House of Commons photo

Elsewhere

Crucial Fact

  • His favourite word was aboriginal.

Last in Parliament November 2010, as Conservative MP for Calgary Centre-North (Alberta)

Won his last election, in 2008, with 57% of the vote.

Statements in the House

Income Tax Act February 3rd, 2005

Mr. Speaker, on November 30, 2004, during question period, I rose in this honourable House and asked the Minister of Indian Affairs and Northern Development a question in relation to the Mackenzie Valley pipeline and, in particular, the regulatory confusion surrounding the pipeline and which currently imperils it and which imperils not only the pipeline but the prospect of economic progress for the aboriginal Canadians who are affected by that pipeline and which indeed threatens the resolution of environmental issues concerning the pipeline as well.

The minister's response at that time was that he was working together with the President of the Treasury Board on the smart regulations report that the government had received and that he was attempting, with the President of the Treasury Board, to define a regulatory regime in the north for the Mackenzie Valley gas pipeline.

More than two months have passed since that time and virtually no progress has been made. I am again asking the minister to tell the House and Canadians what he has done to advance one of Canada's most important energy projects.

The project is immense, by any standard. The required capital investment for the pipeline and the associated infrastructure will be over $7.5 billion. The project will result in an enormous increase to the overall Canadian gross domestic product of more than $57 billion. The total direct and indirect employment resulting from this project has been estimated at 157,000 person years. Yet, today the project is mired in morass, in a regulatory miasma created by this government.

Just recently, in the past week or so, the joint review panel provided the proponents of the Mackenzie Valley gas pipeline with its second round of information requests, in effect, following up on the massive submission that was filed as required. Those information requests are over 600 in number and follow on the first information requests, which were of a similar size and scale.

Clearly, the result is that valuable time has been lost. Originally, the in-service date for the pipeline was 2009 and the economics of the pipeline were predicated upon that. That date has now slipped to 2010 or even 2011.

Surely the government understands that whether this important Canadian pipeline gets built at all depends upon the resolution of the environmental issues, the regulatory issues and the aboriginal issues which are now swirling around this pipeline. Only the Government of Canada can resolve these issues.

The authority for the statement I have made is not myself but rather the government's own external advisory committee, the smart regulation report, which describes the northern regulatory framework as the “...complex and unpredictable cobweb of regulations involving multiple federal government departments, and territorial and Aboriginal authorities.

Could the minister assure Canadians that the government will take the necessary steps to ensure that the Mackenzie Valley project maintains its competitive advantage over the American pipeline? Will he assure Canadians that the Deh Cho settlement negotiations will be resolved? The government has been very quiet on that front. I would ask the member to please advise the House on what is happening. Could he also tell the House when the regulatory confusion will be resolved and will he report to us on the status of the access and benefit agreements which the proponents have been endeavouring to negotiate?

Question No. 50 January 31st, 2005

Regarding the cutbacks in Non-Insured Health Benefits payment arrangement for pharmacy services to First Nations and Inuit clients in British Columbia: ( a ) why has the government proceeded with these cutbacks in British Columbia; ( b ) why is it occurring in British Columbia only; and ( c ) does the government intend on making the same cutbacks across Canada?

Question No. 49 January 31st, 2005

Relating to the Canada Educational Savings Grant (CESG) available for post secondary studies at accredited institutions outside Canada: ( a ) why is the government suddenly disallowing previously accredited educational institutions abroad from qualifying as accredited; and ( b ) how will this affect the CESG standing of attendees that are in receipt of it?

Question No. 48 January 31st, 2005

With regard to the measures relating to processing times from the Department of Indian Affairs and Northern Development on applications to register as a status Indian that flow from the departmental review recommandations and that the Indian Band Registration and Band Lists will be implementing: ( a ) precisely, what measures have been or are being implemented; ( b ) will these measures effectively address the average processing time for an application; and ( c ) if these new measures fail to address the average processing time for an application, will the Minister call for an audit by the Auditor General of Canada and implement those recommendations?

First Nations, Métis and Inuit War Veterans December 10th, 2004

Mr. Speaker, I am truly amazed. The government has, in response to the motion brought forward by my hon. friend, a chance to do the right thing. It had an opportunity to do the right thing when this matter was before the committee. The committee adjourned at the insistence of the members of the government without dealing with the issue.

The Liberals have had an opportunity in the House today to respond to the specific motion that has been brought forward, which is a good motion. They have an opportunity to do the right thing by aboriginal Canadians who fought and served for this country in the last war and in the Korean War, aboriginal Canadians who have not received what they were entitled to receive under the law of Canada when they returned to this country.

Why will the government not do the right thing? Why will the government not respond in some meaningful way to these Canadians who have stepped forward and said that they were not treated fairly?

We have received documentation specifically with respect to the Métis National Council, the Manitoba Métis Federation and Mr. Chartrand, in the report, “To Walk With Dignity”. They found that less than 3% of the identified Métis veterans had received one of the three key programs under the Veterans Charter that they were entitled to receive, whether it was education, land or re-establishment grants. Why will the government not deal with this? Why will it not come to the table and respond?

Instead, we have a bureaucratic response, an offer to work in collaboration, an offer of partnership, an explanation that the Liberals are tied down and constrained by old files and the weaknesses of them and that they cannot do anything about this. We have a bureaucratic response something in the nature of the Métis delivery research output program, whatever that is. Why can the government not simply do the right thing and recognize that the hon. member has brought forward a motion where the House has an opportunity to say loudly and clearly that the right thing has not been done in the past?

I keep a copy of the throne speech in my desk. It said that the government and aboriginal people would work together to develop specific quality of life indicators and a report card to hold everybody to account and to drive progress. This is one matter, which posterity will report for the report card of the government that it had an opportunity to do the right thing and it did not do it.

Speaking on behalf of the members of this side of the House and on behalf of my friends elsewhere in the House, we are unanimous in this. The government has repeatedly had an opportunity to deal with this issue, to set Canadian history right, to do the equitable thing, to do the just thing, to respond to the request for recognition and fairness and it has refused to do so.

The last word I will say on this is that is the record before the House. Canadians in days ahead will have a chance to see that.

First Nations, Métis and Inuit War Veterans December 10th, 2004

Mr. Speaker, on behalf of the other members of the House and as a Canadian, I would like to thank the hon. member for Desnethé—Missinippi—Churchill River for the leadership that he has taken on this initiative.

As the aboriginal affairs critic for our party, I speak in support of the motion. I have been around these sorts of issues for many years. I served as a commissioner of the Indian Claims Commission of Canada for 10 years, and for 8 or 9 of those years as a co-chair. I must say how proud I am of the hon. member, as I have watched him do his work as a member of the House and watched his attempt to advance claims for fairness and justice for aboriginal people. He has been a great advocate at committee and has been a great advocate in the House. We all owe him a debt of gratitude for the fine work that he has been doing on behalf of aboriginal Canadians and the people of his constituency, and I thank him.

The motion is one that involves acknowledgement, recognition and dignity to a group of men and women who have served this country with distinction and who when they returned from military service found that they were not treated in the same way. In particular, I was struck by the testimony which I read of members of the military, veterans who said that while they were in service as aboriginal Canadians, it was the first time in their lives that they were treated in a way that measured up in terms of respect and equality. They were treated wonderfully as members of the Canadian service. The problems began when they returned to Canada and found themselves again under the thumb of the Department of Indian and Northern Affairs.

The stories that we heard at committee with respect to the treatment of those people would not make any Canadian proud.

The question I have for the hon. member concerns how this matter came before the House. It was before the committee at an earlier time. What has brought this motion before the House? Why is it here? Could he explain that to Canadians?

Citizenship and Immigration December 10th, 2004

Mr. Speaker, for weeks the Minister of Citizenship and Immigration has been telling the House that she is unable to answer questions because they are being considered by the Ethics Commissioner, but the Ethics Commissioner has revealed that this is untrue.

I will tell the House what the minister has been working at to avoid answering the tough questions. The minister has been repeatedly misleading the House. This amounts to nothing less than contempt. When will this disgraceful minister resign?

First Nations Fiscal and Statistical Management Act December 10th, 2004

Mr. Speaker, I can confirm that it is a pleasure to be the critic on this subject matter for the Conservative Party. I can also confirm, as my friend has said, that it is a pleasure not to be burdened by contradiction because we are not.

Our party has spoken in a principled way about the way forward. We have consulted with people in the community. We have talked with the AFN and with others. We have put forward a series of policy ideas that take the Conservative Party to the very front of what is going to happen in this country in the next 20 years in terms of the development of self-government and those are based upon a very logical, consistent and principled approach.

I would point out that it is an approach that has enjoyed a great deal of support among the aboriginal Canadians with whom I have spoken. It involves the gradual orderly elimination of the Indian Act with other legislation, which will make it possible for aboriginal Canadians to get on with their lives and to achieve social and economic progress.

We are proud of where we are going. It is a program that will enjoy support in the days ahead. I have spoken of the need to develop a legislative framework which governs the expenditures that the department is making on behalf of aboriginal Canadians.

I would encourage my learned friend to stay involved in the debate and he will continue to be pleased with the progress that the Conservative Party is making.

With respect to his specific question, his party brought forward a series of motions which were soundly defeated at the committee stage. The effect of those motions would have been to essentially take the good work of the respected leaders, the respected aboriginal Canadians who brought Bill C-20 forward to this point, and frozen it by adopting a process of consultation that would have been unworkable and would have made it impossible for the government, or frankly any government, to achieve the necessary unanimity on appointments, and that is why we did not--

First Nations Fiscal and Statistical Management Act December 10th, 2004

Mr. Speaker, it is my pleasure to rise today and speak to Bill C-20, a bill described as the first nations statistical and management act. The bill has made quite an expeditious journey through the House of Commons to committee and back onto the floor of the House of Commons today, anticipating early approval with the cooperation of all of the parties in the House.

I will not replicate the comments made by my learned friend. There are substantial parts of this legislation upon which she and I agree for once. My comments will respond to a couple of the questions that have been raised and to outline in philosophical terms why our party supports this legislation. The Conservative Party is fully in support of Bill C-20 and the principles contained therein.

This past month the National Post published an opinion piece which was prepared by Phil Fontaine, the National Chief of the Assembly of First Nations. As I said before, while I do not agree with everything that my colleague, Grand Chief Fontaine, has said in that article, there are many matters upon which he and I agree and which I think all Canadians should consider.

This country is a modern federal democracy in which all of the citizens of Canada must bear equally the responsibilities and also the privileges of citizenship. The time has come that aboriginal Canadians are entitled, indeed they are expected, to share in the governance of Canada, to share in the governance of their own affairs, and their inherent right of self-government. If aboriginal Canadians are to be equal citizens in this country, if they are also to bear upon their shoulders the hopes and dreams of Canada, then they must also bear equally the responsibilities of governing this country. Concurrently, they must enjoy the full benefits of citizenship, including the protection of the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms.

As Chief Fontaine observed in the

National Post:

To be self-sufficient, to rely on ourselves, we must be free and able to make our own choices. Reliance on the choices that others make for us is a denial of the means to self-sufficiency.

In that regard, an important study was carried out in Canada and referred to by Mr. Fontaine, the Harvard Project. It referred to three factors which are critical to economic self-sufficiency. These are worth emphasizing in the context of this debate.

First, practical sovereignty means genuine decision-making power over internal affairs, governance, resources, institutions and development strategies.

Second, capable governing institutions are those which exercise power effectively, responsibly and reliably.

Third, the necessity for a cultural match, which means formal institutions of government that match indigenous concepts of how authority should be organized and should be exercised.

In this country, over the past many years, we have had a debate about the scope and content of aboriginal self-government. Much has been said about that subject and that debate will carry on. The debate, by and large, has been a democratic and a civil one, even though it has been marked by a lack of consensus on many fundamental matters.

Both aboriginal and non-aboriginal Canadians need to be reminded that, while we do not always agree upon the scope and content of governance rights, virtually all Canadians share a desire to see aboriginal Canadians as equal partners in this marvellous country. They wish to see a full embodiment of the inherent right of self-government in a way which is practical and which achieves success for aboriginal Canadians.

The Indian Act is both anachronistic and archaic. Frankly, it has no place in the Canada of tomorrow. It has not yet been replaced in our country by a modern legislative framework only because we have been unable as a country to this point to define how and by what legislative means the Indian Act should be replaced. However, I would hasten to add that I anticipate that in the next several years we will make great strides in that regard. We will succeed in replacing the Indian Act with legislation which has the support of first nations and which moves us into the future.

The issues to be sure are complex. They involve questions that strike to the heart of this country: issues pertaining to the application of the charter; the distribution of governmental jurisdiction within our country, within our federal system; the incidence of citizenship; the correlative rights and expectations which we demand of one another as fellow citizens; and also those difficult issues that deal with the distribution of resources.

These would be difficult enough questions on their own. They are all the more difficult when one factors in the rich and diverse mosaic, the linguistic mosaic, and the cultural mosaic of Canada's aboriginal peoples: Inuit, Métis and over 600 distinct Indian first nations.

As Grand Chief Fontaine has observed, people need control over their own lives and the chance to reap the benefits of their own labours. They do not flourish when they are denied the right to decide for themselves how they will live.

I for one have reached the conclusion, after many years of involvement on this subject, that many of the difficulties which aboriginal people have faced in this country tie back to their struggle against the collectivist tyranny of the Indian Act. It is important that we replace that legislation and Bill C-20 is extraordinarily important legislation in that regard. It represents one of the first steps to pass control of the lives of aboriginal Canadians in respect of economic and taxation matters back within their own jurisdiction in a voluntary manner.

In respect of self-government, the position of myself and my party is clear. The Indian Act and related legislation should be replaced by a modern legislative framework which provides for the inherent right of self-government for the devolution of full, legal and democratic responsibility to aboriginal peoples over their own affairs. This must be done within the overall framework of our federal state.

This reform should be pursued following full consultation with first nations, with the objective of achieving a full and complete devolution of democratic authority that is consistent with the devolution of authority elsewhere within our federal democratic system. Aboriginal Canadians, like all Canadians, are entitled to enjoy democratic control over their own affairs within a legislative context that ensures certainty, stability, respect for the rule of law, and which balances individual and collective responsibility.

Aboriginal communities must have the flexibility to determine for themselves whether and how principles, such as free market principles and individual property ownership should apply to reserve lands. We feel very strongly that this devolution should be accomplished in a manner which takes into account the cultural, linguistic and rich diversity of Canada's first nations. Within that context and within the framework of the Canadian Constitution, we should be prepared to make flexible accommodations for the protection of language and culture within self-government agreements.

I return at this point to the legislation before the House, Bill C-20. One of the fundamental aspects of this legislation, which warrants emphasis, is that it originates not so much with the Government of Canada, and I mean no disrespect in that regard, but rather with a group of visionary leaders, aboriginal Canadians who have fought for their vision of self-government and who have persisted in the face of considerable difficulty.

I speak of a team of people, but there are four or five people in particular I wish to mention for the record in this honourable House. They are Chief Tom Bressette, the chairman of the first nations statistical advisory panel and the present Chief of the Chippewas of Kettle and Stony Point First Nation; Harold Calla, chairman of the financial management advisory panel, a councillor and individual from the Squamish First Nation; Chief Strater Crowfoot, chairman of the Indian taxation advisory board and chief of the Siksika First Nation; Deanna Hamilton, the president and CEO of the first nation finance authority of the Westbank First Nation; and Manny Jules, the former Indian taxation advisory board chairman and the former chief of the Kamloops Indian Band.

These men and women, and the extraordinary team of people who have worked with them are fighting to ensure that the first nation communities that wish to will have voluntary access to practical levers of self-government, which will bring them economic progress, prosperity and social development.

Their vision is one of prosperity, of infrastructure development, of economic development, of economic opportunity and social progress. The self-government, which they are fighting for, is predicated upon the hard work associated with citizenship in this country, the installation of community infrastructure, the responsibilities of debt service, the administration of a property tax system, and the building of fiscal, managerial and financial capacity in their communities.

The legislation also concurrently balances the interests of the federal crown and contains provisions that would provide the necessary protection for the position of taxpayers commensurate with that of other taxpayers in our federal system.

I wish to point out, in response to some of the questions that have been raised surrounding this legislation, that there has been an enormous amount of consultation surrounding the development of this statute.

The bill not only originated with the first nation communities, of which I have spoken, but this project evolved to include many other first nations and regional first nation bodies, the First Nation Summit of British Columbia and the Union of Ontario Indians. Discussion was held in those forums.

Years of consultation and debate have surrounded the development of this initiative. Debates with the Assembly of First Nations AGM, the B.C. First Nation Summit, the Union of Ontario Indians, the Atlantic Policy Congress, as well as numerous discussions with individual first nations. In addition to those consultations, meetings have been held with non-first nation taxpayers, provincial governments, private sector companies and municipal governments.

I would point out for the record and for special note, that consultations have been held with the Canadian Property Tax Association, the Canadian Energy Pipeline Association, the Federation of Canadian Municipalities, the Union of B.C. Municipalities, the Bank of Montreal, First Nations Bank, TD Canada Trust, VanCity Credit Union, Standard & Poor's Corporation, Moody's Investors Services, the Aboriginal Finance Officers Association, the Municipal Finance Authority of British Columbia and other bodies as well.

What all of that speaks to is the remarkable amount of consultation on the legislative progress of the bill. In that regard, when I went through the provisions of the bill in a detailed way, chapter and verse, paragraph by paragraph, I was struck by the fact that the provisions of the bill were well thought out, well crafted and meticulously drafted.

There are three particular issues which the House needs to be aware of and which I think are adequately addressed in the legislation. First, the rights of taxpayers under this legislation; second, the liability of the crown; and third, the provisions relating to default or defalcation.

It is important to note that with respect to the rights of taxpayers, a great deal has been done in the legislation to ensure that a taxpayer on reserve, whether it be an industrial taxpayer or a taxpayer in a residential or commercial context, is being treated very much the same as a taxpayer anywhere else in Canada. An assessment bylaw must be approved by the tax commission under clause 5(2). Assessment appeals are mandatory and prescribed by regulation. There is an appeal review process. A review can be requested of the first nation tax commission under clause 33. In addition, the commissioners of the tax commission include specifically taxpayer appointed nominees under clause 20.

A great deal of effort went into ensuring that the rights of taxpayers were examined, considered and protected. I think they are quite commensurate with a situation any other taxpayer would face in this country.

With respect to the liability of the crown, this is an issue that has been raised. I would point out that under section 60 of the statute, no one is entitled to give a guarantee on behalf of the Government of Canada. Both sections 133 and 135 provide very clearly that no person has a right to receive any compensation or damages, or an indemnity from the crown in respect of this legislation.

I think that is very important because the first nations in this case are not being backstopped by anyone other than themselves. When we talk about aboriginal Canadians standing up and taking responsibility for their own affairs, this legislation shows that it is exactly what is happening. They are not being backstopped by the Government of Canada. This is their own responsibility. It is a collective effort on the part of first nations to guarantee one another's debt and, through that method, to advance themselves economically.

The legislation does contain provisions relating to accountability, and in particular what happens in the event of a difficult circumstance of defalcation or default. There are also extensive co-management or third party management procedures that would happen under the direction of the First Nations Finance Authority. Those matters have been dealt with as well.

This is good legislation and it is indicative of the direction in which we need to move. I spoke earlier of the individuals who have exercised leadership in bringing this forward. Our party compliments them. We are proud of the work they have achieved. We are proud to support this initiative. We think it sets a direction for the country.

Other initiatives in Canada are developing along these same lines. Just this week I met with a very well respected aboriginal leader, Satsan Herb George, who spoke of the governance centre in Chilliwack, British Columbia. This is a proposal that will fit quite naturally in with what is being envisioned by the legislation in front of us, Bill C-20.

What we are talking about is capacity building for first nations to put themselves in a position where they will have governance structures, taxation options, finance options and fiscal management capabilities to lift themselves up and to make social and economic progress on their reserves. This is all very positive.

For my part, I have sometimes worried about the endlessness of the debate that we are having surrounding self-government. The many issues surrounding self-government, the meaning, the scope and the content of that term will, in gradual course, be resolved in Canada, but I think it will be resolved in the same way that other issues in our country have been resolved and that is in an evolutionary and, I would suggest, a conservative and cautious manner that responds in a gradual way to the needs of our diverse Canadian community.

We will make progress. We perhaps will make it cautiously but we will make it with full regard to the consequences of the decisions that we are making.

Let us move forward with the legislation. This is not legislation that answers all of the self-government questions in this nation but it is a start . If we adopt this legislation there will be economic and social progress in Canada for many of the first nations that are in a position and can decide to avail themselves of this legislation. We will be closer to the economic independence and self-sufficiency of which Grand Chief Fontaine speaks.

Parliament of Canada Act December 8th, 2004

Madam Speaker, I have a question for my hon. friend, who is a very experienced member. He is a respected member and also a good speaker.

He was right when he spoke of the Prime Minister. What is the government's motivation for introducing this bill? What does he think it is?