House of Commons photo

Crucial Fact

  • His favourite word was debate.

Last in Parliament October 2010, as Conservative MP for Prince George—Peace River (B.C.)

Won his last election, in 2008, with 64% of the vote.

Statements in the House

Youth Employment April 15th, 1994

Mr. Speaker, I thank the minister for the answer.

I have learned that he has planned a news conference for later today to release the details of the program. I may be new to Parliament but I hear that holding Friday afternoon press conferences is an old Ottawa trick. Apparently the idea is to get the information out without any chance for opposition MPs to question or criticize before the following week.

It is obvious the announcement has been ready for several days. Why is the minister trying to sneak it out the back door on a Friday afternoon?

Youth Employment April 15th, 1994

Mr. Speaker, my question is for the Minister of Human Resources Development.

Yesterday the minister suggested that one of my colleagues should not question the youth employment strategy because it had not yet been released. However yesterday's Financial Post carried a detailed description of the program, complete with direct quotes from the minister.

Why does the minister feel that he can comment on information leaked from his department when asked by the media, but members on this side of the House cannot even comment or ask questions?

Gun Control April 15th, 1994

Mr. Speaker, I would like to commend the justice minister for responding to the two recent slayings in Ottawa and Toronto by calling for tougher laws for violent young offenders.

It has been far too long in coming but people back home in northern B.C. are gravely concerned over other statements by the minister. He has been quoted as saying that he came to Ottawa with the firm belief that the only people in this country who should have guns are police officers and soldiers.

This is a sobering thought for millions of responsible gun owners in Canada. Why is the focus on disarming citizens because criminals continuously misuse guns?

While people in Ottawa and Toronto mourn the loss of these latest victims, one of our elderly was murdered in Val Belair in yet another senseless home invasion.

Only the criminals would have guns in the minister's city of the future and they would not have to guess, they would know that Canadians would be defenceless in their homes.

Vancouver Port Corporation March 22nd, 1994

The question is does the minister still maintain that the decisions reached by this board are independent and not influenced by his government?

Vancouver Port Corporation March 22nd, 1994

I have a supplementary question, Mr. Speaker.

Both the unions and the shipping companies recommended the reappointment of Patrick Reid, the past chairman of the Vancouver Port Corporation. They all agreed he was doing a great job.

Despite this unusual show of solidarity the Prime Minister and cabinet approved the appointment of Mr. Ron Longstaffe to this $65,000 part time position.

The former campaign manager for the hon. member for Vancouver Centre has been quoted as saying that he has been a supporter of the Prime Minister for 10 years and that is all part of the political-

Vancouver Port Corporation March 22nd, 1994

Mr. Speaker, last week the Minister of Transport was asked a question regarding the approval of a casino on the Vancouver waterfront by the Vancouver Port Corporation. He responded that the government has nothing to do with this decision, stating that an independent board is responsible for deciding these matters.

Could the minister explain to the House how this board is appointed and what criteria is used in determining who receives these appointments?

The Grumman Goose March 22nd, 1994

Mr. Speaker, I would like to call the attention of the House to a potential tragedy for Canadian aviation history.

In a Prince George RCMP hangar rests the Grumman Goose. This plane was built in 1944, can land on water, snow or ground and has logged over 24,000 flying hours. It has seen service on both coasts, in Ottawa and the high Arctic. It has been used for drug busts, surveillance, rescues and air shows in addition to ferrying people and equipment.

The RCMP may have to sell this 50-year old plane and the National Aviation Museum cannot afford the estimated price tag of $300,000.

I implore the RCMP and the government to reconsider the possible sale of this plane to give Canadians the time to find alternatives for raising the money to preserve this piece of our heritage. If not, the last flight of the Goose will probably take it out of Canada forever, heading south of the border to the highest bidder.

Electoral Boundaries Readjustment Suspension Act March 21st, 1994

Mr. Speaker, we are talking about process here. Other than the suspension for 24 months there is nothing in Bill C-18 that would indicate the government intends to follow through with an in-depth review. The government has stated that it is not in the bill.

We are saying that this is simply a way for the government to circumvent the system. Rather than having an open, consultative process wherein members of the public, including MPs, are quite free to make submissions both written and oral in front of the commissions when they are in their areas or our ridings, we will refer it to a committee of politicians. It is my contention that the public has had enough of that type of attitude.

Electoral Boundaries Readjustment Suspension Act March 21st, 1994

Mr. Speaker, I rise in the House today to voice my strong opposition to Bill C-18, an act to suspend the operation of the Electoral Boundaries Readjustment Act. I feel quite strongly that this government's taking it upon itself to halt these proceedings, resulting in the disbanding of the existing electoral boundary commissions is not only unethical but also is highly irregular.

Of the approximate $8 million allocated for the readjustment process an estimated $5 million has already been spent. If the bill is passed into law, how much additional funding will be required to revisit the ground already covered? In other words, how much of the $5 million will have been wasted?

Although I am completely opposed to the bill, my opposition should not be misconstrued to mean that I am happy with the proposals the commissions have drafted for redefining existing electoral boundaries. Certainly there seems to be widespread concern among my colleagues in this place. However I have yet to see evidence that their concern is echoed by the Canadian electorate.

My constituency of Prince George-Peace River is huge. It encompasses 212,000 square kilometres in the northeast corner of British Columbia, stretching from the city of Prince George in central B.C. all the way to the Yukon border. No other federal riding straddles the Rocky Mountains, and this poses a serious barrier for winter travel in the constituency. The Pine Pass connecting the Peace River area with the rest of the province has one of the highest annual snowfalls found anywhere in Canada. Having lived all my life in the north, I can personally vouch for the difficulty it presents for east-west travel within the riding. To travel by road from the Lower Post community on the Yukon border to Prince George in the south requires driving some 1,300 kilometres. This does not take into account any side trips to communities lying off the main arterial routes of the Alaska or Hart highways.

In addition to the three main centres of population of Prince George, Fort St. John and Dawson Creek, the riding encompasses some seven additional smaller municipalities beginning in the north with Fort Nelson. These include Taylor, Hudson Hope, Pouce Coupe, Chetwynd, Tumbler Ridge and Mackenzie. There are also 15 native communities located in the constituency. Some are inaccessible by road during summer months; others can only be reached by air, river boat or snowmobile.

Not only is the riding a blend of urban and rural; it is also a home to a mixture of diverse industries. With over 80 per cent of the arable land of British Columbia located in the Peace River district, the riding has a strong agricultural base. The economic viability of the area is further assured by the existence of many other industries such as oil and gas, lumber, pulp and paper, mining, hydroelectric, trapping, guiding, tourism and manufacturing. Representing such a multitude of interests and concerns is already an incredible challenge to the member of Parliament.

Under the proposed electoral boundary changes the physical size of the riding will be lengthened by adding roughly 300 kilometres of the Yellowhead highway and a further 70 or so of the Cariboo highway south of Prince George. This increase in geographical size will be offset by losing the one-third of Prince George currently contained within the riding. The elimination of confusion that currently results from having Prince George split into two ridings must be weighed against the fact that the MP will have to travel through Prince George to service the 10 or so smaller communities in the extreme southern end of the new riding.

The only other noteworthy change is the loss of the native community of Lower Post near the Yukon border. Under the proposed changes this community would find itself in the riding of Skeena, even though the MP would have to travel through part of Yukon to get to it.

Although the suggested boundaries would ensure that the new riding of Peace-Yellowhead has a more consistent rural flavour, I am not in favour of the proposal because of the substantial increase in the physical size. It is proving more than difficult enough now to get around the riding on anything resembling a regular basis, without the addition of hundreds more kilometres. Even allowing for the increasing use of toll-free phone lines and faxes, constituents in far-flung small communities continue to expect a periodic personal visit from their MP.

It is my intention, therefore, to take advantage of the same option open to any other Canadian living in northern British Columbia. I will make my concerns known to the commission when it holds its public hearing in Prince George on June 2.

My concern about the impending passage of the bill is not that the changes are the best ones possible or even that they are really necessary. My concern is that the bill will be viewed by the public as just the latest example of politicians thinking they are free to alter any process they believe is not in their personal best interest.

These commissions have been set up to be free of political interference. I can readily imagine the never ending arguments and endless disputes which will arise if the issue of electoral boundaries were left in the hands of politicians.

If I may be so bold I would issue on behalf of all Canadians a word of caution to the government. If members opposite proceed with this plan it will be viewed as extremely self-serving by the general public. Just as in the case of gold-plated MP pension plans, expense allowances or other benefits of our elected offices, Canadians want to see decision making powers regarding these types of things removed from the politicians and placed under the jurisdiction of totally independent bodies.

Canadians are sick and tired of this double standard. There appears to be one set of rules for politicians and another quite different set for the rest of Canadians. If members have legitimate concerns about the changes as proposed by the commissions as I do, they should make representations at the

appropriate hearing, not attempt an end run by circumventing the process.

I do not believe that Liberals have a problem with the process. The real reason is that they do not like the results. Even a quick comparison between the old electoral boundaries and the proposed new ones indicates substantive alterations. Nowhere is this more evident than in the present Liberal power base of southern Ontario.

It is common knowledge that an incumbent enjoys a considerable advantage at election time. Over the life of a Parliament an MP establishes many contacts within the confines of his or her constituency. However when those boundaries are subjected to major changes or as in some cases an entire existing riding is completely eliminated, the incumbent suffers the loss of this comparative advantage. In effect this means he or she is virtually starting over. It places challengers on a much more even footing during the following election. It is this loss of advantage that is behind the government's sudden need for further reviews.

What will be accomplished by a 24-month delay? I believe it is simply the intention of the government to ensure the changes do not come into force in time to alter the boundaries prior to the next general election. The bill would immediately disband the existing commissions and enable the government to form new ones with new people two years from now. There is only one legitimate reason for delaying the process.

There are currently 295 MPs in this place. Surely that is more than enough to govern our country. Rather than a further increase of six seats as is required under the Constitution following the last census, we need fewer MPs, not more. At the very least the government should fully and completely commit itself to establishing a cap on the total number of members. To say it would review the present system of continual increases I would contend is simply not good enough. If Canadians are to believe the government really intends to limit the number they must be able to see that commitment.

In summary, the present system allows for input from all interested parties. I am prepared to take my turn along with all other northern B.C. stakeholders at the hearing in Prince George on June 2. I urge members opposite to consider carefully how the public will view their intended meddling in this process.

Petitions March 18th, 1994

Mr. Speaker, pursuant to Standing Order 36 I would like to present a petition from the residents of Moberly Lake, B.C.

They ask Parliament to enact legislation to change Canada Post policy. People who have received mail at an existing post office for many years are forced to collect their mail at another site of Canada Post's choosing. If they do not change to the new facility they must pay a fee to continue to receive mail at their old location.

These residents do not believe this change-or-pay policy is fair. All Canadians are allowed one free mode of delivery and these residents believe they should at least have the choice of collecting mail at the same site as they have for decades.

(Questions answered orally are indicated by an asterisk.)