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Crucial Fact

  • His favourite word was fact.

Last in Parliament March 2011, as Conservative MP for Kootenay—Columbia (B.C.)

Won his last election, in 2008, with 60% of the vote.

Statements in the House

Canada-Colombia Free Trade Agreement Implementation Act September 14th, 2009

Madam Speaker, I am very pleased to speak about the important impact the Canada-Colombia free trade agreement would have, especially on the youngest citizens of that country.

In the speech preceding mine, the NDP said we should not enter into an agreement because violence is out of control. Its position is to develop an assessment.

Our position is to take action to advance the plight of the most vulnerable. We note that the Government of Colombia has taken steps that demonstrate a real effort to curb violence against workers; bring the people responsible for such crimes to justice; promote security, peace and human rights and establish the rule of law.

Nevertheless, children are still being hit hard by the ongoing conflict in Colombia. For the past 50 years Colombia has been experiencing an internal armed conflict involving the army, guerrilla groups and paramilitary organizations. For many Colombians this conflict has translated into decades of economic turbulence and poverty, constant risk of losing their homes and inequality and human rights abuses.

The most vulnerable often pay the highest price. The children and youth of Colombia pay the highest price. Not only are they subject to losing their homes and families, many live in remote rural areas with almost no social support. Young people are often the targets for sexual exploitation. Thousands of children have been taken from their families and forced into fighting as child soldiers. Approximately 11,000 children are recruited as child soldiers, sex slaves or spies. Twenty-five per cent of the people involved with the paramilitary organizations are under 18 years of age, and thousands of children are killed and maimed each year by small arms and land mines.

Children and youth make up 42% of Colombia's total population, but tragically they are also 57% of the country's poor. For these children economic growth represents hope for the future and a chance to come out of conflict, suffering and poverty.

Trade will produce the economy that will provide them with an education, sustainable livelihoods and the ability to contribute to their families and communities. It will give them the opportunity to rise out of the current tragedy and enjoy a better tomorrow.

That is why approving Canada's free trade agreement with Colombia is so important, not only to strengthen our existing trade relationship but to better the lives of Colombia's youngest generation. Our government recognizes that the future of Colombia hinges on its children growing up to be healthy, strong and active participants of society. The way to a brighter tomorrow is to free them from the current situation. Supporting economic development in Colombia will not only reduce poverty and inequality, it will also break the cycle of violence that has slowed Colombia's development. It t will prepare future generations to build a better society to call their own.

As a strong defender and advocate for children's rights, this government believes it is Canada's duty to help improve the lives of Colombia's youngest and most vulnerable: the children. We are working closely with Colombia to make that happen. Our government encourages peace and democracy, a stronger bilateral economic relationship, an open and frank dialogue on human rights, close co-operation on security and humanitarian issues, co-operating to keep drugs off our streets and cleaning up dangerous land mines in Colombia.

Canada is the biggest contributor to children's rights and protection in Colombia. Our government's international development programs are working with Colombians to protect children from violence, preventing the recruitment of child soldiers and helping them regain the place they can call home.

Over the last five years we have contributed over $64 million to development programs in Colombia. Almost 25% went toward strengthening the rights of children and youth as well as projects to protect them from the aftermath of violence and conflict.

In May the Minister of International Cooperation announced our government's clear intention to place children and youth as one of our priorities for international aid. This is reflected in many of CIDA's bilateral development projects in which children and youth are a clear focus.

For example, together with PLAN International Canada, our government is developing ways to help prevent teenagers from being sucked into violence in Colombia and instead encourage them to become key participants in the conflict resolution process. We have contributed $17 million over five years to UNICEF's program to bring education and humanitarian assistance to at-risk children in Colombia's 11 most vulnerable provinces.

We are also working with Save the Children Canada and the Norwegian Refugee Council on a program that delivers alternative education opportunities for out of school indigenous, Afro-Colombian, homeless and vulnerable children, youth and adults.

Through a local fund for children's rights and protection, our government is helping to increase the ability of Colombian officials to come through on commitments regarding the rights of children and increase the awareness of children's rights among the general public.

The results of these programs speak for themselves. Recently our efforts on the ground prevented the recruitment of 15,000 children and youth into armed forces and assisted in the reintegration of 260 former child soldiers into their old home communities. Through our efforts, 70% of all demobilized children and youth will now receive enhanced health, education, protection and reintegration services.

More than 6,000 adolescents have developed skills to assist in conflict resolution as well as other life skills within their schools with the help of 400 peers trained as youth leaders. Under United Nations Security Council Resolution 1612, Canada encouraged the government of Colombia to establish the monitoring and reporting mechanism for children in armed conflict.

Our support led to the implementation of regional and national government policies and programs to protect the rights of children, youth and other vulnerable groups. More than 12,000 civil servants are trained in a new Colombian law on children and youth.

My fellow members in the House should be pleased to know that this government's programs are getting results at every stage, reversing the fortunes of children who have become involved in the conflict and preventing many others from sharing the same fate.

This government's programs support reintegration of demobilized children and youth through family reunions, education to allow them to catch up to the level of their peers, and job search skills that will help them take advantage of local employment opportunities.

Colombian children and youth are being shown how to lead more fulfilling lives so that they will not fall prey to the financial temptations of joining illegal armed groups and engaging in various illegal activities. Thousands of youth are trained in conflict resolution and taught how to take control of their futures. With improved access to formal and informal education and safe schools, they are able to grow within productive learning environments. And by working with the government of Colombia, Canada is helping to strengthen policies and programs and services that protect children and guarantee their rights.

Overall, I believe Canadians can be proud of the results we have already achieved through our development programs in cooperation with the government of Colombia and local Canadian NGOs and multilateral organizations. Where the NDP would stop this action, stop helping the disadvantaged, I am proud to stand here and say that the Canadian government on behalf of the people of Canada is working in all these productive ways. This bill is part of that resolution.

The Economy September 14th, 2009

Mr. Speaker, this summer I took the opportunity to travel to every area of Kootenay—Columbia, talking to my constituents and taking pictures with them hard at work on projects and programs funded through Canada's economic action plan.

The Conservative government has been getting shovels in the ground and projects energized for the benefit of all my constituents. We have multiplied the effect of our economic initiatives by using a very wide variety of programs. From one end of the riding to the other, I heard people voicing cautious optimism. They appreciate our economic action plan and what it means to their families and our communities throughout Kootenay—Columbia.

As we work our way out of this worldwide recession, my constituents give the Conservative government an A plus.

However, without exception, they are angry with the useless, counterproductive, dangerous, opportunistic election talk by the opposition coalition. My constituents give a massive F for failure to the Liberal, NDP and Bloc coalition.

June 16th, 2009

Mr. Speaker, again, I find the member's comments very helpful. I would suggest that one of the difficulties that there is in any of these situations is to ensure that the aid in fact is getting through or that in fact the IMF dollars that the member is talking about will actually achieve their intended objective.

One of the difficulties is that if we end up cutting back, there is the difficulty for the people on the ground for whom this assistance is destined. We have to be sure that whatever we are doing is going to be helpful. We owe it to the Canadian taxpayer even as much as we owe it to the Tamils and the people in the Sri Lankan community.

June 16th, 2009

Mr. Speaker, I would like to thank the member for his very thoughtful presentation this evening. I think he will find that he and the government are on the same page. I am proud to say that Canada has a strong history of listening to people around the world and answering calls for help.

In the case of Sri Lanka, as the member knows, the Government of Canada has done exactly that. The government has been continually monitoring the situation in Sri Lanka and we have deep concern for the violence that has swept through the country and the impact this has had on the people of Sri Lanka.

Both the Minister of Foreign Affairs and the Minister of International Cooperation, in addition to myself, remain engaged and committed to helping those in need. It is important to recognize that the last few years have been particularly challenging for the Sri Lankans, which is why Canada has been integral in providing support for those in need.

As the member noted, the Minister of International Cooperation has committed a total of $7.5 million in support for those caught in the crisis in Sri Lanka. In addition, he would know that the minister also travelled to Sri Lanka and met with the prime minister and members of the government to deliver a clear message to the Government of Sri Lanka.

The minister called at that time for an immediate ceasefire and for those in need to be able to receive much needed international aid.

Thanks to the strong leadership that we have shown today, international aid workers continue to do necessary work in the region with the support of our Canadian government. Canada is continuing to monitor the situation in Sri Lanka closely, as we have in the past, offering much-needed support.

As the member noted, in 2008, Canada supported the people of Sri Lanka with almost $3 million in humanitarian assistance, including $1.5 million for food aid through the World Food Programme. The announced support of $7.5 million helps to support Sri Lankans with emergency medical supplies, food, water and other necessities.

Canada remains a proud partner with organizations such as the Red Cross, CARE Canada, Doctors Without Borders, World Vision and the World Food Programme that are working hard to alleviate the suffering of the people affected in the region.

Access to basic needs, food, water, shelter and medical care continue to be a challenge, which is why Canada is working to ensure our aid reaches the people who need it most and that those self-sacrificing aid workers are safe to return to their homes when the necessary help they are providing has been delivered.

I am also proud to say that the government is engaged with the members of the Tamil community in Canada. An important dialogue has been opened with concerned members of the community.

In working toward a positive and peaceful future in Sri Lanka, the government will continue to work with all parties in this situation, including citizens, international bodies and other government.

The government has called on all parties in the conflict in Sri Lanka to respect international law and for the Government of Sri Lanka to ensure the safety of its citizens. I would agree with the member that the turning away of the member for Toronto Centre was deeply regrettable, as was the fact that the Government of Sri Lanka declined a visa for the Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Foreign Affairs.

Now that the conflict in Sri Lanka has dissipated, we can help the citizens of Sri Lanka return to their normal lives and begin a process of reconciliation and rebuilding, and we will continue to monitor the situation closely.

Canadian development experts are working with other humanitarian agencies in Sri Lanka to ensure an effective and coordinated overall response.

Mothers and Newborns June 4th, 2009

Mr. Speaker, I rise on a point of order. I have a motion in hand, for which I believe there is all-party agreement. I move:

That this House renews its commitment to reducing maternal and newborn morbidity and mortality both at home and abroad and supports Canadian leadership within government and civil society to work within the G8 and as partners with UN agencies and appropriate global initiatives to achieve this goal.

Canada-Peru Free Trade Agreement Act June 1st, 2009

Mr. Speaker, as the member well knows, he and I have managed to find ourselves on different sides of many issues, but I respect the fact that he and I have also had occasion to work together for the kind of common good to which he has spoken. He would also know there is currently a private member's bill before the committee, which was passed by the House, Bill C-300 on the issue of corporate social responsibility.

We have been studying it as recently as this afternoon and the thing that has been most interesting is the aggressive action that the Government of Canada is currently undertaking with respect to corporate social responsibility.

I put to the committee today the concept that there was not one person in the House, and probably not one person in Canada, who was not serious about wanting all of our corporations to be involved in the world with the concept of corporate social responsibility.

The only thing I would suggest for my friend is this. An awful lot of the time I have been in the House and have taken occasion to listen to the speeches of the NDP, it always seems so dower, so down and so negative. we cannot do this and we cannot do that and those great big greedy corporations. There is all this negativism.

What the Government of Canada wants to do with this Peru free trade agreement, as with other free trade agreements, is to open up the possibility for Canada and Canadian workers to have more opportunity in the world because Canada is such a free trading nation.

Would my friend not want to put on a more positive face, a bit more of a smile, rather than always being concerned about being dragged down? Canadians are the most productive creative people in the world. We are a nation that can carry our own and we can carry these things to Peru and to other countries to help them bring themselves up to a higher level.

International Cooperation May 29th, 2009

Mr. Speaker, in response to a question earlier, I made the point that Canada, and the Canadian government, will make its decisions in the best interests of Canada, Canadian taxpayers and the best interests of the world.

Having made those decisions, our doors are open. I have made a personal invitation to all of the nations that have been affected. I have had meetings with people, as has the minister. Our doors are open. We want to be cooperative with the people with whom we are involved in these issues.

Canadian International Development Agency May 29th, 2009

Mr. Speaker, I have had the opportunity personally to meet with representatives of about 10 of these nations. I know that the minister has had the same opportunity.

Canada, and Canada's government, will make its decisions about what it is going to be doing with respect to Africa. We are absolutely prepared to sit and meet with these people.

However, the continuation of the myth that we have cut aid when in fact we have doubled aid to Africa is deeply regrettable. I would ask all members of the opposition to rethink this policy. It is doing a damage to our reputation. We have doubled the amount.

Canadian International Development Agency May 29th, 2009

Mr. Speaker, the member is correct. There were 18 representatives of African nations who attended that meeting. Regrettably, their report to the committee was erroneous because it was based on erroneous information that had been propagated by the Liberals, the Bloc and the NDP.

In fact, we have doubled our aid to Africa in the last three years. The figure is now $2.1 billion. We are very proud of the reputation that our government has in supporting African issues.

May 11th, 2009

Mr. Speaker, as mentioned, a review process is currently in place pursuant to the executive orders issued by President Obama on January 22, 2009. These orders reflect the president's stated intention to close down the detention facilities at Guantanamo Bay.

In keeping with that intention, a review process is under way to assist in making determinations regarding disposition of the cases against detainees facing proceedings, such as Mr. Khadr. The Government of Canada intends to let that process run its course and will not interfere with the United States in its undertakings.

Our decision to appeal the recent Federal Court of Canada ruling regarding Mr. Khadr's repatriation was taken after careful consideration of legal merits of doing so and is consistent with that position. We will, of course, follow all developments regarding Mr. Khadr's case closely and will be prepared to respond appropriately to decisions taken by the United States at the culmination of the review period.