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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

Marketing Freedom for Grain Farmers Act November 28th, 2011

Mr. Speaker, I will be splitting my time with the member for Etobicoke—Lakeshore, the member who is also from St. Paul originally. We are proud to have him speak on the Canadian Wheat Board.

I would like to take a couple of minutes from my prepared text to respond to a couple of things that my hon. colleague before me talked about. In fact, there was a report done. It was one of about five that was brought up at the Wheat Board committee that said that western Canadian farmers would actually benefit by approximately $450 million to $628 million a year by gaining marketing freedom. That is not even taking the inefficiencies of the Canadian Wheat Board into account. That is not even talking about more jobs through value-added sectors. That is just talking about money that could potentially be in farmers' pockets. So just because the hon. colleagues across the way choose not to read the reports does not mean that they have not been done.

The other aspect I would like to point out is this is a very serious issue for western Canadian farmers. This is something that my producers in the Westlock—St. Paul region are counting on for August 2012. For hon. colleagues across the way to get up and ramble on about talking points that they use about government crime policy has nothing to do with jobs and money in the pockets of western Canadian farmers. I find that absolutely offensive.

In fact, I am not knowledgeable about a marketing fish board in Newfoundland, but if I were to vote on it in the House of Commons, I would definitely take the time to at least talk to some fishermen from Newfoundland.

I ask my hon. colleagues across the way, and there are going to be many western Canadian farmers here this week, to please take time and talk to them. Talk to them about what they see in opening up the Canadian Wheat Board and allowing farmers to have the option for marketing freedom while still keeping the Wheat Board in place for other farmers who want to use it.

I am honoured to speak to the bill. Our government's top priority is the economy in which the agriculture industry plays a vital role. We believe that all Canadians should be able to position their business to capture the marketing opportunities that are open to them. When passed, this legislation would provide western Canadian farmers with the same freedom and opportunities as other farmers in Canada already enjoy. That is the freedom to market their grain, based on what is the best for their business, to the buyer of their choice.

On October 18 the hon. Minister of Agriculture introduced legislation that aims to give farmers the right to choose how to market their wheat, durum and barley independently or through a voluntary Canadian Wheat Board. The marketing freedom for grain farmers act would give every farmer in western Canada the freedom to choose how to market their grain. Whether that is to a buyer who pays the full price on delivery, or through a pooled offer by the Canadian Wheat Board, our intention is to have this open marketing system in place for August 1, 2012.

However, as soon as the bill receives royal assent, it will allow farmers and grain companies to enter into forward contracts for the purchase or sale of wheat, barley, durum for the execution after August 1, 2012.

As we all know, nothing good ever comes easily. Change brings challenge, but it also brings a wealth of opportunity. Our government is working diligently with industry to make the road to an open market as smooth as possible, so farmers can capture as many of these opportunities as possible.

During our extensive consultations, industry has raised a number of valid issues around the transition process.

Over the summer a working group comprised of experts in the field met with a wide range of industry players. It heard a broad range of advice on how the grain marketing and transportation system could transition from the current CWB-run system to an open market that includes voluntary marketing pools and it released its report in September. The report does an excellent job of addressing the major transitional issues faced by the sector.

The group focused on a broad set of issues affecting the grain handling and transportation system including: access to elevators, rail and ports; access to producer cars and short lines; funding market development and research; price transparency; and tools for price discovery.

On the issue of access to port terminals, the working group examined this issue in some detail. It expects that grain companies will be actively competing for grain volume in an open market. Grain companies need volume and they have gone on record saying that they will offer access to get it.

Grain companies already offer handling services at ports to third parties that do not own elevators or port terminals, many of which are direct competitors.

There will be an adjustment, there is no doubt, but some producer groups are already showing they can compete and add value for farmers by forming alliances and synergies through the chain. For instance, some inland terminals are co-owners of the Alliance Grain Terminal in Vancouver, and others have relationships with line companies.

These commercial relationships provide a win-win situation. They benefit farm members. It is already happening and it will continue to happen under marketing freedom.

On the issue of rail access, our government knows that proper rail service remains absolutely vital to doing business.

That is why the working group recommended that the Minister of Transport, Infrastructure and Communities continue the implementation of the rail freight service review initiatives.

We recently announced the appointment of Jim Dinning to lead a facilitation process to enhance rail freight service. Mr. Dinning brings a depth of experience and expertise in building consensus among industry leaders and government.

I would add that the industry also welcomed this announcement. “We are pleased to see the action plan set in motion”, said David Nobbs, chair of Pulse Canada. Rick White, general manager of the Canadian Canola Growers Association said, “We are very pleased that the Government of Canada has taken steps to implement the first of four key recommendations, and we look forward to working with Mr. Dinning during the facilitation process”.

The facilitation process will bring together shippers, railways and other key players to develop a template for service agreements and a streamlined commercial dispute resolution process. This was one of the key aspects that our shippers asked for when the level of service review was first undertaken.

Once the facilitation process is complete, our government has committed to tabling legislative changes that will give shippers the ability to establish agreements with the railways, promoting more predictable and efficient services.

On the issue of producer cars, the right to producer cars is protected in the Canada Grain Act, and the Canadian Grain Commission allocates these cars to producers. This will not change under the marketing freedom act.

The Canadian Wheat Board monopoly has no bearing on access to producer cars and our government will continue to protect producers' interests.

Under the new rules, producers and short lines will be able to make commercial arrangements with grain companies or the voluntary Canadian Wheat Board to market their grain.

Short line railways are expecting some adjustments as they will have more options of marketing partners for the grain volumes they can attract from producers, but already we are seeing some exciting partnerships. In Saskatchewan, for instance, the province's 12th short line railway was announced just recently.

There is no question that producer cars and short line rail will continue to offer an alternative to those producers who wish to use them.

Marketing choice for western Canadian farmers is not just about keeping a promise to our base, a promise that we have been making for over 10 years to western Canadian farmers. It is about modernizing our grains and oilseeds industries as well as our rail sector, and helping farmers continue to drive our economy.

I come from a part of rural Alberta that has been blessed with some of the hardest working, most entrepreneurial people in all of North America, if not the world. The people of Alberta, but in particular Westlock—St. Paul, despise handouts. In fact, most of the time they just want the government to stay out of their way.

My Grandfather Storseth was a perfect example. He left Norway and was willing to work hard and take some risks to get ahead in Canada. He was a farmer who broke his land with his own hands. He also trapped to help provide a living for his friends and neighbours. It is interesting, even back in the 1950s farmers had to work off-farm to earn a living.

When World War II started, he enlisted, and when his time overseas was finished, he came home to his farm in Fort Assiniboine. He never expected the government to give him a handout, but he did expect the government not to regulate him out of existence, not to tell him to whom he could and could not sell his products.

This is not a unique story. It is the story of many rural Albertans. As I said, we are a hard-working people who know that agriculture has always been the backbone of our economy. When the oil and gas booms come, the agriculture sector is the steady hand that continues to feed our province.

The changes that the Minister of Agriculture and Agri-Food and Minister for the Canadian Wheat Board is making in Bill C-18, the marketing freedom act, will help provide for that marketing freedom and will help provide a strong, stable economy.

Canadian Human Rights Act November 22nd, 2011

Madam Speaker, I thank the hon. minister not only for his gracious words but his dedication to freedom of speech, freedom of religion and assembly, which he has fought for his entire political career.

He is absolutely correct. Bill C-304, protecting freedom, is not about left versus right. This has support from the Muslim Canadian Congress, civil libertarian groups and journalists across the political spectrum. The only thing lacking today is support throughout the House of Commons. I would like to see all members of Parliament set their partisanship aside and vote on an issue like this with their own principles rather than what the party whip wants them to do.

At the end of the day, it is debates like this that we need to have in a respectful fashion, but Canadians also expect us to vote our consciences when it comes to these types of issues. That is why it is so very important that we not only keep this debate respectful but that we also engage in an open, honest and transparent debate.

Canadian Human Rights Act November 22nd, 2011

Madam Speaker, at the beginning of my hon. colleague's question, she talked about the ability to debate a bill. I would remind her that this is a private member's bill, not a government bill, and that it actually was the NDP that filibustered my even having the ability to speak last Wednesday.

That being said, I think it is very important that Parliament is not scared to have an open, honest, respectful debate on the important issues of our country. That is what engages the citizenry of our country.

I met with My Canada this week, which is a great youth group in our country with over 5,000 participants. They strongly endorse my bill and they endorse the ability to engage in the freedom of speech in this country and change the fundamental values of our country to mould it to the way that they see it, to the way the youth see it moving forward in our country. That is very important, because it is very true that the only real way to fight ignorance and bigotry in our country is by enhancing the fundamental freedoms, like freedom of speech, so that we can be a true and democratic society that continues to grow, thrive and foster.

Canadian Human Rights Act November 22nd, 2011

moved that Bill C-304, An Act to amend the Canadian Human Rights Act (protecting freedom), be read the second time and referred to a committee.

Madam Speaker, it is an honour to be here to present a bill that is very near and dear to my heart and to the House of Commons.

I would like to begin by first thanking the people of Westlock--St. Paul for the trust that they have placed in me in a third consecutive election to bring forward their concerns in this august chamber.

I would also like to thank my friends and family for their support and dedication over the last six years; my parents for their willingness to always pitch in and help; my children, Ayden and Eastin, for their endless patience and love; and, most importantly, my wife Amel, who is my best friend and the rock that anchors our family. Without their love and support, this job would be so much more difficult.

I would also like to thank my colleagues, both past and present, who have stepped forward to support Bill C-304, protecting freedom.

While my bill will have some technical amendments at committee stage, it would help to protect and enhance our most fundamental freedom, and that is the freedom of expression and speech. As George Washington said, “If the freedom of speech is taken away, then dumb and silent we may be led, like sheep to the slaughter”.

Truly, without freedom of speech, what is the use of any other freedoms, such as the freedom of assembly or the freedom of religion?

The freedom of speech is the bedrock that all other freedoms are built on. This, along with the concept of natural justice and due process, has been woven into the fabric of our great country over the last 144 years. As we were reminded only a few short days ago during Remembrance Day, tens of thousands of Canadians have given their lives to protect these fundamental freedoms. That is why I stand before the House today.

Section 13 of the Canadian Human Rights Act eats away at this fundamental freedom. Most people are shocked when I explain to them that in Canada, right here in our own country, a person can be investigated under a section 13 complaint for having likely exposed a person or persons to hatred or contempt by reason of the fact that the person or persons are identifiable on the basis of a prohibited ground of discrimination.

The key word is “likely” to have exposed. I think we can all agree that this is a very subjective and unnecessarily vague definition, not one of the narrowly defined legal definitions that would be far more appropriate for this clause. This is where section 13 truly fails to make a distinction between real hate speech and what I often term as “hurt speech”, or speech that is simply offensive.

This means that if someone has offended somebody and is investigated under section 13 of the Canadian Human Rights Act, intent is not a defence. Truth is no longer a defence. The person would no longer have the right to due process, the right to a speedy trial, or even the right to a lawyer to defend himself or herself. In fact, in 90% of the human rights investigations under the Canadian Human Rights Act under section 13, the defendants do not even have legal advice, because they simply cannot afford it. When the people of Westlock--St. Paul hear about this, they are shocked. This is simply not the Canadian way.

Facing intense criticism in 2008, the Canadian Human Rights Commission hand-picked Professor Richard Moon to provide an evaluation of section 13 of the Canadian Human Rights Act. On page 31 of his report, in regard to the repeal of section 13 and reliance on the Criminal Code hate speech provisions, Dr. Moon states:

The principal recommendation of this report is that section 13 be repealed so that the censorship of Internet hate speech is dealt with exclusively by the criminal law.

This recommendation was dismissed by the Canadian Human Rights Commission, which in turn provided a list of recommended amendments to Parliament in 2009, none of which has been implemented to date. Thus, even the Canadian Human Rights Commission has admitted with its own recommended amendments that there are serious flaws within section 13.

Section 13 of the Canadian Human Rights Act has been a contentious topic for a number of years now, and it has been widely acknowledged that it does, in fact, impede paragraph 2(b) of the Charter of Rights and Freedoms, which states that everyone has the fundamental freedom to “freedom of thought, belief, opinion and expression, including freedom of the press and other media of communication”.

This conflict between section 13 of the Canadian Human Rights Act and paragraph 2(b) of the charter has been reaffirmed by the Canadian Human Rights Tribunal, which found that section 13 was in fact unconstitutional in September 2009.

A common argument in favour of section 13's right to censorship and its constitutionality is the overruling powers provided by section 1 of the Charter of Rights and Freedoms, an argument that I am sure the opponents of my bill will bring forward.

Section 1 does provide a provision within the charter to ensure that all guaranteed rights and freedoms are subject to:

...such reasonable limits prescribed by law as can be demonstrably justified in a free and democratic society.

There are but a few issues with applying this provision to section 13.

Most importantly, section 13 lacks the ability to demonstrably justify the limits that it imposes on our society. It does not define the difference between hate speech as opposed to hurt feelings and offensive speech.

Second, how can a loosely written, highly subjective, vague law such as section 13 override the Charter of Rights and Freedoms in a free and truly democratic society?

Section 13, which is intended to protect people from extreme acts of discrimination with regard to hate messages, as previously defined by the Supreme Court of Canada, has instead been used to address differing values or opinions and impedes one of the most basic civil liberties that we hold dear to our hearts, the freedom of expression.

I believe the true issue of debate here is this: at what point and to what extent is censorship justified in Canada today?

As I debate this question, I think of my good friend and constituent Bob Herrick, from Waskatenau, Alberta.

Bob is a very bright and very successful man who, like many in his generation, has had a tremendous life and tremendous experiences to go along with it. He holds some very diverse opinions. No matter what topic we are discussing, from hunting to political philosophy, Bob loves to test our convictions and boundaries. Often while trying to challenge someone's assertions, Bob will go well beyond political correctness and often be even a little bit offensive. It is his ability and his freedom to push the limits of political correctness, however, that truly test the merit of our own beliefs. In society, when we lose the ability to test limits for freedom of expression, we also lose the ability to grow and adapt peacefully as a country.

It is through freedom of speech and expression that we change governments here in Canada, not through riots and revolts. This is one of the unique factors that sets us apart from many countries in the world.

Women such as Nellie McClung gained the right to vote by testing societal norms through expression and freedom of speech.

Layer by layer, brick by brick, our country has grown and successfully developed by utilizing and enhancing our fundamental freedoms. Today that we must continue to fight the tyrannical nature of the bureaucracy to censor free speech and to tell us what boundaries should be placed on our society and what rights we have as individuals.

One might ask how we can ensure individual freedom of speech and at the same time protect people and identifiable groups from direct harm if we repeal section 13 of the Canadian Human Rights Act. The answer to the question is that we must direct these complaints to a fair, open and transparent judicial system, one that has been tested for hundreds of years within our own country.

With the repealing of section 13, individuals would still have recourse through both the civil and criminal justice systems. Sections 318 to 320 of the Criminal Code provide protection for identifiable groups when public communications invite hatred or harm against them. The continued use of the Criminal Code to address hate messaging would ensure that all individuals would be protected from threatening discriminatory acts while preserving the fundamental right to freedom of expression in our country.

An integral component of the Criminal Code is the need for the Attorney General to approve a claim. This prevents frivolous claims or claims made because an expression merely offended another individual.

It is also important to note that the Criminal Code provides basic provisions to the defendant that are not available through the Canadian Human Rights Act. I repeat. The provisions I am about to talk about are not actually available to Canadians under the Canadian Human Rights Act. These are provisions such as allowable defences; the right to face one's accuser; the right for the defendant to recover costs if a claim is dismissed; and the right to an open, fair and transparent trial.

Those are just a few of the basic liberties available under the Criminal Code. This is a system that has been tried and tested, a system with checks and balances and a system with which our society has entrusted its fundamental freedoms and has seen fit to enforce the rule of law in our country.

John Fitzgerald Kennedy described it best when he said:

We are not afraid to entrust the American people with unpleasant facts, foreign ideas, alien philosophies, and competitive values. For a nation that is afraid to let its people judge the truth and falsehood in an open market is a nation that is afraid of its people.

Freedom of speech and the use of censorship on that freedom is not a matter to be taken lightly and should be entered into with the utmost of caution. That is why I personally find it highly alarming for our Canadian human rights investigator, someone entrusted as a gatekeeper of our fundamental freedoms, this valued freedom of speech in Canada, to claim it merely to be an American concept.

This is precisely the mentality that section 13 of the Canadian Human Rights Act is harbouring and just one more example of how unfit section 13 and the commission are to handle any level of power to censor speech in our country.

Freedom of speech is just as valued here in Canada. In fact, it is the only real tool that free and democratic societies like our own have to fight bigotry and ignorance. Any imposed censorship on this freedom must be taken very seriously and not met with casual disregard.

The solution here is not to fiddle with a broken, repetitive and unnecessary system. I believe the solution is to use the laws we already have and provide authorities with the tools and support necessary to properly and carefully enforce these laws.

The government has already announced that support to enhance the ability of the Criminal Code to better address hate messaging. This step, as well as the one year implementation period in my bill, would ensure the successful transition to a system in which true democracy and freedom of speech can thrive.

It is time we retract the power entrusted to the quasi-judicial bureaucratic system to deal with hate messaging in prevent the future abuse of the system. Freedom of speech is the bedrock upon which all other freedoms are built and, therefore, is too precious to leave under the thumb of censorship imposed by this system. Without freedom of speech, what good are our other freedoms, we may ask.

Finally, I would like to encourage all of my colleagues to stand up and protect our fundamental freedoms, the same freedoms for which we have asked our soldiers to put their lives on the line to protect time and time again. This truly is not an issue of blue versus orange versus red. This is an issue of freedom, transparency and balance for all Canadians.

Human Rights November 16th, 2011

Mr. Speaker, Canadians across the country are increasingly concerned that section 13 of the Canadian Human Rights Act infringes upon our most important human right, namely the freedom of expression.

This is the reason why I was pleased to introduce Bill C-304, which will repeal section 13.

My bill has the wide-ranging support of journalists, civil libertarians and the Muslim Canadian Congress. People from all points of the political spectrum agree that this part of Canada's Human Rights Act needs to be repealed.

Can the Minister of Justice please inform this House of the government's position on Bill C-304, protecting freedom?

Human Rights November 16th, 2011

Mr. Speaker, I rise today to talk about my protecting freedom bill, an act to amend the Canadian Human Rights Act which would repeal section 13. Section 13 of the Canadian Human Rights Act erodes the fundamental building blocks upon which our society is built. These are not just the freedoms that every Canadian holds so dear, but also the freedoms that our society depends upon to grow and mature.

As George Washington described, “If freedom of speech is taken away, then dumb and silent we may be led like sheep to the slaughter”. Freedom of speech is the bedrock upon which all other freedoms are built. Without the freedom of speech and expression, what good is the freedom of assembly or the freedom of religion? Freedom of speech is the only real tool that free and democratic societies have to fight bigotry and ignorance.

We must ensure that we protect and enhance our fundamental freedoms. This is not just an issue of blue or orange, left or right. This is an issue that affects all Canadians equally. I am asking all members to stand and support Bill C-304, my protecting freedom bill.

Marketing Freedom for Grain Farmers Act October 20th, 2011

Mr. Speaker, my hon. colleague, although with the best of intentions, has epitomized the problem we have with this debate raging today in the House of Commons.

The individual that she spoke of is not the chairman of the Canadian Wheat Board. Allen Oberg is the chairman. Mr. Gehl is the chairman of the Canadian Wheat Board Alliance. The member does not even have her sources correct and I cannot blame her, because she is not from there and does not necessarily interact with those guys and the agencies and farmers on a daily basis. She has to make sure that she does the proper research and homework so that we can have a fruitful debate.

Western Canadian farm families, not just farmers, the families, the children who are dependent on the farms, like the Bauers, are demanding that our government fulfill the promise we made to them so that they can have marketing freedom and be able to put more money back in their own pockets.

Marketing Freedom for Grain Farmers Act October 20th, 2011

Mr. Speaker, western Canadian and small farmers already market their own products such as canola where the acreage for products like it is shooting through the roof. They have to market that on their own. There is not going to be a change there. They will also still have the opportunity of the pooling agency if they want. If anything, this is going to be an advantage because the pooling agency is going to be using farmers' money for what it is supposed to be used for. I am hopeful for less bureaucracy and less money being taken out of our farmers' pockets.

I focused my comments today on younger farmers in particular, many of whom are my friends in western Canada and they are looking forward to this because they are already marketing their own product. As the document I referred to from June 2008 shows, $450 million to $628 million a year more, and that was a few years ago, in the pockets of farmers is a significant increase of direct capital injection into their operations.

Marketing Freedom for Grain Farmers Act October 20th, 2011

Mr. Speaker, I thank my hon. colleague for the welcome to marketing freedom. We are not quite there yet. We still have a group of people who are trying to keep farmers back and hold their heads under water, but we are going to ensure that does not happen.

My hon. colleague brings up a good point and that is the point members on the other side say which is that it is the destruction of the Canadian Wheat Board. It is important that we make this crystal clear to western Canadian farmers. There will still be a pooling agency for them to use just the same as our farmers in Ontario have. It is called marketing freedom for a reason. We are not taking anything away from them, we are just giving them more choices and more options.

As I emphasized in my speech today, it is particularly younger farmers who look forward to this.

Marketing Freedom for Grain Farmers Act October 20th, 2011

The other thing I would like to say to my hon. colleague, as he heckles me, is the fact that the family farms are getting bigger and more and more farms have been shutting down because of the problem of the Wheat Board and other monopolies that exist in the agricultural sector. We are here to help resolve those issues.