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Crucial Fact

  • His favourite word is environmental.

Conservative MP for Dauphin—Swan River—Neepawa (Manitoba)

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

Statements in the House

Food and Drugs Act May 10th, 2017

Madam Speaker, I appreciate the opportunity to speak in the House this evening. I stand in opposition to Bill C-291 on the following grounds: it is anti-science, anti-development, inhumane, and anti-environmental. These kinds of bills are merely Trojan Horses for an anti-GMO approach.

Let us go back to the development of agriculture, and why it was so important for humanity.

Agriculture developed about 10,000 years ago and changed humanity forever. The greatest attribute was the production of surplus food, which resulted in the specialization of occupations that people could do, and that resulted in the evolution of arts and culture, science, cities, and civilization itself. It is not too far a stretch to say no agriculture, no Silicon Valley.

Human lifespans increase because of agriculture as did populations. There is obviously a need for more and more food in the form of agricultural productivity. Farmers vary innovative and selected varieties to increase yield, and the result is abundant and very inexpensive food.

In Canada right now we spend about 9% of our disposable income on food, and that is among the lowest in the entire world. That means that people on low incomes in this country can afford to eat well. There has never been a better social program in Canada than that which has been given to Canadian citizens by agriculture, so poor people can eat well.

The acceleration of crop development really occurred out of the great Norman Borlaug, a Nobel Peace Prize winner, who accelerated crop development using conventional breeding technology. I am going to quote from an article in The Atlantic about Borlaug:

Perhaps more than anyone else, Borlaug is responsible for the fact that throughout the postwar era, except in sub-Saharan Africa, global food production has expanded faster than the human population, averting the mass starvations that were widely predicted...The form of agriculture that Borlaug preaches may have prevented a billion deaths.

Interestingly, even back then Borlaug was opposed for his modern approach to agriculture. I am quoting from the same article:

The environmental community in the 1980s went crazy pressuring the donor countries and the big foundations not to support ideas like inorganic fertilizers for Africa.

Borlaug, of course, fought back very strongly. He said at the time:

Some of the environmental lobbyists of the Western nations are the salt of the earth, but many of them are elitists. They've never experienced the physical sensation of hunger. They do their lobbying from comfortable office suites in Washington or Brussels. If they lived just one month amid the misery of the developing world, as I have for fifty years, they'd be crying out for tractors and fertilizer and irrigation canals and be outraged that fashionable elitists back home were trying to deny them these things.

The next iteration of crop development was genetic engineering, and that was done by introducing desirable traits into crops from other species, and there were some terrific results: higher yields, canola, wheat, potatoes, better nutrition, golden rice, yellow flesh sweet potatoes, and reduced pesticide use.

Another application of genetic engineering technology has allowed farmers to cease spraying altogether by incorporating pesticide toxins into the tissues of the crop plant itself. Examples include insect resistant corn and cotton now planted across the globe. I have in my hand a table that lists some of the crop plants that have been developed. This is a paper by the Consultative Group on International Agricultural Research.

Let me talk for a minute about golden rice. This is a rice that has Vitamin A bred into it due to genetic engineering. Vitamin A is critical in the prevention of blindness in children. By opposing golden rice in Asia, for example, the activists stated, and I am going to quote from an article in Environment and Development Economics with respect to the opposition to golden rice:

This is an indicator of the economic power of the opposition towards Golden Rice resulting in about 1.4 million life years lost over the past decade in India.

The opposition to food technology, and the development of better food and crops is not just a simple thing. It has real world, inhumane consequences.

Interestingly enough, one of the things that people never talk about in terms of the environmental benefits of genetic engineering is that by having high yields produced on smaller pieces of land, we can then have room for wildlife and wildlife habitat. For example, there is a reason why the Ottawa Valley is not 100% cultivated. It is because we can produce enough food on the land that is currently under cultivation, and the rest can be left for environmental purposes. This is one of the major benefits of high yield agriculture, and it will only get better with genetic engineering.

Why is GMO labelling a bad idea? It stokes the fear of genetically engineered crops. It is kind of like a warning label. It provides no information. If the label is supposed to provide information, it should also say, “This crop was produced with less inputs, less fertilizer, and less pesticide”, like is common among many GMO crops. Most importantly, it gives anti-GMO activists a platform, and a foothold to continue this campaign against modern agriculture.

A couple of the previous speakers talked about the peer reviewed studies. In my research, we came up with 1,736 peer reviewed studies that found GMO crops to be as safe or safer than conventional or organic agriculture. I am glad the parliamentary secretary brought up the apple. It is called the Arctic apple. It was developed in the Okanagan. It is a genetically superior apple. It is sold in the United States, but is still held up in Canada.

In terms of Europe's phobia about GMOs, we have a perfect experiment in place right now. GMO crops are consumed in North America in great amounts, much less so in Europe. If there were any health or disease impacts, that would show up. We have a perfect policy experiment here, and there is no difference in the health and longevity of Europeans.

I will quote Stewart Brand, a prominent environmentalist, whom I admired back in the 1970s. He wrote a book called Whole Earth Catalog. Brand underwent an evolution in his thinking on the environment, and in 2010 wrote a book called Whole Earth Discipline. In it, he castigates the environmental movement very strongly for being against modern agriculture. He wrote:

I daresay the environmental movement has done more harm with its opposition to genetic engineering than with any other thing we’ve been wrong about. We’ve starved people, hindered science, hurt the natural environment, and denied our own practitioners a crucial tool.

National Seal Products Day Act May 5th, 2017

Madam Speaker, it is an honour for me to follow my colleague from British Columbia in support of Bill S-208, put forward by the member for Coast of Bays—Central—Notre Dame, the illustrious chair of the fisheries committee.

I, too, serve on that committee. In fact, I have been on the fisheries committee ever since I became a member of Parliament, nearly seven years ago, and it has been a great committee to be on. Not that long ago, the chair talked about how many reports the committee had put out, 10 reports so far since this Parliament began. We have a very productive, interesting, and significant committee.

I very strongly support this bill. I represent a large rural area in Manitoba, and Manitoba is a coastal province. There are seals in Churchill in Hudson Bay. We do not seal hunt, but it is a coastal province.

For a prairie boy who grew up hunting, fishing and being the ultimate romantic when it comes to the outdoors, many years ago I got my hands on a book by George Allan England called, The Greatest Hunt in the World. He was on Captain Kean's boat in the 1920s and went on a seal hunt himself. As I read this direct account of the seal hunt, I could not imagine the toughness, the bravery, and the sheer guts it took for those men to go out on the ice every spring to harvest seals.

Canada's seal hunt is sustainable, and previous speakers have talked about the sustainability of it. Unfortunately, Canada's seal hunt has been the target of very unfair and fraudulent campaigns by the animal rights movement, led by groups like Animal Justice Canada, International Fund for Animal Welfare, and so on. It is clear that the sole purpose of these anti-sealing groups is to raise funds for themselves, and the collateral damage to coastal communities has simply been staggering.

A witness at the aboriginal affairs committee not that long ago talked about the increase in suicide rates in some Inuit communities, partly attributed to the collapse of the seal hunt. These people do not want to save cuddly animals. These people are a danger to rural and remote communities. The seal hunt is the canary in the coal mine. As somebody who has fought the animal rights movement and the people who want to shut down communities like the one I represent, the seal hunt, the canary in the coal mine, the tip of the iceberg, pick a metaphor, whether it is anti-logging, anti-trapping, anti-hunting, anti-mining, and, quite frankly, anti-oil and gas, it is the rural communities that bear the brunt of these campaigns. One of the reasons I became a member of Parliament was to protect and defend rural communities. I have had experiences fighting the good fight on all these issues.

Interestingly enough, again going back to the animal rights movement and the animal rights groups, these people do not care about cuddly animals. They want an end to all animal use, farming, ranching, trapping, and sealing of course, and sealing is the easiest target. However, if we look at all their websites, they also want an end to animal-based medical research. I do not know if members in the House realize it, but when I met with the Heart and Stroke Foundation some time ago, I asked point blank how much of the cardiac research was done on animals and it was 60%. Again, these anti-animal use campaigns can be extremely harmful.

I will also talk about the unfairness of countries that ban seal products. The European ban was completely uncalled for. It is easy for another country to point fingers at another jurisdiction and pay no political price for it, while being made to look like people who care about the environment. The U.S. Marine Mammal Protection Act prevents seal products from entering the U.S., no matter how abundant seals are.

The animal rights movement caused a decrease in the seal harvest, and as colleagues talked about a minute ago, the number of harp seals has increased dramatically, from 1.8 million in 1970 to about 7.4 million now; and grey seals, from 13,000 in 1970 to 505,000 now. There are varying estimates, but the seals consume between 10 and 15 times what the east coast fleet harvests. It is quite clearly established that the high grey seal populations are preventing a recovery of the gulf cod.

Not that long ago, our fisheries committee submitted two reports to Parliament, one on Atlantic salmon and one on northern cod. In both studies, the seals were implicated in the decline of the Atlantic salmon in particular, and in the prevention of the recovery of the cod as well. Both committee reports recommended an expanded seal harvest, done humanely but expanded, to reduce the numbers of these seal species to improve the populations of Atlantic salmon and cod.

Nobody wants to wipe out the seals. However, I think it is our duty as human stewards of this earth to restore a balance that is completely out of whack right now.

I had the honour many years ago of doing work in the eastern Arctic, around Southampton Island, on Arctic char, and I had the honour of living with an Inuit family. I participated in a seal hunt and a walrus hunt. I have had a lot of experience in the outdoors, but I have had some Arctic experience. I do know what it is like to plunge one's hand into a freshly killed walrus and experience the joy and exuberance of the hunt when one is successful. It was an experience that I will cherish. I have eaten raw seal, raw walrus, and I found the tastes interesting, to say the least. It can be good.

I am very pleased, as well, to see an increase in demand for seal products, the seal oil, the high levels of omega 3. We have companies that are exploiting this. I applaud my colleague and the colleagues from all parties who support our traditions of sealing, hunting, trapping, and fishing. Many of us belong to an organization called the outdoor caucus, and I see a number of members wearing an outdoor caucus pin.

I want to finish up with the tale of Bill C-246. As we know, a Liberal member of Parliament introduced a private member's bill that many of us viewed as a closet animal rights bill. I was very pleased to see that many Liberal members of Parliament, and almost all Conservative members of Parliament, worked very hard to defeat that particular bill. We motivated people from all across the country to build a coalition of sealers, trappers, hunters, anglers, and medical researchers, who realized the implications of that particular bill.

While I must thank the member for Rosemont—La Petite-Patrie for his speech, and I listened with great interest to it, I would note that almost all of the NDP caucus voted for Bill C-246, except for one, the member for Kootenay—Columbia. I do not say this to be mean, in any sense of the word, but it is very important that we, as members of Parliament, stand on principle to protect our communities and the people who hunt, trap, fish, and harvest seals.

I must also say that sealing is largely a rural industry, but we have a lot of people who live in cities who love to hunt, fish, and trap. Again, I want to compliment my colleague for Rosemont—La Petite-Patrie, a Montreal area member of Parliament, who has chosen to throw his support behind the bill for a national seal products day.

In conclusion, I am very proud to support the bill. I am proud to serve with my colleague on the fisheries committee. I look forward to the bill being passed and being a very great help to the sealing industry, now and into the future.

Questions Passed as Orders for Returns May 5th, 2017

With regard to the decision by Parks Canada to deny the application by the producers of the movie Hard Powder to film in a National Park: (a) when was the Minister of the Environment and Climate Change informed of the decision; (b) what was the rationale for the decision; (c) when was the Minister of Canadian Heritage informed of the decision; and (d) what are the details of any government funding or contributions, including tax credits, which have been made available to the producers of this movie?

Yukon Environmental and Socio-economic Assessment Act April 10th, 2017

Mr. Speaker, as I said in this speech and many other speeches, the critics of what we did as a government never talk about the environment. The environment improved under our Conservative government. The map shows that sulphur dioxide went down and nitrous oxide went down. Canada was considered as having the second-best water quality in the world in 2010 by the United Nations. The sockeye salmon run in 2014 in the Fraser River was a record in history. Even I am not crass enough to take credit for that, but it happened.

During the review of the Fisheries Act, we asked witnesses who were dead set against what we did with the Fisheries Act what changes in the fish population they could see as a result of the changes we made and whether they could give us some specific examples. They could not.

Focusing on process often takes away from real environmental improvements, such as putting waste water treatment plants near paper mills. That is what real environmentalism is and that is what environmental debates should be about. They should be about creating a clean and healthy environment.

Yukon Environmental and Socio-economic Assessment Act April 10th, 2017

Mr. Speaker, I take issue very strongly with the member's view that there was no consultation on the changes Conservatives made. Very conveniently, the NDP always forgets about farmers, municipalities, and rural communities. There were extensive consultations with farm communities and rural municipalities on the Fisheries Act. To a person and to an organization, all of those groups very strongly supported the changes Conservatives made to that particular act, and similarly with the Navigable Waters Protection Act.

In terms of whether an individual was not happy with the consultation process, I would like to see any consultation process in which 100% of the groups and people were happy with the process or the outcome.

Yukon Environmental and Socio-economic Assessment Act April 10th, 2017

Mr. Speaker, I am not sure there was a question.

Again, I am still firmly convinced that it would introduce uncertainty into the resource development review process. If I look at provinces like Manitoba, where the mining engine is starting to get revved up, I see that Manitoba has a very good regulatory process. We will see what happens in the Yukon, because the proof is in the pudding.

Yukon Environmental and Socio-economic Assessment Act April 10th, 2017

Mr. Speaker, I apologize.

The relevance is that the investment climate in our country is critical and the environmental processes that govern the development and implementation of projects are very important. That is why we made changes to the act via Bill S-6. We put time limits on the review process. I know the environmental industry wants no time limits on the review process. I made the point. It is absolutely true that all projects these days are built with the finest environmental technology in place right now. Therefore, to spend an inordinate amount of time reviewing what we already knew was what our government changed in the act.

Regarding this act, we exempted a project from reassessment when an authorization was renewed or amended unless there had been a significant change to the project. Changes always are being made to resource projects. Plants are sometimes refurbished, boilers are changed, and these can be considered as routine maintenance or modifications. If these are subject to endless litigation or process, just when a company is modifying a plant in a manner that is not significant in terms of its environmental performance, that modification should be exempt from a review process. The federal minister still had a role to provide binding policy direction to the board, so the federal government was involved.

The last thing we did under Bill S-6, which was very important, was we gained the ability to delegate the federal minister's powers, duties, or functions under the act to the territorial government.

I spoke earlier, as a person who had actually worked in industry, how the investment climate could be negatively affected by different levels of government coming in and out of the process. We know there is a separation of powers in the environment. Migratory birds, for example, are clearly within the purview of the federal government. Wildlife is provincial, and so on. However, there is a very strong overlap between those, and often a proponent has to repeat exactly the same environmental assessment for two levels of government. That costs money, time, and that kind of regulatory uncertainty has the potential to thwart investment. Make no mistake, capital, in the modern world, is very mobile. Capital looks where it can best be spent, and investors look for regulatory certainty.

I am very pleased that in my home province of Manitoba we finally have a business-friendly, aggressive, Conservative government. The mining industry views Manitoba now as the place in North America to develop mines. Not only do we have high environmental standards, we have a business-friendly government. We have rich mineral resources. Unlike the Liberal government of Ontario and other governments across the country, Manitoba has some of the lowest hydro rates in North America. That is a recipe for success.

Going back to Bill C-17, what it would do is reverse the good work that was done under our government. I would like to move an amendment to the amendment. I move:

That the amendment be amended by adding the following: “and that the committee report back no later than June 19, 2017”.

Yukon Environmental and Socio-economic Assessment Act April 10th, 2017

Mr. Speaker, I know the member for Saanich—Gulf Islands gets all harried when we talk about math and numbers and so on. This is what is really important.

Yukon Environmental and Socio-economic Assessment Act April 10th, 2017

Mr. Speaker, I rise to speak to Bill C-17. The background leading to Bill C-17 is as follows. The federal government's role in the management of lands and resources in Yukon was devolved to the Government of Yukon in 2003. The Government of Canada maintains the responsibility for outlining the environmental regulations there. The Yukon Environmental Socio-economic Assessment Board was established under the final agreement.

Our Bill S-6 was intended to make, and did make, the northern regulatory regimes more consistent with those in the south to attract investment and develop economic opportunities. Bill S-6 was a very good bill. It put time limits on the review process. It exempted a project from reassessment when an authorization is renewed or amended, unless there was a significant change to the project. It gave the federal minister the ability to provide binding policy direction to the board, and very importantly, the ability to delegate the federal minister's powers, duties, or functions under the act to the territorial government.

I became a member of Parliament in 2010. For the first term of our government I was on both the fisheries committee and the Standing Committee on Environment and Sustainable Development. For most of that time, I was the only member of Parliament of any political party who was on both of those committees. I was very privileged to get a view into our environmental policy-making and I participated fully in many of the changes that we made. Many of the changes that we made improved the environmental process, cleaned up a number of very bad pieces of environmental legislation, improved the potential for economic development, and had absolutely no negative effects on the environment. We amended the Canadian Environmental Assessment Act to remove duplication.

We changed the Navigable Waters Protection Act into the Navigation Protection Act. The Navigable Waters Protection Act was a particularly egregious act. It was a good act when it was written back in the 1800s when Canada depended on water navigation to a very great extent, and blocking navigable waters simply was not an option for our growing economy. However, over the course of decades and years, judicial interpretation of what was a navigable water kept growing smaller until intermittent streams were considered navigable waters. There are those who have a strong interest in stopping economic development. My colleague opposite inadvertently used the phrase “environmental industry”. I think there is an industry that has been developed that is doing very well financially in stopping projects. The old Navigable Waters Protection Act was a particularly bad act because it forced municipalities to spend inordinate amounts of money to build bridges over tiny intermittent water bodies.

We also changed the Fisheries Act quite dramatically. As a fisheries biologist, I was very much involved with the changes to the Fisheries Act.

These examples that I am citing are germane to the topic of the Yukon situation because the regulatory regime of a country is critical to the economic development of that country. Modern projects must be environmentally sound, and indeed they are, and at the same time investment must be encouraged.

Revising the Fisheries Act, 2012, which was our Fisheries Act, was one of the current federal government's platform policies. The fisheries committee had extensive hearings. I am still on the fisheries committee as the vice-chair. We had weeks of hearings where people who were opposed to the changes we made to the act wanted the act to go back to the way it was, the old way, where basically the entire country was considered fish habitat, and the Fisheries Act was able to be used by the environmental industry and environmental lawyers to block, hold up, or otherwise stop economic development.

I have a strange view of the environment. I believe that when we talk about environmental policy, we should actually talk about ecology, nature, landscapes, and water, because presumably that is what it is all about. However, all I hear mostly from environmental advocates these days, especially those on the Liberal left, is process, process, process.

In our Fisheries Act hearings, over and over again we asked this of the ones who were so excited about the changes we made to the act. Since the act was changed in 2012, we asked them if they could point to any fish populations that had been decimated or affected by the changes we had made. Not a person could come up with any examples, but they sure were mad at the process. Their metric for success of an act was how many investigations there were, how many charges there were, and how many processes there were. The fish and the environment actually became an afterthought.

The changes we made in the Yukon Act included putting in time limits, no reassessment unless the project was significantly changed, the federal minister binding policy direction, and delegate the federal minister's powers to the territorial government.

When I was an environmental director at a paper mill, I remember being involved with a change in the direction of our mill. Multiple bodies were regulating the environmental assessment we were doing. We never knew which level of government would step in since it was optional. They would sit in the weeds, we would do the environmental assessment, and we would ask what they thought. They would say that they were not sure, that we should keep doing what we were doing. This kind of uncertainty has a very direct and negative effect on investment. It is great for lawyers, the billable times just keep going up and up. However, with respect to communities, people, livelihoods, it is the worst thing that could happen.

When I was a young biologist in the seventies, and right out of university, one of my very first jobs was being part of the environmental assessment of the Mackenzie Valley pipeline. It was dream job for a kid out of university. I was able to play around with fish, fly around in helicopters, and sample rivers and lakes in remote parts of the Mackenzie Valley. It was an absolutely marvellous experience. This was back in the days of the Berger commission. I remember the team of which I was a part. We sampled every waterway in the Mackenzie Valley, every tributary, all the lakes along the proposed pipeline route. We flew the pipeline route, wrote copious reports, and took a lot of water and fish samples, all the usual kinds of fun stuff that field biologists get to do.

The report was written and the Berger commission was held. At that point, oil and gas prices were not too bad. We had an oil embargo, so there was a certain urgency for Canada to develop our natural resources. The government of Pierre Elliott Trudeau of the day ultimately turned the project down after all that work.

Interestingly, the project was resurrected in the 1990s again. Gas prices were up. I think it was $15 a thousand cubic feet. It was a high price and they wanted to see if we could get the Mackenzie Valley pipeline going again. The proponents for that project in the 1990s had to do exactly the same environmental assessment that we did in the 1970s. Nothing had changed. The rivers and lakes were exactly the same. There had been no development, no economic expansion, nothing, yet what we did in the 1970s was redone all over again for a number of years.

As time went on, the price of natural gas declined dramatically and the project became uneconomical. Delay and uncertainty kill projects. Now we have no Mackenzie Valley pipeline and we have 15 or 20 communities that are in dire economic straits. We know how to build pipelines safely. They are all built in an environmentally sound way. It is because they are so good that when a spill actually occurs, then it is a big event because it is an extremely rare event.

There is a fundamental misunderstanding of modern economic development, especially resource projects. All projects are built with state-of-the-art environmental technology. The implication when one goes into an environmental review process is we either do this review process or the environment will be destroyed, which is complete and utter nonsense.

Again, in my own experience managing a waste water treatment plant at a paper mill, doing environmental assessments in the oil sands, and many years of experience doing environmental assessments across the country, working with companies, working with engineers and designers, I can absolutely guarantee that state-of-the-art environmental technology is built into every project before any shovel goes in the ground. Scrubbers are put on smokestacks, waste water treatment plants are designed for, and the technology for environmental improvement is increasing all the time.

One can look at the miracle of Inco. Thirty or 40 years ago there was a moonscape around that town because of acid rain emissions from the mill. The mill has been cleaned up and the landscape around Sudbury has come back. I have been there and seen it. This is what advanced industrial capitalist free market societies do. We get richer and we do a better job environmentally, and the process is ongoing and continuing.

The other thing about environmental policy is that it is very important to measure environmental results.

There was a great philosopher, Pythagoras, who said that all was math. What I see in environmental policy-making is that nobody measures anything. We have this faith, and I use the term advisedly, that what we want to do is good for the world because, “I am a good person and I want to save the world, therefore what I do is good”. We do not do the hard-nosed measurements to zero in on what the environmental problems may be, measuring the state of the earth, measuring fish populations, water quality, and so on, and then focusing our efforts on where environmental programs will actually make a difference. For example, wetland loss is very serious in the country, yet we only have halfhearted measures to preserve wetlands.

Again, I go back to the process and I go back to what we, as the previous government, did to streamline the process and remove duplication. Hearings and meetings by themselves rarely result in environmental improvement. Spending $25 million putting a waste water treatment plant at a paper mill will improve the environment. That is how I look at environmental policy, and that is how it should be looked at across the country.

When we were going through the process of the Fisheries Act, as I mentioned earlier, there were critics of what we did under the Fisheries Act. Their metric as to what the 2012 changes to the Fisheries Act did was how many authorizations, how many charges resulted from the 2012 act, whereas our main concern, obviously, was the health of the fish.

Fisheries and Oceans April 6th, 2017

Mr. Speaker, fish harvesters attending the Gulf Groundfish Advisory Committee in Moncton expressed their frustration and disbelief over the Liberals' inaction in protecting groundfish stocks by controlling the grey seal population. Despite scientists confirming that grey seals are responsible for declining fish populations, the minister has failed to take action.

Given the importance of the fishery to communities in rural Atlantic Canada, especially in light of the drastic reductions in the shrimp quota, will the minister commit to using a portion of the new Atlantic fisheries fund to address growing seal populations that are preventing the recovery of commercially valuable fish stocks?