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Crucial Fact

  • His favourite word was farmers.

Last in Parliament October 2015, as Conservative MP for Vegreville—Wainwright (Alberta)

Won his last election, in 2011, with 80% of the vote.

Statements in the House

Excise Tax Act June 21st, 1994

Mr. Speaker, before the break I was debating Bill C-32 and I was talking about the fact that this bill will encourage young people to smoke by making tobacco products more affordable to them.

I discussed my own experience in that regard, but I will also quote Professor Robert C. Allen, a visiting professor from Harvard University. It was noted how the decrease in tobacco taxes will directly impact on increasing the number of people, including young people, who take up smoking. He stated that tobacco consumption would increase by 14 per cent. Teens, being about two and a half times as price sensitive on this issue, would increase their consumption of cigarettes by about 35 per cent. All of this is because of the reduction in tobacco taxes. Even the money being used from the surtax will do little to discourage 175,000 young people from smoking. The use of tobacco and the hazards of second hand smoke are well known and documented.

One main concern I have, like many of my constituents, is the effect this legislation will have on our health care system. Another major consideration is the toll the legislation will have on human lives as increased consumption leads to further health complications.

I am not going to talk at any length about the personal tragedies caused by increased disease due to smoking. We all understand that so I will not discuss it today. However I would like to talk about the less direct human toll which will be brought about as a result of this tax.

Reformers support decreasing overall taxes, but we have to question whether this bill will do that at all. Does this bill decrease tax? I say it does not. A select group may be paying lower taxes to start off with, but all Canadian taxpayers will end up paying more money in the future because of the increased health care costs associated with smoking. It will require increased taxes to pay this additional cost brought about by increased smoking and the increased health hazards that result.

Professor Robert C. Allen notes that further proposed reductions in tobacco taxation will have a devastating impact on the health of Canadians since they will significantly expand tobacco consumption. He also states that lowering cigarette taxes would lead to large increases in cigarette consumption with significantly higher levels of death from tobacco related diseases. Professor Allen is backing up what I said and what many have said before me. Therefore the health expenditure would rise sharply and tax receipts would drop.

Have the long term costs of our health care system been considered properly by the government in this legislation? I say the answer is no.

Extra costs to health care resulting from increased smoking and related disease have not been properly considered, as I discussed earlier and reductions in the much needed health services, including elective surgery, will be put under further stress as a result of this further spending on this group who need additional services because of smoking related health problems.

I am saying that because of these increased smoking related health problems and costs there will be less money available for elective surgery. I am sure all of us know already the problems that we have in receiving elective surgery on time. This will further complicate that problem.

Even if the government does down the road, as I hope it will, decide to bring increased efficiency into our health care system, thus reducing the cost of delivering our system as it is today, we also need to bring the cost of health care to a reasonable level. We must, in any way we can, reduce unnecessary disease such as that brought about by cigarette smoking.

The next point I would like to discuss is the timing of reducing tobacco taxes. I think it is impeccably bad. I believe I will put this point off until a little bit later and if I do not have time to come back to the point I am sure my colleagues will question me on the issue of timing.

For the past four months my constituents have told me, in no uncertain terms, that they do not support the government in reducing this tobacco tax. This Liberal government told us during the campaign and has told us since that it is determined to listen to the will of Canadians. The Liberals said they would be more democratic, they would be more responsive to the wishes of Canadians. We have heard that again and again. The action the government has taken on this issue indicates that it is just talk. It is just hot air. The government is not willing to listen to Canadians. I have heard from MPs across the country that their constituents do not support the government on this issue of lowering tobacco taxes. The government may pay lip service to consulting with Canadians, but once again the action does not match the lip service.

I would like to present what has become a Reform tradition; that is, when Reformers criticize the views or legislation presented before the House, they present constructive alternatives. Today I will do that in regard to the tobacco tax issue.

It is important to examine whether there are other ways to combat this problem of smuggling other than reduction of tobacco taxes. Unfortunately Bill C-32 is just another example of the government avoiding the real problem and refusing to face it head on.

Real solutions can come only if the problem has been clearly identified and then dealt with in a straightforward manner. I believe that by caving in on the issue of cigarette smuggling and the problem it has caused and will continue to cause, the

government has taken the easy way out. The government did not have any difficulty identifying the fact that smuggling was the problem, and I give it credit for that. It seems to have difficulty coming up with a common sense solution.

A more rigorous attempt at enforcing our laws should have been the first action undertaken by the government. Smuggling is a crime and those involved must be dealt with accordingly. Criminals should be treated like criminals regardless of race, colour, gender, religion or geographic location. If rigorous law enforcement meant going on the reserves where over 70 per cent of the smuggling took place, according to RCMP figures, this action should have been taken.

Was the government so intimidated by past events such as the Oka crisis-I admit a very scary, undesirable situation-that it backed down on enforcing the law? It is a question I would like the members opposite to ask and answer of themselves. If this is true it sets a very dangerous precedent on how we deal with crime. We have seen a similar process of dealing with crime in regard to the Young Offenders Act and gun control.

On the Young Offenders Act, was direct straightforward open action taken to help solve the problem? From the legislation we have just seen presented to the House, direct action was not taken.

On gun control, the Minister of Justice has shown again and again that the approach he will take is not the direct common sense approach, but rather is a roundabout approach, that of restricting guns and the use of guns, to no avail. No direct action is taken which really deals with the problem.

A further effect of this legislation is that it creates inequity from province to province. The prices for tobacco are now vastly different from province to province. I recognize there are other tax provisions that combat interprovincial smuggling. What if it gets out of hand, as did the cross-border smuggling between Canada and the U.S.?

I believe that will happen, and I have heard members of the House comment, hopefully in jest, that they should take a box of cigarettes back to Alberta or Saskatchewan or B.C. with them because there is good money to be made in smuggling between the provinces now. It is absurd way to deal with the problem. What happened to the direct common sense approach?

My home province of Alberta has never before experienced a smuggling problem, at least until now, but I do believe that is what will happen with this bill. Reducing the tobacco taxes in some provinces but not in others will lead to smuggling between provinces at an ever increasing rate. It certainly will lead to substantial smuggling into Alberta.

In defending Bill C-32 this morning the hon. Secretary of State for International Financial Institutions stated that the smuggling problem was undermining the government's health plan. Let us look at the logic of that statement. Let us follow the path of logic through.

Smuggling led to a lower price per package of cigarettes and therefore people were buying more. Because people were buying more, this increased the costs incurred by Canadian health care because of the health risks associated with smoking. What was the government's solution? It lowered the tax on cigarettes.

This resulted in a lower price for cigarettes making them more affordable for everyone, not just those who were buying smuggled cigarettes. Does any member in this House buy that as a path of logic? I think not. This further undermines the government's own health plan in Canada. The government has legalized the demise of its own health plan. Nothing is accomplished by this legislation.

In conclusion, this keep the peace style of government has not worked in the past and will not work in the future. It is time for the government to stop shirking its responsibility in dealing with this problem and to show some leadership. That is what Canadians want. If the government is not prepared to do that then I want to assure members in this House that Reformers certainly are prepared to do so and we will if government does not.

Excise Tax Act June 21st, 1994

I know it is a shame. We went out behind the calf pens. We used to buy these Holstein calves and at chore time, after feeding these calves and dealing with the cows, we would go out there and sneak cigarettes.

I believe the only thing that stopped my brother and me from smoking and from getting caught up in this terrible habit was the cost factor. It was the cost factor that stopped my brother and me from pursuing this terrible habit.

This legislation therefore will be totally ineffective and by lowering the cost of cigarettes to everyone right across the country it will increase the problem of young people smoking. In a study examining the effects of the reduction of tobacco taxes in Canada-

Excise Tax Act June 21st, 1994

Mr. Speaker, I am here today to address Bill C-32, an act to amend the Excise Tax Act and the Income Tax Act. I will concentrate on the section of Bill C-32 proposing a reduction in tobacco taxes and outline my reasons for opposing this legislation.

There are some other aspects of this bill which I can support and which some Reformers certainly support, but my colleagues have and will continue to touch on these areas and I will leave it to them.

Late June of this year has been declared tax freedom day by the Fraser Institute. From that day forward Canadians will be working for themselves instead of for government. We can all agree that the tax burden on Canadians is too high and I believe that all Canadians are looking for tax relief. However, I question whether Bill C-32 is the way to lower taxes for Canadians.

As a Reformer I want taxes reduced. I want taxes reduced for all Canadians and not just for a select group which is what the effect will be of this bill. I do not think you could find many other pieces of legislation that propose tax reductions, possibly none, that I as a Reformer would not support. However, Bill C-32, in spite of calling for a reduction in taxes, has hit at the very last place that taxes should be reduced.

I would like to talk about the problems with this legislation and later I will talk about, in the Reform tradition, some possible solutions that are better than this legislation.

This legislation has been introduced in an effort to control the problem of smuggling, not with the intention of easing the tax burden. The government refused to control the smuggling problem, particularly in the areas of eastern Ontario and across the U.S.-Quebec border on native reserves. My colleagues have talked about the lack of action on the part of the government in dealing with smuggling across the U.S.-Canada border in the area of certain reserves.

The criminal element of Canada has been allowed to get away with its crime of smuggling because the government is afraid to intervene in any meaningful way. This is wrong. Lowering tobacco taxes may reduce smuggling from the United States and may reduce the smuggling of cigarettes. Smugglers will just turn their efforts to smuggling other commodities.

I would like the government to think about this. If smugglers are limited by this change in smuggling cigarettes-it will possibly have that effect-then what of smuggling liquor, a similar commodity with a high sin tax? What about smuggling narcotics, guns? What action will the government take next when smuggling liquor becomes a major problem, when liquor is being smuggled across the U.S.-Canada border? What action will the government take?

I ask that question and I would certainly hope that members of the governing party will think about it and will answer it for themselves. If this legislation passes, we will certainly all be having to answer this question and not too far down the road. How are we going to deal with the problem of smuggling alcohol? What of narcotics and guns?

We already know to some extent the attitude that the government has in dealing with guns. It is not a healthy approach. It is not the direct approach that we would all like but I will talk about that briefly later when connecting it to this issue.

This legislation does not in any way solve the smuggling problem nor does it set a precedent to deal with any future problems should they arise. If it does set a precedent, then I am more concerned than I am now. If the precedent the government has set in dealing with future smuggling problems is to lower the tax and do anything but deal with that problem head on, then it is a bad precedent. That is another reason we oppose this legislation. Once again, it is an example of government dodging its responsibility.

Bill C-32 will encourage young people to smoke because it makes tobacco products more affordable to them. This is irrefutable and my colleagues and others have talked about this already. It is very clear that the anti-smoking campaign aimed at young smokers has not worked. It has been ineffective. Now that cigarettes have become more affordable, many young people will be taking up smoking.

I would like to relate an experience to the House. I was around 12 years old when my bother and I obtained cigarettes.

The Family June 17th, 1994

Mr. Speaker, let me clearly say that the Reform Party is in no way opposed to families who send their children to day care. We are opposed to a system that penalizes parents who choose to care for their children at home.

Will the government ensure a fair tax system by removing the penalties for parents who care for their pre-school children at home?

The Family June 17th, 1994

Mr. Speaker, my question is for the Secretary of State for Finance. I hope he will finally answer. Will the Secretary of State acknowledge that the current tax system discriminates against families who care for their children at home?

The Family June 17th, 1994

Mr. Speaker, on Wednesday for the second time the government turned to the Reform Party for help in defining the family. Instead of answering my colleague's question, the secretary of state for finance showed his confusion about what the family is.

I would like to advise him that the family is already clearly defined in the Income Tax Act for which he is partially responsible. I suggest he look it up. The problem is not the definition of the family but the impact of the tax system on the family. The current tax system penalizes parents-

Grain Transportation June 3rd, 1994

Mr. Speaker, this issue has been studied to death for more than 25 years. If all the money that was spent on studies was put into a safety net program, I suggest there would be no need for any further spending on agriculture.

Will the minister stop studying and start acting on this important transportation issue?

Grain Transportation June 3rd, 1994

Mr. Speaker, in recognition of National Transportation Day I would like to address the issue of grain transportation. My question is for the Minister of Transport.

Payments to farmers under the WGTA have been reduced by about $100 million a year. At the same time nothing has been done to make the system more efficient by allowing farmers increased access to alternate shipping modes for grain.

When will the minister put this money in farmers' hands and allow them to choose the best market for their grain without this distortion?

Supply June 2nd, 1994

Madam Speaker, I would like to ask some questions about western diversification.

The hon. member has mentioned some success stories, at least in his mind they are success stories, and I would like to ask about some other people, for example the local owner of a sausage plant in my constituency who has been competing and been struggling but he is making a go of it. This family business as a sausage plant has had to compete with a sausage plant down the road that has received western diversification money. This is unfair competition with his tax dollars that he has paid to the government to help support the competition.

I would like to ask the hon. member if he feels that is fair.

What about the two local businesses, the largest businesses in our neighbouring town, that are funded through western diversification, both now out of business and have left the town grasping for something to replace them and it is not there.

What about the swather manufacturing business in Saskatchewan, a very successful business, which was forced to compete against a swather manufacturing plant funded with western diversification money. The result was they both went out of business because of this unfair competition.

I would like to ask the hon. member what about those businesses and what about Albertans who have paid $100 billion to $165 billion more in tax dollars through the national energy program and through transfer payments to the federal government than they received over the past 25 years. Is it fair to those Alberta taxpayers to be funding these programs in other provinces?

Supply June 2nd, 1994

Madam Speaker, the hon. member who just presented gave a quote from the red book. I would like to give a quote from the red book that I gave earlier:

A reliance on "granterpreneurship", as opposed to entrepreneurship, has fostered artificial local competition and created distortions in local markets.

That is a quote from the Liberal red book and that is the part of the quote that you left out from the quote that you just presented to us. I think the hon. member maybe should consider that in his comments.