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

Members Not Seeking Re-election to the 43rd Parliament June 4th, 2019

Mr. Speaker, when I first put forward my name for nomination, an older friend asked me if I knew the similarity between politicians and babies' diapers. I said I did not but I bet he was going to tell me, and he said they should be changed often and for the same reason. Here we are, 19 years later, after six elections, and it is a time for a change for all of us.

I am here tonight to say thanks, first to the people of southwestern Saskatchewan, the best people in the world. Cypress Hills—Grasslands is a place where common sense still exists, where people feel both freedom and responsibility and where hard work is expected and rewarded. They have been exceptional in their incredible and unwavering support and it has been my privilege to represent Cypress Hills—Grasslands.

I have gained so many friends over the years. When one takes this job on, everything changes. Friendships, casual relationships, all of them, change. Much of the challenge for me has come from the massive size of my riding and the 10- to 12-hour one-way commute from home to Ottawa. Being gone much of the time, it was a challenge to keep up the friendships I have had in the past, but I need to thank our lifelong neighbours. Many of them have helped Sheila and I time and time again with renovations, blowing snow off the roads, feeding cats and dogs, and checking our house when we were gone. There are too many to mention, but that is just one more benefit of living in a small community.

As time went on, we made so many other friendships throughout the riding: small town leaders, grocery store owners, hockey parents, professionals, business people, fellow motorcyclists and people I met on the ferry. Yes, we do have a ferry in southwestern Saskatchewan.

It takes a while when we get here for members to settle in. The pace is crazy right from the beginning and there is not much of a training program, but over time, we cross paths with those who work here, in the cafeterias, on the bus and every time we enter a building. Over time, we become friends as we share small parts of our lives, including family issues, vacation plans and always the weather. Sometimes it amounts to more than just the Hill. I remember going motorcycling with some of the folks who work here on the Hill. I had the only Harley. It was the one that gave trouble and I was the one they gave grief to, but we went out together a few more times.

I need to especially mention Lynn, who serves us so faithfully on Wednesday morning. One of my most satisfying experiences has been the weekly prayer breakfast at 7 a.m. on Wednesday that has changed and cemented so many relationships here over the years. Lynn has served us for many years on Wednesday mornings.

I want to thank the young Conservative staff who have worked behind the scenes and made us look good. I want to thank my six elections' worth of colleagues. We have gone to war together. We have had victories and we have had losses, personal and political, and it has been my privilege to serve with them.

I would like to give a special thanks to those who have helped in the constituency and have been involved with us politically, some from the very beginning and others who joined later and put so much time and effort into helping us out. My friend Wayne Elhart showed up at our doorstep in mid-summer 2000 to encourage me to run. We chased him off, but he came back about three weeks later with my sister Wendy and her husband Wendell. We sat down together, had a conversation and began to pursue this. They were stuck with farming while I came and went, and now, 19 years later, their son Jeremy is running in the nomination in my riding to replace me.

I remember going to Swift Current for the first time to look for support and meeting with a small group. I got two things out that meeting: one person told me to go get a haircut and some decent clothes, and Alice Wall, who was the first person in Swift Current to say she would help me. She and John have been with me ever since and I thank them. Many others have been part of six campaigns and 20 years of board activities and fundraisers and all that goes with political life in a riding.

I am so grateful for my staff. Three of my four current staff members have been with me for over 10 years. They have had an incredible capacity to do the work. They addressed the issues, they gave great service to my constituents and they are known for that. It feels a bit like I am deserting them. This is where I have the most mixed emotions.

Over the years, many of them have become more than just workers. They have become friends. Many of them are here with me tonight. Victoria, Erin, Carla, Sarah, Justin, Craig and Patrick, thanks for joining us. Leanne, Naomi, Tim and Aaron are sorry that they could not be here. I hope I have not missed anyone on that list. It is fun for me to see past staff members running for nominations for our party and two of them are now candidates for 2019.

I have said our work here is often like getting a free world-class master's program; the best in the world are available to us if we are interested. We have done lots of work in our office, from Canadian Wheat Board stuff that took 12 years to get completed, to agriculture and trade work, as well as working on a motion declaring Parliament's support for religious freedom, and serving as a PS to 10 ministers, including natural resources, agriculture and foreign affairs, and then spending almost the last 10 years focused on human rights and religious freedom.

I want to thank Sheila, who is my love and my conscience. She is the one who has kept us going all these years and the one who has sacrificed more than anyone will know. We will be spending more time together.

To Amy, Andrew and Charis, Josiah and Ellis, and to Angela, who has become part of our family along with Hunter and Harley, we love them and thank them for being willing to pay the price so that I would have the privilege to do this job.

I want to thank my mother, Betty, who has prayed for me for decades.

I should mention that during my first campaign in 2000 there was a couple from Herbert, Saskatchewan, who helped me out, and at every turn, they mentioned their son-in-law, who was also running in Crowfoot, Alberta. When we came down here, the member from Crowfoot and I met. In our travel schedules of 10 hours to 12 hours one way for each of us, we both decided staying in hotels was not working very well for us and became roommates in early 2001. That must be some sort of record for Ottawa. I have to thank Darlene Sorenson, who has allowed her husband to share an apartment with me for almost 20 years. We have far outlasted much more well-publicized roommate relationships such as the one of the members for Cape Breton—Canso and Sydney—Victoria, who were elected at the same time.

Last and definitely not least, I thank God, whom I know is real. That knowing has changed every aspect of my life and is what brought me here. It is also what is taking me away. Although I do not know what the future will be, I do know that being an MP has given me a great opportunity and responsibility. It is our privilege to be a very small part of his work, and I hope and pray that I have been faithful in some way.

It is my expectation that my colleagues will form the next Government of Canada. While I know I will miss being here, I give them my support and best wishes. I will miss serving the people of Cypress Hills—Grasslands in the future. May God bless Parliament and may God bless Canada.

First Nations, Inuit and Métis Children, Youth and Families Act June 3rd, 2019

Mr. Speaker, on a point of order, before the government House leader sat down, I was going to call attention to the fact that she can discuss her issues with her caucus at any point in time. There are questions and comments that some of the rest of us would like to ask the member as well.

Protection of Freedom of Conscience Act May 29th, 2019

Madam Speaker, as I mentioned earlier, there are a number of options for people to find the information they need. There are many doctors and facilities that will provide this service if they want it, but there are other doctors and medical personnel who do not feel that assisting in someone's premature death is a part of the mandate of what they have been called to as physicians or medical personnel.

There are enough choices out there that people can have and we can allow those who disagree with this procedure to have their freedom of conscience and be able to live their professional lives in that fashion.

Protection of Freedom of Conscience Act May 29th, 2019

Madam Speaker, the interest in this bill has been surprising to me. There are some bills that really catch people's imaginations across the country. There are other ones that we really have to work hard to try to get people to pay attention to. It has been surprising to me how people have taken this on. There is an onslaught of petitions coming into my office every day and I am passing them on to my colleagues as well so that they can understand the interest that people in their ridings have in this issue.

People generally want to be fair to other people and allow them to have the capacity to operate off of the things they believe in. Every single one of us has a set of beliefs. We have a right to operate under our set of beliefs as long as we are not destroying somebody else's life or are in other people's faces. In this situation, we should be giving medical professionals, who operate every day from a sense of conscience in what they do, the opportunity to do that.

Protection of Freedom of Conscience Act May 29th, 2019

Madam Speaker, I actually believe that we can. It has been done in other places across the country, but there are numerous ways that people can come to information about assisted suicide or medical assistance in dying. There are certainly a number of options open as to how they might access that information. The question is whether physicians are obligated to refer that, to provide that, or if they can opt out and give them another way to find that information. We believe that is very possible.

Protection of Freedom of Conscience Act May 29th, 2019

Madam Speaker, I can tell my colleague opposite that the OMA, as far as I know, has come out in favour of protecting the conscience rights for the doctors who are part of its association, so the college and the OMA are not on the same page on this one.

The college in Ontario has brought in a much stricter set of guidelines, if we want to call it that, than virtually anywhere else across Canada. Manitoba has brought in a conscientious objection law, which would allow physicians to opt out of this and make it much simpler for them to do that. In Ontario, the requirement is that they “must effectively refer”, which are the words that are used. Many people feel that they just do not want to participate at that level and in this day and age of electronics, there are many other ways that people can access the information. There are a number of other suggestions out there about how that might be done.

The point of this bill is, first of all, to give the conscience protection that people need if they want to be able to continue to do their work.

Protection of Freedom of Conscience Act May 29th, 2019

moved that Bill C-418, An Act to amend the Criminal Code (medical assistance in dying), be read the second time and referred to a committee.

Madam Speaker, the first thing I would like to do is to thank the many people across Canada who have shown up to work on this bill. It has caught on across the country. It has restored my faith in the good judgment of Canadians and, hopefully, we will see that same good sense shown in the House and we can have some restored faith here as well.

I am here today to speak to Bill C-418, which is the protection of freedom of conscience act. I need to point out again that I am surprised at the way this has caught on and caught the attention of the Canadian public. We should thank many Canadians and groups for whom this is an important issue for their work on publicizing and advancing conscience rights in Canada.

To begin to understand Bill C-418, we need to back up a bit. The Charter of Rights and Freedoms has a number of sections in it. Section 1, of course, guarantees our rights and freedoms. However, immediately following that is section 2, which declares the most fundamental rights, and that begins with freedom of conscience and religion. In 2015, the Carter decision in the Supreme Court said that although section 7 of the charter provides for the right to die, it also explicitly said that no one is required to participate in or be part of it.

We then came to Bill C-14, the government's assisted suicide bill. It is a bill that attracted much attention and controversy and laid out the groundwork for the first round of assisted suicide legislation in Canada. Whether they call it euthanasia, medically assisted dying or assisted suicide, they are all different names for the same thing. Medical practitioners were divided on the issue of participating in ending the lives of Canadians. Whether we supported Bill C-14 or not, it was clear that many within the medical community were very concerned. They did not and still do not want to participate in this activity.

When Bill C-14 was passed, it included subsection 241.2(9) which did say, “For greater certainty, nothing in this section compels an individual to provide or assist in providing medical assistance in dying.” That was not adequate because it did not lay out an offence, there was no framework for it and there was no penalty in Bill C-14 if someone violated that. It ended up being nothing more than a statement in Bill C-14.

While the Liberal talking points have repeated this, and the Liberals also claim that everyone has freedom of conscience and religion under section 2 of the charter, this is not the reality that medical personnel are facing across Canada. In spite of the fact that on the surface the charter, Carter and Bill C-14 supposedly agree, the reality is that physicians and medical personnel in this country are being pressured to participate in something with which they fundamentally disagree and there is no protection provided to them.

Conscience forms the basis of medical professionals' motivation to pursue their particular field. Doctors practise every day with the knowledge that it is their conscience that motivates them to test the limits of their knowledge and skill. Medical professionals know that patient care will suffer if they are deprived of the ability to live with integrity and to follow their consciences. They know the importance of these beliefs to them and their patients better than anyone else.

For a great many Canadian doctors, the core of their conscience prohibits their participation in taking a life. Indeed, many doctors remain devoted to the black and white of the ancient Hippocratic oath, a pledge that prohibits the administration of a poison to anyone. Through the availability of assisted suicide on demand across Canada, threats to conscience are no longer confined to the theoretical or to the rhetoric of the courtrooms. They are increasingly present in the examination room as well.

That is why I believe it is time to take action in defence of conscience rights that have stood the test of time for generations. Therefore, Bill C-418 seeks to amend the Criminal Code to do two things.

The first is to make it an offence to intimidate a medical practitioner, nurse practitioner, pharmacist or any other health care professional for the purpose of compelling them to take part, directly or indirectly, in the provision of physician-assisted suicide.

The second provision makes it an offence to dismiss from employment or to refuse to employ a medical practitioner, nurse practitioner, pharmacist or any other health care professional for the reason only that they refuse to take part, directly or indirectly, in the provision of physician-assisted suicide.

My bill would provide the teeth that Bill C-14 acutely lacks. The Liberals' attempt to provide protection for doctors consisted solely of a rudimentary clause, which stated, as I said earlier, that nothing compels someone to provide or assist. However, the provision lacked the teeth needed for its effective enforcement, as evidenced by the ongoing pressure that is being exerted on physicians, particularly by their regulating bodies.

I guess the question is whether these protections are really necessary, and I would say that they are. Throughout the legislative process, I have spoken to doctors who feel overt pressure to leave family medicine because of their conscientious beliefs. I have heard of palliative care doctors in Ontario who have stopped practising altogether. Nurses who feel increasingly bullied are choosing to shift their focus or retire early. I have had personal conversations with people who work in old folks' homes who explain they do not want to participate in this but are increasingly feeling pressured to do so. The pressure on these professionals exists and they are looking for relief.

What is more, regional associations such as the College of Physicians and Surgeons of Ontario have introduced regulations compelling conscientiously objecting physicians to participate by providing what they call “effective referrals” for physician-assisted suicide. A recent court decision has upheld this directive, contravening the assurances provided in Carter v. Canada and creating an even more urgent need among physicians for protection. This is in spite of the fact that in this situation in Ontario I am told that the majority of physicians support an allowance for conscientious objections, but the college has not taken that position.

As strange as it sounds, the recent court decision refers to the college's suggestion that if physicians do not like to participate then they can find other areas of medicine to take up. This is unusual, particularly in a situation where we have such a shortage of physicians and medical services. The college suggests that if they do not like participating they can take up things like sleep medicine, hair restoration, sport and exercise medicine, skin disorders, obesity medicine, aviation examinations, travel medicine or perhaps become a medical health officer.

For many of us across this country, particularly those of us in rural areas, we know there is an increasing lack of physicians in an increasingly challenged medical system. I find it passing strange that the college would be the one suggesting such a thing for its physicians. The answer does not have to be to do it, find someone else to do it or get out of medicine. Medical personnel and resources are scarce. Why would one try to force people into doing what they believe to be wrong? The example of the province of Manitoba and its conscientious objection legislation shows there does not need to be compulsion in the medical system when it comes to this issue.

My bill does not address the social acceptability of euthanasia and assisted suicide; that is not the point of it. Protecting physicians' conscience rights is not at all a physicians versus patients scenario. By protecting physicians' conscience rights, patients' rights are enhanced. Bill C-418 is about protecting the fundamental freedom of conscience and religion guaranteed to all Canadians in the Charter of Rights and Freedoms.

Parliamentarians from all parties cannot ignore the groundswell of support this bill has received from average Canadians who believe it is time to stand up for doctors and health care providers who are not willing to leave their core ethics behind when they are at a patient's bedside. This is not theoretical. I have had photos sent to me of the revolving TV screens that we see in hospital wards, with pictures of what seems to be a physician's hand gently resting on the arm of a senior citizen, touting assisted suicide as a medical service whereby physicians or nurse practitioners help patients fulfill their wish to end their suffering and a phone number is provided. Interestingly, it makes no mention of palliative care or other ways to reduce pain and suffering. It makes no mention of access to counselling.

With government, the courts and health care facilities promoting access as a right, should not those who object be allowed to have that fundamental freedom of conscience that is so important?

I want to close with a quote from “The Imperative of Conscience Rights” by the CRFI. They write:

The outcomes of the current controversies that engage freedom of conscience will not only signal the extent to which Canadians can conscientiously participate in public life—in other words, whether they can live in alignment with who they are and what they stand for in matters of morality. These outcomes will also speak volumes about who we are and what we stand for—as a society. Suppressing beliefs with which we disagree or that we find offensive in the name of tolerance and liberalism is a contradiction in terms. The fact that the state has deemed something legal does not remove a person’s freedom to express her moral opposition to it. This freedom is not absolute, but its roots—integrity, identity, and dignity—are necessary for human flourishing. These roots must therefore be top of mind whenever limitations on freedom of conscience are proposed. We believe that governments should only limit this human right if there is a compelling justification.

Mennonite Heritage Week May 28th, 2019

Madam Speaker, it is great to be here today. Everyone should be celebrating Mennonite heritage week.

As I get a little further in my political career, I tend to focus a little less on policy and more on the people it impacts. Certainly, I have a large Mennonite community in my riding. These folks have very similar qualities. A lot of them come from a rural background. Many of them immigrated here from Europe about 100 years ago. They are known for being frugal, thrifty and generous. As well, they are known for being inventive and entrepreneurial. Typically, they are known for having a very deep faith.

I want to thank my colleague from Abbotsford for bringing forward this motion and giving me a few minutes to speak it.

I would like to speak about one person who I met over the years. He is a leader in the community in Swift Current and comes from Mennonite heritage. His name is Frank Rempel. He was born in 1924, which puts him in his 95th year. The other day I was talking to him while he was driving down the highway. He was frustrated because he was only able to go 103 kilometres, trying to stay under the speed limit on a Saskatchewan highway. His comment to me was, “I'm thinking that maybe I need to buy another airplane and fly it”, so he did not have to go as slow.

He is one of 10 children born in Swift Current to a Mennonite family. He was born in the time of the three bottom plow, which was pulled behind the oxen. It typically had three blades and turned the ground over.

It was a time of celebration for many people. Families were big in those days and Christmas was a time for family gatherings. It was also a very difficult time in our part of the world as we moved into the 1930s, with the tumbleweeds, dust and dirt on the fence lines. Certainly, Mr. Rempel lived through that.

In those days, family was really all people had. They had very little beyond that. The kids went to school and learned to get along there, usually in a one-room schoolhouse.

Mr. Rempel started to work when he was very young. At 14, he went with his father and brother to Coaldale, Alberta to stack hay all summer. That is what they did to make enough money to keep their family on the farm. They did trapping in the winter and things like that. He said at that at the age of 14 or 15 he learned how to make a saddle, which he sold to his brother. That was when he learned about the word profit. He is a very successful business person, so he learned that word well.

He travelled to and worked in many different places. In 1942, he met a young woman named Helen. He was 18 and she was 14. He had to wait, and so he did. He went out and did some things, like breaking in horses for a while. He said that after one particularly bad result, he was left wondering where he would have ended up if that had been his very last ride. In 1944, he rekindled that relationship. In 1945, he bought her a ring. In 1946, they were married. In 1947, they started a family.

After moving around a little back and forth, they resettled in southwestern Saskatchewan in 1953. He began a job as a mechanic. He got involved in his church a bit more. He stepped out in faith, bought a lot and built a grocery store. He and his wife sold the only truck they had to raise the money. It was all of $550 to buy the lot so they could begin to build their own business.

He has some great stories in his book called About our Father's Business. There are great stories about learning how to sell cookware, going out and selling it to housewives and being able to use that to keep his family going. They built the Hillcrest Shopping Centre and moved into that. He sold cars as well to keep it going. He mentions that he took the Dale Carnegie course along the way and thought that made a huge difference in his life. He did well at the store and in 1964 he and his wife sold it.

However, the real story of his success began when a neighbour came to him and wanted to sell him a chaff blower, a product that is used by farmers at harvest time. This person was manufacturing them. He came to Frank because he was good with his hands and was good at creating tooling and machinery. He asked him to take it over, so he did.

He and his wife began manufacturing and started their own business. They started in a 40 foot by 40 foot shop and formed what they called Rem Manufacturing. For the last 50 years in our riding, Rem has survived. Frank saw it not just as a business, but a calling for himself.

He added a number of lines of things, like dump wagons and vacuum feed blowers. He expanded into the United States market. In 1969, when business slowed down, it was really the United States' sales that saved REM Manufacturing.

Frank Rempel built harvester for forage plots for some of the agriculture research stations and sold those. Then he got into making coil springs. That might sound kind of strange for people, but since hardly anybody makes coil springs, he was one of the only ones who did that. He developed some new processes. To this day, he has 300 varieties of different hay rakes, bailer teeth, coil springs and those kinds of things. He sells them all over North America. His products go around the world. He bought a farm just a little outside of Swift Current, settled on it and he and his wife raised their family there.

Eventually Frank Rempel retired, but the interesting thing is that he is not done. He is in his nineties and he is still moving ahead. He is working on a small tractor. The initial genesis of this idea came when he really wanted to put another aspect of his faith into action and create something to which third world country farmers and developing country farmers could have access. Therefore, he was trying to make a tractor that had both attachments to the front and the back, that was a simple piece of machinery that people could then use and not have to spend a lot of time repairing and fixing it.

As I mentioned, he has written a book called About Our Father's Business. It is about a man who is committed to doing business well and committed to living in his small town and still continuing that rural way of life, someone who has been frugal, but has also been very generous. He has kept a number of schools and camps going over the years. He has put a lot of money into various places that he thought were important to support.

He has been an inventor. He has the coil spring business, but many other things right from when he was a young child. He is someone who has that Mennonite interest in things mechanical and inventing them, becoming a very successful entrepreneur. Most of all, I know he would want me to talk about the fact that his faith in Jesus Christ, as with so many people in the Mennonite community, is one of the driving factors of his entire life.

As I mentioned, he is in his 94th year. The other day I talked to him. He was driving down the highway just talking about having to stay under the speed limit. I know he loves to drive his car and he loves to get around.

This is just another example. I know I am at the end of my time. I wish I had more time to talk about him, but he is one example of so many of the people in my area of Mennonite heritage who have provided that leadership in their communities. They still live there. They have families who are important. They have been entrepreneurs and have been very faithful people in their community.

Questions Passed as Orders for Returns. May 27th, 2019

With regard to the government’s handling of the Canola crisis: (a) how many times has the Minister of Agriculture met with or called the Minister of Agriculture of the People’s Republic of China to discuss the matter; (b) for each instance in (a), what (i) was the date, (ii) was the type (telephone, in person, etc.), (iii) were the results; (c) how many times has the Prime Minister met with or called the Chinese President to discuss the matter; and (d) for each instance in (c), what (i) was the date, (ii) was the type (telephone, in person, etc.), (iii) was the results?

Petitions May 15th, 2019

Mr. Speaker, I bring a petition forward on behalf of a number of my constituents, who call on Parliament to recognize the inalienable right of farmers and other Canadians to freely save, reuse, select, exchange, condition, store and sell their seeds. They do not want restrictions put on farmers' rights and/or farmers' costs by restricting or eliminating this privilege that farmers have.