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Crucial Fact

  • His favourite word was forward.

Last in Parliament October 2015, as Conservative MP for Westlock—St. Paul (Alberta)

Won his last election, in 2011, with 78% of the vote.

Statements in the House

Indian Act Amendment and Replacement Act October 18th, 2012

Mr. Speaker, I thank the member for Desnethé—Missinippi—Churchill River for the opportunity to have a discussion and participate in this debate today. I also congratulate him for not only having the vision but the courage to put the bill forward.

I have had the opportunity to move a private member's bill through this hallowed place and it is not something that is easy to do, especially when one is not talking about national tree day or something that everyone agrees with, but talking about something that is somewhat contentious. It actually takes courage and strength of character to be able to even put the motion forward.

At the end of the day, I sit back and wonder what gives the member this strength. We need to look at his history and the fact that he is a member of Parliament who grew up on a first nation reserve, who raised his children in a first nations community, who has lived under this act and who understands what it does to individuals.

I have first nations communities in my riding. I have taken the opportunity not only to talk to some of the leadership of those communities, but to average people on the ball diamond, people who are affected by this act day-in and day-out and do not get some of the benefits that the leadership gets when they deal with the act. I must say that this is troubling. There is no one on either side of the House that has not called the Indian Act a paternalistic piece of legislation that is a failed opportunity for us to move forward. I do not think anyone disagrees that this is a failed piece of legislation. I do not think Canadians as a whole disagree with that.

We as Canadians are sitting on the precipice waiting for direction from the leaders who are voted into this place and who should help guide us in that direction. I believe there is a role for private members in this place. I believe that the private members who have lived their life under a piece of legislation, which we all agree has failed, should have the ability to stand in this place and say that we need to go forward in a different direction, that we should have these discussions in the House of Commons, in the Canadian Parliament, and that no one on any side of this House should be attacking people for simply putting forward the discussion.

I would direct members to the summary of the legislation that we are talking about. It reads:

This enactment amends the Indian Act to require band councils to publish their by-laws and repeals certain outdated provisions of the Act.

It also requires the Minister of Indian and Northern Affairs to report annually to the House of Commons committee responsible for Aboriginal affairs on the work undertaken by his or her department in collaboration with First Nations organizations and other interested parties....

That is each and every year. If that is not starting a dialogue, I do not know what is. That is what this legislation is about. We all agree that this is a paternalistic piece of legislation that has been a failure and that is rooted in 200-year-old language.

What the member for Desnethé—Missinippi—Churchill River is saying is that we need to start having the conversation about how we will take this to the next level. I would remind members of the history of our government. We did not come into this place six and a half years ago with a national strategy to deal with it. We came with a plan, a plan that included amending the Canadian Human Rights Act to ensure first nation communities would be represented under the Canadian Human Rights Act.

I sat on the aboriginal affairs committee when that came forward and listened to the NDP members fight for two years for the ability to bring first nations communities under the Human Rights Act. They would much rather run to the United Nations and look for condemnation of Canadians as a whole than sit down, roll up their sleeves and work with this side of the House to make positive changes. Who here does not think, including every person in Canada, having first nations communities under the Human Rights Act is not a positive change?

The family homes on reserves and matrimonial property act sounds like a positive to me. What about the first nations financial transparency act? I am not sure what the opposition members have against transparency, but when I talk members of first nations communities, as I will be doing tomorrow in my riding, they demand transparency of their leadership just as they demand transparency of the Prime Minister, his cabinet and every member of Parliament.

We have the safe drinking water for first nations act. Those are just examples of things that our government did. We did not come in with a national strategy. We came in with a plan to actually make a difference in people's lives on reserve. I think that is much more important than taking another five years to develop another strategy that no one ever actually looks at implementing.

I sit here and wonder why they would not be in favour of things for first nations communities. Why would they not be in favour of bringing human rights to these communities?

Indian Act Amendment and Replacement Act October 18th, 2012

Mr. Speaker, I would just like to direct your attention to the issue of relevance. The hon. member is calling upon the government to withdraw a bill that is a private member's bill and a private member has the right to put his or her own legislation forward.

Business of Supply October 18th, 2012

Mr. Speaker, first, I congratulate my hon. colleague from Medicine Hat for recognizing the importance of food safety and taking this out of the partisan realm and addressing some of the issues on the ground. He has been a leader in our caucus on this. He has been very diligent.

I know there has been some concern expressed about the need for human resource skills development staff and citizenship and immigration staff on the ground to help out at more of a humanitarian level. Could the member talk a bit about what he and the government have been able to do to assist in that?

I once again congratulate him for rising above the partisanship that unfortunately happens in the House far too often.

Business of Supply September 25th, 2012

Mr. Speaker, I was worried that I would not get to hear from the member for Winnipeg North during my time in the House this afternoon.

He talks about having to respect the decisions of the provinces and then immediately criticizes the decision made by his province. Our government believes in a more decentralized decision-making process, which is why we are increasing transfer payments so more money can go into social, education and health transfers to the province.

He talked about preserving good-paying jobs. I believe it is not necessarily the government's role to decide who will get which jobs. Our role is to provide for the equality of opportunity, to ensure every Canadian child has the opportunity to get an education. We can only do that by decreasing child poverty rates, increasing student loans and their ability to get post-secondary educations, and that is exactly what our government has been doing.

Business of Supply September 25th, 2012

Mr. Speaker, I disagree with the premise of the member's question. The speech I gave and the speech by the member for Kings—Hants were not partisan rants. We talked about the things we had done, the real strategy we had implemented to help low-income and middle-class Canadians and increase opportunities for a better education and better jobs once they complete their education.

One thing I talk about, and think it was very important, was transfer payments, not only the increase in transfer payments but the principal change we made to treat all Canadians equal in the per capita mechanism we used to give out transfer payments. It not only increases them, but ensures the regions get per capita payments so every Canadian is treated equally. That is of the utmost importance.

Business of Supply September 25th, 2012

Mr. Speaker, I am honoured to be splitting my time with the very affable and capable member of Mississauga—Streetsville.

I am pleased to respond to the motion put forward by the member for Toronto Centre, as I always welcome an opportunity to compare our record to that of other governments.

For instance, in the 2003-04 year in which the Liberal government was in power, it presided over a 28% default rate for student loans. In the 2009-10 our Conservative government reduced this to a 13.8% rate.

In 1996 the poverty rate was 15.2%. In 2010, under our Conservative government, it was 9%. In 1996, under the previous Liberal government, 18.4% of children lived in poverty. This is a troubling number. In 2010, under our Conservative government, this number has been cut in half to 8.2%. Since 2006, 225,000 less children are in poverty than under the previous government.

It is not about national strategies and glamorous meetings. Rather, it is about getting the job done for Canadians with real action and a real plan.

Here are the facts.

The Liberals gutted transfers to the provinces and territories with staggering, unprecedented cuts, totalling tens of billions of dollars annually in the mid-1990s, downloading that cost and responsibility on to the provinces and the municipalities.

Our Conservative government has increased them back beyond the 1990s levels to record levels. In fact, in my home province, by simply treating this in a principled, fair manner, we are treating all Canadians equally. Per capita funding has actually increased the amount of transfers to Alberta to record levels.

In 2012-13 the federal government will provide provinces and territories an all-time high of $60.9 billion in major transfer support, an increase of a whopping 43% since 2005-06.

As a result of the actions of our government, the typical family in Canada pays $3,100 a year less in taxes than under the previous government. We have increased transfer payments, there is less child poverty and lower taxes.

Unlike previous governments that just needed four more years, we have taken real action for all Canadians, especially middle-class and low-income families.

However, tax cuts and direct financial support can only go so far. We have been clear. The best way to fight poverty is to connect Canadians with jobs. Acquiring skills is crucial to securing a good job and a promising career in today's knowledge-based economy.

A post-secondary education is especially important when it comes to an individual's pocketbook. Research by the Association of Universities and Colleges of Canada indicates that a university graduate makes up to $1.3 million more over a lifetime compared to a high school graduate.

I am proud to be part of a government that is ensuring more young Canadians can take full advantage of what higher education has to offer for themselves as individuals, but also for our country and our society as a whole.

As all members of the House are aware, job creation and economic recovery continues to be our government's top priority. Thanks to the strong, capable leadership of the Prime Minister, Canada has created 770,000 net new jobs since the worst of the recession.

We have been clear. We are committed to creating more education opportunities for Canadians that will lead to better jobs and a sustainable and competitive economy.

We have invested $10 billion annually in support to students and their families, research and infrastructure funding and transfers to provinces and territories to create post-secondary education opportunities for all Canadians. Much of that money goes directly to supporting students. In 2010-11 over 500,000 students received $2.2 billion in Canada student loans. Since its introduction, 4.7 million students have received $38 billion from the Canada student loan program to achieve their educational goals.

This investment has yielded impressive dividends. In 2011 Canada ranked first in overall post-secondary education attainment among OECD countries, with 50% of adults aged 25 to 64 having some form of higher education. That compares to the OECD average of 30%. Even more remarkable, this share rises to 56% for younger Canadians between the ages of 25 and 34.

In addition to loans, there are the Canada student grants that provide extra non-repayable financial support. The grants reduce the amount students need to borrow, putting a post-secondary education within reach of families that would otherwise struggle to help their children attend college or university.

In my riding, working fathers and mothers realize that education is the key to their children's future and they often tell me they just need a little more help to ensure that every child has the opportunity for an education.

Over 320,000 students from low and middle-income families, along with students with permanent disabilities and those with dependents, have benefited from these grants in 2010 and 2011 alone. That is 25,000 more than benefited from these grants the year before. We also paid out $703 million in Canada education savings grants, which provide a 20% top-up on parents' savings for their children's post-secondary education.

We have worked hard to make these important programs more accessible to all Canadians. We have made numerous improvements to them in recent years. They are helping more students than ever before pursue higher studies.

For example, income thresholds have been raised for part-time student loans. As of the 2012-2013 school year, that means students can earn more money but still qualify for loans and grants. The maximum amount part-time students can receive has recently been increased from $4,000 to $10,000.

It is projected that over 2,500 additional part-time students will be eligible for a Canada student loan in 2012-13, rising to just under 8,000 in year five and on an ongoing basis. Nearly 500 additional part-time students will receive a Canada student grant in year one, rising to about 1,500 in year five and continuing to rise after that.

Another major improvement is our decision to no longer charge interest on part-time loans. While a student is in school, this amounts to roughly $350 in savings each year for the average student. These changes to part-time loans enable people who may be working full-time to achieve their educational goals for themselves and their families.

We have also made it easier to pay off student loans. The repayment assistance plan allows borrowers to make affordable payments based on their family income and family size. In this way we help ensure student loan repayments are kept affordable. One hundred and sixty-five thousand students benefited from the repayment assistance plan just last year.

We also announced earlier this summer that we would be delivering on our commitment to forgive loans for new doctors and nurses who chose to practice in rural areas. In rural communities, such as mine, this is one of the most significant social enhancements we can do to help enable more of our young people to come back to our communities and practice medicine in our communities, and not just doctors, but nurses as well.

Our government has set aside $9 million a year to forgive a portion of Canada student loans for family doctors, residents in family medicine, nurse practitioners and nurses who work in underserved rural or remote areas, such as first nations, Inuit and Métis communities.

From new online services for students to streamlined processes for applications and loan payments, often in partnership with the provinces and territories, we are taking major steps to increase accessibility to higher education.

Our government's mandate is to help the economy grow and create jobs, which means more employment opportunities for students. We are committed to having the most skilled and most educated workforce in the world.

What we need now is not a national strategy to tell us what is important. What we need is to continue with the plan that we have set forward, the plan for economic recovery and economic success.

It is time the opposition do more than just talk about poverty, equality and opportunity. It is one thing to talk about creating hope; it is another thing to actually provide hope and equality for all Canadians.

I urge all members to join our Prime Minister in implementing a real plan, which has already demonstrated impressive results.

Canadian Human Rights Act June 6th, 2012

Mr. Speaker, tonight every member of the House has the opportunity to vote for freedom. For far too long every Canadian's fundamental right to freedom of expression has been needlessly suppressed by an overzealous bureaucracy armed with section 13 of the Canadian Human Rights Act, a vague and highly subjective law operating under the cloak of ambiguity. While section 13 may have been implemented with well-meaning intentions, its implications reach much further, chilling free speech and stifling the growth and development of free expression in our society. It is time to take back our right to freedom of expression as the bedrock upon which all other freedoms are built and repeal section 13 of the Canadian Human Rights Act.

It is time to take a stand for the rights of Canadians and our future generations. It is important that all members of the House take a moment to consider what we, as a free and democratic country, will lose if section 13 continues to be allowed to erode our freedom of speech.

Thank you Mr. Speaker and God bless.

Canadian Human Rights Act May 30th, 2012

Madam Speaker, I would like to thank all colleagues who participated in this vigorous debate. I would also like to mention that I have tried very hard to avoid any kind of partisanship in this debate because this is something that has reverberated in all political parties across the country, certainly from the grassroots. I feel it is important to reply to some of the debate today.

My Liberal colleague is a valued member of the House and is often seen as above partisanship and reproach. However, the fact of the matter is his debate is stuck in the time of 10 years ago or 4 years ago. The amendments he brought forward were brought forward four or five years ago. He is more than happy for them to stay there because he likes section 13 the way it is now.

He talked about partisanship and how it is a government bill. While I would like to thank the grassroots members of the Conservative Party who identified this as an issue years ago, this is not a government bill. This is a bill that was brought forward by me. It is a bill that is supported by B'nai Brith, the Muslim Canadian Congress, PEN Canada, the Toronto Star, Egale Canada, the National Post, and I could go on, as my colleague from Wellington—Halton Hills did. The fact of the matter is these are organizations that absolutely span the political spectrum. These are not about one political point or another. In fact, my hon. colleague should look to his own caucus. It was a Liberal member of Parliament who brought this forward in 2008. It is a Liberal member of Parliament who is still supporting and voting for it, and I thank him for that.

When it comes to members of the official opposition, they raised some excellent points. The Minister of Justice has already put forward amendments to the Criminal Code that would ensure there are no gaps when it comes to the protection of minority rights in this country. Hate speech is a serious crime. It is something that real police officers should be investigating, with real lawyers and judges presiding over these cases, not a quasi-judicial body in a backroom doing things in the dark, which nobody ever gets to see. That is not justice.

The NDP has been putting forward a two-tiered approach to hate speech. I do not fundamentally understand how a party such as the NDP could support a two-tiered approach to hate speech, equivocally saying that some forms of inciting hatred and harm against identifiable groups are worse than other forms of inciting hatred and harm. My belief is that it is a serious crime and we need to address it.

I will close by saying that freedom is too precious to our society to entrust to the bureaucracy to enforce a vague, over-reaching act inhibiting our freedom. Freedom is our most precious gift that we can pass on to our children and the next generation of Canadians.

Canadian Human Rights Act May 30th, 2012

Madam Speaker, I would like to thank my hon. colleague for her open-mindedness. It is truly the spirit of democracy in which we are all sent here.

I believe what the bill would do is move hate speech provisions to the Criminal Code. This is something that is very important to realize. I believe this would actually enhance protections against hate speech. These are serious crimes. These are not crimes that a bureaucrat should be investigating through the back alleys of quasi-judicial bodies. These are crimes that should be investigated by police officers. Both sides should have access to lawyers, and the trial should be presided over by a judge. This is a serious issue and a serious crime.

I believe that moving hate speech to where it belongs in Canada, which is the Criminal Code of Canada, would actually enhance hate speech provisions in our democracy and at the same time enhance freedom of speech on the Internet and in other means of communication, which are now being used more and more by youth today to enhance our democracy.

Canadian Human Rights Act May 30th, 2012

Madam Speaker, I would like to thank my hon. colleague for her question. I have appreciated the opportunity to work with her on several issues in regard to my private member's bill. As I have done in the past, I once again offer to sit with her and address any of the concerns that she may have so that we can help work these out.

At the end of the day, it is truly important that we realize what the bill is fundamentally about. It is about regaining the total freedom of speech that is so important in our country.

As I have said before, this should not be an issue that is balanced between opposition and government. This is a private member's bill. I am willing to work with the opposition, as I have all along. I have the support of some members of the opposition party. I hope that on third and final reading we will have more support, because this is an issue that is important to all Canadians. As I have travelled across our country, I have noticed that no matter which political party people support, they support freedom of speech and the protection of freedom.