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Track Blake

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Crucial Fact

  • His favourite word is obviously.

Conservative MP for Banff—Airdrie (Alberta)

Won his last election, in 2015, with 63% of the vote.

Statements in the House

Budget Implementation Act, 2016, No. 2 December 5th, 2016

Mr. Speaker, I can tell the member that I am certainly not hearing anything different from what he is hearing. There was recently a huge rally in my riding that was organized by citizens who are opposed to a carbon tax. There were probably thousands of people who showed up. I noticed that cars going by were honking their horns in support. People are hugely concerned. It is like being kicked while we are down. There are thousands of workers out of work, and while needing support and wanting something that offers them hope, the government offers a carbon tax, which would tax everything.

When I knock on doors, in addition to hearing concerns about this carbon tax, I hear about the measures that the government claims will somehow help middle-class Canadian families. I asked my constituents at their doors, and they said they are worse off. I also did a survey in which I asked constituents if they are better or worse off, and 65% of them said they are worse off under the current government. That was 65%.

Budget Implementation Act, 2016, No. 2 December 5th, 2016

Mr. Speaker, that is a great question. The answer is that when a party makes promises during an election campaign, it should keep those promises. We have definitely seen very little of that from the Liberal government. As the member said, that is the one thing we can certainly agree on, that it is not keeping any of its promises. It promised what I think was a terrible promise to begin with, which is that there would be a $10-billion deficit, but it certainly did not keep that promise. It has blown way past that already.

The member talked about infrastructure. The Liberals claim they are going to create all of these jobs with all this infrastructure, and that is why they need to run these deficits. Not only are they running this deficit and taxing Canadians, they are not even providing the promised infrastructure or the jobs. No jobs have been created, and the infrastructure is deferred until way into the future. What we are getting from the government is nothing but new taxes and a massive new debt. That is what we are getting from the government. That is going to be its legacy: taxes for us, our children and grandchildren, and a huge hole that it dug for the entire country. That is its legacy, and it is shameful.

Budget Implementation Act, 2016, No. 2 December 5th, 2016

Mr. Speaker, I am amazed to even hear that comment. We are talking about a government that took us through one of the most difficult economic times that the world has ever seen. Conservatives came out of it with a balanced budget, lowered taxes for Canadians, and somehow that was damage? I can understand why he might think that, because what we are seeing from the Liberals is the complete opposite. There are huge new deficits being created in a very short period of time, and there are massive new taxes being put on Canadians. That, to me, sounds like the real damage, but, of course, Liberals always have it all backward.

Budget Implementation Act, 2016, No. 2 December 5th, 2016

Mr. Speaker, I rise today to talk about the Liberal government's budget. It seems to me that we are stuck in a tax-and-spend cycle with the current Liberal government. Every time we turn around, it seems that the Liberals are finding another way to try to increase government spending, with no regard for Canadian taxpayers. Therefore, we see an increase in taxation, and the prospect for future generations of further increases in their taxation, as a result of large deficits and debt left behind by the government through all of this spending.

When the Liberal government released its fall economic update, it confirmed what we already knew. Liberals are spending so recklessly that they are going to have to borrow more money, and they have no plan to return to balanced budgets. I stand here today because on this side of the House we believe that fiscal responsibility, a framework for creating a strong economy, and a plan to create jobs and get Canadians back to work are what Canadians need and what they have asked for. We will continue to be the ones who stand up for the hard-working taxpayers of this country and hold the Liberal government accountable for its out-of-control spending.

In discussions I have had with constituents, through town halls and a survey prior to the introduction of the 2016 budget, along with a number of other methods that we conduct through the year, the one common link, the underlying concern that constituents had, was about ballooning deficits they were seeing from the Liberal government. This is simply not a solution to Canada's economic challenges. In fact, nearly every constituent who was surveyed indicated that a balanced federal budget was important, almost unanimously. This obviously comes in very stark contrast to what we see in the budget implementation act.

When it comes to broken promises, the Liberals ran on a campaign promise to cap deficits at $10 billion a year and return more to a balanced budget in 2019-20. That frankly was not good enough to begin with, but that was their promise. Instead, they are spending deficits of nearly three times that amount, almost $30 billion in borrowed money. This is in their first year alone. Through the budget implementation act that we have before us today, the Liberals will continue to run deficits, and with no explanation whatsoever about how or when they will return to a balance.

The Liberals may try to blame higher deficits on a weak economy or lower revenues, but it is very clear from the parliamentary budget officer and the Finance Canada “Fiscal Monitor” that Liberal spending is the real culprit. Hard-working Canadians across the country run their personal finances with fiscal restraint. They know that when they run out of money and keep spending, they are going to have an issue. Why does it seem like the Liberal government has such an issue with this concept? The budget is a steep deficit trajectory with no intention to return to balance and no clear plan to create jobs. That is pretty evident when they have not actually created a single net job since they were elected over a year ago. There is nothing to help get thousands of unemployed Canadians back to work. When it comes to managing an economy, there is no second chance. Clearly, Canadians are worse off today than they were a year ago.

The budget still offers no insights into how the government plans to create jobs. Unfortunately, the forecasting by the Liberals is not reliable either. When our previous government introduced a stimulus package in response to the global financial crisis, we used outside experts to vet our estimate of 220,000 jobs that would be created or maintained. The target was actually exceeded by 28,000 jobs.

In contrast, the parliamentary budget office reported in October that despite their out-of-control spending and their skyrocketing deficits, the Liberals have not created one net full-time job since they took office, not one; not a single job. The report also stated that the number of part-time jobs that were created in the last year is only half the average rate of job creation of the previous five years. All of them were part-time jobs.

Further, in comparison, while Canada's employment rate has been falling, rates in the U.S., G7, and OECD have risen. It is very clear that despite a year of reckless spending, the Liberal plan has done nothing to improve our economy. Instead of supporting real job creators, the Liberals are making it more expensive for companies to hire and raising taxes on the small businesses that employ 95% of Canadians.

For small businesses, the budget reneges on promises to lower the small business tax rate that were planned in the last Conservative budget, from 11% to 9%. Instead, the Liberals will hold the rate at 10.5% and have introduced new conditions around eligibility. I will get to those in a second.

It is not only that, but the budget did not renew the tax credit for El premiums paid by small business, and over $1 billion in new El expenditures points to higher premiums for all employers in the near future.

All of this drives away jobs and drives away investment. Now the Liberals are talking about a federal carbon tax, and we know what impact that will have on every Canadian family's budget. We know what it will mean for businesses and their costs. Again, it is further costs being added to families, further costs being added to businesses who are trying to employ Canadians.

Not only are the Liberals not creating jobs, but they are not even going to enable the private sector to do the job it wants to do, which is to create jobs. They are also saying to some small businesses that they are too small to be small businesses, so they are now going to be increasing their tax bills. For some of these small businesses we are talking about, when they deal with rules around active and passive income, they will see a tripling of their tax bills. This will put people out of business, and it will put more Canadians out of work.

I also want to touch on our natural resources industry and the workers it supports. The Liberals have imposed arbitrary, political, and unpredictable regulatory processes at a time when we urgently need to get our resources to new markets and when we should be supporting our natural resource workers. While unemployment in Alberta continues to climb, the Liberal government's budget fails to address support measures for our natural resource workers.

Skilled workers are struggling to provide for their families and are being forced to leave the province to seek better opportunities for employment. The number of unemployed Albertans has nearly doubled since the start of 2015. It went from 112,500 in January last year to 206,900 in August 2016, up 84.6%.

I see the signal you are giving me, Mr. Speaker. Unfortunately, I have so many points that I want to raise about the nature of this terrible budget that I will have to leave some of them out. Of course, we can thank the Liberal government for that as well. They have indicated that we are going to have a limited debate on this, so unfortunately there is no opportunity to raise all the points we would like to raise.

I want to touch on the point of infrastructure. I think I have already made it clear that the Liberals are completely oblivious to the needs of Alberta energy workers and getting them back to work. The budget certainly reflects that.

When we talk about the infrastructure program, the Liberals claim they are going to create this legacy of infrastructure. However, when we look at it, most of the claims are quite false, because it is in the so-called phase two of the plan where we will see most of the infrastructure. Most of these things will not even be realized for at least six years. Until then, the municipalities are basically out of luck.

The Liberals have taken a huge chunk of this fund and put it into an infrastructure bank, which means small communities across the country are out of luck because they do not have access to any of that We talk about them having to be massive projects of $100 million or more.

On top of all that, we have higher taxes. We keep hearing from the government how families are better off. I asked my constituents if they were better off. I went to their doors and asked them in a survey. Over and over again, what I heard was no, that they were worse off. The government has taken away some of their tax credits for income splitting, fitness, arts, education, textbooks, their ability to save through tax-free savings accounts, and that it is forcing new mandatory premiums increases on them for the Canada pension plan.

It goes on and on. Then, of course, the cherry on top is the carbon tax. We are not all looking forward to that one. My constituents are telling me that they are going to be worse off.

Not only is the government taxing Canadian families to death and putting them in huge deficit and debt situations so that their kids and grandkids will be taxed to death, but it is not doing anything to create jobs or to help businesses do the same. It is a terrible budget, and I speak in opposition to it today.

Democratic Reform December 2nd, 2016

Mr. Speaker, not only do the vast majority of Canadians expect a referendum, but according to a recent poll, it turns out that even 74% of Liberal supporters want one too. Instead, the government is talking about a postcard and a website.

Let us be clear. There is no other form of citizen engagement that can replace a referendum, certainly not a postcard, or a website, or telephone calls. If the minister is actually serious about listening to each and every Canadian, and actually serious about the apology she has made, will she commit to taking the recommendation seriously and offer Canadians a referendum?

Democratic Reform December 2nd, 2016

Mr. Speaker, yesterday the Minister of Democratic Institutions insulted the thousands of Canadians who participated in the work of the committee on electoral reform when she questioned the committee's work by saying, “We asked the committee to help answer very difficult questions for us. It did not do that.” Or is it simply that the committee did not answer the way she wanted it to?

We appreciate the apology, but if the minister really wants to make this right, will she take the committee's recommendation seriously and offer a referendum?

Royal Canadian Legion December 2nd, 2016

Mr. Speaker, every year, the Royal Canadian Legion conducts the poppy campaign to raise funds for veterans and their families, and most Canadians give generously. However, it is disappointing to know that there are those who disregard what the poppy stands for and our veterans by stealing poppy boxes.

I rise today to recognize an important initiative in my riding. In response to some thefts last year, Dan Kroffat from Cochrane designed a new anti-theft poppy box. Fifty prototypes were created with support from the Cochrane legion, the Cochrane & District Chamber of Commerce, Alex Baum of Cochrane Toyota, Garney Baker of EGB Manufacturing, and Jon Cornish, retired Calgary Stampeders star.

These new boxes were placed in high-traffic areas as they garner more donations and are more at risk of theft. I am pleased to say that the donations collected in Cochrane this year have surpassed last year's record totals. When donors felt the funds were safe, they contributed more.

Congratulations on a job well done. I hope to see this initiative rolled out nationally next year.

Democratic Reform December 1st, 2016

Mr. Speaker, Canadians believe that there should be no changes to the way they vote without a referendum first, and an Angus Reid poll showed that 75% of Canadians feel this way. Now the special committee has agreed that a referendum is required. What has been the Liberal government's response? Some vague notion of citizen engagement and some postcard about values.

There is no other form of citizenship engagement that is a replacement for a referendum, so will the Liberals finally acknowledge that they cannot change Canadians' voting system without giving them a direct say in a referendum?

Democratic Reform November 30th, 2016

Mr. Speaker, last week, in shocking testimony before a Senate committee, the Chief Electoral Officer said there is no way to restrict or prevent foreigners or foreign organizations from trying to influence Canadian elections.

There are no restrictions on unlimited spending for things like polling, canvassing, phone banking, or election websites. Yet, we see nothing that addresses these concerns in Bill C-33.

Is the democratic institutions minister not concerned about this kind of foreign interference in Canadian elections?

Rouge National Urban Park Act November 24th, 2016

Mr. Speaker, it is a pleasure to rise to speak to this bill today. Obviously, it is no surprise to anyone, based on my constant promotion of it but also because Banff National Park is in my riding, that I am one of the proudest promoters and supporters of our national parks system. I am certainly pleased to have seen, through the work of the previous government and others, that Rouge National Urban Park, Canada's first urban national park, would provide opportunities for people in the GTA to experience our national parks by having one in such close proximity. I hope they catch the bug and want to experience our other national parks. What better place than the first and greatest national park in our country, Banff National Park? I certainly believe it will be a great promoter of that.

In fact, I know that the previous superintendent of Banff National Park has moved into Rouge and has become the superintendent there. She has brought that great experience from Banff with her to that job. We congratulate Pam Veinotte.

Because I am an opposition member, people would say my job is to oppose. I would disagree with that slightly. I would say it means that my job is to try to ensure that we give the government the opportunity to improve and we show it ways to accomplish better things. The minute the government members choose not to pick those up, we can show them to Canadians and they can choose something that will be better. If all else fails, our job is to oppose.

In that vein, I want to point out the area of concern I have with this bill. I will spend some time on why that should be a concern and offer an opportunity to the government members to do better.

The section I am concerned about is about ecological integrity. It says that it must be of the utmost importance, above all the other important parts of Parks Canada's mandate. Parks Canada's mandate is obviously to promote ecological integrity, but it is also to promote visitor experience and visitor opportunities. Those things are important, and they all go together.

When part of a bill says, “Maintenance or restoration of ecological integrity...must be the first priority of the Minister when considering all aspects of the management of the Park”, it indicates that the Liberals have the intention of making that part of the mandate the prime focus. That would mean forgetting about the fact that parks are there for enjoyment and use. People will point out, and I would be the first among them, that it is important that enjoyment and use be there for both current and future generations. That is part of the reason ecological integrity is important, but we have to be clear that those things have to be done in unison. They have to be considered as a package. It cannot be the first and only priority, because without the opportunity for people to enjoy parks, they are not able to meet their fullest use.

I recently attended a speech given by Rex Murphy, in Banff, at the annual gala for the Association for Mountain Parks Protection & Enjoyment. I am going to speak about the association in a bit, because it has a great role to play in ensuring that this balance is there. Its members have some great suggestions. That is what I will offer to the government in terms of suggestions.

Rex Murphy made a great speech on the importance of parks. I will paraphrase all of his speech into one short comment. Essentially, his point was that parks needed people as much as people needed parks. There is no question about both of those statements. People do need parks. It is where we can reconnect with nature, spend time with our families, enjoy the great outdoors, and discover part of our souls sometimes. We get so busy with day-to-day life that we sometimes forget to reconnect with ourselves. Through nature, we can find those opportunities.

However, it is also important for parks to have people. Without people to enjoy them, they are not serving their greatest purpose. That is why it is so important to find that balance.

I want to delve into the last time we heard these kinds of statements. Coincidentally enough, it was the last time there was a Liberal government. That was back in the 1990s. In 1994, the minister responsible for Parks Canada was Sheila Copps. If one were to say that name in Banff National Park today, people still curl up into a fetal position. They wonder what is coming next, how they are going to be hit, how the tourism industry is going to be damaged next. It was all based on this same principle.

This is a movie that people in Banff have seen before, and they do not like the way that it ends. In the last year of the Liberal government, they are seeing the start of a sequel. It looks very much like the original movie and they are quite concerned about the ending, whether it will be the same as last time. There are all kinds of signs that this might be the case. I want to give the government the opportunity to hear some of those concerns today. Maybe it will take up some of those concerns and see if there are ways it can do better and improve. That is certainly my hope.

When we look back at when Sheila Copps was the Liberal minister, the Banff-Bow Valley Study was undertaken. It provided a whole series of recommendations, not all of which were taken up but certainly many were. At that time, we could not be in Banff without hearing about this topic. It was on the minds of everybody. People were definitely concerned. I will talk about some of the issues raised at that time.

It significantly delayed a number of projects proceeding, things that would have helped to improve the visitor experience, for tourism to flourish, for visitors to best enjoy the area, things like improvements to ski hills. The biggest was the twinning of the Trans-Canada Highway between Castle Junction and Sunshine, something the Conservative government put in place. The twinning of that highway was completed, which is so vitally important for human and wildlife safety.

The Conservatives were able to accomplish this because of our balanced approach in ensuring all of the different parts of the mandate, but at that time, it was on hold. Unfortunately it took deaths along the highway for the Liberal Party to wake up. The Conservatives, once in office, were able to finish that project.

When people look back at that time and the concerns that developed as a result of the sole focus in this bill, being only on the ecological integrity and not about the experiences and enjoyment of visitors, I think about all the things that were accomplished by the Conservative government in its 10 years. I wonder if any of those things could be accomplished today with this kind of move.

Most important to mention is the Legacy Trail, which is a multi-use trail but mainly a cycling trail that leads from Canmore to Banff. This is an incredibly popular trail. When the government talks about limiting development in national parks, I wonder if this would have been able to proceed. I suppose one of the answers might be in the fact that last summer, prior to the election, there was an announcement of a lot of great projects that were warmly received by the people of Banff and by the visitors who experienced Banff. One was the ability to build and widen the shoulders on the Bull Valley Parkway, which goes between Banff and Lake Louise. Cyclists would have a safer route to follow from Banff to Lake Louise. When the Liberal government took office, it cancelled that project. Cyclists, who were greatly pleased about their improved safety, lost that opportunity. Those are the kinds of things we are seeing.

With my remaining time, I want to discuss the biggest issue on the minds of those in Banff right now, who are seeking to make their livelihoods through tourism. I should point out for all members of the House, because some might not be aware. For Banff, tourism is the economy. It is not a part of the economy. It is not even a large part of the economy. It is the economy of Banff. Tourism is what employs almost everybody in that community. It creates hundreds of businesses for people in that area, allowing them to thrive and succeed. It enables the approximately four million visitors who are received in Banff each year to have the greatest experiences they can have.

Tourists of course go to Banff to enjoy the national park, but we have to provide them with the experiences, the lodging, the places to eat, and all of the other opportunities that a guest looks to see in a tourism experience. That is what the people of Banff do. That is the livelihood of the entire community. When we are talking about things that will lessen the ability to develop, or improve their products or their offerings because of their leaseholds, we are talking about harming their opportunities to make a livelihood and the ability of visitors to have a great experience. I have great faith in the people, the business owners, and the employees who serve our tourists. I have no doubt that tourists will continue to have those great experiences no matter what the Liberal government does.

However, I will point out that there are some concerns right now in the ability to take in vehicle traffic. The mayor of Banff, and I spoke to her as recently as today, has concerns about the capacity for vehicle traffic and the need for solutions. I am going to quote some of the mayor's concerns. Banff is welcoming and open to more visitors, but the capacity for vehicle traffic is a concern. The mayor has raised some of these concerns on behalf of the people. At a council meeting in October, she said:

I am deeply disappointed that Parks Canada has not come to the table on offering ideas in partnership with us to manage this high probability of increases in traffic in 2017....At the end of the day...The world heritage site and Banff National Park are the draw and we are here to service those visitors...I get asked consistently, a few times every week, by residents about what’s going to happen in the summer of 2017 with free entry to all national parks, including Banff… I’m very concerned.

She goes on to say that the offer made by the Liberal government of free entry is a nice idea, and it is. However, no thought seems to have been given to the real logistics of managing the increased traffic, particularly for the popular parks like Banff and Jasper. She said that:

When this was announced, I guess I assumed that Parks Canada would be working with us on how to manage the consequences of this, and I was assuming that would happen very quickly.

It is nearly the end of November, and we still have a real concern about what those plans are going to be for next year.

I want to talk a little about some of the solutions that are being offered, and I know there is not a lot of time left. I want to talk about the group I mentioned earlier, the Association for Mountain Parks Protection and Enjoyment. The group advocates for what is really the mandate of Parks Canada to ensure that this balance is found, the balance I talked about earlier.

It wants to ensure there is ecological integrity, but it is there for visitor experience and for those of current and future generations, and that we can provide that quality tourism experience. When it talks about solutions, it is a group that needs to be listened to. It talks about some of the issues that we are facing them right now, and offers these following solutions.

The group believes there is a need for things like mass transit solutions that are in line with its environmentally responsible visitor experience. It is talking about bicycle trails to reduce vehicles and to provide environmentally friendly access. It is talking about ensuring sustainable development, engaging guests with an enhanced visitor experience, new opportunities to connect new Canadians, and those with limited mobility.

Those are the kinds of solutions being asked for and what we hear instead is a government that says that it will limit all development and put this one pillar as the only consideration. Unfortunately, that creates a situation where those who want to come, visit and experience cannot. Solutions are being put out there, and we are just not hearing anything back. We are not hearing any take-up. We are not hearing any concern about trying to provide those kinds of solutions and opportunities.

When solutions or opportunities are not offered, then we have a situation where the park will be at a capacity for vehicle traffic. Then it will come into the kinds of problems that are difficult to solve without some help and co-operation from the government and Parks Canada. I know I have had great interactions with Parks Canada, both at the CEO level and also at the local level, with our local superintendent and others. I believe they are eager to try to work with the tourism industry.

The government needs to have that political will to push those solutions forward so we can continue to best serve the four million guest, and likely far more next year with the free parks passes. However, without the ability to deal with some of the new solutions that are needed to ensure proper vehicle access, we will actually have a really difficult time to best provide that experience for visitors.

As I said, I have great faith in the people and tourism operators of Banff. I know they will do that, but it would certainly be good if the government came to table to try to help ensure better opportunities in those regards.