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Track Blake

Your Say


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

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.

Democratic Reform November 3rd, 2016

Mr. Speaker, while we are on the topic of hiding things, the Minister of Democratic Institutions continues to stonewall reporters and others who have been trying to get the truth out of her for months. We all know that she is hiding something. But yesterday, news reports finally revealed the truth. The minister finally admitted that she and the Prime Minister have a preferred voting system. Canadians have made it clear that they want a referendum on any proposed changes, so will the Liberals finally put aside the Prime Minister's personal preferences and allow all Canadians to have a direct say through a referendum?

Taxation October 28th, 2016

Madam Speaker, the Liberal government's war on small business does not end with only campgrounds. There are many small businesses, small family businesses, mom-and-pop operations, that are also being unjustly punished by the Liberals.

The Liberals not only broke their campaign promise of a small-business tax cut, they cancelled the review of the misapplication of passive income, when the amount of work involved is anything but passive.

Where do the Liberals get off deciding that some businesses are too small to be small businesses?

Taxation October 28th, 2016

Madam Speaker, every summer Canadians enjoy the outdoors using the many services provided by campgrounds across the country. Unfortunately, yet again, the Liberals are showing total disregard toward small businesses. They have ended the review of active versus passive business-income rules that would have allowed small businesses like campgrounds to access the small business tax rate. Instead, the CRA is handing them huge new tax bills.

Will the Liberals reverse this poor decision and actually start helping small-business owners instead of overtaxing them?

Democratic Reform October 20th, 2016

Mr. Speaker, it seems the Minister of Democratic Institutions thinks she is different from every other Canadian. In fact, her own staff are saying that the rules that apply to every other Canadian do not apply to her.

Of course, I am talking about the minister providing the results of her cross-Canada consultations to the Special Committee on Electoral Reform.

When asked why she had not submitted, her staff said she's not the general public.

It is the same old story: one rule for the Liberals and another for the rest of us.

Why does the minister think she is above the rules that every other Canadian has to follow?

Democratic Reform September 30th, 2016

Madam Speaker, the government claims it is consulting on fundamental changes to our democracy, but then it is not actually listening to what Canadians have to say, so let us listen.

Constituents Jeff and Annie wrote, “This is not a decision for only political parties to make”. Charles and Wynanda wrote, “It is unconscionable that a government in power would try to rig an election system to stay in power. This is what dictators do”. Denis says, “A referendum is essential”.

Will the Liberals finally agree to let each and every Canadian have a say in a referendum?

Sudden Infant Death Syndrome September 30th, 2016

Madam Speaker, every year about a thousand Canadian babies fall asleep and never wake up. They die from sudden infant death syndrome. SIDS is the number one cause of death in babies under the age of one.

Quinn Isla Cormier of Airdrie was one of those babies. She was loved, and she is still missed. Her death, like all SIDS or undetermined deaths, could not have been predicted or prevented.

I rise to acknowledge Quinn's mother, Sarah Cormier, and her family for creating an organization dedicated to helping families that have lost an infant suddenly and unexpectedly.

Ms. Cormier and Quinn’s Legacy Society Run are building awareness through fundraising initiatives and advocacy. In partnership with SIDS Calgary Society, the funds raised go to parents who have lost an infant to SIDS and face financial hardship due to the loss of government benefits.

Tomorrow marks the beginning of Pregnancy and Infant Loss Awareness Month, an important reminder of the babies lost and the families that survive them, to help raise awareness and to reflect on whether our current policies are adequately supporting SIDS' families.

Food and Drugs Act September 20th, 2016

Mr. Speaker, thank you for the opportunity to stand and speak to Bill C-13. It is an opportunity to discuss the importance of trade. It is good to have a bill that I feel I can support the government on, because they are few and far between. It is a pleasure to be able to do that.

Obviously, to speak to the importance of trade we have to look at the fact that one in five jobs in Canada depend on trade. Sixty percent of our GDP is linked to exports, so that is obviously very significant. It creates jobs in the country and opportunities for businesses, particularly small business owners. History has shown us that trade is one of the best ways to create jobs, growth, and long-term prosperity. As trade increases so does our nation's prosperity. We are putting more money into the pockets of hard-working Canadians.

Under the previous Conservative government we had one of the most ambitious pro-trade agendas, probably the most ambitious in our country's history. We were able to conclude free trade agreements with 38 countries. That included Colombia, the European Free Trade Association, Honduras, Jordan, Panama, Peru, South Korea, and the 28 member-states of the European Union as well. We also concluded, signed, and brought into force foreign investment protection agreements with 24 countries. That is more than any other government in Canada's history as well.

Just to speak to a few of those, one of our historic achievements was the Canada-Korea Free Trade Agreement. It was actually Canada's first free trade agreement with the Asia-Pacific region, one of the fastest growing regions. We also had the opportunity with a number of other countries. Ukraine is one that comes to mind as well. The Canada-European Free Trade Association agreement is another one that we certainly hope to see ratified. There is the TPP as well.

It is a pleasure to stand and support the legislation and continue to push for trade and growth in our economy.