House of Commons photo

Crucial Fact

  • His favourite word was aboriginal.

Last in Parliament October 2015, as Conservative MP for Kenora (Ontario)

Lost his last election, in 2015, with 29% of the vote.

Statements in the House

Business of Supply June 4th, 2015

Mr. Speaker, I am glad to have heard from the member that this is not about the budgetary aspects, because the numbers that have been provided in some detail and attached to this motion do not reconcile. The member is asking what the policy options are, outside of budget. If the member had been listening to the debate so far this morning, he would have heard and understood what some of those policy options could be and should be.

However, the issue here, as I understand the motion, is moving beyond the existing communities that qualify for this program and assessing what options within nutrition north should be available to other communities, both as a monetary matter and as a policy matter.

In that sense, there is no question that the path forward will be to look at that, since many aspects of those communities' profiles, such as isolation, are very similar to those of communities that qualify for the program.

Those are the issues that we are here to debate, and I am glad to hear that the member has a desire to move beyond the numbers or a conversation about the budget. It is far more meaningful and comprehensive than that, and I think the member for Northwest Territories intended it to be that way.

Business of Supply June 4th, 2015

Mr. Speaker, the member was probably a bit tongue-in-cheek with respect to that question, since he knows that when these issues arise, I can be a bit of a pit bull in the department in ensuring that the interests of communities in my riding, as well as the interests of first nations communities in isolated and remote parts of Canada, are well represented.

I see that the member for Timmins—James Bay has disappeared. However, I can say to him and the person who tabled the motion that the spirit of this motion is ripe for discussion right now. It is an acknowledgement that nutrition north is an important part of the solution.

As was identified by members who have ridings similar to mine, particularly in northern Ontario, there are other policy options that should be looked at. Of course, that comes to a more pointed answer to my friend and colleague, which is that this motion has some figures that we unfortunately cannot reconcile. It is not a substantive option for addressing some of the key facets for a better program within nutrition north, such as the ones that the Auditor General pointed out, in the timelines that he has given for us to embrace those recommendations, which we have embraced.

I think it is incumbent upon us all, particularly as I speak for northern and northwestern Ontario, to focus on ways to improve shipping timelines, increase shelf life, and preserve the quality of fresh foods. That is important, but so is the educational opportunity with respect to eating quantifiably more nutritional food. That starts with other solutions, such as community gardening and the like. We have a timeline now, and the recommendations from the Auditor General to act on that are appropriate.

Business of Supply June 4th, 2015

Mr. Speaker, I want to thank my colleague the member for Northwest Territories for bringing this motion forward. As I said earlier, I appreciated the spirit of the motion. It is an acknowledgement that nutrition north as a program is part of the solution.

Having been involved, at the standing committee, in the process of developing the program, and as I recall, working quite co-operatively with members across the way, we came up with a program that would establish a new course for some very admirable goals around food prices, food security, and food quality in the north. What we agreed on at the time was that food prices were, and in fact continue to be, too high and that food security was an issue.

Furthermore, we agreed that the quality of food, for distribution reasons and purchasing options, were things the program should address. In addition, as has been pointed out in earlier parts of the debate, traditional foods and their distribution, and in particular their storage, were elements of a program moving forward that we frankly had not seen.

That makes perfect sense. Having been a nurse who has worked in isolated and remote communities, principally in the great Kenora riding but including northern Manitoba, northern Saskatchewan, the northern British Columbia coast, Cambridge Bay, and Arviat, I am not unfamiliar, in substance, with the importance of this opportunity.

We learned and we agreed, for example, that the previous program, the food mail program, had serious structural flaws. It was largely confined in its uptake to people who had the means to buy food from cities that typically served the north. Those would be the Edmontons, Winnipegs, Prince Alberts, and Val d'Ors of the world. Importantly, it required a credit or debit card to order food. Certainly, in the time I was working and living in the north, over the span of almost 20 years, there were many people who did not have these financial instruments to order that food. Something needed to change.

I believe that the nutrition north program is not the solution in every instance. There are good reasons for that because of the vastness of the north. I even heard the member for Timmins—James Bay allude to some nuanced community and regional solutions that could fit into the superordinate goal of a strategy that would work to decrease the price of food in the north and increase the quality of food and food security.

Nutrition north brought us to a couple of important pragmatic steps or interventions. The statistics have been put to this place in the debate and in previous discussions, during question period, and as far back as when this was first debated. The first step was reducing the price of a product. Particularly, the prices of categories of nutritional products like milk were reduced in the community. There were signs to let the consumer know what that price reduction would be. Those relationships were formed with the principal suppliers, at the very least, retailers in the community who sell food, and organizations that did the same remotely. That has had a positive effect. We have seen net reductions in the cost of food per month or per annum for families.

This debate is important, as we have now seen that nutrition north has been appreciably been implemented, and as the kinks get worked out we discover, and by way of debate, we can have an important conversation about what next steps nutrition north could, would, and should take.

Let me speak to that in two overarching ways, first with respect to the Auditor General's report and second on an emerging theme in this debate around other options.

I should say that I will be splitting my time with the member for Brampton West, and I appreciate that accommodation.

With respect to the Auditor General's report, one of the things that I was struck by—and, in fact, was waiting for—was his review of this particular program. It highlighted what I would prefer to frame as a number of opportunities that need to be addressed. We accepted those recommendations and we are taking action to address them.

They include reviewing the community eligibility criteria to ensure that they are based on need and reviewing the contribution agreements under the program so that retailers provide all information in a clear and transparent manner. In fairness, I have heard on both sides of the House and from all three parties the importance of that. Of course, the other item is to build on the implementation measures to monitor the program and ensure it is meeting its objectives.

Our approach, then, is twofold. First, we must ensure that each and every remote and isolated community has access to healthy food, including perishables such as fruits and vegetables. This means taking a very hard look at the program to ensure that communities that need access to the subsidy have access to it. Second, we must ensure that communities that are currently part of the program have clear access to information about the subsidies and that retailers pass savings on to the consumer.

Over the coming months, I will continue to work with communities in northern Ontario, a number of which have been listed by this member. Rather curiously, the NDP made what I believe was an unfortunate political choice by issuing a scathing article that I believe attacked me personally. That was not wise, given the reputation and commitment that I have for building schools, nursing stations, police stations, and significant infrastructure in my riding and the credibility that I have garnered over a 20-year career as a nurse, lawyer, and now member of Parliament for those regions.

In fact, I was in Webequie First Nation just a couple of weeks ago and visited a couple of other communities as well. I made some significant infrastructure announcements, notably to improve water and waste water treatment and importantly, in the case of Webequie, to build on the economic prospect it has as a major hub for Ring of Fire with some investments into its airport, which would also create a platform for more commercial activity that would benefit people directly, particularly with respect to commercial products available to them. I believe much of this is happening now.

In some regards this debate today, at least in spirit, as I have said before, is an important and meaningful one. I wish it were not as heavily politicized as it is. I am certainly aware of the first nations communities in my regions and the opportunities that we have. On that note, I will advance the discussion to some of the other distinctly local and regional policy options that are there for good reasons, in addition to nutrition north, and they are important.

What they include has been mentioned earlier. There are community gardens burgeoning in first nations communities. The new horizons program has helped a couple of first nations communities in my riding build community gardens led by elders.

However, I want to close on a policy option that is distinctly for northern Ontario and that I was pleased to support as the minister of FedNor. Chief Donny Morris in Kitchenuhmaykoosib Inninuwug and Chief Bull from Lac Seul First Nation joined me earlier this year to support a study to examine and enable regional food distribution.

It was a study that would determine the viability of a regional distribution centre out of Sioux Lookout to increase the purchasing power of a community or of groups of communities for perishable and non-perishable goods. This was done in association with the Federation of Canadian Municipalities and supported by the town of Sioux Lookout. By way of example, it represents some solutions.

I want to thank the member for Northwest Territories for bringing this discussion to this place and for the opportunity, as someone who has a rich and deep past living and working in isolated remote communities, particularly in my region, to speak to this important topic.

Business of Supply June 4th, 2015

Mr. Speaker, before I put a question to the parliamentary secretary, I want to say this about the motion. I appreciate some of the details, or at least the spirit of what the motion intends to address. I believe the member was at the Standing Committee on Aboriginal Affairs when we were working on this. The motion itself sends a clear signal that the nutrition north program is certainly better than anything we saw before. I can attest to that as someone who has spent more than eight years of his life actually living and working in isolated and remote first nations communities; not big cities in the far north, but isolated communities.

Although they fall short in a couple of key areas, the member is making best efforts to understand some of the fixes that are out there for consideration. In particular, transparency, food security and actually reducing the cost at the point of purchase in the communities are key facets that the motion's, perhaps, quick fix might not ultimately address for a broader and more admirable goal of reducing food costs and increasing food security for all northern communities, as they could become defined.

That pathway to address what I think the member is saying in spirit, begs the question of the parliamentary secretary around the Auditor General's report. We have accepted those recommendations.

Could the member describe, in the context of responding to the auditors general and perhaps considering other policy options for consideration in that process, what would ultimately reduce the cost of food and increase food security for all northern communities?

Mining Industry May 13th, 2015

Mr. Speaker, I thank the member for his question.

Tomorrow, as part of National Mining Week, I will open the Toronto Stock Exchange and celebrate our government's support for the mining sector.

In our recently tabled balanced budget, we are extending the mineral export tax credit as well as making new investments in geoscience, in geomapping innovation, and in the separation technology needed to develop such metals as chromite and rare earth elements located in the Ring of Fire. These measures reduce taxes and lower costs for the mining sector, and the sector appreciates that.

Sadly, the opposition votes against creating jobs, growth, and economic prosperity for our mining communities. Why?

The Environment May 7th, 2015

Mr. Speaker, I appreciate the member's question. We are committed to a strong, independent environmental assessment process that protects Canada's environment and promotes responsible resource development. The Canadian Nuclear Safety Commission is tasked with ensuring that nuclear projects are safe for Canadians and safe for the environment. We will review the joint review panel report before making any decisions on this file.

Natural Resources May 6th, 2015

Mr. Speaker, responsible resource development creates jobs and economic growth, while protecting the health and safety of communities and the environment. We look forward to the opportunity to work with the new premier.

There is no question that market diversification is an imperative. Countries around the world are looking for that kind of partnership with Canada. We offer fiscal stability and political stability. Moving forward with Alberta, we look forward to the opportunity to serve those new markets and continue to develop our resources responsibly.

Questions Passed as Orders for Returns May 5th, 2015

Mr. Speaker, I ask that the remaining questions be allowed to stand.

Questions Passed as Orders for Returns May 5th, 2015

Mr. Speaker, if Questions Nos. 1116 to 1118 could be made orders for return, these returns would be tabled immediately.

Questions on the Order Paper May 5th, 2015

Mr. Speaker, Question No. 1115 will be answered today.