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Crucial Fact

  • His favourite word was international.

Last in Parliament August 2019, as Conservative MP for Calgary Forest Lawn (Alberta)

Won his last election, in 2015, with 48% of the vote.

Statements in the House

Canada Small Business Financing Act November 24th, 1998

Mr. Speaker, we have been asking the government to keep its hands off the UI premium. My colleagues on the other side seem to be getting a little worried about it and have started dreaming about premiums. All of a sudden they started mentioning Mr. Premium. That is a good sign.

I listened to my colleagues on the other side. Before discussing the reasons we oppose Bill C-53, I heard my colleague on the other side talk about the business plan, how small businesses are creating jobs and leasehold improvements. Another member talked about helping women entrepreneurs. I agree with it. That is right.

I commend the member who referred to the business women's delegation. Women play a very important role in businesses, but she is not the only one. Across the country there are organizations working to ensure that women have access to capital and become entrepreneurs.

From my own personal experience, I have been in business as a small entrepreneur with my wife for the last 16 years. My wife has been the backbone. She is a woman entrepreneur. I have supported her wholeheartedly. She has made a tremendous success. From one store she eventually expanded to four stores.

As well, I have been involved in international investments. Talk about a business plan and talk about leasehold improvements are nothing new to me. I have dealt with banks. I have dealt with business plans. My experiences in accounting also gives me insight into reading balance sheets and how to present a proper business plan.

In reality we have had small business financing for many years in the same act that is now before us. All my colleagues on the other side, and I hope my colleagues in the NDP, know that there are still problems with accessing financing. They hear from their constituents, from small businesses. They still cannot access financing, which would tend to indicate that the approach the government is taking by creating the Small Business Loans Act is somewhat flawed. The government may think of a program to assist small businesses, provided the risk factor is carried by all equally, so in principle I would agree that there should be a mechanism for that.

We have another attempt by my colleagues on the other side, by the government, to look good and to feel good. Time after time I have heard in the speeches made by my friends on the other side that they are the supporters of small business. They are relying on this little program and calling themselves the great supporters of small business. Let me say that small businesses do not see it that way.

The Liberals keep standing up and saying the Reform Party is anti-business and that the Reform Party is not a supporter of small business. I was a little amazed when my colleague from the NDP said that a couple of days ago. I tell him that we are for small business. We have had experiences like many of his colleagues and supporters have had. We understand the mechanism of small business, but we do not feel that the bill is the solution.

There are two reasons for that. First let us talk about the banks. If a program like this one is implemented and given to the banks or private organizations, to a degree they will do a better job than it being given to a bureaucracy. Giving this program to the banks is fine.

Where the problem comes and where most Canadians and most small business people have difficulty is that the banks have a monopoly. The banks have been protected in the past. They have been given all the tools to make them a strong partner in the economy. They have become very strong partners in the economy. They are so strong that today the majority of Canadians now see banking as a vital service, putting them next to utilities.

Because the banks have been protected so much and have become a vital service to Canadians, they also carry a social responsibility. They also carry a burden to ensure that in return for getting the protection they have achieved they have to address the concerns of Canadians, of small businesses.

Today I will be meeting with the senior vice-president of Toronto-Dominion Bank in charge of small businesses who will explain what his bank is doing. I have met with the CIBC small business vice-president who indicated what they were doing.

My friend on the other side alluded to to the fact that the Bank of Montreal and the Royal Bank have come up with a plan to create a small business bank. I am a supporter of the small business bank. It is an extremely good idea. It is an excellent idea. I am a little sad that it has come forward just because they are putting a case for merger. They should have done this before. These are good initiatives.

Where is the responsibility of the banks? I have mentioned to the banks the areas where I feel they have not addressed the needs of small businesses. Examples are rapid change of their managers, high cost of doing business and extremely stringent rules for collateral. At some stage it has become ridiculous, where even I was told by one loans officer that if he had the opportunity he would also mortgage my dog. The banks carry responsibility in addressing this issue.

If a small businessman walks into a bank, I am not saying the banker should blindly give him a loan. Banks have a responsibility, as does the small businessman, to ensure that the business plan is sound. Perhaps the banker could sit down and show some compassion and work with the individual to ensure that his idea becomes successful. Bankers should help such people and not sit in their chairs saying yes or no.

The Federal Business Development Bank has small business weeks which target small businesses and students. It provides a very successful initiative for them. Students come to those banks by themselves; the government does not send them.

Government wants to be business friendly and comes up with this program so that it can tell Canadians that it is the friend of small business. That is fine. If government wants to do that, it is its prerogative.

In reality the problem is that the climate for successful entrepreneurship, for the success of a business in Canada, is becoming more and more difficult. Why is it becoming more difficult? What do small businesses face? Let me speak from experience. They face the high cost of EI, the severely high cost of CPP and government bureaucracy which has now started charging user fees.

Let me give an example. I received a letter a couple of years ago from the government when it introduced a $20 fee for the registration of corporations. I sent in my $20. It was the first time the government said it had to recover the cost. It was the usual rationale for user fees, a tax on the other side.

The letter was from the government agency thanking me for my cheque. If I wanted a receipt, I had to write to them and a receipt would be sent. Why should I write? They have already written me one letter. I needed to write a letter back to tell them that I needed a receipt. Then they would write back and send me a receipt.

Let us talk about the tax burden on a small business. As every small business that leases property knows, first we pay property tax which is part and parcel of the leasing of property. The landlords tack it on to the businesses.

Then we have what is called a business tax. Small businesses pay property tax, business tax, user fees, high cost of fuel and other high costs. Then our friends opposite introduced the GST despite the fact that they said they did not want to do it. The GST came with a tremendous amount of bureaucracy and paperwork attached to it. It is another huge burden to small business.

Now the government talks about harmonization, harmonization which we understand the people in the Atlantic provinces are not happy with. We do not know what my friends opposite will come up with next. They may come up with some new idea to take the money from small businesses. We will keep an eye on them and not allow them to take the EI surplus.

We will be fighting on that. Time after time Canadians have told us. Canadians are also constituents of government members and hopefully they are telling them that as well. We are going to make sure Canadians know if the government tries to go after the EI fund.

This legislation brought in by the government has a lot of flaws. It is not well thought out. If it wants to help small businesses there is a way. First, create the climate to help by reducing taxes, allowing families to come up with ideas, to work and to get the reward for their thinking.

People in small business do not put in a nine to five day. When we take all the time put in, owners of small businesses are probably earning $3 to $4 an hour so that they can realize their dreams and hopes.

The government trots in and says no, the owner has to do this and that. He or she has to pay this tax or that tax. Hopes, dreams and hard work go down. That climate is what the government should be creating, not introducing a bill like this.

The banks looked at it and said “We will also look nice. If there is a default we will get our money from the government, the taxpayers. What is the problem?” They do not take the risk. It is not important for them. Come on in, fill out the paper. Who cares?

Of course they are supposed to follow criteria but they have been guaranteed, guaranteed of making money. What is wrong with the banks? Why should they address them? Where is their social conscience? In the meantime we have given banks the tools to be stronger. We have given them the monopoly.

This two way approach is what small businesses are looking for. That is why I am having difficulty supporting this bill.

Canada Small Business Financing Act November 17th, 1998

Mr. Speaker, as my colleagues and I said this morning, we oppose the bill. We gave excellent reasons as to why the official opposition does not agree with the bill.

We recognize that since we do not have a majority the chances are that the bill will go through. Therefore, my colleagues have come up with amendments which will bring more accountability to this issue and two motions were put forward.

One is to make sure that only one family member receives the loan. As well the limit is being reduced from $250,000 to $100,000. The average loan has been $65,000. Reducing the limit to $100,000 in no way will have a major impact but it will bring more accountability and ensure that the loan is given to small businesses.

This morning I read a news item which said that the banks are going to set up a small business bank. This came out of their desire to merge. They have said to the small business people that they will set up a small business bank to address this issue.

I am glad to see that the banks feel they have to do that. They have come up with an innovative idea. I think it is a good idea. They are addressing that issue, but that is the whole point of what we have been trying to say. The banks have to come up with innovative ideas to address the issue of small business financing. It is not a bill like this one under which the banks can hide and not take any risk and say they are helping small businesses.

The debate this morning by the official opposition has been that the private sector and in this particular instance the banks have to take more responsibility. They have to come up with innovative ideas on how to finance small businesses. They need to change their thinking. The banks have to change from thinking about how much money they can make. The banks must think of how they can be partners with small businesses to improve the Canadian economy. That is the thinking that requires change.

I was talking with the vice-president of the CIBC. He said they understand and realize there needs to be a change in thinking and that they would be working on it. I would just tell them that they had better hurry up so that they do not miss the boat. The official opposition is asking for the banking sector to open up to more competition.

There are ways the banks can work with small business. As I said, I have had experience with small businesses. That is why I am saying that the way the banks can help small business is to set up advisory councils of business people who can advise the banks so they can broaden their criteria on how they give out loans. And here we have another intervention by the state in the banks through this bill by saying the state is coming in and it will guarantee the loan. The banks will shirk their responsibility.

As I mentioned this morning, this kind of financing has been available for the last 25 years but still there are complaints out there that small businesses are having a hard time accessing funds. This bill is not going to solve the problem of financing for small businesses.

Some good news I mentioned earlier is that the banks want to set up another institution that will primarily address the needs of the small businesses. Great. It is a good idea. They should have done it a long time ago.

In the overall picture the responsibility for the burden on small business is the economic climate created by the government. We have made it clear and we are saying it again. The high level of taxation, which takes into account payroll taxes, the bureaucratic reporting and the huge amount of paperwork businesses have to do which is an indirect cost on small businesses is what leads them to ruin and stops an entrepreneur from putting time into the business to make it successful.

Business people are asking to be left alone so they can carry on doing their business. That is what they want to do. Is the economic climate there for them to do it? No. They are mired by government bureaucracy. They are mired by reporting structures. They are mired by this report and that report.

When I started a small business 16 years ago it was great fun. One would work hard, pay one's little taxes, pay one's employees and get going. It used to be fun. Today it is not fun. It is becoming a burden. Today you have to think “Oh man, I have to send in this report. I have to do this and I have to do that”. What a change over 16 years in doing business in this country. The blame lies partly with that side. And I am talking from experience.

I am telling the government to create the environment and reduce the taxes. The GST which the Liberals said they were going to remove is another big headache. The reporting structure of it is a problem. We need to create the economic climate to let Canadians do their job and let Canadian businesses try.

The motion we are supporting is an attempt to bring forward accountability. We hope the banks will not shrink from the responsibility of addressing the issues. We hope the government will recognize that it has to create a climate in which small business can thrive.

Canada Small Business Financing Act November 17th, 1998

Mr. Speaker, it is a pleasure to rise today to speak to Bill C-53. My colleagues mentioned some relevant points earlier as to why we are opposing the bill, especially my colleague from Calgary Southeast.

Members of the Bloc have been talking this morning about the survey they have done and the feedback they have received from small businesses. Those are the bases of their argument. I have been running a small business for the last 15 years and what I will say is based on experience.

Small businesses, as we have heard constantly, are facing financial crunches. Access to credit for them is very difficult. Bankers present an opposite view, that they are working very hard to give access to small businesses.

On one hand we have constituents complaining. On the other hand the financial institutions are saying that they are doing a great job. Something is not right. Let me tell the House why it is not. From my experience banks do not understand small businesses. That is the bottom line.

For the last 15 years I have been in business I was afraid to go to the banks to ask for money. This fact has been recognized, but we cannot stop entrepreneurial spirit. That is the strength of Canada.

What have they been doing? They have been using other means. Even the banking industry admits that they are accessing credit cards at high interest rates. They are accessing from their friends at high interest rates. Why? It is because banks have not fulfilled their needs, irrespective of what promises they have given.

As usual, the government that wants to say it is doing something comes up with a program for giving guarantees so that small businesses can access funds. The program has been there for the last 25 years. Why are small businesses still complaining that they cannot access credit despite the fact that the same legislation we are talking about has been in existence for the last 25 years? It makes us wonder. Obviously there is something wrong. My colleagues have already mentioned what is wrong. The high cost of doing business is killing small businesses.

In the last 15 years I have been a small businessman I identified two costs that have been rising. Profits have not been rising. Competition is coming, but two costs have been rising. One is anything to do with the government, the bureaucracy. That is one of the single highest costs that is rising: taxation, user fees and government paperwork.

The second is the cost of doing business with the banks. Banks have many means of raising their charges to small businesses. There are straightforward service charges. They come along and tell them the service charges, but there are costs associated with overdraft privileges and high costs associated when cheques bounce, which is not their fault in any event. This is a huge burden. The economic climate of high taxation, bureaucratic interference and paperwork is killing the spirit of entrepreneurship. As my colleague said, it hits directly at profits.

The government said that it would abolish GST and we are still waiting for it to do it. I know from experience that small businessmen are paying GST from their profits. It comes out of their profits. The government may want to say that the consumer is paying it. Yes, the consumer was paying it, but businesses had to reduce their profit margins in order to accommodate that.

In principle I feel the bill is a great bill. It is there to help small businesses. It sounds excellent. The government says “Here is the money. We will guarantee it and the banks will run it. You can access it”. As I mentioned, we keep hearing that small businesses are having problems and the government is doing the same thing again. We have a problem.

In his report the auditor general identified the problem. It is abuse by both borrowers and lenders. Lenders look at it as another way of making money without taking any risk. Who is at risk here? Small businessmen are already at risk when they apply for loans and the Canadian taxpayer is also part of it. There is a double risk. The banks are have absolutely zero risk.

When banks look at applications that come before them they ask why they should take any risk and they transfer it to the government program. They are fine; the chapter is closed. Once in a while they will take care of it. If they do not get it from the program they can get the money from the bank. That is a very simple statement. There is no initiative. There is no incentive for banks to work in co-operation with small businesses when taxpayers' money is at risk.

While the bill in principle may be right, it is not the way to go. The way to go is to create the environment, economic conditions for small businesses to succeed, and they can succeed without government intervention. Canadians have far more entrepreneurship and are far more willing. They do not need the government telling them what to do.

In talking to people outside this country time after time they make the point that they do not want to come to Canada to invest because our payroll taxes are very high. The business climate is not here. Instead of coming forward with band-aid solutions, the first priority is to work toward creating an economic climate in which small businesses can thrive, an economic climate where even the banks will understand that they have a role to play.

I appeal to the banks that will be running this program to take the interest of small business people into account. They have done a terrible job in the past. They should improve.

Terrorists November 6th, 1998

Mr. Speaker, recently CSIS director Ward Elcock sounded a distressing alarm. Appearing before a Senate committee, director Elcock stated that Canada was home to more terrorist organizations than any country in the world except the United States. Our reputation as a peaceful, constructive world player is at stake.

Just today we hear of a trained Iranian assassin who has been living in our country as a refugee since 1991. There is also a report that two Canadians are being tried for the murder of the founder of Bangladesh. One wonders how they became Canadians in the first place.

CSIS reports that there are currently over 50 organizations and 350 individuals under investigation for suspected terrorist links.

The most effective counter-terrorism measure we can take is to keep terrorists out of the country and to remove those who are already in Canada.

I call upon the government to give CSIS all the tools it needs to ensure we do not become a haven for terrorists.

Break And Enter Crimes November 5th, 1998

Mr. Speaker, last week the justice ministers of Manitoba and of my home province of Alberta took a leading role in addressing the issue of break and enter crimes.

Proposed changes include a minimum two year sentence for repeat offenders and toughening up parole eligibility.

In my riding of Calgary East 80% of break and enter crimes are committed by the same 4% to 5% of professional criminals. The police know exactly who these criminals are yet are unable to stop them because the justice system slaps them on the wrist and sends these offenders back on to the streets.

Break and enter crimes have emerged as a major concern for the people in my riding and it is clear that a new approach is needed. I urge the justice minister today to work with the provinces on this issue and allow Canadians to reclaim the safety of their own homes.

Franking Privileges November 4th, 1998

Mr. Speaker, yesterday the member for Oxford falsely accused one of my colleagues of misusing franking privileges.

Perhaps the member for Oxford should chat with his caucus colleagues before he feels the need to lecture the official opposition.

I have obtained copies of letters which apparently came from the office of the member for Mississauga Centre.

These letters solicited support for an Ontario provincial Liberal candidate named George Winter.

The member for Mississauga Centre even went so far as to include provincial Liberal membership booklets in the mail-out.

Both letters were written on House of Commons letterhead and used franking privileges.

We are all aware that members cannot use House resources for their own campaigns. Therefore, is it appropriate for members to use House resources for provincial campaigns? I would think not. The Liberals have got it wrong again.

Magazine Industry October 30th, 1998

Mr. Speaker, the heritage minister's ban on Canadian advertising in foreign magazines is one of the most intrusive pieces of legislation ever. The government's own studies indicate that lifting the ban would increase advertising revenue by 60%, creating more work for Canadians involved in the magazine sector. Why is she putting shackles on the growth of the Canadian magazine industry?

Space Shuttle October 29th, 1998

Mr. Speaker, students from the city of Calgary will share an historic experience with U.S. Senator John Glenn when the famous astronaut is launched into space today. The signatures of 500 Calgary students will accompany Senator Glenn on the space shuttle Discovery .

Today students from G. W. Skene Community School, James Short Memorial Elementary School and Saint Peter Elementary School are thrilled to be part of space history. These young Calgarians are taking part in the Student Signatures in Space Program. It is not inconceivable that some of the students watching today will find themselves on a space mission one day.

I would like to thank the Penbrooke Community Association and the Penbrooke Boys and Girls Club for their support of this initiative and congratulate the students of Calgary for being part of this historic event. I say well done to those boys and girls.

Merit Principle October 27th, 1998

Madam Speaker, today I rise to voice my support for my colleague's motion which states:

That, in the opinion of this House, the government should support the right of all job applicants to be evaluated solely on the basis of merit.

However, although I firmly believe in the substance of Motion M-7, I want to make it very clear that this in no way means I am not aware that prejudice and discrimination exists in Canadian society.

Merit and ability should be the only things that matter in the workplace. However, there are times when one is not evaluated solely on the basis of these attributes. Women, ethnic minorities, aboriginal people and the disabled are examples of groups that continue to face hurdles which are put in place by ignorance and lack of understanding.

When one is faced with discrimination, one must have access to the processes which allow for redress. These processes are the human rights commission and the courts of law. We must ensure that people have easy and affordable access to the instruments that can correct injustices like discrimination.

However, having said this we must also recognize that Canada is renowned throughout the world for its tolerance and compassion. We should recognize that although we are not yet a society completely free of prejudice, we have made tremendous strides over the last 40 years.

I came to Canada because I wished to be judged as an individual, not as a mere representative of some ethnic group. Twenty years later I have the honour to sit in the House of Commons, having been elected by men and women of all races, religions and creeds.

This is the type of country we live in, a land which offers opportunity and promise to all those who show determination and hard work. Every member of this House will know that and agree that every individual should be equal before and under the law. Every individual has the right to equal protection and equal benefit of the law without discrimination based on such attributes as race, national or ethnic origin, colour, religion, sex, age or mental or physical disability.

If this last statement sounds familiar to some it is because I was loosely quoting from the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms.

We should all be given the same opportunity to succeed. The role of the government is to ensure that no one is barred from employment for factors which have nothing to do with their ability. The role of the government is not to set numerical goals commonly referred to as quotas.

Allow me to comment briefly on some of my past experiences. Regardless of where I have lived, I have spent my entire life as a visible minority, first in Tanzania and then in Canada. I have faced discrimination in both of these countries on numerous occasions. In Tanzania I was denied employment on numerous occasions because of the colour of my skin. I could have given up. I could have thrown in the towel. Rather than doing that I chose to fight these injustices and I am proud to say that on numerous occasions I overcame these arbitrary barriers.

I had similar experiences during the 1970s when I came to Canada. On several occasions I was denied employment in this country because of my race. This was happening at a time when I faced the added difficulty of raising a young family. Nevertheless, I persevered and fought on and today I find myself in Canada's House of Commons, having been elected, as I said, by men and women of all backgrounds.

Let me point out that discrimination is also not always based on colour or race. I have faced discrimination within my own community, within other cultural communities and within the business sector.

With all of this experience one would think that I would be a very strong supporter of affirmative action programs. But I am not. Why? Because of the very fact that I hate discrimination. I hate it whenever anyone's dignity is robbed. Everyone should have equal rights.

I would therefore ask this question: Is affirmative action not reverse discrimination? I would venture to say yes. Somebody will lose based on factors which have nothing to do with their merit or ability.

My experiences have also taught me that affirmative action programs do little to address the systematic discrimination which exists within our society. As well, affirmative action programs do not take into account that people may gravitate toward certain professions. So it is quite possible that there could be a higher proportion of individuals from a particular group in a certain profession.

Is this necessarily a bad thing? I would venture to say no because this is their choice. If the required target is unattainable due to lack of interest on the part of the targeted group, then what? Would we force it? Would this not create an artificial correction with disastrous consequences? Affirmative action programs fail to take these factors into consideration.

If the quota systems are not the answer, then how do we address the issue of discrimination in society? In my view, we address it through education coupled with common sense legislation that ensures that Canadians are treated fairly and equitably.

Through education, companies and employers must be made aware of the consequences of discrimination in the workplace. It should be done through education, not affirmative action. Education must sensitize employers to the various groups that could be subject to discrimination.

As previously mentioned, applicants should also have the right and access to a system that will resolve their grievances. This should be the solution, not affirmative action programs.

I would hate to be the successful candidate for a job simply because of my colour, gender or physical disability. On the other hand, I would be proud to be selected based on my abilities and qualifications.

This is a simple statement. However, it carries with it a strong principle, a principle which I believe should be the foundation of our society and, henceforth, I give my wholehearted support to this motion.

Apec Inquiry October 23rd, 1998

Mr. Speaker, the Deputy Prime Minister is stonewalling again. An independent judicial inquiry is desperately needed to clear the poisoned air surrounding the APEC inquiry.

Canadians have lost faith in an inquiry due to loose lips, inappropriate comments by the Prime Minister and alleged government interference. Canadians are tired of this comedy of errors.

Will the government strike a new independent judicial inquiry? Yes or no.