House of Commons photo

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

Agriculture October 26th, 2001

Mr. Speaker, food producers feel that they have a target on their back. Faced with unnecessary gun control regulations, bizarre animal rights legislation, a punitive species at risk bill and an uninformed GMO labelling campaign, rural people should feel threatened.

On top of all this, the Liberals are actively trying to convince Canadians that there is no public support for farmers. They are wrong.

Since this past March the agriculture department has twice tried to manipulate agriculture polling results. Its own polling, which it now refuses to release, indicates that 70% of Canadians believe that the government should “do whatever it has to do in order to ensure the survival of the family farm in Canada even if this means that we have to pay a little more in income tax”.

This is in line with Canadian Alliance polls which show that over three-quarters of Canadians recognize that farmers should receive subsidies to help them compete until farm subsidies in other nations are lowered.

While there may be a target being drawn on food producers, it is not the Canadian people who are taking aim. The frightening thing is that it is the very department which is supposed to promote agriculture that is drawing a bead on Canadian producers.

Supply October 23rd, 2001

Mr. Speaker, I am thankful for the opportunity this afternoon to discuss customs and immigration issues. Canada has an obligation to encourage immigration. Having been given what we have in Canada it is only right to welcome refugees and immigrants to our country.

Most Canadians are descended from immigrants. My grandparents on my father's side came from Scandinavia. They looked for a country where they could have new opportunities. They looked at Canada and decided to come here. My mother decided in the 1950s that she would like to come to Canada. She emigrated from Scotland. She came here as a midwife and became a nurse. We all have immigration in our history.

If we are to have immigration we have an obligation to do a good job. I will ask a couple of questions this afternoon about whether we are doing a good job with our immigration policies. First, if we think we are doing a good job, could we not ask people in the general public what they think of our immigration policies? If we went to the public I am sure people would say our immigration policies are complicated and difficult to understand and that no one knows what the rules are.

People do come here. Last year 225,000 people tried to immigrate to Canada, 35,000 of whom claimed refugee status. People come here to stay because it is a good place to live and a safe place to live. We would like to keep it that way. I will take a few minutes to look at the present legislation to see if it would make Canada a safe place to live.

Bill C-11 has been introduced and is going through the process of becoming legislation. It seems well intentioned. My mother has a Scottish saying that members may be familiar with. She says the road to hell is paved with good intentions. This could be the government's statement of purpose on immigration legislation.

Bill C-11 tries to make the system workable but the government refuses to provide enough staff to make it workable. Bill C-11 tries to speed up refugee processing, or at least as the public sees it. The government's target includes referring refugees to the Immigration and Refugee Board within three days. However its processing time continues to be 90 days, the same as it has always been.

The bill does not address issues like out of date health standards or accountability of appointments, those of citizenship judges in particular. However the real problem with the immigration legislation is the problem at the heart of the Liberal government: it has no accountability.

Canadians are more concerned about the application of the present law than about having new laws. If people can come here, do damage and try to destroy the country, it justifiably causes fear among Canadians about what they may be doing. Montreal detective Claude Paquette said our porous immigration laws have turned Canada into “a Club Med for terrorists”. CSIS head Ward Elcock has said that with perhaps the singular exception of the United States there are more international terrorist groups active in Canada than in any other country. This is a poor place to be second.

Yesterday I rode in a taxi from the airport with a young gentleman who was concerned about the things going on around the world. He was from the Middle East. He said he came to Canada to have peace, not to have the dangers of that world come here. Canadians want to be safe.

Canadians are concerned that the system has been corrupted. We need to look at some of the major concerns Canadians have about failed political candidates being given appointments and jobs in the immigration system, a system in which immigration lawyers stand to make large amounts of money from people who cannot afford it, a system in which corrupt immigration advisers often try to take people's money away before they get to Canada.

To deal with these problems the Canadian Alliance has some suggestions. First, we need to take a serious look at a common perimeter security system with the United States. This is a simple and real opportunity to improve security for both Canadians and Americans. Simply put, it would increase security at our entry points. People cannot swim to this country. They come in through airports and the ports where our ships dock. We need a common perimeter security system.

Why do we need a perimeter security system? We need it for a couple of reasons. First, we need it for our own security and safety. This is the first duty of the federal government. Second, the United States has announced it will be requiring everyone leaving and entering that country to register when they do so. This will be done for several reasons. It will be done partly as a trade restriction, something we do not particularly need.

A couple of weeks ago one of the senators from North Dakota began using the security issue to try again to restrict agricultural products coming into the United States. Some of their bureaucrats and politicians are trying to use the issue to restrict things like softwood lumber and the ability of Canadians to work in the United States. We need to be aware that the United States is concerned about its own security. If we do not have a secure perimeter and cannot be trusted at our borders we will not be able to get through the U.S. border easily.

We have a second suggestion for the government. It should detain refugee claimants until it has properly identified them. That is common sense. We cannot simply let people go and collect their baggage when they arrive at and leave our airports. The Canadian people do not realize how the system is operating right now or they would be rising up and criticizing it.

Arrivals need to have verifiable documentation so the proper checks can be done. It is easy to do security and background checks on people who have the correct documentation. However those without verifiable documentation or who are questionable should be detained until we know whether they are safe. If they prove not to be safe they should be deported. Canadians do not find that unreasonable.

Here are some examples where stricter standards should have been applied. A convicted PLO terrorist lied to get into Canada. He currently lives in Brantford, Ontario, and has lived there since 1987. He is a failed refugee claimant but continues to avoid deportation through court appeals. If the government cannot deport a terrorist, whom can it deport?

A Toronto man who works at a grocery store has been positively linked to Osama bin Laden. He has been identified as a high ranking member of the Islamic terrorist group al-Jihad.

Ahmed Ressam, a failed refugee claimant, assembled bomb material in Burnaby, B.C., and tried to get into the United States. While he was fighting the Canadian refugee process it was discovered he was allowed to travel abroad for more terrorist training before returning to Canada.

A former terrorist wanted for questioning by the FBI for assisting in the bombing of an Egyptian embassy in the late 1980s is living in Canada.

How many other terrorists are hiding in Canada? One of the biggest concerns of Canadians is that the present inadequate screening system cannot tell them that.

One of the more bizarre examples of this occurred on October 7 when a plane arrived at Toronto's Pearson airport with an estimated 30 to 40 refugees from Pakistan and Afghanistan who had come through Germany, a safe third country. These people, I would suggest, were not refugees but rather immigrants. They were processed and released into the general public and immigration officials lost them. Where are they? More important, who are they? People cannot just disappear.

Immigration Canada has been left with insufficient resources to track these people down. Does the government have the will to protect Canadians, either at the beginning of the immigration process or when things go wrong?

John Thompson of the Mackenzie Institute, a Toronto based strategic think tank, says CSIS, our security agencies, immigration officers and police officers cannot act because they do not have the resources or the will behind them.

We have a couple of suggestions regarding customs. First, one of the ways to deal with the problems is to make customs officials full law enforcement officers. The government cannot decide what they are right now. They are expected to protect our borders but are only given the tools to be tax collectors. If our first line of defence is to be our customs officials let us give them sidearms and the equipment they need. If they are only to be tax collectors let us give them calculators.

We have a huge concern that customs officials are left without the proper training. In larger centres they are getting some training but in smaller ones they have less access to the RCMP and little access to police support. They do not have access to quick response training and are often left out of the training schedule, especially lately regarding pepper spray and the use of batons. The people who most need protection and training are the last to get it.

The national vice-president of the Customs Excise Union, Gary Filek, said:

Canada Customs has been under a systematic process of deterioration and dismantling for approximately the last decade.

The Canadian Alliance is suggesting to the government that it restore Canadian confidence by setting up a common perimeter security network, that it detain new arrivals until it knows for sure who they are, that it limit refugee acceptance to real refugees, and that it make customs officials peace officers and give them the proper training and necessary tools to do their jobs.

Agriculture October 19th, 2001

Mr. Speaker, as my colleague from Esquimalt--Juan de Fuca pointed out, the government is talking and doing nothing. The lack of public response from the Minister of Agriculture and Agri-Food to the increased risk to our food supply is both appalling and dangerous.

Since September 11, the United States has announced an additional $350 million to keep its food supply safe. We have heard nothing on this front from the Liberals.

Why has the minister of agriculture failed to implement any new measures to protect Canada's agricultural industry and food supply?

Agriculture October 19th, 2001

Mr. Speaker, Canada's agriculture and food supply are easy targets for bioterrorism. So far the government's response to protect our food supply has been nothing. This is not good enough.

Last April, Dr. André Gravel, executive vice president of the CFIA stated that the threat of bioterrorism to our food supply is “a real threat and clearly a real possibility”.

Why has the Minister of Agriculture and Agri-Food taken no action to protect our food supply?

Foreign Missions and International Organizations Act October 18th, 2001

Madam Speaker, one thing that is happening in our society is that we have an ever increasing amount of involvement and interference with our government in our affairs.

Would the member care to comment on his concerns with government being more involved with security forces, with the police and with the police being tied ever closer to the authorities, particularly to the PMO's office?

Export Development Act October 1st, 2001

Mr. Speaker, given the government's history of trying to avoid accountability, given its lack of openness in disclosing what it is doing and given its history of interfering with domestic financial institutions, when we look at the structure of the EDC we see that for the most part it has independence from scrutiny. There is a lot of power given to the board. Its structure is set up so that it is not accountable to anyone and it is given a great deal of authority.

I am wondering if my hon. colleague would care to comment on whether he thinks the government, given its history, would be able to keep its fingers from manipulating this agency, from sticking them in there and trying to manoeuvre things for political purposes.

Agriculture September 27th, 2001

Madam Chairman, I begin by thanking you for allowing this emergency debate to take place. Throughout the entire summer farmers across the country have been dealing with one of the most severe droughts in recent history. In other areas of Canada farmers have had too much rain. All in all farmers have not been given the most ideal conditions within which to work. However that is part of being a farmer. Some years are good; other years are devastating.

My riding of Cypress Hills--Grasslands and the ridings that border it, particularly those of Battlefords--Lloydminster, Saskatoon--Rosetown--Biggar in Saskatchewan, and Medicine Hat and Lethbridge in Alberta, have been hard hit by the drought this summer. My constituents in southwestern Saskatchewan are mostly grain farmers and cattle ranchers, people who live off the land and need to produce to make a living.

In southern Alberta producers are faced with a similar situation. Ranchers do not have water for their cattle: farmers do not have water for their crops.

This spring, as I looked out the window from a little commuter plane between Medicine Hat and Calgary, it was interesting to see that the grass never did green up in that area. It stayed dry and grey the entire summer.

Tough times are nothing new to farmers. Grain farmers have been struggling with unstable commodity prices for many years. The present low commodity prices in the grain and oilseed sector are due to the excessive subsidies our competitors receive in the United States and overseas in Europe. These subsidies cause overproduction and distortion in certain agricultural commodities which drive down world prices.

In Canada farmers are not fortunate enough to have the strong backing of the federal Liberal government. For some reason the government believes that if it weans producers off subsidies and leaves them on their own they will become lean, mean, farming machines. However, in order to run a viable farming operation and stay in business, producers must make or at least have the opportunity to make money.

Farmers today are faced with an uphill battle and the government should be there to support them. The agri-food industry in Canada is the fifth largest industry in the country. It accounts for almost 8.5% of Canada's gross domestic product. This $95 billion sector of the economy is not insignificant and it is worth fighting for. One in seven jobs in Canada are tied directly or indirectly to agriculture.

United States wheat farmers receive 49% of their income from subsidies, while their European counterparts receive 52% of their income from the government. Our wheat farmers receive less than 13% support. At the same time it is delivered to farmers in convoluted income support programs like AIDA and CFIP. It take months and even years to process applications under these programs and in the end they deny support to many farmers.

Tonight we heard that Saskatchewan received a big portion of that money but in fact 46% of the applications were denied and rejected. That is not an indicator of a successful program.

It is a rather strange situation because farmers do not want to be dependent on subsidies and the government does not want to give them money. The ideal solution to our agriculture problems would be to reduce all trade distorting subsidies internationally. The only way to remove foreign subsidies is by negotiations through the World Trade Organization and NAFTA. This is a long and arduous task and can take years to complete, especially when players like the U.S. are now spending $20 billion a year in subsidies.

We must get moving in this regard. The agriculture discussions have been delayed long enough. We need to have some results in that area. The government does not have a choice on this issue. If it wants an agriculture sector in the country it must be willing to support it.

The Alliance has done some polling and released the results early last week. Canadians across the country want to support farmers. In that survey we saw that 78% of Canadians felt farmers should receive subsidies to help them compete until farm subsidies in other nations are lowered, even if it means subsidizing farmers for several years. Our poll of both urban and rural areas does not leave anything to question, yet the government still does not seem to get the point.

Livestock producers on the other hand have been fairly fortunate over the last few years, but the drought this summer changed that radically for them. As I mentioned, flying from Medicine Hat to Calgary the land never did green up, but one of the more concerning things was that we could watch the dugouts go dry. We could actually see from week to week as the water level went down. A lot of them are now dry.

Ranchers are resorting to hauling water and feed so that they can hold on to their cattle. If they are unable to do that, often they are forced to sell off part of their herd. Usually at times like this ranchers would be able to work with the PFRA to find a new water source or to install pipelines. However this year the budget for the PFRA was exhausted just four days into the fiscal year and currently up to 500 projects in Saskatchewan alone are on hold.

It appears that the priorities of the agriculture department are out of step. Would not reallocating more financial resources to the PFRA so that ranchers could find water be the logical thing to do during a drought? Producers are being faced with so many challenges right now they do not need the government to be another one as well.

A few weeks ago I received a letter from a constituent who operates a ranch in Maple Creek, Saskatchewan. He wrote:

My family has raised cattle in this area since the 1880s. I've been associated with our operation over 30 years of my adult life. Never before have I had no livestock feed to harvest. We have had no irrigation or stock water releases in the 2001 season. Also, there has been no production on our native pastures for the past two years.

This livestock producer is not alone. There are many people like him in my part of the world. When feed crops fail to yield anything, ranchers have no recourse since they cannot effectively use crop insurance. Instead they must compete with U.S. producers in buying feed at very high prices.

One program ranchers can normally depend upon during especially dry seasons is the income tax deferral program. This summer the minister announced which regions of Canada would be eligible to use the program. He announced that relatively early in the season.

However restrictions placed on the program prevent producers from using it effectively. The tax deferral applies only to breeding livestock that are a year or older. This summer many people were forced to sell off their calves and feedlot owners were left in the dark altogether.

The tax deferral program is a relatively simple program, however the restrictions that are placed on it do not help producers. The government should open up the program to either more types of livestock or it should extend the tax repayment period over three years, or extend the tax repayment period until the land recovers.

The government realizes that it cannot remain silent on this issue. This drought could be the financial wall that will force many producers into bankruptcy. For years farmers have struggled with an income crisis and now they have a drought that has eliminated all production for many of them.

The government needs to discover a new commitment to agriculture. I admit that we have some members on the government side who have an interest in agriculture but the government in general has no heart for that sector. Agriculture is important and we need to support it. We also need to take a look at our spending and examine how it is taking place.

Last spring our party called on the government to allocate an additional $500 million in emergency aid to farmers. Rather than do that the government's response was to appoint a task force. The task force went around the country to meet and to discuss the same issues that were discussed by the government for the last nine years. It will not have a report until a year from now. That is not good enough. The government has been in power long enough. It needs to figure out where to spend efficiently and effectively in the agriculture sector.

I found it interesting that over the last few weeks we heard about aircraft manufacturers, airplane businesses and auto manufacturers coming to the government requesting money. There seems to be a clear and immediate interest in providing them with financial help. The agriculture sector has come to the government for years and the requests have fallen on deaf ears.

Why do they get such a quick response and the agriculture sector does not seem to? I would suggest, and I would hope it is not the case, that some of this may be geographic or may be the result of location.

The government needs to give farmers a chance to succeed. One of the ways it can do that is by providing voluntary marketing in western Canada. It needs to open up opportunities for people to thrive in their communities and to diversify.

The government needs to aggressively get after the United States and the European Union. It needs to go after their subsidies and get them reduced so that we can survive. I find it hard to remain calm on this issue.

My staff assured me that I did not need to come in here and yell and holler today so I have tried to abide by that. It is frustrating for me to continue to talk about these things time after time and not see a commitment to change, to examine programs and to come up with new ideas and new ways of affecting and improving agriculture for our farmers in this country.

Agriculture September 26th, 2001

Mr. Speaker, we are nearing the end of summer. Many areas continue to be plagued by one of the most severe droughts in recent history. Canadian producers, and particularly producers in Saskatchewan and Alberta have not had enough rain this summer.

The prairie grass has burned off. Dugouts and springs have gone dry. Ranchers have no choice but to haul water and feed to maintain their herds. Many ranchers are being forced to sell off their cattle. Ranchers have not asked for large government intervention but they are asking for consistency.

Normally under these circumstances producers would be able to work with the PFRA to find new water sources or to install pipelines. However because the budget of the PFRA was emptied four days into the new fiscal year there are up to 500 of these projects on hold in Saskatchewan alone.

The situation is desperate. When will the government act by reallocating money to the PFRA so that ranchers can get access to the most basic of resources, water?

Customs Act September 24th, 2001

Madam Speaker, we are here today to address Bill S-23. This is a bill to facilitate trade between the United States and Canada. I will spend a few minutes talking about trade in agriculture since that is one of the areas I have an interest in.

Trade in agriculture, exports and imports between the United States and Canada, runs into the billions of dollars. For example, we export billions of dollars per year in grain and oilseed foodstuffs alone. We import almost $300 million in bulk grain alone from the United States. We export $1.3 billion worth of livestock and import more than $150 million in just live animals from the United States. We export more than $600 million worth of pork products and import $100 million.

In the past we have had conflicts on our border regarding agricultural issues and products. The cattle industry has been affected a couple of times by R-CALF, an organization in the United States that has come forward to try to challenge the import and export of animals to the United States. Durum wheat has been challenged often by senators along the border states, particularly along the border of North Dakota and Manitoba. We see recurring problems with softwood lumber across Canada.

For those of us who live on this side of the border, it is necessary for the border to be open. Not only is it necessary for us but for the people of the United States as well, because we are their biggest trading partner taking a full 25% of their exports.

The border serves several functions. My riding is located right along the Montana border and it has always been an area of interest to the locals. Many of the people who have settled in our area came from Minnesota. They came from Scandinavian countries, moved through Minnesota, came up through Montana and settled right along the border. The early pioneers were used to going back and forth across that border.

My grandfather talked about unloading a three wheel tractor in Chinook, Montana and trying to bring it across the prairie. As they drove it north they tipped it twice and had to go to one of their U.S. neighbours to get a horse to pull the tractor back onto its wheels. Building supplies were often shipped into small Montana towns such as Turner, Harlem, Chinook and then the products were brought up to Canada. The border was also an interesting place to be during the prohibition era. There were a lot of products brought back and forth that often were not approved by customs.

We have friends on both sides of the border. When I was growing up I would travel to the United States regularly. The border was open. Often it seemed that we had more connections north and south than we did east and west. Lately traffic to the U.S. from our area has been curtailed since our dollar has fallen to the level it has. Many of the people in our area have quit spending as much money as they used to in the United States.

We also have programs in our area such as Canpass. We have been talking about setting up electronic crossings. Those programs I understand are now under review.

We need to have trade with our biggest trading partner. Because of terrorism and the brutal treatment of innocent people which has taken place, the border has changed. It has changed the ability of people and goods to move back and forth across the border.

I want to spend a couple of minutes talking about the type of border crossings. I ask members present, what would it be like to be a customs agent at an isolated border crossing in the conditions that we have now? What would it be like for a customs agent to be overseen by an agency that has a lack of direction toward its employees?

I am not sure if members are aware, but it took two days for the agency to let the local customs agents know that they were supposed to fly the flags at half-mast, but they had already done it. They were given directions to search all vehicles but were given no directions about what they were searching for.

As we heard earlier today, employees have also been told that they should not be speaking to MPs, particularly opposition MPs. What would it be like to be an employee in an isolated area and feel there is no recourse to bring out concerns?

What would it be like to work in an isolated area and know there is a lack of protection? The RCMP in many of these areas are miles and miles away. They can be from 15 to 70 miles away from a border crossing.

In our area alone, the RCMP officers themselves have to cover huge areas. There is one officer on duty and that is it for an area that covers approximately 2,000 to 2,500 square miles. The officer's job is to cover that area as well as the border crossings. I do not think it is realistic to expect that person to do that job.

We also have to ask what it would be like to be at an isolated crossing with improper training and equipment. I understand at the larger crossings agents are being trained in the use of batons and pepper spray but that training will not be given to the agents at the smaller crossings. Where else would it be needed? At the large crossings there are a dozen agents on duty and there are people to back them up. At the small crossings this protection is required.

A question that also arises is whether or not agents should have sidearms. We have heard today that we need to take this agency out of the revenue collection business. It is not just a revenue collecting group. This group is expected to provide law enforcement. These people need to have protection. On the American side of the border there are agents with sidearms, agents with fully automatic weapons, agents with bulletproof vests on the backs of which the word “police” is spelled out in six-inch letters. On our side, the agents finally do have bulletproof vests but there is nothing to indicate that people should stop or respect them.

We have actually been accused of trying to make political points on this, but it is important. For almost 10 years, first the Reform Party and then the Alliance party tried to talk to the government about the need for reform of Canada's criminal justice system, the immigration system and the border crossing system. The government has chosen not to listen and in some ways those chickens are now coming home to roost.

Another problem is the lack of proper allocation of funding. The government is only too willing to overtax people and to take 50% of their income. It tries to restrict businesses through its taxation policies. It is committed to regional economic development programs that often do nothing but waste money. There are entrenched attitudes in the bureaucracy. There is an improper allocation of resources and because of that people who are on the ground cannot do an adequate job.

Looking at the structure of a pyramid, it works far better if the base of the pyramid is sitting on the ground. Looking at a business model, businesses want to have most of their people on the ground doing the work and fewer people involved in the decision making and those kinds of things. The bureaucracy at Canada customs seems to be almost the opposite. The people at the bottom are trying to do their jobs, to provide law enforcement and collect revenue. They are being run by bureaucrats and are given their instructions from above and the instructions often have very little to do with their jobs.

Canada has a porous border and we need to do something about it. Government needs to show leadership in this area. Canada has a poor immigration set-up. We need to do something to get those people who consistently break our laws and who think they can stay in Canada out of our country so they are not a danger to our citizens.

In conclusion, we need trade. It is obvious to all of us that we need to have trade. We also need a reasonably secure border. The time for playing around, studying and consulting is over. The government has been in power long enough that it should be able to bring in policy that is effective. We need to deal with the lack of direction, protection and proper allocation. We have the time and the opportunity now. Let us not throw that away.

Terrorism September 17th, 2001

Mr. Speaker, on behalf of the constituents of Cypress Hills--Grasslands, I rise to express my sympathy for the victims and families affected by last Tuesday's tragedy. This horrendous act of terrorism not only destroyed many lives, it also permanently scarred the world for all of us.

These evil acts come from the heart, from hatred and ambition, emotions with which we are all familiar. These events forced us to look at our own hearts.

Billy Graham spoke last week of our desperate need for spiritual renewal. Are we willing to let God heal our land?

We pray for the victims and their families and we continue to pray that God will keep our land glorious and free. We need great wisdom as we work to ensure an act such as this will never happen again.

This is an appropriate time for parliamentarians to examine ourselves and for each of us to ask, what is my responsibility and what is my role in the renewal of our country?