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Crucial Fact

  • His favourite word is charlottetown.

Liberal MP for Malpeque (P.E.I.)

Won his last election, in 2015, with 62% of the vote.

Statements in the House

Canada Grain Act October 4th, 1994

Madam Speaker, I welcome the opportunity to speak on Bill C-51, amendments to the Canada Grain Act.

It is important at the beginning to put into perspective the role that the Canadian Grain Commission has played in terms of Canada being seen as the reliable supplier of high quality grains in the world.

The combination of the Canadian Wheat Board as the single desk selling agency for export wheat and barley and the quality control and inspection system and watchdog capacity of the Canadian Grain Commission has worked extremely well in Canada's interests and in the interests of Canada's primary grain producers.

The key selling point for grains out of Canada in the international marketplace has been certainly our quality control system. Millers around the world know that when they buy Canadian wheat they are going to get high quality grains that they can blend in with other countries' products and still have a reasonable quality of bread.

The Americans, on the other hand, the system that some of our colleagues in this House on the other side want to emulate, are looked upon by the world as a residual supplier of grain. They are used in terms of setting the price worldwide but they are a residual supplier, a supplier of last resort because they do not have the quality control system that we have in this country that is made possible because of some of the regulations of the Canadian Grain Commission that we have in this country.

This bill's objective is to maintain that support for quality grades and inspection. However, we have to be constantly aware

of the danger in terms of our legislative processes of knuckling under to those who believe that cost cutting should be all that matters.

The principal concern of the federal government on this issue of inspection and quality control are two elements key to the security of our export markets, quality and inspection.

When appearing before the agricultural committee, Dennis Wallace, executive director of the commission made the following comment: "We are looking at streamlining, weighing and inspection that will move at the pace the industry sets and our comfort that we can sustain the standard of quality in the process. In our view quality has not been affected by the steps we have taken to this point". That is an important point.

We must ensure on this side of the House and as the government that we maintain those standards that have been so true and beneficial to the Canadian grain industry.

I had hoped that I would have time to indicate to the House some of the dangers within the system because several of the groups that have come before the Standing Committee on Agriculture, the Public Service Alliance of Canada for one, outlined some of the problems that have happened at Thunder Bay. They provide a good example of the dangers that can happen to quality control in the grain system if we do not have a strong, dedicated agency like the Canadian Grain Commission with strong regulations behind it to protect the interests of producers and the interests of the grain industry.

I do not have time to quote that evidence but I would refer members of the House to the April 26, 1994 submission of the Public Service Alliance outlining some of the dangers of quality control.

We must ensure as a government that the security of a regulatory and inspection system is maintained, that the future of either downsizing or efforts to promote competitiveness do not result in a loss of our competitive position which is based upon production and exports of the highest quality standards of grain in the world.

There has been a lot of talk by members on both sides of this House on the questions regarding clause 14. Under clause 14 the Canadian Grain Commission will no longer be required to set maximum tariffs charged by grain elevators.

This is a point that, to be honest, is open to question for me. We will certainly have an interesting debate at the agricultural committee on this point. There are a number of questions that need to be raised.

I do not believe for a moment that we can depend on the co-operative movement or the pools to protect producers' interests. I have been involved in that industry out west for a number of years and the co-operative movement, the pools, when they are making decisions in the kind of international arena we now face have to weigh in their own minds whether they are making a decision in terms of their corporate business interests and the bottom line as a corporation or making a decision in their membership's interests as a co-operative. Therefore, I believe there need to be some government safeguards in terms of protecting primary producers' interests, and certainly we will debate that at committee level.

Other questions need to be raised. Some clarification is needed of the ombudsman like role the commission will perform. Under what circumstances will it be able to intervene, what powers will the commission have to act upon complaints, and under what authority? Under what circumstances will the commission be able to set maximum tariffs by regulation if needed?

An important point in the bill and one I strongly support is that if there is a danger there the Canadian Grain Commission can step in and impose maximum tariffs if the grain industries, the companies or the trade is abusing the system set in place.

I raise those points because I think this is the place, the House of Commons, in this arena and at the committee level, for good, strong, informed debate on the facts so that we can come up with better decisions in the end.

I recognize that my time is getting short. I have heard from members opposite talking about competition. We have to look at that infrastructure in western Canada where the Canadian Grain Commission operates and recognize that more and more in those small community towns with elevators that there is less and less competition between grain companies.

Grain companies are now consolidating their system. Because you are going to gain a lower tariff rate at one elevator does not necessarily mean that you are going to haul to that elevator because it may be 50 or 100 miles away and you would lose all you had saved or more by hauling that distance.

We have to be very careful in making these decisions to ensure the kind of international arena we are entering into, the kind of consolidation that is happening, especially in western Canada, and the impact that may have on primary producers if there is not a very strong Canadian Grain Commission in place to protect the interests of primary producers and the interests of the country in terms of the grains we sell.

Let me conclude by saying that the Canadian Wheat Board and the Canadian Grain Commission have served this country well in the past. I believe they can in the future. I look forward to maintaining those kinds of standards and see that Canada remains the kind of reliable supplier of grains that we have been in the past.

Income Tax Act October 3rd, 1994

Madam Speaker, I rise to speak on private member's Motion No. M-256. I question the advisability of moving in this direction at this time.

I am extremely concerned about further complicating the tax system and setting up a situation whereby those with money and in the higher income brackets have the ability to manipulate the tax system to their advantage.

When I talked to Revenue Canada about the issue I was informed its previous experiences with income averaging has shown that such averaging may result in unfair tax advantages to those taxpayers who are able to arrange their affairs so as to control the amount and timing of their income and in turn their tax liabilities.

By checking the retirement savings system we will find that in extremely good years some individuals may make significant tax deductible registered retirement savings plan contributions based on income. Where an allowable contribution is not made for a year, it may be carried forward for seven years. RRSP contributions may be made in a year or within 60 days after the year ends.

This system can help individuals to lessen any increased tax burden that might arise as a result of an increase in income, while at the same time fulfil its primary goal of encouraging Canadians to save for retirement. It is a very important point that we have within our tax system the ability for people in their years of good income, when they do not have to draw down on their funds for cost of living and so on, to contribute dollars into retirement savings. It helps them and society as a whole.

Averaging provisions generally introduce a great degree of complexity into the tax system. If the government and Revenue Canada have time to look at the various issues, rather than spending a lot of time looking at block averaging over the years I would certainly favour spending time looking at ways to make those with larger incomes pay their fair share.

I am surprised that greater emphasis is not placed in the motion on those who are somehow dodging the tax system in some way. We should be making those individuals pay their fair share. In fact I am worried about the motion opening up the possibility for wealthy individuals to manipulate the tax system again to their advantage.

Talking about the complexity in the tax system, any income averaging formula entails detailed and often complex calculations in addition to very specific rules designed among other things to prevent its use for an unintended objective. That is what I am speaking about. Will the motion and its possibilities allow greater manipulation of the tax system? I am very worried about that.

A formula would have to take into account and recalculate benefits and means tested tax credits in low income years, such as child tax benefits, goods and services tax credits and various provincial tax credits, and additional taxes and credit reductions, for example, minimum tax, reduction in age tax credits, and old age security clawbacks in high income years included in the averaging period.

As well, where other supporting individuals have claimed tax benefits based on the income of a particular taxpayer, for example, spousal tax credits, their tax liability would also be adjusted based on the averaged income of the taxpayer.

Those kinds of problems really open up the possibility of manipulating the tax system further to an individual taxpayer's advantage and cause a considerable number of administrative problems in terms of the government department's ability to administer these taxes to see that they are paid fairly and administered by the rules of the act.

Averaging provisions would interact adversely with the alternative minimum tax. The purpose of that tax is to ensure all Canadians with significant incomes in a given year pay at least some level of income tax. Providing income averaging could increase the number of higher income Canadians who pay no income tax for a particular year. This is generally perceived to be manifestly unfair.

I do not have anything more than that to say on the issue. However I want to underline one point. I do not believe we should now be opening up the tax system to the possibility of further manipulations by individuals who have extreme amounts of income. We should be looking at other ways of improving the tax system by ensuring that the very wealthy in society pay their fair share. I do not believe the motion deals with that problem.

Canadian Wheat Board Act September 27th, 1994

Mr. Speaker, I will try to keep my answer short. In response to the first question I may have misinterpreted the Reform Party. I hope that one of its members will get up on a point of order later today and ask that the government charge those people violating the laws of the land. Maybe that would clarify it specifically.

These members have tried to talk about inefficiencies. I just want to make one point before I sit down. The Canadian Wheat Board has reduced its staff substantially over the last number of years. In fact, with a staff of 430 the wheat board transacts $4.5 billion to $5 billion worth of business annually which translates into an administrative cost of less than 3.5 cents per bushel for wheat and 2.8 cents per bushel for barley. That is amazing efficiency on the part of the wheat board in terms of operating for producers.

As the member knows full well, the democracy is in the election of the Canadian Wheat Board advisory committee which advises the board on matters. Democracy also exists in terms of this party campaigning in the last election that it would strengthen and maintain the wheat board and stand by it. We intend to do that. We have been elected to do that and I stand by that commitment.

Canadian Wheat Board Act September 27th, 1994

Mr. Speaker, I am extremely proud of the Canadian Wheat Board. I have been fortunate enough to have travelled internationally. Farmers around the world look at the Canadian Wheat Board and wish they had an agency like it.

The Canadian Wheat Board over the past 12 years has been aggressive. It can be improved in terms of its aggression in some areas. We have to understand that one of the difficulties the Canadian Wheat Board has had is that we had a government in Canada for the past nine years that did not believe in the principles of the Canadian Wheat Board and did everything it could to undermine the ability of the board to operate as effectively as possible.

In terms of democracy, I mentioned a moment ago the Canadian Wheat Board advisory committee. Looking at the record over the last nine years of the previous government, the one that lost the last election, it did not use the Canadian Wheat Board advisory committee which was the elected representative of farmers. It did not want to hear what those elected representatives of the farmers had to say in terms of support for the wheat board. The previous government undermined those democrati-

cally elected producers, the mass majority of which support the Canadian Wheat Board in the west.

In terms of commissioners there are several concepts of marketing. If commissioners are appointed, they should sit at the pleasure of the government. I personally believe we should conduct an investigation to ensure that the commissioners appointed by the previous government are operating in the interest of the policies of strenghthening and maintaining the Canadian Wheat Board and are not trying to undermine it from within. The principle of appointing commissioners is that the government appoints those with expertise in marketing. It is not like an election where people are elected by popularity. They are appointed for their expertise in marketing, those who will do the best job of marketing on behalf of producers.

Canadian Wheat Board Act September 27th, 1994

Madam Speaker, I welcome the opportunity to speak on Bill C-50, especially as the bill relates to the Canadian Wheat Board, one of the superior marketing agencies not only in Canada but in the world.

Much of my comments will be directed to the Canadian Wheat Board as it is this agency that will allow a check-off on board sales of wheat in the four western provinces and sales of barley in Saskatchewan, Manitoba and B.C.

It is important to note that this check-off is voluntary. I as a member of Parliament oppose the idea of imposing on farmers a check-off that could be viewed as another form of taxation. In part in response to the previous question, we as a government must be committed to research and development from public revenues. The public of Canada as a whole benefits greatly from the increased economic spin-off of research and development and especially so in the agriculture sector.

This voluntary aspect shows the principle of co-operation of farmers working together through the Canadian Wheat Board and other agencies in terms of achieving greater research and development as they already do in terms of marketing.

It is designed as the wheat board was in the very beginning to challenge the inequities and the inefficiencies of the bare bones marketplace.

It is significant to note that Alberta barley is not contained in the bill. I will have some questions later at committee stage on that point. I need to know and I will question whether there will be duplication of research. I need to know and I will question whether Alberta barley producers are given a choice in terms of whether their funds go to research in Alberta or through the Canadian Wheat Board system.

Let me for a moment talk about the bill specifically. The purpose of the bill is to bring in additional plant breeding research. The plant breeding research funded by the proposed check-off is anticipated to improve farm income through two main mechanisms: first, by reducing unit production costs through improved field performance due to increased disease and pest resistant varieties and, second, by maintaining and increasing exports through the development of varieties with desired market qualities.

A key point is exporting and marketing those improved varieties in a way that enhances and maximizes producers' returns. That is where the Canadian Wheat Board really comes in.

It is important at this stage to review where the government is at in relation to the Canadian Wheat Board. I would like to go back to our policy announcement in May of last year. I will quote from the red book. I am sure members in the Reform Party will want to hear this. The book states: "An effective and efficient agri-food strategy must provide policies and programs such as orderly marketing boards, the Canadian Wheat Board and stabilization programs to minimize the impact of market price fluctuations and ensure adequate returns to producers, processors and other efficient managers in the system".

I stand by that commitment and I fully support the Canadian Wheat Board. I used to be involved extensively in the west. I continue to get calls from farmers in the west emphasizing that this government should maintain that support with the onslaught from some of the industry at the moment.

Yes, there are some who are attacking the Canadian Wheat Board and have been for a number of years. It should not surprise us. They are looking for short term personal gain at the expense of the industry as a whole. They are attacking Canadian institutions when they should be attacking the fundamental

problem in terms of the grain industry, the use of the export enhancement program south of the border.

In fact I would suggest that some of those groups have fallen victim to the American corporate interests and are fostering their agenda rather than a truly Canadian agenda.

Yesterday I was shocked as members of the Reform Party stood in their places and condoned the illegal practices of those breaking the law in terms of Canadian Wheat Board marketing. It really amazes me that a party that talks about law, order, justice and following the law would condone those practices. All I can say is shame.

The two key characteristics which distinguish the Canadian marketing structure which is focused on the wheat board are single desk selling and price pooling. I think I had better speak for a moment on those. Through single desk selling, the Canadian Wheat Board is the only accredited agent for the selling of Canadian wheat and barley in export markets. This ensures that the needed quality and quantity of grain is provided to the marketplace. It ensures that the Canadian Wheat Board has negotiated power and flexibility, enabling it to provide farmers with the best possible return. That is an agency that maximizes returns to primary producers, works in their interest, finds those markets and does the market intelligence on behalf of all wheat board area producers.

The second major component is price pooling. Under that the Canadian Wheat Board ensures that farmers benefit equally from sales regardless of when and where their grain is sold. Returns are deposited into one of several pool accounts. All farmers delivering the same grade of wheat will receive the same return at the end of the crop year. The federal government ensures that any shortfalls are covered.

The member opposite is raising funny questions here. The reason I feel so emphatic about that principle is that I come from the east coast and I can see those of us in the potato industry missing opportunities because we do not have an agency like the Canadian Wheat Board that maximizes returns and works in the producers' best interests. I have seen that concept operate. I realize that an agency like the Canadian Wheat Board works far better than the absolute bare bones marketplace that I talked about earlier.

A very important component relative to the Canadian Wheat Board is the Canadian Wheat Board advisory committee. I will just take a moment to explain. The advisory committee consists of 11 elected members who represent more than 130,000 permit book holders throughout western Canada. Elections are held every four years. The committee provides good advice to the Canadian Wheat Board in terms of its marketing initiatives.

I think I am running out of time. I would have liked time to talk about the challenges, certainly the Americans. The Reform Party members seem to be the only ones out to attack the Canadian Wheat Board and try to do away with that really good structure of marketing. Members will note that in the four challenges from the United States we won every one.

In closing, it is very critical the Liberal government stands behind our commitments to the Canadian Wheat Board, those commitments that we ran on in the last election across the west and won. Although I am from eastern Canada, I stand fully behind that board in terms of its ability to maximize returns to primary producers.

Elite Seed Farm September 26th, 1994

Mr. Speaker, I rise to congratulate the P.E.I potato industry on the implementation of its five-year plan aimed at expanding the facilities and services at the Elite Seed Farm on Fox Island, P.E.I.

This newly renovated facility which is owned by the primary producers now has the distinction of being the only one of its kind in Canada. The facility's new laboratory gives it the capacity to produce disease free plantlets. The new production and handling equipment will provide more efficient and environmentally safe services to producers and consumers.

It will also play a significant role in marketing P.E.I. potatoes through the use of its conference facilities that will attract trade missions from around the world. This concept of attracting trade missions and on site explanations to the industry has been used by the CIGI in Winnipeg for years.

I congratulate the government and the industry on the co-operative approach taken.

Grain Transportation June 8th, 1994

Mr. Speaker, my question is for the minister of agriculture.

Back in mid-May, when the minister of agriculture met in Winnipeg with industry representatives about solving the grain transportation problems for this year and for future years, the minister established a number of committees that were to report back in two weeks.

Have those committees reported back? If so, has the minister decided what action should be taken on the part of the government?

Credit Card Interest Calculation Act June 7th, 1994

Madam Speaker, I want to congratulate my hon. colleague for Simcoe North for bringing forward this bill which has now become a motion and giving me the opportunity to second it. It has been needed for much too long.

In response to the previous speaker it is quite obvious to me that allowing the market out there to set interest rates just has not worked. The financial institutions have been shown for years to have been gouging the public in terms of interest rates on credit cards.

I believe it is the responsibility of the government to ensure that the Canadian consumer is protected against unfair and at times out of control profiteering by large financial institutions. I know from business experience how heavy those interest costs can be and how great a burden they can be and how quickly they can get out of control and cause extreme financial difficulty.

Of course there will be criticism from the affected financial institutions but the government should not be interfering with setting interest rates for the banks. That is to be expected. In fact, that makes for healthy debate.

The facts and terms of this debate are on this side of the argument that interest rates should be restricted.

We as members of Parliament do have a right and a responsibility to ensure that the people of Canada are protected from unfair banking practices, and excessive credit card interest rates are in fact unfair.

This bill, or this motion now, should not be seen as an attack on the banks. I think it is an attempt to have fair play on the part of the relationship between the banks and the consumer. We know it is the government's responsibility to make sure there is stability in the financial market for the banking and lending institutions to flourish.

We do this under the Canadian bank act and through the use of the Bank of Canada. The same financial institutions charging Canadians an exorbitant amount of interest as well as calculating interest charges in very creative ways have the ability to borrow money from the federal government's Bank of Canada's discount rate at very low rates for the banks when they are borrowing.

Yet these same institutions do not pass on that advantage to the Canadian consumer. They instead use the difference between their borrowing rate and the rate they charged credit card users for huge profits.

Those who carry this burden of excessive bank profits in the end are the Canadian consumers. They pay the bills. It is they that we as a government hope through consumer spending will spur economic growth. That, my colleagues, is what the hon. member for Simcoe North is putting forward today. It is a bill to

help economic growth by creating greater spending at the consumer level through fair credit card interest rate practices.

What this proposed legislation does is create fair and reasonable regulations for those lending and credit institutions to follow while at the same time making reasonable profits from those services.

I should also point out the positive effects this legislation will have on our economy. It will create a more positive atmosphere for the general public who use credit for purchasing merchandise and services to increase spending since they wil not be allocating a large part of their cash flow to the bank's interest charges.

No hon. member should argue against more capital being injected into our retail sector. It has been mentioned that the credit card institutions have shown stability in that they have not raised their rates with the fluctuation of the Bank of Canada rate over the past few months.

No wonder. This country has been enjoying its lowest interest rates in 30 years and the financial institutions have not reacted to the massive drop at any point by lowering the interest rates charged to these clients in recent days. That is the reality in times of nationally high interest rates. Banks keep credit rates higher and in times of low interest rates they keep the same rates in order to reap from users even more cash.

This is no small potato. In today's retail market credit cards account for some $50 billion in purchases in Canada. There is little wonder why banks and other financial institutions are so reluctant to control and lower their interest rates for the Canadian consumer.

When the average interest rate is anywhere between 11.5 per cent and 19 per cent, there is a lot of profit to be gained from interest rates by the banks.

I know some will argue: "What's wrong with profits". However, we must ask ourselves what is reasonable in terms of profit. If the credit card suppliers, the banks, are not carrying on their responsibilities in a reasonable way then Parliament has a responsibility to act in the people's interest. That is what I believe we are trying to do with this bill today.

I have watched previous governments and previous administrations show concern over credit card interest rates, indeed at times even on lending rates themselves in the past, but when the pressure came to bear and push came to shove those previous administrations failed to act.

This bill gives us as a government the opportunity to act. Action speaks louder than words. We were elected as a government of action. Let us show we are true to form and act on the intent of this bill when it gets to the industry committee.

That is why I am asking all my fellow members of Parliament to consider the intent of the member's bill, to put in place fair regulations to control banks and other financial institutions, to prevent massive profiteering at the expense of the average Canadian consumer. After all, it is the consumer that is very much affected by recessions which stats show is then passed on to the retail sector.

The banking industry has not felt the same impact in hard times. It is time that legislation was passed to protect the average Canadian from the excessive interest rate charges by the big financial institutions.

As I stated earlier, we do everything we can to ensure stability and security for the lending institutions under the Canadian Bank Act and special measures through the Bank of Canada in terms of borrowing rates for those lending institutions.

We can do no less for Canadian consumers than ensure that there is fair play and a reasonable spread in interest rates. I encourage the industry committee to ensure that the intent of this bill is acted upon and that we as a government show that we mean action and we mean business.

Gelas Gallant June 3rd, 1994

Mr. Speaker, I would like to take this opportunity to congratulate Mr. Gelas Gallant of

Rustico, Prince Edward Island, on being awarded the Acadian Order of Merit by the Societe Saint-Thomas-D'Aquin. This prestigious award is presented annually to a person who has contributed significantly toward advancing the Acadian culture on Prince Edward Island.

Mr. Gallant has earned this award through his lifelong dedication and involvement in the Acadian community. He is the eighth generation descendant of Michel Haché-Gallant who was the first Acadian to arrive on Prince Edward Island.

Mr. Gallant and his wife Marguerite have 15 children, all of whom have been educated in French and the rich Acadian culture. In fact most of those children live in the community.

Mr. Gallant has been active in farm organizations and still is politically active. When he calls, you listen.

Mr. Gallant is a citizen who best exemplifies Canadianism through his rich involvement in advancing Acadian culture, thus improving the local community and ultimately Canada as a rich multicultural country.

Agriculture May 10th, 1994

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to note that the Reform Party supports the recommendations of the subcommittee on transportation and agriculture dealing with car shortage.

That committee's recommendation shows the kind of proactive approach the minister talked about in his resolution this morning. I would encourage the member opposite to read the transcripts of that hearing. It was not the excessive amount of regulation that was the problem with respect to car shortage. It was that the regulations were not enforced enough for the GTA.

With regard to the example of 1,000 cars of canola meal, that was a result of non-administrative product and it was the problem. It is not just a matter of less regulation; it is a matter of enforcing those regulations.

What would the member suggest the government should do with respect to the railways not living up to their obligations under the Western Grain Transportation Act in terms of providing the rolling stock and capital investment with which to move the product to market?