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Crucial Fact

  • His favourite word was things.

Last in Parliament October 2019, as Conservative MP for Saskatoon—University (Saskatchewan)

Won his last election, in 2015, with 42% of the vote.

Statements in the House

Canada Summer Jobs Program March 1st, 2018

Mr. Speaker, actions have consequences, something the Liberal government seems to have forgotten. Take, for example, the Liberal implementation of an ideological litmus test for the Canada summer jobs program. The requirement that applicants support the Liberal Party position on hot-button social issues actually hurts Canadian children.

“Which children?” one may ask. How about the children in 24 aboriginal reserves across western Canada whose 5-day clubs have been historically funded through the Canada summer jobs program? These children, some of whom come from difficult family situations, were able to benefit from a summer program that cared about their needs and brought a little joy to their lives for part of their summer. However, because the sponsoring organization, Child Evangelism Fellowship, does not subscribe to Liberal values it is ineligible to apply for funding.

Child Evangelism Fellowship cares about these children on these reserves. If the Liberal Party also cared about them, it would drop the silly, irrelevant, ideological litmus test for the Canada summer jobs program so more children could be helped by these clubs.

Impact Assessment Act February 27th, 2018

Mr. Speaker, my hon. colleague brings up a very good point. This is not a simple piece of legislation.

Members may have noticed that, in my speech, I did not get into the details. Part of the reason is that to go through and comprehend a 370-page piece of legislation takes more than a few hours. The government is pushing through this proposed legislation quite rapidly.

I do not know why the Liberals are afraid of more public debate. This is not an issue that is going to go away any time in Canadian history.

I agree with my hon. colleague from the New Democrats. I am not sure what the Liberals are trying to hide. I am not sure why they are afraid to have more public input. I know they are going to get criticism from both the left and the right. It does not mean that the bill has balance; it means they have not thought about things such as environmental or economic impacts. That is why they are getting the criticism they so richly deserve on this proposed legislation.

Impact Assessment Act February 27th, 2018

Mr. Speaker, the hon. member needs to understand that what he is saying is not quite what I said.

I said that one needs to have some relevance to the project. One may have technical relevance or, as the member noted, one's land may be impacted. However, there needs to be some sort of a test. Is one's interest relevant to the project? People in Saskatchewan are not going to have the same sort of relevance to a project in New Brunswick as the people in New Brunswick. An environmentalist in New Brunswick who has technical expertise in a subject definitely has standing, ties, etc.

There are various tests we can use, but the problem with the proposed legislation is that it would eliminate the whole concept of tests for standing. We need some sort of test, be it technical, geographical, economic, tests on first nations' rights, and other legal tests. We cannot leave this completely open to anyone anywhere, because it would devalue the rights of the people who are involved, who have some reasoned and proper arguments to bring forward on how it would impact their lives.

Impact Assessment Act February 27th, 2018

Mr. Speaker, I will be splitting my time with my good friend and colleague, the hon. member for Cypress Hills—Grasslands.

I can bring everything back to relevance, but the House will have to bear with me for one little indulgence. I should explain to the House why I was unable to be here for the last parliamentary sitting week, and that was because my household welcomed a new eight pound, 10 ounce little girl, Helena Esu Trost. I was not away at some costume party in India or something like that. I was actually celebrating the birth of my daughter, and doing some constituency work at the same time. These things always need relevance and, like every piece of legislation we are talking about, it always impacts our children's future.

This legislation is of particular interest to me. The members who have been here for quite a few years will understand why. Prior to my election to the House of Commons, I worked as a mining exploration geophysicist. Geophysics was my education. It was my primary degree at the University of Saskatchewan. I actually worked in the field on mining and mineral exploration projects.

For me, when I read bills that talk about regulation, about impact of natural resources, it is not an academic question. Nowadays, increasingly, we have more and more Canadians who are removed from the production of primary goods. We see more and more people, as the joke goes, who think milk comes from a box in the store, not from a cow. They think that houses magically appear, and they are not made out of lumber and wood.

The same thing happens with oil and gas and mineral resources. People often do not have a fundamentally good understanding of where these products come from or the impact or what needs to be done. Rather than going through some of the technical elements of the bill, which my colleagues are going to do very well here today, I want to talk a little about what this actually means to people on the ground.

One of the things that needs to be understood by Canadians who are watching this, by people who do not live in primary natural resource communities, is what this actually means for the people in these areas, for their social well-being and health, and other things. Every time we make it more difficult to produce natural resource wealth from rural and remote areas, we completely and deeply impact the lives of the people who live in those areas. For people who live in downtown Toronto, downtown Vancouver, or even in my city, downtown Saskatoon, this is a remote issue for them. It does not actually impact their day-to-day life. Let me give an example of what things can actually change if mining and oil and gas projects get through.

In the year 2000, I was an exploration geophysicist up in Baker Lake, Nunavut, a great community. The geographical centre of Canada is just outside of town. In that community at that point, there was a high unemployment rate. Naturally, there were issues, and not all issues go away with economic development.

What happened in the following years after we were up there and working on the Meadowbank and the Meliadine project is that Cumberland Resources turned it into a mine. Today there is a gold mine not too far away from the community. People can drive there. They take out the ore deposits. Baker Lake has less than a 0% unemployment rate. They have full employment there. I had the privilege of sitting in at a committee hearing where representatives of Baker Lake actually came. They talked about what this means to their communities.

When we talk about this legislation here, we are not just talking about things in the abstract. We are talking about a change in standard of living, a change in communities, particularly for our remote and rural areas. This has more impact on the social well-being of many of these communities than all the government projects combined.

That is why I think it should be, in many ways, a prejudice, not a negative prejudice but a positive prejudice, toward development in these smaller communities in particular. When in doubt, we should give extra weight to people who will get economic benefit from these projects.

That is what concerns me about this legislation that the government is bringing forward today. The government has taken away one very important element in this legislation that previously existed, and that was the concept of standing.

Before someone would go before the National Energy Board or talk to regulators, etc., one had to have relevance to the matter, had to be involved or connected. It could be technical expertise, financial interest, or community interest. However, as we begin to take away that legitimate and democratic connection to a project, we water down the voices of the people who have standing.

Now gold mines are not generally as politically controversial as oil pipelines. However, just think if Baker Lake would have had major opposition from places such as Norway or the United States to the development of their gold mine, and someone said they needed tourism or other things there more than a gold mine. Should the voices of the local people who would have benefited, whose lives would have changed, businesses would have been developed, and social structure added to and enhanced, be decreased? That is what happens when we take away standing. It is a fundamentally anti-democratic provision. It allows people to have a say who should not have a vote on the issue, by bringing in people who can influence it but have no actual connection. The analogy would be to letting people vote in my constituency who are not part of it.

In Canada, we have the principle that there has to be some relationship to the representative. The same thing needs to be held in regard to presentations on environmental projects on things of this nature. Of all the things in here, that is what concerns me the most: the undemocratic nature of eliminating standing to allow people who can use their wealth and influence to protect power, and not just inside Canada, but literally from outside Canada. That is not just an abstract point; it is a fundamental point that relates to democracy and how we let voices and people govern themselves, in this case in a very specific point of legislation.

The other thing that concerns me is the ability to take what appear to be set timelines and turn them into continuous extensions due to certain loopholes in the legislation. Now, the minister talked about how everything is political and if people do not like what the government does they can vote them out. Again, as the point has been made in this debate, some areas of the country do not have as direct a stake in this matter as do other areas of the country. For someone who lives in Saskatchewan, the north, or areas directly impacted, this is important. There should be much stricter legal guidelines given to eliminate loopholes of continuous delays that the minister and other actors under the act are allowed to give. Ultimately, if someone is going to be able to do a project that is substantive, there needs to be certainty.

When I was a young geophysicist working in northern Manitoba, I remember how many hours the senior geologists would work on developing environmental plans, getting things for provincial governments. I mean, we had to check out everything from ice thickness to what happens to garbage and so forth. One of the things people need to understand is that the industry takes this very seriously. In fact, when I worked in Yukon, we would have less environmental impact than many of the tourist groups and tourism parties who were there before us. We would pick up their trash.

That is why a lot of the general public's thinking of what a time delay is and bringing in the public impact is somewhat misplaced. That is why certainty needs to be there. With all the good work that the industry does in trying to be responsible, capital will start to move if it loses the certainty. The natural resource industry tends to be cyclical. Money will move forward in huge amounts, and then it will flow out again very quickly. One has to be ready to move to catch those peaks in resource prices in order to capitalize on them. With falling prices over the last few years, it has not been as good as it was in previous years.

As I conclude my remarks, I want to make a couple of points. During some of the debate, we talked about how pipelines were not built to tidewater under the previous Conservative government.

For the record, the Keystone pipeline and the Alberta Clipper line were approved and built under the previous government. As was noted, other pipelines were approved and then cancelled by the later government, and the Line 9 reversal also happened. These things happened. The job was getting done. It is important that we continue to understand how this impacts people all across Canada, particularly in rural and remote communities.

Petitions February 9th, 2018

Mr. Speaker, I rise to present a petition from people across Saskatchewan and Alberta who are troubled by discrimination against Christians. They call on the House to protect the conscience rights of doctors and nurses who refuse to participate in euthanasia, and they all call for a review of future legislation so that the constitutional rights of Christians are not violated.

Correctional Service Canada December 5th, 2017

Mr. Speaker, over 40% of the correctional officers on duty at the regional psychiatric centre in my riding in Saskatoon are on workers' compensation because they have been attacked by inmates. According to a story by reporter Dan Zakreski, officers at this Correctional Service Canada facility have been assaulted continually by inmates, who are spitting, biting, and stabbing officers with pens. Urine and feces have also been thrown.

The escalation in violence is due to a policy change in August to a practice called “administrative segregation”. As a result, violent inmates with a serious mental illness can no longer be separated from the general population. In the CBC article, union rep James Bloomfield said, “The inmates that are assaulting us are right in front of us the next day. There's no repercussions for them.”

I call upon the Minister of Public Safety to reverse this policy so that all CSC employees can work in an environment that is safe for them and the inmates they care for.

Cannabis Act November 9th, 2017

Madam Speaker, something like that would be useful, particularly as this issue was brought up to me by an aboriginal chief from northern Saskatchewan, who said they had enough problems with alcohol and the legalization of marijuana would cause more issues for them. He wishes he had the power to deal with it in his communities. This is a disaster for many remote communities that deal with severe social problems.

Cannabis Act November 9th, 2017

Madam Speaker, we can deal with marijuana the same way as tobacco without legalizing it.

In response to the hon. member, his statistics are wrong. He is citing statistics from only one year after legalization, when there was a very modest dip, but not the last three or four years when rates across the board went up. The other thing the hon. member did not note, and may not be aware of, is that Colorado had large-scale commercialization due to incredible liberalization of the medical marijuana industry. If we look at when Colorado was essentially similar to other states, when it had de facto commercialization to when it had whole legalization, we see almost a straight line going up in usage rates.

The hon. member is actually incorrect. I would urge him to table the article in The Washington Post in the House. I will happily table my studies in the next few days. Mine is updated from October 2017, the 127 page report. I will email it to the member next week.

Cannabis Act November 9th, 2017

This is a perfect question, Madam Speaker. When I talked to my family member on the Edmonton police force, he said that one of the strange things that politicians would not get was that marijuana was a drug that had a strong smell. Once it was legalized, drug dealers would have little pouches of pot on them, hoping the smell would cover up the other drugs they might be dealing. He said that the legalization of marijuana would make it harder for him, as an Edmonton city police officer, to enforce actions against other illegal drugs.

These issues are going to continue to pop up. The government has not thought this legislation through.

Cannabis Act November 9th, 2017

Madam Speaker, I am going to enjoy getting involved in this debate, having listened today to many of the remarks that have been provided by my colleagues. I have listened with particular intent to what the Liberal members have been saying and what their underlying argument is for this legislation. The case they have been making in the House is that the legislation would lower usage, make it possible to make it safer, and provide more protection for young people, for people who are abusing, misusing, and getting involved in the marijuana drug scene.

Having listened to that, I specifically tailored my remarks to deal with it, in particular looking at the jurisdictions throughout the world—Uruguay, Washington state, and particularly Colorado—that have legalized this. I find it interesting that they have made arguments about it becoming safer, that it would be safer with the legislation, that there would be less usage, and that we would be able to bring down the usage rates by young people. It is interesting that when I am out in the general public and people talk to who want to see the legislation go through, they never talk about increased safety. They argue for wanting to be able to use their joint recreationally without any hassle. The push from the general public, the people behind the scenes, is somewhat different from the argument that the government is making today.

I will deal with the argument that the government is making today. The argument that, “I want to have my fun and I do not care about the consequences” is not one that I am prepared to deal with today. There is a basic argument for dealing with that on its own. The argument I will deal with today is with the facts, and I will be using a couple of studies in particular.

The first study I would like to refer to was sponsored by France's National Institute of Higher Security and Justice Studies. The institute hired a psychiatry professor at the University of Pittsburgh, Dr. Erika Forbes, to look into marijuana usage around the world. The argument that the government is making is that, if we legalize marijuana, we will in fact have less usage. We have very few jurisdictions around the world that have gone for complete legalization, but there are three: Uruguay, Washington, and Colorado. It has been noted that in each and every one of those three jurisdictions, usage rates actually went up. In Washington and Colorado, the study says, usage rates did not move up uniformly in all age brackets and all demographics; they tended to move up more among adults than among young people. In Uruguay, the study found complete across-the-board increased usage of marijuana by every age cohort that was measured, the whole spectrum.

This is what we have. With what the Liberals are experimenting with in Canada, the experiment has been done in three jurisdictions and in each of these three times—from my perspective, not surprisingly—we have ended up with higher usage rates of marijuana. That is what I am anticipating as we go forward. If we legalize, as the other jurisdictions have, Canadians should not be surprised if we have higher usage rates.

On the question of whether I believe that will vary across the country, absolutely. The way the situation is now in Canada, if we read police reports and study anything about arrest rates and charge rates, we see that the usage rates in the Canadian public and the rates at which police charge and prosecutors prosecute vary dramatically across the country. Interestingly enough, according to one study I read, the place in the country with the lowest use among major cities was Saskatoon, where the police are also most likely to charge people; there is the most aggressive enforcement. Vancouver and Halifax were at the other end of the spectrum, both for youth who report usage and also for charge rates. There are different things that may be at play, but the government needs to think about this. Where the law is more strictly enforced in Canada, marijuana is less likely to be used. That would fit with the information that we get from the Uruguay-Washington-Colorado studies. Therefore, I would urge the government to look at this, because the very practical reality is that in some places in Canada it is almost legalized now. That is how slack the charge rate is.

Another thing that was noted in particular in the study paid for by the French institute of higher security was that marijuana poisonings have gone up in all of these jurisdictions. That is not something any Canadian politician wants to see happen. That is a problem across the board.

As I was getting ready for this, I found a report produced in October of this year on the situation in Colorado since it legalized marijuana. This is very fresh data. This report was produced literally a few weeks ago. For any members who are interested, I will try to have this posted on my website or on my Facebook page by Monday or Tuesday of next week.

The study pointed out that in 2006, Colorado was 14th among young people for usage of marijuana in the whole United States of America. In 2015, it was number one. It went from someplace above average to high, to being the place where marijuana was most used. In fact, Colorado currently has 55% higher than the national average marijuana, cannabis usage among young people. It found the same thing among adults. Colorado has about 124% higher usage rate of marijuana in general than the national average across the United States.

People who may be watching this might be thinking that they will use marijuana, that this will not cause them a problem, that this is not a stress for them. They may think their kids will not use it, or they hope they will not use it. However, let look at these statistics again.

Marijuana-related traffic deaths, when a driver was tested positive for marijuana, doubled from 55 deaths 2013 to 125 deaths in 2016. Marijuana-related traffic deaths increased 66% in the four year average, 2013 to 2016, since Colorado legalized it. During the same period, all traffic deaths only increased 16%.

When we take out the marijuana-related traffic deaths, the roadway is as safe or getting safer. However, marijuana is making it more dangerous to drive in the state of Colorado.

Youth usage has gone up in Colorado, and it was a high-usage state already. We are not comparing someplace where there was almost no marijuana. Colorado was in the top quarter, or third, of U.S. usage among youth, and it continued to go up after the legalization.

College age usage increased 16%. College-age students usage, second in the United States usage, was in eighth position in 2005-06.

Emergency department and hospitalization marijuana admissions was up from 6,300 in 2011 to 6,700 in 2012, and to 11,400 in 2014, and was on track to blow past that number in 2015.

In literally every measure we look at it is getting worse. Colorado's health system is getting worse; its driving situation for safety is getting worse; usage by young people is getting worse; usage by adults, the entire population, is getting worse.

The government has also said that it something like what it did with tobacco. Passing this legislation is not that. In fact, we could do the same thing about making marijuana more socially unacceptable, pushing marijuana back in other ways, in the same way governments have on tobacco over the years. We can do that right now. We do not have to legalize to go in that direction. In fact, if the government dropped this bill and went in that direction, I think it would find widespread public support.

Marijuana exposure has gone up. There are still criminal issues and all sorts of problems going on in Colorado.

I want to point to two final things. The other week I was at a family funeral in Saskatchewan. My uncle had passed away. I was visiting with a relative, who is a member of the Edmonton city police force. I asked him how many Edmonton city police officers wanted to have legalized marijuana. He said , “Us guys on the streets, absolutely none.” That tells us what the people on the front lines are thinking.

Finally, if we are to deal with drug problems in Canada, we have to deal with them in a broad-based culture, not just in Parliament but across the country. We need to do this not just now, but in perpetuity.