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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

Excise Tax Act June 21st, 1994

Mr. Speaker, this bill is very interesting as has been discussed previously. It actually combines or marries three different things the House has been working on.

As a new parliamentarian I find an omnibus bill, which is the description of this kind of bill, to be quite interesting. It begs the question does the government really expect there to be some debate, some pros and some cons? This bill covers the area of a second section of tobacco taxes. It also covers the Air Transportation Act and the reduction of the GST for business meal exemption.

How does the government actually expect a party or even an individual member to be able to intelligently vote yea or nay when such totally unrelated fragments are pulled together in one bill? Or does the government actually have the idea that because it has 177 members it is going to get its own way anyway? Has the government pulled it all into one bill with the expectation that the people in its caucus, once the Prime Minister or the Deputy Prime Minister has risen to lead the way, will follow like sheep? It really begs the question as to why these would have been put together in one bill.

I intend to spend most of my time speaking on the air transportation tax changes, but I would like to address the issue of tobacco taxes. The majority of our caucus is opposed to the reduction of the excise tax on tobacco products. The majority believes it encourages more people, particularly young people, to smoke.

Having been in the field of sales and marketing for an extended period of my life, I appreciate there is always the law of supply and demand that is intervened with by the actual price point of a given commodity. If the situation is that prices for cigarettes are going to be lowered, it goes without saying that consumption will undoubtedly increase. Furthermore, my understanding is that studies have shown that young people are most sensitive to this price point.

The second factor is that the long term health costs for Canadians have not been calculated. With the tremendous amount of legislation which is currently coming before the House, this statement could be applied to probably the vast

majority of the legislation. In fact, there is no costing before the legislation comes before the House.

What will the cost be to the Canadian people? This is a very real part of the reason that when the federal, provincial and municipal debts are combined, we in Canada are in debt at a rate of over $1 trillion. It is because governments simply do not do the costing.

What will the health care costs be for Canada and for Canadians if there is an increase in consumption?

There has been a lot of debate today about the issue of more aggressive enforcement. Looking at the situation as it was prior to the decision of the government to lower the taxes, it is clear that the government was shying away from certain areas of our country and not addressing the issue.

If the government was attempting to address the issue, how hard did it try particularly when one area of our country was identified as having a 70 per cent hold? Of all of the product coming into Canada, 70 per cent was coming in through one very small geographic area, yet the government would not address the smuggling in that area.

Another reason the majority of our caucus is opposed to the reduction of the excise tax is it is believed there should have been new export taxes on tobacco products. I believe it was during the debate on Bill C-11 when I brought to this House two clearly marked Export A cigarette packages.

Both packages had been purchased in Manitoba. One package had been purchased immediately prior to the imminent imposition of the export tax. It was identified as having been made in Canada. It was the green package with white lettering that said "Export A" and "made in Canada" and very proud of the whole issue. That was fine. The second package was purchased a week later from the same illegal vendor. It was clearly marked as having been manufactured in Winston Salem under licence by RJR MacDonald.

The point of export taxes with respect to this product is that they will not work. Clearly that particular company's product was going through Buffalo and back into Canada. It had decided that if there was to be an export tax put on it would simply go to a licensing arrangement whereby it would have its product manufactured in Winston Salem and still be in the marketplace. I seriously question whether export taxes or even the imposition of export taxes as they presently sit really make any difference.

The final point is that constituents in the west are opposed to the tax reduction. Some feel they are being treated as second class citizens because their provinces oppose the reduction of taxes. Obviously what we have done is change the situation so that instead of north-south smuggling now we have east-west smuggling.

It begs the question that I raised earlier when the member for Esquimalt-Juan de Fuca was speaking. Does it really make sense? Is it really proper if we walk away from principles when it comes to laws, if we walk away from the foundation stone of how laws are brought in, the background to the laws? Is that really right and proper?

In other words taxes on cigarettes have basically happened. Over a period of time they simply have happened in exactly the same way as taxes on alcohol and other commodities people want and will pay for. Successively over the last 25 or perhaps even 50 years governments have said that people want or are addicted to cigarettes, that people want or demand their alcohol or whatever the case may be, and that therefore they are a source of taxation.

Over a period of many years-some 25, 30 or 50 years-taxes have happened. They have been added on and on until we suddenly reached the point with a slightly higher degree of sophistication of taking a look and saying that prices were so high on this particular commodity we had dampened enthusiasm, particularly of young people, for the product. Now we get into the whole issue we described earlier: If we reduce taxes will we actually end up increasing consumption?

The following question must be raised: If we are enacting good law and if as a member of Parliament I am expected to vote on various laws, am I actually voting on a matter of principle or a matter of expediency? To this extent, as I have expressed in a previous intervention, I find myself somewhat ambivalent about this specific question, fully recognizing that we have two doctors in our caucus who are very emotionally attached to the particular issue and the reality that if we end up lowering taxes we end up increasing consumption, particularly among young people, and recognizing that these people are faced with the reality that this is what will end up happening.

On the other side of the coin what about the principle that is involved? By saying that the taxes should stay up are we actually attempting to legislate behaviour or influence behaviour in a way that is not correct and not based on the basis of principle?

As I mentioned our data indicates that 40 per cent of total production of Canadian companies was being exported before the changes. Only 3 per cent was being consumed abroad. This shows the extent of the smuggling and this law allows an exemption for the 3 per cent.

The question I have is about the moral responsibility of tobacco companies. I am not speaking about tobacco farmers here because I recognize they are people who planted a crop in the ground, who have equipment and who have capital invested in various aspects of their business of growing tobacco. They are

caught in a real bind on the particular issue. However I would like to talk particularly about the multinational companies and again reflect on what I was speaking about a few moments ago.

These companies suspected an export tax was coming. With abject cynicism they turned around and took a package-and until one looked at it very closely one would not realize it-that had been manufactured in the U.S. I submit for the consideration of the House that it had been manufactured in the U.S. with the full knowledge of people in the tobacco companies that the package would end up being smuggled back into Canada. It would not only be smuggled back into Canada but smuggled in a way that was dangerous to life and limb.

I appreciated the interjection of the member for Glengarry-Prescott-Russell this morning. If his constituents were literally being shot at as a result of the smuggling effort, if there was absolute lawlessness as a result of the smuggling effort, I can appreciate the emotion the member brought to the debate this morning. How much culpability or how much responsibility should there be on behalf of international corporations? I suggest a tremendous amount.

The measure to ensure that unmarked tobacco products sold on reserves in Ontario and Nova Scotia are taxed at the same rate as marked products is a very touchy issue. I acknowledge that. When a commodity will be consumed by people, no matter what their distinction may be, when we have a two-tier tax system and when we have this situation, the difficulty is that it feeds the whole issue of illegal activity. That is really unfortunate.

We also recognize that until the particular legislation is passed and enacted wholesalers and retailers will have difficulty in looking for $150 million in tobacco taxes that have previously been extracted in inventories when the changes were announced. We look forward to the legislation being able to go forward. It is just unfortunate that it was not prepared at the time Bill C-11 was before the House. It would have saved the whole problem. The difficulty is that the government bunched together the tobacco tax question with the other two questions: the air transportation tax and the GST rebate.

We are looking at the fact that there will be a health promotion surtax, an increase of 40 per cent on taxes paid on the profits of tobacco manufacturers. Surely we recognize in the same way as price is a factor in the consumption of tobacco products that advertising must be both a positive and negative factor with respect to the consumption of tobacco products.

The main topic I would like to address is that of the air transportation tax. There has been very little discussion about it as I have listened to the debate today. Perhaps I could give a little background and description about the air transportation tax.

Currently there is a flat fee of $10 plus 7 per cent to a maximum of $40 on all airline tickets purchased in Canada. These fees are part of the Excise Tax Act even though they appear to be closer in function to user fees than actual taxes. This is the positive part. All revenues from the tax are directed toward the Department of Transport which routes the funds to the aviation component of its expenditures.

The reason I pause to mention that I consider this to be positive is that frequently taxes extracted from businesses and individuals do not ever end up where they are supposed to go. They just end up in consolidated revenue. I encourage the government to take a look at this as a model. There is also a new model within the Department of Canadian Heritage under National Parks. The specific revenues it is taking in for campgrounds, for pools and for specific functions are paying for the functions from which the funds were originally extracted. Surely that is the way it should be.

Going back to the air transportation tax, it makes up most of the funding for aviation services provided to all Canadian airports whether public or private. These services include air traffic controllers, aviation control for takeoff and landing, and air navigation costs. It is important to note that the current revenues from this tax of nearly $600 million do not cover the full government cost of aviation which runs at about $870 million.

Whether we are talking about airlines, aeroplane fees or the cost of running airports; whether we are talking about VIA rail and the cost of running trains down the track; or whether we are talking about transportation such as trucking where there are diesel fees and taxes on the fuel actually going into the trucks, historically in Canada we have shied away from making sure the revenue derived from the users of a particular transportation system ends up benefiting that transportation system.

The trucks pay the diesel road tax. Interestingly, CP rail also pays for its diesel locomotives which, the last time I looked, are not using our highways. The CP Rail corporation has to pay for the maintenance of its track, its roadbed and all other infrastructure with respect to locomotives in spite of the fact that a component of the fuel tax pays for roads for its competitors, truckers. It is a bit of an anachronism and probably points out as well as anything the component I am speaking about, that users should pay for the service they are receiving.

The air transportation tax will reduce the tax burden on short haul domestic and transborder flights by decreasing the flat charge per ticket and increasing the maximum fee. Living in Cranbrook I can appreciate many people take a look at whether they want to be going back and forth to Calgary by aeroplane or by road. Coming back to the factor we were just talking about, the costs of gasoline, fuel taxes, road maintenance and upkeep plus the time, I believe this will ultimately be of benefit. It will get more people off the road, through Kootenay National Park

and through the Crowsnest. Probably this will be duplicated in many areas throughout Canada.

The flat fee is decreased to $6 and the maximum increased to $50.

The changes will bring in an additional $24 million in 1994 and $41 million in 1995. While this is an improvement for the reason that I just set out where one has short haul being more competitive price wise because the taxes on the short haul are going down, on the other side of the coin I submit to the government the fact that the changes are only going to be $24 million and $41 million still leaves a significant shortfall in the concept of user pay.

I believe this levy should not be part of our complicated tax system. It is beneficial that the funds do not go into general revenue and that they are spent specifically on aviation. I would encourage the government as it goes through more bills and motions and as it takes a look at the practices within the Department of Transport to take a look at the concept of changing the user fee to full cost recovery basis.

I would suggest that in addition to air transportation tax, there are probably other areas in the cost of running airport terminals and being able to provide services to private pilots. We would be able to take a look at moving forward and getting closer to a user pay principle.

The final section of this act has to do with GST changes for meal allowance. Having been a commercial traveller for a number of years, I recognize the chagrin that was faced by the small commercial traveller who suddenly was faced with the cost of being able to expense his meals and being able to get, for example, shop owners and people he was selling to out of their place of business into a neutral location and being able to talk to them. This was a tax increase to someone who earns their income by travelling, by working and selling with people.

The Reform Party supported the changes when the budget came out on the basis that they amounted to a business subsidy. While we recognize that these expenses are legitimate business expenses for some, the reality is in the overall picture there was a tax break for a select few.

As I just indicated with a tremendous amount of sympathy, to the people who are commercial travellers and business people who use the business expense deduction for meals, it was exceptionally unfortunate for them that they ended up caught in the squeeze between these two factors. However, overall we support that.

On balance and in summary, I consider it exceptionally unfortunate that the government has chosen to cluster these three totally different and unrelated parts of our taxation system together. It is really unfortunate and I hope that in future the government will look with more favour to in this case bringing forward three separate bills so that we can vote on them separately.

Excise Tax Act June 21st, 1994

Mr. Speaker, I have been interested in listening to this debate. As the House has heard there is actually a small debate even within the Reform caucus, as I would suspect there might be within the Liberal caucus and for that matter the BQ.

I find myself to be in a very ambivalent position on this one. It is very difficult. I am looking forward to my colleague being able to assist me with the concept. I suggest we ended up with the taxes as a result of the fact that they were called sin taxes and were on a commodity that people wanted to consume. Therefore for the longest period of time consecutive governments saw it as being a revenue source. After all that is what taxation is. They kept on adding and adding taxes to this particular commodity. As a result we ended up with the situation that we have all acknowledged, the smuggling problem.

When the whole issue was being looked at we also discovered the connection that my colleague from Esquimalt-Juan de Fuca has so ably put forward. We discovered the connection between price and the fact that if the price goes down, then we are undoubtedly going to end up with higher consumption. It is only a straight case of the law of supply and demand.

I have to respect my Reform Party colleague because after all he is a medical practitioner and has seen the results of cancer and other respiratory diseases with respect to this particular product. Undoubtedly I have every respect in the world for the emotion that he brings to this question.

Is it right, is it fair, is it proper to be trying to legislate people's behaviour on the basis of taxation? Is taxation not really a source of revenue and are we not mixing up principles here in trying to legislate people's behaviour by increasing a revenue source? It does not seem like quite a match there. Perhaps my colleague could help me.

Sulphur Dioxide Emissions June 15th, 1994

Mr. Speaker, I too would like to salute the minister on the signing of this agreement. Clearly, as she said in her statement, if there is one thing that Canadians are unanimous about it is that our country must take a leadership role in the problem of acid rain.

At the same time I would like to make special mention as she did of the hon. member for Davenport. He has been a thorn in the side of people who have been satisfied with the status quo. I would like to commend him for his efforts, particularly on this issue.

The minister stated it is important that we are now moving to set sulphur dioxide emission levels based on science and upon regional targets within countries rather than just national limits. This is particularly important.

What she is stating as I understand it in plain English is that the standards are going to be based on science. Very frequently in environmental issues we have the problem of emotion; if it looks bad it must be bad, if it smells bad it must be bad. This is very bad science and so again I commend the minister and the department on the fact that the standards are going to be based on science.

I also reflect the comments made by the member from the Bloc and underscore the fact that the United States has not signed the protocol. I underscore that fact primarily from the point of view of competitiveness. Surely as human beings, as Canadians and as Americans, we must have an awareness-we do have an awareness-a consciousness of the fact that we can no longer continue with the old ways where we end up with trees, forests, indeed streams and rivers being polluted or dying. We cannot continue with that and surely Canada is taking a leadership role.

However, the fact that the United States has not signed the protocol I believe is a major problem from the point of view of Canadian competitiveness. We have to be very conscious and I would encourage the minister in her discussions with the United States envoys and the negotiators to make sure that Canadian business interests are protected because if not these are our jobs.

At the conclusion of the minister's statement she said we will continue to work with concerned Canadians and provincial governments in the ongoing development of a national strategy on acid rain.

Two items continuing with the thought that we will continue to work with concerned Canadians, we have to make sure that among the stakeholders whose point of view is being considered that businesses are deeply and heavily involved in the process, they are fully consulted and that the impact this has the potential of having on our competitive Canadian position, business wise, is fully taken into account.

She mentioned the fact that there will be further consultation and an involvement of the provincial governments.

For exactly the same reason we can have within Canada duplication of standards based on very well-meaning laws and rules and regulations and legislation that may be brought before this House or provincial legislatures and by the very fact that there is duplication, again we end up putting an extra burden on the businesses in Canada.

I do not stand here speaking for business for the sake of business. I stand here speaking for business because it is business that employs Canadians. It is business that generates real wealth, that can be taxed. It is business that drives the finances of our nation and when we forget that we stray an awful long way from the reality that we must be careful that we are not killing the goose that is laying the golden egg with a very benevolent attitude toward these concerns.

The minister concludes there are no overnight solutions but there are solutions and again I commend the minister, the department, on the signing of this accord and I do believe it is a major step in the direction of reducing sulphur dioxide emissions to a reasonable and responsible level.

The Family June 15th, 1994

Mr. Speaker, I will be happy to pose a question. I recognize that is why this is called question period.

The Angus Reid poll pointed out that many Canadians are concerned about the future of the family. Canadians know that the tax system is discriminating against families that choose to have one parent stay at home.

My question is again for the Prime Minister. Will he instruct his Minister of Finance and human resources department to extend the same tax treatment currently given to those who send their children to day care to those who care for their families at home?

The Family June 15th, 1994

Mr. Speaker, an Angus Reid poll published in this week's Maclean's affirms that the well-being of the family is important to all Canadians.

Yesterday the Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Finance stated that he was satisfied with the way the tax system treats families. Yet in some cases families where one parent stays at home to look after their children can be penalized by as much as $3,000 to $6,000 a year. It may not seem like a lot to him or his cabinet colleagues, but there are many parents who think that $3,000 to $6,000 is a lot of money.

My question is for the Prime Minister. Does he agree that the current tax system discriminates against families that choose to care for their children at home?

Canada Wildlife Act June 13th, 1994

Mr. Speaker, the purpose of Bill C-24 is to amend and strengthen the existing Canada Wildlife Act which was originally proclaimed in 1973 and has essentially remained the same for the last 20 years.

Reform members in the House strongly believe that the current wildlife protection legislation is inadequate. We believe that it must be changed and updated to properly address the environmental concerns Canadians have in the 1990s.

The Reform Party is a party that is deeply concerned with Canada's environment. One of the principles of the party is that we believe Canada's identity and vision for the future should be rooted in and inspired by a fresh appreciation of our land and the supreme importance to our well-being of exploring, developing, renewing and conserving our natural resources and physical environment. This forms part of our party's commitment to a clean healthy environment for all Canadians.

The proposed changes to the Canada Wildlife Act will expand the definition of wildlife to include all wild organisms, including plants, fungi, insects. It will thereby make it consistent with the convention on biodiversity which was ratified by Canada in 1993.

Some of the other amendments to the act will allow for national wildlife areas to be established in marine ecosystems in Canada's coastal waters out to the 200-mile limit to protect the beluga whales in Isabella Bay, west coast salmon and seabirds. The legislation will also enable the federal government to carry out its responsibility for wildlife research and a wide range of conservation and interpretation activities for wildlife and its habitat.

The act will also provide a greater deterrent to illegal activities such as poaching, by providing a maximum penalty of $100,000 or five years in jail, or both for serious offences.

The mandate of the federal government environment department in Canada is to manage and conserve migratory birds and, in co-operation with the provinces and territories, other wildlife of national and international concern. Canada as a member of the international community has obligations to help preserve and protect our wildlife and wildlife areas. However, sustaining healthy, thriving populations of wild species contributes to the economic, social and cultural well-being of our nation as well.

The Canada Wildlife Act recognizes the benefits that wildlife has and is a recognition that legislation and regulation should be the essential tools in helping to preserve them for future generations. It must be remembered that other things must also be done to improve the current situation.

Canadians must educate themselves on the serious threat that illegal activity such as poaching poses for our wildlife. This information is currently available from a number of different sources, including government organizations, non-governmental organizations and hunting and angling clubs. If you want to meet a group of dedicated environmentalists, then turn up at your neighbourhood rod and gun club.

In economic terms the federal environment department has estimated that expenditures associated with all types of fish and wildlife related recreational activities have contributed approximately $11.5 billion to our gross domestic product, $4.4 billion in tax revenue, and more than one-quarter million jobs for Canadians. Clearly Canada's living natural resources are a valued part of our social and economic well-being. I state again that real environmentalists, those who value our wildlife most highly, are the responsible hunters who pour their time and money into the enhancement and maintenance of this resource.

It is very doubtful that anyone in the House needs to be convinced that conserving and protecting our environment has become a major political and economic issue in our country. Opinion polls show that over 90 per cent of Canadians are concerned about the state of our environment. The polls also show that the people of Canada are split with regard to their satisfaction with the ability of the federal government to handle difficult environmental issues.

Responsible hunters work with game wardens and law enforcement officers to protect wildlife from illegal harvesting or killing; in other words poaching. Every year poaching, which is the illegal taking of wildlife, results in millions of animals being killed for personal use or profit. They are sold on the black market in Canada and in other countries. It has often been estimated that the illegal kill in Canada is approximately double the legal kill. Poachers know that there is little risk involved in their activities including the risk of being caught. As little as 1 per cent of poaching crimes are investigated. Even if they are caught the fines are considered a cost of doing business.

The illegal trade in wildlife in Canada is a multi-million dollar business. The combination of high profits, low risk and the thrill of illegal activity makes poaching a very attractive business enterprise.

Responsible hunters, the ones we see in hunting vehicles carrying and wearing their hunting equipment in the fall, in unison say that Canada's wildlife protection and conservation legislation must be enforced to stop illegal activities such as poaching.

However we must ask ourselves if the provisions of the bill are tough enough. What about the enforcement of and punishment for these crimes? Any new or improved existing laws must also be strictly enforced if they are to protect Canada's wildlife. There must also be recognition on behalf of Canada's court system including prosecutors and judges that wildlife offences are serious and should be treated in a serious manner.

In general the Reform Party supports the changes made in the act after having had an opportunity to examine possible amendments in committee. Many groups made representations to the committee and some changes to the bill could be made.

One aspect of the bill which my party is very pleased to see receive almost total agreement is the stronger and improved enforcement and punishment section. Although the bill finally puts some teeth into the existing Canada Wildlife Act that up until this point it has lacked, we believe the enforcement provisions for maximum penalties could have been made even tougher.

Also the section on the recovery of administration costs in the act is to be improved. This is a development that the Reform Party, as a party built on the premise that government should be as fiscally prudent as possible and in light of Canada's current fiscal financial situation, can easily agree to.

We believe it is the proper approach to recover costs related to the management of public lands and protected marine areas. It will mean reduced expenditures on government's behalf, a more self-sufficient regulatory system, and will allow for greater financial sustainability over the long term.

However, as I raised in the debate on Bill C-23, again I raise the issue of aboriginal exclusion from the act and the problems that generates. I cite four examples. First, there is a domestic herd in northern Saskatchewan that from time to time is bothered or pestered by a wild herd. The answer on the part of the owner of the herd is to hire an aboriginal hunter who can shoot the elk out of season.

Second, in northern British Columbia a non-aboriginal group put together the start of a full buffalo herd. They were going to be setting it up as a venture wherein they could bring in hunters from around the world. However they were thwarted in that some people from the aboriginal population in northern B.C. went in and wiped out the herd.

Third, there are deer around Princeton, British Columbia, about a three-hour drive east of Vancouver. It is well known and documented that aboriginal hunters from the Cariboo, a five-hour drive away, drive there and harvest out of season.

Fourth, in my constituency a person, upon receipt of designation as a status Indian, drove two hours past a sheep herd, went to a feeding station and shot a world class ram because of the curl of his horns.

These are examples of what happens when a particular group of people are taken out and given exclusion from bills like Bill C-23. They are not by any means a constant example; they are not by any means suggesting that all people of aboriginal descent would involve themselves in this. As a matter of fact those people would be a very rare exception. Nonetheless by having them outside the act makes this a possibility. It creates a serious concern and a lot of hostility on the part of people who cannot take advantage of the exclusion.

Canadians have been telling us that they want governments at all levels to protect and conserve our nation's wildlife. I believe as part of that we must get together to somehow address the aboriginal issue. We as policy makers and regulators must take this responsibility very seriously and deliver on this commitment for a healthier environment. If we are successful it will be to the benefit of all Canadians.

Migratory Birds Convention Act, 1994 June 13th, 1994

Mr. Speaker, the purpose of Bill C-23 is to replace the existing Migratory Birds Convention Act which was originally proclaimed in 1917. It has essentially remained the same ever since.

The original act regulated hunting in the use of migratory birds, prohibited traffic and commercialization, controlled the use of migratory birds through permits, and provided for the establishment of migratory bird sanctuaries in order to control and manage areas important for the protection of migratory birds.

The original act was designed to protect migratory birds from indiscriminate slaughter and to sustain their populations.

The proposed migratory bird act now before the House would modernize the language of the original Migratory Birds Convention Act and clarify the extent of its application, the prohibitions, the regulatory authorities, the administrative provisions and the offences and punishment sections.

The highlights of this bill are the broadening of the legislation to include all migratory birds, the broadening of the authority under the act given to wildlife enforcement officers, and the levels of fines to be increased.

The new act provides the legislative basis for managing the harvest and other uses of ducks, geese and other game birds, as well as for the protecting migratory birds, and provides for the creation of migratory bird sanctuaries.

In conjunction with the Canada Wildlife Act the new Migratory Birds Convention Act will provide a greater deterrent to illegal activities such as poaching by providing a maximum penalty of $25,000 or six months in jail or both for serious offences.

The mandate of the federal environment department in Canada is to manage and conserve migratory birds and in co-operation with the provinces and territories other wildlife of national and international concern. Canada as a member of the international community has obligations to help preserve and protect our wildlife and wildlife areas, including bird populations and bird sanctuaries.

Protecting and conserving Canada's bird diverse populations are an important part of our ecosystem. As the planet's human population swells and spreads over once wild areas, some 70 per cent of the world's 9,600 bird species are responding with declines, and 1,000 species are threatened with extinction in the near future according to a report by Birdlife International, a

conservation group based in England that charts the loss of habitats and species.

What is especially alarming beyond the direct losses that are taking place is that bird populations are a particularly good indicator of the health of the whole ecosystem. Canada must take a leadership role in the push for conservation and protection of bird species, and this leadership must begin with the changes made to the Migratory Birds Convention Act.

Conserving and protecting our environment has become a major political and economic issue in our country. Opinion polls consistently show that over 90 per cent of Canadians are concerned about the state of our environment. These same polls also show that the Canadian people are split with regard to their satisfaction with the federal government's handling of difficult environmental issues.

Last week all across Canada, Canada Environment Week activities were taking place and provided Canadians with a good opportunity to think about ways they can help improve our environment. Environmental citizenship, being informed and taking action was the focus of this year's Environment Week.

Canada's policymakers should sit up and take notice. Canadians are becoming increasingly aware of the importance of the environment to our society. We as politicians hold the responsibility to act as prudently and effectively as possible in order to protect our environment and our wildlife areas for future generations.

Government legislation is just one aspect of this environmentally conscious trend, albeit an important one.

The Reform Party is deeply concerned with Canada's environment. In this regard one of the principles of the party is that we believe Canada's identity and vision for the future should be rooted in and inspired by a fresh appreciation of our land and the supreme importance to our well-being of exploring, developing, renewing and conserving our natural resources and physical environment.

In general, the Reform Party supports the changes made in this act after having had the opportunity to examine possible amendments in committee. Many groups made representations to the committee and some changes to the bill could be made.

One aspect of the bill with which my party is very pleased is the stronger enforcement and punishment section. Although this bill finally puts some teeth into the existing Migratory Birds Convention Act that up to this point it has lacked, we believe that the enforcement provisions for maximum penalties could have been made even tougher by increasing the punishment provisions as proposed at the committee stage.

One part of the amendments that is of great concern to our party is the part that gives the minister more power to implement changes to the convention without Parliament's approval.

During the committee meetings it was felt that this concern was not adequately addressed. Under the existing act should Canada and the United States agree to amend the convention such amendments in order to come into force in Canada would require an amendment to the act. Specifically, the schedule to the act would have to be amended by legislation approved by Parliament.

However, under Bill C-23 a different implementation process would apply in which convention amendments would be implemented by ministerial order and the approval of Parliament would not be needed for such amendments to take effect.

Since Canada is seeking to renegotiate the convention to address aboriginal and treaty rights to harvest migratory birds during the closed season and to harvest eggs, if Bill C-23 is adopted any changes that were made under the convention in this regard would accordingly be implemented by ministerial order.

Parliament would have no role with respect to any changes that might be made from time to time under the convention. Although the implementation of convention amendments would be expedited under the process proposed by the bill, the fact is Parliament would not be involved in any way.

The Reform members believe that this is the wrong approach and that the bill should be amended so as to provide that amendments to the convention be laid before Parliament before being added to the order on the schedule.

We do believe in protecting and conserving Canada's environment and its wildlife. We believe that this legislation does begin to address some of the concerns that Canadians have in these areas.

There is one part of the amendments which I have some fairly close knowledge of and which I would like to draw to the attention of the House. I am hoping that there might be some Liberal members following my presentation who will address this question.

On May 6, I was approached, as the member responsible in my party for the shepherding of Bill C-23 through the House of Commons, by our House leader and was informed that there was a representative of the environment minister who wished to meet with me and wanted to push the bill through to third reading at that particular time.

I was only partially in favour of that. In other words, I felt as though I was under pressure because I had not had an opportunity to seriously consider it going through to third stage but there was a tremendous amount of arm twisting. Perhaps the parliamentary secretary to the environment minister may recall and the deputy chair of the Standing Committee on the Environment may recall.

We had meetings. There was this tremendous pressure to bring it through to third reading. I resisted as a result of the fact that there was advice that they wished to bring some small amendments to the act. Not being a lawyer, I was concerned about the fact that I would be letting something go over which I did not have any control or knowledge. As a consequence I said, no, I would not give unanimous consent to see the thing go through to third reading. That was on May 6.

On May 26 Grand Chief Matthew Coon-Come on behalf of the Grand Council of the Crees appeared before our standing committee. He drew to our attention information about the James Bay and northern Quebec agreement and in part the statement that he read into the record at that time said: "The agreement which we signed obligates the Government of Canada and the province of Quebec in perpetuity to respect Cree rights and carry out certain obligations.

Our treaty, then, forms the basis for the protection of our way of life. Several principles were embodied in these regimes: co-operative co-management of resources with government; family based Cree hunting territories; the beaver preserve system; the Crees as guardians of the land and animals; recognition and training of Cree game wardens and finally the paramount guiding principle of conservation".

I am absolutely prepared to accept the representation by the representative of the Cree totally at face value. I accept what he said there completely without question. He goes on to say: "In light of this brief background on our treaty rights, you might be able to understand our consternation at the provisions contained in the legislation which has been tabled before the standing committee".

He adds: "This bill purports to address through its substantive and enabling provisions the management and harvesting of migratory birds. Indeed, it is entitled an act to implement a convention for the protection of migratory birds in Canada and the United States".

He underlines: "For legislation emanating from the Parliament of Canada in 1994 and in view of the solemn commitments made in the James Bay and northern Quebec agreement and in addressing issues so critical to the identity, livelihood and culture of aboriginal people, how is it possible that this legislation does not make the least mention of aboriginal people, their dependence on the resource or their rights to the resource? We find this, to say the least, extraordinary".

He goes on to say: "We are not invoking simply a legal right or an apparently failed treaty provision. Neither are we arguing for the respect of our rights at any or all cost to the environment, but how did this legislation come this far without any consultation with us? How can the drafters of these acts be so oblivious of Canada's constitutional and statutory duties to protect aboriginal harvest rights? Bear in mind that the Crees have hunted in our territory since time immemorial".

He goes on to express a feeling of real distress about the fact that he had not been consulted. I asked the legal counsel for the Cree at that time to get back to me with the time at which it was informed or brought into the picture and I was informed by the legal council for the Cree that it was brought into the picture May 16, a full 10 days after a representative of the environment minister was trying to arm twist and get this through without any provision for aboriginal concerns.

I am very sensitive to the fact that last week in particular we had representations from a member of our party that raised a tremendous amount of consternation and concern in the way that he was speaking about aboriginal questions. I am very sensitive to that issue. I wish to raise the issue without emotion. I am hoping that there is someone in the House who will be prepared to answer this question.

Section 5 of the proposed legislation reads:

Except as authorized by the regulations, no person shall, without lawful excuse,

(a) be in possession of a migratory bird or nest; or

(b) buy, sell, exchange or give a migratory bird or nest or make it the subject of a commercial transaction.

Further on in the legislation, section 12 reads:

The Governor in Council may make any regulations that the Governor in Council considers necessary to carry out the purposes and provisions of this Act and the Convention, including regulations.

One of the regulations is for granting permits to kill, capture, take, buy, sell, exchange, give or possess migratory birds or to make migratory birds the subject of a commercial transaction.

The act calls for penalties, for example, in section 13:

"Every person who contravenes section 5, subsection 6(5) or any regulation is guilty of an offence punishable on summary conviction of up to $50,000 or imprisonment for a term not exceeding six months, or both; or is guilty of an indictable offence and is liable for $100,000 or imprisonment for a term not exceeding five years, or both".

In my constituency last year we had someone who received the designation on a piece of plastic that said that he was now recognized as being-I apologize, I am not familiar with the terminology-an Indian or of Indian status. Upon receipt of that recognition he then drove 200 miles, went to a feeding station and blew away a world class ram and said that he had the right to do that.

Any members in this House who takes my comment to be a slam or a slur would be sadly mistaken. I am asking a very blunt, open, honest question here. I would like to know, with the inclusion in Bill C-23, if a person may be subject to up to $100,000 fine because they are in possession of a migratory bird or nest or they attempt to buy, sell, exchange or give a migratory bird or nest or make it the subject of a commercial transaction. Basing that on one's parentage because of clause 2(3): "For greater certainty, nothing in this act shall be construed so as to abrogate or derogate from any existing aboriginal or treaty rights of the aboriginal peoples of Canada under section 35 of the Constitution Act, 1982".

I am having some difficulty and some confusion in my mind about that in terms of the long term picture. I believe that the statements made by Grand Chief Matthew Coon-Come in his presentations to the standing committee have some merit. What he was basically stating there, as I understood it, was that this issue should be looked at as to how we are going to work it out.

He undoubtedly will be coming at it from a different perspective than I am. I am coming at it from the perspective of saying that if a person shoots a bird the bird is dead. If we assume that there might be one or two people of the Cree nation who are not prepared to obey the law under what law will they be prosecuted, and would I or the secretary be prosecuted to the extent of $100,000?

I guess that is the one final question. Understand that the Reform Party supports the intent of Bill C-23. We wish to go ahead with the protection of the migratory birds. That is not the question. Also, we want to recognize that there are some long standing historic rights that the Cree and other aboriginal people have that have to be taken into account. What I am having difficulty with is the inclusion of that one amendment. I am having some difficulty understanding how we will be able to bring about regulations that are fair and equitable to all people in Canada.

With that, recognizing that the probability is that recognition of aboriginal rights would nonetheless supersede Bill C-23, the inclusion of it is simply a statement of what is a fact. I would like, if possible, if someone is going to be following me, particularly from the government side, if they could help me understand how we are going to address this issue.

Petitions June 13th, 1994

Mr. Speaker, pursuant to Standing Order 36, I am pleased to present a petition with 62 signatures. The Criminal Code of Canada, section 241, states: "Anyone who counsels a person to commit suicide or aids or abets a person to commit suicide, whether suicide ensues or not, is guilty of an indictable offence and liable to imprisonment for a term not exceeding 14 years".

The purpose of the petition is to request that the House of Commons not change that particular section of the Criminal Code. I would like my constituents to know that I concur with this petition and I am proud to present it.

The Family June 13th, 1994

Mr. Speaker, the importance of the Canadian family is beyond question. It is vital to the well-being of our society. It is vital to the nurturing of our children. It is vital to the preservation of our sense of justice, our values and our convictions.

Given the significance of the family's role in society, state or special interest agendas must not be allowed to diminish the role of the family. The freedom of the family to raise its children according to its own unique needs and convictions must be

preserved. Government programs should encourage rather than discourage parental responsibility for their family and any trends that demean the role of the family must be challenged.

Canadian families have been lacking a clear, strong federal voice. My colleagues and I intend to change that and provide leadership by speaking for the family and developing policy alternatives that would encourage, strengthen and protect the fabric of this most basic unit of our society.

Supply June 7th, 1994

Madam Speaker, I can see quite clearly that the hon. member and I have different opinions on this issue. I simply restate what I said in my speech.

In an ideal world it seems to me we would not have any political boundaries with respect to questions relating to environmental issues. In an ideal world we would not have the environment being used economically as a ploy or as a pressure tactic. I am suggesting the erection of additional formal boundaries is not working in the best interests or the best direction of protecting our environment.