House of Commons photo

Crucial Fact

  • His favourite word was environmental.

Last in Parliament October 2019, as Conservative MP for Dauphin—Swan River—Neepawa (Manitoba)

Won his last election, in 2015, with 46% of the vote.

Statements in the House

Business of Supply June 18th, 2019

Mr. Speaker, I enjoyed working with my friend on biosphere reserve issues, but I disagree with pretty much everything he says. I find the NDP strangely hilarious. On one hand, it tries to defend the steel industry in Hamilton and talks about how important those jobs are, yet it works like crazy to stop pipelines that are made of steel.

I used to have a lot of time for the old NDP and members like Ed Schreyer, the party of the working person and so on. This new NDP is finished when it comes to dealing with the working person. The only party that cares about working people in this country is the Conservative Party.

Today's poll showed what working people have to say. They do not want to pay a carbon tax. The Conservative environmental plan to be released tomorrow will be a groundbreaking plan.

The member talked about electrifying this country. This country will be electrified when that man in that chair is the Prime Minister of this country.

I have two questions for my friend. One, how high does he want the carbon tax to go? I notice that he did not give a number. Two, given that the NDP rails away against the oil and gas industry all the time, will he put his money where his mouth is and recommend every union pension fund and the Canada pension plan divest themselves completely of every single oil and gas investment?

Member for Dauphin—Swan River—Neepawa June 17th, 2019

Mr. Speaker, this is clearly a bittersweet moment as I rise to give the last member's statement of my political career as a member of Parliament for the great constituency of Dauphin—Swan River—Neepawa. For three elections, the voters of this wonderful constituency have returned me to Ottawa to work on their behalf. The trust they have placed in me is truly humbling, and I hope that I have lived up to their expectations. My passion to do what I can to protect and defend our rural way of life remains undiminished.

I would be remiss if I did not mention my political idol, the great Duff Roblin, former premier of Manitoba. His achievements on behalf of all Manitobans have stood the test of time, and he inspired me with his vision and accomplishments. He proved to me that government can be a force for good.

To my beloved wife, Caroline, and my beautiful family, I thank them for the love, support and guidance over these years. All I can say is that I love them all. To my beautiful grandchildren, Eden, Esmee and Senon, who love nature, our farm and the outdoors as much as I do, all I can say is Papa's coming home.

Mackenzie Valley Resource Management Act June 13th, 2019

Madam Speaker, I would remind the member opposite that this was a great concern of John Diefenbaker, who gave indigenous people the vote. Most of the ugly residential school experiences were under the Liberal government of Mackenzie King. Let us not point fingers when it is not required.

I should also make a point for my colleague from Manitoba. The agreement he referred to was by Manitoba Hydro, not by the Manitoba government.

The crocodile tears of all the members opposite crying for indigenous people are truly sickening. All they talk about is process, process, process. There has not been a single major development in this country that has helped aboriginal people, ever.

I am going to make a prediction right now. If all the socio-economic indicators of indigenous communities were measured when the Liberal government took office and when it is going to leave office on October 21, I absolutely guarantee that not a single socio-economic indicator will have improved.

Fisheries Act June 13th, 2019

Mr. Speaker, again, the minister cannot provide a single example of any harm to a fish population from the Fisheries Act of 2012. However, his government caused harm to fisheries.

I remember early in the Liberals' mandate when Denis Coderre, who is a former Liberal member and was then the mayor of Montreal, begged and pleaded when we were in government to allow the dumping of millions of litres of raw sewage. Our Conservative government said no. As soon as the Liberal government came in, it allowed the dumping into the St. Lawrence of millions of litres of raw sewage. Was there a Fisheries Act charge? Absolutely not.

Recently, the Liberals introduced the new marine mammal regulations, which will throttle the economy of Churchill, Manitoba, where whale watching is an integral part of that struggling economy. I have contacted the minister on a number of occasions about this and he simply does not care about communities. He only cares about his cronies in the Liberal Party, who do their best to destroy fish habitat, without him even caring. Why is that?

Fisheries Act June 13th, 2019

Mr. Speaker, the minister is being very disingenuous here. I sat in on the hearings of Bill C-68. Not a single opponent of what we did in 2012 could prove, in any way, shape or form, that those changes had any effect on fish populations or fish communities. Colleagues can look at the record.

Under our former Conservative government, in 2010, for example, the Pacific salmon run in the Fraser River was a record. In 2014, that run was even higher. Under the Liberal government's watch, Pacific salmon stocks are collapsing and the Chinook salmon stock is the poster boy for that.

Our committee produced a unanimous report on Atlantic salmon, with a number of recommendations. We saw the minister's response. Not a single part of that letter dealt with the 17 unanimous recommendations, such as smallmouth bass in Miramichi Lake, overfishing by Greenland and excessive predation by seals and striped bass. The response did not deal with any of that.

Why is this department so inept and uncaring for fisheries communities and fish stocks?

Members Not Seeking Re-Election to the 43rd Parliament June 5th, 2019

Mr. Speaker, I should point out right off the bat that you were one of my team members yesterday, and thanks to your efforts, our team won. Thank you, Mr. Speaker. It was a pleasure to serve with you on that team.

I had the honour of being elected in this House nine years ago this October. I was elected in 2010 with a minority government; again in 2011, five months after my first win, with a majority government; and then again in 2015. I have experienced being a member of a minority government, a majority government, and the opposition. I have had the honour of spending a lot of time in Centre Block. Over a nine-year career, I have been very fortunate.

Why does a person enter politics? Quite simply, it is to make a difference.

My political transformation from a wet-behind-the-ears, know-nothing teenager to a budding Conservative actually started in 1968. We lived in Winnipeg. I am of Czechoslovakian descent, and we were part of a small Czech community in Winnipeg. What happened in 1968 is the Soviets invaded Czechoslovakia. Our family took in refugees from Czechoslovakia. That gets a person thinking about the power of government and how government can be a force for evil, but if a person works hard enough, it can be a force for good.

Of course, being a Czech, we are made fun of a lot. I have been called a bouncing Czech, a cancelled Czech, a blank Czech. As long as I am not a phony Czech, I will be okay.

As the evolution of my political thought moved along, I bought a farm south of Riding Mountain National Park. I had a dream of becoming a farmer, living off the land, building a log house back in the woods, all that kind of stuff.

What went through my mind were the opportunities that this country offers. If people take risks, they can fail, but they can also succeed.

I am a Slavic person, as my mom was born in Poland. Slavic people like me have an inordinate fondness for property rights. We are visceral when it comes to owning our property. As I looked at the world around me, I could see that there were forces out there that were basically threatening my way of life and the way of life of all other property owners, and I do not just mean farmers; I mean people who have built something with their lives and how important that is to them. When government gets in the way of that, that is simply evil. People need a free society and the ability to take risks.

What comes with a free society? It is is personal responsibility. I get a little tired when people talk about crime statistics all the time. I will be quite blunt: It is as if it is my fault when somebody commits a crime.

Personal responsibility lies within the individual, so as I recite these characteristics, what political party would someone possibly join? It's the Conservatives, of course. These are the things that we stand for.

I represent a large rural area of 66,000 square kilometres. Dauphin—Swan River—Neepawa is one of the most beautiful places in Canada. My community is very diverse, with ranchers, farming, forestry, hunting, trapping, oil exploration and so on, yet with all that resource development, it remains an extraordinarily beautiful place.

Actually, conservation is one of the major activities of the communities in my constituency. People are harvesting trees in their day job, and then in the evening working with their fisheries habitat group to repair streams. Those are the kinds of people who are in my constituency, and I get very angry when people like that are attacked. Whether it is the animal rights movement, environmental extremists or people who want to take their firearms away, I get angry. We are not supposed to get angry in this job, but I simply could not help it. The injustice of what happened when those good people got attacked made me even more determined to defend that particular way of life.

I think we have a number of colleagues here who do exactly the same thing. I am very proud to be a colleague of members such as the member for Red Deer—Lacombe, the member for North Okanagan—Shuswap and the member for Bruce—Grey—Owen Sound.

I have been on the farm of the member for Bruce—Grey—Owen Sound. I would defy any environmentalist to go to his farm and see anything that he is doing wrong. He gently manages the land. He looks after it. He looks after the wildlife and cares about the world. The member for North Okanagan—Shuswap was the president of the B.C. Wildlife Federation and the member for Red Deer—Lacombe has a fisheries background just like mine, so Conservatives have absolutely nothing to apologize for in terms of our conservation ethics.

We are the people who actually get things done. Who negotiated the acid rain treaty? Brian Mulroney did. Who negotiated the ozone treaty? Brian Mulroney did. When I hear all this environmental stuff, all I know is that Conservatives can be very proud of our contributions to conservation.

I did not travel as far as my friend from Chatham-Kent—Leamington. I stayed at home and spent all my time on the fisheries and environment committees, and I very much enjoyed that. We had some very contentious bills to deal with such as Bill C-69, Bill C-68, CEAA 2012 and so on. I have to say, though, that I really enjoyed my time on the fisheries committee, because believe it or not, it worked across party lines. It is a very collegial group, and most of the reports were unanimous. I see the chair of the fisheries committee here, and I want to thank him for his efforts on behalf of Canada's fisheries.

Getting back to the constituency itself, what can I say about constituents? They place their faith in us. Nothing touches me more than when people I do not know comes up to me and says that they voted for me. Is that not something? We have all experienced that, because we cannot know everybody in our constituencies.

I want to thank my EDAs and the volunteers, of course. The late Jeff MacDonald was a mentor to me, as was Bob Lepischak. I thank all those people who worked so hard: the fundraisers, the EDA and so on.

What can I say about my family and my darling Caroline? I know she is watching—hello, darling. She was my best political adviser. As I said before, she is a spouse who praised me when it was required and made sure I knew what I was doing wrong when that was required as well.

Caroline texted me earlier. She was out today planting tomatoes in the garden. She is what we call a “bush chick”, which is a term that I use with the greatest respect. She lives in the woods and knows how to do things.

Tony and Marsha are our kids, and their spouses are Lainee and Graham. We have three absolutely beautiful grandchildren, Eden, Senon and Esmee. One of the reasons I will be heading out is to spend time with the three grandchildren on the farm. They love the farm. They love taking the guts out of a duck, cleaning a fish, driving a quad and doing all those things with papa.

I want to thank my brother and sister, Tim and Joyce, for their support over the years. I also thank the neighbours. Those who live in rural areas know how important neighbours are. When my wife Caroline is by herself on the farm, I know the neighbours are there for her. That is a very important fact.

I want to thank my mom and dad, Joe and Ida Sopuck. They have sadly passed on. They were both born in eastern Europe, dad in Czechoslovakia and mom in Poland.

I want to thank my mentors. They include Alan Scarth, an environmental lawyer from Winnipeg, who is a deeply philosophical man who helped me; Ted Poyser, who was chief of staff to Duff Roblin—and I am going to talk about Duff in a minute; Charlie Mayer, whom many members know, as he represented part of my area; and the sainted Harry Enns, who was the longest-serving MLA in Manitoba's history.

Harry gave me some really political advice. He said, “Robert, my boy, there are two things a politician never passes up: a chance to give a speech and a chance to go to the bathroom.” When one has a constituency as big as I do, one knows where all those spots are. I will leave it at that.

I thank my Ottawa staff Branden and Alex, who are in the office now, as well as Duncan, Brett, Jay, Dan, Olivier, Kyle, and the constituency staff Judy, Janell, Megan, Grace, Nellie and Valerie. I am sorry to go so fast, folks, but I do not have time to stop.

I really want to thank the House of Commons staff, the security staff and the bus drivers. They are salt-of-the-earth folks. As the member for Battle River—Crowfoot said, I was there in October when Parliament Hill was attacked, and we can never forget that these people will take a bullet for us. They deserve all of our respect.

I want to end by thanking my colleagues all around the House. I made friendships that will last for years. The value of the team is so important. I especially want to thank the Manitoba caucus, the member for Brandon—Souris, the member for Selkirk—Interlake—Eastman, the member for Portage—Lisgar and the member for Provencher for their help and support and indeed love over the years.

I too want to talk about what it was like to serve under Prime Minister Harper, who, as history will show, was one of the greatest prime ministers this country has ever seen.

It has been an honour and a privilege to serve with all members on all sides of the House as I end my political journey.

Criminal Records Act May 30th, 2019

Mr. Speaker, my colleague and I served together on the Standing Committee on Fisheries and Oceans for a number of years, and he is a very honourable gentleman. However, he is part of a government that believes in policy-based evidence-making.

My colleague from Cariboo—Prince George asked for data, and I wonder why the government, when it legalized cannabis, did not look at other examples.

A CBC article from May 28 reads:

Marijuana grown in Colorado, the land of legal weed, is being smuggled out to states where it is still illegal

...the government's goal was to regulate and tax a drug that was already widely used and to squeeze out dealers and traffickers in the process.

But law enforcement authorities in the state say legalization has done the exact opposite.

It goes on the say that the illegal trade in marijuana, whether it is legalized in Colorado, is “being driven by criminal organizations that grow weed in Colorado”. Furthermore, residents of Colorado are preferring to buy illegal cannabis, because it is often cheaper than legal cannabis.

Can my friend provide any data whatsoever to show that what happened in Colorado will not happen in Canada? In fact, it is happening in Canada right now.

Criminal Records Act May 30th, 2019

Madam Speaker, I am very grateful for my colleague's service to our country as a police officer. He and I have had a number of conversations about the situations in which he has been involved. Very few of us could have endured what he did.

I would like to correct the Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Health and the Prime Minister who said yesterday that under Bill C-71, a permit would now be required to buy a firearm. That is an absolute falsehood. Here is a possession and acquisition licence, which one has to have after getting a test in order to buy a firearm, and this has been in place for a decade or more.

The Liberals across the way said over and over that legalizing cannabis would eliminate the illegal trade in cannabis, which is clearly nonsense. Does my friend have a comment on the relationship between the legalization of cannabis and the great increase in the illegal trade in cannabis?

Oceans Act May 13th, 2019

Mr. Speaker, I was very interested in the speech by my colleague for Red Deer—Lacombe, especially when he talked about the effect of marine protected areas on Alberta. One would think there would not be a connection there, but my colleague very eloquently made that.

We talk about the marine protected areas, we talk about the tanker ban, we talk about the no pipeline Bill C-69 and, of course, the potentially new Fisheries Act, Bill C-68. It is just a litany of daggers aimed at the energy industry in Canada.

I know the member comes from an energy-producing area of Alberta. Could he talk about the effect of these pieces of legislation on the energy economy in his area and in Alberta?

Oceans Act May 13th, 2019

Mr. Speaker, I always find it rich when Liberals brag about their environmental record, especially since shortly after they took office they allowed the former mayor of Montreal, Denis Coderre, to dump millions of litres of raw sewage into the St. Lawrence, after our government had prevented him from doing that.

I have a specific question related to the Great Lakes water quality, a topic I am interested in. We did a study of it in the environment committee back when we were in government. Right now, there are some serious water quality issues in the Great Lakes, specifically the eutrophication of Lake Erie, which is spreading.

We have largely solved the problem of point source pollution through our waste-water treatment plants and so on. Could the hon. member comment on how he would deal with non-point source pollution, basically the runoff from cities and towns that is putting phosphorous into our lakes, especially the Great Lakes, at a fast rate?