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Crucial Fact

  • His favourite word was medals.

Last in Parliament October 2015, as Conservative MP for Perth—Wellington (Ontario)

Won his last election, in 2011, with 55% of the vote.

Statements in the House

Radiocommunication Act February 9th, 2004

Mr. Speaker, I rise today to speak to Bill C-2, an act to amend the Radiocommunication Act. Before I begin to discuss the content of the bill, I would like to give the House an overview of this industry and its customers. It is impossible to discuss Bill C-2 without understanding two very different concepts and making a clear distinction between them.

The two concepts are the grey market and the black market.

The technology that allows consumers to view satellite signals is the key to the black and grey markets. To watch satellite television, we must buy a satellite receiver and an access card from the satellite company. We subscribe to channels we want by calling the satellite company--in Canada, that is either Bell or Shaw--choosing channels and giving them our credit card. Then the access card, which has a small chip on the back, is inserted into the receiver so that the channels that have been paid for can be watched. The access card will work only in the machine that it came with and the receiver will not work without the access card.

Once it is understood that one must subscribe to satellite channels and that an access card is required to confirm that subscription, it allows us to discuss the difference between the black market and the grey market.

The first is the black market. Thieves steal the satellite signal. Instead of paying a subscription and using an access card, the thieves replace the access card with an AVR board, or an HU or P4 card, to fool the receiver into thinking that a subscription has been paid. Every Canadian who uses this technology steals roughly $100 a month of TV programming from a satellite company.

What is worse, the cards that fool satellite receivers also emit radio signals that may interfere with military emergency radio equipment. Not only is it theft, it is dangerous. According to Industry Canada, the interference caused by these hacked signals has caused search and rescue officials to think aircraft have crashed when they have not. Hacked signals have also interfered with military operations in Cold Lake, Alberta.

While no one can provide us with the exact numbers as to the size of the black market, a recent Léger Marketing survey showed that fully 20% of the people receiving Bell ExpressVu signals were not paying for the service.

I want to be clear that the Conservative Party and the vast majority of Canadians are firmly opposed to the black market.

Now let us look at the grey market, in which a Canadian subscribes to a satellite service provider that is not licensed by the CRTC, such as Dish Network or DirecTV, for access to TV channels. In every case in the grey market the viewer is lawfully paying for the signal and he is paying the company that owns the satellite from which the signal is being distributed. He is respecting copyright by paying the owner of the satellite, who in turn pays the TV networks that produce the programs.

In the grey market, the client pays the full price for what he or she watches. Clients pay a service charge to the dealer. The satellite company bills the client's credit card every month. The client sees the satellite company's bill on his credit card statement and watches only those channels to which he or she has subscribed.

So why do we go to the United States and beyond for television? To access cultural and religious broadcasting that is not available in Canada.

For example, I understand that Latino Canadians subscribe to Dish Latino, which offers 20 Spanish language channels from Mexico, Chile, Spain and the U.S., as well as a news channel that features local news from virtually every Spanish speaking country in the Americas. The price is roughly $30 Canadian per month. Currently some Canadian satellite channels carry blocks of weekly Spanish programming, seven hours here and three hours there.

Arab Canadians typically subscribe to Dish Network's Arabic elite pack, offering 10 channels from Dubai, Egypt, Lebanon and Qatar for roughly $40 Canadian.

Many Canadian Christians who are looking for faith based family broadcasting subscribe to Sky Angel, a satellite service company offering roughly 36 channels.

One of the problems with Bill C-2 is that it ignores the bigger issue. Access to programming has been restricted by the CRTC and Canadian content rules. This bill is not just about breaking the law but about allowing Canadians the freedom to watch what they want regardless of Canadian content restrictions.

The Conservative Party agrees with the June 2003 recommendation of the Standing Committee on Canadian Heritage:

...that the CRTC permit Canadian broadcasting distribution undertakings to offer a wider range of international programming, while being respectful of Canadian content regulations.

There are other issues raised by the bill that have caused the Conservative Party concern. First, we need clarification as to how and if precious RCMP and local police resources will be used. While the bill does allow for civil procedures, we are still not clear as to whether or not RCMP resources will be used. As my colleagues have mentioned, a recent satellite investigation in Hamilton engaged 69 RCMP officers and 12 Industry Canada employees. Clearly this is an inappropriate use of taxpayer resources.

Second, we are concerned that the inspection provisions have been broadened. While we recognize that other electronic devices such as computers are linked with satellite piracy, the power to open any package or container that may be related to satellite piracy is an issue we would like to explore in committee.

I would like to close on a positive note. There are aspects of this bill we support. We support the importation initiatives, with provisions. We agree that the border is a good place to address the problem of distribution of satellite dishes that are currently considered illegal in Canada. However, we hope this initiative does not stop the grey market viewer who legitimately pays for a service and programming currently unavailable in Canada.

We would also like better assurances from the Minister of Industry that snowbirds will not be harassed or charged when they bring their dishes across the border for summer storage.

We support the idea that Bell and Shaw can take action against some of these providers through civil court rather than criminal court.

I would like to close by saying that the Conservative Party has concerns about Bill C-2, but we are looking forward to reviewing this legislation in committee to see if we can tighten it up and address the cultural issue the bill raises.

Agriculture February 6th, 2004

Mr. Speaker, I rise today to address the House on a matter of great importance to the people of Perth--Middlesex and to all Canadians.

Recently, the Government of Canada has closed the border to U.S. beef due to a single case of an animal infected with BSE. At a time when Canadian farmers are in desperate need of free and unfettered access to the lucrative market of our American neighbours, this is a most harmful step for the government to take.

Science has proven our beef is safe. The science applies to American beef as well. Canadians believe in this science as beef consumption has increased during this crisis.

Trust is a two way street. Canadian beef is safe. American beef if safe. Canada needs to bargain and act in good faith with our American friends. Canadian consumers are doing their part. When will the government do its fair share?

Bovine Spongiform Encephalopathy February 4th, 2004

Mr. Chair, I stand tonight and congratulate my colleagues across the row who are neighbours of mine in southwestern Ontario. Yes, this is a Canadian problem, most definitely.

I think one of the reasons that the price is so wrong is that there is no competition in the killing process, especially for beef. I hope there is a new plant soon available in Ontario. Maybe there will be more. The government could have put some seed money forth earlier in this matter to get some competition. As we know, those of us who go to auctions, if there is only one bidder we do not start at the top price. That is one part of this.

I have to agree that dairy is not only milk; it is also replacement heifers. One person in my riding has 5,000 replacement heifers ready to go. They could go tomorrow. He is losing $2,000 a head; chalk that up.

Bovine Spongiform Encephalopathy February 4th, 2004

Mr. Chair, we have already touched on the Canadian beef to Kabul. I look at it from a business point of view. If we are talking science, how do we expect the Americans to take our science when we do not take their science? Rib-eye steaks, inside round, outside round, and those kinds of things are being quarantined. I just hope that there has been a directive given to all the Canadians vacationing in Florida and Arizona, et cetera, not to eat American beef, no T-bone steaks or prime rib, and no burgers. In Canada, do we know the age of the beef we eat?

Specific Claims Resolution Act November 4th, 2003

Madam Speaker, if all parties and stakeholders sat around the table and came up with a good plan, I imagine it would go through the House rather quickly.

However I am against coming up with something that is derogatory to the stakeholders.

Specific Claims Resolution Act November 4th, 2003

Madam Speaker, I must say that is very glaring, as I have reported, that the government be both judge and jury at the same time.

I have watched how some issues have been dealt with in the House and it seems that this government likes very much to be judge and jury on the same issue. That can go back to the ethics counsellor and to various other people.

However it should be an independent body that judges those things. One cannot be both judge and jury.

Specific Claims Resolution Act November 4th, 2003

Madam Speaker, I must explain again that I do not know how to reach a consensus. How do we sit down and talk with people when this bill seems counterproductive?

I have various literature stating that Bill C-6 purports to improve the resolution of specific land claims but it fails to do so. Another one states that Bill C-6 does not make the process of resolving claims more efficient. Another one states that no more resources will be committed to addressing the backlog of over 600 existing claims and that the minister can delay any claim indefinitely.

Bill C-6 does not provide for an independent commission but leaves government as defendant, judge and jury. Bill C-6 does not remove the federal conflict of interest but rather entrenches it in legislation. Bill C-6 diminishes justified claims. No claims worth more than $10 million can be dealt with by the tribunal. Funding limits mean only eight claims per year can be settled.

Bill C-6 does not make the claims resolution process more transparent and omits principles of fairness and justice. The minister and his department can frustrate the work of the new claims body and delay progress on claims without providing justification. Bill C-6 is opposed by the Assembly of First Nations.

Finally, on October 20 in the Senate, the Senate's pre-eminent legal expert, commenting on the constitutional flaws of Bill C-6, said that aboriginals were not convinced that the system would be trustworthy.

Specific Claims Resolution Act November 4th, 2003

Madam Speaker, I thank the hon. member for his question and I agree that in business we always have timelines.

Bill C-6 is big business in that it affects first nations across the country. There should be timelines within the bill.

One thing I have learned is that what always seems to work best is consensus, no matter what we are doing. I think there should be consensus between the government and first nations. They should sit around a table and come up with a document that they can both agree on.

As I look at Bill C-6 and the various statements that I read to members today, it just looks to me like there has not been any consensus here. I think there is a willingness on behalf of the first nations to sit down with the government, but it seems as if the bill is being pushed forward. I just cannot accept things that are pushed on people.

Specific Claims Resolution Act November 4th, 2003

Madam Speaker, this is the second chance the House has had to make improvements to Bill C-6. We have to realize just how serious the situation is and realize that Bill C-6 does little to improve that situation.

There are about 600 claims in the system now and the number is expected to increase to 1,700. There are significant ways in which Bill C-6 falls short of the current definition of specific claims and it falls short in terms of what was consistently promised and agreed to earlier.

The current definition of “specific claim” refers to breaches of treaties and agreements and is not confined to treaties and agreements that deal with lands and assets.

Currently a claim can be advanced dealing with treaty rights with respect to hunting and fishing. Cases have arisen in which the Indian Claims Commission has dealt with that kind of case. The Bill C-6 definition excludes those kinds of treaty breaches. There is an even more devastating omission. I cannot understate the importance of this because failure to recognize this kind of claim would destroy some first nations communities.

Many first nations communities were unilaterally promised that the crown would give them reserves. There are first nations whose ability to have any kind of land base or quality of life depends on the fulfilment of a unilateral undertaking.

The Supreme Court of Canada said in Guerin v. The Queen that a fiduciary obligation leading to the enforcement right, in other words a specific claim, could include a unilateral undertaking. The Supreme Court of Canada said that this was a way in which a specific claim might arise. This is excluded from the definition in Bill C-6. That was never discussed by the joint task force. The federal AFN joint task force definition of specific claim included promises to provide lands or assets by a unilateral undertaking. The federal government had agreed, but Bill C-6 dishonours that agreement.

Why is the federal government so intent to walk away from a commitment? To include a unilateral undertaking does not mean that every unilateral undertaking would become a specific claim. We still have to show that it is a legal obligation. There is no risk to the federal government of a new category of claims suddenly being created. Only if it is a legal obligation that is being breached can the unilateral undertaking give rise to a claim. We would not be adding to the category of federal liability, but we would not be excluding it under the joint task force definition.

Even though the House has passed Bill C-6, these amendments from the upper chamber give us an opportunity to point out these deficiencies which can be fixed.

The definition in Bill C-6 excludes a category of claims. What is the practical significance? Potentially one-third to more than one-half of specific claims might be excluded. British Columbia and Quebec would be hit hard, hit where it hurts. Do people have a land base or not? Does a group have the basis for a collective existence? This is a serious business and the exclusion from Bill C-6 is unacceptable.

If this were not enough, Bill C-6 has added new exclusions. A claim must be at least 15 years old. Imagine having a grievance against the federal government and being told to come back in 15 years to see if the government will deal with it.

Another exclusion is claims involving rights that arose under a British statute or proclamation before Confederation. We know constitutionally, Canada agreed to assume responsibility for the crown's responsibility, but not first nations which will be turned aside by Bill C-6. When Bill C-6 was in committee before its passage, various members, including Liberals, acknowledged these problems.

Specific amendments were proposed in the House to remedy the problems with Bill C-6 so it could go forward as an improved bill. All these amendments were rejected by a straight majority party vote, with the exception of one Liberal dissenter. The government decided to go against all opposition parties and against all first nations, and now it is wondering why we still want to see improvements in Bill C-6. The issues we are raising have to be addressed if we are to purport that Bill C-6 is fair and just.

I have not addressed another important point, and that is access to the tribunal. There is no problem getting to the commission set up in Bill C-6. Anyone can do that, but so what?

Everyone knew there was a problem at the time of Oka, but since Oka another 400 or so claims have been filed and an additional 60 claims are filed every year, each alleging an outstanding lawful obligation.

The majority of the claims filed are ultimately found to be valid, yet Bill C-6 is setting up a system which can process only seven or eight claims a year because of the cap on both the amount of the award and the limited amount of money given to the commission annually.

Every year there are more claims coming into the system than can be resolved. Continuing a situation in which the vast majority of claimants have to wait in a long line to have access to binding dispute resolution, which means access to the tribunal, will just continue the failures of the past.

There is little value in having access to a commission where one can talk if there is no incentive for the federal government to get serious, to make a decision about the claim and, if it considers it valid, to negotiate the settlement of the claim. Alternate dispute resolution works only if there is an incentive on both sides to make it work. To tell people to wait in line, to tell people to wait 15 years, is not likely to create social justice.

It is not social justice at all to tell claimants that if their claim is over a certain amount, $7 million as the bill stands, and $10 million with the amendments, they cannot have access to the dispute resolution agency. Two claims are reported to have been settled in the last fiscal year, one for approximately $63 million and the other for $6 million. In the previous year, five claims were resolved, four of which were well over $6 million: $17 million, $37 million, $83 million, and $14 million. Only one claim was under $10 million and it was for $40,000.

There is the further problem that a claim may enter the system when it is somewhat under $7 million, but then, because of the delays, the interest brings the amount to above $7 million. The first nation then has to decide to forego the interest, no matter how long it takes, or to start over in court.

The Indian Claims Commission, in its submission to the House committee, said that of 120 claims that it had considered, fewer than 10 were for less than $7 million. Some lawyers have called this fiscal cap draconian. It is of no help to know that the government can raise the limit. It can also lower it. How are we getting away from the conflict of interest if the federal executive freely has the right to determine it just might lower the cap at any time? How can we talk about an independent commission?

If this House were to turn down the proposed amendments, we would have an opportunity to go back to the drawing board, do it right and come up with a new Bill C-6 that would have the support of first nations.

I know I cannot propose new amendments, but I can ask the government for assurances. I would like to know if it will make a commitment to continue the existing Indian Claims Commission if Bill C-6 passes. Will it give first nations the choice of going to the existing claims commission or to the Bill C-6 mechanism?

There is absolutely no reason why the two agencies could not continue to exist and give claimants a choice. It is possible today for a civil claimant to decide whether to file certain claims in federal court or in provincial court. Having the two commissions would allow first nations claimants a similar choice. Then, three or four years from now, we would have proof of whether Bill C-6 is better or worse than the status quo.

We know the federal government has fiduciary duties. Its breaches of fiduciary duties give rise to claims. The primary responsibility of a fiduciary is to avoid conflicts of interest. Now, the same party that is breaching its fiduciary duties is saying, “Trust us. Let us appoint someone to decide if we have breached our duties”. The government should not ask Parliament to give statutory credibility to its conflict of interest. It should not ask Parliament to approve it as judge in its own case.

The problem of lack of independence has been identified over and over again for the last 40 years. Now the government is saying that all these matters are unimportant because the process in Bill C-6 is totally optional and first nations who do not want to use the new agency do not have to use it. That is cynical. We all know the only other option available is court. We know that justice department lawyers do not have to worry about legal costs. We also know that they will use every technical defence available. They will not be interested in justice.

The federal government reserves the right under existing policy to invoke technical defences. That means it can invoke statutory limitation periods. If an individual does not bring a claim within six years or 20 years or whatever, then it is too late and no claim is allowed. How perverse.

We must remember that until 1951 first nations were prohibited by law from engaging a lawyer to lodge a claim. Bill C-6 says claimants will have to wait 15 years before they can file a specific claim, yet most claimants will be statute barred by the time they get to 15 years.

We should all be looking for a system to relieve the government from its conflict of interest and to set up something so it does not have to be judge and jury in its own cause.

The joint task force report recommended joint appointments. The minister now says that the insistence on joint appointments arises because the AFN wants to use this to further its claims to sovereignty. How ridiculous.

The AFN has never said anything in its presentation about Bill C-6 and sovereignty. It has been emphatic about independence. The minister is clouding the issue of independence by blaming the AFN for insisting on an independent process.

It would be so easy for the government. A person could not be appointed without both sides agreeing. An appointee could not be removed without both sides agreeing. A person could not be reappointed unless both sides agreed. What could be more clean and clear than that? Would that not be fair?

However, the government says this simple act of justice would somehow violate the principle of crown prerogative. That may be the government's preference, but this is Parliament. Here in this place, Parliament is supreme. If Parliament wishes to set out a joint appointment process, it has the clear power to do so. There is no constitutional law that will be broken. In fact, Parliament has already appointed joint bodies.

All the modern land claims agreements have dispute bodies whose composition is jointly decided. The federal government has agreed to joint appointments in NAFTA and in the World Trade Organization. There is also the Mackenzie Valley Resource Management Act. In the Meech Lake accord, the government of the day was prepared to have Supreme Court of Canada justices chosen from lists proposed by the provinces.

We could, for example, have a joint task force or committee agree on a list of names and then let the governor in council decide which of those persons would be appointed.

There is no obstacle whatsoever to prevent Parliament from providing the Bill C-6 agencies with independence. Now is the time for the federal government to break the existing pattern of conflict of interest by setting up a genuinely independent body. Now is the time for the federal government to abandon the approach that has been proven to be ineffective and lacking in independence.

This stubborn and wrong approach of the government to stack a commission in its favour is not consistent with the Charter of Rights and Freedoms and not consistent with modern administrative law doctrines. Why are we allowing a bill to be passed that will be successfully challenged in the courts before the ink is dry?

We are at a point in history where the government is about to change. There is no reason why we cannot set aside Bill C-6 and all its imperfections. There is no reason why the government and the AFN cannot return to the table next year and come up with something that could be supported by both first nations and government.

It is a simple political choice for the government: accept something so grossly imperfect today or go back and come up with something much more fair and just in the months to come.

The government has squandered its goodwill. Only a few years ago the government and the AFN were saying that they agreed to everything. Today the situation has deteriorated to the point where first nations across Canada are vigorously opposing the government's decision to proceed with Bill C-6.

This House can help Canada get back on track by using those mechanisms available to us to send Bill C-6 back to a good, joint drawing board.

Mervyn “Butch” Blake October 31st, 2003

Mr. Speaker, I rise today to pay tribute to one of Stratford Festival's most loved and longtime members, Mr. Mervyn “Butch” Blake, who passed away recently at the age of 95.

Mr. Blake joined the Stratford Festival in 1957 and remained with the company for 42 consecutive years, during which time he performed in every one of Shakespeare's plays. Butch Blake's talent and commitment to the theatre earned him the respect of his peers, the affection of audiences, and the recognition of his adopted country. He was awarded the Queen's Silver Jubilee Medal in 1978 and was invested as a member of the Order of Canada in 1995.

I know that the Stratford Festival is proud to have counted Butch Blake as a beloved member of its immensely talented family. I am equally proud to say that Mr. Blake lived for many years in my hometown of Sebringville, Ontario.

I am sure all members of the House will join me in expressing our condolences to Mr. Blake's family and the theatre community across Canada.