House of Commons photo


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

Modernization Of House Of Commons Procedure March 21st, 2001

Mr. Speaker, I congratulate the hon. member on a wonderful speech. What really deserves credit is the fact that he described his affection for parliament. That is very important.

It is very important for those who do not want parliamentary reform to understand that those who want parliamentary reform do it from an affection, a love and a respect for this place. We do not do it because we do not respect parliament. It is in fact the exact opposite. We respect and love this place and want it to be what it should be. That is why we ask for parliamentary reform. I very much appreciated that comment in the hon. member's speech.

I want to ask him a specific question about quorum. He mentioned that we should probably increase quorum so that we have more members in the House and the debates are livelier and more deliberative. This place should be a national debating body. The whole notion of deliberation, of give and take, of debate back and forth, and of the tension between the opposition and the government side, is what produces good governance. Would he comment on whether we should increase the quorum requirements of the House of Commons?

Modernization Of House Of Commons Procedure March 21st, 2001

Mr. Speaker, I was very interested in what the member was saying. I know he has very extensive knowledge of how parliaments work and parliamentary history. I know he referenced the famous book Governing from the Centre: the Concentration of Power in Canadian Politics by Donald Savoie.

He and other parliamentary historians have talked about how, for the first 50 years of our nation, we had great involvement by private members. It was really a parliamentary democracy at that point and then it moved into more of a cabinet democracy, particularly in the 1950s. Today, here and now in the 21st century, we basically have what he calls court government, which is exactly as the hon. member described. We are almost back to having a monarch again. We are almost in pre-Magna Carta times.

I fully agree that we should not modernize this place. We must democratize this place. I agree the confidence convention and the free vote are the most important aspects of democratizing this place. Besides the confidence convention and the free vote, what other suggestions would the hon. member make to really restore this place to true parliamentary democracy?

Modernization Of House Of Commons Procedure March 21st, 2001

Mr. Speaker, that is the key, letting reason prevail. If there is no reason in what we do, we are irrational animals and the fact is that is what truly defines us. That is truly what enables us to achieve what we have certainly achieved in the history of humanity. That is what we need in the House. We need respect and decorum on both sides and we must let reason carry the day.

Modernization Of House Of Commons Procedure March 21st, 2001

Mr. Speaker, I should note that he was one of the first members to approach me as a new member and welcome me to the House, and I appreciate that.

He also said something very similar to what my father would say: discuss, debate and challenge each other on ideas but at the end of the day go together and have what he called a pop, relax and be friends. If we all had that sort of attitude about our place here, the House would be a much better place.

It is so necessary and it is something that I know the Speaker is trying to encourage through increasing the assembly of members of parliament as people who represent Canadians in a less partisan way. That would certainly be one way to improve the relationship of members in the House and the functioning of the House itself.

Modernization Of House Of Commons Procedure March 21st, 2001

Mr. Speaker, let me say good morning to you. I thank you especially for staying here during the debate and I thank all the House officers as well. I know they are all looking at us and wondering what in God's name these parliamentarians are doing here so late.

I am here because this issue is supremely important. It is very important to all Canadians but in particular to the people of Edmonton Southwest. In the first week of March I had a town hall meeting in my riding. This was the most prominent issue that came up again, again and again.

People in Edmonton feel powerless over what happens here and over what the government does with their taxpayer dollars. They want parliament to reassert itself, and private members to reassert themselves, over the spending controls exercised by the government. They essentially want to take back their government and empower parliamentarians so that parliamentarians can act on their behalf. However they want to empower themselves as citizens so they will have more direct control over how they are governed.

I will read the motion for the record. It states:

That a special committee of the House be appointed to consider and make recommendations on the modernization and improvement of the procedures of the House of Commons;

In the spirit of fairness I congratulate the government for putting the motion forward and I would like to depart a bit. I know we are not supposed to draw attention to members in the House, but I would like to commend the hon. member for Yukon for diligently partaking in the debate as a member of the government. It is very much appreciated on this side of the House.

I am hopeful, yet somewhat sceptical, that we will be able to make substantive changes to parliament so that we can more effectively represent Canadians.

One of the things that has caused me great concern, before I entered politics and certainly since then, has been the decline of public confidence in politics in general and political institutions in particular. That is a very disturbing and sad trend. It is disturbing to me for two reasons. The first is more for intellectual reasons and deals with the whole nature of politics itself.

I come from a political science and political philosophy background. If one examines what the word “politics” means and where it comes from, it comes from the Greek word polis meaning city. This means the city state, which was to philosophers like Plato and Aristotle the classical form of government. It was a form in which Aristotle said every citizen knew the character of each and every other citizen. What that allowed was a full and deliberative discussion within the city and the political community so that people were self-governed and governed better.

This also points to the importance of rhetoric, the importance of discussion, the importance of what Plato called the dialectic between people who engage in a dialogue for the importance of serving the truth or improving the nature of the community. That is what the whole parliamentary system is about. We face each other across the aisle not to shout and scream, but because the government is supposed to propose and the opposition is supposed to critique and hold the government accountable. It is that tension between the government and the opposition that truly provides for good governance.

I learned another thing about politics after attending the dinner with the Forum for Young Canadians. Many of these youthful people are very inspired with politics and want to pursue it as a career. Unfortunately, there are fewer and fewer people who want to do that. The very essence of politics and politicians themselves seems to be declining in public favour, and that is tragic.

Referring to Aristotle, politics should be a noble calling. He listed contemplation as the highest, but he had politics as the second highest noble calling. We should all work toward restoring that.

The second reason I would list beyond the intellectual would be the personal. I have enjoyed the debate tonight because people have relayed some personal stories, particularly the member for Elk Island. My political mentor is really my father. I learned politics at his knee. It is interesting that I am a member of the Canadian Alliance today, yet he was a former Liberal who in 1968 helped elect a member in Edmonton named Hu Harries. He was a very independent minded and intelligent member who came to Ottawa. The system here did not utilize that member's talents. That certainly disillusioned my father.

The more important lesson my father taught me was when he and I disagreed, whether it was over the kitchen table or wherever, was the importance of listening and of respecting someone else's point of view. He taught me that we should not impugn motive to people who disagree us, we should challenge their ideas, policies and what they say, but not who they are. I think that sense of respect has to be restored to parliament.

Unfortunately, I have seen some incidents in the past week and a half that were especially disturbing to me. I am not going to go into them, but those sorts of incidents destroy deliberative debate in the House and they must be dealt with severely.

One of the reasons I ran for parliament was to raise the level of debate in the House and the level of political discourse in Canada. Raising the respect and decorum in the House is the first way we must do this. We must ensure that arguments are carried and that decisions are made based on the reason of arguments rather than the loudness of our voices.

I want to take some time to make some specific recommendations. The first one, and the government house leader mentioned this today, would be to have votes following question period on Tuesday. I certainly encourage him to do that. That is certainly one example of a recommendation that would improve the House.

In terms of question period, it was mentioned that the U.K. parliament had a thematic question period in one day. From what I have heard from people who have observed the British parliament, it is certainly an improvement. It allows for a more engaging discussion.

In terms of omnibus bills, we had a recent bill from the Minister of Justice. Comparing our political system to that in the United States, Tip O'Neill was the master of this, he would throw everything into one bill. It was a hodgepodge. That is against the legislative process. A bill should be limited to a specific issue and ideal.

In terms of committees, we should have the election of chairmen and vice chairmen by secret ballot. We should also not have chairmen removed for a year by the Prime Minister or the whip of the party.

There is another thing I recommend. As new MPs, we were privileged to have an orientation by some past members of parliament. One member in particular, Daniel Turp who used to be a member for the Bloc Quebecois, suggested having committees not sit when the House was sitting. He said it would improve the number of people who could then attend parliament, as well as improving the attendance at committees.

In terms of speeches in the House of Commons, I am going to make a suggestion that my former employer, Ian McClelland, made. He is certainly a good friend of yours, Mr. Speaker. He suggested that we possibly shorten the length of speeches in the House and lengthen the period of time for questions and comments. It would improve the discussion and debate across the sides of the House, even between different opposition parties.

In terms of the power of appointment, all government appointments should go through a committee or a parliamentary review. In terms of private members' bills, we must make them votable. We referred to former member John Nunziata who stated:

Let members bring their ideas forward. If it is not a good idea, that member will be held accountable for that bad idea by his constituents. Let the House itself view this bill. If it is not a good idea it will be rejected.

In conclusion, the whole notion of the confidence convention is the most fundamental change that must be made here. It was interesting listening to the government House leader when he said that he was not here to change the constitution and that he was not here to completely revamp Canada.

The fact is that if we do not change the way the confidence convention is applied in the House we will not truly make the necessary democratic reforms. We must ensure that a vote on a specific bill is just that, a vote on that specific bill. The confidence convention must be removed so that if a particular bill is defeated we can then call for a confidence convention and the government can vote a second time on whether there is confidence in the government. That seems entirely reasonable to me.

I wish to refer to the relationship between parliament and the judiciary that was mentioned earlier by the member for Toronto—Danforth. I know they are likely outside the scope of this committee, but I would like hon. members to consider that important relationship to ensure the House truly becomes the parliamentary institution it needs to be.

Modernization Of House Of Commons Procedure March 21st, 2001

Mr. Speaker, I want to commend the hon. member for Elk Island. I think it is fantastic that he waited over 10 hours to give his speech on this very important subject and I certainly commend him for that.

I was very interested in his comments on private members' business. It is interesting that many members spoke very generally about parliamentary reform while this member had some very specific suggestions.

I would like to ask the hon. member if he has even more suggestions to give to the committee in regard to what should be implemented to make the House truly more democratic.

Species At Risk Act March 16th, 2001

Madam Speaker, I should note that I will be splitting my time with my hon. colleague in front from Surrey Central, one of the most loquacious members in the House.

I am pleased to rise today and speak on Bill C-5, the species at risk act. The government describes the purpose of the proposed act as follows. It aims to protect wildlife at risk from becoming extinct or loss in the wild, with the ultimate objective of helping their numbers to recover. The act will cover all wildlife species listed as being at risk nationally and their critical habitats.

The goal of the legislation is certainly a laudable goal. We in the official opposition recognize that there is a need for effective endangered species legislation. In fact, this recognition is reflected in our official policy statement. Our policy statement states:

The Canadian Alliance is committed to protecting and preserving Canada's natural environment and endangered species, and to sustainable development of our abundant natural resources for the use of current and future generations.

Furthermore, our farm policy states:

For any endangered species legislation to be effective, it must respect the fundamental rights of private property owners.

This entails including just compensation for landowners if habitat must be taken out of production. It also means that the government should strive to be as co-operative as possible with farmers and ranchers rather than using threats and criminal sanctions.

We in the official opposition support effective endangered species legislation. However, we have some concerns with regard to this particular legislation. We do not disagree with the government's goal but we do have some difficulties with the message it is employing to achieve that goal.

Following the lead of our member for Red Deer and the member for Edmonton—Strathcona in the last parliament, who have done yeomen work on the bill, we have attempted to be as constructive as possible in our criticisms.

The following are the criticisms that I would like to highlight.

First, the final listing of endangered species should rest not with the federal cabinet, but with the Committee on the Status of Endangered Wildlife in Canada.

Second, the voluntary co-operation and incentives already in Bill C-5 should be stronger.

Third, the bill must include a clearly outlined full compensation scheme.

Fourth, socio-economic analysis should be conducted prior to the development of species recovery plans to ensure that they do play a prominent role.

Fifth, the bill must respect provincial jurisdiction and apply equally to all Canadians.

This is a substantive list of criticism, many of which have been thoroughly covered by my colleagues here in the opposition.

I would like to focus in particular on the need to protect the private property rights of landowners and include fair compensation for landowners if habitat must be taken out of production. The effectiveness of the legislation directly depends on whether or not it respect those fundamental rights. The bill fails to clearly spell out what compensation will be provided for stakeholders who are forced to lose financially in the implementation of the bill.

The environment minister has indicated that he will spell out these compensation provisions in the regulation of the bill after its passage by parliament. That is simply unacceptable.

Furthermore, the Pearce Report, which the minister seems to be considering at this point, suggests that landowners would only receive compensation if economic losses exceeded 10% and that compensation would be limited to only 50% of losses. This is neither full nor fair compensation.

There are therefore two specific requirements that we would propose for compensation. First, the compensation provisions must be clearly indicated in the bill before members of the House so that we as parliamentarians and Canadians can determine whether these provisions are just.

Second, those who incur increased costs or reduced income as a result of the requirements of the bill must have full compensation. Saving endangered species is a benefit to all Canadians. The cost should not be excessively borne by a few landowners, farmers, ranchers, they should be shared by all.

Those are the specific compensation requirements.

I would now like to address the more general issue of the need for the government to respect private property rights. It seems to me that the government, through many of its bills, has encroached further and further into the realm of private property rights. This is a disturbing trend, one that we as parliamentarians ought to watch very carefully.

It is interesting that since the beginning of the session we have been very much occupied with the whole question of parliamentary reform, which is a smaller issue within the larger question of how we pass the laws that govern us.

However, as the famous philosopher Isaiah Berlin pointed out in his seminal essay, “Two Concepts of Liberty”, there is another question which is equally, if not more, important. That is the question of what activities government itself even ought to be making decisions about. It involves that very large question of to what extent we as individuals, citizens, families and communities require or even desire a government to involve itself in our lives.

It is a fundamental question for any political community and yet it strikes me how rarely we in the House even address it. We spend hours debating specific amendments to certain bills, but we spend precious little time debating the larger question of whether the government ought to be expanding its influence in the first place.

This is particularly alarming for me, because I generally believe that those communities which function best over the long term have governments that operate within clearly defined constitutional limits. In these communities, these limits are best set by a constitutional recognition of genuine, classical rights such as the right to own property and not be deprived thereof without just compensation.

Many great thinkers have expounded on the importance of private property and its relationship with liberty and justice. Even the great philosopher Aristotle mentioned it in his works in ancient Greece. The great orator of Roman times, Cicero, is actually responsible for the word property being transferred down to us today. One only has to think of John Locke and his “Two Treatises of Government” and his important discussion of private property rights there, or John Stuart Mill, or even the great American philosophers in the American revolution.

I would like to quote another thinker. Earlier today I was referring to a saint, so I would actually like to employ the words of another saint. These are very good quotes because they have a sort of sanctified presence about them. I would like to quote the patron saint of politicians, St. Thomas More. He linked the foundation and endurance of a civilized community with the proper respect for property, saying “Security of property is the first and all-essential duty of a civilized community”.

In relation to property and the proper limits of governance, St. Thomas More warned that the worst which can happen to the law itself is its overextension, its expansion into fields in which it cannot be competent. What happens then is that disrespect for law in all its capacities will increase.

He stated that:

You may to a certain extent control property and make it subservient to the ideal nature of man; but the moment you deny its rights, or undertake to legislate in defiance of them, you may for a time unsettle the very foundations of society, you will certainly in the end render property your despot instead of your servant, and so produce a materialized and debased civilization.

I should bring this debate back from this abstract discussion and finish in terms of the practical effects of the bill. However, I hope that all parliamentarians would consider the general nature and profound importance of property rights and the need for this legislation to properly respect the property rights of individual landowners. It can do so in specific ways, first, by working with private landowners on a voluntary basis, and second, by clearly indicating in the bill full and fair compensation provisions for those who incur increased costs or reduced income as a result of the requirements of the bill.

I also encourage my fellow parliamentarians to consider carefully the notion of property rights and the limits of government in general.

St. Patrick's Day March 16th, 2001

Mr. Speaker, tomorrow is St. Patrick's Day and I rise today to pay tribute to St. Patrick, to honour all sons and daughters of Ireland and to extend greetings to all on this blessed day.

St. Paddy's Day conjures up images of shamrocks, leprechauns and green beverages. I encourage everyone to partake in these festivities, but I also want people to reflect on the character of the person for whom this day is named.

Patricius was born in Roman Britain sometime in the 5th century. When he was 16 he was carried off into captivity by marauders and sold as a slave to a local warlord in Ireland. For six years Patrick tended his master's sheep, during which time he developed a deep and abiding faith in God and a virulent hatred of slavery.

These passions inspired him to dedicate his life to serving God and ministering to the people of Ireland. He also became a strong voice against slavery and for the equal dignity of human beings.

He did not chase the snakes out of Ireland, and he may never have plucked a shamrock to teach the mystery of the Trinity, yet St. Patrick deserves to be remembered and honoured for the example of his life—

Reproductive Technologies February 27th, 2001

Mr. Speaker, later this year Dr. Severino Antinori and his team of American and Japanese surgeons will proceed with the first human cloning experiment, the first of a planned batch of 200.

These experiments and the results will have serious, far-reaching implications for humanity. The question of human cloning raises some fundamental scientific and ethical questions for us as human beings in general and as citizens of Canada in particular.

Canada simply does not have the necessary regulatory framework to establish parameters for this type of research. It has been eight years since the royal commission on reproductive and genetic technologies recommended the establishment of a national framework for the support and regulation of these technologies. It has been five years since the Liberal government attempted to introduce poorly drafted legislation on this subject and was obliged to withdraw it.

I call upon the government to introduce legislation immediately to deal with issues of human cloning and other reproductive and genetic technologies.

Government Of Canada February 16th, 2001

Mr. Speaker, I will tell the minister exactly what I do not like in his speech. The minister used his speech at the University of Toronto to attack two prominent western Canadians. This is a simply a continuation of the Liberal Party's practice of demonizing those who disagree with its uncooperative, unimaginative, centralist approach to governing Canada.

Will the minister please explain how attacking a former prime minister and the present leader of Her Majesty's Loyal Opposition helps the cause of Canadian unity?