Victor Fredrich (Vic) ALTHOUSE

ALTHOUSE, Victor Fredrich (Vic), B.A.

Personal Data

New Democratic Party
Mackenzie (Saskatchewan)
Birth Date
April 15, 1937

Parliamentary Career

February 18, 1980 - July 9, 1984
  Humboldt--Lake Centre (Saskatchewan)
  • Deputy Whip of the N.D.P. (January 1, 1983 - January 1, 1984)
September 4, 1984 - October 1, 1988
  Humboldt--Lake Centre (Saskatchewan)
  • Whip of the N.D.P. (October 29, 1984 - September 4, 1986)
November 21, 1988 - September 8, 1993
  Mackenzie (Saskatchewan)
October 25, 1993 - April 27, 1997
  Mackenzie (Saskatchewan)

Most Recent Speeches (Page 1 of 393)

April 25, 1997

Mr. Vic Althouse (Mackenzie, NDP)

moved for leave to introduce Bill C-439, an act respecting the measurement of economic activity by criteria that reflect resource consumption and environmental stress.

Mr. Speaker, this bill is an attempt to provide for the establishment of a genuine progress indicator which would reflect the cost of all natural resources consumed and the environmental debt incurred during the process of production, to give a more realistic measure of real progress.

It would also require that whenever a change in the gross domestic product is cited in official documents, the genuine progress indicator or change therein must also be cited.

(Motions deemed adopted, bill read the first time and printed.)

Topic:   Routine Proceedings
Subtopic:   Genuine Progress Indicator Act
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April 24, 1997

Mr. Vic Althouse (Mackenzie, NDP)

Mr. Speaker, this government leaves the impression of being on the side of farmers when it discusses the need for supply management of dairy products.

Recently the agriculture minister agreed to a scheduled phase out of the consumer subsidy, but now he assures dairy farmers that the $12 million agreed upon to delay the price pass through until February is off because he was "unable to persuade his cabinet colleagues". We could blame the minister. Once again he has failed in a commitment made to farmers. But is the problem not really greater than the minister himself?

It was the Liberals who were going to protect supply management, then they signed it away in NAFTA. It was the Liberals who were going to keep the Canadian Wheat Board, but negotiated it away at the World Trade Organization talks. It was the Liberals who were going to keep the Crow benefit, but they eliminated it 18 months after gaining government.

It is true that the minister has a fatal character flaw: his word means nothing. But hey, he is only a Liberal.

Topic:   Statements By Members
Subtopic:   Agriculture
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April 22, 1997

Mr. Vic Althouse (Mackenzie, NDP)

Mr. Speaker, on March 17, I rose to ask the Minister of Agriculture and Agri-Food if he would be changing the Canada Transportation Act to provide some rebalancing in the relationship between shippers and railways by including a shipper's right to performance guarantees with appropriate penalties for poor rail performance.

The question arose because of the abysmal performance that the railways have shown over the past winter, leaving almost 50 ships waiting in the harbour in Vancouver for which farmers, through the Canadian Wheat Board, were paying demurrage costs.

The problem with the Canada Transportation Act is that there is no way for the shipper, in this case the farmer or the Canadian Wheat Board, to extract penalties from the railways.

The act was fairly silent on this. The justice system has ruled that farmers are not shippers. It has also ruled on other occasions that the wheat board is not a shipper. Therefore it is virtually impossible for the people who are damaged by non-performance to arrange contracts with the offending party to make certain that performance does take place.

I did not ask the question in a vacuum. I had done considerable research and found that the elevators in western Canada were full of the grades of grain required for the ships. The terminals which load the grain after it is received at the port from the railways, from the prairies, were empty and unable to fill the ships. It does not take a genius to decide that something had gone wrong with the rail system.

I found that the rail system had performed very badly. It had made some attempts to correct the bad performance. It had brought in locomotives from the United States but for some reason it did not bring them up to performance standards for northern conditions. Apparently they were filled with summer fuel and they froze. They would not work. They were usually left out in the middle of somewhere which clogged up the system at the same time. While 50 to 100 cars were sitting full, there was no transportation to pull them. When the railway did start pulling them the transportation conked out. Taxis would have to go to rescue the crew. Other crews would come in to try to get the engines drained and working.

The management on the railway's part was absolutely abysmal. It is not that it was not being well paid with the new CTA changes. It no longer is bound by the 20 per cent limit on the amount of money it can claim back for investment costs. Those are now estimated to be somewhere between 30 per cent and 40 per cent.

Under the old act the railway was required to provide certain performance guarantees which the government was able to manage

by the payout of something in the order of $700 million annually. With that club over its head there was a lot better performance.

Now that the club is gone, now that there is no possibility of signing performance guarantee contracts with the wheat board or the farmer, there has been no compliance and there has been no performance.

While the railway can complain that the weather was bad, it is bad every January and February. The farmers manage to get their grain through that weather to prairie elevators. Why could the railway not run similar equipment with diesel fuel like the farmers do through the mountains?

Topic:   Adjournment Proceedings
Subtopic:   Broadcast Act
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March 17, 1997

Mr. Vic Althouse (Mackenzie, NDP)

Madam Speaker, some weeks ago I asked a question in the House to which the minister of agriculture chose to respond. It had to do with the establishment of branch lines after the change in the Transportation Act that occurred in the House the last year. The protection of branch lines which was intended to last until the end of 1999 simply disappeared.

As a result we have seen at least the CNR post its list of branch lines that will be abandoned. That list is becoming very instructive for communities looking to see what will happen to them if they are living on branch lines.

The point I was trying to make with the government was that we are finding time after time the railways have announced that they will no longer maintain or provide service to branch lines. When community groups or others investigate to see whether or not they should buy them, they find the railway has already achieved an agreement with the elevator companies along the lines to agree they will not sell to anybody attempting to use the elevators and purchase them later.

The point I was trying to make with the minister of agriculture because he represents a seat on the prairies was that the envisioned creation of a whole bunch of short lines will not happen.

We have several actual examples. One is in my riding. It is light rail. A short line could exist if they moved traffic out slowly and they are willing to set up a short line. There is a large alfalfa dehydrating plant at the end of that short line which provides quite a lot of tonnage. To make the short line efficient and effective economically they will also have to continue to haul the grain gathered on those lines.

The two companies that have elevators at three or four points along that line decided to build inland terminals 30 or 40 miles away. They do not want their own gathering outlets competing against the capacity of those inland terminals. They have an agreement which seems to be held by the railway that the line can only be purchased by someone who refuses to move grain on the line. That makes it uneconomical for the community short line to exist.

The minister being a political person decided to make some politics with his answer. He decided to ignore the question completely and say that if there were no short lines in Saskatchewan it would be because of the provincial law.

If he had listened at the short line conference he and I were in attendance at, he would have heard existing short line operators point out that it was not a problem for them at all. They could simply constitute themselves first off as a Canadian corporation and use Canadian successor right laws. In fact the operators already in existence say Saskatchewan successor right laws are not an impediment whatsoever. Their real problem is having the elevator companies stay in existence along those lines.

We are back to the situation we had 100 years ago before we started regulating rail lines and elevator companies, where the elevator companies and the railroads simply have farmers at their mercy.

Topic:   Adjournment Proceedings
Subtopic:   Copyright Act
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March 17, 1997

Mr. Vic Althouse (Mackenzie, NDP)

Mr. Speaker, my question is for the Minister of Transport.

In moving grain to the west coast it is obvious the railways have failed to perform. Yet they bear no responsibility. The $65 million of losses due to demurrage and non-performance of contract are borne by farmers. Non-performance is not the fault of farmers, of grain companies or of grain handlers. Only the railways were responsible.

Does the government now realize this and is it prepared to amend the Transport Act to rebalance the relationship between shippers and railways by including the right of shippers to performance guarantees with appropriate penalties for poor rail performance?

Topic:   Oral Question Period
Subtopic:   Transport
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