Nelson Andrew RIIS

RIIS, Nelson Andrew, B.Ed., M.A., P.A.

Personal Data

Party
New Democratic Party
Constituency
Kamloops (British Columbia)
Birth Date
January 10, 1942
Website
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Nelson_Riis
PARLINFO
http://www.parl.gc.ca/parlinfo/Files/Parliamentarian.aspx?Item=65f64341-6e0c-46ae-8714-7a9e85e191fa&Language=E&Section=ALL
Profession
author, editor, geographer, teacher

Parliamentary Career

February 18, 1980 - July 9, 1984
NDP
  Kamloops--Shuswap (British Columbia)
September 4, 1984 - October 1, 1988
NDP
  Kamloops--Shuswap (British Columbia)
  • N.D.P. Caucus Chair (October 29, 1984 - September 1, 1986)
  • N.D.P. House Leader (September 5, 1986 - January 11, 1996)
November 21, 1988 - September 8, 1993
NDP
  Kamloops (British Columbia)
  • N.D.P. House Leader (September 5, 1986 - January 11, 1996)
October 25, 1993 - April 27, 1997
NDP
  Kamloops (British Columbia)
  • N.D.P. House Leader (September 5, 1986 - January 11, 1996)
  • N.D.P. Deputy House Leader (January 1, 1994 - January 1, 1996)
  • N.D.P. Caucus Chair (January 11, 1996 - January 31, 2000)
June 2, 1997 - October 22, 2000
NDP
  Kamloops (British Columbia)
  • N.D.P. Caucus Chair (January 11, 1996 - January 31, 2000)

Most Recent Speeches (Page 1 of 1514)


October 17, 2000

Mr. Nelson Riis (Kamloops, Thompson and Highland Valleys, NDP)

Mr. Speaker, when I was a new member of parliament, I was given the critic area of small business. One of my first duties was to meet with John Bulloch, the founder of the Canadian Federation of Independent Business. He was an enthusiastic and outspoken advocate of the small and medium business sector and I learned much from his wise counsel.

Now 20 years later, the CFIB and I are still going strong and still speaking out on behalf of small and medium sized Canadian businesses.

The Canadian Federation of Independent Business currently has over 100,000 members across the country, the largest individual membership business organization in Canada. One of its strengths has been the direct input from its members in the form of surveys which are sent to all members of parliament to assist us in our decision making.

The Canadian Federation of Independent Business has done an outstanding job advocating for small and medium sized Canadian enterprises. Today is CFIB's first official day on the Hill. The government would do well to listen to them.

Topic:   Statements By Members
Subtopic:   Canadian Federation Of Independent Business
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October 17, 2000

Mr. Nelson Riis (Kamloops, Thompson and Highland Valleys, NDP)

Mr. Speaker, I listened to my colleague's very eloquent presentation and I must say that it is probably one of the most thoughtful presentations I have heard in the House for some time. I commend him on his thoughtfulness and the thoroughness of his research.

I will give a speech later in the day so I have some notes here. There must be a mistake in my notes because I remember that a few years ago there used to be a 50:50 balance. The federal government would put in 50% of the funding for health care and the province would put in 50% of the money. My notes say that the federal government now has reneged so much that it only allocates 13% of the total, which means the provinces have to pick up 80 some per cent and the federal government only picks up 13%.

Would my friend at least tell me my notes are wrong? If in fact the feds are only giving 13% of health care funding, that would be absolutely scandalous.

Topic:   Government Orders
Subtopic:   Canada Health Care, Early Childhood Development And Other Social Services Funding Act
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October 17, 2000

Mr. Nelson Riis (Kamloops, Thompson and Highland Valleys, NDP)

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to present another petition. The petitioners are concerned about the state of the highway system across Canada. They urge the Government of Canada to consider putting some of the revenues raised by the excise tax on fuel into highway construction in all parts of Canada.

Topic:   Routine Proceedings
Subtopic:   Petitions
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October 17, 2000

Mr. Nelson Riis (Kamloops, Thompson and Highland Valleys, NDP)

Mr. Speaker, I direct my comments to my Liberal friends sitting across the way. I assume they have been out door knocking like my friend from Halifax who indicated that he had been knocking on doors for the past number of weeks. I know I have and there is one thing that I found out at almost every door. Those who wanted to talk inevitably talked about health care and the abysmal state of our system. There were some people who did not want to talk or they were not at home or they could not talk.

I would say it is almost in a crisis situation. As a matter of fact, I suspect there is not a single member of parliament today who does not know someone personally in his or her family who has not been confronted with an inadequate health care system in terms of treatment. I know I certainly have. My parents are elderly and are sort of struggling all the time. They do not complain but they have had to wait weeks for tests and weeks to get into the hospital for a minor operation and so on. That is what one hears everywhere.

It is absolutely scandalous that the government has somehow gotten away with not taking responsibility for the problem. It has blamed it on provincial governments, not to say that they do not deserve some criticism. However, the reality is that it was this government that made those massive cuts to our health care system, which caused this problem from coast to coast to coast. That is fact number one.

Fact number two, as my friend from Halifax just verified, is that the federal government was supposed to throw in 50% of the funding for health care but is now contributing only 13%. That in itself is scandalous. Let us face it, when it throws in only 13% we can forget about national standards from coast to coast.

Forget about the same quality and standard of health care in British Columbia as one would find in Prince Edward Island or in Nova Scotia. That is not the case. We now have virtually 13 different health care systems. There are no serious national standards because the government puts such a minor amount of the money into health care that it cannot enforce national standards.

My friends across the way must be shaking in their boots as people are finding out what is happening in Alberta. There are 50 private health care clinics in the province of Alberta. Bill 11 opens the door now for an American style, two tier, for profit health care system. If we ask any real health care providers or any serious students of health care what they think, they will say that we are opening the door to a two tier for profit American style health care system, which is not what Canadians want. I do not think I have ever encountered a single Canadian who says he or she wants to be like the Americans when it comes to our health care system.

Perhaps, as my hon. friend reminds me, there are some parties in the House that feel comfortable with an American style health care system, but Canadians do not. People ought not to make profits on sickness, injury and suffering. That is what a private health care system does.

My friend who spoke just said that Bill C-45 was a small, baby step in the right direction. However, I would not say it is a baby step. This is more like a nudge forward. We have so much more to do. The government for the last two elections has promised Canadians a home care system. Do we have a one today? No, we have not. For the last two elections the Liberals promised a pharmacare program for Canada. Do we have a one? No, we do not.

The government goes to the electorate and says that if it elects the Liberals it will give the people a child care system but they do not do it. The next time they say that if the people elect them they will give them a home care system, but they do not do it. Or they say that if they elect them they will give them a pharmacare system, but they do not do it.

Canadians will eventually figure out that this is a group of folks they might want to be cautious of when they say that they will do this or that for them while really meaning they will do it to them. We will not have a child care system, a home care system, a pharmacare system or an elder care system. I hate to say it but unfortunately that is the reality. I wish I could say something different. I wish I could say that the government has provided health care and home care and so on, but I cannot.

Have members ever seen people trying to clap themselves on their backs using both hands and both feet? That would be quite a sight. That is what we have seen. We have seen people clapping themselves on the back and saying “Look how wonderful we are. We have restored funding”. That is not the case. The government has not restored proper funding for health care. It has restored funding to 1994 levels. The Liberals should wake up. This is not 1994. This is the year 2000. They have increased the funding to 1994 levels, which is a nice step, but what about 1995 levels? Populations were increasing and inflation was increasing. What about 1996? What about 1997? What about 1998? What about 1999? What about the year 2000?

Are we supposed to get excited that the government has dipped into the EI fund and into the federal pension fund to come up with moneys so it can increase federal health care spending to 1994 levels? Are we supposed to be cheering? Yet that is what we are expected to do, cheer. We are not cheering, nor will we cheer. We will say not only is it not enough money, but we have to look at the components of health care.

I think members would agree that we have to have a decent home care system in our country. We are an aging population. How many householders do we know of who do not have to be concerned about caring for an aging member of their family? Home care is a reality. To have a health care system in the 21st century without a home care component is just not possible.

We know the price of drugs. We know that the price of pharmaceuticals has been skyrocketing, particularly after the Mulroney government brought in protection for the drug companies, unfortunately supported by this government. We cannot help that. That is what we have. We need a pharmacare program because we know that seniors by the tens of thousands cannot afford the necessary prescription drugs which they require because we do not have a pharmacare program. We cannot have a modern 21st century health care program without having a pharmacare component in there.

We talk about elder care and child care. I know this is not necessarily part of this discussion. However, when we look at modern countries around the world, do they not have a national child care program? Of course they have. Do they not have a national home care program? Of course they have. If these countries can afford it, why on earth can we not afford it? We have these huge surpluses.

I know we have money to spend to build luxury holiday resorts. We have money to spend on building huge fantastic golf courses. As a matter of fact, I golfed on one this summer. I did not realize it was subsidized by the federal government and by the taxpayers of Canada. We have money for golf courses and luxury resorts but we do not have money for home care.

We heard a lot about the values of our society. The Prime Minister said that this would be an election about values. I hope it is. I think Canadians from coast to coast to coast will also hope that it is. What does it tell us about the values of a government that says it has money for luxury resorts, for golf courses and for fancy statues and fountains in the Prime Minister's riding but cannot afford health care in terms of home care, pharmacare, elder care and child care? It cannot afford these. It cannot even afford social housing.

I want to say that the Prime Minister lives in social housing. The Governor General of Canada lives in social housing. The Leader of the Opposition lives in social housing.

If we can afford social housing for the Leader of the Opposition and for the Prime Minister of Canada, we should have some social housing for people who actually cannot afford decent housing. It seems reasonable to me.

We have to start thinking about what kind of a country we want. Mr. Trudeau called this a just society and our goals should be a just society. The New Democratic Party supports this. We like the idea of a just society so that if we are sick or injured, it does not matter where we happen to be in Canada, we will have access to the top quality care. That is not the case today.

I appeal to my Liberal colleagues to be generous. We have a huge surplus of perhaps $20 billion before us. Invest some of that money in home care, in pharmacare, in elder care and in preventive care so that we can build the health care system of the 21st century that Canadians want, one that we can afford if we have the will to do it.

Topic:   Government Orders
Subtopic:   Canada Health Care, Early Childhood Development And Other Social Services Funding Act
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October 17, 2000

Mr. Nelson Riis

That is absolutely true. Since the government took office in 1993 not a single cent has gone into social housing in this country. The government has abandoned that program.

Those members can talk later and explain where I am wrong.

The point is, we have people on Parliament Hill today from the women's march who are reminding us of this. Every single MP is being lobbied today. These people are saying “Please put some money into social housing”. The reality is that the government has not.

Let us just make it clear. There is government money for golf courses, hotels and luxury resorts but no money for housing that is much needed in all parts of the country. I could go on to identify other sectors as well.

What he did not mention either was the incredible growth of food banks. Not only have the national chartered banks done very well, the food bank business is also booming, and that we should be much ashamed of.

My hon. friend also did not mention the money that has not been invested in children. While we woke up this morning to come to a parliament that is about to end, 1.4 million children woke up this morning living in poverty. The reason they woke up living in poverty is not that only they are living in poverty but their parents are living in poverty. Is this not some form of societal child abuse? For a country as wealthy as Canada to permit, year after year, hundreds of thousands of children to live in poverty is a form of societal child abuse. Quite frankly, we should be ashamed of this record.

Does the government announce any major initiatives in regard to child poverty? No, but if someone needs money for a golf course in Atlantic Canada there is money, apparently, and if someone needs money for a luxury resort, there is money. However there is not enough financial support to deal with child poverty.

I could go on in regard to a number of issues but we are not actually supposed to be talking about them.

My friend also mentioned balancing the books. He forgot to mention that one of the ways in which the government balanced the books was to take money out of the EI that employers and employees contributed in anticipation that they were going to get some return on their insurance investment. The government dipped into their fund to take out the money and dipped into the pension fund of the federal public service as well.

It is important that we remind ourselves, in a more balanced way, of why the books of the country have been balanced. It is because money put into the employment insurance fund has now been siphoned off.

I have two quick points. Today we are talking about telephone services. I think we would all agree that communication is crucial in a knowledge based economy, crucial today in an ever shrinking globalized world and absolutely fundamental in terms of economic development in the future.

As we talk about this legislation, there are parts of Canada that do not have any telephone service. I know some members will be surprised to hear this, but there are parts of Canada that have no telephone service at all. As a matter of fact there are some parts of my own riding that do not, to be specific, the East Barrière Lake area and the Red Lake area. There are others. A lot of people who live there have been trying to get the telephone companies to provide service but to date they have not been able to do so.

I want to make that point clear as we are getting ourselves excited about how connected we are. There are still a lot of people who do not have even fundamental telephone services.

As we talk about balancing off this sort of equal playing field, which is what this legislation is all about, and talk about providing a level playing field for all players, let us also remind ourselves that as we speak we have the softwood lumber agreement that the Government of Canada agreed to which prohibits Canadian lumber exporters from exporting lumber into the United States. This is up for renewal on March 1. I do hope the government, if it actually espouses the fundamental belief in free trade, abandons this forum of managed trade which, quite frankly, militates against western lumber producers.

I appeal to my Liberal friends across the way. When companies are making the case that we should have free trade in lumber, when the members of the IWA say they want to have free trade in lumber, I appeal to the government to actually agree to have free trade, particularly as this is free trade with the United States. I thought we actually had a free trade agreement with the United States but when it comes to softwood lumber we do not have a free trade agreement. I find it rather perverse and almost amazing that we would allow this to occur but we have. Hopefully we can undo this damage in the next number of weeks.

To get back to Bill S-26, others before me have indicated that this is actually a pretty straightforward piece of legislation. It is a bit unusual when one thinks about it. The British Columbia telephone company special act was enacted back in 1916 by this parliament. The purpose of this special act was to federally incorporate the British Columbia Telephone Company and place it under federal jurisdiction. At the time this special act was created, the Canadian telecommunications industry consisted of monopoly service providers, including fledgling provincial crown owned corporations just beginning to be established in the prairie provinces.

Today this special act is inconsistent with the open and competitive Canadian telecommunications industry where all other Canadian owned telecom companies are free to compete in every Canadian jurisdiction. This places Telus at a competitive disadvantage for a number of reasons.

Rather than go into those reasons, I think it is obvious that when one company has to seek permission from the CRTC every time it wants to make a major corporate decision whereas other companies it is competing with do not and can simply do it within their own corporate structure, we are asking Telus to compete in the marketplace with its hands tied behind its back, so to speak.

In summary, we in the New Democratic Party support the updating of the legislation. We also support, as we indicated earlier, the rapid movement of the legislation through all stages so we can complete it today. It has already gone through the stages at the Senate, which has done due diligence on this legislation. It is appropriate that we move expeditiously as well to enable the legislation to be proclaimed prior to the dissolution of this parliament.

Topic:   Government Orders
Subtopic:   An Act To Incorporate The Western Canada Telephone Company
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