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Conservative MP for Grande Prairie—Mackenzie (Alberta)
Won his last election, in 2015, with 73% of the vote.
Statements in the House
Income Tax Act June 17th, 2016
Mr. Speaker, I am not speaking about what my feelings are. Many people's intuition might be similar to that of the member, but the evidence demonstrates that 60% of the people who were maxing out the tax-free savings account earned less than $60,000 in that given year. I am not asking the hon. member just to believe me because I think that is the case, but the evidence demonstrates that, and it is not just my constituents but her constituents her as well. The evidence demonstrates that the vast majority of those who were maxing out the provisions were lower income Canadians.
Many of our constituents have probably used the tax-free savings account as a mechanism to move money, as they are withdrawing money from RRIFs. They might use that as a vehicle so that they have flexibility in their retirement years as to how they hold that money, how they earn interest on that money, and how they use that money.
The hon. member should call the Library of Parliament and ask if it has statistics on her particular constituency. I think she will be surprised by what she finds out.
Income Tax Act June 17th, 2016
Mr. Speaker, the member makes the point that 7% of Canadians were maxing out the TFSAs. Many more were coming close to the max and many others were using it as a tool to put in different amounts. Let us be clear. He called it a Conservative base but we are talking about low-income senior citizens. I am hopeful that they are our base, but let us think about this. The same people who max it out one year, 7%, will be different from the 7% the next year, it may be 10%, which might be different than the next 10%. Within three years perhaps 30% of Canadians will have maxed out their tax-free savings accounts.
The point is that this tool should be available when Canadians need it. Many people who need it are in their later years and are trying to manage their retirement savings money. They want to be able to access that money. The flexibility that that tool provides for senior citizens is one that we need to continue allowing them to use.
I am concerned that the hon. member is not just offended by the doubling of the tax-free savings account but he is now offended by the tax-free savings account altogether, which makes me wonder if it is the Liberals' plan to eliminate the tax-free savings account altogether.
Income Tax Act June 17th, 2016
Mr. Speaker, I will be splitting my time with my colleague, the member for Carleton, so I ask that members stick around, because I am going to give a speech, but he is going to give an excellent speech.
Thank you, Mr. Speaker, for the opportunity to speak to Bill C-2, to talk about the government's financial record and the challenges I see presented with its financial vision.
I come from Alberta. I am a proud Albertan, and I am proud to defend the people I represent. I am also proud of the people who have built our local economies within the communities I represent. They are the bedrock of the communities across the province of Alberta, across western Canada, and contribute so much to the economy of our nation from coast to coast.
One of the things I have noticed with the Liberal economic plan is that there seems to be no long-term perspective as to how it is going to create jobs and drive the economy. The Liberals talk a lot about things like creating jobs and providing opportunity for people to move from lower income to middle income. Of course, they do use the terms of class, which as my colleague from Calgary referenced, is probably offensive to a lot of people who are workers in our country. The concern I have is the Liberals keep talking a good game, but they have not demonstrated a plan that is coherent in any way. As a matter of fact, the bill we are debating today probably establishes for all of us that that is the case.
They talk about it being a tax cut for people who need it most. Of course, what we do note is that those who need it in our country most are actually not able to benefit from the provisions in the bill. Lower-income Canadians are not included. As a matter of fact, there is nothing in the bill that provides any assistance to lower-income Canadians.
There is also a major hit against senior citizens. Just this last week, we heard it said that the Liberals are looking at a plan to increase CPP contributions. As my colleague just referenced, this in fact would be a payroll tax. Not only does it establish a problem for those income earners who would have an additional amount of money taken off their paycheque, it would also mean that small business owners would have to pay additional taxes to help support a CPP increase.
Let us just think about this a little. A CPP increase today would not benefit seniors today. It would not benefit those people who are in their later years and who most desperately need support today. The hope is that if money is put aside today, seniors in decades to come would benefit from those increased contributions. That is a debate to be had, but let us be clear, this would benefit no senior who is a senior today. It also would not help those people who will become seniors and start drawing pensions in the next number of years. We are talking about a Liberal plan to start taxing small businesses, workers, and families today in the hopes that some day there may be a benefit to people down the road. It is not about seniors who are struggling today.
One provision that we as a government instituted was the tax-free savings account. Having looked at the evidence, what we note is the people who were most likely to use the full allocation of the tax-free savings accounts were low-income senior citizens, those people who were having to withdraw money from RIFs or different types of savings plans. The tax-free savings account was a vehicle that created all kinds of opportunities for senior citizens to manage their retirement money. It allowed senior citizens to put money in and withdraw money without any tax implications. They could manage it, and withdraw money as they needed, to address their needs. They could withdraw it if they had a medical emergency and all of a sudden needed to pull out some money for travel, or if they wanted to go on a vacation they were able to withdraw that money without having to take any kind of a penalty.
The Liberals have gone after senior citizens by cutting down the tax-free savings account at the same time that they are telling Canadians they are concerned about seniors, but they have no plan that would benefit seniors today or people who will become seniors in the next number of years.
I am also concerned about the Liberals' plan for families. I did reference the fact that I come from Alberta and I represent people who are in the resource sector, those who work hard every day, play by the rules, pay their taxes, and contribute to our communities. They have had some of the worst years of their lives over the last couple of years.
Obviously, all governments and all parties recognize that we in Parliament do not control the price of energy in the world. Regardless who is in power, there are going to be some troubles with regard to small and larger businesses and to those who are employed in the resource sector.
We know that the Liberal government can make it better or worse for those people who work in the energy sector. Let us be honest, Liberals have made it significantly worse, creating uncertainty in the marketplace, such that companies refuse to invest in Canada because they are uncertain about things like carbon taxes. They are uncertain whether they are going to be able to get products to market.
When the Liberals continue to place hurdles in the way of the development of the energy east pipeline and the TransCanada pipeline, when they continue to play politics with some of the most important nation building infrastructure, which will cost the taxpayer zero dollars as this is private sector investment, when the Liberals continue to create hurdles to see that infrastructure built, my constituents are hurt.
The reason they are hurt is because many of them are employed in the energy sector or have businesses that are secondary industries within the resource sector, that are looking toward the future. The companies are saying they are not going to invest in a place where there is so much uncertainty. The Liberals' announcements that they are going to create difficulty for pipelines to be built and their commitment to continue a job-killing carbon tax hurt.
There is a document that came out this morning from the Alberta government that is an assessment simply on the provincial portion of the carbon tax, not of the federal government's carbon tax that it promised, which will be in addition to any provincial carbon tax. The government's analysis itself says that it will cause 15,000 job losses, it will take $4 billion out of the household income of Albertans, so not only is the government taxing them more, it is also going to reduce their income. If there is going to be $4 billion taken out of the household income of Albertans with a provincial carbon tax, one can only imagine how much additional money will come out of household incomes of Albertans when the Liberals get their hands on a cash grab from the province of Alberta as well.
The Liberals' plan has been completely incoherent. We have established that. They have said they are going to support seniors, yet they are taking vehicles away for seniors to actually save. They have said they are going to help people move from lower income to higher income, yet they are taxing those families at every turn, creating disincentive for investment in provinces like Alberta and other provinces that depend on the energy sector. They are continuing to increase payroll taxes on those same small business owners, creating disincentive to create more jobs. The incoherence of the Liberal economic plan is not only challenging, it is actually creating such difficulty for people who live in communities like mine.
There is an urgency for the Liberals to change course. We would ask the Liberals to look at the facts and the evidence and start to respond to the needs of Albertans and all Canadians to ensure that we can build an economy that will prosper for generations to come.
Questions on the Order Paper June 17th, 2016
With regard to the Canadian seal hunt and sealing industry: (a) is the government involved in any programs or initiatives to combat the international misinformation campaigns against the hunt and, if so, (i) what are the details of any such programs or initiatives, (ii) what government departments are involved, (iii) what was the start date of each such involvement, (iv) what was the reason for termination and the end date of any such program or initiative that is not ongoing, (v) how much did the government spend on each such program or initiative, broken down by year and total amount spent to date; and (b) does the government have plans for any further involvement in such programs or initiatives?
Committees of the House June 15th, 2016
Mr. Speaker, my hon. colleague from the NDP is the critic and a fellow member of the agriculture committee.
I want to thank her for advancing this file with me. There were days in Parliament where I did not think she or I were certain as to whether the government would extend these provisions. Her continuing to pressure the Minister of Agriculture and Agri-Food and the Minister of Transport to make this happen, along with myself, was very helpful. I appreciate the work on which we have been able to collaborate. I am hopeful we can continue that.
The transportation system in the country is so complex. When we have one minister and one committee talking about all transport in the entire country, that could be problematic. The reason I say that is there are realities within the resource sector and the agriculture sector that are quite different from subways in Toronto and the airline industry. There are realities, nuances and stakeholders within the agriculture committee specifically. They need to be consulted with regard to any provision or any changes to the act moving forward.
I have made my case on what I have heard back from stakeholders, on the necessity of advancing provisions within the bill into the future, the final Canadian Transportation Act. I am hopeful the agriculture committee and it members will be consulted on the provisions of the transport of agriculture commodities.
Committees of the House June 15th, 2016
Mr. Speaker, I could not agree with my colleague more. Obviously, he knows this file. He was the author of the legislation with the then transport minister. It was in consultation with people across the country that the ministers, at the time, developed these provision.
However, what I have heard consistently from farmers is that lack of information is probably one of the most frustrating things when dealing with the rail companies. There are two types of information.
One type of information is how much is being shipped on a global scale in Canada. That information should be readily available and it would be helpful if that was amplified. Obviously, that data needs to be collected and needs to be shared more freely. It really helps in planning and providing the building of the infrastructure and the ability for grain companies and others to plan.
The second type of information is also equally important, but it is the most important to the farmer who wants to deliver his commodity to the elevator or to a producer car. It is knowing when the train is going to show up.
I have often thought about this, and it is a relevant point. The world has changed over the last decade. Today we have the ability to track everything at any time. The information should be more readily available. If I want to catch an Uber car in Ottawa, I can click on an app and find out exactly where those cars are at this minute, and when one will arrive. I am not suggesting that our rail companies turn into Uber, but the technology is available to communicate more easily in new and innovative ways. The government should do everything it possibly can to increasingly pressure these companies to increase their transparency and the information that flows to farmers.
There is nothing more frustrating for a farmer, believing that he is going to ship his grain one day, having to change his entire plans. It is one thing if things change. Farmers accept that. That is the life of a farmer. However, when he shows up, having been given no advance knowledge that the train did not show up on the day it was supposed to and he did not find out for days after as to where it went or if it was coming, or whatever, that is highly frustrating. The amount of productivity that is lost as a result of that is astronomical. It is important we continue to pressure the rail companies to provide better technological advancements in sharing that information.
Committees of the House June 15th, 2016
Mr. Speaker, perhaps the member, who I appreciate as a friend, has not followed the legislation that was brought forward. This was an interim measure. Our government made no secret of that fact and that it would be completed upon the completion of the expedited CTA review.
I will give due respect to the current government. We would have liked to have had the CTA review completed by now, but we respect that two quite important things occurred to this Canadian Parliament: an election and a change of government. Therefore, I will give the benefit of the doubt to the new government. It is saying that it has not had the time it feels is necessary to complete the review of the documents, of the Emerson report.
The hon. colleague is still wondering why we did not complete it. The Emerson report was only available after the election. Therefore, with due respect to the member, the CTA review was not going to be done before the Emerson report because that was the precursor to the government responding in legislation. There is no way our government would have completed a process if we did not have the Emerson report back before the election was called.
The responsible thing that should be done is in fact what the Liberal government is doing, which is what we have called upon it to do, and that is extend the provisions of the Fair Rail for Grain Farmers Act until such time as it has completed the CTA review. We look forward to the completion of that. We will continue to advocate for the provisions included in this act in that final review. However, we do respect the time the government says it needs to complete that. We look to it to complete it in the duration of the next year.
Committees of the House June 15th, 2016
Mr. Speaker, it is a privilege for me to stand in the House to talk about the provisions we have before us.
I have the privilege of serving as the official opposition representative responsible for agriculture. I can tell members that I may be seen as having a little bit of a conflict of interest here, because in fact, I am a farm kid. I am a farm kid who is very proud of the work my parents did and the work my family continues to do, which is being grain farmers on the prairies.
I think it is important that we reflect a little on the people who would be mostly impacted by the provisions being looked at today. Of course, this is an extension of something the previous government did, so let us look back in history at what brought us to sensing the necessity of moving forward on the Fair Rail for Grain Farmers Act.
I would note that as a farm kid, I came to recognize one reality very early in life, which is that a farmer does not make money every year. As a matter of fact, growing up, I understood very clearly that farmers often go year after year hoping that next year will be better or that the next year might have a different result than the year previous. That is what is required to be a farmer. A farmer must be an optimist by nature, otherwise he would be a depressed person.
Of course, there are so many things that determine whether a farmer might be successful. One of the most important things is the uncertainty of the weather. I can say that having grown up as a farm kid, I still look at the weather forecast like I am a farmer, wondering if it is going to rain when it is dry and if the rain will stop when it is wet. It may be something that comes through the bloodline.
I am not sure if that is the reality or if as a kid it was impressed upon me so clearly the fact that if it rained when it was dry, it was important for the family's well-being, and if it stopped raining when it was wet, that was a good thing for the family in the same way. Of course, we were always concerned about those considerations. We were also concerned if there was an early frost that might impact the family's well-being.
We know that a farmer has to bank and gamble that one year in every so many years will be a good year, because a farmer cannot continue indefinitely not making money on the farm.
In 2013, we had a bumper crop across the Prairies. This was a unique reality, and an important one. It was important because there were many farmers across the Prairies who had been struggling in the previous years. Of course, there were a number of reasons for that, weather, of course, being a big factor. However, this was an incredible year in that we saw the yields across the fields of the Prairies and across Canada go up by about 33%. That was an important year.
It is also important to recognize that for farmers to make money, they have to get that product to market, so farmers became concerned very quickly as they saw the amount of the crop coming off the fields. They saw the yields, and they recognized that the grain was going to have to move.
There were some realities in terms of the weather conditions that developed over the months that followed the harvest, and there was some difficulty in trains moving because of inclement weather. However, what became a major concern to farmers across the Prairies, and I heard it first-hand, not only from my own family members but from my constituents from corner to corner in my constituency, was that the grain was not moving and that it was detrimentally impacting the bottom line for farmers.
There were many farmers who were fearful that if they could not get the product moved, they were going to have massive spoilage, because much of the grain that had been harvested was not in proper long-term storage, because it was such a bumper crop. There was also a recognition that if the crop was not moved, it was going to mean that farmers were not going to be able to pay their bills. That was the reality we found ourselves in.
We also found that while the rail companies said they were doing everything in their capacity to move grain, farmers were not seeing that reality on the ground. They were not seeing the rail companies responding to their expectations with the speed they would have expected. Therefore, the previous government, after a significant amount of deliberation, made a determination on a number of fronts, and the result was the Fair Rail for Grain Farmers Act.
This act had a number of provisions. One was to ensure that better information would flow from the rail companies to the shippers. That was important, because in the absence of information, it is very difficult for farmers, shippers, and those people on the receiving end of the shipments to plan and to understand what is happening and what could be done to improve the system.
There were a number of other provisions, including one of the most important, which is the provision for inter-switching. Inter-switching is the ability of a shipping company to use a railway that it does not necessarily own for a portion of track length. In the past, there has been an ability for inter-switching for a certain length of track. However, that needed to be extended to ensure that there was a more competitive environment such that if one company was not serving a community, another company could come in and actually service those communities and respond to the demand in those communities.
This is important for us to understand. Those parliamentarians and Canadians who live in urban centres may not understand what happens in rural communities. In the communities I represent, we have the provision of service by only one rail company. It is CN, and there are other communities that are serviced only by CP or other short-line rail companies. In most rural communities, there is not an alternate service provider.
Canada exports significant amounts of grain. As a matter of fact, the vast majority of what we produce actually gets exported. It is some $21 billion in exports on an annual basis. If farmers want to get their product to market, they are limited in how they can move it. In most communities, moving that $21 billion worth of grain means that farmers depend on a single rail company. They do not have alternate ways to move the product, with the exception of trucking the grain out. In many cases, the trucking of grain long distances is cost prohibitive and actually would reduce the profits to the point where many farmers would not be able to move their product in a competitive way. Therefore, farmers and shippers depend on a single rail company in the vast majority of rural communities across the Prairies and in many farming communities across the country.
The inter-switching provision is an important one. It allows rail companies to compete with one another in communities in which they do not have rail service or a track specifically. Rail companies are able to move into those communities and pick up the demand being created by the amount of grain or the number of shipments to be shipped that are not being serviced by the rail company that exists there today. There is evidence that as a result of that provision, we have a seen a change in the attitude of the rail companies that serve those communities where they have seen competition increase.
I heard the Liberal member across the way talk about the necessity of competition in the scope of the entire review. I am thankful that the government has extended these provisions. Obviously we have been asking for this. It comes as no surprise to the government that we are supporting this. This is what we have been asking for, so we appreciate this.
However, as we look at the CTA review, it is important that we listen to the stakeholders. I have heard consistently from the canola producers, oat producers, barley producers, and wheat producers that inter-switching is a game changer for their ability to move their commodities in a way they have not been able to in the past. They have seen that not only is there the possibility of competition within their communities but that as a result of that possibility of competition within their communities, the regular transport company is being more responsive to the demands and the expectations of those shippers in those communities. They are moving the product faster and moving it in a way that responds to the demand.
No perfect system can be created within the Canadian context. Grain comes off the fields in the fall. It happens in September and October. The weather starts to get nasty in some parts of this country at the end of November, and it is difficult to move massive amounts of commodities during the winter, especially if we have inclement weather.
I am, like my dad, an eternal optimist. I believe that this year could see another bumper crop. I have to believe that, otherwise I would not be a good farmer. I would not be a good representative of farmers if I did not believe that there was a possibility of a very good year. I believe that we have the possibility of having a bumper crop again this year.
I also believe that we might have inclement weather this winter. That is the natural reality in this country. We might end up with a nasty winter. The last time this happened, we ended up with a major backlog of grain on the Prairies. There need to be tools in the government's hands so that it can respond to these conditions to ensure that we get grain moving. Farmers need to be able to get their product to market. That is essential for the survival of the family farm throughout the Prairies and throughout Canada.
While the rail companies might be trying to do what they feel they need to do, their priorities are sometimes different from those of farmers and governments. Governments have a responsibility to respond to the expectations and the demands and the needs of constituencies across this country. I am optimistic that we will have a problem with rail service this fall in so much as I am hopeful that we will see another bumper crop across the Prairies.
The government needs the tools that are included in the Fair Rail for Grain Farmers Act. It contains the right combination of tools to ensure that information flows so that inter-switching is available to the rail companies to ensure that there is competitive behaviour in a significant number of communities that currently are serviced by a single rail line.
It is important that we continue to have the provisions of the act until such time as the government completes the CTA review. Looking toward that, I would respectfully ask that the government consider what we have learned thus far, and that is that inter-switching, or some version of inter-switching, is essential to ensure that pressure is put on companies that service communities in a monopolistic way.
I am not saying that there is necessarily a rail monopoly in Canada, but there is a rail monopoly in the vast majority of rural communities in this country. The extension of inter-switching into these communities is absolutely essential if we are going to have a competitive market and all of the positives that flow out of competition in terms of providing adequate service for those communities.
It is absolutely essential that we continue to allow information to flow and that we continue to get good data. The act obviously delineates the data that needs to be collected and that needs to be provided. It is not as good as it should be even now, but the information that is required through the act is essential so that we can continue to build a better system that will provide better service for farming communities, and more importantly, will continue to provide better service for farmers across the country.
My family has seen the evidence of bad rail service. It has suffered as a consequence of that. My family is exactly the same as every single family that lives in our region. I have seen first-hand the impact on people and their families and their farms. It is not only the financial stress but the individual stress that bad rail service places on farms and farm families.
Let us never lose sight of the fact that we need to move forward on these provisions to ensure we help support the people who produce the best quality and most highly-demanded product that we produce in Canada. We should be proud of the people who produce our agriculture commodities. We need to continue to defend their interests and ensure they have a bright, strong and prosperous future.
I thank the government for moving on extending these provisions. We will continue to call on the government to make the provisions of this act permanent, especially those I have spoken about today. These have been a game changer as far as moving grain in our country and this should be the new norm.
Questions Passed as Orders for Returns June 14th, 2016
With regard to the Temporary Foreign Worker Program, as of April 22, 2016, what is: (a) the number of all positions authorized through Labour Market Opinions, broken down by region and National Occupation Code; and (b) the number of all temporary foreign workers, broken down by region and National Occupation Code, employed by (i) any government department, (ii) any government agency, (iii) any Crown Corporation?
Agriculture and Agri-Food June 13th, 2016
Mr. Speaker, I think in order for farmers to prosper, the minister is going to have to do something, not just officials.
On another very important issue, we know that PED has killed over eight million pigs south of the border. We also know that since I last stood in the House to ask a question on this issue, we have had three confirmed cases in Manitoba.
Pig producers want to know when the minister is going to do something on this file to ensure that we do not have an outbreak of PED here in Canada.