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Crucial Fact

  • His favourite word was money.

Last in Parliament September 2008, as Conservative MP for Edmonton—Sherwood Park (Alberta)

Won his last election, in 2006, with 64% of the vote.

Statements in the House

Supply February 21st, 1994

Mr. Speaker, the member who just spoke indicated he feels there is no need to change to the way we presently handle petitions.

I get that message quite strongly. I wish he would confirm if it is correct. Then I would ask simply for his response to this. First of all I do not think those of us on this side are doing this for political gain. We really do want to provide the people of Canada the kind of government they are telling us they want. They want a representative, a member of Parliament who listens, hears and acts on what it hears.

The perception is that these petitions sort of hit a wall. My question is this. Should we abandon the ability of citizens to give us petitions since we can find out by other means what it is they are thinking if we are not going to use the petition method directly in making our decisions in this House.

Supply February 21st, 1994

Mr. Speaker, I would like to say that I listened with great intent to the member opposite and I understand that the Liberals during the last campaign as shown in the red book were very eager to turn around this misconception or mistrust that the Canadian people have in government./

They included things which I referred to earlier today regarding the fact that people are irritated with governments that do not consult them.

My question is if the member is so opposed to the proposals we are putting forward in terms of referendum, recall, and today we are talking about the question of petitions, what does he propose as an alternative to open up government to the Canadian people as they seem to be demanding and as the red book acknowledges?

National Debt February 21st, 1994

Mr. Speaker, I am very excited about an initiative being taken by several women in my Elk Island riding. Maralyn Benay and her colleagues are undertaking the formation of an organization which will receive voluntary donations by citizens to be applied directly to the national debt. They are receiving a great deal of positive publicity and the momentum for the plan is growing by leaps and bounds.

While warning her about the magnitude of Canada's debt and over-spending problem, I compared the efforts with spooning water into a rain barrel while ignoring the fact that the bottom is out of the barrel.

We have citizens who are ready to tackle our huge debt problem with the same fervour as we accepted the emergency situation of our country during World War II. How wonderful it would be if we here in Ottawa could do our part by stemming the flow out of the bottom of the barrel.

Mrs. Benay and her group deserve all the encouragement they can get and all the people who are ready to donate, whether a small amount or a large, are to be commended as Canadian heroes.


Supply February 21st, 1994

Mr. Speaker, I would simply comment that if the member for Carleton-Gloucester insists on demeaning his


electors and saying they are bigots when they present their petitions or when they vote on a referendum, that is his choice.

I would choose rather to listen to my constituents, to take very seriously what they say in terms of a referendum or a petition which they present. There may be some difficulties administratively but they can certainly be overcome in our modern technological age and there is great gain to be made by listening more and more to the people who sent us here.

Supply February 21st, 1994

Mr. Speaker, when citizens take the initiative of creating, organizing and collecting a petition I have observed that they are always highly motivated to do so. A trivial matter does not normally elicit that kind of response. A matter which the people hold dear, something that is very important to them, will result in their coming together, organizing a petition, getting it circulated, collecting names and doing so because they believe it is very important.

It takes a great deal of effort and personal sacrifice on the part of organizers of petitions. The people who sign petitions usually do so with total sincerity and with a genuine support of the cause being promoted. I believe it is very seldom a person will sign a petition without asking very seriously the question: "What am I signing?" I also believe once a petition is started it has another very desirable effect: it generates a lot of discussion so the issue being brought forward is debated by a great number of people in the community. The level of information or the understanding of the topic is enhanced because of the debate.

Therefore the question should arise of what politicians or decision makers do with these petitions. I believe it is the perception of a great number of Canadians that the process by which a petition is handled is that an MP is given a small amount of time in the House to make a supporting speech when the petition is presented. It is recorded in Hansard and other documents as having been presented. Then it appears that the petition is trucked off to a warehouse somewhere. It is very seldom we have any action on the petition. In any case it is extremely seldom that we have any precipitous action or fast action.

I think of one example. In the last little while many petitions have been presented in the House on killer cards. There appear to be a great number of Canadians like me who are more and more concerned about the growing element of violence in society. They say that this is an area where we need to put our finger in the dike, that we need to stop this.

The petitions are pouring in here, but what is done with them? At this stage apparently nothing. I emphasize the word apparently. It is undoubtedly true it has been recognized that the government will respond. However the fact is there must be an increased level of communication with Canadians so they have assurance that when they speak they are heard.

We in Parliament are embarking on a new era. This a new Parliament. Things are now being done differently. We have approximately 200 new members in the House who, like me, are eager to make an impact on the way our country is governed.

I cannot resist quoting from the now famous red book. Some of the ideas in the red book were found earlier in the Reform Party's blue book. That ought not to be surprising since the red book came out during the election period, at a time when politicians seeking re-election had a great interest in finding out what people were thinking. They probably conducted polls, listened to the people at the doors and heard what they were saying, and as a result those things were included in the red book.

We were doing the same thing over a number of years. The process by which our blue book was derived was really quite similar in the sense that we were listening to the people. We heard a great number of people say over and over: "We do not have a true democracy; we have an elected dictatorship". That is a bad word, yet that is the word I kept hearing. They were saying: "We elect these people and once they are elected they have a free hand and they do whatever they want; they do not listen to us on an ongoing basis".

As a result the blue book reflected what the Canadian people were thinking. It came up with these wonderful and much needed concepts about the way our government works: things like petitions, citizens' initiative of which the petition is a form, referendums and recall so that not only at election time but also between elections the people of the country have a say in how they are governed.

I quote one very important sentence from the red book that accurately expresses the feeling of the Canadian people: "The people are irritated with governments that do not consult them".

We must stop to think about the implications. We have had elections anywhere from six months to five years. That is how our elections are occurring and when the people are being heard. If that is satisfactory why are the people irritated with governments that do not consult them? Clearly it is because they are not being consulted between elections. That is the crux of the matter when we think of an efficient way of dealing with petitions, citizens' initiatives, the subjects of recall and of referendums.

If the people are irritated when we do not consult them, how much more irritated they must be when they voluntarily, by petition, bring an issue to us in the House and we leave the perception that we are not paying attention. How much more irritated they are when we ignore the hard work that went into


the collection of a petition with thousands or tens of thousands of names. We must start listening and acting on what they say.

There is a very important fundamental question. A member opposite made reference not very long ago to the fact that we in the Reform Party keep coming up with these reforms to the parliamentary system. I contend that is really fundamental to everything else. Unless we have a true representative democracy, we will probably never be able to solve the other problems that come to us from time to time. In particular I am thinking of the question of the national debt and the disaster being brought on us by its ever increasing size.

The people are clearly saying that government spending must be brought under control, yet in the context of how the House operates there seems to be no real mechanism to say we will have a balanced budget. There is not a final authority in the House to determine that. The budget is announced to us and we have no real input into it other than to debate it and hope to influence the outcome.

In a true democracy who then holds the final or ultimate authority? We seem quite ready to accede that it is the people. I find it interesting, being a new member of Parliament and from talking to many who have been here before and a great number who are here for the first time, that no one in the House would question the wisdom of the voters in choosing the person they sent here.

The Reform Party and all of us who are members of that party are thinking the people in the west chose very wisely. I am sure members opposite are convinced the voters expressed great wisdom in sending them here. If we can trust the voters to make a decision on whom to send here, on which party to vote for and on which leader to support, should we not also be able to trust them with other issues? This touches on the subject of referendums as well as on the subject before the House today.

There is a large demand out there among the people for a more representative government, for representation in a more democratic style. The people are beginning to insist that they be heard. Their willingness to be governed by legislatures will be withdrawn if we act like dictators.

Furthermore, if we listen more to our people and the message they give through referenda and through petitions, I am convinced we will have wiser decisions. There are many examples where the people in the broad context make better decisions for the country than do those who sit in little islands of isolation.

I look forward to questions or debate of other members.

Elk Island National Park February 14th, 1994

Mr. Speaker, my constituency is named for the beautiful Elk Island National Park which is enjoyed by many local residents as well as thousands of visitors from nearby Edmonton and around the world.

I rise today to speak strongly against a bureaucratic proposal to close the road within the park, thereby greatly reducing park accessibility to many people, especially those who cannot hike or cycle because of physical limitations or disabilities. Our elderly people whose dedication and hard work opened up and developed the area particularly enjoy the scenic drive through the park.

This park is on the Yellowhead Highway, a very popular tourist highway and the economic spin-offs due to the park are significant.

We must all take an active part in preserving our environment and our parks and that must certainly include preserving the use and enjoyment of our parks for our most precious resource, our people.

House Of Commons Standing Orders February 7th, 1994

Mr. Speaker, I join in this very historic debate today. I believe we are at a crossroads in this country.

I found it rather interesting and almost amusing to hear people on the other side talk about what a wonderful breakthrough this is, that we are debating things before we actually decide them. I asked: "Has it never been the case before?" I am new to the political process. I did not even belong to a political party before I became involved very recently.

I am astounded to find that what I dealt with during the election campaign is actually true, that for the most part our democracy is very inclusive. It is inclusive among a very small number of people. I applaud the government for the steps it is taking. It is wonderful we are having this debate, that we are looking forward to actually producing and having some changes, not just talk, but some actual changes.

We need to reform the democratic process. It occurred to me while I was sitting here that perhaps we are observing an oxymoron. We are having a liberalization and a reform of the democratic process, two very different words and yet to a great extent we are heading in the same direction.

I believe that one of the reasons we have so much mistrust of politicians is that our democracy works only in spurts. We have a spurt of involvement of the people at election time and then they are ignored until the next election. Consequently people mistrust the politicians because they detect and observe no ongoing accountability.

There is an interesting statement in the red book which is so oft quoted in this Chamber. It really is not surprising that it should be in the book. The Reform Party and my involvement in it came as a result of this "new emphasis in listening to the people, the constituents, the voters and the taxpayers".

When we listened to the taxpayers we found out among other things that there was a great deal of mistrust and distrust because of lack of consultation. The Liberal Party in its work to get elected did a good thing also. It began listening to the people. It probably did it through its polling techniques or whatever, but it heard the same message we heard that gave birth to our party and it was that people want to be involved on an ongoing basis in the decisions of government.

The quote I would like to take from the red book is: "The people are irritated with governments that do not consult them or that try to conduct key parts of the public business behind closed doors". That is the truth which we are reaching for here.

I pledge, and I am sure that I speak on behalf of all the members of my party, that we are going to work together to enhance not only the ease with which Parliament works but also with its accountability to the people.

In that regard I would like to address for a few minutes a very important aspect of our work in representing the constituents, those that elected us. There is a lot of fear among politicians-and maybe I am wrong here-in talking on an ongoing basis with the electors and truly representing them. I hear over and over innuendo that they are not to be trusted, that perhaps they do not have enough ability, enough education, enough sense of history, enough perspective or maybe they are too narrow and they think only of themselves and so they cannot be involved on an ongoing basis.

I read very recently an essay written by Woodrow Wilson which I think is very illustrative. I would like to read just one short section. He said: "Today when our government has so far passed into the hands of special interests, today when the doctrine is implicitly avowed that only select classes have the equipment necessary for carrying on government, today when so many conscientious citizens smitten with the scene of social wrong and suffering have fallen victims to the fallacy that benevolent government can be meted out to the people by kind-hearted trustees of prosperity and guardians of the welfare of dutiful employees, today supremely does it behove this nation to remember that a people shall be saved by the power that sleeps in its own deep bosom or by none, shall be renewed in hope, in conscience, in strength by waters welling up from its own sweet perennial springs, not from above, not by patronage of its aristocrats. The flower does not bear the root but the root the flower".

In conjunction with this I believe that we should pay a great deal of attention to the concept of referendum to the people on important issues. We all recognize that as legislators here we represent a broader constituency than just our own home constituency. I also speak for Canada. I long to keep this country together. I think I speak on behalf of my constituents when I voice those sentiments.

However we also need to recognize that on many issues our people are well informed and with an informed debate can become more informed and thereby give us real valid input, even to the point of having a referendum.

I would also like to indicate that sometimes ordinary citizens feel totally left out of the process. There is something that they want done. Government will not hear them. It seems to me wise as a back-up, probably used very infrequently, that we have a method of citizens' initiative which will allow the citizens themselves to place on a referendum ballot a question which is to be answered and which is to be binding.

I recognize that my time is fast disappearing. I would like to simply say that on the mechanisms of referendum and of citizens' initiative we have done a lot of work in developing them. I do not have time now to go into those details, but they do work, they can work, they do work in other parts of the world. I believe it would greatly enhance the democracy of this country if we were to incorporate those as well.

Infrastructure Program January 28th, 1994

Mr. Speaker, a supplementary question. My colleagues and I were elected largely because we represent the conviction that reduced government spending leading to reduced debt and reduced taxes is the real way to generate increased economic activity and produce ongoing prosperity and jobs.

What answer does the minister have for my constituents who are adamantly opposed to more government borrowing?

Infrastructure Program January 28th, 1994

Mr. Speaker, my question is for the Minister responsible for Infrastructure. The infrastructure program as proposed obligates the provinces and municipalities to match federal dollars.

Since all provinces, many municipalities and certainly the federal government are burdened with an immense long-term debt, does the minister have any plans to treat with fairness those municipalities who choose not to add to the debt load of the taxpayers by not participating in the program?

Speech From The Throne January 27th, 1994

Mr. Speaker, I will begin in the traditional manner by congratulating you on your position and assuring you of my respect and co-operation. I consider it a great privilege to have been chosen by the electors of Elk Island to serve them as their member of Parliament.

As most other speakers have done I will also express thanks to the many people who voted and worked to give me this honour. Especially I am grateful to my wife Betty and my family for their sacrifice, support and trust.

The Elk Island constituency lies immediately east of Edmonton in Alberta and is noted for the fact that it contains Elk Island Park, a national park operated by Parks Canada.

The constituency has approximately 85,000 residents. Many live on acreages and farms. Our people earn their living by working in our industrial and chemical plants, by farming, by operating numerous small businesses and by many other forms of endeavour which add to the economy and well being of the community and the country. In addition many work in the city of Edmonton.

I am very proud and thankful to be a Canadian. I remember as a youth hearing my immigrant parents, grandparents and their friends talk of the hardships and the lack of freedoms which caused them to look to this land for hope.

More recently our son Brent has been working as a volunteer in a relief agency in the countries of Sudan, Kenya, Somalia, Bosnia and Croatia where he was helping to give aid to the tremendously disadvantaged because of war. We have been deeply touched by his first-hand accounts of children, young people, women and men who are starving or suffering intensely because of the inhumanity of selfish aggressive people. I am very grateful that in this country we govern ourselves with ballots and not with bullets.

It is in this context that I give my address today. While we have it so good, I am committed to doing my part to ensure that we do not lose our freedoms and privileges. I hope also that we will be able to continue to share our abundance and our help with many other unfortunate people in our hurting world.

It might sound as though I am complaining when I draw attention to the shortcomings of our past governments. I am very concerned that we run the risk of losing it all here in our wonderful Canada because of the mismanagement of government over the last 30 years.

It seems so obvious to me that the policies of the Liberals and the Conservatives of the past have taken us into the slavery of debt. I hope against hope that this new government will be able and will have the political will to begin to turn this around.

Just think there is no country in this world as blessed as ours. We have a wonderfully rich heritage of natural resources from fish to forest, from bounteous grain fields to plentiful energy in oil, gas and water, from beautiful scenery attracting tourists from all around the world to our wonderful land from Newfoundland to British Columbia to the far north.

I could go on and on. Add to that the enormous wealth we have in our people. We are all immigrants, even those who we proudly call our natives. Our first nations originally came here from a different part of the world. We have of course the French and the English, but we also have many others including the Scandinavians and the Orientals, the Europeans and the Africans. The list is endless. Over the years we have lived together in harmony and co-operation.

Mr. Speaker, you do not know how it hurts me to hear some who are working toward tearing up this country. If there is not room for all of us here in Canada, how can we expect the other nations of the world to stop warring with each other on this planet?

I would like to say to my friends sitting next to me how we wish they would change their minds about leaving Canada. How we wish that they would give it one more try. How we wish that they would stop saying Canada and Quebec and would start saying Quebec and the other provinces of Canada.

Will they consider doing what we have done in the west? For years and years we have paid much more into Confederation than we have received in dollars. For those same years we have been practising what many of us learned in Sunday school, that is to share and not be selfish, to give and not always to expect returns.

At the same time I must be honest. The patience of our position has on occasion been tested. We are looking forward seriously to the day when all the provinces will be able to better make it on their own and to decrease their dependence on others. It is very encouraging to see the generosity and benevolence of others too. We desire deeply that all Canadians and all provinces live together in peace and harmony as equal partners in Confederation.

That little diversion from the topic of debt was intentional. I thought that it would be a good idea to highlight our wonderful advantages, but let me now return to the topic of our burgeoning debt. How can it be that with this vast legacy of natural and human wealth our governments of the past have managed to dig us so deeply into debt? Is there any hope for the future?

The government is proposing in the throne speech to borrow more money in order to produce jobs. It will say it is not borrowing more, just spending money that it saved on the helicopters or other areas, but the fact is that there is still a huge deficit predicted for the next fiscal year. That means that we are doing what we are doing with borrowed money.

It is clear that the collective wisdom of the citizens of this great country is moving more and more toward a demand to live within our means. I wish I knew of a way to communicate this forcibly and convincingly to the point where the majority government opposite would actually change its fiscal policies to reflect this reality.

I was elected largely on the merit of the Reform Party's deficit and debt reduction commitment. In my constituency there were five voters who voted for Reform's plan of fiscal restraint for every two voters who chose the Liberal's plan of borrow more, spend more. Even in Ontario where the government received a rather overwhelming number of seats, almost one million individuals expressed themselves in their vote for fiscal restraint.

I would have been so pleased if we would have had at least a commitment from the government to set some realistic written goals and to cap spending. It is very doubtful if we will ever achieve a goal if we are not even willing to state it.

During the campaign a simple fact struck me forcibly. We have no mechanism actually to control spending. We have no means of ensuring that the wishes of our constituents, the taxpayers, are expressed and enforced in the workings of government. I appreciate the new openness of the government. It is breaking with precedent in actually having pre-decision debates on various issues including the budget.

However, we will not have true freedom of expression on behalf of the people we represent until we have true, free votes, even on the budget. This can only happen if we can agree that the defeat of a bill, even the budget, does not automatically mean the defeat of the government. There is no choice if we can only vote yes, even when we disagree.

I respectfully and forcefully request that the government allow all members on both sides of the House, the democratic representatives of the people who elected us, the freedom to send the budget back to the bureaucrats if it is not good enough. Let them fix it and not bring it back until the unencumbered majority of members of the House agree that we have reached a satisfactory decision.

I end my speech with a pledge not only to this House but to the people in Elk Island who elected me, the people of Canada who are looking to Parliament for leadership. I will do all I can to participate in bringing fiscal reality and responsibility to this place. I will exert all the influence I can in changing the way Parliament works so that it can become a better and more democratic place.

In the end I believe we will be a better country. We will not only have increased prosperity and well-being for ourselves, but we will also have the freedom and ability to do more for others.