships, working together for the common good and, regardless where our political allegiances may be, an awareness that hopefully we all come here ready to follow the good example of our friend and colleague whom we miss, Lawrence O'Brien.

Natural Resources December 8th, 2004

Mr. Speaker, the House of Commons will soon close for the Christmas break, but we still have no word as to whether the Prime Minister will keep his June election promise to allow Newfoundland and Labrador to keep 100% of its offshore oil revenues.

The Prime Minister has said that he will honour his promise if he can reach an agreement that is good for Canada as well as being good for Newfoundland and Labrador. The real truth is the Prime Minister made his election promise because he thought it would be good for the Liberal Party. There were no strings attached and no conditions in the election campaign.

Letting the province keep 100% of its oil revenues will help us to stand on our own feet economically, and surely that is good for Newfoundland and Labrador and Canada. The Prime Minister said yes to Newfoundland and Labrador during the election campaign. How long does it take to negotiate “yes”?

Federal-Provincial Fiscal Arrangements Act November 29th, 2004

Mr. Speaker, that is a very good question the member asks. I think there is a whole range of things that we do not know about this so-called panel of experts that will be put in place. For instance, will the recommendation by the panel be binding? Will the recommendation be subject to the opinions or the approval of the have provinces if the have not provinces seem to get a better deal?

What I have been saying is that the whole equalization issue is a very useful tool in keeping have not provinces from starving, but it is a very big impediment as well in that it keeps a province from standing on its own.

I feel it is an absolute must that the equalization panel has to address the non-renewable clawback resource revenue issue. Our provincial government right now is quite legitimately making the point that non-renewable resources have to be exempt from the clawback provisions in our resources and our oil revenues.

It is a step backwards not to have this particular issue on clawback addressed by this panel, because it is the one issue that is keeping the have not provinces have not.

Federal-Provincial Fiscal Arrangements Act November 29th, 2004

Yes, Mr. Speaker, I have something to say about Bill C-24. We as a party support certain components of Bill C-24. The fact that this particular bill will be the subject of a review by a panel of people who will meet over the next year or so to make recommendations on equalization is a positive step.

However I think a full year to review equalization is too long. When we have been talking about equalization for the last 20 to 25 years, I do not know why we need a full year to talk about equalization again. It seems that when the government introduces a committee or a study, it is given a full year. The Gomery commission is one example. I wonder if the government is contemplating an election in the spring when it can tell the people that the sponsorship scandal cannot be talked about because it is before a committee. The equalization will not be a factor in that election because the committee looking at equalization will not report for a full year.

It seems to me that we are supposed to feel and think that the federal government is taking the right direction here but after talking about equalization for 20 years I fail to see why we need another full year to study this particular issue. However we in the Conservative Party at least support the fact that we have a panel of experts to look at this particular issue because it is an important issue facing the people of the country.

Federal-Provincial Fiscal Arrangements Act November 29th, 2004

Mr. Speaker, I will be sharing my time with the member for St. John's South—Mount Pearl.

I want to make a few remarks on Bill C-24, an act to amend the Fiscal Arrangements Act. It is quite a complicated act, but what it means is that we are making some changes in Canada's equalization program.

Bill C-24 is quite timely given the current set of negotiations that are ongoing between the federal government and the Governments of Newfoundland and Labrador and of Nova Scotia regarding the division of offshore oil and gas revenues and how equalization could very well factor into all of that.

While Bill C-24 does not address that issue directly, it is nonetheless a bill that acknowledges that some changes are needed in equalization as it currently is and how it applies to various provinces in Canada.

First let me say that the Conservative Party views the current equalization program as an essential component of Canada's nation building. In order for Canada's provinces to grow and prosper, it is important that we have a good, strong equalization system in place and it is equally important that this equalization program effectively deals with the problems that have not provinces have. By striking a panel of experts to revisit the current equalization formula, the government has acknowledged that there are problems with the current formula.

We are pleased that the government has bowed to a little bit of pressure from the provinces to hold this review and we, in the Conservative Party, are eagerly awaiting the results of that review.

One of the drawbacks of the equalization program that I and my colleague, the member for St. John's South—Mount Pearl, have raised consistently over the past seven years has to do with the clawback of a province's non-renewable resource revenues by Ottawa through corresponding reductions in the equalization payments.

I do not know if all members are aware of this but at present, for example, Ottawa claws back 70% of Newfoundland and Labrador's provincial oil revenues. Under that kind of an equalization system, a province is prevented from economically drowning, as we are all aware, but the clawback effectively prevents that province from making any progress on its own. The clawback provisions so far have seen the lion's share of Newfoundland and Labrador's oil money, for instance, ending up in Ottawa.

When we were embarking on the oil industry in Newfoundland and Labrador, that was one of the reasons the province insisted on an extensive multi-billion dollar concrete production platform for its first oil field, which was Hibernia. If the province had gone through a cheaper Hibernia production system and more revenues, most of these revenues would have ended up in Ottawa. Knowing it would have had the money clawed back under the current equalization program, the province instead opted for jobs and industrial benefits.

The equalization clawback became a major election issue in Newfoundland and Labrador and Nova Scotia in the most recent federal election campaign. As a result of that, the Prime Minister and the Minister of Natural Resources called Premier Williams and promised that Newfoundland and Labrador and Nova Scotia would get to keep 100% of their offshore oil revenues without those revenues being subject to the clawback provisions of the equalization formula that we operate under today. At the moment of course we are waiting patiently for the Prime Minister to keep his election promise.

Unfortunately, the Minister of Natural Resources turned the province down and broke his promise and said essentially to the people of Newfoundland and Labrador that here were a few crumbs and that they could take them or leave them. That was his attitude.

We are hopeful that the Prime Minister will keep his promise because we already have a promise in writing from the minister who represents Newfoundland and Labrador in the federal cabinet, the Minister of Natural Resources.

Some observers of the June 28 election have been saying that the province should have received the Prime Minister's promise in writing. However, given that the Prime Minister had made his promise on prime time television, that was not a major consideration at the time. As I mentioned earlier, the Minister of Natural Resources did follow up on the Prime Minister's verbal promise and provided a written statement to the people of Newfoundland and Labrador, specifically to the people in his own riding. I have a copy of a flyer he sent out to people in his riding which states, “The Prime Minister has given me the responsibility of finalizing a deal on the Atlantic Accord as soon as possible that will bring Newfoundland and Labrador 100% of its offshore oil royalties without having any effect on the province's equalization payments”.

It could not be said a whole lot clearer than that.

I am at a loss to understand why the federal government, right in the middle of this equalization debate that is going on across the country, is dragging its heels on this issue and why the Minister of Natural Resources, who represents the province of Newfoundland and Labrador, would offer the people a few crumbs and tell them to take them or leave them.

I have spoken on a number of occasions to this particular issue because it is an important issue to the people of Newfoundland and Labrador. I feel in my heart of hearts that the Minister of Natural Resources should apologize to the people of Newfoundland and Labrador for breaking that promise. He should apologize to the people of Newfoundland and Labrador for his lack of concern for the struggle that Newfoundland and Labrador has had to undergo ever since Confederation to get its rightful place in the Confederation of this country. The minister, most of all, should apologize to the people of Newfoundland and Labrador for putting the party first instead of the province. He should be ashamed.

I have absolutely no reservation about standing here today to repeat in this equalization debate what I have said many times before since the promise was made by the Prime Minister of Canada to Newfoundland and Labrador. I have absolutely no reservations in saying to the Minister of Natural Resources that he should resign rather than break such an important promise to the people of Newfoundland and Labrador.

This is a very important issue and it gives the member for St. John's South--Mount Pearl and myself the opportunity once again to talk about the most important issue facing the people of Newfoundland and Labrador, and that is the broken promise of the Prime Minister and the broken promise of the Minister of Natural Resources concerning equalization.

As a result of that I feel very strongly that the minister should resign. The least he should do is apologize to the people for his broken promises and the fact that he would tell the people of Newfoundland and Labrador to heck with the promise and then offer them a few crumbs saying that they could take them or leave them.

Supply November 4th, 2004

Mr. Speaker, let me say to the hon. member that I understand perfectly what he is talking about. I could say to him as well that if I thought for one minute we were going to reach a deal on this particular issue or it had something to do with the resolution that we have here before the House, I would have it removed right now, and all of us would, because this issue is a very important issue. It is probably the biggest issue that has hit the Province of Newfoundland and Labrador in the last 15 or 20 years. Why? Because it has the potential to make us a have province, not in 2 or 5 or 10 or 15 years but maybe 20 or 25 years down the road.

The federal government and the Prime Minister do not have to worry about overheating the Newfoundland economy in the short term. It is going to take 15 or 20 years for us to get on top. It gives us something to hang onto. We made a bad deal on hydro 30 or 35 years ago. The federal government has been responsible for the fishery failing in Newfoundland and Labrador. This is the last chance we have to somehow make it right for our children and make it right for our children's children. This is what we are fighting for.

Supply November 4th, 2004

Again, Mr. Speaker, it is hard to dignify that kind of question with an answer but I will see what I can do.

I hope the hon. member was listening to the speech made a few minutes ago by the member for Random—Burin—St. George's. If he was, he would have some understanding. I know it is a complicated issue. I know the hon. member has difficulty in understanding the issue, and that is okay, but at least the member for Random—Burin—St. George's had some grasp of it.

The hon. member stood here today and talked about fiscal capacity as if he had some understanding of it. He keeps up this bafflegab, expecting that then I can get up and in 30 seconds come up with four components that are going to contribute to the deal. It would take me an hour or an hour and half.

I said to the hon. member this morning on one particular issue, when it came to the fiscal capacity of--

Supply November 4th, 2004

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to offer a few remarks in the debate on this very important issue. I have spoken on the issue, as the House is well aware, probably 8 or 10 different times over the last couple of weeks either in question period or in debate. Every time I speak on the issue, I get very angry. I am going to promise today that I am not going to get angry. I am going to keep my blood pressure at its normal level if I can.

We all get angry when we know that we have been made victims. The realization of knowing we have been made a victim in this whole thing makes me very angry and that is why I have been angry every time I have spoken in this debate. We all get angry when we know we have been hard done by, when we have been made victims, and when we have been treated as if we do not matter. This is what has been going on here over the last couple of weeks in particular.

I got angry again today when I heard the Minister of Natural Resources speak in this debate. The minister is really the master of bafflegab. He implied something today in debate, which I think has to be corrected on the record. The minister made the allegation that the Premier and finance minister of Newfoundland and Labrador, two highly educated and intelligent gentlemen, really did not understand this particular proposal that was being made by the Minister of Finance and the Prime Minister and, as a result, they will never sign because they do not understand it. Nothing could be further from the truth, as we know.

The resolution we have before us today is going to serve a good purpose. It is going to highlight the broken promise made by the Prime Minister of Canada. What it should do as well is send a message to the Prime Minister of Canada that one cannot make a promise of that magnitude to the people of Newfoundland and Labrador, involving billions of dollars over the long term and the long term future of the people of Newfoundland and Labrador, and then simply walk away from it, renege on it or break it without suffering the consequences.

This is what the Prime Minister of Canada has done. I think the resolution is a very important one. We heard my colleague from Burin—St. George's a moment ago who made a very good speech, one that made sense. If the Minister of Natural Resources had the good common sense to make that kind of a speech today, all of us would be a whole lot better off because of it. It will give the Liberal members of Newfoundland the opportunity to tell the people of Newfoundland and Labrador where they stand on this issue.

Are we on the side of cheap, partisan political game playing, as the Prime Minister has been doing over the last three or four months at the expense of Newfoundland and Labrador or are we going to tell the federal government that it made a very important promise to the people of Newfoundland and Labrador that helped it win five seats in that province and now it has to deliver?

That is a bit partisan, but that is exactly what happened. I believe that if all seven members stick together on this issue, we have the opportunity to hold the federal government to account.

Let us not forget that the federal government is in a minority government situation. If we had the support of all five Liberal members from the province of Newfoundland and Labrador along with the two Conservative members here and the Conservative Party, we could make a difference and hold the federal government's feet to the fire on this particular issue.

If there ever was a time when we had to deplore the attitude of the Prime Minister and the Government of Canada, it is now. I think the time has come in the history of Newfoundland and Labrador. This is the defining moment. This is the cornerstone moment for the people in Newfoundland and Labrador. This is the time when we have to state our case.

I have been here now for about seven and a half years. I am not a great veteran of the House. What I have learned in the seven and a half year period is that we are treated like an annoyance by the federal government. We are treated like the pain that has to be tolerated because we exist. That is the way we are treated by the federal government. The federal government and the Prime Minister of this country have no respect.

The Prime Minister has no sympathy for the very difficult financial problems that we have to deal with in the province of Newfoundland and Labrador. He has no understanding of it. He certainly has no sympathy for it until an election rolls around and then we see the promises trotted out. Promises are thrown around like confetti. It is really disappointing that the Minister of Natural Resources has been part of that. He has aided and abetted the Prime Minister on this particular issue and he has not stood up for the people of Newfoundland and Labrador on this issue.

I have great criticism for the Minister of Natural Resources because he is our federal cabinet representative for Newfoundland and Labrador. He has failed miserably to stand up for the people of Newfoundland and Labrador.

Maybe that is why we used the word “deplore” in the motion we have before us today. People are saying that we should possibly remove that word. We should remove language that inflames. Who knows? I am not in a position to say that these words will be removed because it is deplorable. That is what the resolution actually reflects.

These are very tough times for our province. The gloves have to come off at certain times in our history. This is when the gloves have to come off. The province of Newfoundland and Labrador is in a very difficult position financially. There can be no room for soft language. We have to say to the people of Canada and to the federal government that now is the time when we become equal partners in Confederation. We have to make a stand for the people of Newfoundland and Labrador because this is deplorable. There is no room for mealy mouthed people who want an easy ride on this particular issue. It is time to stand up and count ourselves either in favour of Newfoundland and Labrador or against it.

Again, if we stand together on this particular issue, we can make a big difference for the people of Newfoundland and Labrador. We can hold the Prime Minister's feet to the fire on this particular issue. The time has come.

This is a very important issue. It is the biggest issue that has ever faced the people of Newfoundland and Labrador in a long time. Why? Because it has the potential to make us a have province, maybe not in 2, 3, 5 or 10 years, but in 15 or 20 years we may finally have the ability to keep our children home for a change. They might have a future if we can get this through.

Supply November 4th, 2004

Mr. Speaker, I do not really have a question for my colleague, but I do want to say that it was a good speech. I really enjoyed that speech. It was the first indication that I have been given so far today that there is someone on that side of the House who truly understands a little about this offer and this agreement. The hon. member has demonstrated that.

I have been saying all morning and to the Minister of Natural Resources that the Prime Minister has been saying that we will get 100%. I will speak in a few minutes on this debate and I will repeat it again. That is the key in order for people to understand fully what this deal is all about. It has to be repeated over and over again. I said to the minister today that the Prime Minister has been saying that we will get 100% only until our province's fiscal capacity equals that of Ontario. Ontario's fiscal capacity is based entirely on the performance of its economy and that is what was said by the member.

If Newfoundland and Labrador's fiscal capacity was based only on the performance of its economy, we would be getting 100% of our oil revenues forever and a day. All members who understand this agreement would agree with that. However, here is the key and I will repeat it again. The Prime Minister and the Minister of Finance have artificially jacked up Newfoundland's fiscal capacity by adding in our equalization payments and the offshore revenues that we are currently getting.

That puts us artificially close to Ontario's fiscal capacity. It would not take a long time for Newfoundland and Labrador, under that scenario, to reach the fiscal capacity of Ontario, at which time of course the clawback provisions of the equalization agreement would kick in again. This has to be repeated over and over--

Supply November 4th, 2004

John doesn't understand that. You're right Bill, you're right.