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Crucial Fact

  • His favourite word was countries.

Last in Parliament October 2015, as Conservative MP for Edmonton East (Alberta)

Won his last election, in 2011, with 53% of the vote.

Statements in the House

Supply November 25th, 1997

Mr. Speaker, I am not sure to what the hon. member was alluding. I can only speak most assuredly for myself. I am standing in the Chamber as a result of the last referendum. I was in Quebec City visiting and I saw the voting going on. It was on a plane coming back to Edmonton that I resolved to seek out political parties on the work they were doing for national unity.

I had discussions with several parties and the one plan I wholeheartedly agreed with that supported national unity was that of the Reform Party. That is when I first started working for the Reform. I am standing here today because of the convictions of the Reform Party and its definite interest in national unity.

Supply November 25th, 1997

Mr. Speaker, I will be sharing my time today with my colleague for Prince George—Bulkley Valley.

I am pleased to stand in support of the Calgary declaration which frameworks a national dialogue on Canadian unity. We have come a long way in the two years since the referendum. Two years ago in the referendum we were told not to talk, not to discuss, and to stay out of the situation.

I am pleased to have the opportunity to speak in favour of this important motion for two reasons. First, I indicate my support and that of my constituents for a strong and united Canada that is a welcoming home for the people of Quebec as well as all Canadians.

Second, I hope to teach the government a bit of humility. Why humility? It is for one simple reason. If our country is to be saved it will not be by the government. It will not be by the plans of the Prime Minister or the letters of the Minister of Intergovernmental Affairs or the strategies of public servants who only a few short years ago were the architects of the Charlottetown accord. The sooner the government accepts a bit of humility, the sooner the real work can begin.

The people of Canada will save Canada, the men and women who love the country and make it work every day through their work and their faith; the 150,000 people who flooded into Montreal during the referendum campaign to demonstrate their love of country; and the many millions at home who held their breath during the voting. Canadian unity hit absolute bottom that day.

As I have said in the past, if Canadians have the will and determination we can resolve federal and provincial concerns. We can resolve aboriginal concerns. We can resolve language concerns. It will be an expression of popular will and not a master plan of political manipulation that will make the difference. The grassroots will prevail.

This is a lesson that the nine premiers and two territorial leaders took to heart three months ago when they framed the Calgary declaration. To their credit they realized that making a grand statement was not the object of the exercise. Rather it was setting up the process for consultation that was so important.

Every province and territory, with the exception of Quebec, has put in place a consultative mechanism so its citizens can have their say on the principles of the Calgary declaration and the future of their country.

This is a very important step. Through the motion we can urge the House to endorse efforts to encourage consultation. As parliamentarians we must use our good offices to encourage our constituents to participate in the provincial consultation processes. As Canadians we must make sure that all Canadians, especially those living in Quebec, receive the very important messages contained in the Calgary declaration. Canadians wish to have dialogue to encourage unity discussions with all.

The Calgary declaration has some advantages over previous efforts to renew the federation. We should be working to ensure its success. It has the advantage of having come from the premiers and not from Ottawa, which will give it some added credibility in the eyes of many Canadians who remember the top down executive federalism that produced the Meech and Charlottetown accords. Discussions involve the people of Canada and will have their direct input.

It has the advantage of not being a fait accompli. Instead it signals the flexibility of the federal system in which provinces have the freedom to exercise their powers in the way it best suits their traditions and character.

I had the pleasure to appear at a town hall discussion hosted jointly by my provincial elected colleagues. Our open forum discussions touched on many topics but encouraged all to send their ideas and concepts to the Alberta legislature.

The declaration is suggesting for consideration a way of breaking the deadlock that the phrase distinct society has created, rightly or wrongly, by polarizing opinion on whether Quebec should have a special status in Confederation. Distinct society was undefined. Unique has equality qualifications.

The Calgary declaration recognizes the unique character of Quebec's society, including its French speaking majority, its culture and tradition, the civil law and the role that the Quebec government and legislature have in protecting and developing this unique character within Canada. It also recognizes the legitimate aspirations of all provinces, the equality of their status in Confederation and the fairness of ensuring that any powers offered in a future constitutional amendment to one province be available to all.

I believe Canada is blessed by the uniqueness of many areas. In short, the Calgary declaration recognizes reality. That is what makes it so regrettable that the Bloc Quebecois and provincial government have not consulted Quebeckers on this important dialogue.

The Calgary declaration emphasizes equality of people, equality of provinces and equality of powers. If one province is conferred powers, they ought to be available to all.

It is important we take the steps necessary to extend the dialogue to include the people of Quebec. We call on the government to do so in a formal manner. We ask all hon. members to recognize their responsibilities as parliamentarians and to speak out in favour of a strong and united Canada.

In closing, let me reiterate my support for the motion as a member of Parliament, as an Albertan and as a Canadian. It is my sincere hope that members of the government party will see the wisdom of putting their energy and enthusiasm behind the success of a Calgary initiative that does so much to encourage dialogue with all and of voting for the motion.

It is my hope members of the Bloc Quebecois will act in the best interest of all Quebeckers and will urge their masters in Quebec City to let their constituents have their say. All Canadians must have the opportunity to speak out on the unity of our great country.

I move:

That the motion be amended by inserting immediately after the words “equality of citizens and provinces” the following:

“and special status for none”.

Veterans Affairs November 19th, 1997

Mr. Speaker, while a member of the Royal Canadian Air Force, I recall a conversation with a Hong Kong veteran. Tom spoke of the brutality and torture he endured at the hands of the Japanese army during enslavement. I find it unconscionable that our government 52 years later has still not insisted that Japan, one of the richest countries in the world, provide proper compensation for this enslavement and forced labour.

Will the Minister of Veterans Affairs and the government act now for our Hong Kong veterans' dignity and arrange proper compensation?

Amendment To The Constitution Of Canada (Quebec) November 17th, 1997

Madam Speaker, in answer to the hon. member's question I want to raise another group named as somewhat supporting the motion, Alliance Quebec. When Alliance Quebec was questioned about it, it was clearly against the extinguishment of the constitutional provisions. It was in favour of reforming schools along linguistic lines.

That is the consensus in Quebec. There is no doubt about it. There is no question that in Quebec there is a strong consensus to reform the educational system along linguistic school lines.

One group the committee heard from had a membership of 235,000 French Catholics who were against it. Some 50% of the number of applicants on the application were against school reform by extinguishing the constitution.

Therefore, there is strong feeling that there is not full consensus for proceeding in that manner. When I see the signatures of 235,000 people I really have a feeling that perhaps the people of Quebec should be asked this question directly, not through their associations.

Amendment To The Constitution Of Canada (Quebec) November 17th, 1997

Madam Speaker, I will answer a couple of the hon. member's concerns. Flintstone, maybe, but I believe one thing that has not been addressed quite properly is that the request to amend the constitution is really an extinguishment of sections 1 to 4.

Having been in the construction industry for years I always believed that we should build on to our constitution, moulding and improving it, not ripping it down. That is the direction that should be taken.

Certainly sections 1 to 4 need some improvement to better represent today's society in Quebec and in other parts of Canada, but I do not believe the way to do that is by extinguishing it and removing it for all time. I believe we can make those improvements to the constitution.

Let me speak to the consensus reached at the meetings. One group represented two million people and there were eight more groups represented in the two million people. They are also individually represented in the group. Out of 60 groups represented, eight of them were contained in the one group which represented two million people. When I questioned one of the groups which represented some 180,000 members on whether it had polled its membership the answer was no. Clearly some of these groups which were claiming to represent their members were representing themselves. They had not polled their members.

I agree the question of reform in the education system has been going on for 30 years, but there has not been a discussion about removing section 93 to do it. There has been a discussion on reforming the education system along linguistic lines. There has not been a discussion of extinguishing sections 1 to 4 of the constitution. That has been a very recent phenomenon. It is not well understood by a large number of Quebeckers that the intent of the motion is to remove these rights.

There is consensus for reforming the school system along linguistic lines, but I do not believe there is consensus for the method proposed, which is to extinguish the constitution to get to that end.

Amendment To The Constitution Of Canada (Quebec) November 17th, 1997

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to have this opportunity to speak on this motion to amend section 93 of the Constitution Act, 1867 concerning the Quebec school system. I feel, however, that amendment is understating the issue. It is in fact an extinguishment of sections 93, 1 to 4, for Quebec.

As a freshman member of Parliament, a member of the class of '97, I am particularly honoured to be speaking on such an important subject as amending the Canadian constitution. Such weighty matters have a tendency to give members of Parliament an exaggerated sense of their own importance. They can start to see themselves in terms of their own place in history.

Amending the constitution is a serious exercise, one that should not be done lightly or in haste. In Canada it is something not done with ease. It took Canada 115 years to bring home the British North America Act and create a Canadian constitution that could be amended at home. Lest we forget, the clock is still running on its ratification by the province of Quebec.

Here we are in 1997, 130 years since Confederation, and the process has still not been completed. That is not such a bad thing. There are countries in the world which have gone through a dozen constitutions in the same amount of time. They tend to be places where such documents are often not worth the paper on which they are printed.

In Canada our constitutional process seems to move at a pace that we could describe as glacial. We have a document of which we all can be proud, a statement of our individual and collective rights and responsibilities. It represents a careful balancing of individual rights and collective responsibility to protect the rights of minorities. As such it is an important part of our identity as a caring and compassionate people.

I have good reason to be concerned when the government of the day pulls out all the stops to accelerate the constitutional process. I have good reason to be uncomfortable when the amendment in question is being proposed by a provincial government that has not ratified the constitution. I have good reason to seek greater clarity on the process when there are legitimate questions being asked about the legality of the amending process being used. I have good reason to listen carefully to thousands of Quebeckers who asked us not to ratify the amendment.

There are times when the glacial pace of constitutional change makes sense. I find it worrisome that the Liberal members of the special joint committee from the other place, who are required to provide sober second thought, would be in such a hurry. As a member of the special joint committee, I have listened closely to the witnesses who have appeared before the committee. I have considered carefully the opinions and views they have expressed and those expressed by the hundreds of people who have written letters and signed petitions on the subject.

I am not persuaded that this amendment must be ratified now. Let me give my reasons. They stem from a simple test consisting of three questions.

First, does the constitutional amendment have the democratic agreement of the people? Second, does it conform to the rule of the law? Third, are the rights of minorities protected?

On the first the answer is quite clear. There has been no public consultation in Quebec. In contrast to Newfoundland, which is also pursuing constitutional reform with regard to its educational system, there has been no referendum.

Unanimous consent to a request for the school board amendment by the Quebec national assembly does not in turn reflect unanimous consent by the people of Quebec.

The hundreds and thousands of Quebeckers who signed petitions opposing this amendment are proof of that. I cite as an example the petition of the coalition for denominational schools, a petition signed by 235,000 people.

It is shameful that some members of the government have been questioning the validity of this petition. The people of Quebec who signed this petition cannot be ignored because they demonstrate that there is no consensus in Quebec for an amendment to section 93 of the 1967 constitution.

The solution to this is reasonably straightforward. The Government of Quebec must do a better job consulting with the people of Quebec. It has a model to study in Newfoundland. It needs to present clearly the implications of the amendment.

I would not doubt that greater understanding would reduce the level of distrust and fear. Among other avenues, the Government of Quebec could have had its ministers involved in the process earlier rather than relying on quiet passage.

The answer to the second question of whether it conforms to the rule of law is less straightforward. The committee should be certain that what is being proposed respects the rule of law.

Are we using the appropriate amending formula? The Government of Canada and some legal scholars say yes. Other voices have challenged the bilateral process. The committee should not be expected to decide this question in haste under an artificial deadline. I would like to point out that the ink is not even dry on this motion and I have been made aware of a court challenge already.

This court challenge asserts that the legislature of Quebec and the Parliament of Canada do not have the authority, acting pursuant to the bilateral amendment procedure foreseen by section 43 of the Constitution Act, 1982, to proceed to amend section 93 of the Constitution Act, 1867 by repealing subsections 93(1) to (4) as they apply to Quebec.

The petitioners assert that they have persons directly concerned by the repeal of section 93 and invoke their individual right to and interest in the integrity of the process to amend section 93 of the Constitution Act, 1867.

A court decision could settle the legal issue. Without such a decision, the committee should at least have received a full legal brief on the issue so it could consider the matter in the light of the best legal advice available.

The answer to the third question is crucial. The question of minority rights has been at the soul of Canada for its entire history and the rights of minorities to control their own education have been established in province after province.

How well a country protects its citizens from the tyranny of the majority is a measure of its democracy. I think we all can be proud of how far we have progressed since the Manitoba schools debate of 100 years ago.

When the dividing line is language, emotions tend to run high. This is one reason why the protections in the constitution are so clear about the education rights of linguistic minorities.

Of course, this brings to mind one concern. It is not clear that the Government of Quebec believes section 23 to be in force in that province, as that province has not ratified the constitution.

This puts a much greater burden of proof on those who want to fast track this amendment but, to add to this burden, it is not just linguistic minority rights that are in question, it is religious minority rights.

The Government of Quebec wants an amendment to Canada's constitution so that Quebec can rearrange its school board system from one based on religious denomination to one based on language.

Although there does seem to be a consensus for linguistic school boards, there is equally a strong voice contending that rights to have religious schools would be violated with the abolition of the denominational school provisions in section 93.

Quebec wants to change the school board structure next year once the existing guarantees for Protestant and Catholic boards in Montreal and Quebec City are removed. Many people would agree that boards organized along denominational lines may not make a lot of sense. They only need to look a little farther west to the province of Ontario to see a system where boards organized along both linguistic and denominational lines seem to work.

Is it not strange how much more sense things make the farther west we go?

The guarantees provided are far from perfect, but unless they are replaced by some other form of constitutional protection removing them would erode the education rights of the English speaking minority. The move to linguistic boards should not be used to weaken minority rights. Does the amendment risk leaving Quebec's English minority with less protection than it has now? I think it does and I am not alone.

To sum up, I asked three questions. I was hoping for three yes answers but I received two noes and a maybe. It was hardly a passing grade. Let me be more generous and propose an easier question. What harm would be done if the amendment were not passed by the House today? We all know the answer. None. The children of Quebec would still receive an education. The circumstances that have prevailed for 130 years would prevail a few more and the sky would not fall.

About the worst thing that can be said about the clause in section 93 is that it is anachronistic and inconvenient. It is unfortunate the constitutional chess game and the government's strategy of appeasement will continue.

Let me be clear. Returning the process of constitutional change to its normal pace does not mean that change is not possible. Let me make it clear that the Reform Party supports the appropriate use of the amending formula if it is supported by an expression of the will of the people. The constitutional process has to come out of the back rooms and the realm of the power brokers and deal makers. Surely we learned this from Meech and Charlottetown. There is nothing stopping a reconsideration of the amendment in a few months time under only slightly different conditions.

Let me suggest the following to the Government of Quebec to improve its chances next time around. It can consult its citizens. It can hold a referendum with a clearly worded question. It can state clearly in writing that minority protections of section 23 are in place. May I suggest that the easiest way of doing that would be to ratify the Constitution of Canada.

Remembrance Day November 6th, 1997

Mr. Speaker, whilst skies rained shells and proud men died, a soldier penned prose of bitter truths. His pen spoke out from the fields of war 82 years ago. He spoke for all that have faced their soul in the finality of the theatre of war.

Whether Korea, the gulf or two world wars, he could well be speaking of all brave men that have soldiered the world for Canadians' beliefs. His words are carved in the walls of this House and are enduring as the threat of future wars.

For our honourable war veterans and remembered war dead we pause to give our respect. “If ye break faith with us who die, we shall not sleep lest we forget”.

Remembrance Day October 31st, 1997

“Lest we forget”. Mr. Speaker, on November 11 these words will echo throughout this land as we respectfully recognize our veterans and war dead.

Sadly, during the rest of the year some do forget. But not the Maple Grove Memorial Club in Yarmouth, Nova Scotia. This club encourages students to respect and learn about our veterans' great sacrifices for Canada. These extraordinary young Canadians attend parades, visit veterans in hospitals and seniors' homes and promote national unity.

Next week is veterans week. I proudly salute Canada's war veterans but I also give honourable mention to the Maple Grove Memorial Club and teacher, Joe Bishara. They have not forgotten.

Newfoundland School System October 27th, 1997

Madam Speaker, I concur with my colleague that the voucher system would have been an important element to have in this resolution, or to propose to the people of Newfoundland. I agree it would certainly add an element of fairness to the educational system in Newfoundland.

Newfoundland School System October 27th, 1997

Mr. Speaker, I would consider that to be a hypothetical situation. I think we are here to debate the Newfoundland resolution which is before us.