House of Commons photo

Crucial Fact

  • His favourite word was benefits.

Last in Parliament October 2015, as Conservative MP for Souris—Moose Mountain (Saskatchewan)

Won his last election, in 2011, with 74% of the vote.

Statements in the House

Free Votes June 15th, 2015

Mr. Speaker, I would like to thank the member for Medicine Hat for his strong personal views, and also the member for Chatham-Kent—Essex, who delicately diced and danced around what is and is not a matter of conscience.

In the previous hour of debate, the member for Louis-Saint-Laurent ended her speech by saying that she believed her NDP colleagues should support the motion. I appreciate that, but she trivializes the debate by saying that in the end, all of us are already free.

She said that the motion could just as easily read, “That in the opinion of the House, all members of Parliament should be allowed to vote freely on all matters of beauty”. What nonsense. I would like to see how her and her colleagues would view a free vote on matters that are truly matters of conscience, namely matters relating to life, more particularly to the termination of life at any time from the point of conception to the point of natural death. She said, “What therefore is the legal definition of a matter of conscience?” She said, “The problem is the abstract notion of conscience”.

Let me address that. Conscience, as a concept, is referred to in the recent Carter case, and intervenors were talking about that. On page 132, the court stated:

In our view, nothing in the declaration of invalidity which we propose to issue would compel physicians to provide assistance in dying. [...] However, we note—as did Beetz J. in addressing the topic of physician participation in abortion in R. v. Morgentaler—that a physician's decision to participate in assisted dying is a matter of conscience and, in some case, of religious belief.... In making this observation, we do not wish to pre-empt the legislative and regulatory response to this judgment. Rather, we underline that the Charter rights of patients and physicians will need to be reconciled.

That is precisely the point when it comes to matters of the charter. Charter rights have to be balanced and reconciled. No one right is absolute.

In the Morgentaler case, the court made reference that the freedom of conscience is guaranteed in section 2 of the charter. Wilson B., on page 165, stated:

It should [also] be noted, however, that an emphasis on individual conscience and individual judgment [also] lies at the heart of our democratic political tradition. The ability of each citizen to make free and informed decisions is the absolute prerequisite for the legitimacy, acceptability, and efficacy of our system of self-government.

This should be even more so in Parliament where members vote on matters of conscience. On page 176, she refers to a previous Supreme Court case and the comments of Justice Dickson, where he stated:

Attempts to compel belief or practice denied the reality of individual conscience and dishonoured the God that had planted it in His creatures. It is from these antecedents that the concepts of freedoms of religion and freedom of conscience became associated, to form, as they do in s. 2(a) of our Charter, the single integrated concept of “freedom of conscience and religion”.

Dickson went on to say:

What unites enunciated freedoms in the American First Amendment, s. 2(a) of the Charter and in the provision of other human rights documents in which they are associated is the notion of the centrality of individual conscience and the inappropriateness of governmental intervention to compel or to constrain its manifestation.

On page 177, he says:

The values that underline our political and philosophic traditions demand that every individual be free to hold and to manifest whatever beliefs and opinions his or her conscience dictates, provided inter alia only that such manifestations do not injure his or her neighbours or their parallel rights to hold and manifest beliefs and opinions of their own.

This right must not injure one's neighbour, which could include the unborn. That is precisely the point when it comes to matters of the charter. Charter rights have to be balanced and reconciled. No one right is absolute.

The members from Kings—Hants and Kingston and the Islands talked about all kinds of things except real matters of conscience. Why is that? Why have they not come to the defence of their Liberal leader, the member for Papineau? Could it be because their leader's position is indefensible? In an open letter from seven former Liberal members of Parliament, they stated:

We, the undersigned [...] are concerned about your [recent] pronouncement that people who hold a particular view on a given moral issue, as a matter of conscience, cannot be Liberal candidates for the position of M.P. unless they agree to park their consciences at the entrance to the House of Commons and vote directly opposite to their fundamental beliefs, as directed by you.

This is clearly in reference to the Liberal leader's position that commonly referred to “pro-choice candidates” could only be nominated, or, if elected, would have to vote as the leader directed.

In my view, the actions of the Liberal leader, the member for Papineau, are indefensible. Either one believes in the charter or one does not. His edict violates the charter without the use of the notwithstanding clause and strikes at the heart of this motion, and indeed at the heart of the charter.

Can we imagine that the leader of the Liberal Party would sacrifice a right or protection of the charter to be able to enforce his personal views on a particular subject matter? How very wrong is that?

Members not seeking re-election to the 42nd Parliament June 10th, 2015

Mr. Chair, I am thankful for this opportunity to make some parting remarks.

When I was a 14-year-old boy travelling with a group of young people on a student exchange program between Saskatchewan and Newcastle, New Brunswick, we stopped to do some sightseeing in Ottawa. We went to the ByWard Market, we went sightseeing on the Ottawa River, and we stopped at the Parliament Hill Centre Block. As a 14-year-old boy, I stood in the foyer entrance in this House and gazed at the magnificence of the chamber, the ceiling, and the interior. I wondered what kind of person it would take to sit in this House and what kind of people the occupants might be. I do not recall if I had any aspirations then. I may have, but 40 years later, I myself was elected to sit in the House.

I thank the constituents of Souris—Moose Mountain for the confidence they have placed in me by electing me not only in 2004 but then again in 2006, 2008, and 2011.

Of course, I first and foremost have to express my deepest thanks and my profound gratitude to my wife, Sally, who shared equally in the joys and triumphs as well as the low points and the difficult times of a decade-long journey. I met this young lady in the small town of Alvena, Saskatchewan. She captured my full attention and my heart. Who would have thought that the two of us would one day find ourselves in Ottawa. She finished raising our family, endured long periods of separation while I was here in Ottawa, and then endured the travel and lengthy stays in Ottawa to be here with me. What a journey. Thank you, Sally.

I would also like to thank our children Jennifer, Jessica, Jodee, Jolene, and JoAnna, who shared a good part of my time in Ottawa, a time when all of us got to know each other far more personally than we otherwise would have. It was a time we will always treasure and share into the future, I am sure.

I would also like to thank my daughter Jamie, who wrote my early press releases, and my sons Bill and Nick, who helped during the campaign and at times were my sign crew. I would also like to thank their spouses and their children. Without them this journey would not have been worthwhile. They have all paid a price of some measure, and I certainly appreciate that and want to thank them.

As I have said many times, if I knew everything I know now, I would not have run for office, yet how could I not have? What an experience. At times it was thrilling, exhilarating, at times it was intimidating, and at times I was wondering what I was doing here. I can say, however, I have met some interesting people, made some friends, had some interesting and satisfying work to do, and had an opportunity to see some interesting places.

I would like to acknowledge some key people who got me here.

My son-in-law, Jason Fleury, worked tirelessly and under a great deal of pressure and stress in rather difficult circumstances during my nomination. My friend Ken Sholter was always there and was a great support and encourager, as was his wife Debbie and their son Doug.

Susan Thompson, at a private meeting in our home, gave herself wholeheartedly to my campaign and proved to be the most valuable person at the times we needed her most. She also proved to be a very valuable and capable employee. Her mother Shirley was an inspiration as well.

Each of these individuals I have noted will know personal details regarding my nomination that I will not go into, but they will always be in our collective memories.

Many on the board were personal friends who made sure I would have this political experience at personal cost to them. I think of Bob Burns, who travelled many miles with me; Al Dougherty, who did my sign work in the southeast part of the riding; president Lyndon Dayman, who had to be persuaded to get involved later to become the president; and, more recently, Calvin Johnson.

I think of Bill Baryluk, who sold many tickets with me; Alydon King, who drove countless miles; Al Larson, Cam Weber, Joe Widdup, Larry and Connie Wingert, Robert Kitchen, Brad Kearns, Marge Young, Ken Stelnicki, Brad Denoulden, James Trobert, and many others.

I also would like to thank Pat Gervais, who ran our office and decorated it during our Christmas election, as well as Evelyn Sandquist and Audrey Meckling. I want to thank our financial agent, Tom Schuck, who stuck it out to the end with me and is now retired.

Also a great help, both during the elections and afterward with EDA filings and much more, was my friend Alf Tide. I thank them all very much.

There were a number of memorable and touching moments that I recall in the House. One was speaking in the definition of marriage debate when I was first elected. That was my first major speech, and I spoke in favour of defining marriage as one man and one woman to the exclusion of all others. It was just before the vote when it was my time to speak, and the House was packed. I had a sense of the importance and gravity of that vote and a sense that history was being made, and indeed it was.

Being here during the apologies to the Chinese community for the wrongs endured as a result of the head tax was another moment.

I found it very emotional and touching when we had the aboriginal community on the floor of the House of Commons when the Prime Minister offered an official apology for the damage done by the residential school system through its policy of assimilation and all that it represented. He said:

The Government of Canada sincerely apologizes and asks the forgiveness of the Aboriginal peoples of this country for failing them so profoundly. We are sorry.

To hear those words was truly a historic moment and was in and of itself therapeutic. It was definitely a time when I felt proud to be a Canadian.

It was a great experience to be the critic for housing and labour, then the parliamentary secretary to the minister of human resources and skills development, to the minister of labour, and to the minister of citizenship and immigration. Having the opportunity to serve with and for ministers was something that I will always remember and cherish. Working with and for the members for Halton, Edmonton—Spruce Grove, Medicine Hat, and Haldimand—Norfolk is something that I will never forget.

I am certain that my grandfather, Nicholas, and in fact both sets of grandparents who immigrated to Canada would have been very proud to know that their grandson would one day be a parliamentary secretary to the minister of immigration. One regret is that both of my parents and my mother and father-in-law passed away before I was elected as a member of Parliament.

I can say, though, that my sister, Elaine, and my two brothers, Alec and Larry, as well as my sister and brother-in-law, Elsie and Lorne Korpen, have more than made up for this by being there to support me and by always being present.

I have met many fine people in the membership of committees, both when I was a parliamentary secretary and chair. I found the analysts and the clerks to be very capable, proficient, and unbiased in their work. Names that come to mind are clerks Evelyn Lukyniuk and Caroline Bosc, as well as analysts from the Parliamentary Information and Research Service, Chantal Collin, Sandra Gruescu and André Léonard. What a fine group of quality people.

There were a host of parliamentary secretary assistants who made my life so much easier: Christine Albee, Denis Laurie, Fred Delorey, Andrea Montenegrino and Anna Curic. All of these individuals moved up in their careers and I want them to know that I appreciated them very much.

I wish to acknowledge and thank my staff who really made a huge difference in my career, many of whom will remain friends. I mention specifically Doug Sholter, Doug Smith and Doug Cryer. It seemed that people could not work in my office unless their first name was Doug.

I give special thanks to Carol Somerville, who has been with me through thick and thin; to a very competent and capable Tracey Schiestel, who has done much of my constituency and immigration work; to Sherri Friess Smith, who made sure that I did not miss any social note or graduation certificate for graduates in Souris—Moose Mountain; and Charlene Easton, who generally takes matters into her own hands and ran the best passport clinics ever.

To my two ladies in Ottawa, Bailey Dennis and Michelle Newman, both very clever, efficient and capable young people, thanks very much for making the work pleasant and enjoyable, notwithstanding the many idiosyncrasies and doing my correspondence, even if they did not always agree with my positions. The same applies to all of my staff in the riding. They have been a pleasure to work with. May they all do well in their future careers. Many thanks.

Having the Prime Minister attend in Estevan and Weyburn in my time, as well as six ministers and one minister of state, is something else that I will remember. In addition to holding a round table with the now Minister of National Defence, we also had the first ever House of Commons Standing Committee on Human Resources and Skills Development hold a committee meeting in Estevan, which was a first and historic moment for Souris—Moose Mountain for sure.

To the many fine people in this House, my colleagues and members from various parties that I have come to know, thanks for making my time here so special.

Finally, to my constituents and those who have put me here, it has been an honour and a privilege to have represented and served them over the years. Our office and I have done our utmost to represent them and to attempt to resolve issues that they have had to face. This, perhaps, has been the most rewarding part of my stay in Ottawa.

Finally, I finish with Motion No. 590, my private member's motion, that calls for a free vote on matters of conscience and a call to deal with hard moral and conscious decisions on matters like physician-assisted death and protecting the rights of the unborn here in the House of Commons. It is something that everyone, especially parliamentarians, should be free to debate on and legislate. I hope that this motion will debated and voted upon before the House adjourns and before I leave this great and wonderful place.

Free Votes May 28th, 2015


That, in the opinion of the House, all Members of Parliament should be allowed to vote freely on all matters of conscience.

Mr. Speaker, my motion has a number of significant points that I am asking the House to support: first, that the motion apply to every member, regardless of rank or position in the House or party, and on all matters that come before the House captured by this motion whether in the nature of private members' motions or bills, government bills, motions or other legislative initiatives; second, that members be allowed to vote freely, meaning without order or demand by party leaders, House leaders, whips or anyone else in the party structure, to vote in a certain or particular way on pain of censure or sanction if they will not; and third, that this would be so in matters of conscience.

There may be a great deal of debate and some difference of opinion on what are matters of conscience. I can, however, say with a great deal of confidence that matters relating to life, more particularly to the termination of life at any time from the point of conception to the point of natural death, would easily fall within that definition. Whether or not to terminate before death naturally occurs, or to terminate a life before it fully becomes a living being or while it has the potential to be a living being is certainly a matter of conscience, as may be a number of other matters falling somewhere between these two.

In my view, a matter of conscience would arise out of a religious, moral or ethical issue that has to do with one's inner sense of what is right or wrong. The right to freedom of conscience is represented in all international conventions concerning human rights. Article 18 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, adopted by the General Assembly of the United Nations on December 10, 1948, states, “Everyone has the right to freedom of thought, conscience and religion”. There is no question that one's conscience is and ought to be sovereign.

In fact, the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms, commonly referred to as the charter, states, in paragraph 2, with regard to fundamental freedoms, “Everyone has the following fundamental freedoms: (a) freedom of conscience and religion”. This fundamental freedom is found alongside those freedoms that we cherish: freedom of expression, freedom of the press, peaceful assembly, and freedom of association. In fact, the first words in the preamble in the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms gives rise to potential conscience struggles that may occur when interpreting laws or even with respect to charter matters when it states, “Whereas Canada is founded upon principles that recognize the supremacy of God and the rule of law”, is bound to bring the rule of law, the supremacy of God into conflict at times.

When it comes to matters of conscience, Sir Thomas More said it best when he had to make a decision whether to obey God's law as he saw it rather than man, that one should be most cautious not to offend his conscience than anything else in the whole world. Of course, his head was taken off and placed on the Tower Bridge in London as the price for not offending his conscience.

An email made public, sent to the member for Papineau, the Leader of the Liberal Party of Canada, by former Liberal members of Parliament also made the point well when they stated in part:

We, the undersigned, former Liberal Members of Parliament, are concerned about your recent pronouncement that people who hold a particular view on a given moral issue, as a matter of conscience, cannot be Liberal candidates for the position of M.P. unless they agree to park their consciences at the entrance to the House of Commons and vote directly opposite to their fundamental beliefs, as directed by you.

In the House, the Conservative Party has on a number of occasions allowed for free votes, and that is the way it should be. The party policy also states very specifically in section 7 that the party believes in restoring democratic accountability in the House of Commons by allowing free votes. It states all votes should be free, except for the budget, for obvious reasons, main estimates, and core government initiatives.

On issues of moral conscience, the Conservative Party acknowledges the diversity of deeply held personal convictions among individual party members and the right of members of Parliament to adopt positions in consultation with their constituents and to vote freely.

The Supreme Court of Canada's decisions on the recent Lee Carter, et al. v. Attorney General of Canada, et al. decision, commonly referred to as the Carter decision, which related to end-of-life issues, and R. v. Morgentaler, commonly referred to as the Morgentaler decision, related to abortion, fall into the category where actions taken in the House should be the subject of free votes. In each case, the court relied on the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms and gave the House the benefit of the court's view on the charter's application.

The Carter decision essentially referred to section 7 of the charter, which reads:

Everyone has the right to life, liberty and security of the person and the right not to be deprived thereof except in accordance with the principles of fundamental justice.

The decision said that it would require legislation allowing for physician-assisted death for a competent adult who clearly consents to the termination of life and has a grievous and irremediable medical condition, including an illness, disease or disability that causes enduring suffering that is intolerable to the individual in the circumstances of his or her condition. I may not agree with the court's logic in the use of section 7, but it has said that and it has said that Parliament needs to address that.

The type of legislation, the substance of the legislation and the views of the members may vary. Many members may struggle in deciding in good conscience whether or not they should support that piece of legislation, another piece of legislation or something in between. However, when it comes before the House for a vote, it should be a free vote.

Similarly, in the Morgentaler decision, the court decided in essence that the Criminal Code provisions then existing regarding abortion offended the same section 7 rights. The court was also of the view that it was Parliament's prerogative or obligation to put forth legislation, not theirs, that would balance this right with the rest of the charter that would provide for the protection of the unborn. In fact, section 1 of the charter states:

The Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms guarantees the rights and freedoms set out in it subject only to such reasonable limits prescribed by law as can be demonstrably justified in a free and democratic society.

It is all conditional. This clearly indicates that there must be a balancing of interests, or at least a consideration of interests, if one truly wishes to rely on the charter.

Justice Wilson, on page 183 of the Morgentaler judgment, stated:

The precise point in the development of the foetus at which the state's interest in its protection becomes "compelling" I leave to the informed judgment of the legislature which is in a position to receive guidance...from all the relevant disciplines. It seems to me, however, that it might fall somewhere in the second trimester.

She based her views squarely on the charter, so I feel that it is safe to say that the protection of the unborn is a charter consideration relating to the unborn requiring legislative action by Parliament. She specifically left open the entirely different question of whether the unborn is covered by the word “everyone” in section 7, so as to have an independent right to life under that section.

There is no doubt that members feel strongly on matters such as this, relating to issues of life. Some would feel strongly that life is sacred and that they should not be required to vote for any legislation that is against their conscience if it takes or allows for the taking of such life after conception before natural death. These may be absolute positions, but on all matters of life, there may also be positions somewhere in between, where honest, sincere and good thinking members will, I am sure, struggle with their decision and differ in their views. Ultimately, however, they should all be free to vote with their conscience.

By allowing members to vote freely, it presupposes that members of differing points of view and different persuasions, personal convictions and religious beliefs are allowed to run for public office and to be elected by constituents. To say, as the leader of the Liberal Party, the member for Papineau, stated, that anyone who has a view other than what is commonly referred to as a “pro-choice” view cannot run for the office of a member of Parliament or, at the very least, would not be given a free vote on the same issue runs absolutely contrary to this motion, as well as the Charter of Rights and Freedoms. Indeed, it would run against the fundamentals of democracy, where issues should be debated freely and then voted upon.

The very definition of “Parliament”, which I have taken from How Parliament Works, by John Bejermi, stems from the French parler, meaning “to speak” or “to discuss”. “Parliament”, then, or this House is a meeting place where the representatives of the people can speak, discuss, criticize, argue and express their opinions publicly on all matters of state.

In Canada, therefore, we have a system called “parliamentary government”. It is regrettable that because of the positions taken by leaders like that of the Liberal Party, some of the press, the media, and others, we cannot have a good or reasonable debate on these issues, with contrary points of view, without it seeming to be something unusual, unacceptable, or in bad taste. It is most unfortunate. This has to change in this House. For too long we have felt that difficult issues should not be moved, debated, or discussed in Parliament, many times simply because we have strong views on the subject and do not want to entertain anything else. That is not what democracy is about.

When it comes to matters of conscience, there should be nothing that causes an MP to vote contrary to his or her conscience, for if members are forced to cross that line, they have violated who and what they are and what they believe in. I dare say that it is self-evident that no one should be required to do that. Their conscience is sacrosanct, inviolable, and should not be impinged upon, for indeed if it can be, what value is the opinion or vote of those members going forward and what reliance can be placed upon them. I think most Canadians and most constituents would expect no less from their members, even if they disagreed or had a different point or a different position. If the majority of constituents disagree, they should then elect a new member.

In fairness, these issues should not be raised time and again ad infinitum. There should be some rules around that. I personally like one of the rules that regulates whether a private member's bill or motion such as mine is votable. Does it involve issues that have already been considered in the session? If it does not, it can go forward. A new session could give rise to new debates.

Many have said that Parliament should use the charter section 33 “notwithstanding” clause to allow for an act or provision thereof to operate notwithstanding a provision included in section 2 or section 7 of the charter. Although this option is available, it is something, in my view, that ought to be used sparingly and only in exceptional circumstances. That said, we cannot cherry-pick which part of the charter we like and which to disregard.

I found it interesting that the member for Papineau and leader of the Liberal Party was quick to put forward a motion, voted upon on February 24, 2015, asking the House to recognize the Supreme Court of Canada decision in Carter, which ruled that the prohibition on physician-assisted dying violated a section 7 charter right and stated that Parliament has a responsibility to respond to the Supreme Court ruling.

I did not see that same vigour and immediacy in requesting that this House respond to the Supreme Court of Canada ruling in Morgentaler indicating that it is for Parliament to decide at what point the state's interest arises and becomes compelling so as to provide some protection for the unborn.

Indeed, the member asked that a special committee be appointed, with the usual parameters, and that the committee report on an expeditious basis to the House. Yet when the member faced the motion presented by the member for Kitchener Centre, which also asked that a special committee of the House be appointed to review the Criminal Code declaration of when a child becomes a human being and report to the House, the member for Papineau and leader of the Liberal Party voted against it.

I found it somewhat hypocritical when the member for Papineau and leader of the Liberal Party said on one hand that we need to ensure that we are charter compliant and respect the rights and privileges we may have under the charter when it comes to an issue of pro-choice but then voted against the protection of a right or privilege under the charter when he did not agree with it, as in the case where the court said that it is up to Parliament to draft legislation protecting the rights of the unborn. It is like respecting the decision of the Supreme Court when one likes it and not respecting the Supreme Court and the charter when one does not like the decision. We cannot be selective when it comes to charter rights unless we are prepared to use the “notwithstanding” clause.

In the same email sent to the member for Papineau and leader of the Liberal Party of Canada by former Liberal members, they made this point quite well when they stated:

Second, since your edict singles out the issue of being opposed to abortion, but only that issue, it clearly discriminates against a select class of people, namely those who oppose abortion, and no one else, such as those who might oppose, or be in favour of, say, assisted suicide. We believe that such discrimination is a clear violation of the spirit, if not the letter, of The Charter of Rights and Freedoms, section 2 (a) which guarantees everyone, even Liberal Members of Parliament, “freedom of conscience”, and (b), which guarantees everyone, even Liberal Members of Parliament, “freedom of thought, belief...and expression”.

In my view, we need to get off the premise that some subjects are off limits for debate. We should have legislation go forward, agreeing that this is precisely the place where hard and difficult decisions must be made, accepting the fact that members may have to struggle with their conscience to support a particular position. In the interest of democracy, justice and good government, we want all members to vote on these issues freely and without impediment. I am hopeful and expect that not only my colleagues on this side of the House but all members of Parliament will see fit to support Motion No. 590.

This motion is straightforward and unambiguous. Matters of conscience for obvious reasons should be subject to free votes. I think it is a timely motion, especially given the most recent Supreme Court of Canada ruling in the Carter case and the languishing ruling on the Morgentaler case, which so far parliamentarians have not been able to face head-on or even in a peripheral way.

Safe and Accountable Rail Act May 27th, 2015

Mr. Speaker, if the insurance is not adequate, the taxpayer ends up paying. The principle behind this bill is to ensure that the polluter pays.

There are minimum amounts of insurance that have been arrived at, taking risk into account and taking into account what is happening, but, in addition to that, there would be a pooled fund of $250 million to take care of any issues that go beyond the insurance. That would be backstopped by the consolidated revenue fund so that if the insurance comes up short, the consolidated revenue fund would cover it and the cost would be assessed back to those who should pay, which would be the rail haulers and the shippers.

That is the direction of this bill. It is taking the direction that those who pollute should pay, not the taxpayer. The bill does a fairly admirable job, and the member and all of his party should support it.

Safe and Accountable Rail Act May 27th, 2015

Mr. Speaker, the DOT-111 cars needed to be replaced, and the minister indicated some pretty stringent timelines, another set of timelines, having regard to the fact that the rail system is integrated. It is a North American system, integrated with the United States, and there has to be capacity to produce these cars. Witnesses who appeared in committee indicated the length of time it takes to produce new cars to replace the others. Those factors have to be taken into consideration when deciding on the timelines for the replacement of these cars.

Everything considered, the minister made the appropriate decision. Of course, there will be other factors that will need to be taken into account with respect to safety while these cars are being replaced.

Safe and Accountable Rail Act May 27th, 2015

Mr. Speaker, the minimum level of insurance was arrived at after discussion with stakeholders after looking at what was available in terms of insurance provisions. It also depends on the volume and amount of crude being hauled. If they were smaller companies, such as the short lines that carry it for short distances, the risk assessment was made and some minimal amounts were put in place in the first year. These amounts are doubled into the second year, bearing in mind the risk assessment for the most likely of cases in the greatest percentage of times.

Of course, on some occasions that insurance might be exceeded, but in any event there would be a pooled fund that shippers would contribute to that would allow for additional coverage. Indeed, as I mentioned before, that would be backstopped by the consolidated revenue fund so that if more is required, it is paid, and then subsequent assessments could be made to ensure that it is there.

Therefore, it is a pretty good approach. Everything considered, I think stakeholders will be agreeable to that course of action.

Safe and Accountable Rail Act May 27th, 2015

Mr. Speaker, I will be sharing my time with the member for Mississauga East—Cooksville.

I am pleased to have the opportunity to speak in support of Bill C-52, an act to amend the Canada Transportation Act and the Railway Safety Act. Many members of the House have already expressed their sound support for the safe and accountable railway act. Members opposite who have just spoken have said they are in support of the bill, so I will not repeat many of the areas that they have addressed.

Principally, the bill deals with base insurance amounts and a pooled fund to deal with disasters and ensures a structure to deal with that.

I will turn my attention today to another point of significant importance to all Canadians. That is safe grade crossings.

The safety of grade crossings is a cause championed by the member for Winnipeg South Centre, who herself proposed amendments to the Railway Safety Act through her bill, Bill C-627. She appeared before the committee to emphasize the importance of protecting people and property from unsafe railway operations. Bill C-627 and Bill C-52 have become a coordinated effort to ensure that the Minister of Transport and her officials have the mandate and powers to stop the threat to the safety of persons or property from all rail operations. It is a fairly significant addition and piece of legislative work that both the member and this particular bill address. As recognized in both these pieces of legislation, the minister must have the legislative authority to develop, administer, and enforce safety regulations of federally regulated railways.

However, our government's work goes beyond just the legislation before the House. The week of April 27 was Rail Safety Week, and we saw two important announcements that bracketed the range of rail safety challenges from local to international.

At the beginning of the week, the minister announced $9.7 million in new funding to improve safety at more than 600 grade crossings. At the end of the week, the minister and her United States counterpart announced new tank car standards in a joint United States-Canada plan to phase out rail cars that do not meet the new standards. Of course, they will be phased in, because it takes time to replace these cars. These two announcements target both local concerns—the specific places where people and trains intersect daily—and the overall safety of rail operations in Canada and the United States.

It is easy to see why Canadians are concerned about grade crossings. Canadian cities and towns grew up alongside rail lines and continued to spread around them. As subdivision plans are made and the cities continue to grow, obviously those subdivisions and those buildings will be near rail lines. As a result, we have some 37,000 public, private, and pedestrian railway crossings. Although the number of crossing accidents has fallen dramatically since 1980, the Transportation Safety Board of Canada says the risk of trains and vehicles colliding at crossings is still too high. Crossing accidents account for nearly 20% of all rail accidents in Canada, with 30% of these accidents resulting in death or serious injury.

In response to the Transportation Safety Board's call for government action on grade crossings, new grade crossing regulations came into force on November 27, 2014. These regulations and the accompanying standards are intended to help prevent accidents and improve the safety of federally regulated grade crossings.

Sometimes some small things can be done to ensure that safety is first and foremost. These include approximately 14,000 public and 9,000 private grade crossings along with more than 42,000 kilometres of federally regulated railway tracks in Canada.

The regulations that came into force on November 27, 2014, will improve safety by establishing comprehensive and enforceable safety standards for grade crossings. They clarify the roles and responsibilities of railway companies and road authorities and ensure the sharing of key safety information between rail companies and road authorities.

This last element is important. Railway companies share responsibility for grade crossing safety with road authorities, which include provinces, municipalities, band councils, and private crossing owners. All of these parties are responsible for managing railway crossing safety in Canada, so effective collaboration is crucial.

The new regulations have a phased-in approach, and railway companies and road authorities must meet all requirements over the next seven years. This phased-in approach requires immediate safety improvements at grade crossings across Canada, while allowing sufficient time to comply with all the requirements and the regulations.

The new funding for grade crossings announced on April 27, 2015, will be available through Transport Canada's grade crossing improvement program. Under this program, eligible railway crossings will be upgraded based on factors such as traffic volume and accident history. The improvements may include flashing lights and bells, gate barriers, linking crossing signals to traffic signals, upgrading to brighter LED lights, or adding new circuits or timing devices.

Transport Canada also encourages the closing of certain grade crossings under federal jurisdiction. The grade crossing closure program provides grants to crossing owners in exchange for closing a crossing. In 2014-15 Transport Canada approved $165,000 in funding to close nine crossings in the interests of public safety.

Other initiatives to improve safety at railway crossings include Operation Lifesaver. This national public education program aims to reduce loss of life, injuries, and damages caused by grade crossing collisions and pedestrian incidents. Transport Canada provides Operation Lifesaver with $300,000 per year for its outreach and education programs.

Improving safety at grade crossings is an important contribution to rail safety. Another is making all rail operations safer, especially in densely populated areas, as was already mentioned. That is why the minister issued an emergency directive this spring that set the speed limit for trains in densely populated urban areas at 64 kilometres per hour. Slower train speeds were among the Transportation Safety Board of Canada's recommendations. The directive also increases inspections and risk assessments along key routes used for the transportation of dangerous goods, include crude oil and ethanol.

The joint United States-Canada announcement on tank car standards in April was the latest step in our government's coordinated effort to improve rail safety following the Lac-Mégantic disaster. These efforts began soon after the accident and the first advisories from the Transportation Safety Board of Canada.

In July 2013, Transport Canada ordered rail companies to have crews of at least two persons on trains carrying dangerous goods and imposed stricter requirements for securing unattended trains. This was followed in 2014 by a series of measures, including banning the least crash-resistant DOT-111 tank cars from carrying dangerous goods and requiring companies to phase out cars not meeting new safety standards by May 1, 2017; the coming into force of a series of new regulations, such as the Railway Safety Management System Regulations, 2015; Railway Safety Administrative Monetary Penalties Regulations, Railway Operating Certificate Regulations, and amendments to the Transportation Information Regulations to improve data collection; requiring railways to secure unattended trains with a minimum number of handbrakes and other physical defences to prevent runaways; and tightening railway labelling of hazardous materials.

With the focus on rail safety and the dangers associated with railway operations, we must not lose sight of the important role rail transportation plays and has played in Canada's economy, supporting our exports and bringing goods to Canadians. However, the shadow of Lac-Mégantic looms over anyone living near rail lines, and the daily risk of collisions at grade crossings requires that we do more to ensure rail safety.

Our government takes these potential threats very seriously and is moving to ensure that does not happen again.

I hope that all of my colleagues will join me in recognizing Bill C-52 as a key contribution to improving rail safety and will vote in favour of the bill.

Safe and Accountable Rail Act May 27th, 2015

Mr. Speaker, the hon. member indicated that a good portion of this bill related to basic insurance requirements and a pooled fund to take care of a disaster that might happen.

First, would he agree that the pooled fund, although it is at $250,000, can pay-out a larger claim, which is backstopped by the consolidated revenue fund, and then, if it is paid out, further and subsequent assessments can be made to ensure the polluter pays?

Second, what is his opinion with respect to having pipelines transport some of this crude oil as opposed to rail? Is he aware that there are plans to potentially take some of that oil through a pipeline to join it to the energy east pipeline as opposed to rail? Could he comment on that as well?

2015 Estevan Bruins Sportsman Dinner April 27th, 2015

Mr. Speaker, I rise today to recognize four of my constituents who were presented with prestigious awards at the 2015 Estevan Bruins Sportsman's Dinner on April 16, 2015.

The Sportsman Dinner is an annual fundraiser organized by the Estevan Bruins hockey team and is the largest fundraiser for the team.

Anthony Melle, a championship golfer, and Auriel Bill, an accomplished water polo player, received the Boston Pizza Estevan's District Male and Female Athlete of the Year awards. Jace Carlisle took home the Kim Anderson Award for the top junior official, while Chad Chapman received the Estevan Kinsman Club Volunteer Coach of the Year Award for his coaching in female hockey.

As member of Parliament for Souris—Moose Mountain, I would like to congratulate all award recipients, as well as the volunteers and the many who came together to make this great event happen.

Anti-Terrorism Act, 2015 April 24th, 2015

Mr. Speaker, I do not agree with the member that this bill is out of balance.

Steven Bucci, the Heritage Foundation representative, said:

My review of Bill C-51 leads me to conclude that this is a...balance between greater physical protection without loss of civil liberties. In the various sections, there's a judicious expansion of info-sharing and law enforcement authorities but in each there are also provisions for recourse and appeals. There is transparency and openness.... In short, this bill seems to balance security and liberty.

Indeed, we have to balance the various interests and come up with the best situation we can in the legislation. This legislation does that. We must combat terrorism head-on. We cannot stand on the sidelines. Even when we join our allies in the fight against ISIL, we expect to engage the terrorists where they are to disrupt them and to ensure that they cannot do us or Canadians any harm. We cannot be found, as some have been found in this House, standing on the sidelines watching while this situation unfolds before us.