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Crucial Fact

  • His favourite word was farmers.

Last in Parliament October 2015, as Conservative MP for Haliburton—Kawartha Lakes—Brock (Ontario)

Won his last election, in 2011, with 60% of the vote.

Statements in the House

Committees of the House May 5th, 2008

Mr. Speaker, I have the honour to present, in both official languages, the fourth report of the Standing Committee on Aboriginal Affairs and Northern Development.

In accordance with the order of reference of Monday, December 10, 2007, the committee has considered Bill C-30, the specific claims tribunal act, and has agreed to report it with amendment.

Business of Supply March 6th, 2008

That is correct, sir. When people in my riding tell me that they absolutely want the federal government to implement a national child care program, I disagree with them, but tell them if that is what they believe, they should vote NDP and not Liberal. While I disagree with NDP members on this, I actually believe that it is their intention.

My question for my hon. colleague is, how can she possibly think that Canadians will believe her party when it is promising the same thing for the seventh campaign in a row? This is the same as Lucy with the football, and Canadians are not going to be Charlie Brown any more. They know that this is not a promise that will be kept. Why does the hon. member think Canadians are going to believe that promise after being made seven times?

Business of Supply March 6th, 2008

Mr. Speaker, I have had the opportunity to listen to several of the speeches this morning and there is a lot of talk about child care.

My recollection is that in 1993 the Liberals promised a national child care program and they did not deliver. In 1997 the Liberals promised a national child care program and they did not deliver. In 2000 they promised a national child care program and they did not deliver. In 2004 they promised a national child care program and did not deliver. In 2006 they promised it and did not deliver.

Do you really expect Canadians to believe that when we get into the next election--

Senate Appointment Consultations Act February 12th, 2008

Mr. Speaker, a democratically legitimate and therefore more meaningful Senate can fulfill several roles in Canada's Parliament.

First, work sharing takes place at the committee level as well as within the legislature. The Canadian Senate plays that role today to a certain extent. When many pieces of legislation are brought forward, a certain amount of due diligence needs to take place. The volume of work that Canada's Parliament could deal with would be enhanced if there were two different chambers, two different groups of people to deal with that.

Second, we can read some of the justification in the United States. When its house and senate were set up, the senate would run on a different electoral cycle. As we know, some issues rise today to be of great importance and six months from now they are less important. We are all elected at the same time in this place. Having the other place on a different electoral cycle, people would go in at different times from different parts of the country. This would ensure that the issue of the day would have an impact, but it would not be the only issue that would carry forward. Spreading out the times when parliamentarians are accountable to the voters is a good thing.

Third, the upper chamber typically has a role more focused on regional representation. It is a certain irony that a member of the Bloc has asked why we need more regional representation in this place. That is a role for the Senate to play. Years ago we had the proposal for a triple E Senate, which would be equal. Different parts of the country would have a strong voice, even the less populated provinces, in one of the two chambers, and that would ensure their voices were heard.

Those are all legitimate roles that could be played by a democratic Senate. From my point of view, those are all reasons why a reformed Senate is preferable to abolishing the Senate. We need to move in that direction.

If I had been asked five years ago, I would have said my first choice would have been a reformed Senate. My second choice would have been the status quo. My last choice would have been to abolish the Senate. In the past year the first place is still a reformed Senate. However, I have come to the point where I flip two and three in my own mind. Abolishing the Senate is preferable to the status quo, but it is inferior to the option of fixing the place. If this bill and our Senate term limits bill passes, those are two important steps in the right direction to ensure the Senate of Canada plays a meaningful role.

To go back to the notion of people being elected at different times, Ontario just had a provincial election and the dominant issue arose for six weeks and then disappeared. No one has talked about it since, yet we have a government for the next four years based on one odd issue. Having two chambers would help us to avoid in Canada's national Parliament.

Senate Appointment Consultations Act February 12th, 2008

Mr. Speaker, I appreciate the opportunity to speak to the bill.

I have listened to many of my colleagues give their rationale as to why all members of the House should support the bill. There has been a lot of technical information and a lot of legislative and legal support for arguments put forward. I would like to take a somewhat different approach in terms of my remarks today.

As a member of Parliament, I often speak to school students. In Ontario, grade 5 students have a section on Canada, so sometimes I speak to grade 5 classes and other days I speak to grade 10 classes, because grade 10 students in Ontario have a civic section in the standardized curriculum. Those are the two grades I visit.

Often the students ask me about my job and about Parliament. I have a very difficult time explaining to students why our Senate exists the way it does. If we take a step back, it is actually shocking that in a mature and developed democracy like Canada, we still have an institution like the Senate.

Years ago I went to graduate school in the United States and I actually taught a course on government there. Students and colleagues would ask me about Canada. They were not familiar with our system.

When I would explain to American political science students how the Senate worked in Canada, they were shocked. They actually did not believe what I was saying. They would say, “Come on. That is not the way it really works”. They did not believe that we could have a system where prime ministers can unilaterally put whomever they want into the Senate for 20, 30 or 40 years and that person functions as a parliamentarian with an office, staff and voting rights, and participates in the great debates in our country with absolutely no credibility or democratic legitimacy.

That is what this all boils down to. For years I thought I was the only one who thought that our Senate was shocking simply because it existed the way it does. I remember in the early 1990s the first time I heard Preston Manning speak. It was before the Reform Party was even in Ontario. He talked about democratic reform. I thought to myself that finally someone was talking about this. I remember thinking that I was not the only one who thinks that the Canadian Senate is grossly inappropriate and should be fundamentally changed.

I am very proud that I was one of the first people in Ontario to join the Reform Party and was involved with the party at that time. I came to the Reform Party because of my interest in democratic reform, not so much on judicial or economic reform, although I agreed with those planks, but democratic reform.

We have about 400 parliamentarians in Canada and 100 of them are in the Senate. They are there simply because one individual, the prime minister of the day, put them in the Senate and they stay there, at one time it was for life, but now it is until they are 75 years old. I am a pretty calm person, but if I want to get myself agitated, I just think about the Senate. The Senate is something that can actually make my blood boil because it is so outrageous the way it exists.

I heard one of my colleagues say that while he does not agree with the NDP position on abolition, he can respect it. I feel the same way. I believe that in a large diverse federation like Canada a bicameral legislature will work better than a unicameral legislature. I appreciate there are lots of people in my party who think the Senate should be changed.

The really interesting question is, who on earth actually thinks the current Senate is defensible? How would people justify the structure of the Canadian Senate today? I have come to the conclusion that there are only two groups of people who would support the current structure of our Senate.

The first group would be the people who are already there, because it has worked for them. They would argue that the system works fine because it put someone such as themselves into the Senate. The second group would be the people who thought one day they might be appointed to the Senate. They think if they play their cards right, if they are nice to the party leadership, if they raise funds, if they do this and that, maybe somewhere down the line, as a reward, they will become senators, and they do not want to close off that option. I put that group of people in the same category as the 20% of the public who say that part of their retirement plan is winning the lottery. I guess a certain number of Canadians think getting appointed to the Senate is part of their career path and they do not want to lose that option.

This is the first point I make with students when I talk to them. I tell them that it is outrageous in the 21st century in a country such as Canada that we still have one of the two chambers of our national legislature where members are appointed for life by a prime minister.

I remember 10 or 15 years ago when the Iron Curtain came down in Europe. Many of the countries in Eastern Europe took the tentative first steps to establish democracies. Countries in the Middle East and other parts of the world had already crossed that gap and had gone from a military government or a totalitarian or a communist state to become a democracy. I imagine at the time, those countries looked at how they should structure their new democratic government. They probably looked at other countries such as Great Britain, or France, or the United States or other places to get ideas whether they would use a parliamentary system or a presidential system and how they would set it up.

I have often thought what would have happened had those countries brought in consultants and asked them how they should set up their new democratic government and the consultants told them they should have bicameral legislatures, but one chamber would be elected by the people. However, there would be strict party discipline and the prime ministers would pretty much control that in a majority government. In terms of the judiciary, they would let the prime ministers unilaterally appoint all the judges. Maybe the prime ministers would also unilaterally appoint the heads of all crown corporations and all ambassadors. For the second chambers in the national legislatures, the prime ministers would also unilaterally appoint all members to them.

If a consultant had said that in one of the countries in Eastern Europe 10 or 15 years ago, the individual would have been laughed out of the room. Somebody would have said that it was an absurd notion that any country could function in that way. I guess the consultant would have said that was not true, that Canada functioned this way.

In considering this bill today, we are talking about taking one step in the right direction. Some of us, particularly on this side of the House, would like to take more steps and we would like to take them faster.

We are satisfied with taking steps to deal with at least indirectly electing senators, having some mechanism where people would have some say in who would become their senators. If that is combined with the other bill that would limit Senate terms to eight years, those two things would create a somewhat legitimate democratic institution infinitely better than we have today.

I hope we will take those two steps. I think they would work, they would make the Senate a more legitimate place and it would create an appetite for more steps in that direction.

Members in the Liberal Party say that they want everything or nothing, either a comprehensive fix the whole Senate package of reforms or they do not want to change anything. There is one of two explanations for that. First, they want comprehensive reform to the Senate. However, given they have been in power most of the last 50 years, they have had ample opportunity to do that but they have not. Second, they do not want any change to the Senate, but it is a convenient way for them to not publicly say that they are against Senate reform.

If the Liberals can have all the pieces fit together at the same time, if it is done through proper channels, including the constitutional amendment, then they will support that. However, they will not support other measures even though they are easily defensible, are logical and unarguably make the Senate more democratic than it is now.

On that basis, I encourage all members of this place to support the legislation. Help us take one baby step in the right direction. Before I leave this place, I hope we have a Senate that functions with the robust energy of a legitimate, democratic institution and that it can play the role that it is meant to play in our national political debate.

Committees of the House February 4th, 2008

Mr. Speaker, I have the honour to present, in both official languages, the third report of the Standing Committee on Aboriginal Affairs and Northern Development.

In accordance with the order of reference on Tuesday, November 13, 2007, your committee has considered Bill C-21, An Act to amend the Canadian Human Rights Act, and has agreed to report it with amendments.

Committees of the House December 3rd, 2007

Mr. Speaker, I have two reports to present today.

I have the honour to present, in both official languages, the first report of the Standing Committee on Aboriginal Affairs and Northern Development regarding adoption of the recommendations from the committee's sixth report in the first session of the 39th Parliament, entitled “No Higher Priority: Aboriginal Post-Secondary Education in Canada”.

Additionally, I have the honour to present, in both official languages, the second report of the Standing Committee on Aboriginal Affairs and Northern Development regarding the supplementary estimates (A) for the fiscal year 2007-08. The committee has considered all votes under Indian and Northern Affairs Canada and reports the same.

Federal-Provincial-Municipal Relations November 16th, 2007

Mr. Speaker, I want to take a moment to pay tribute to our provincial and municipal colleagues. I am lucky to have an excellent working relationship with my Queen's Park counterpart, Laurie Scott. At the municipal level I have the pleasure of working with local officials from Haliburton County, Kawartha Lakes, Brock Township and parts of Peterborough County.

While federal and provincial members spend a lot of time out of the riding in the capital, it is municipal officials who are in the coffee shops and on the main streets of our communities every single day. As such, they have an excellent sense of what is going on and what their communities need and want.

Tonight I will be attending the Haliburton County Warden's Dinner. This is an annual event that recognizes the contribution of our local officials, past and present.

While we may squabble a bit from time to time, I believe that most Canadians are well served by federal, provincial and local officials working together for the good of their communities.

Here is to our provincial and municipal colleagues across Canada. Thanks for all the great work being done.

A Capital Experience October 23rd, 2007

Mr. Speaker, there is a special group of high school students here today. They are participating in a program I call a “Capital Experience”. Each October, two student leaders from each of the seven high schools in my riding come to Ottawa for three days to learn about career opportunities in public life.

They have visited Parliament, the Korean Embassy, Amnesty International, the Department of Foreign Affairs, CHUM studios, the Prime Minister's Office, the Press Gallery and SUMMA Strategies.

I wish to thank those who shared their time with these students. I also thank the businesses and service clubs who sponsored them.

Today I welcome to Parliament: Cathryn Woodrow and Mac Adams from Fenelon Falls; Kassy Smith and Dylan Robichaud from St. Thomas Aquinas; Bethany Snelgrove and William Prentesco from Haliburton; Amanda Franco-Brooks and Monique Elliot from Brock; Rebecca Reeds and Meaghan Williams from I.E. Weldon; Amber Flynn and Nathan Dinnick from Crestwood; and Andrea Hawkridge from Lakefield.

I ask my colleagues to join me in wishing these young people seated in the gallery today all the best as they make decisions regarding their future careers.

Senate Tenure Legislation June 8th, 2007

Mr. Speaker, the Canadian public still awaits a public display of leadership by the Liberal leader regarding term limits for senators.

In May 2006 he expressed his support for term limits by saying that the best way to deal with Senate reform would be to “require Senators to agree to sign an agreement promising to step down after six years”. Later that same month he said, “senators should be placed on fixed terms of six to 10 years”.

In December he said, “I'm not against the idea to have a mandate for senators between eight and 12 years”. In February he declared that the Liberal Party supported term limits and said “a term limit is a good idea if it's not too short”.

Quite simply, the Senate must change and everyone knows it, including the Liberal leader. When will he put an end to privileged Liberal entitlements and tell his senators to pass the bill to limit the terms of senators and finally, for once, show some real leadership on this important issue?