House of Commons photo

Crucial Fact

  • His favourite word was indian.

Last in Parliament October 2015, as Conservative MP for Desnethé—Missinippi—Churchill River (Saskatchewan)

Lost his last election, in 2015, with 30% of the vote.

Statements in the House

Business of Supply June 4th, 2015

Mr. Speaker, the advisory committee that has been set up by nutrition north takes individuals from Nunavut, Northwest Territories, Manitoba and Saskatchewan to meet the individual stakeholders and consumers. They are meeting with individuals and getting the information to look at innovative ways to address the special needs of getting consumers the proper products. That is what the government is doing.

It is doing the consultations. It has individuals out there who are doing the consultations to make the nutrition north program better.

Business of Supply June 4th, 2015

Mr. Speaker, we can look at the freight rates and what the government is doing. It is trying to make nutritious food more available for northerners, like those in northern Saskatchewan.

The review board for nutrition north is going to be looking at the system as a whole and making recommendations for first nations communities, northern communities, aboriginal and non-aboriginal communities to get produce to their stores and get nutritious food to consumers.

One of the things we are also looking at as a government is the profit margins and the addition of a new clause in the funding agreement that will ensure the recipients have all the information on all eligible items and profit margins from the independent auditors. That will make the independent suppliers more competitive and ensure competitive pricing for stores. That is what we are trying to do, give proper food and healthy food choices to the people in the north that would lower the costs of buying supplies.

Business of Supply June 4th, 2015

Mr. Speaker, I am thankful for this opportunity to explain why I cannot support the motion introduced by the member for Northwest Territories.

Since its implementation in 2011, nutrition north has proven to be an effective, responsive and functional program that has lowered the cost of food in the north and increased the amount of nutritious perishable foods to northern communities. The program subsidizes the cost of perishable, nutritious food for Canadians in northern and remote communities.

Lowering prices for nutritious food, combined with increased knowledge of healthy eating, contributes to the Conservative government's larger vision for the north. We take tremendous pride in the support for self-reliant individuals living in healthy, prosperous communities.

While other members of this House have focused their arguments on the cost of the food in the north, how the program works and eligibility criteria, I will emphasize the important role that retailers play.

As my hon. colleagues recognize, making nutritious food accessible to residents in remote communities is a challenge far too great to be met by any single entity working on its own. Success requires willing partners. This is precisely why nutrition north Canada directly engages retailers.

These retailers are made up of men and women who not only have a deep understanding of the nature of supply and demand in the north, but also have a vested interest in satisfying their customers. In many cases, they and their families live in the communities served by nutrition north Canada. In other cases, they travel regularly to some of these communities and have first-hand knowledge of the situation on the ground. In every case, they want the program to succeed.

For all of these reasons, nutrition north Canada was designed as a market-based program to encourage retailers and suppliers to choose the most economical option for shipping foods. The program also assigns retailers an essential role in transparency in ensuring that subsidies and savings are passed on to the consumers by assigning responsibility for some aspects of the program to those directly involved in it.

For retailers and consumers, nutrition north Canada fosters competition and innovation, and I will elaborate further on each of these points, beginning with decisions about shipping methods.

Determining the most economical and effective way to transport a particular food depends on many factors. The most important factor is shelf life. For non-perishable items, such as dry pasta, rice and most grains, the best option usually involves transporting large quantities infrequently. Retailers tend to use the annual sealift or occasional truck transport on winter roads for these items.

For perishable items, such as eggs, dairy products and fresh fruits and vegetables, retailers have little choice but to rely on regularly shipping small quantities by airplane. To minimize their potential losses, retailers strive to order only enough perishable items that their customers will buy within a certain timeframe. Ultimately, retailers and suppliers must manage their supply chains to ensure fresh food is available to customers at competitive rates and prices.

Along with shipping, retailers also play an essential role in the transparency of nutrition north. Under the program, registered retailers and suppliers are fully responsible for passing on the full subsidy to consumers. The Government of Canada closely monitors retailers' performance on this responsibility and posts regular compliance reports online.

To further ensure that consumers benefit fully from the subsidies, nutrition north recently added a new clause in the funding agreements that will ensure recipients provide all the information on eligible items, including profit margins. These agreements came into effect on April 1, 2015. Recipients, retailers and suppliers must now not only submit to audits, but also provide the government with all financial information and supporting documents for a seven-year period to justify subsidy claims. The new clause specifies that retailers must provide complete information on eligible items, including current profit margins and profit margins over time.

External independent auditors will undertake annual compliance reviews of retailers in order to ensure that the subsidy is being passed on to the consumer. These compliance reviews will then be made publicly available on the department's website. I want to be very clear that there is no requirement to publish the profit margins of individual businesses, as this is commercially sensitive information. This new measure helps to reassure Canadians that nutrition north is delivering effective results for northerners.

Assigning these responsibilities to retailers also helps inspire innovation. A recent example is an initiative of la Fédération des coopératives du Nouveau-Québec. The federation operates 14 co-operatives in Nunavut and has voluntarily implemented a point of sale system. In each of the 14 stores it operates in Nunavut, the receipt shows the amount of nutrition north Canada subsidy for each item. There is a total at the bottom of the receipt and a notation that says how much the nutrition north program has saved consumers on their purchases that day.

The Minister of Aboriginal Affairs and Northern Development was so impressed with this innovation that he directed the nutrition north advisory board to take a closer look at the approach by la Fédération des coopératives du Nouveau-Québec and provide him with recommendations by June 1, 2015 on how to apply a point of sale system. Just this morning, the Minister of Aboriginal Affairs and Northern Development released a statement after receiving the recommendations for the wider application of a point of sale receipt system from the nutrition north Canada advisory board. This new point of sale system will ensure that customers see how and when the NNC subsidy is applied to their grocery bill. This means that consumers will be able to clearly see the amount of the subsidy passed on to them, ensuring greater retailer transparency and accountability.

Our government strongly believes that northerners deserve to see the NNC savings on their grocery bill and that a point of sale system is a step retailers should take to clearly demonstrate that the full subsidy is being passed on to consumers.

Thanks to the program's close relationship with qualified retailers and suppliers, nutrition north Canada has experienced tremendous results. Northerners living in isolated communities now have far greater access to perishable nutritious foods compared to the program's predecessor, food mail. Since the implementation of nutrition north, the volume of healthy food shipped to northern communities has increased by 25%. Nutrition north Canada incorporates a market-driven, cost-effective and transparent model to deliver considerable value to consumers and overcome the fundamental challenge posed by the uniqueness of the Canadian north.

The truth of the matter is that shipping perishable food over long distances to small isolated communities is an expensive undertaking. However, by engaging the private sector and monitoring compliance closely, nutrition north continues to deliver solid results. Even the NDP's aboriginal affairs critic, the member for Churchill, admitted last week that the program is working. She said, "Well, I mean there's no question it does reduce the price by a couple of dollars, maybe two or three dollars”. Between March 2011 and March 2014, for example, the cost of the revised northern food basket for a family of four, in communities eligible for a full subsidy under nutrition north Canada, fell by an average of 7.2%. This same family is saving $32 per week. That translates into a saving of approximately $137 per month for a family of four.

Given this performance, I have no choice but to urge my hon. colleagues to join me in opposing the motion now before us.

Business of Supply May 13th, 2015

Mr. Chair, I look at my career in the RCMP. I have been stationed in over nine different communities across Saskatchewan, in aboriginal and non-aboriginal communities. I have seen the challenges faced in the non-aboriginal communities as well with regard safe drinking water. They have boil advisories in a lot of these communities as well.

However, it has been almost two years since the Safe Drinking Water For First Nations Act received royal assent. What has the government done to put regulations in place under the act so residents of first nations lands may have the same health and safety protections as other Canadians?

Business of Supply May 13th, 2015

Mr. Chair, in addition to providing money for water and waste water infrastructure projects, how is the government supporting first nations in managing their own water and waste water infrastructure?

Business of Supply May 13th, 2015

Mr. Chair, our government recognized that throwing money at a problem was not the solution. Rather, it is a strategic investment along with systematic reform that creates transformative changes.

Could the parliamentary secretary inform the House of his long-term strategy to address safe water in first nations communities? Also, has progress been made since 2009 to 2011 on national standards for first nations water and waste water systems?

Business of Supply May 13th, 2015

Mr. Chair, that reminds of a story that took place years ago, while I was stationed in northern Saskatchewan where the water treatment plant was brand new. The community had a state-of-the-art facility, but the problem it had was that the operators would routinely not be in the community, which would result in the water treatment plant shutting down. This is just one of the reasons our government has taken these actions.

Since we were elected, our government has made health for first nations a top priority. One way that we are accomplishing this is by aiming to provide every first nation with the same quality of water and waste water that all other Canadians receive.

Could the Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Aboriginal Affairs and Northern Development tell the House how much funding our government has invested to support first nations in managing their water and waste water systems since 2006?

Business of Supply May 13th, 2015

Mr. Chair, Canadians across the country expect access to clean, safe drinking water. Our government has been working since we were elected to ensure that this rigorous standard applies on reserve as well. We understand that access to a reliable source of clean, safe drinking water is fundamental to the health and well-being of any community. It is a basic part of the infrastructure that communities need to grow and prosper.

I am proud to stand in the House and share with my colleagues all of the important work that our government has accomplished on this front. As they will hear, a key priority of our government is to put in place the conditions that support long-term prosperity for all Canadians, aboriginal and non-aboriginal alike.

Access to safe drinking water, the effective treatment of waste water, and the protection of sources of drinking water in first nations communities is critical in ensuring the health and safety of first nations. First nations should expect access to safe, clean and reliable water, and waste water services at a level comparable to those enjoyed by other Canadians living in communities of similar size and location.

Since being elected, our government has invested heavily to support first nations communities in managing their water and waste water systems. In fact, since we took power, 243 major water and waste water projects, those valued at over $1.5 million, were completed in 177 first nations across Canada.

In 2013-14 alone, 543 first nations and 74 tribal councils received funding to support 733 on-reserve drinking water systems. In addition to major improvements, our government continues to provide funding for operations and maintenance or smaller upgrades to first nations water systems.

In communities where it may not be necessary for first nations to operate their own water and waste water facilities, we provide funding for service agreements with local municipalities to provide water services. In 2013 and 2014, we funded 49 of these agreements.

Our government is delivering on its commitment to address water and waste water issues by extending the first nations water and waste water action plan with further investments of just over $323 million over 2 years, beginning in 2014-15.

These investments support the concrete actions that our government has taken to support first nations communities in improving water and waste water services.

Let me share some of our most recent investments. Just last month, we announced $3.8 million to update the Ucluelet First Nation water system. More than $9.9 million was announced in December 2014 to upgrade water systems for the Little Shuswap Lake Indian Band and the Okanagan Indian Band. T

In November 2014, we announced $5 million to upgrade water infrastructures for the Whispering Pines/Clinton Indian Band and Upper Nicola Indian Band. We also, recently, announced $27.6 million in funding for the construction of a new water treatment plant and distribution centre for the Mohawks of the Bay of Quinte.

These are just the most recent examples of investments that we are making. They are investments that will make a difference in the lives of those living on first nations reserves.

Along with the funding that we provide for first nations to assist in the planning, construction, upgrade and operation, and maintenance of water and waste water systems, funding is also provided to enhance the capacity and training of the on-reserve water and waste water system operators. Results in the 2011 national assessment were very clear. Trained and certified individuals operating these water and waste water systems reduce the risks and help to ensure safe drinking water in first nations communities.

That is why our government is working with first nations and their technical organizations to increase the capacity of operators. We also provide funding to first nations for the circuit rider training program, which is a specialized training program that provides first nations operators with ongoing, on-site training and mentoring on how to operate their drinking water and waste water systems.

In 2014-15, we invested over $10 million into the circuit rider training program across Canada. This is direct evidence of our government's commitment to creating the conditions for stronger, healthier, more self-sufficient first nation communities. Investments in water and waste water infrastructure also open the door to economic and job opportunities that will make a real difference in the lives of people today and generations to come.

In addition to strategic investments to improve first nations' water and waste water infrastructure, our government has worked in partnership with first nations to provide legal protections for first nations' water and waste water quality on reserve.

The Safe Drinking Water for First Nations Act, which was passed in 2013, provides enforceable standards to govern water and waste water quality on reserve. This will ensure that residents on reserve have the same access to clean and safe drinking water that other Canadians do.

Before our government brought this act into force, standards and regulations existed for drinking water quality off reserve, but there was no such protection for hundreds of thousands of first nations who lived on reserve. Thanks to our government, first nations will soon enjoy the same quality of water as all other Canadians.

We are currently in the process of working jointly with first nations to develop specific standards and regulations. While this will take time, it will allow our government the opportunity to bring the water and waste water infrastructure and capacity to the level required for future standards.

It is important to note that this is an initiative that was supported by first nations. When the Safe Drinking Water for First Nations Act was introduced, Chief Lawrence Paul, Millbrook First Nation, offered ringing praise for the bill. He said:

First Nations will be able to look forward to having the same protections that other Canadians have around the provision of drinking water, water quality standards and the disposal of wastewater in their communities. This is not only an important health and safety issue, but will help build confidence in our infrastructure and help create a better climate for investment.

It is clear that our government has made working with first nation partners to improve on-reserve water and waste water services a priority. Through progress on enforceable standards, through substantial investments in water and waste water systems, and by supporting capacity building and operator training, we are delivering concrete results. I am confident and comfortable that our government will continue to make progress as long as we remain on this path.

Our government is delivering on its commitment to address water and waste water issues by extending the first nation water and waste water action plan with further investments of $323.4 million over two years, beginning in 2014-15.

In the spirit of innovation and partnerships, what other innovative solutions is the government pursuing to achieve value for money in the context of supporting first nations in managing their water and waste water infrastructure?

Public Safety May 12th, 2015

Mr. Speaker, my constituents are concerned about violent crime. They know that the first duty of any government is to protect Canadians from dangerous and violent criminals, particularly those in gangs. That is why we are pleased that our Conservative government passed over 30 measures to get tough on crime. Shockingly, most of these were obstructed and opposed by the Liberal leader. The leader for the Liberals even said that they would repeal all mandatory prison sentences in the Criminal Code.

Could the Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Public Safety update the House on the actions this government is taking to address these serious issues?

Health April 23rd, 2015

Mr. Speaker, prescription drug abuse remains a growing public health and safety concern, especially in aboriginal communities. While legal with proven benefits, prescription drugs have a high potential for harm, including addiction, withdrawal, injury, and even death. In 2013, over 146,000 Canadians abused prescription drugs, fostering harmful addictions and pressures on our health care system.

Could the Minister of Health please give the House an update on our Conservative government's latest efforts to treat those suffering from these addictions in aboriginal communities?