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Crucial Fact

  • His favourite word was chair.

Last in Parliament January 2014, as Conservative MP for Fort McMurray—Athabasca (Alberta)

Won his last election, in 2011, with 72% of the vote.

Statements in the House

Petitions June 20th, 2012

Mr. Speaker, I have the honour of presenting four petitions today with hundreds of signatures from northern Alberta, from communities such as Lac La Biche, High Prairie, Fort McMurray, Slave Lake and Boyle. The petitioners ask for Parliament to restrict abortion to the greatest extent possible.

CANADA-PANAMA ECONOMIC GROWTH AND PROSPERITY ACT June 19th, 2012

Madam Speaker, I appreciate the member asking about beef.

In fact, the BSE-related beef tariffs in Panama have actually been lifted. I can tell members that believe it not, the tariffs were 25% to 30% on Canadian beef and on all of Canada's high-quality beef cuts. Panama will also eliminate its 15% tariff on fresh or chilled offal with the implementation of the free trade agreement.

I will say, in relation to what the member did say, that I do not think there is any possibility of reaching perfection in anything. To suggest that we should hold out until we reach perfection, which I think is the NDP position, admirable as it is, is not reality.

We deal with real life here on this planet. We deal with real life in the Conservative caucus. We are going to continue to stand up for workers, the Canadian economy and families.

CANADA-PANAMA ECONOMIC GROWTH AND PROSPERITY ACT June 19th, 2012

Madam Speaker, I appreciate the member's hard work on the trade file.

I believe that open doors and open dialogue create open minds and open hearts. I think that we can see from the world's example what takes place when minds are closed, borders are closed and hearts are closed: people suffer. That is why we need to open our doors and reach out to these developing economies. We need to make sure that they understand that we will be standing up for our workers and that we will be helping out their workers as well.

It is about free trade. It is about free market access and making sure that we have an open mind, an open heart and an open door.

CANADA-PANAMA ECONOMIC GROWTH AND PROSPERITY ACT June 19th, 2012

Madam Speaker, that was so funny I forgot to laugh.

I represent more union members and workers per capita than anybody else in this place. I promise and assure the member that I am not going to stand against workers.

I can say that this member and his caucus are standing against machinery manufacturing jobs. In fact, we heard from the president of the Canadian association that it is selling more machines, and in the case of this one particular gentleman who builds forklifts, 40% of his forklifts are going to the oil sands.

We know that the NDP wants to shut down the oil sands. We know that the NDP leader wrote a preface to a book that said within 30 years he was going to make sure that the oil sands were shut down. What about those jobs? Is the member standing up for those jobs? I would say no.

We have clearly heard that Quebec, with this particular free trade agreement, would receive real benefits for pork and industrial and construction machinery. We know that they will be able to export industrial machinery from Quebec to Panama. Why would the member want to close down those export markets for Quebec manufacturers? I do not understand that.

CANADA-PANAMA ECONOMIC GROWTH AND PROSPERITY ACT June 19th, 2012

Madam Speaker, I am thankful for the opportunity to rise today to speak in relation to the Canada-Panama free trade agreement.

I would also like to mention that I did rise out of my chair slowly, as may have been seen on camera, because I ran 10 kilometres on Sunday to support a great charity in Barrie for the member of Parliament for Barrie, who did a great job and sold out. I would like to express my thanks to him and the town of Barrie.

I do want to talk about free trade and the belief I have in free trade around the world and the ability for Canada to open up its markets, because it is very important of course to the people I represent, to the businesses, the financial sectors, the farmers and agriculture producers.

I find it surprising that the NDP still takes the position of anti-free trade. We have seen bluntly what protectionism does to countries. In particular, we have seen iron curtains put up and brought down. They simply do not work. To be protectionist simply, in my mind, creates an atmosphere that brings about the surety that the NDP is not fit to govern because one cannot live in a house that is closed today. Certainly, if we close the borders of our country, we will all suffer the consequences for many years.

Therefore, I do want to put my support in this place firmly in the position behind free trade agreements. Even listening to the arguments, we hear they are quite hollow. Free trade will help the workers of Panama under the conditions that we provide them jobs and we provide a better quality of life as a result of their ability to trade with us.

This agreement actually would bring about additional market access for our agricultural and agrifood producers and exporters. That is very important to my constituents in northern Alberta, because I have many cattle producers, and there are many people who are in the agricultural and agrifood business in all parts of this country. Bluntly, Canada has a competitive advantage in the agribusiness. We can use that competitive advantage to ensure we continue to have the great quality of life that we do have in Canada.

As Canada's agricultural and agrifood sector becomes more modern, innovative and competitive, the sector is becoming a more significant part of Canada's economy. In fact, many people do not realize this but in 2010, the agriculture and agrifood industry directly accounted for one in eight jobs in Canada. This actually translated to employment for more than 2 million people. That is a lot of people who are employed through this sector.

In the same year, it accounted for about 8% of the GDP of the country. I would like to make mention that 8% of GDP is about the same as what my constituency in northern Alberta, through production of the oil sands, brings into this country, another 8%. Therefore, it is equivalent to about the same as the agricultural and agrifood business in the country as to the gross domestic product it produces for the country. Obviously, both are very important for Canada and for the continued great quality of life we enjoy.

Increasingly, over the last 15 years the agricultural and agrifood sector has become internationally focused. In 2011, exports valued at more than $41 billion were accounted for in this sector from Canada. This actually ranks Canada as the fifth largest exporter of agriculture and agrifood products in the world, which is a very important place to be. I am hoping with these new free trade agreements we can actually see that rise to first, if not to fourth or third, in the near future.

It is no surprise then, as a result of the great amount of the financial sector and the amount of jobs that are produced by the agricultural and agrifood sector, that our Conservative government continues to work tirelessly on ways to improve access to international markets. I know that my friend, the Minister of International Trade, is doing a great job there and I appreciate his doing that. I barely see him in the House anymore because he is always out somewhere in the world and is extremely busy and working hard for Canadians abroad. I especially appreciate the opportunity he has taken out of his own life to support Canada and Canada's trade market in the agricultural food and agrifood business.

We are achieving this great significant milestone through our commitment to pursue bilateral and regional trade agreements. These trade agreements are essential for continued prosperity for Canadians. I think most people know that.

During question period, the parliamentary secretary actually confirmed how many trade deals we have initiated as a Conservative government. I think it is probably more by three times than was done in the previous 13 years by the previous Liberal government, so we have seen a real focus on that by our government. I think it goes a long way to say how well we are doing as a country.

Certainly, we know the OECD has identified us as being a very strong economy, with the best banking sector and the best financial sector in the world. That is no surprise when we see agreements like the Canada-Panama free trade agreement.

The Conservative government has taken a very firm position on this because we know that to succeed in a global economy, we have to have a strong export market.

We want to ensure that our Canadian agriculture and agrifood producers and exporters remain competitive with other preferential suppliers to Panama, because we are not competing against ourselves; we are competing against other countries. We need to make sure that we have a competitive advantage. We do have a competitive advantage. We have large tracts of land. We have a very good, experienced workforce in the agriculture-agrifood sector. We have the ability to innovate and create, and we have the best agricultural sector in the world, bar none.

We certainly can use these competitive advantages to become that number one exporter. For example, one of the things that has happened in Canada's exports is, believe it or not, frozen french fries. Now, frozen french fries may not seem like a lot to many people. I know some of our members have particular fetishes toward frozen french fries, as we can hear in the background. However, when we get well down into it, this industry would immediately benefit from this because there would be an elimination of the 20% tariffs on this product.

In 2011, Canada exported almost $12 million worth of frozen french fries to Panama. This is a $1 million increase over 2010 exports, at a time when things are supposed to be tough in the world. Now, that is a lot of potatoes. That is a lot of potato farmers who we support through these trade deals and through these free trade agreements. I think that is often forgotten by the NDP, that it is actually the farmers we are helping support, the farmers of P.E.I. or wherever they are growing potatoes across this great country, and the ability for those people who package those frozen french fries to be able to keep their jobs, as well, on the assembly line; so it is the manufacturers and the farmers.

Our pulse exporters would also benefit from an immediate tariff elimination with the implementation of this free trade agreement, because tariffs of up to 15% would be eliminated on its implementation. Fifteen per cent of nothing. I do not mean that 15% is nothing. I mean that 15% does nothing for anybody. Those tariffs, those barriers to trade, are not helping Canadian workers and are not helping Panamanian workers. They are simply doing nothing. That is why it would be so good to see.

In 2011, Canada exported more than $5 million worth of lentils to Panama. Now, that is a lot of lentils, as well. This is almost double the amount of our trade on this product in 2006.

There is a growing market for dried peas in Panama, from Canada. In 2011, Canada exported more than $1 million worth of dried peas. People forget about that, that it is the farmers, that it is the packers, that it is the manufacturing process, all the way from the farmer to the plate, that takes place in Canada. We want to see more manufacturing, more assembling of product, but we also want to see the farmers being able to grow their product and sell it overseas because that is what they are doing. That is what they have a competitive advantage on.

Canadian malt exporters would also benefit from the immediate elimination of Panamanian tariffs of up to 10%. Again, that is 10% for nothing, just a barrier to trade that does not accomplish anything, that does not give anybody a real job. That is what we are doing in this government: making sure that people have real jobs, that farmers have real jobs and that they have some ability to sell their products overseas.

In 2011, Canada exported more than $8 million worth of malt products to Panama. That is a significant amount of malt. This is a significant increase, as well, from the $3 million worth of malt exports in 2010.

So, we can see that the elimination of these tariffs in this free trade agreement would greatly enhance our ability to export products, agricultural products and agrifood products, to Panamanian society.

In fact, there would be some real benefits to different parts of the country, and I want to talk about that a bit.

In Quebec, for instance, key exports such as pork, industrial and construction machinery, pharmaceuticals and aerospace products would receive a real benefit. In fact, that is where this particular province and the farmers from this province would receive a real benefit. They would also receive a benefit for investment services for the engineering, construction and transportation sectors. That is just in Quebec,

I know I do not have a lot of time left, but Ontario and the western provinces would also receive real benefits.

The real benefits are that we eliminate barriers and trade deals that do not help our producers or our country. We enhance free trade, and it works.

Jobs, Growth and Long-term Prosperity Act June 18th, 2012

Mr. Speaker, that is a bit outside of the topic, but I assure the member that I am proud to say there have been some tremendous changes.

I talked to an aboriginal chief from northern Alberta two days ago about some of the changes that have taken place in northern Alberta, including more air and water monitoring and initiatives by the federal government in co-operation with the provincial government.

One thing that I am proud of is this. In 1967 when I moved to Fort McMurray it had what was called tailings pond number one. Many people over the last 35 to 40 years said that could not be cleaned up. Well it is cleaned up today. Suncor Energy has done a tremendous job in environmental performance. It has done a tremendous job with the community. In fact, I would suggest the oil sands companies that are currently in Alberta and northern Alberta spend more money per capita for environmental integrity than anywhere else on the planet. That is the truth and I stick with that.

As far as what is happening in the oil sands regarding employment insurance, though, we clearly need more workers. We need more people to take those great jobs With the highest household income in the country of $185,000, I am proud to say that Canada's economy is created in Fort McMurray, Alberta.

Jobs, Growth and Long-term Prosperity Act June 18th, 2012

Mr. Speaker, I can assure the member opposite that many good ideas were taken. I know that because I received feedback from the Department of Finance that it received some of my ideas and implemented them in the budget. So what could be better than that for me? Clearly, they had some great ideas.

However, I assure the member that we heard, loud and clear, from the Liberal Party in Alberta. I mentioned the national energy program which shut down every business in Fort McMurray, except for probably two. We listened, loud and clear, and that is why we will never vote for a Liberal government again. That is why it is in third place and that is where it is going to remain for a long time if it is able to hold onto that particular place.

Jobs, Growth and Long-term Prosperity Act June 18th, 2012

Mr. Speaker, did I really listen to them? That is a bit insulting.

I am trained to listen and to speak, but clearly I am not trained to speak as the NDP member opposite is. I heard those members speak for years about infrastructure investments and when they had the opportunity to vote for them, they voted against them. They voted against the bridges in Quebec and the bridges and roads across the country. They voted against water and sewer infrastructure. I assure the member that I listened to the committee members and to the witnesses who came forward, and not just the witnesses whom this member heard from. We heard from hundreds, including witnesses from aboriginal bands and environmental consultations.

I have been here for eight years now. It is not a very long time, but I have been on the environment committee. I have been the parliamentary secretary for infrastructure and transportation when that member's party voted against all those infrastructure investments. I have heard clearly from many witnesses over the years and I assure that member that all the proposed changes in Bill C-38 would be excellent for the country, today and tomorrow.

Jobs, Growth and Long-term Prosperity Act June 18th, 2012

Mr. Speaker, like all things in life, we follow instructions, and that is what I did.

I am very happy with what this government has brought in as far as employment insurance program initiatives, and I will leave it for the general public to understand that. People can visit the website of the federal government to understand specifically what is happening. There are some great initiatives, and I hope to see more in the future.

Because I do not have a lot of time left, I want to talk specifically about what took place when we passed this budget through committee. Many people have talked about how we are ramrodding it through and how we have done many things that have not been done before. The truth is that omnibus bills are nothing new. They have been done by many previous governments, and I am sure they will continue to be done by many governments in the future, notwithstanding what political stripe they may be.

I want to talk about public consultation. I sat on the finance committee and I even sat on the subcommittee for finance sometimes when I was still awake, and I say that with no jest. Many times we sat into the night, eight o'clock, nine o'clock, and with the subcommittee up until midnight and 1:30 in the morning one particular day.

We heard from many witnesses. In fact, during the period of time we studied this, we heard 70 hours of testimony. That may not seem very important when we consider the work week, but when we consider all the other things MPs do, 70 hours of study, especially considering that most hours of study for me, when I go into an hour of committee time, I take an hour or two hours outside of committee to study and prepare for that period of time, the 70 hours can easily be 150 to 200 hours for any member of Parliament.

We did that in particular in relation to Bill C-38 to ensure that Canada's economy was strong, but we also listened to opposition parties and heard testimony from many individuals across the regime, including government officials. These government officials have been working, contrary to what the opposition says, on these files, these issues and these items for many years. In fact, as a parliamentary secretary involved in some aspects of it, these people were more up-to-date in relation to policy of governments than I will ever be and certainly provided a lot of opportunity. Therefore, I can assure members that they dealt with and understood those issues long before any of us came to this place.

We also heard from industry associations. I know we heard from them, because I heard from many of them. They called for the same things. They said, “Let us have some changes”.

The Canadian Federation of Independent Businesses, of which I have been a member through my businesses in the past, do a great job. I continue to get the surveys and the input from their members and write those members back to confirm what we do as a government. It said, “With respect to employment insurance, 22% of our members told us they feel they're competing against EI for workers”. They are competing against an insurance program for jobs. It does not really make a lot of sense. It goes on to say, “and 16% of our members said they have been asked by employees to lay them off so they can collect employment insurance. The need for change is very clear”.

Those were not my words. Those were the words of the Canadian Federation of Independent Businesses.

The Canadian Chamber of Commerce, the voice of business for Canada, had this to say. I would consider it to be a very good voice because it petitions the people who create jobs in our country and pay the most taxes as far as percentage to gross income and personal income. It said:

For decades we've understood that the EI system can be a double-edged sword, protecting workers who lose their jobs, yes, but also creating enduring dependencies and marginalizing thousands of workers....Canada can’t continue to pay the cost of an underutilized workforce.

Those are not my words. That is the business community of Canada coming forward and saying we need change.

There are labour inefficiencies from coast to coast. I am clearly in support of this budget. It would do great things for Canada. It would do great things for Canadian families. More important, it would do great things for Canadian families in the future. A budget today is what affects us in years and years to come.

Jobs, Growth and Long-term Prosperity Act June 18th, 2012

Yes.

The hon. member for Fort McMurray—Athabasca.