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Crucial Fact

  • His favourite word was industry.

Last in Parliament October 2015, as Conservative MP for Edmonton—Leduc (Alberta)

Won his last election, in 2011, with 64% of the vote.

Statements in the House

Committees of the House November 28th, 2013

Mr. Speaker, I have the honour to present, in both official languages, the first report of the Standing Committee on Finance concerning Bill C-4, A second act to implement certain provisions of the budget tabled in Parliament on March 21, 2013 and other measures.

The committee has studied the bill and has decided to report the bill back to the House without amendment.

Committees of the House June 17th, 2013

Mr. Speaker, I have the honour to table, in both official languages, the 21st report of the Standing Committee on Finance on Bill S-17, An Act to implement conventions, protocols, agreements and a supplementary convention, concluded between Canada and Namibia, Serbia, Poland, Hong Kong, Luxembourg and Switzerland, for the avoidance of double taxation and the prevention of fiscal evasion with respect to taxes.

The committee has studied the bill and has decided to report the bill back to the House without amendment

Mr. Speaker, if you would just allow me, this bill was done in a very quick period. I would like to thank all three political parties in that committee, all members of that committee, for coming together in a very quick period. I would also like to thank all committee staff, especially our clerk, Christine, for all her efforts in putting this together very quickly.

Expansion and Conservation of Canada’s National Parks Act June 6th, 2013

Mr. Speaker, I want to thank the member opposite. He is a former chair of the finance committee, and I certainly enjoyed serving with him on that committee.

With respect to Sable Island, that was a very active debate. I did not mention it specifically in my speech. However, with respect to the establishment of the park there, the companies have actually given up their leases for development. I know there will be an active debate at committee with respect to the seismic activity.

I think we should recognize the efforts of the minister in terms of establishing this park, this preserve, and actually getting industry to sort of move back from it, to step back from it. This is very similar to what is happening in the Jasper situation, where the ski area operator is actually removing himself from a sizeable area of land in exchange for development in a smaller area of land.

It is a very good exchange for both. I look forward to a good debate at committee with respect to any seismic activity that may occur near the Sable Island preserve.

Expansion and Conservation of Canada’s National Parks Act June 6th, 2013

Mr. Speaker, I want to thank my colleague, the member for Calgary Centre for talking about her experiences at the Jasper National Park.

This is a park that I first visited when I was two years old. I used to go back every summer. I spent a lot of summers with my family there, hiking, and then obviously enjoying the ski hill there as well.

The member points to a theme, that the human enjoyment can be balanced with the protection of the environment. In this case, the exchange of the 118 hectares, which would be returned to ecologically sensitive land, with the 60 hectares, which could be used for development, would be a very good exchange for both, frankly, in terms of development and certainty for the ski hill operator and skiers who want to enjoy that area, and also for Parks Canada and people who want to preserve that wilderness going forward, for any of the species in the area. I mentioned the caribou. The exchange taking place is very sensitive to the caribou in the area.

I think it is a fantastic initiative. I applaud the Minister of the Environment for bringing this forward. I look forward to the bill passing at second reading and hopefully through committee so we can actually implement this legislation.

Expansion and Conservation of Canada’s National Parks Act June 6th, 2013

Mr. Speaker, I certainly share the view of the member for Saanich—Gulf Islands in the sense that within our national parks, there is obviously a tension between any development that may occur to ensure that people have the opportunity to enjoy these parks and ensuring that the ecologically sensitive areas and the natural state people want to go there to enjoy is actually preserved.

In this case, with respect to Marmot Basin, the ski area has offered to remove from its lease and return to the park 118 hectares of ecologically sensitive land. In exchange, 60 hectares of land in a less ecologically sensitive area will be made available to that operator. I think this is, frankly, a very good solution going forward.

I go to Elk Island National Park on a regular basis, just outside the city of Edmonton. I love going there. I love hiking through the park, but I realize that every time I go there, I am, to some extent, as a human being, disturbing that natural area. We have to stick to the paths and recognize that we are in the beauty of a national park, but we have to very much recognize the human impact. It is very much a balance, and the government, in this case, has actually found that balance very well.

Expansion and Conservation of Canada’s National Parks Act June 6th, 2013

Mr. Speaker, I can assure my colleague that I certainly share his level of respect across the aisle and appreciate all of his good work on the finance committee with all of the members there.

With respect to how this impacts a particular park, I would encourage the member to work with the Minister of the Environment and the minister responsible for Parks Canada with respect to heritage sites or parks.

I had the opportunity, as a Canadian of Irish heritage, to work with a former member of Parliament from the area responsible for Grosse-Îles as well as with the minister of the environment at the time, Mr. Jim Prentice, to increase the resources to that area and ensure that it had the services needed to show what is, in my view, an international treasure. It is a place where over 5,000 people of Irish descent came to Canada and, unfortunately, passed away, including many French Canadians who welcomed these people and cared for them. Many of them died in the process. It is a very moving site. It shows what Parks Canada can do when it combines a national historic site with a national park. It is just an amazing experience.

With respect to this bill, it actually deals with the Sable Island national park reserve. It deals with Yoho National Park and Jasper National Park. With respect to the specific park he raised, I encourage him to work directly with the Minister of the Environment.

Expansion and Conservation of Canada’s National Parks Act June 6th, 2013

Mr. Speaker, it has been a fascinating debate here tonight, and I want to thank all the members who have taken part during speeches and questions and comments. I have to preface my remarks by saying that the previous speaker was riveting, as I think the member for Halifax and the Parliamentary Secretary said. I will be more focused on the details and the technical substance of the bill, plus I have never been accused of being riveting.

I am very pleased today to speak to the second part of Bill S-15 dealing with the establishment of Sable Island national park. It deals with three distinct matters: the amendment of section 4 of the Canada National Parks Act and amendments to sections 4 and 5 of that act. I will deal with each of these amendments in turn, found in clauses 13, 14 and 15 of the bill.

First, clause 13 of the bill proposes amendments to address concerns of the Standing Joint Committee of the Scrutiny of Regulations regarding section 4 of the Canada National Parks Act. Section 4 is one of the cornerstones of the act. It dedicates national parks to the people of Canada for their benefit, education and enjoyment, subject to the act and the regulations, and provides that the parks are to be maintained and made use of so as to leave them unimpaired for the enjoyment of future generations.

This wording has remained virtually unchanged for over eight decades and has served to guide the Parks Canada agency and its predecessor institutions in the establishment and operation of a system of national parks that is truly the pride of Canadians and the envy of the world. The amendments proposed in the bill do not change this intent. In fact, they leave this wording untouched.

The bill makes two amendments to section 4. It fixes the discrepancy between the English and the French versions, a change that does not alter the meaning of this clause.

The bill also adds a new subsection 4.(1.1) to clarify the authority of the minister of the environment to use sections 23 or 24 of the Parks Canada Agency Act to set fees in national parks. The wording of this clause in the bill was improved through an amendment made by the Senate. The current wording effectively avoids any misinterpretation of the intent of the proposed changes.

Clauses 14 and 15 of the bill deal with matters affecting particular national parks in western Canada. We have heard a very interesting debate from people, especially from Nova Scotia, debating Sable Island and the establishment of that national park. I would like to now describe how they address specifically the needs of two of Canada's oldest national parks in western Canada, Yoho National Park of Canada and Jasper National Park of Canada.

Clause 14 of the bill amends the descriptions of the commercial zones for the community of Field, British Columbia, located within Yoho National Park of Canada. I remind the House that the Canada National Parks Act requires all communities within a national park to have a community plan that sets out a vision, management principles and design parameters. The community plans also identify the zoning regime, including commercial zones and associated growth limits.

Since 2004, development in the communities must be consistent with the commercial zones as well as with the maximum commercial floor area as set out under schedule 4 of the Canada National Parks Act. A legislative amendment is required to make any changes in these provisions.

The first community plan for Field was prepared by Parks Canada in 1999 and led to the description of commercial zones and the commercial floor area growth limit, which are currently found in schedule 4 of the Canada National Parks Act.

In 2006, Parks Canada assessed the ecological, social and economic health of Field and released its findings in a state of the community report. The report noted that zoning was restricting the range of services visitors had come to expect in a national park, the community's economic viability and affordability for community residents. Many of the report's recommendations have been implemented, but those associated with changing commercial zones require an amendment to schedule 4 of the CNPA.

Bill S-15 proposes three minor zoning changes to schedule 4 for certain properties in Field.

When commercial zones in national park communities were introduced into the Canada National Parks Act, the bunkhouse property owned by the Canadian Pacific Railway had been developed as a restaurant, and a description of the property was included in schedule 4. It was also expected that CPR's former railway station would be redeveloped as a commercial land use, and it too was included in schedule 4. Since then, the restaurant has ceased operations, and no commercial developments for the railway station have been proposed. CPR requires both properties for its operations and has requested a zoning change from commercial to railway and utilities.

Another site on the outskirts of Field, including property occupied by a gas station, had been zoned as institutional in anticipation of a museum that has never been built. The zoning would be changed to commercial to accommodate the gas station that currently exists on the site and serves the needs of both the community and its visitors.

The site of the former Royal Canadian Mounted Police office and barracks was originally zoned residential, with a notation in the original plan that it would be changed at a later date to commercial zoning to accommodate a bed and breakfast and a gift shop. As these developments have occurred, the change to commercial would reflect the current reality.

These zoning modifications are not controversial. They are supported by the community and they are well within the commercial growth limit already established in schedule 4. They would help support services required by park visitors and the town's businesses and residents. They are important to the economic viability of the community of Field and meet the intent of the community plan objectives. They would have no impact on the ecological integrity of Yoho National Park of Canada.

I would now like to turn to the amendments in clause 15 of the bill that would affect Jasper National Park of Canada. They involve the ski resort at Marmot Basin, which is located just 20 minutes from the town of Jasper within the boundaries of the park itself.

The ski hill has been in operation since 1961, and since then has provided exceptional skiing experiences to hundreds of thousands of visitors, including you, I believe, Mr. Speaker.

Before getting into the details of the amendments proposed by clause 15, which would bring positive benefits to both Jasper National Park and the ski hill operator, I wish to first describe the legislative and policy controls that Parks Canada has put in place with respect to ski hill development and the management of national parks in general. This will allow me to squarely address concerns raised previously in this House regarding the nature of the analysis brought to bear on the proposals relating to Marmot Basin ski area and on the opportunities for public input into these proposals.

The 1998 provisions were introduced in the Canada National Parks Act requiring that the boundary and size of each ski area be set out in schedule 5 of the act. Any change to those boundaries requires a legislative amendment. The bill is the vehicle for an amendment to the Marmot Basin ski area boundaries, as currently set out in schedule 5 of the act.

In addition to the legislative controls set out under the Canada National Parks Act, Parks Canada has, since 2000, established a series of policies that guide the management of ski areas in national parks. The Parks Canada ski area management guidelines outline a broad management approach for ski areas.

Parks Canada consulted with ski areas, communities, non-governmental organizations and tourism industry representatives in 2006 to get their feedback about potential refinements to the ski area management guidelines. Adjustments were made to the guidelines based on the feedback they received. These guidelines are supplemented by site-specific guidelines for each ski area to establish permanent growth limits and set out site-specific direction for development and use.

The final element of control is a requirement for ski areas to develop long-range plans and to carry out detailed impact analysis for project proposals that the ski area wishes to advance in a 5- to 15-year timeframe.

These policies provide a comprehensive and tightly controlled framework for the management of ski hill operations in national parks that provides long-term land use certainty for the ski hill area operators, for the Canadian public and for Parks Canada.

This framework respects the Parks Canada mandate of maintaining or restoring ecological integrity while fostering a connection to place through the memorable visitor experiences and educational opportunities. It also provides ski area operators with clear parameters for business planning in support of viable financial operations.

In the case of Marmot Basin ski area, its site guidelines for development and use were approved by Parks Canada in 2008. They outline what development and use may be considered in the future, and establish growth limits, ecological management parameters and approaches to ski area operation.

The site guidelines were prepared in collaboration with Marmot Basin, and included a comprehensive public participation program and completion of a strategic environmental assessment.

A long-range plan and its associated environmental assessment for the Marmot Basin ski area in Jasper National Park are under development currently. In fact, Marmot Basin has recently posted on its website notice of its intention to have public consultations on its long-range plans, starting this fall.

The process put in place by Parks Canada clearly requires that there be a thorough environmental analysis and that the public be engaged. In fact, the public has been consulted every step of the way, from the development of the agency ski area of management guidelines, with its input leading to modification of these guidelines in 2006, to the 2008 Marmot Basin site specific guidelines for development and use and, finally, now at the stage of the development of the ski area's long-range plan. There are plans for engaging the public this fall. This answers the concerns raised regarding proper analysis and the participation of Canadians who are concerned in the project review process.

One example of the detailed analysis is the collaboration between Parks Canada and Marmot Basin on two wildlife studies that will shed new light on habitat features and local movements by mountain goats and caribou. These studies will be used in the long-range planning process under the Marmot Basin site guidelines.

Information on the research findings will be publicly available and this information will contribute to future decision making by Parks Canada about the ski area and managing the adjacent wilderness in the area being considered for the amendments to schedule 5 of the Canada National Parks Act. No decisions will be made until these studies are completed.

The House heard concerns raised about the caribou found in Jasper National Park. In fact, one of the studies, referred to above, is a caribou risk assessment led by Dr. Fiona Schmiegelow at the University of Alberta. Parks Canada has also developed its own conservation strategy for southern mountain caribou in Canada's national parks.

Turning now to the situation which gave rise to the proposed amendments, the operator of the Marmot Basin ski area wishes to improve the ski experience in Marmot Basin to remain competitive with other new and expanded ski operations in the region and stay financially viable.

The growth limits and the site guidelines for the Marmot Basin ski area are based on a design capacity of 6,500 skiers per day. Currently, the ski hill frequentation averages a little over 4,000 skiers per day. The existing commercial space can serve less than 3,300 skiers. There is a need for additional facilities and services and room for them to be developed in a manner to achieve an exceptional skiing experience, while respecting conservation imperatives.

The ski area management guidelines will only allow ski areas to add new ski terrain through an exchange that results in a substantial environmental gain to the ecological integrity of the park, which brings us to the bill before us.

The operator for the Marmot Basin ski area has proposed a solution through a reduction of its leasehold boundary that will result in a substantial environmental gain, the ecological integrity of Jasper National Park. The Marmot Basin ski area has offered to remove from its lease and return to the park 118 hectares of ecologically-sensitive land in the Whistlers Creek valley. This is undeveloped terrain that is important habitat for many wildlife species, including woodland caribou, a threatened species under the Species At Risk Act, as well as for grizzly bears and mountain goats. In exchange, 60 hectares of land in a less ecologically-sensitive area will be made available to the ski area operator to develop beginner ski terrain and cross-country ski trails.

The land to be exchanged was carefully selected to avoid caribou habitat and other important wildlife habitats, including potential grizzly bear denning sites, none of which have been identified in the area. Before any development would be authorized, further environmental evaluation of the area would be conducted in the context of the long-range planning process the Marmot Basin has announced recently and to which I referred just a few minutes ago.

The proposed removal of the 188 hectares from the ski area leasehold is considered a substantial environmental gain for several reasons.

First, the reconfiguration of the lease represents an 18% reduction in the leasehold, which is a major reduction in size.

Second, the lease reduction establishes long-term certainty in approved protection for sensitive and important mountain caribou and goat habitat, including caribou food sources and a goat mineral lick.

Third, the area would be added to an existing declared wilderness area that would have a greater degree of protection than is currently the case. Uses would be carefully managed to protect the wilderness character of the area.

Next, the lease reduction is a positive contribution of Parks Canada's participation in current and future broad-scale ecosystem management initiatives to better protect caribou habitat. The lease reduction protects broad ecological values for multiple species associated with the Whistlers Creek valley, including habitat security for other valley and sensitive species, such as grizzly bear, wolverine and lynx.

This proposal fits squarely within the parameters of the Parks Canada policy regime for ski area management. The 2006 ski area management guidelines, Parks Canada's overarching policy document for ski area management, specifically allow for the potential to make modifications proposed where there is a substantial environmental gain. This applies in situations where there is a leasehold reduction or a reconfiguration that results in better protection of sensitive areas in exchange for development of less sensitive areas.

The bill would improve the protection of sensitive ecosystems in Jasper National Park while creating greater certainty in land use. It would maintain Park Canada's authority to carry out its mandate while giving the ski area operator the possibility to make business decisions with certainty and confidence.

As I have pointed out, the proposed changes to the Marmot Basin ski area leasehold set out in schedule 5 of the Canada National Parks Act give us a win-win situation. It would be a win for the ski hill operator who could take steps to enhance its competitive position by following the strict rules set out in the Parks Canada legislation and policy. Most of all, it would be a win for Jasper National Park of Canada, which would benefit from a reduction in the ski area leasehold boundary and be able to provide enhanced protection to habitat for a variety of wildlife, including the threatened caribou.

In closing, I would like to reiterate that part 2 of Bill S-15 would bring very positive benefits for Parks Canada and all Canadians. It would effect minor amendments to section 4 of the Canada National Parks Act that maintain the strength and purpose of the dedication clause while clarifying the administrative ability of the minister to set fees in national parks under related legislation. It would make minor but important amendments that would benefit the community of Field, a town site in Yoho National Park of Canada. It would provide for a substantial environmental gain for wildlife habitat in Jasper National Park of Canada.

Above all, this bill is evidence of this government's commitment to ensuring that Canada's national parks offer visitors inspiring experiences and meaningful opportunities to connect to these places while ensuring their protection for future generations. I urge all members on both sides of the House to support this bill going to committee and moving this initiative forward.

Safe Drinking Water for First Nations Act June 6th, 2013

Mr. Speaker, in terms of capacity, my colleague from Renfrew—Nipissing—Pembroke mentioned the circuit rider training program. I think this is an excellent program that members on both sides can certainly support.

The government invested in the development and implementation of a remote watering system, for instance, in my own province of Alberta. The total cost for this initiative was $4.3 million. It was in direct response to a number of recurring issues that have been identified by the circuit rider trainers.

It is a very specific example with respect to capacity to ensure that these changes were going to be made both in terms of regulation, but also in terms of investments. They can make a real difference in terms of the impacts for people who live in first nations communities.

Safe Drinking Water for First Nations Act June 6th, 2013

Mr. Speaker, the first part of the member's question dealt with consultation. He is correct in the sense that the government obviously has a duty to consult. To respond to him on that point, since 2006, there have been expert panel public hearings held across Canada. They heard from over 110 presenters and received more than two dozen submissions. There was a series of engagement sessions held with first nations communities in February and March 2009. There were 700 participants, of which 544 were first nations. In the fall and winter of 2009-10, government officials met with first nations chiefs and organizations to discuss specific regional issues raised during the engagement sessions. From October 2010 to October 2011, there were discussions held with first nations organizations to deal with this as well.

His own party, and the former leader of the party, introduced a motion in the House to address the urgency with respect to water quality for first nations communities and those residents. That is exactly why the government is acting on this.

With respect to the $3 billion in investments between 2006 and 2013 the member referenced, during my speech I mentioned a number of the communities that have received very specific investments. One community received $10 million. The Bouctouche First Nation in New Brunswick received $2 million. The Wasauksing First Nation, located near Parry Sound, received $16 million. There are very specific investments across the country. I referenced the--

Safe Drinking Water for First Nations Act June 6th, 2013

Mr. Speaker, it is my pleasure today to stand in this House and speak in support of Bill S-8, the safe drinking water for first nations act.

This proposed legislation is a key part of a collaborative, comprehensive plan to improve the quality of water available to first nation communities. The bill includes a mechanism to establish regulatory regimes to safeguard water quality. These regimes, typically under provincial law, exist in every community in this country, except first nation communities. While the primary goal of these regimes is to establish water treatment and water quality standards to protect the health and safety of Canadians, they also serve to protect the sizeable investments made in infrastructure, such as the treatment facilities and distribution networks that serve these communities.

Bill S-8 strives to ensure that first nations communities can access the same benefits that regulations afford other communities: safe drinking water, with efficient treatment and distribution facilities that function effectively throughout their entire operational life cycles.

To fully appreciate the importance of this bill, we must also understand the other parts of this plan, in particular the investments in infrastructure.

Our government continues to invest a significant amount of resources in the infrastructure needed to deliver safe drinking water to residents of first nation communities. In fact, between 2006 and 2013-14, our government will have invested approximately $3 billion. These investments are supporting first nations to fund a variety of projects, including installations of new systems, repairs to aging systems and the replacement of components. The projects have involved all aspects of water systems and waste water infrastructure, such as treatment facilities, pumping stations, storage tanks and piping networks. These investments are helping these communities meet their needs.

A closer look at a few of the projects supported by these investments demonstrates the very tangible impact they have on these communities and the people who live there. Let us consider the four first nations of St. Theresa Point, Wasagamack, Red Sucker Lake and Garden Hill in the Island Lake region of east-central Manitoba.

Providing safe drinking water has long been a challenge in this region, for several reasons. Until the late 1990s, diesel generators represented the only source of electricity in Island Lake communities. Local geography in the Island Lake region creates a second challenge. The community sits on the hard, mostly bare rock of the Canadian Shield, making it difficult and expensive to install and maintain pipes to distribute water to each home. A few homes have indoor plumbing and bathrooms, which are amenities that have to be added to take full advantage of an integrated water and waste water system. Addressing these challenges has required careful planning and considerable investments.

Since April 1, 2006, the government has made investments of $50 million to improve and maintain water and waste water systems in these communities. Major investments include over $26 million for a piped-water distribution and sewage collection system at Garden Hill, and nearly $10 million for a water treatment plant, two water trucks and a sewage truck at Red Sucker Lake.

Today, residents of the four first nations access drinking water through a hybrid system of pipes, cisterns, tanks, standpipes and a fleet of trucks. Work on these projects continues this year. To help the first nations plan and implement further improvements, the Government of Canada has also provided resources for feasibility studies.

According to Chief Alex McDougall of Wasagamack First Nation, the projects have had a dramatic impact on Island Lake communities. In his words, and I quote: “It means a healthier and cleaner environment, clean drinking water for the entire family.... This has been a true effort to work together, and that relationship needs to continue to be nurtured”.

Similar results are being achieved in dozens of first nation communities across Canada. Earlier this year, Marcel Colomb First Nation, located about 600 kilometres northwest of Island Lake, opened a new water treatment system, thanks to a Government of Canada investment of more than $8 million.

We are investing more than $2 million to support the design and construction of a pumphouse and water storage tank for Bouctouche First Nation in New Brunswick. An investment of a similar amount led to last year's completion of upgrades to a water treatment system that serves both the Gitanmaax Band and the village of Hazelton. These two communities in northwest British Columbia have a long history of co-operation and share a number of services, including water storage and distribution and waste disposal.

The last project I will mention today involves Wasauksing First Nation, located near Parry Sound, Ontario. Thanks in part to a government investment of more than $16 million, this first nation has a new water treatment system that takes into account local geography and hydrology.

The system includes a new intake and low-lift pumping station, a slow sand filtration system treatment plant, an elevated water reservoir and a delivery truck and heated garage. The project created 15 temporary jobs for members of the first nation and three full-time permanent positions for two plant operators and one driver.

These are just a few of the numerous first nations drinking water and waste water projects our government has supported over the last seven years. The project's aim is to improve the health and safety of community residents. To ensure that these systems can continuously produce safe drinking water, they must be supported by regulatory regimes that stipulate quality standards and treatment protocols. Until an appropriate accountability mechanism is in place, investments in water infrastructure will remain at risk. Bill S-8 proposes to establish these necessary accountability mechanisms.

Bill S-8 is an important part of a larger comprehensive strategy, built on three pillars, to improve the quality of drinking water in first nation communities. Along with the establishment of regulations and ongoing investments in infrastructure, the strategy calls for improvements in the training and certification of the men and women who operate first nations' water systems.

Our government invests approximately $10 million annually to train and certify these operators. In the last year alone, the number of certified operators of water and waste water facilities has increased by 10%. This is significantly increasing the water quality enjoyed by first nations across the country and is decreasing the risks associated with these water systems. This is in addition to funding the maintenance and operation of some 1,200 on-reserve water and waste water systems.

Our government will continue to make these investments so that residents of first nations communities can access safe, clean drinking water. Nevertheless, without the support of regulatory regimes, these investments and the health and safety of thousands of Canadians living on reserve will remain at risk. The regulations stemming from Bill S-8 will provide residents of first nation communities with the same level of confidence as other Canadians when it comes to their own drinking water.

I therefore ask all hon. colleagues on both sides of the House to stand up for first nations and those communities across the country and to join me in supporting this piece of legislation.