House of Commons photo

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

West Coast Ports Operations Act, 1994 February 8th, 1994

Mr. Speaker, I certainly would not want to point a finger, in this case or in past disputes, at either management or labour. That is not my intent at all. I recognize that some have been lockouts and some have been strikes.

In terms of reconciling our position on property rights and ending a strike, we fully recognize that to make an open market system work well certain regulations must be in place. This is exactly one example of that type of situation. We have a near monopoly situation. Farmers have no option other than this route to get their grain to the customer. This is one time when government regulation is needed so that the system will work well.

West Coast Ports Operations Act, 1994 February 8th, 1994

Mr. Speaker, I would like to start by congratulating the government for bringing the legislation to the House. Reformers are pleased that the government finally listened to our persistence in Question Period to settle this issue. I would also like to thank members of all parties for their co-operation in allowing the legislation to be dealt with quickly.

I want to speak on behalf of western Canadian grain farmers in making it very clear to the House that this disruption should never have happened. Legislation that provides a long-term solution to this problem should have been passed years ago. In this regard I would like to pledge leadership on behalf of Reform

members of Parliament in reaching a long-term solution to this problem. Disruptions in grain handling must not continue.

This legislation appears to provide for an adequate solution to this particular disruption. For example, the arbitration procedure proposed in this bill seems to be a fair one. I believe both sides will provide serious offers knowing that one offer will be fully accepted and the other fully rejected by the arbitrator. This bill should allow this House to legislate an immediate end to this particular problem.

There is however a more important consideration. That is a long-term solution to the problem of disruptions in grain transportation and handling. The following points illustrates this.

There have been nine disruptions which have ended in back to work legislation for longshoremen and management since 1956. They occurred in 1956, 1972, 1974, 1975, 1982, 1986, 1988, 1991 and again in 1994. There have been over a dozen other labour-management disputes involving grain handling and transportation which have ended in back to work legislation. Many other situations have been settled through normal labour-management negotiations but all have caused disruptions in grain transportation and grain movement.

Hundreds of millions of dollars in lost sales have been incurred through these disruptions, but it is very difficult to put an exact figure on the value of the loss of sales due to unreliable delivery to our customers. Let me demonstrate the damage that has been done to the Canadian economy, especially to grain farmers.

Agriculture Canada has estimated that this strike has cost between $100 million and $150 million. This figure however does not take into consideration the damage to Canada's reputation as a reliable supplier of grain.

The Canadian Wheat Board indicated that the Japanese food agency has cut its next order from 80,000 tonnes to 35,000 tonnes. This reduction amounts to a loss of $6 million to Canadian grain farmers. Japanese buyers have indicated grave concern about depending on Canadian sources for future grain supplies. This is very serious.

The chief executive officer of a large grain company quoted a Japanese buyer as saying in these last couple of days that Canada should implement a strike month so we can get all of these strikes out of the way and have reliable grain deliveries for the other 11 months. It is a serious problem. The Japanese are complaining about these disruptions and we have to deal with them. It is truly an embarrassment that the Canadian government is allowing this to happen.

Lost shipment on the west coast amounts to 73,000 tonnes per day. However the losses go way beyond the two weeks of this strike. It will take several weeks for the system to operate at full capacity again. A catch up time is required. Demurrage costs alone will amount to $6 million, again paid for out of the pockets of western Canadian grain farmers. No one else covers these costs.

Past strikes have cost tens of millions of dollars and the damage to long-term commitments has been severe. Direct losses, for example losses to grain companies, terminal operations and demurrage on ships waiting in port are losses that can be calculated. However, the losses are due to disruption in sales and therefore future lost markets cannot be easily calculated. All of these losses I emphasize again are to western Canadian grain farmers. I could continue with examples such as these but let us start talking about long-term solutions.

There are at least two options which should be examined as possible long-term solutions. The first one is to declare grain handling an essential service. The second is to put into place better labour-management negotiation processes. I will explain the second option just a little later.

In declaring all grain handling an essential service, Reform policy states that grain handling should be deemed an essential service if use of alternative shipping points should not prove sufficient in maintaining shipment levels and customer satisfaction. This option therefore is conditional on having available other cost effective options to ship our Canadian grain.

The second option is to put in place a better labour-management negotiation process. This could involve ensuring that a new agreement will be in place before the old one expires. There would be no strikes under this option either.

To accomplish that an arbitrator could be appointed approximately six months before a contract expires. If a settlement has not been reached within two weeks of the end of the contract, then an arbitrator would ask management and labour to come up with their best offer, their best position. The arbitrator would then pick one, either the labour position or the management position. One position would be completely accepted and the other position completely rejected. This is in line with what the Liberals have proposed to end this particular strike.

Under this process a strike would not be allowed to occur. This is good for labour. It is good for management. It is good for western Canadian grain farmers and others using the system. These options should be considered in developing a long-term solution to the recurring disruptions in the grain handling system.

In conclusion I once again congratulate this government for bringing forth this legislation. On behalf of western Canadian grain farmers and others hurt by these disruptions, I strongly

encourage this government to work through an all-party committee in reaching a long-term solution to these recurring problems.

The last strike lasted five days, this strike eleven days. Let us ensure there are no future strikes which will curtail grain movement in the country.

Labour Disputes February 7th, 1994

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

As the minister said last week, the Reform Party is the party of free enterprise. As such, we recognize that some labour disputes in monopoly-like situations may require third party intervention or regulation which will prevent the problem. Clearly the labour dispute at the port of Vancouver is such a case.

Will this government permanently resolve the problem of grain handling interruption by declaring grain handling an essential service?

Agriculture January 27th, 1994

Mr. Speaker, I rise today on behalf of farmers who seek sound programs that balance their interests with those of consumers and taxpayers.

Reformers will promote the following changes to agriculture:

Consolidation of over a dozen uncoordinated programs into three: a trade distortion adjustment program; an income stabilization program; and an improved crop insurance program;

Reform of the transportation system so that products may be moved by any route, any mode and in any state of processing;

Improved private sector participation in research, education and job training;

Better targeting of research funds to meet the goals set out by farmers and agribusiness; and

Improved regulations relating to safety, fair competition and dispute settlement.

These changes and others will allow farmers to build a much brighter future.

The Deficit January 26th, 1994

Mr. Speaker, a supplementary question. In recent weeks the chartered banks have not matched the decreases in the bank rate with similar decreases in their prime lending rates. The banks say they are reluctant to do so because of this government's lack of commitment to specific deficit reduction targets.

Will the minister clearly state his deficit reduction targets for 1994-95 to help alleviate this problem?

The Deficit January 26th, 1994

Mr. Speaker, my question is for the Minister of Finance.

During the election campaign this government promised to reduce the annual deficit to 3 per cent of GDP within three years. This promise was reiterated by the Minister of Finance in December.

Last week on the first vote of the 35th Parliament each and every government member voted against the motion to limit spending.

Why should the people of Canada believe this government is serious about deficit reduction and its own three-year goal when it refuses to take the first step to reduce spending by just 6 per cent this year?

Speech From The Throne January 24th, 1994

Madam Speaker, I would like to tell the hon. member that I am aware of the negotiations. I can only go by what is reported by the government but I understand negotiations are going well and that the probability is not very high that we will have interference in shipping our durum wheat to the United States.

Speech From The Throne January 24th, 1994

Madam Speaker, let me extend my congratulations to you on your appointment to the chair and to the hon. member for Welland-St. Catharines-Thorold on his election as Speaker of the House. I sincerely believe that both of you will be just and wise in conducting the business of the House. I also congratulate all members of the House on their election victories.

I am very pleased to take this opportunity to thank the people of Vegreville constituency for their strong show of support on October 25 and for their communication with me since then. I understand well that I represent all constituents and each must have equal access to my ears, my effort and my voice.

The greatest strengths of this area are resourceful and highly motivated people and an abundance of natural resources including oil, natural gas and rich agricultural land. Through living and working with the people of this area I have learned there are common threads that bind them. They are kind, generous and forgiving to a point. They are hard working, treat people fairly and expect to be treated fairly. They like to face problems head on and are frustrated that their governments refuse to do the same. They are a way ahead of government in recognizing the problems and the solutions to the problems the country faces.

These people have told me what they expect of this government. They want democratic and parliamentary reforms which will make me and the Government of Canada more accountable to them. They want reform of the justice system to restore the balance between the rights of victims and society as a whole and the rights and rehabilitation of criminals.

They want government to spend less, much less. My constituents have sent me here to ask these questions of each spending proposal. Is it necessary? How much will it cost? Can it be done for less? The Canadian public and members of the House have heard and will continue to hear Reform MPs ask: Can we spend less?

As I listened to the throne speech I was disappointed that agriculture was not mentioned. However my concerns were somewhat alleviated by the hon. Minister of Agriculture in his response to the throne speech. I was pleased with some of the objectives the minister outlined and will be thrilled, as will my constituents, if my interpretation of what he said and what he actually meant are the same.

I will list briefly what I see as the major problems in agriculture today and outline some of the Reform solutions. My colleague from Fraser Valley East will discuss the supply managed sector.

The problems then are subsidies both domestic and foreign which encourage overproduction and lead to unfair competition, a lack of co-ordination of programs further distorting market signals and causing inappropriate production, and programs which threaten access to markets. For example, the national tripartite stabilization program for beef and hogs has caused export problems to the United States. Then there are problem which encourage environmental damage. An example is the gross revenue insurance plan which encourages crop production on marginal and easily degradable land.

The Crow benefit costs taxpayers approximately $700 million a year and leads to the exports of value added in industries and jobs. The future of grain farming may very well depend on keeping those value added industries in Canada.

Next would be marketing agencies which prohibit competition. For example, the Canadian Wheat Board controls all sales of wheat, barley exports and domestic milling wheat sales. I am not suggesting that we eliminate the Canadian Wheat Board but rather that we reform it.

Another problem is very poor anti-combines and fair competition legislation and even poorer enforcement. Finally are interprovincial trade barriers.

All these problems and others must be dealt with in a co-ordinated way. Are farmers ready to accept the necessary change? I believe they are. Farmers are astute business people who do not want to depend on subsidies which prolong the problem. They want to depend on less subsidies and more on the marketplace. Although the new GATT agreement may open the gate it will not solve the problem. It is up to Parliament, in consultation with farmers, to make the necessary changes.

I will outline briefly the vision of the Reform Party for agricultural reform: more specifically reform of safety net programs, the transportation system, research, education and training, government regulations, and the Canadian Wheat Board.

Concerning safety net programs, our plan is to consolidate the mess of over a dozen unco-ordinated programs into three programs to protect farmers from natural hazards, unfair foreign trade practices and other income fluctuations which are beyond their control.

First, there is the creation of a trade distortion adjustment program to compensate farmers for unfair trade practices in other countries.

Second, an income stabilization program will help protect farmers against price fluctuations and cycles which occur in an open market environment. This program will ensure a minimum of interference in the marketplace by using the whole farm approach. That means all commodities would be eligible and all commodities produced on a particular farm would be included in the plan.

Third, an improved crop insurance program would help protect farmers against natural hazards but not encourage overproduction.

This package of three safety net programs will be better for farmers and less expensive for taxpayers.

Concerning transportation reform, agricultural products should move to markets by any route, any mode of transportation and in any state of processing that farmers and their customers agree on. Transportation subsidies should be eliminated and the money put into the safety net program. The

railway system should be deregulated and options such as privatizing CN Rail rolling stock to enhance competition in the system should be considered. Grain handlers should be deemed an essential service during labour disputes if alternate routes which are cost effective cannot be found.

A policy environment which encourages private sector participation in research, education and job training must be developed. Research funds should be better targeted to meet the goals set out by farmers and agribusiness.

In the area of government regulation we must ensure that imported products meet the same safety and environmental standards as those produced in Canada. We must strengthen and rigorously enforce anti-dumping laws and dispute settlement mechanisms. We must protect against unfair business practices by strengthening and enforcing anti-combine legislation and by creating stronger licensing and arbitration regulations.

Finally, a priority of this Parliament must be reforming the Canadian Wheat Board. Allowing a continental barley market, though certainly a move in the right direction, is only tinkering with a system that needs major reform. Let us make the following improvements. Make the Canadian Wheat Board accountable to the people who pay the bills and they are western Canadian grain farmers. Allow the wheat board to handle any crop it wants but permit farmers and grain companies the right to compete with the board. Continue loan guarantees as long as other countries do and give farmers the right to choose between a pool price and a daily cash price.

These changes will provide a win-win situation for farmers, taxpayers and for us in this House. We have strong support, as in no Parliament before, to make these positive and substantial changes to the Canadian Wheat Board. The farmers of this country are way ahead of us politicians in being ready for and demanding these changes. Let us catch up. Let us lead. Thank you.

Registered Retirement Savings Plan January 24th, 1994

Mr. Speaker, last week and again just now the Minister of Finance refused to tell this House that there would be no increase in taxation. Canadians therefore have no choice but to believe that taxes will be increased in this upcoming budget.

Will the minister tell the House today whether he plans to raise tax revenues by changing the income tax regulations regarding RRSPs?

Registered Retirement Savings Plan January 24th, 1994

Mr. Speaker, my question is for the Minister of Finance.

This past weekend the minister met with several prominent economists, business people and ordinary Canadians to discuss the issue of deficit reduction. The vast majority of participants believe that the key to deficit reduction is through spending reductions rather than tax increases. Yet the government continues to float ideas about increasing tax revenues by limiting RRSP contributions.

My question for the minister is this. Will he treat the deficit problem as a spending problem and immediately set targets to reduce and limit spending or does the minister regard this as a revenue problem? Will he then tell the Canadian public what his

real plans are to increase their taxes and how much this will cost individual Canadians?