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Crucial Fact

  • His favourite word was grain.

Last in Parliament October 2019, as Conservative MP for Cypress Hills—Grasslands (Saskatchewan)

Won his last election, in 2015, with 69% of the vote.

Statements in the House

Youth Criminal Justice Act January 30th, 2002

Mr. Speaker, I take issue with the member for Palliser's comment that a lack of police is the issue in our part of the world which is southern Saskatchewan.

A report in a newspaper in Regina a month or so ago mentioned that most of the cars are being stolen by a small group of individuals and that some of them had stolen over 100 vehicles. It said there was one young fellow whose goal was to reach 250 vehicles before he turned 16. It sounded like he was well on his way to doing that.

Could the hon. member tell me what he would suggest we do with these people who continually flout the law, have no interest in abiding by it and do not seem to be punished by it at all?

Canadian Wheat Board January 30th, 2002

Mr Speaker, it is the end of January and the audit of the financial transactions and operations of the Canadian Wheat Board by the Auditor General of Canada is to be completed any day.

It comes as no surprise that the audit report may never be made public. Only the minister responsible for the Canadian Wheat Board and it's board of directors will be given a copy. It is up to them whether to release the audit publicly. If the Canadian Wheat Board wants to be accountable to western Canadian farmers, it must finally lift the veil of secrecy surrounding its operations and release the entire audit of the Canadian Wheat Board.

However, even this will do nothing to free farmers from the CWB's restrictive and expensive bureaucracy. Until farmers actually have the freedom to market and process their own grain, they will be unable to develop and strengthen their own communities.

I challenge the minister responsible for the Canadian Wheat Board to take the unusual step of actually showing initiative by not only releasing the complete audit but also releasing western Canadian producers from an outdated, costly and mandatory grain marketing system.

Parliament of Canada December 13th, 2001

Mr. Speaker, the definition of respect includes the words to “regard with deference, esteem or honour.” It also includes the phrase to “refrain from offending, corrupting or tempting.” Over the last year I have seen initiatives that have caused my respect for this institution to increase. I have also experienced things that have shaken my respect for this place.

I hope the reports that we had this morning were false. These reports suggested that there is a move from within the Liberal government by its members to provide each of its MPs with a constituency slush fund whereby money would be doled out not under the auspices of independent programs but as the member sees fit. More disturbing is the fact that this has actually been given serious discussion.

At times the arrogance of the government has shaken me but I have never seen such a disconnect from regular folks. I have never heard such a damning proposal and I have never before been embarrassed to be a member of parliament.

Respect must be earned. Let us not throw away the little public respect still left for us and for this institution.

An act to amend the Criminal Code (cruelty to animals and firearms) and the Firearms Act December 6th, 2001

Mr. Speaker, I appreciate the opportunity to speak today to Bill C-15. I come from an agricultural area. I am proud of that. I make as much mention of it as I possibly can.

Many of my friends are both ranchers and farmers. They live on the land. Animals are a big part of their lives. These are people who spend their time, especially in the spring, going out at night to check their animals and spend time with them. They spend their days gearing their lives to their animals. They go out in the middle of winter in the thickest of blizzards to find their animals when they need to. They love their way of life and what it is all about. It can also be said that they love their animals.

My wife has an uncle who has cattle. I had cattle for a few years myself. One time I was telling him about the curse of owning the beasts. He commented that “Cows know what they need to know in order to be cows”. I have found that to be true. That is about all they know but it is enough for them.

Mr. Speaker, I do not know if you have had the opportunity to calve out cows. I see you are nodding in the affirmative. We all know what an experience it can be. We go out in the middle of the night and find a cow that is trying to calve and having problems. We try to convince her to find her way into the barn when she wants to go in the other direction or anywhere but where we would like her to. We get her in the barn. She is fighting against calving but we manage to get the chains on and pull out the calf. We all know the feeling of satisfaction that comes from that. I have friends who have done it many times over the years and who do it very well.

I farmed for 25 years before I had the privilege of coming here. I only know of one case of what I would call animal abuse. In our part of the world which is southwestern Saskatchewan when there is abuse of animals the rural municipality is normally responsible for coming in. In the case I am thinking of an older person was no longer able to look after her animals. She had quit feeding them properly. My father-in-law happened to be the reeve at the time and was responsible. The rural municipality went in, seized the animals, got them the food and water they needed and was then responsible for selling the animals.

In 25 years of farming and 40 plus years of living in a rural community this is the only example I can only talk about in our area where people had trouble looking after their animals or were neglecting them.

This is why I have such a concern about the legislation. The definition of an animal would be changed. I think it has been put forward by people who are out of touch and have little information or connection with animals or animal life. The new definition is extremely broad. It describes an animal as:

--a vertebrate, other than a human being, and any other animal that has the capacity to feel pain.

The new definition would extend legal protection to a number of living organisms which have never before been provided this kind of protection.

I have not heard a lot of discussion about the definition but it strikes me that there is a bizarre aspect to it. The definition centres on the capacity to feel pain. I do not know if members have thought about it but I have never heard a definition that defined something by its capacity to feel pain.

This suggests that the people who came up with the definition have their own agenda. We heard that in committee where animal rights organizations made it clear they would take the legislation to the limit when they get the opportunity by challenging people about their animal care.

Moving the animal cruelty provisions from property offences to a new and separate section would elevate the status of animals in the eyes of the court. I assume that is the goal of the people defining them, but it is not a goal we need. Through the centuries and the millennia animals have been seen as property. We are now faced with a substantial change in their legal position.

The Lawyers Weekly has written that we have upgraded the standing of animals to creatures deserving of protection in their own right because of their capacity to suffer. This comes back to what I was saying. The definition is a strange one with a political agenda behind it.

The changes that the legislation will bring about would have a tremendous impact for many who are dependent upon agriculture and animals for their livelihoods, such as farmers and ranchers who are very responsible in dealing with their animals. Hunters obviously at some point will also be impacted by the legislation. Groups are already saying they will use this against hunters who hunt for the sake of sport and for conservation.

It is very interesting that we are moving into an area where we talk more and more about the environment, how important it is and how we need the government to interfere in it. I will talk a bit here about the agriculture department and its commitment to doing that as well.

We now have more animal life than we have ever had in my area. Over the last few years the farming communities have become much more responsible because of some of the changes in the hunting regulations. We are getting to the point where a lot of animals are becoming pests. I heard other MPs talking about deer coming into their backyards and eating the fruit off their apple trees and coyotes bothering their domestic animals and those kinds of things. The other day a Banff news report said it was having trouble. People were being told to make sure they did not act like prey because of the cougars, which are only too happy to look at people in that way.

Another group the legislation will affect is aboriginal people. I know they have a cultural connection to the wildlife and to their history which involved that. If the legislation is applied fairly across the country, it will also impact on them.

One of the most bizarre things about the entire legislation is the definition. We are in a situation now where animals will have more protection than human beings. In particular I am thinking of fetuses in their mothers' wombs. Research has consistently shown that fetuses react to pain and that they pull away from it. There are a number of videos that have been made showing the impact of them being torn from the womb and being destroyed. They react against the invasion of the womb by trying to get away. I would suggest that that probably is suffering as well.

We are walking into a situation where the government is willing to protect animal life at a level that it certainly is not extending for human beings. What are we coming to? We have some strange things happening in our country.

One amendment which has been put forward is the provision that a person must be acting willfully or recklessly in killing or harming animals. That is an improvement over the original bill, but it begins to leave the responsibility for determining these kinds of things to the courts. We have seen some of the present rulings by the courts, which do not leave a lot of us with great comfort. The judiciary is becoming more and more under the influence of many different radical pressures and organizations.

Another amendment, Motion No. 5, which was put forward by the member for Selkirk--Interlake, suggested applying generally accepted standards to animal treatment rather than the willfully or recklessly clause as suggested by the government. My colleague from the NDP said that he had some concerns about that. I do not think we have to say that if one small community does something then we call that generally accepted standards. However amending the clause as suggested in Motion No. 5 is a good option.

Farmers are being pushed from every side these days. They are trying to make a living. In many ways it seems like our agriculture department is more concerned about pushing environmental issues than it is about protecting agricultural producers. Farmers, as agricultural producers, do not ask for special treatment and they are not asking for special treatment with the bill either.

In conclusion, the Alliance members have had some positive suggestions. We have offered a number of solutions and presented a number of good amendments. I would like to suggest that we keep part XI in the code as it presently is. Just leave things alone. The law is working well. We need to enforce it. We are in favour of increasing the penalties if need be. Let us do that, but let us enforce it and apply it in those few situations where we have problems.

Points of Order November 22nd, 2001

We have been waiting for two and a half months now.

Agriculture November 22nd, 2001

Mr. Speaker, I had someone approach me who had the opportunity to make an international sale of barley. He approached the Canadian Wheat Board and was told by the board that it could not and would not supply him with the grain.

He then phoned an Ontario producer to buy the grain from him and was told he could buy it until the seller asked where he was from. When he said Saskatchewan he was told “I cannot not sell it to you because of the Canadian Wheat Board”. This person lost the sale. The barley remains in Canada and agriculture suffers again.

Could the Canadian Wheat Board minister tell us when this ridiculous discrimination and unfairness faced by western Canadian producers will end?

Foreign Missions and International Organizations Act November 20th, 2001

Mr. Speaker, growing up in small town Saskatchewan the RCMP was a strong symbol of authority. As young children we knew that if we were to get in trouble the RCMP would be there to correct it. We also knew that if we were not breaking the law or doing anything wrong we did not have to fear the RCMP.

Other countries did not have quite the same situation. I remember as a university student being challenged over one Christmas holiday to see if I could read the Gulag Archipelago by Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn. I managed to get through it and got a picture of the viciousness of a regime where the government controlled the police force and used it to its own ends. Governments move consistently to bring all things under their control and to have greater control. Its goal is to expand itself.

The legislation concerns me not for what it addresses but for what it misses. It begins by ignoring the recommendations of the Hughes report, a $10 million report that called for the separation of police and politics.

The Hughes report revealed the extent of political involvement that took place at that APEC conference. Mr. Carle from the PMO was clearly influencing the RCMP's conduct and was directing police activities. The commissioner of the RCMP continues to be at the deputy minister level. Problems arise when police and politics get tied too tightly. My concern with the legislation is that rather than severing those ties it more tightly ties the RCMP to its political masters. Clause 10.1 states:

The Royal Canadian Mounted Police has the primary responsibility to ensure the security for the proper functioning of any intergovernmental conference in which two or more states participate, that is attended by persons granted privileges and immunities under this Act--

Subclause 10.1(2) states:

For the purpose of carrying out its responsibility under subsection (1), the Royal Canadian Mounted Police may take appropriate measures, including controlling, limiting or prohibiting access to any area to the extent and in a manner that is reasonable in the circumstances.

We already had problems in Canada and the APEC conference was one example where those problems arose. I will talk a bit about another situation where we have an example of the abuse of the relationship between the police and state powers.

Farmers in western Canada were being squeezed tightly by lower prices in the early 1990s. Prices were dropping and the prices in the United States at that time were considerably higher. A number of farmers in desperation decided that they needed to try to do something about it.

Dave Sawatzky was a young farmer from Gladstone, Manitoba, who needed to pay his bills. In the early 1990s he had a growing need for cash on his farm. Between that and his exasperation with the grain handling monopoly in Manitoba it prompted him to begin hauling wheat to the United States.

The book Jailhouse Justice , written by Don Baron, states:

He started with grain from his own farm, then began hauling for friends and neighbours and returning with their needed cash. He was soon being offered more grain by grateful growers than he could handle going day and night. He hired other trucks and moved about 600 truckloads in 1993 and 1994, crossing at Manitoba border points. At times he was buying grain from farmers and hauling it. Some observers say now that at least a dozen farm families would have lost their farms without Sawatzky's efforts. To say nothing of his own farm.

He moved 600 loads of grain in 1993 and 1994. This movement began to build up as dozens of farmers joined in trying to get a decent price for their product. The reaction was interesting. Early on the Canadian Wheat Board issued a press release in which the chief commissioner said there was nothing that the Canadian Wheat Board could do about it.

It was interesting that as more farmers began to haul wheat there was a change in that attitude. The wheat board became concerned and felt it needed to stop this movement of grain. It began to work under the auspices of the agriculture minister and the minister responsible for the wheat board at the time, who then began to bring in some other government departments. It began to involve the customs division, the RCMP, as well as the justice department. Soon producers were being charged with illegally exporting grain as the full weight of the Canadian government was used against them.

The way the situation worked was that farmers would go to the United States with their loads of wheat. They would come back to the border and they would be ticketed at customs. They would get in their vehicles, drive their own trucks away from the border and then the RCMP would be called to arrest them.

By 1995 there were 100 farmers supporting Mr. Sawatsky. In May 1996 Judge Arnold Connor ruled that the permits were not required at all. The government took massive steps to try to stop the farmers and did it illegally. To this day that was an illegal action. The Canadian Customs Act which was used against the farmers did not require an exporter to provide customs officers with a permit to take grain across the border. It was on these grounds that farmers had been challenged.

I would like to read from Jailhouse Justice , another example of what happened a month earlier to a farm family:

The headline screamed out the astonishing news, “Farm Family Terrorized in Middle of the Night”. And the news release went on, “Armed men entered the home of Norman and Edith Desrochers...very early in the morning of April 10th (1996). Edith was just home from the hospital after major surgery. The intruders marched across the kitchen floor and disconnected all the phones. The Desrochers could call no one for help. Yet other intruders were in their farmyard taking one of their trucks”.

That news release went on, “These were not gang members, not the Mafia, but five RCMP officers and 10 Canadian Customs employees. Mr. Desrochers had exported his own grain a few days earlier without permission from the Goodale Wheat Board. This permission would have cost him thousands of dollars because he is a Western farmer, but it is free of charge to farmers outside the Wheat Board Area”.

The word was soon out that this furious assault began in the 5:15 a.m. pre-dawn darkness. Mounties and Customs officials entered the farm at Baldur in south-west Manitoba, where the Desrochers had farmed for years and had raised daughters Coreen and Monica and sons Clayton and Jeffrey. The intruders came in without knocking, triggering a time of terror for the occupants.

One well-read and perceptive supporter of these growers soon reported an almost unheard-of-twist--the Desrochers' search warrant had been altered to read “by day or night”.

Yes, this family had suffered the shocking and terrifying experience of a late night police raid on their home. That invasion and intimidation was carried out...because Norman had been involved earlier in challenges to the Board's tight grain monopoly. He and other growers had sold their own grain. And they were convinced the government board wanted farmers like them jailed.

This brutal attack was caused by political interference. The Canadian Wheat Board and the Canadian Wheat Board minister overreacted. Justice officials overreacted or were manipulated and farmers were intimidated and persecuted. RCMP and customs and revenue officials ended up being used by cabinet ministers against normal Canadians trying to live their lives and make a living.

These were not the only farmers who were punished by these immoral actions. Probably the most notable example of that involved a farmer named Andy McMechan who had been hauling barley to the United States. Again Jailhouse Justice states:

—his need for revenue became critical and his saga returned to the media. He again defied Ottawa's monopoly and in March '96 hauled grain to the U.S. without an export licence. On his return to the border crossing, a Customs officer and three RCMP offers met him. His tractor was ordered confiscated. He refused to give it up.

The next day he and a neighbour hauled 1500 more bushels across the border to his farm in N.D. Again when he returned Customs and RCMP officers were waiting. Andy explained what happened next. “I sat there for 15 minutes and no one came out, so I left and went home. About 9 p.m. that night I was arrested at home for theft over $5,000--”

Mr. McMechan was put in jail. He spent 155 days in jail in 1996 from July 9 to December 10 for selling his own wheat. He experienced more than 50 strip searches while in prison.

My concern this morning is that these farmers clearly did not want to be law-breakers. People who are trying to make a living are put in prison, strip-searched, raided in the middle of the night and harassed. They are driven to bankruptcy and fined exorbitant amounts. This is an example of a bureaucracy gone crazy and the bill continues that.

For that reason I think we need to scrutinize, amend or, if at all possible, defeat the legislation.

Canadian Wheat Board Act November 19th, 2001

Mr. Speaker, I commend the member for Yorkton--Melville for bringing an important issue before us, it addresses two items: first, whether the Canadian Wheat Board should continue in the orderly manner in which it has until now or whether it should maximize returns for farmers and, second, the ability to opt out of the Canadian Wheat Board.

We heard the member for Timiskaming--Cochrane speak about applying the Canadian Wheat Board to people other than the ones in his riding. He may not understand that from its inception the wheat board was not a mandatory marketing agency. The government at the time was forced to make it into a voluntary marketing system. In those days the Liberals had some sort of sense and supported a voluntary marketing agency.

It was only during wartime when cheap food was needed in Europe that the board was made mandatory in 1943 and ever since farmers have paid the price for forced mandatory marketing.

I am glad to see the motion come forward for discussion. The objective of the board is to market wheat in an orderly manner. That means a few things. The goal of the wheat board is to market orderly, not necessarily efficiently. There is a big difference between those two things.

There is little willingness to get top dollar if the main focus is on orderliness. There is little demand for accountability which in particular leads to a lack of openness. The board has been notorious over the years for not being open. Farmers have not been able to look into the books to see what is going on there.

That worked okay for decades until farmers began to realize that the board was not always acting in their best interests. I can think of a couple of examples, particularly in the early 1990s when there was a lot of feed wheat. Farmers tried to market it into the United States. The board took that market away and refused to give farmers a buyback. The board actually delivered wheat into the United States at almost a dollar a bushel less than the farmers had arranged themselves. That was a wake up call for many farmers.

Farmers also began to realize that they did not need the board. They were capable of marketing their own wheat and began to chafe under the mandatory regulations.

The lack of openness showed up in a couple of other ways over the years. Sometimes the Canadian Wheat Board attempted to deal with that. Presently it is conducting an audit. It is interesting that the audit is being conducted under its terms and it will be able to release whatever parts it chooses to release. It is hardly the open audit we might expect and interestingly farmers are paying the bill for the audit.

Another interesting attempt to limit openness is the rule that was passed by the board of directors limiting its ability to criticize the board. As farmers begin to elect more pro-choice board members the board clamps down on them and does not give them a voice in public. If the directors cannot speak out, how in the world will farmers be able to speak out?

Another problem with focusing on orderliness rather than on effectiveness and maximizing returns is that we begin to see that image becomes far more important than effectiveness.

The communications budget for the Canadian Wheat Board over the last three years has gone up 300%. It is now spending well over $2 million of farmers' money each year just to convince farmers that the board is doing a good job. I would consider that to be a conflict of interest, as would any open minded person.

The board's training and development has gone up 300% in two years. That primarily goes to customer relations people who are in the community trying to convince farmers that the board is doing a good job. We have no way of checking on the effectiveness of it, but it is sure trying to convince us that it is doing the job.

The most objectionable aspect of mandatory marketing is that it continues to reflect old time socialist thinking. When Karl Marx wrote his works some people apparently were under the impression that it was non-fiction. It has been proven many times since that it was fiction.

That thinking continues to hold people back in western Canada. Being from Saskatchewan I often wonder about socialism where the main objective appears to be to keep people back rather than to give everyone an equal opportunity.

It punishes innovation. Farmers who want to move ahead, who want to begin to process their products, have absolutely no opportunity to do so. It also causes people to live in fear.

I was appointed critic of the wheat board last summer. We brought out a number of news releases. On virtually every one of the news releases the wheat board reacted with paranoia for some particular reason rather than address the issues that were brought out. It tried to portray us as confused and unsure of what we were saying when the issues were clear. It refused to address the issues and it just reacted in fear. That comes out of its monopoly thinking.

It was a pleasure to hear the member for Yorkton--Melville bring forth the suggestion that we change the objective of the Wheat Board Act to maximize returns because that would have some immediate impact. Effectiveness would become a number one priority as we would move away from public relations into actually doing a good job for farmers.

Accountability and openness would take place within the organization. It would be the beginning of free enterprise. Maximizing returns for farmers would give them the opportunity to do something with their own money. There would definitely be more money in the pockets of farmers.

The key to the motion is the ability to opt out. Presently we have no choice. We find ourselves in situations where the Americans continually issue trade challenges to us because the wheat board is not transparent. We do not know what the selling price for wheat is and it challenges that.

We see no accountability, especially at the producer level. As a producer there is no way that I can hold the board accountable for what it sells grain for. Therefore I have no way of knowing whether or not it will be maximizing returns.

There are secrets everywhere. I talked about the paranoia within the board. Often big companies get special deals that producers cannot possibly get. They get accredited exportation licences, which individual farmers are not allowed to have, and then they cut their deals with the wheat board.

The end result is that farmers cannot tell whether or not they are doing well. There is just no way of checking on that. Government members stopped the motion from becoming votable this morning. There would be some interesting results if it were to pass.

First, we would see some competition which would be good for several reasons. It would bring accountability to the whole process. As farmers go out and market their grain they will go to the coffee shops and talk about how well they have done and what they have done with their product. The wheat board would also have to be accountable to be able to do the same types of things with the product or it would lose the business. The Canadian Wheat Board would have to perform or die. It would not continue to get a free ride on farmer paid public relations.

If the motion were to pass it would bring in a few other things as well. It would give freedom to farmers that they have never had. This is a time in the farming community where people are moving toward identity preserved grains. They see opportunities in things like our marketed high protein wheat by making contacts with different companies and unique marketing opportunities. If we could open this up and allow people to opt out of the Canadian Wheat Board and its restrictive system, it would give them all these opportunities.

It would give opportunities to local communities to thrive and succeed. As I travel throughout my community I see people trying very hard to look for opportunities. If we could only process the product that we grow then most us would have a chance to succeed. We are not allowed to do that as it presently stands. In fact 70% of Saskatchewan's agriculture production is exported in a raw form. We can do nothing with it.

Communities in rural western Canada would have a chance to stand on their own. The government wants to get out of supporting farmers and here is an ideal opportunity. The government does not want to give support but it also does not want to give any freedom either. This is an opportunity to change that.

The Canadian Wheat Board is never mentioned during all this talk of increasing profitability on the Canadian prairies. It is because it is not an opportunity. It is an impediment and not a help to economic growth in western Canada.

It reminds me of some of the countries in the world where cattle are sacred. The wheat board is like that. It is sacred. It is worshipped but it is of absolutely no use to the people around it.

It has become marginalized and increasingly irrelevant. I think this would be an excellent time and an excellent motion for the government to learn from and to begin to use to address the problems in Canadian agriculture.

Canadian Wheat Board Act November 19th, 2001

You are always ignoring the rest of Canada.

Christian Heritage November 2nd, 2001

Mr. Speaker, the present leadership of this country consistently disregards our Christian heritage. Indeed it is that Christian heritage that has protected the rights of minorities in Canada and gives Canadians the right to believe as they choose, unlike the situation which exists for so many people in other areas of the world.

Even today, Christian organizations work around the world to bring tolerance and to improve the lives of people who are less fortunate than themselves. A good example is Samaritan's Purse that has just held its annual Operation Christmas Child Shoebox program on Parliament Hill.

For some reason the government seems determined to disconnect Canadians from both the heritage and the present faith of so many Canadians. The pattern is consistent: the Swissair memorial service where it was forbidden to mention the name of Jesus Christ; the September 11 memorial service where the only mention of God was in the national anthem; the recent demand that churches turn their mortgages over to the government; and now the government's weak response to the burning of the church in Lunenburg.

The present leadership supposedly rejects intolerance. Why would it demonstrate it in such an important area?