The Hon. the Speaker informed the Senate that a message had been received
from the House of Commons returning Bill C-275, establishing the Canadian
Association of Former Parliamentarians, and acquainting the Senate that the
Commons have agreed to the amendments made by the Senate to this bill without
Hon. Noël A. Kinsella: Honourable senators, this week has been declared
National Access Awareness Week. The purpose of this special week is not only to
celebrate the progress that has been achieved in Canada in providing equal
opportunity for persons with disabilities but also to remind Canadians that
citizens with disabilities have not yet achieved full inclusion and
participation in Canadian society.
The Vienna Declaration and Programme of Action, adopted at the 1993 World
Conference on Human Rights, reaffirmed that:
...every person is born equal and has the right to life and welfare,
education and work, living independently and active participation in all
aspects of society. Persons with disabilities should be guaranteed equal
opportunity through the elimination of all socially determined barriers, be
they physical, financial, social or psychological, which excludes or restricts
full participation in society.
Even though Canada has developed programs and adopted or adjusted legislation
to ensure access to these rights, many Canadians with disabilities are still
faced with the issues of income security and accessibility and/or availability
of services. For persons with disabilities, the right to work, the right to
education, the right to found a family, the right to life, liberty and security
of the person are often violated. Many times these human rights violations take
the form of unconscious discrimination through the creation and maintenance of
human-made barriers which prevent persons with disabilities from enjoying full
social and economic participation in their communities.
We need to focus our efforts on expanding the understanding of human rights
vis-à-vis persons with disabilities. Instead of viewing human rights as only
needing to abstain from taking measures which may have an adverse effect on
persons with disabilities, the concept must encompass the whole range of civil,
political, social, economic and cultural rights. It must be realized that most
persons with disabilities need economic, social and cultural rights as a
prerequisite for realizing political and civil rights.
The United Nations Standard Rules on Equalization of Opportunities for
Persons with Disabilities advocates a human rights concept that is based on an
independent living philosophy. This definition can serve as a guideline in
developing or adapting legislation aimed at the equalization of opportunities
for Canadians with disabilities. Human rights legislation must be adapted to
reflect a social model of disability which focuses on the disabling environment
and not on the impairments or disabilities of individuals.
The fact that Canadians with disabilities are still facing income security as
one of their most significant issues demonstrates the need for proactive
government approaches which will ensure equal opportunity in the area of
Honourable senators, in 1991 the Progressive Conservative government
undertook a five-year national strategy for persons with disabilities. This
multi-departmental strategy, led by the Department of Human Resources and
Development, not only developed national standards and regulatory practices for
equalizing opportunities for persons with disabilities but also allocated
specific resources to carry out and support initiatives designed to enhance this
process of equalization.
The Hon. the Speaker: Honourable senators, the honourable senator's
three-minute time period has expired. Is leave granted to allow him to continue?
Hon. Senators: Agreed.
Senator Kinsella: On March 31 of this year, this five-year national
strategy came to a conclusion. While various government departments are
promising to undertake in the future equalizing initiatives for persons with
disabilities, they will no longer have any national regulation or resources
attached to them. Without a regulatory system in place, further commitment for
advancing the equalization of opportunities for persons with disabilities will
become voluntary. Experts in the field argue that there is a need for
regulations if the human rights of persons with disabilities are to be realized.
Also, the absence of a national strategy indicates that resources will no longer
be allocated specifically for equal opportunity initiatives. It is imperative,
therefore, that there be national standards or regulations and a strong
commitment by the government to the equalization of opportunities for persons
with disabilities, in order to prevent the erosion of the achievements made in
the past and to successfully move those barriers which still violate the human
rights of our citizens with disabilities.
What we are discussing is not a matter of promoting special rights but,
rather, the realization and actualization of the inherent and inalienable human
rights which many of us take for granted.
Further Extension of U.S. Database
Urged by fire-fighters
Hon. Erminie J. Cohen: Honourable senators, two weeks ago, amid all the
excitement generated by the GST debate, resignations of members of Parliament
and the implosion of Preston Manning's party, an unrelated though worthwhile
event occurred on the Hill of which we should take note. I am referring to the
three-day lobbying conference of the International Association of Fire-Fighters.
As they have done every year for the last five, the association arrived in
Ottawa with a contingent of fire-fighters numbering about 100, and representing
all of the regions of this country. Their objective was to bring to the
attention of legislators some of the issues pertinent to people who work in this
dangerous field of fire-fighting.
One area of major concern to the group is incidents involving hazardous
materials in transit. As they pointed out, fire-fighters in Canada often lack
access to on-site information about hazardous materials in transit, and
appropriate emergency response techniques to enable them to evacuate communities
when accidents involving such materials occur.
Currently, when a hazardous materials incident or accident occurs, Transport
Canada relies on the CANUTEC system to relay information by telephone to
fire-fighters on the site. The weakness of this current system, honourable
senators, is that CANUTEC's staff must depend on the accuracy of a placarding
manifest system to identify shipments of hazardous materials. The flaw in such a
system is that the placards often do not describe accurately and adequately the
contents. Sometimes the placards are destroyed at the time of an incident.
Fire-fighters feel that the Operation Respond system would help remedy this
problem by giving fire-fighters instant, on-screen information via laptop
computer directly from a database. This system currently operates successfully
in locations throughout the United States and Mexico, and has the full support
and cooperation of major rail companies and trucking firms. According to the
fire-fighters, Operation Respond could be used to augment the CANUTEC system.
Presently, plans exist to extend, in 1997, an Operation Respond test site
project in Buffalo, New York, to Niagara Falls, Canada, a project which
Transport Canada is observing.
In its representation two weeks ago, the International Association of
Fire-Fighters urged the Minister of Transport to make the expansion to Operation
Respond's Canadian test site a top priority in terms of commitment of staff and
Fire-fighters deserve to know exactly what hazardous materials may be present
at any incident. That is a given, and will benefit all. Honourable senators, the
experience of fire-fighters has demonstrated that access to reliable information
within the first three to four minutes of arrival saves lives by ensuring that
fire-fighters use the most effective response techniques at any incident
involving hazardous materials.
The Hon. the Speaker: Honourable Senator Cohen, I regret to inform you
that your three-minute time period has expired. Is leave granted, honourable
senators, to extend that time period?
Hon. Senators: Agreed.
Senator Cohen: Thank you, honourable senators.
In the event of a passenger rail emergency, the IAFF feels that Operation
Respond would make it easier for fire-fighters to save lives because they would
be more aware of entry points, electrical and mechanical systems, and any
existing by-pass advice.
The fire-fighters made a thoughtful and intelligent case for a greater
commitment by Transport Canada to this system. For safety's stake, honourable
senators, their initiative deserves our support.
Hon. Ron Ghitter: Fellow senators, since I was not in the chamber on May
16 when my friend Senator Forest was introduced as our newest senator, I rise
today, with your indulgence, to add my comments of congratulations.
Honourable senators, this is a splendid appointment to the chamber. Senator
Forest has served her community and her country in many significant ways, but my
contacts with her have been in the area of human rights, in which area she has
been a major force in my province.
I recall that, in 1973, when I was in government in Alberta, we passed the
Individual Rights Protection Act. At that time, Premier Lougheed and I were
discussing the composition of the newly recreated Human Rights Commission. The
premier stated that he wanted the commission to be the strongest and best
represented panel in the province, and we spent considerable time deciding who
we would appoint to that commission. Jean Forest was one of the first to be
asked to serve, and she immediately agreed.
Since that time, our paths have crossed many times. Her devotion to the
causes of those who are under-represented in our society is immense. In Alberta,
at a time when our government seems to regard human rights as more of a nuisance
than a necessary ingredient for a society to be in harmony with itself,
individuals such as Senator Forest have come to the forefront to speak out.
She served voluntarily on a special panel to investigate human rights in the
province, which received over 1,700 submissions and filed an excellent report.
Unfortunately, however the Government of Alberta refused to follow that report.
When I called her to ask if she would sit as a director of a foundation we
were setting up called the Dignity Foundation, to counteract the negative
attitudes in Alberta to a human rights agenda, Jean Forest again immediately
agreed, and has proven to be a most active and involved director. In fact, the
very day I was informed of her appointment to the Senate, there was a letter on
my desk from her, enclosing a very generous contribution to the work of that
Honourable senators, this is a very wise appointment to this chamber. I
compliment the Prime Minister for adding Mrs. Forest to our ranks. I find it
interesting that those in our province, including our premier, who call for the
election of senators just do not understand that individuals of the calibre of
Senator Forest will not put their name forward to face the torment of an
election, but will step forward to contribute their worldly skills to their
country under the present system.
Frankly, as illustrated by the results of the October 1993 election, my
province did not exactly send an overly talented group of members of Parliament
to Ottawa. I can guarantee that whoever would be elected from my province to the
Senate, should such an event ever occur, would not equal, for a moment, the
talent and skills of Senator Forest, or for that matter Senator Taylor, who has
recently come to our chamber from Alberta.
I regard this appointment to be non-partisan in nature. If Senator Forest is
a Liberal, she certainly kept it a secret from me. This is the kind of
appointment which enhances the prestige and functions of this chamber.
I look forward once again to working with Senator Forest, and extend my
sincere congratulations to her for this well-deserved extension of her already
Hon. Lowell Murray: Honourable senators, it is with great sadness that I
rise to record the passing in Burlington, Ontario, earlier this week of the
former member of Parliament for that constituency, Mr. Bill Kempling.
Bill Kempling had had a very distinguished war record, including service with
the RAF, and was a prisoner of war in the Far East. He returned following the
war to take up his private career and established a highly successful
manufacturing business in his part of the country. He was elected six times to
the House of Commons from the constituency of Burlington, beginning in 1972. He
did not offer himself for re-election in 1993.
During his time in the House of Commons, he was the chief opposition whip
under the leadership of the Right Honourable Joe Clark. He was later a very
effective parliamentary secretary, and was especially knowledgeable and
effective on issues such as the Canada-U.S. steel trade, where he provided real
leadership and sound advice to the Conservative caucus and to the government of
One of my warmest recollections of Bill Kempling has very little to do with
contemporary politics but occurred one Saturday morning when I heard him, in the
course of a radio interview, discussing his experiences during the war as a
prisoner of war, and so forth. Notwithstanding those experiences, he spoke very
forgivingly, generously and positively of our former enemies.
I must say that I am, as I was then, proud to have been his friend, and very
proud of him as a Canadian.
Hon. Jean-Maurice Simard: Honourable senators, I would like to read at
this point the editorial that appeared in this morning's La Presse,
entitled "Offensive and petty":
While it is true that a mistake acknowledged is already partly forgiven,
the federal government is not about to be forgiven its monumental botch with
respect to former Prime Minister Mulroney in the Airbus affair.
On the contrary, the numerous stalling tactics used to forestall the
admission that he was not presumed innocent only underscores the utter bad
faith shown to a political opponent. They also undermine the credibility of
the police investigation into this alleged scandal.
We have even reached a point where we have lost sight of the essence of
this issue and are interested only in the secondary issues: that is, the legal
warfare Ottawa has chosen to wage rather than admit its mistake with respect
to Mr. Mulroney. A grave and humiliating mistake, to be sure, but one that
need not be aggravated through the government's insistence that it never
happened. Unless this gross diversion tactic is intended simply to cover up a
total inability to prove that Air Canada's purchase of the 34 Airbus planes in
1988 was a scandal.
This libel suit, which should have been resolved in a few weeks, has
already dragged on needlessly for six months thanks to the government. It
could have been settled amicably with Ottawa admitting its mistake in
presuming Brian Mulroney's guilt before the end of the investigation and his
possibly being found guilty by the courts and in seriously damaging his
reputation through reference to it in an official request of Swiss
I will continue tomorrow, in compliance with the rules of this House.
Committee Authorized to Meet During
Sitting of the Senate
Hon. John B. Stewart: Honourable senators, with leave of the Senate and
notwithstanding rule 58(1)(a), I move:
That the Standing Senate Committee on Foreign Affairs have power to sit at
four o'clock tomorrow, Tuesday, May 28, 1996, even though the Senate may then
be sitting, and that rule 95(4) be suspended in relation thereto.
The Hon. the Speaker: Is leave granted, honourable senators?
Harmonization with Provincial Sales
Taxes-Cost to Nova Scotian Taxpayers-Government Position
Hon. Gérald J. Comeau: Honourable senators, many Nova Scotians feel
betrayed by the Liberal government and its provincial friends. The people of
Nova Scotia, New Brunswick and Newfoundland have been used as pawns by this
government to justify its breaking the election promise to scrap the GST.A
provincial finance department report released by the Savage Liberals just
minutes before the legislature was to recess for the summer revealed that the
blended tax will cost Nova Scotians an additional $84 million. Honourable
senators, this is nonsense.
As a minister in the government which enticed Atlantic Canadians with $1
billion to join this scheme, can the minister now tell us how she can justify
the payment by Nova Scotians of another $84 million each and every year?
Hon. Joyce Fairbairn (Leader of the Government): Honourable senators,
I am aware of the issue raised by my honourable friend, but I would suggest to
him that the issue is not finalized. The sales tax harmonization with Nova
Scotia and the other two provinces which have agreed to take part in this very
forward-looking act will mean lower prices, lower taxes and a new and simpler
system for consumers and businesses in Nova Scotia.
Honourable senators, the suggestion that the sales tax harmonization will
mean an increase in overall consumer tax burdens in that province simply is not
borne out by the facts. I would encourage my honourable friend to read some of
the comments made by others in the province of Nova Scotia, including some
leading economists and accountants -
Senator Forrestall: Name one!
Senator Fairbairn: - who indicate that the overall implementation of
this harmonization program will be a saving for consumers at every level of
taxation in that province.
Senator Lynch-Staunton: Well read.
Senator Comeau: Honourable senators, obviously the minister has read
the Nova Scotia finance department assessment which indicates that businesses
might well pass on the savings that they may receive. However, there are no
assurances that such savings would be passed on.
Is the minister now saying that Nova Scotians must rely on Department of
Finance assurances that businesses will pass on those savings, or might Nova
Scotians expect to pay, each year, as much as $172 dollars over and above what
they were paying before harmonization?
Senator Fairbairn: Honourable senators, neither level of government is
operating on any vague notion of assurances. They have been operating on factual
statistics compiled since the GST was brought in and based on the performance of
the market. From those statistics they have determined the degree to which the
majority of businesses will be able to pass on savings to the Canadian people.
In countries which have taken on a value-added tax, market performances have
shown that businesses have passed on savings of more than 50 per cent to their
Senator Lynch-Staunton: That is a great argument in favour of the GST.
Senator Fairbairn: Honourable senators, in the harmonization process
involving the three Atlantic provinces, the hidden or embedded tax element in
the provincial sales taxes will be gone. This is a tremendous incentive for
businesses, be they in my honourable friend's province or other provinces, to
pass on those savings to consumers.
The history of this kind of tax shows that there be can savings in excess of
50 per cent. The words of those who have engaged in the harmonization process
are not of the nature of those used by my honourable friend. They are based not
on vague assumptions but on actual performance and practice. That is the vision
for Nova Scotia and the other two provinces, as well as other provinces in this
country, as they come into the harmonization process.
Hon. J. Michael Forrestall: Honourable senators, I would invite the
minister to name three of such individuals. I will eat the third one - that is,
if she can find him - because such persons do not live in Nova Scotia, I will
tell you that.
No one in the private sector has said that this arrangement is a good thing.
This is an absolute rip-off! The old tax was 11 per cent and 7 per cent - that
is 18 per cent; the harmonized tax is now 18.7 per cent. Check your mathematics
and find someone who will speak honestly to you about this matter. If the
minister does not believe that this is a tax grab, how does she justify the
$84.3 million in additional revenues? What would you call that?
Senator Berntson: Yes, where does it come from? From the trees?
Senator Fairbairn: Honourable senators, I certainly do not regard this
process as a tax grab. The harmonized sales tax rate in the province of Nova
Scotia will be 15 per cent, which will be three percentage points lower than the
combined rate now.
Senator Lynch-Staunton: On books?
Senator Fairbairn: Including the issue of embedded taxes, it will be 4
per cent less; not 3 per cent less.
Senator Lynch-Staunton: What about haircuts and children's clothes?
Senator Fairbairn: There is no hidden issue here. Of course there will
be more taxation through the broadening of the base, but taking into account the
other measures that are contained within the harmonization process - including
the removal of all the tax upon tax within the provincial sales tax as it now
exists - the overall outcome for the consumers in Nova Scotia, New Brunswick and
Newfoundland will be less, not more.
Harmonization with Provincial Sales
Taxes-Assurance of Savings to Canadian Consumers-Government Position
Hon. J. Michael Forrestall: Honourable senators, is the minister prepared
to give assurances to the other provinces who have still not moved in this
direction that there will be no last-minute declaration of increased revenues
such as we had in Nova Scotia an hour before the legislature was to adjourn?
What assurance does she have for Ontario, for example, that any move towards
harmonization will not result in a further broadening of the base to include
capital equipment, clothing, electricity, gasoline, home heating fuels, shoes,
telephone bills, and so on?
I submit to the Honourable Leader of the Government in the Senate that this
is a tax grab. Your party did not do things up front. What assurances do you
have for the other provinces that the same thing would not happen - or is it
only Dr. Savage's Liberals, your counterparts in Atlantic Canada, whom you can
trust to pull this kind of "quickie" behind the taxpayers' backs? That
is what happened.
Hon. Joyce Fairbairn (Leader of the Government): Honourable senators,
it has been clear from the announcement of this tax that the harmonized tax
would be on a broadened base. There has been no last-minute secret. That has
been very clear throughout negotiations, public statements, and statements from
the Minister of Finance, even on the day that it was announced. There is no
secret to that.
My honourable friend is not taking into account the benefits that come with
the harmonization of those two taxes, and the reduction in prices that will
occur as a result of that harmonization. That is what brings down the overall
consumer prices and taxation, and gives the benefits to businesses as they
operate domestically, and enhances the progress that they will achieve abroad.
Senator Forrestall: Honourable senators, I have a final question. Do I
then take it that the minister is giving us the absolute assurances of the
government of the day that these savings will be passed along to the consumer,
not only in Atlantic Canada but also in any other province which wants to join
in harmonization? Is that an undertaking she is holding out for the taxpayers?
While I am at it, I ask the minister to have someone sit down and do the
simple multiplication on 7 per cent and 8 per cent, and see what figure they
arrive at. It will not be 15 per cent.
Senator Doody: Yes, and add it to the price of home heating and oil.
Harmonization with Quebec Sales
Tax-Benefits to Consumers-Government Position
Hon. John Lynch-Staunton (Leader of the Opposition): Honourable senators,
I have a supplementary question. Can the minister give us an example of what
consumer products in Quebec have benefitted from a reduction in price or in cost
to the consumer as a result of harmonization in that province for the last two
or three years?
Hon. Joyce Fairbairn (Leader of the Government): Honourable senators,
I will endeavour to get that information for my honourable friend.
Hon. Gérald-A. Beaudoin: Honourable senators, my question is addressed
to the Leader of the Government in the Senate. We know that at the first
ministers conference on June 21, some items will deal with the economy, and we
all agree with that. What about the issue of national unity and the
Constitution? Will the Prime Minister add an item on that very question?
Hon. Joyce Fairbairn (Leader of the Government): Honourable senators,
I cannot indicate what the agenda items will be at the first ministers
conference. They are under discussion and will be announced undoubtedly by the
Prime Minister very soon.
Senator Lynch-Staunton: Before the meeting, hopefully.
Investigation into Sale of Airbus
Aircraft to Air Canada-Admission of Wrongful Action on Part of
Hon. Marjory LeBreton: Honourable senators, my question is for the Leader
of the Government in the Senate and concerns the Airbus matter.
In the letter sent by the Government of Canada to the Swiss authorities on
September 29, 1995, they cite three different cases, as we all know. They cite
Airbus, Thiessen Industries and MBB. I quote directly from the original letter
sent by our government to the Government of Switzerland, which states:
The above three cases demonstrate an ongoing scheme by Mr. Mulroney, Mr.
Moores and Mr. Schreiber to defraud the Canadian Government of millions of
dollars of public funds from the time Mr. Mulroney took office in September,
1984 until he resigned in June, 1993.
The same letter concludes with a very interesting statement. It reads:
This investigation is of serious concern to the Government of Canada as it
involves criminal activity on the part of a former Prime Minister. Further
investigation cannot be conducted by the RCMP until the information available
in Switzerland is received.
This past Saturday, in TheToronto Star, a Montreal
bureau-based reporter for The Toronto Star, Sandro Contenta, states:
After interviewing more than 90 people in at least six countries, the RCMP
admits it does not yet have proof that former prime minister Brian Mulroney
received kickbacks in the purchase of Airbus planes.
This is a direct quote. The article goes on to state:
"They can't, at this stage in their investigation, say whether these
allegations are true or false," lawyers for the Royal Canadian Mounted
Police say in documents filed with Quebec Superior Court yesterday.
In an interview, RCMP lawyer Jean Potvin confirmed the RCMP has been unable
to find out if Mulroney was part of a conspiracy to defraud the government in
the 1988 Airbus deal.
Mr. Potvin went on to state:
"At this stage we can't conclude if there was fraud or not."
In view of these latest statements, why does the government not admit it was
wrong, and that their actions are wrong, and why, in view of Mr. Potvin's
revelations in Saturday's Toronto Star, did the government state in their
letter to the Swiss on September 29, 1995, that this investigation
"involves criminal activity on the part of a former Prime Minister"?
Hon. Joyce Fairbairn (Leader of the Government): Honourable senators,
with all respect, I am being asked to comment on matters that it is not within
my knowledge or my ability to comment upon. I am not able to do so.
The case in the courts in Montreal is proceeding, and there was activity in
that procedure last week.
Senator Lynch-Staunton: Too bad, is it not?
Senator Fairbairn: It will proceed, as the course of justice does in
Senator Lynch-Staunton: The very justice which you tried to block!
Senator Fairbairn: The investigation which is under way by the RCMP is
continuing, as has been stated. That is where the matter stands. I cannot
respond to my friend's question.
Senator Berntson: Will the Leader of the Government undertake to get
Investigation into Sale of Airbus
Aircraft to Air Canada-Reason for Hiring Public Relations Counsel for Royal
Canadian Mounted Police-Government Position
Hon. Pierre Claude Nolin: Honourable senators, a Mr. Potvin, counsel with
the firm of Heenan Blaikie - the firm of the former Prime Minister of Canada,
Mr. Pierre Elliott Trudeau - has been retained to look after public relations
for the RCMP in the matter of the Airbus affair.
Why has your government deemed it appropriate to retain counsel to look after
public relations for the RCMP in the Airbus affair?
Hon. Joyce Fairbairn (Leader of the Government): Honourable senators,
the government and the RCMP are involved in a particular case. They are the
defendants in a particular case before the courts in Montreal. They have
undoubtedly hired the appropriate legal assistance for that case. That is all I
can say on the matter.
Senator Nolin: In this regard, why has your government paid for
special public relations training for this lawyer?
Senator Fairbairn: Honourable senators, I am sorry, but I cannot
comment on the statements of my honourable friend.
Aftermath of Quebec
Referendum-Efficacy of Legal Strategy of Federal Government-Government Position
Hon. Jean-Claude Rivest: Honourable senators, as far as the evolving
political situation in Quebec is concerned, more and more spokespersons for the
Liberal Party of Quebec are drawing the attention of the Right Honourable Prime
Minister of Canada to the huge holes in his post-referendum strategy.
In today's issue of the Quebec City daily Le Soleil, one of the key
spokespersons of the Quebec Liberal Party, Mrs. Margaret Delisle, who represents
Jean-Talon in the Quebec National Assembly, along with the president of the
Quebec Liberal Party's youth commission, said that there are only two people who
have not understood the point of the Quebec referendum.
Mr. Bouchard continues to deny that the majority of Quebecers expressed their
desire to remain in Canada, and Mr. Chrétien is doing absolutely nothing to
follow up on his commitments for constitutional change, as promised during the
Can the Leader of the Government in the Senate tell us whether the Government
of Canada's referendum strategy consists simply in artificially creating legal
barriers and in believing that those barriers will convince a solid and decisive
majority of Quebecers who want to remain Canadians not to let themselves be
taken in by Mr. Bouchard's path to sovereignty?
When will the Government of Canada propose true changes to Quebecers and to
all Canadians, the real constitutional changes Quebecers and Canadians are all
demanding? Must we settle for legal quibbling that does nothing except increase
the level of support for sovereignty, which is up to 55 per cent as a result of
the present government's inaction in this important matter?
Hon. Joyce Fairbairn (Leader of the Government): Honourable senators,
the Prime Minister did make some promises during the referendum, and all of us
in this house should know that he has followed through on those commitments.
This Parliament has followed through to the extent that it is able to do so
under federal jurisdiction.
Since the referendum, the Prime Minister and many others in this country have
been pursuing the whole issue of Canadian unity. The Prime Minister has pursued
the issue in every part of this country. The June conference of provincial
premiers will allow the Prime Minister to fulfil another commitment: to build
Canadian unity at all levels of government through economic and social policies
which help Canadians. These policies will continue to persuade Canadians,
including those in the province of Quebec, that this country, strengthened in
union, is, by far, the best alternative for their future, better than anything
which has been devised in any question in any referendum.
That is the goal of the Prime Minister and his colleagues. They will strive
for that goal by enlisting spokespersons, Canadians at every level, to support
and encourage the unity of this nation.
New Brunswick-Re-routing of
Trans-Canada Highway-Environmental Impact on Wetlands-Disparity in Reaction
between Current and Retired Defence Personnel-Government Position
Hon. Brenda M. Robertson: Honourable senators, I have a question for the
Leader of the Government concerning the Trans-Canada Highway in New Brunswick
and the plans by the government of that province to upgrade and improve this
important transportation link.
All New Brunswick senators will know that this construction project is a
vital part of the national highway system linking central Canada with the
Atlantic provinces. In view of the fact that the project is partially funded by
the federal government, can the leader advise this chamber if the Government of
Canada has taken note of the very real concerns being expressed by many New
Brunswickers over the new route of the southern part of the highway which not
only dissects the Canadian Forces Base Gagetown but also is proposed to be
located in the middle of the Grand Lake Meadows, one of the large wetland areas
of New Brunswick and a major portion of the waterfowl fly-way through the
Hon. Joyce Fairbairn (Leader of the Government): Honourable senators,
I am not personally aware of that issue. I will take the honourable senator's
question, with all of its ramifications, both structural and environmental, to
Senator Robertson: Honourable senators, I have two supplementary
questions. Perhaps the leader would, at the same time, determine and advise
whether the federal government intends to make any representation to the
government of New Brunswick with respect to the environmental aspects of the
Trans-Canada Highway construction, as well as the clear alternatives which have
been proposed to avoid these environmental problems, again considering that
Ottawa is paying part of the construction bill?
Will the leader also make inquiries about why senior officials of the
Department of National Defence have reportedly concurred with the construction
of the highway through CFB Gagetown and the resultant disruption of the base
while retired senior Canadian forces officials are expressing concern and dismay
over the project?
Senator Fairbairn: Honourable senators, I will indeed.
Credibility in Quebec of Prime
Hon. Pierre Claude Nolin: Honourable senators, as regards your
government's credibility in Quebec, I listened to your very solid answer, but
Quebecers do not share your government's view of the situation.
Quebecers do not find your government, and certainly not your Prime Minister,
entirely credible. In all honesty, I think they should have credibility in
Quebec. For Quebecers, they do not have that credibility.
What are the concrete measures your government intends to take today and next
year to improve its credibility with Quebecers?
Hon. Joyce Fairbairn (Leader of the Government): Honourable senators,
the measures which my honourable friend may or may not consider tangible have
been put forward, in some cases, through legislation and, in other cases,
through the budget. The first ministers will meet in June. One of the major
issues on their plates will be good government at all levels in Canada; the most
efficient, effective and profitable government for the entire country.
With regard to credibility, the actions of the collectivity of governments in
this country will show Quebecers not only that they are respected and desired as
part of this country but also that this is the best possible union for their
future. That is what will unfold in the weeks and months ahead.
Hon. B. Alasdair Graham (Deputy Leader of the Government): Honourable
senators, I have an answer to a question raised in the Senate on March 20, 1996,
by the Honourable Senator Atkins regarding the effect of the Helms-Burton Act on
commercial and aid relations with Cuba.
Effect of Helms-Burton Act on
Commercial and Aid Relations with Cuba-Government Position
(Response to a question raised by Hon. Norman Atkins on March 20, 1996)
The Canadian government has no intention of changing its Cuba policy as a
result of the signing into law of the Helms-Burton bill. Canada shares with
the U.S. administration the goals of a peaceful transition in Cuba to a
liberal society with genuinely representative political institutions, full
respect for human rights and an open economy. However, it believes that the
best way of achieving these goals is through a policy of engagement rather
Thus, over the past two years Canada has intensified its dialogue with
Cuba. As part of this, the government has made Cuba eligible for development
assistance and has provided financing to Canadian non-governmental
organizations, businesses and academic institutions pursuing development
activities in Cuba. The government is also discussing with Cuba the
possibility of providing modest technical assistance to support economic
policy reform. This will continue.
In terms of Canadian interests, even before Canada established an official
relationship with Cuba in 1945, trade and investment were significant. With a
two-way trade in 1995 of over $575 million (as compared to $309 million in
1994), Cuba is our second-largest trading partner in the Caribbean and Central
American region (after Puerto Rico). Canada is also a significant investor in
Cuba. Cuba has fished in Canadian waters for many years, and has strongly
supported Canada on international fisheries questions. Over 120,000 Canadians
visit Cuba each year. Many other unofficial ties link the two countries,
involving universities, research institutions, musicians, town twinning and
many individual contacts.
As noted above, Canada's central goal in Cuba has been to encourage
peaceful reform. A chaotic transition would undermine our interests in Cuba.
Instability could also create chaos elsewhere in the hemisphere and undermine
our other regional interests, especially if Cuban migrants left in large
In the context of the Helms-Burton bill, the government has indicated to
Canadian businesses that it continues to support their efforts to seek
opportunities in Cuba. The government is also keeping them informed of
developments concerning the new U.S. legislation, but details of
implementation are not yet clear. Canada has been vocal in its opposition to
the legislation, both bilaterally with the U.S. and in multilateral
organizations. In the end, of course, businesses must make their own decisions
on where they will do business.
Finally, the new legislation has not resulted in any change to the advice
the government gives to Canadian travellers to Cuba.
Resuming debate on the motion of the Honourable Senator Rompkey, P.C.,
seconded by the Honourable Senator Forest, for the second reading of Bill
C-12, respecting employment insurance in Canada.
Hon. Lowell Murray: Honourable senators, I apologize for having been
absent from my seat on Thursday last when our friend Senator Rompkey opened
debate on second reading of this bill. I have, however, read his speech in Hansard.
It was comprehensive and factual, and I thank him for that. His speech was
largely non-partisan and I shall not, therefore, take the occasion of my
intervention today to remind him of some of the more partisan comments that he
made when he was a member of the opposition in the other place with regard to
unemployment insurance reforms brought in by the previous government.
I do, however, intend to say a few words about the political context in which
this bill is being presented, because that is relevant to the legitimacy of this
legislation and to its acceptability in the country, especially by those people
who are directly affected by it. I then intend to say a few words about the
economic climate in which this legislation is being brought forward, and to
examine the main provisions of the legislation against that background.
With regard to the political context in which this bill is being presented, I
must say, using the most charitable construction possible, that the Liberal
government which is bringing it forward has what I can only call an insuperable
credibility problem. I believe that honourable senators will recognize that the
reversal of Liberal policy and the betrayal of Liberal commitments with regard
to unemployment insurance is as profound and as complete as the broken promises
on the GST, or the flip-flop on free trade.
Honourable senators may have noticed that there appeared before the House of
Commons committee which studied this bill, representatives of organizations
which a few years ago made common cause with opposition Liberals to fight the
Progressive Conservative Bill C-21. Today, these people are accusing their
erstwhile Liberal allies of abandonment, of treachery, of sell-out. It can
hardly be music to Liberal ears.
The Progressive Conservatives' Bill C-21 increased the previous qualifying
period of from 10 to 14 weeks to from 10 to 20 weeks. It reduced the maximum
benefits periods, except in those regions of highest unemployment. It imposed a
longer waiting period on the so-called "voluntary quits", and it
expanded by $350 million the so-called developmental uses of UI for training,
relocation, self-employment and re-employment measures.
So outraged were Liberal senators at that time that they used their majority
in the Senate to create a special committee, chaired by Senator Hébert, to
study the bill and to hear public representations. Bill C-21 arrived in this
chamber on November 7, 1989. Liberal senators tied it up here until October 22,
1990. Twice they sent it back to the House of Commons.
Senator Hébert's committee travelled outside Ottawa. They spent $79,000. Of
that amount, $52,000 was for professional and special services. To give you some
flavour of the deliberations of the committee, and perhaps some indication of
the creative uses to which the aforementioned $52,000 in professional and
special services was put, the committee quoted with approval a Liberal member of
the Newfoundland legislature who came before them and said that Bill C-21 was an
act of genocide - genocide! - against rural Newfoundland.
This felicitous turn of phrase so captivated Senator Hébert and his Liberal
colleagues that in their report they quoted it twice. Perhaps the explanation is
that the professional and special services contractors were getting paid by the
word. It needs to be said, in any case, that these accusations of genocide and
other, almost equally offensive terms were applied to a bill that was aimed at
reducing unemployment insurance benefits in Newfoundland by $31 million a year.
Honourable senators, the bill before us today will reduce unemployment
insurance benefits in Newfoundland by $105 million per year.
Senator Lynch-Staunton: Shame! A hollow cause.
Senator Murray: As Sheila herself might have said, "That was
then; this is now."
I wonder whether this is what they meant in the Red Book when they said that
"Liberals will work towards a greater equality of social conditions among
Canadians." No doubt this is why they are using tear gas to disperse Doug
Young's constituents when they come to protest his policies.
"We want to distribute opportunity more broadly," said the Red
Book, "so that many more people have a decent standard of living and can
build good lives for themselves and their families, allowing them to live with
dignity and respect in a peaceable country."
Mr. Paul Martin was a co-author of the Red Book. As Minister of Finance, he
has proceeded to implement the Liberal Red Book commitment to a greater equality
of social conditions among Canadians by taking $2.4 billion out of unemployment
insurance in the budget of 1994, $700 million out of unemployment insurance in
the budget of 1995, and $2.1 billion in Bill C-12. On top of that, he has taken
$7 billion out of the federal-provincial transfers for health, welfare and
I do not hear many people describing these reversals of Liberal policy as
"honest mistakes." Still less do I hear them attributed to "acts
of God." Much harsher language is being used, and with good reason, to
describe this abandonment of Liberal principles by a Liberal government.
Honourable senators, let me turn to the economic context in which this
legislation is coming forward. Economic growth is flat. It was flat last year,
it is flat this year and, according to Mr. Martin's budget, it will be flat next
year. There are 1.4 million people unemployed in this country. The official
unemployment rate is 9.4 per cent.
A few weeks ago, on May 9 to be exact, the Bank of Nova Scotia issued a
report in which they said that the underlying rate of unemployment nationally is
13 per cent. The 13 per cent takes into account the thousands of discouraged
Canadians who have given up looking for work. The 13 per cent is based on a
labour force participation rate this year that should be at least the same as it
was at the beginning of the 1990s.
What is more important, I think, for the purposes of our debate today is the
fact that none of the forecasters, whether in the public or private sectors, is
forecasting any early return to more normal rates of growth. As far ahead as
these people think they can see, which is well around the turn of the century,
there will be no improvement in the unemployment rate, and no return to more
normal rates of growth. One of the private sector forecasters, Informetrica,
says that on the basis of the present policy mix, the present high unemployment
rate will be with us until the year 2025.
Most of the new jobs that are being created are part-time jobs. There was
testimony before the House of Commons committee to the effect that 90 per cent
of the net new job growth in 1995 was in part-time jobs. There was also
testimony to the effect that fully one-third of the work force today is engaged
in non-standard jobs with non-standard hours. More often than not, those jobs
pay low wages, and have no benefits and no security.
Speaking of security, in 1996 only 46 per cent of the people who are
currently unemployed in this country are actually drawing unemployment
insurance, versus 88 per cent in 1990, and 68 per cent in 1993. In Ontario, 32
per cent of the unemployed people are actually drawing unemployment insurance,
and believe me, Bill C-12 will make it worse. However, I will come to that in a
The Canadian economy is in a rut of underachievement. We have not yet
recovered from the recession of 1990-91, and before we do so, chances are that
there will be another recession. With that in mind, we should consider Bill C-12
in light of the historic role of unemployment insurance as a macroeconomic
stabilizer in this country. Last year, the Department of Human Resources
Development issued a report entitled The UI System as an Automatic Stabilizer
in Canada. That report was written by two people from the University of
Toronto, Peter Dungan and Steve Murphy. Those two gentlemen examined the
recessions of 1981-82 and 1990-91, and in both cases found that the unemployment
insurance system acted as a very effective stabilizing force. Their study shows
that in the 1981-82 recession, UI reduced GDP loss by 13 per cent in 1982 and by
14 per cent in 1983. They found also that the UI system prevented a loss in
employment of about the same order of magnitude. They had similar findings for
the 1990-91 recession. As a matter of fact, in one of those years they said that
the UI system, because of its stimulative effect - its effect as a stabilizer -
saved 100,000 jobs.
This report says that the UI system is a very powerful stabilizer - more
powerful than the sum of all the non-UI federal transfers to persons. Their
study finds that it is a more powerful stabilizer than the sum of all the
provincial and local government transfers to persons, and that would include the
whole welfare system. That is pretty powerful.
We must ask ourselves what damage Bill C-12 does to the most effective,
automatic stabilizer we have.
This bill, after all, will take $2.1 billion a year out of the UI system by
the year 2001 on top of the $2.4 billion they took out in the 1994 budget and
the $700 million in the 1995 budget. Spokesmen for the government will reply
that of this $2.1 billion, $800 million is really being redirected to so-called
At the Commons committee hearings, the Canadian Labour Congress presented a
brief which states that as a result of this so-called "redirection" of
funds, fully 90 per cent of the labour market and training programs of the
federal government will now be financed through the UI fund. To that extent, we
are moving money around from one account to the other. The supposedly redirected
$800 million is displacing money that would have been spent by the Department of
Human Resources Development.
Further, these so-called "employment benefits" in Part II of the
bill include such old bromides as wage subsidies, earnings supplements, and even
that last refuge of Liberal politicians, infrastructure, all of which are shown
to have quite a dubious net economic benefit. In fact, representatives of the
Canadian Labour Force Development Board appeared on March 19 at the Commons
committee to caution MPs on exactly that point.
Whether the reduction is closer to $2.1 billion or to $1.2 billion, the fact
is that Bill C-12 will make the country more vulnerable at the time of the next
recession. Coming on top of a recovery from the 1990-91 recession, which is a
feeble recovery by historical standards, UI will be a weaker force for
When you cut through all the political rhetoric that ministers and their
supporters have offered with regard to this bill, what you find is that fewer
people will be covered and will be working longer hours for smaller benefits
paid out over a shorter period. That is the purpose and effect of this bill.
Honourable senators, this proposal was not in the Red Book. It is not even in
the rhetoric of government members.
The government discussion paper that preceded this bill was long on talk
about structural changes to the economy which needed to be addressed in the
unemployment insurance system, long on talk about the need to include part-time
and non-standard workers, and long on talk about the special needs of people who
have been dislocated from long-term unemployment and who need assistance other
than income support to become re-employed and re-employable.
Honourable senators, one is tempted to remark that the greatest gift we could
give most, if not all, of these people would be to restore Canadian economic
growth to somewhere near its potential and to bring the unemployment rate down
even a couple of percentage points. Many people who are stuck in part-time,
insecure jobs are there because they cannot find full-time work. Most, if not
all, of those who have been dislocated from long-term unemployment, people who
are unemployed perhaps for the first time in their lives, do not lack skills.
They do not lack valuable work experience; goodness knows they do not lack
motivation. If they have lost their jobs because they are victims of
globalization and structural factors in the economy, their inability to find a
new job is because they are victims of an economy that is not growing nearly
fast enough and not creating nearly as many new jobs.
That being said, honourable senators, and the present government having
confessed its impotence on this matter, let us examine for a minute how the bill
addresses the needs of part-time workers and victims of structural unemployment.
At present, the entrance requirement is 12 to 20 weeks' work, depending on the
regional unemployment rate. For new entrants to the labour force, it is 20 weeks
of at least 15 hours per week. The entrance requirements of Bill C-12 are, in
principle, an improvement because, as Senator Rompkey remarked in his speech,
eligibility will now be based on hours of employment instead of weeks, and every
hour and all earnings will count, up to a maximum of $39,000 per year.
The government boasts that in converting the system from weeks worked to
hours worked, 500,000 part-time workers will be included, but most of these
people will not be eligible for UI benefits under Bill C-12. Instead, 380,000 of
them will have their premiums returned because they earn less than $2,000.
Premiums paid by their employer, however, will not be returned. Many of those
who work between 15 and 34 hours per week will be losers because, whereas they
now qualify for UI benefits after 12 to 20 weeks' work, the conversion to hours
means they will have to work more weeks to qualify, if they can get the work.
The bill will raise the threshold from 15 hours per week to 35 for some
claimants. People working 20 to 25 hours a week will have to work 30 to 50 per
cent more time in order to qualify. Many part-time workers, retail workers,
including many women, will not be able to qualify, given the nature of that
employment and the state of the economy. New entrants and re-entrants to the
labour force will have to find 910 hours of work, which is equivalent to 26
weeks of 35 hours per week.
Honourable senators, the method of calculating benefits has been changed to
result in reduced benefits for many part-time and seasonal workers. Starting
next year, the reductions will be in the order of $210 million in the
construction industry, $61 million in retail trade, $44 million in
accommodation, food and beverage, $30 million in logging and forestry and $29
million in agriculture. Benefits will be cut back in other respects as well. The
benefit rate has been reduced to 55 per cent of the average eligible earnings
and the length of claim reduced from 50 weeks to 45 weeks.
Honourable senators, those who work a lot of overtime will be the clear
winners. For most part-time workers it will be harder, not easier, to qualify.
As many as three-quarters of recipients of UI will have their benefits reduced
by one or other of the provisions of this bill. It is hard to see, especially in
the present and projected state of the Canadian economy, how all this will
provide more incentives to work and improve attachment to long-term employment,
which is what the government claims for this bill. It is rather easy to see how
this legislation will penalize victims and expand the underground economy while
improving the government's bottom-line deficit numbers in the very short term.
Part II of the bill, dealing with so-called employment benefits, creates a
whole host of new problems. I acknowledge that developmental uses of UI go back
to the 1970s. I concede also that my former cabinet colleague Barbara McDougall,
in her Labour Force Development Strategy, expanded the concept considerably,
including the use of premiums for this purpose. However, the government is
proposing such qualitative changes in this bill that several witnesses before
the Commons committee argued that, in its proposed use of the UI fund, the
government is exceeding the constitutional authority that it was granted when
jurisdiction over unemployment insurance was transferred to the federal
government in 1940.
However this may be, there is no doubt that the changes now proposed by the
government in the so-called employment benefits and in the use of the fund will
encompass people who are not even part of the system. Until now, to qualify
under developmental uses you had to be currently eligible for UI. Under Part II
of this bill, people who were perhaps ineligible three years ago or five years
ago, will become eligible for these employment benefits. The employment benefits
under the old act consisted of paying unemployment insurance benefits to people
for carrying on training or self-employment. Now we are opening the way to
grants and loans and loan guarantees and a whole gamut of assistance to
individuals and small business people. What is happening here is that the
unemployment insurance fund, which is financed 100 per cent by the premiums of
employers and employees, is to become a pool, a slush fund, to be accessed by
the Department of Human Resources Development and their mentors in the
Department of Finance. That is what they are doing with the UI fund.
Senator Simard: Shame!
Senator Murray: It is little wonder that there is concern and dismay
among people who want to see a focused, effective unemployment insurance program
maintained in this country.
As I indicated, the type of employment benefits that they are talking about
in this bill include wage subsidies, earning supplements, self-employment,
direct job creation and, subject to negotiation with the provinces, training.
As Professor Tom Courchesne remarks:
The result will be massive jurisdictional entanglement. Active labour
market policies on the part of the provinces will now run into enormous
complications since a special group of provincial citizens will be eligible
for select treatment by the feds.
A similar mix-up is being created by the new family income supplement under
UI. As matters now stand, if you are a UI claimant with dependents and a low
income, you can receive 60 per cent of your average weekly earnings rather than
55 per cent. Bill C-12 would replace that provision with a new supplement for UI
claimants who have family incomes under $26,000.
Almost nobody outside of the Liberal caucus has a good word to say about this
matter, for obvious reasons. Improving the income of low-income families should
be effected through the child tax benefit, which is available to all poor
families, and not through unemployment insurance payments which go, of course,
only to UI claimants.
One of the social policy advocacy groups pointed out to the Commons committee
that, for a child whose family earns less than $20,000, there will now be three
different levels of financial support depending on whether the income is from
employment, from social assistance or from UI. This perhaps is the government's
peculiar way of putting some money directly into welfare, while they take $7
billion out of the transfer payments that used to cover, among other things, the
old Canada Assistance Plan.
In any case, the family income supplement, along with other provisions of
Bill C-12, demonstrate how badly we need and how sorely we lack a program that
integrates unemployment insurance, education, training and social assistance.
I can just see the eyes rolling in the Department of Finance and some even in
the Senate at the very mention of this ideal of an integrated system. However, I
think the government has been on the wrong track on this issue since the day in
January, 1994, when Mr. Axworthy announced his federal review of social policy.
It was to encompass six or seven areas of which only one - unemployment
insurance - is completely within our jurisdiction. All the others - education,
training, placement, labour standards and so forth - are either wholly or
primarily in the provincial jurisdiction. The Axworthy review was overtaken by
Mr. Martin's first budget three weeks later. This bill, together with measures
touching social policy and programs and Mr. Martin's various budgets keep us
moving backward, away, rather than towards, the kind of integration that is
Talk about overlap and duplication. This bill will create new overlap and
duplication with the provinces. It is also creating overlap and duplication
among federal departments and federal programs.
Honourable senators, the bottom line of this bill is Paul Martin's bottom
line: to cut $2 billion from unemployment insurance over the next few years, as
he would say, "come hell or high water." All the talk by the Minister
of Human Resources and his predecessor, Mr. Axworthy, about a fundamental
restructuring of UI, about an integrated system, is empty rhetoric. Much of the
so-called reinvestment and so-called re-employment measures is a vain attempt to
give an appearance of compassion and coherence to what is, essentially, a $2
billion hit - part of a $5 billion hit - by this government on unemployment
insurance benefits. That is the bottom line. Bill C-12 threatens to inflict real
hardship on some of the most vulnerable people and on some of the most
vulnerable communities in the land at a time of prolonged uncertainty and
insecurity in our economy.
I should also note, and flag for the benefit of honourable senators who will
be giving further attention to this bill, that the bill gives far too much
discretionary power to the minister and the cabinet to make changes in the
system without seeking the approval of Parliament or of the employers and
employees who pay the premiums. This bill is a mishmash of policy and confused
objectives, and will result in a confused outcome.
I understand that our friend Senator DeWare, and the Standing Senate
Committee on Social Affairs, Science and Technology is preparing to study this
bill. I look forward to that exercise, but I must say, honourable senators, that
we would be doing a real service to public policy in this country if we killed
the bill at second reading and sent the government back to the drawing board.
Second Reading-Motion in
On the Order:
Resuming debate on the motion of the Honourable Senator Kirby, seconded by
the Honourable Senator Davey, for the second reading of Bill C-28, An Act
respecting certain agreements concerning the redevelopment and operation of
Terminals 1 and 2 at Lester B. Pearson International Airport.
Hon. John Lynch-Staunton (Leader of the Opposition): In beginning
these remarks, I would remind honourable senators that the decision to cancel
the Pearson agreements was taken by the Liberal government immediately after it
made public the Nixon report on December 3, 1993.
Mr. Chrétien and the former Minister of Transport used the report as their
justification for the introduction of Bill C-22. Their confidence in the
conclusions of this report was to be repeated ad nauseam in and out of
Parliament, particularly by those who thrive on blackening the record of the
Mulroney government through innuendo, unfounded allegations and out-and-out
falsehoods. The government has since applied this sordid pattern of behaviour to
Mr. Mulroney himself.
Bill C-22 was approved without amendment twice in the House of Commons. The
majority of its members obviously accepted Mr. Nixon's findings, which the
government had made its own, to support the bill. This is confirmed by a reading
of the House of Commons Debates on the matter, as well as those of this
As Senator Kirby said himself on June 16, 1994:
As a result of looking at the process, and the substance of the contract,
Mr. Nixon recommended to the government that the contract be cancelled. The
government accepted his recommendation.
The justification for Bill C-22 could not be clearer. Bill C-28 contains,
word for word, what was in Bill C-22 yet, this time, Senator Kirby totally
ignores any reference to the Nixon report. It is as if the 14 pages of this
report never existed. In fact, the government now, no doubt, wishes that this
were so. The Nixon report has since been exposed as nothing more than a sloppy,
incomplete, misleading and biased political tract containing, as the Senate
Pearson inquiry report states, an imposing number of errors of fact,
deficiencies of argument and questionable judgments.
The Senate Pearson report analyzes in detail the many flaws in Mr. Nixon's
process, his selective choice of those he consulted, his not taking notes, his
porous memory, and the questionable guidance of his main advisers. The Senate
committee wonders what objectivity he brought to his work when conclusions
similar to those of his final report were in draft form two weeks before they
were submitted to the government.
In their dissenting opinion, Liberal members relied a great deal on the Nixon
report to support their dissent from the majority. Senator Finlay MacDonald
detailed a point-by-point rebuttal to the Liberals' fanciful interpretation of
the inquiry's findings, which can be found in the March, 1996 Senate Hansard.
There has yet to be a response from anyone opposite, and understandably so.
Even more revealing, however, is the fact that Mr. Nixon himself has not
publicly commented on the devastating debunking of his report. He obviously does
not want to remind anyone, including himself no doubt, of his days as a witness
before Senator MacDonald's committee when he and his advisers were
embarrassingly inept at supporting their own conclusions.
By themselves, these conclusions are unworthy of serious consideration. If
they have become so, it is because they are the major, if not sole,
justification for the introduction of an unprecedented piece of legislation by
which Parliament is asked to remove a constitutional guarantee from a number of
Canadian citizens - that of access to Canadian courts.
But why should one be surprised by this? The government which brought us Bill
C-22, then Bill C-28, is the same one which feigns ignorance even when a senior
official in the Department of Justice is informing a foreign government that
Canadians have engaged in criminal activity in their own country, although no
charges to that effect have ever been laid; the same government which allows an
Assistant Deputy in the Department of Justice to hold a private meeting with the
Chief Justice of the Federal Court of Canada in order to complain about the
progress of a case in which the government is a partner; the same government
which invokes the rule of law only when it serves partisan purposes, as has
repeatedly been invoked in the Bertrand case before the Superior Court in
Quebec. "No one is above the law," is what the government's lawyer
said on that occasion, forgetting to add, "except when it interferes with
the Liberal Party's campaign against those whose reputations can be sullied
mercilessly to serve partisan ends."
I would now deal briefly with some of Senator Kirby's arguments which he
continues to put forward, although they have long ago been put to rest.
First, he laments the fact that there is no cancellation clause in the
Pearson contracts. He conveniently ignores expert testimony from senior
government officials, amongst others, that cancellation clauses are not included
in long-term lease arrangements. Necessary financing is extremely difficult to
secure if a lender is asked to commit funds for any but a definite and fixed
period of time. The lease is confirmation of that limit.
Second, Senator Kirby once again repeats the canard that the Pearson
contracts were signed 21 days before the election. This is patently wrong, as
anyone who is familiar with the process well knows. Who better to explain the
procedure than former Prime Minister Campbell herself, who wrote about her
involvement in her recent books as follows:
The terms of the various agreements had been approved by Treasury Board at
the end of August, and by the time of Chrétien's attack, the documents had
been signed by Jean Corbeil, the minister of transport. All that was left for
me to do was approve taking them out of escrow on October 7, the date agreed
upon early in the summer for the exchange of documents. Senator Lowell Murray,
the only one of my ministers who did not need to seek election, was holding
the fort in Ottawa. He was assured by senior public officials that the deal
was "clean" and that, moreover, a failure to complete it at this
stage would leave the government liable for significant damages. In fact, on
August 27, I had received a memorandum from Clerk of the Privy Council Glen
Shortliffe saying, "The selection of the developer followed a competitive
process which is entirely transparent." And further, "We can assure
you that officials have reviewed the file and can confirm that due process has
been followed at every stage."
Prime Minister Campbell then refers to Jodi White, and she states the
When Jodi asked Glen in October if it would be possible to delay the final
steps of the project, his horrified response was, "Do you understand what
you would be doing?" Although some would claim, much later, that I
exceeded my constitutional authority in authorizing the release of documents
during an election, I am sure that if there had been such a constitutional
restraint, alarm bells would have gone off all through the Privy Council
Office. Moreover, we would have welcomed a fair reason to take this issue off
the table during the election. Not a whisper of such advice was given, and in
fact, court decisions support the view that the government could not use an
election as an excuse to fail to complete a transaction when it had already
indicated a clear intention to contract.
Third, Senator Kirby wants us to believe that cancellation was, in his words,
"a commitment made to the Canadian public" during the last election.
He has said that what Bill C-28 does is enable the government to fulfil its
election commitment. In fact, there was no such election commitment. As a former
Minister of Transport himself said in the House in September, 1994:
The Leader of the Official Opposition, now the Prime Minister, indicated
clearly before the election and while the deal was being consummated that the
deal would be reviewed.
The end result is that while Mr. Chrétien did not promise cancellation, he
made sure that any review would recommend it. Perhaps Senator Kirby and the
former Minister of Transport will invoke the government's peculiar definition of
"harmonization" to justify yet another contradiction.
At this point, I again congratulate Senator MacDonald and his colleagues who
served on the Special Senate Committee on the Pearson Airport Agreements for
their outstanding work, particularly when one realizes under what handicaps they
were operating. Important documents were released at the last minute and only
after unilateral screening by an outside firm of lawyers and the Department of
Justice. Treasury Board submissions, on which many conclusions of the Nixon
report were said by its authors to be based, were never made available to
committee members. How confidential Treasury Board documents, however, could be
made available to a group preparing a hatchet job in private and not to a
parliamentary committee holding hearings in public is something the government
has yet to explain.
On another at least two occasions, Liberal members had complete documents,
while copies provided to Conservatives had large chunks whited out. Inadvertence
was the excuse in certain cases, I suppose because the term "act of
God" had yet to be invoked.
In fact, these are but a sampling of the government's many attempts to
deliberately hinder, frustrate, and confuse Conservative committee members'
efforts. That is why my colleagues are to be commended for having produced,
despite the government's intransigence and systematic obstruction, a report, the
findings of which have only been challenged by those few still clinging to the
completely discredited Nixon report as an argument in favour of Bill C-22 and
now Bill C-28.
Bill C-28, as did Bill C-22, would deny claims for lost profits based on the
repeated charge that one of the flaws in the agreements is that, as Mr. Nixon
put it, the rate of return to the partnership could be viewed as excessive.
In their minority opinion, Liberal senators argued that the pre-tax rate of
return of 23.6 per cent, or 12 to 13 per cent after tax, was, to use their
words, "a rate well in excess of any return the investors could have
expected in the market, considerably higher than was necessary or appropriate,
and very generous." So went the smear campaign, prompted by a Nixon report
conclusion which contradicted expert opinion readily available to Mr. Nixon
during his so-called "inquiry," as demonstrated during the MacDonald
Mr. Nixon was hard pressed to defend his statement, claiming that he relied
on the advice of a hastily drawn up report prepared by one advisor who admitted
to the committee that he not only did not have enough time to complete his work
- "our review by necessity was limited in nature" are his exact words
- but he had no expertise in the field of airport development. Despite this, he
was to maintain that the government had lost between $157 million and $340
million by not insisting on a more appropriate after-tax rate of return of
between 8.25 per cent to 11 per cent.
Were the story to end here, the argument would be an academic one as the
contracts will not be executed, and many Canadians, at least until now, continue
to believe that the Mulroney government, despite denials from government and
non-government parties alike, tailored a deal that would give excessive profits
to private enterprise at a cost of hundreds of millions of dollars to the
Canadian taxpayer. So spoke Mr. Nixon; so spoke his financial consultant; so
spoke the former Minister of Transport when referring to the biggest rip-off in
Canadian history; so spoke Liberal members of the MacDonald committee during the
hearings, and so they wrote in their opinion dated December, 1995. Such has been
this government's position since the beginning, invoked at the time and ever
since Bill C-22 was introduced, and again with Bill C-28, to justify its
opposition to paying certain damages notably arising from lost profits.
To the government's shame, however, the story does not end here. At the same
time that it was promoting and fostering the Nixon conclusions on financial
aspects of the agreements, including rates of return, the government was
retaining numerous outside experts to do a thorough analysis of the project to
support its defence in the lawsuit initiated by the Pearson group before the
General Division of the Ontario Court. These outside experts have produced 19
reports, consisting of over two dozen volumes, in which every feature of the
contracts is analyzed, from passenger flows to construction plans, and, yes,
including rates of return and profit potential. All these independent
consultants have been retained by the Minister of Justice.
Two of these experts, George Quirin, Professor Emeritus, Management, at the
University of Toronto and a leading authority on company evaluation, and Martyn
Booth, a partner in the Portland Group of London, England, an international
business consultancy group specializing in airports, were charged with assessing
the contracts with particular reference to the rate of return. Both were
retained in early 1995; both have come to the same conclusions independent of
each other. Their reports run to hundreds of pages and took months to prepare.
Both conclude, independent of each other, that the high level of risk associated
with the redevelopment and operation of Terminals 1 and 2 justified an after-tax
rate of return of 20.5 per cent, according to Dr. Quirin, and 21 per cent,
according to Mr. Booth. Both conclude - again, independent of each other - that
the consortium would have lost in the area of $180 million during the life of
My raising these conclusions today is not to support or condemn them, but to
stress how constant the government continues to be in its spiteful,
mean-spirited approach to the Pearson agreements, as it has from the very
beginning. It embraced the Nixon report whole-heartedly, and in particular that
part which refers to excessive profits. The former Minister of Transport had a
field day spewing his vitriol on those who questioned the constitutionality of
Bill C-22. He gleefully cast doubt on their motives and spoke of a last trip to
the trough, one last snatch at the public purse, a money grab, the biggest
rip-off in Canadian history, and a cesspool of intrigue. He spoke of
Conservatives lining friends' pockets with money. This theme was picked up and
repeated over and over again by members of both houses and by the media. It made
for titillating yellow-journalism type reading, leading one and all to conclude
that the Mulroney government was nothing but a generous contributor of public
funds to its greedy supporters.
This scenario was especially prevalent during last summer's inquiry. Mr.
Nixon's financial analyst in particular defended his assessment with great
energy, egged on by Liberal committee members who, in their minority opinion of
December 1995, reconfirmed their support of Mr. Nixon's view on the rate of
return, a view which the government has propagated repeatedly for two years.
While defending Mr. Nixon's conclusions during the MacDonald inquiry, the same
government, at the same time, was receiving expert advice from two independent
experts who, in separate opinions, agreed that, far from being the windfall that
Mr. Nixon had argued, the agreements would actually result in significant losses
to the partnership.
I will not elaborate on my feelings regarding the government's conduct, as I
fear that some of my language, while justified, would be considered
unparliamentary, but I will ask colleagues to reflect on the degree of
immorality of a government which publicly continues to endorse conclusions
arrived at in a most amateurish and biased manner for strictly partisan purposes
while, at the same time, privately endorsing diametrically opposed conclusions
arrived at by respected specialists, conclusions which it has filed in its
defense of the lawsuit in Toronto.
No wonder the government did not want these reports to be made public. Its
conduct here is just the most recent example of its contempt for the most
fundamental responsibility of any government: that of being open and honest in
its advocacy and explanation of public policy.
If there is any sleaze to be attached to the Pearson affair, it dates from
the moment Mr. Nixon was engaged to submit a report supporting the government's
predetermined decision to cancel the agreements. Moreover, it wanted to do so at
the lowest cost possible and on its own terms. Mr. Nixon was charged with the
responsibility of lending legitimacy to this decision by coming to a number of
conclusions based not on objective and independent analysis but on biased and
partisan arguments, for the most part unsubstantiated. The Nixon report was
accepted with little question except by those directly affected by it.
The introduction of Bill C-22 was greeted with enthusiasm as an appropriate
punishment to those who dared rob the public purse, but then something most
unexpected happened: the government, still celebrating its election victory and
in particular the apparent demise of the Conservative Party, and thriving on its
success in portraying the Mulroney government in the most devastating terms,
naturally felt that the then Conservative majority in the Senate would let Bill
C-22 go by as expeditiously as possible in order not to be perceived as being
part of the biggest rip-off in Canadian history. What a shock it must have been
to those rubbing their hands with undisguised glee over the cleverness of Bill
C-22 to find Conservative senators being the first to question the
constitutionality of legislation which would deprive Canadians of rights
guaranteed by the Charter. They did so with the full knowledge that they would
be subjected to the most vicious and vulgar accusations and insinuations, and
they were, sadly, proven right, in particular by the former Minister of
The issues of denying Canadian citizens access to the courts and violating
the rule of law, however, go far beyond the value of a contract. There is no
sleaziness in defending a basic right; there is in denying it.
Now we see that the Nixon report, having not served its purpose, is treated
by the government as if it never existed. Senator Kirby himself does not mention
it, for, to use the words in Bill C-28, the government would no doubt like it
declared "null and void."
To add insult to injury, Mr. Nixon's financial adviser is conspicuously
absent as an expert in the Crown's defence. He who proved so valuable to Mr.
Nixon and to the government in justifying Bill C-22, and again before the
MacDonald inquiry, is no longer useful. He has served his purpose: to prop up a
report with arguments aimed at justifying cancellation of the Pearson
agreements. He has served and he has failed, as the Nixon report is now
completely discredited and all those involved in its preparation have become
The government was not prepared for a court action seeking damages. It argued
repeatedly against one and it lost, and suddenly realized that it had to provide
a defence, one somewhat more professional and convincing than the sort of
diatribe offered by Mr. Nixon. The result: official endorsement of two
independent appraisals made last year, over a period of months, which conclude
separately that, contrary to the government's official position in public that
potential profits were excessive, the private advice it sought and accepted from
recognized experts in the field is that the partnership would have lost in the
area of $180 million.
No wonder the government did not want these studies to be made public. Not
only do they contradict a contrary position taken for more than two years, they
reveal that the government had been arguing two diametrically opposed positions
at the same time. If this is not sleaziness, what is? If this is not a cesspool
of sorts, what is? If this is not ripping off the confidence that Canadians like
to put in their government, what is?
What strikes me regarding Senator Kirby's remarks while introducing Bill C-28
at second reading is not only the inconsistency of his argumentation and the
weakness running through it but the sharp contrast between what he said when
Bill C-22 was at the same stage two years ago.
When we objected to this debate taking place at this time, it was argued that
the circumstances surrounding Bill C-28 are significantly different from those
which existed when Bill C-22 was introduced and that the House of Commons should
have given Bill C-28 standard committee consideration for these and other
reasons before sending it to the Senate. These arguments were rejected. I
certainly do not intend to advance them again, although after hearing Senator
Kirby's remarks, I am delighted to know that he has reinforced them by, in
effect, telling us that while Bill C-28 is word for word identical to Bill C-22,
this is strictly pro forma as the government intends to propose amendments which
Senator Kirby tells us will address the concerns of senators opposite him.
This is welcome, certainly, but until we see the exact wording of the
amendments - and again I urge Senator Kirby and the Leader of the Government in
the Senate to make them available during second reading - we will not debate
what is not before us.
Senator Kirby's attempts at assurances raise more questions than they answer.
For instance, concerns over Bill C-22 have been stated for nearly two years. Why
wait until now to satisfy them? Suddenly the same objections which had been
suspect for so long have become legitimate concerns which the government is
anxious to address. Why this about-face? Let me suggest some answers.
The government knows very well that Bill C-28, if passed as worded, will be
declared unconstitutional. The government lost in its attempts to avoid an
action in damages. The government has admitted a breach of contract, thereby
admitting the existence of the agreements. In fact, much of what it wanted to
undo with Bill C-22, it now feels constitutionally and legally obliged to
confirm elsewhere - that is, in Bill C-28, amended.
I should like to think that it agrees with former Supreme Court of Canada
Chief Justice Brian Dickson, who wrote:
Historically, the generally accepted core of the principle of judicial
independence has been the complete liberty of individual judges to hear and
decide the cases that come before them: no outsider - be it government,
pressure group, individual or even another judge - should interfere in fact,
or attempt to interfere, with the way in which a judge conducts his or her
case and makes his or her decision. This core continues to be central to the
principle of judicial independence.
Far be it from me to suggest that Chief Justice Dickson had Bill C-22 in mind
when he wrote that but, at the same time, its pertinency to the events since
Bill C-22 was introduced, and surrounding Bill C-28, must be obvious to
everyone. The quotation is but one of many eloquent statements on the importance
of total respect and support for the independence of the judiciary and
non-intervention from elsewhere, including Parliament and the government.
Now that the government maintains that the consortium's claim for profits is
unfounded because, according to its own experts - whose opinions are accepted as
its own - it stood to lose around $180 million, one can only ask: Why introduce
Bill C-28 at all? Why not a bill simply confirming legally what in effect has
already taken place and is not being challenged - that is, a cancellation of the
agreements? The government has already agreed that they exist by admitting to
their breach. The government did not ask the Supreme Court to disallow two lower
court decisions to allow an action in damages, thereby accepting to be party to
the one which began last February. Why bring in amendments to a bill when all
they appear to be doing is confirming the obvious as well as removing the
government from the embarrassment of a successful constitutional challenge? It
is all very nice to hear that senators' concerns prompted this change of heart,
but I sense that events which have transpired over the last two years, as well
as judicial caution, are the real reasons for it.
In any event, all we have before us is Bill C-28, an exact replica of Bill
C-22. The purpose of second reading is to approve or disapprove of the principle
of a bill. We are disapproving of Bill C-28, even more than we were of Bill
C-22, because of all that has transpired and become known since Bill C-22 was
It is obvious that the government is behaving in a most irregular and
inconsistent manner with this bill. It argues its merits in the House of Commons
by resurrecting Bill C-22 as Bill C-28 and sending it without change,
effectively for the third time, to the Senate. No sooner does second reading on
Bill C-28 begin here than Senator Kirby restates the government's position that
Bill C-22 - therefore by implication Bill C-28 - was legal and constitutional,
but to meet constitutional concerns expressed here and elsewhere, the government
was willing to satisfy them through a series of amendments.
Should the amendments reflect exactly what Senator Kirby has told us, they
will gut the bill, and, if approved, result in legislation having only a modicum
of similarity to the content and purpose of Bill C-28 as it is before us today.
This is unheard of. Legislation passed three times at the government's
initiative by the elected house is being debated by the appointed house where it
is the intention of the same government to amend it to such a point that it will
bear little, if any, resemblance to what the House of Commons endorsed, not
once, not twice, but three times.
It is natural for the opposition in the Senate to be accused of not
respecting the will of the elected representatives - this happens repeatedly -
but Senator Kirby is telling us that the government itself will ignore the
wishes of the elected representatives, particularly those expressed by its own
supporters on three occasions, by trying to convince senators that Bill C-28 is,
for all intents and purposes, null and void and amendments will be presented to
We have already argued that the circumstances surrounding Bill C-28 being so
different from those which existed at the time of Bill C-22, the House should
have been allowed to debate Bill C-28 before sending it here. This argument is
now reinforced by Senator Kirby's remarks on behalf of the government that, as
circumstances are so different now than they were two years ago, even the
government finds it necessary to, in effect, introduce new legislation to
respond to them. I will leave it to the government to explain why its intention
to alter legislation approved three times by the House was not announced and
debated in the House before being sent here. It is not unusual for government
legislation to be introduced in the Senate first, but this is not the case here.
What Parliament is faced with is an unprecedented dismissal of the elected
house's three-times expressed decision at the behest of the government without
any announcement or explanation being given by the same government. Surely, if
this is not the most flagrant or a most flagrant disregard of the will of the
elected representatives, what is?
Honourable senators, Senator Kirby has severely criticized the opposition for
delaying a decision on Bill C-22 by using its then majority on the Standing
Senate Committee on Legal and Constitutional Affairs. I have already admitted to
this with reference to Bill C-22 and Bill C-69, arguing, nonetheless, that
keeping a bill alive in committee indefinitely is obviously more respectful of
the House of Commons than killing it outright, which we could easily have done
on many occasions but resisted doing so in order to allow the necessary
amendments to be adopted. Senator Kirby, however, now wishes to go even further.
He has told us that the government is willing to address all of our concerns by
drafting a new bill in committee and, in effect, killing Bill C-28 at the same
time - so much for the will of the elected representatives!
Quite obviously, the government prefers to try to resolve the many
contradictions it has created for itself and to limit further embarrassment over
its handling of this fiasco - for that is what it has become - by bypassing the
House of Commons and using the Senate, where there are no television cameras and
media attention is negligible, to salvage what it can from this sordid affair.
In addition, honourable senators, government support from a restless Liberal
caucus is becoming less reliable. The PMO strategists must certainly feel that
they can limit further political damage by sending the house a finished package
which can be put on its Order Paper, say, two or three days before the summer
Whatever our misunderstandings with the House of Commons, it is only basic
courtesy that its intentions on significant legislation be known first before it
is debated here. Senator Kirby's position is completely at odds with this
fundamental principle, and we on this side along with, I suspect, many
colleagues opposite would feel very uncomfortable, if not disrespectful, in
proceeding as Senator Kirby suggests.
Hon. John Lynch-Staunton (Leader of the Opposition): Honourable senators,
I move, seconded by the Honourable Senator Robertson:
That Bill C-28 be not now read a second time but that it be referred back
to the House of Commons for proper consideration.
The Hon. the Acting Speaker: Honourable senators, it is moved by the
Honourable Senator Lynch-Staunton, seconded by the Honourable Senator Robertson,
that Bill C-28 be not now read a second time but that it be referred back to the
House of Commons for proper consideration.
Is it your pleasure, honourable senators, to adopt the motion?
Some Hon. Senators: Agreed.
Some Hon. Senators: No.
Hon. Alasdair B. Graham (Deputy Leader of the Government): Honourable
senators, I move that the debate on the motion in amendment be adjourned to the
next sitting of the Senate.
The Hon. the Acting Speaker: Is it agreed, honourable senators?
Resuming debate on the motion of the Honourable Senator Bacon, seconded by
the Honourable Senator Rompkey, P.C., for an Address to His Excellency the
Governor General in reply to his speech at the Opening of the Second Session
of the Thirty-fifth Parliament.-(7th day of resuming debate)
Hon. William M. Kelly: Honourable senators, as we all expected, the
Speech from the Throne focused, among other things, on national unity and the
government's commitment to some adjustments in the distribution of powers and
consultation and cooperation in federal-provincial relations.
I do not for a moment doubt the Prime Minister's or this government's
commitment to the cause of national unity. The Prime Minister's credentials in
that regard are beyond question. Nor do I suggest that the course of action the
government has taken and intends to continue will necessarily be unsuccessful.
In matters such as this, I acknowledge the Prime Minister's experience. However,
my instincts tell me that the circumstances in which we now find ourselves call
for a radical departure from the status quo and a major rethinking of our
political and economic union. I have some ideas in that direction and how we
might get there.
Before talking about those ideas, allow me to make a few philosophical
points, lest what I have to say be misinterpreted.
In the first place, I believe that Quebec is better off as part of Canada
than it would be as an independent country. To me, common sense dictates that
the French language and culture have a far better chance of surviving in a
country of 30 million rather than in a continent of 500 million.
Honourable senators, I believe history has demonstrated this to be so. It was
not Canada that imposed upon Quebec the culture and linguistic introversion that
characterized that province prior to the Quiet Revolution. It was not Canada
that imposed upon Quebec an introspective, secular and archaic education system
that persisted until the early 1960s and that was so resolutely dissected by
Jean-Paul Desbiens. Furthermore, the Quiet Revolution did occur in a Quebec that
was part of Canada, as did the election of three overtly separatist governments.
To me - and this view is doubtless unpopular with some of my colleagues from
Quebec - the mere fact that some Quebecers now feel strong enough to go it alone
is, in itself, evidence that the Canadian federation has neither stifled nor
oppressed the French culture and language.
We must remember that Quebec - or "Canada East" - joined
Confederation in 1867 fearing encroachment by the U.S. It is ironic indeed that,
129 years later, many in Quebec now feel strong and secure enough to withstand
the American monolith while claiming in the same breath that the development of
the French language and culture has been constrained within Canada.
I might note parenthetically, honourable senators, that the federal
government in the fiscal year 1993-94 - the last year for which Statistics
Canada generated figures - transferred over $837 million to non-government
organizations in Quebec to support language and cultural pursuits.
Furthermore, I believe that being part of the Canadian federation has also
been to the net economic benefit of Quebec and Quebecers. Not only has Quebec
been a leading partner in a Canadian economic union, but year over year, Quebec
has received more in federal fiscal transfers than they have paid in federal
Honourable senators, while these, I believe, are logical and rational
arguments for staying in Canada, I have reluctantly concluded that we are now
beyond logical and rational debate, and that we no longer have a reasonable
prospect of meeting the demands of the current Quebec elite to encourage them to
remain happily within the Canadian federation, at least as it is currently
While I personally favour recognition of Quebec as a distinct society - to my
way of thinking merely a recognition of reality - Mr. Bouchard has indicated
that constitutional recognition of Quebec as a distinct society is no longer
enough. He has indicated that neither the Meech formula nor the Charlottetown
formula is enough any longer. He has indicated that administrative
decentralization to Quebec of federal powers relating to language and culture is
no longer enough. In fact, according to Mr. Bouchard, no administrative
decentralization is enough because Quebec would still be relying upon the
goodwill of English Canada to keep those administrative arrangements in place.
Were one to be uncharitable and inclined to think Mr. Bouchard is acting in
bad faith, this would be a clever stratagem indeed. Administrative arrangements
such as the Cullen-Couture Agreement that delegated wide powers to Quebec in the
immigration field are the only way around the strait-jacket of our formal
Administrative arrangements are what transform a formal Constitution into an
effective Constitution. These arrangements allow us to adapt our formal
Constitution to present-day circumstances and requirements. By closing that door
and thus forcing us to rely exclusively on amending the formal Constitution, Mr.
Bouchard has taken away the single, most effective method that Canada - in fact
all nations - use to make their formal constitutions work.
Mr. Bouchard has said that a Quebec veto is no longer enough, no matter how
difficult, perhaps impossible, it would have been to obtain consent for such a
veto power from all 10 provinces as required by our Constitution.
Aside from Mr. Bouchard's evident reluctance to consider any constitutional
rapprochement with Canada, we must recognize that the forces of decentralization
and devolution are in the ascendency world-wide, not just in Canada. I was
pleased that the Speech from the Throne and the Prime Minister's remarks in the
other place alluded to that fact. What we are experiencing in Canada is not just
a domestic phenomenon. It is a manifestation of a global phenomenon and must be
addressed as such.
On one hand, we have a complexity of multilateral and bilateral trade
agreements which tend to move economic and political powers from national
governments up to supra-national authorities. We also have the forces of
technology, particularly telecommunications and information technologies, that
erase the distinctions amongst countries and cultures and connect us to a truly
global civilization and economy. On the other hand, we have the movement of
economic and political levers down to provincial and local governments as the
fiscal prowess of national governments declines.
Existing in an almost equal and opposite reaction to the forces of
globalization are those forces which try to retain or re-establish a localized
or regionalized culture. The phenomenon that Czech President Vaclav Havel refers
to as "every valley crying out for freedom and independence."
Caught in the middle, national governments as we know them are becoming
increasingly impotent, redundant and irrelevant. As but one example of this
phenomenon, during the Reconstruction Period immediately after World War II, the
federal government retained 70 per cent of all the taxes it collected. The rest
went to the provinces by way of transfer payments. Today, the federal government
retains only 33 per cent of taxes it collects for application to federal
programs and projects. The rest goes to the provinces. If I may note
parenthetically, Joe Clark was right when he said that the highly centralized
Canada from which René Lévesque and his confrères wanted to separate no
The ratio of federal taxes collected to those transferred to other levels of
government is the lowest for any country in the OECD and indicates the
astonishing de facto decentralization of fiscal policy. In effect, since the
Reconstruction Period, we have repositioned the federal government as the bad
guy, the tax collector, while the burden of the money collected and the
political credit for it is expended through provincial and municipal programs
and projects. It is no wonder the people perceive a diminishing need for the
federal government in their everyday lives.
At all levels of government, the trend to deregulation, privatization and
regulatory forbearance moves economic levers away from the government into the
marketplace. There is, therefore, in Canada and the world, a clear tide toward
decentralization and devolution. If we persist in swimming against that tide -
and by "we," I mean the federal government - and if we fail to take
the initiative, we will lose control of events in Canada, and Canada will die a
long and painful death of a thousand cuts: cuts caused by emotionally draining
referenda in Quebec until separatist forces win; cuts caused by economic
uncertainty and the lack of business and investor confidence as government after
government is detoured from addressing serious fiscal monetary and economic
issues in favour of a constant stirring of the constitutional pot; cuts caused
by the rancour in the body politic generated by a never-ending debate on a
never-ending uncertainty about Quebec and national unity; and cuts caused by
individual provinces picking away at the constitutional carcass of the federal
Honourable senators, it is not just Quebec that wants a new constitutional
deal; British Columbia does, too. Alberta, long the cradle of prairie
radicalism, is looking for a new deal. I point out that it was Alberta in the
early 1970s that threatened to cut off oil supplies to Eastern Canada. That
hardly fits into the image of, "All for one and one for all." That is
the way we are.
The maritime provinces are also contemplating their own constitutional
reorganization. The desire for change from other regions should not be lost or
ignored through our preoccupation with Quebec. There is a real possibility that,
in our single-minded pursuit of a solution for Quebec, we will manage to
exacerbate constitutional frictions in the rest of the country.
I propose that the federal government recognize these realities. The reality
is that the forces of decentralization and devolution within and outside Canada
are past the point of no return. In fact, the Quebec referendum was nothing more
than a manifestation, a wake-up call, so to speak, of this irreversible trend.
However, if we recognize reality, if we get ahead of events and manage the
transition properly, we can speed our return to economic and political stability
and, I hope, our return to a secure and prosperous future for all Canadians. I
propose that we give serious consideration to a major devolution of formal
constitutional political powers to the provinces while retaining an effective
economic union including Quebec.
Massive decentralization does not mean the end of Canada. In fact, it may
well be the only way to save Canada. Look at Switzerland, a remarkably stable
and prosperous nation for over 700 years since it severed its association with
Austria. Switzerland has a population density twice that of China, yet it
supports the highest per capita income in the industrialized world. Switzerland
has not two but four official languages. What is the key to Switzerland's
success and permanence? Many attribute it to a truly federal Constitution
whereby most powers reside with 26 cantons and not with the central government.
Is Switzerland less of a nation because of this decentralization? I think
not. Does the decentralization that I have in mind mean that Quebec becomes a
separate country? I do not know, but I doubt it. If we act quickly and
resolutely enough to control events, I see Quebec continuing to be a part of not
just a Canadian free trade zone but a customs union. That would mean that there
would be no tariffs or other trade barriers between any part of Canada and
Quebec. I expect Quebec would use the Canadian dollar and continue to rely on
international trade and economic agreements to which Canada is currently a
party. It would continue to respect Canadian commercial laws except in the
instance of conflict with specific Quebec laws. It would continue free and open
trade within Canada.
Does that mean that Canada must embark on a system of asymmetrical federalism
where each province is treated differently? I believe it does, but it is not
necessarily a bad thing. In fact, it may provide the flexibility required to
keep Canada together as a political entity.
We come now to a practical question: How will we reach an agreement with
Quebec? I do not believe we can wait until 1997 to make a proposal to Quebec and
the other provinces in the context of section 49 of the Constitution Act. There
is too much opportunity for the separatist forces in Quebec to snatch the
initiative away from us and push the course of events back under their agenda.
Delaying until 1997 also prolongs the agony of political and economic
instability. The leverage of the federal government in any negotiations will
decrease in direct proportion with its fiscal debilitation. We must act quickly
by tabling a proposal for a major, managed constitutional devolution of Canada
at the meeting of first ministers referred to in the Throne Speech.
I regret that whatever the proposal, no matter how sincere or constructive,
it is not likely to be negotiated with Mr. Bouchard and his confrères, for whom
outright secession is the only objective. Mr. Bouchard will simply continue to
move the goalposts.
When I was a small boy, I remember my father saying that interest rates would
never rise above 3 per cent and, if they did, the results would be cataclysmic.
Like every member of this chamber, I have lived through interest rates of 22 per
cent and we are still here. To me this demonstrates that nothing is impossible.
We must think the unthinkable if we are to get ahead of and thus manage events.
Some say the separation of Quebec is unthinkable. I say we must canvass and plan
for all reasonable eventualities. I point out that, in the past two centuries of
national devolution and dismemberment, only two instances of constitutional
secession have been achieved without bloodshed: the separation of Norway from
Sweden in 1905 and the separation of the Czechs and the Slovaks in 1993.
Throughout its history, Canada has shown a remarkable ability to change and
adapt without bloodshed and with relatively little rancour. Our federal system,
twinned with our British parliamentary system and combined with the inherent
resilience and tolerance of Canadians, have allowed us to do so.
We now face an unprecedented challenge to our future. I believe we cannot
afford to dither or delay, nor can we cling to the past or the ways of the past.
We have an opportunity to break out of the mould and to design an innovative
Constitution that responds to the forces of decentralization and devolution
which will see Canada well into the 21st century. We have an opportunity to once
again be a model for federal states world-wide.
Honourable senators, we have an opportunity to stop the constitutional pain
by recognizing reality and taking the initiative.
Resuming debate on the motion of the Honourable Senator Cools, seconded by
the Honourable Senator St. Germain, P.C., for the second reading of Bill S-6,
to amend the Criminal Code (period of ineligibility for parole)-(Honourable
Senator St. Germain, P.C.).
Hon. Dalia Wood: Honourable senators, I have spoken with Senator St.
Germain, and he has kindly allowed me to speak on this order today.
The Hon. the Speaker: Is it agreed, honourable senators?
Hon. Senators: Agreed.
Senator Wood: I rise today to speak to Bill S-6, to amend the Criminal
Code, and, more specifically, the period of ineligibility for parole. The issues
before us today are very clear. They deal with the protection of victims' rights
and the expression of society's views regarding the punishment of first- and
second-degree murderers and those found guilty of high treason.
Honourable senators, when we abolished capital punishment in 1976, we assured
the public that those responsible for the most heinous of crimes, murder and
high treason, would be held imprisoned for at least 25 years without eligibility
for parole. This compromise permitted abolition, as the public could rest
assured that proper punishment would be handed down and that the safety of
society and the expression of its displeasure would be maintained. What most are
not aware of is that section 745 of the Criminal Code was to be part of that
Let us examine this provision more closely. Section 745 provides for a review
of the period of parole ineligibility of certain life sentences. The reviewable
sentences include those for first degree murder and high treason where the
inmate must serve 25 years or more before becoming eligible for parole.
Sentences for second degree murder are also reviewable where the parole
ineligibility period is set for 15 years or more. The inmates in question may
make application to the chief justice of the province in which they were
convicted and sentenced to have their period of ineligibility for parole
reviewable after having served at least 15 years of their sentence.
Honourable senators, no distinction is made between a serial murderer of the
Clifford Olson variety, those who rape, torture and murder many innocent
children and young people alike, and someone who has murdered once. Under
section 745, anyone can submit an application, irrespective of the brutality of
the crime, at public expense and at the emotional expense of the victim's
families, who suffer untold grief every day of their lives and must endure
further heartache when murderers apply for early parole. We continue to punish
those who are victims of crime and allow the perpetrators to go free. The
discussion of the brutality of the crime and the suffering that the victims have
endured does not even form part of the section 745 review process.
The process is as follows: The inmate makes application to the chief justice
as mentioned above. The chief justice then assigns a judge and a jury to hear
the application, and I quote from section 745(2), to -
...determine whether the applicant's number of years of imprisonment
without eligibility for parole ought to be reduced having regard to the
character of the applicant, his conduct while serving the sentence, the nature
of the offence for which he was convicted and such other matters as the judge
deems relevant to the circumstances...
The annotations of Martin's 1996 Criminal Code inform us that the purpose of
a section 745 review is to re-examine the inmate's situation while taking new
information or factors into consideration, information that was not known at the
time of the initial sentencing. The jury must consider whether or not these
factors justify the imposition of a lighter sentence. It seems to me, honourable
senators, that this section should have been nicknamed the "good behaviour
clause" instead of the "faint hope clause."
The annotation further summarizes a 1994 Supreme Court judgment in R. v.
Swietlinski. In part, annotation reads as follows:
It was improper for Crown counsel in questioning witnesses and in his
closing address to attempt to discredit the review process by calling
attention to the fact that the victim had no opportunity as the applicant did
to have her suffering reduced and because the 25 years ineligibility period
was a bargain compared with the death penalty. The possible reduction of the
ineligibility period after 15 years is a choice made by Parliament which the
jury must accept. It is not open to the prosecution to call this choice into
question by suggesting to the jury that it is an abnormal procedure,
excessively indulgent and contrary to what it argues was Parliament's
intent.... The jury must consider only the applicant's case and must not try
the cases of other inmates or determine whether the existing system of parole
Honourable senators, I emphasize that the possible reduction of the
ineligibility period after 15 years, which the jury must accept, is made by
Parliament. I would imagine that Parliament, when it introduced section 745,
felt that after a person had spent 15 years in prison, he might be
rehabilitated. Perhaps Parliament felt that a person who had committed such a
horrific crime could change. All I know, honourable senators, is that this
possible reduction in parole ineligibility is no longer, if it ever was,
consonant with the wishes of the Canadian public. Canadians today agree that
section 745 must be removed from the Criminal Code in order to re-establish
faith in the justice system, a system that preserves the safety of its citizens,
a system that upholds the right to security of the person which was included in
the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms.
The government has tried to give victims' families a place in the section 745
review by including provisions allowing victim impact statements to be read at
the hearing. However, even such an inclusion does not guarantee that society's
abhorrence of the crime committed will be taken into consideration at that time.
The Supreme Court of Canada ruled in Swietlinski that the courts must be
cautious in admitting these statements, as they tend to focus the jury on the
victims and their experiences some 15 years ago and invite the jury to assess
the appropriateness of the original sentence in terms of retribution,
denunciation, and punishment goals, which are not what section 745 hearings are
In my opinion, honourable senators, section 745 is "resentencing."
In making application, the inmate is seeking to set aside an otherwise valid
judicial order. The option to have the sentence revisited after the appeal
process has been exhausted is available for no other crime - only murder and
high treason. The people who are entitled to section 745 reviews are the
offenders who have committed the most violent and repugnant crimes. Should these
individuals benefit from such a provision? In deciding whether to reduce the
parole ineligibility period in a section 745 hearing, only two-thirds of the
jury need agree. Should these inmates, people like Paul Bernardo, Allen Leger,
Clifford Olson, Larry Sheldon, Norman Clairmont, Charles Simard and Gerald
Chase, benefit from this more flexible and lenient jury requirement? I
personally do not think so.
As well, the parole eligibility reports are prepared by Correctional Services
Canada personnel, which fact has created concern about the impartiality of this
agency. It can be argued that these judicial reviews are a measure of their own
Honourable senators, two senior Crown counsel describe the judicial reviews
Applications for review of parole eligibility are time consuming, lengthy,
non-legal philosophical and social in nature. There are no rules, or if rules,
they are foreign, there is hearsay, facts are questionable, the filing of
documentation is allowed, the proceedings can be lopsided and totally
The opponents of this bill argue that this provision should remain because it
does not determine whether or not the inmate will actually be released on
parole. The jury only decides whether or not the parole ineligibility date will
be reduced. However, according to Martin Devenport of Correctional Services
Canada, since 1976, there have been 1,494 applications for full parole from both
the first-degree and second-degree murder categories. Out of these, 464
applicants have been granted full parole. This seems to indicate that life
sentences are not the 25 year minimum that the public was promised they would
Should a life sentence be considered 15 years because of good behaviour? The
Canadian public believes the sentence for murder should be 25 years, and not 15
years on demand. When a murderer is sentenced to life, surely we mean exactly
that and not a lesser sentence. A first-degree or second-degree murderer in
Canada should be required by law to serve a minimum of 25 years in prison and
should be allowed out not one day sooner.
I urge honourable senators to support the repeal of section 745 by adopting
On motion of Senator Wood, for Senator St. Germain, debate adjourned.
Hon. Nicholas W. Taylor moved second reading of Bill C-243, to amend the
Canada Elections Act (reimbursement of election expenses).
He said: Honourable senators, I have an unusual privilege today in that I am
sponsoring a bill that was introduced in the other place by a Reform member. I
think this is the first time this has happened in the history of this august
body. On May 15, this bill, sponsored by the member for Edmonton Southwest,
received the unanimous support of the honourable members in the other place. The
bill is one of only four bills sponsored by private members that have passed so
far in the 35th Parliament. Two of the four bills were sponsored by Liberal
members, the third by a member of the New Democratic Party, and this one was
introduced by Mr. Ian McClelland of the Reform Party.
Under the bill, registered political parties will no longer be reimbursed for
election expenses irrespective of their voter support. Prior to the passage of
this legislative amendment, a political party was reimbursed based on its
spending at least 10 per cent of its allowable expense limit. Now, political
parties will be reimbursed based on the popular support of the electorate rather
than exclusively on their ability to spend, which was an anomaly in the old
The amendment to the Canada Elections Act does not affect expense
reimbursements for individual candidates. That situation will remain the same.
They are already subject to the restriction that they must receive at least 15
per cent of the valid votes cast to be eligible for rebate.
The legislation would appear to be quite timely in view of the prospect of a
federal election within the next 12 or 18 months. In the 1993 general election,
in the absence of the voter thresholds proposed by Bill C-243, two political
parties with negligible voter support received expense reimbursements. According
to the information provided by Elections Canada, the Natural Law Party, which
advocated yogic flying as an essential component of its election campaign,
received $712,722 - that is nearly three quarters of a million dollars - in
reimbursement of election expenses even though they received only 0.6 per cent
of the popular vote. The National Party of Canada, which was dissolved
approximately one year after the 1993 election, received $470,855 - close to
half a million dollars - in expense reimbursements while receiving 1.4 per cent
of the popular vote.
Since individual candidates must receive at least 15 per cent of the popular
vote in order to be eligible for reimbursement, it seems reasonable that some
minimum of voter support should be required for the party itself.
The National Party of Canada appeared to have a political platform that did
not meet with a great degree of voter acceptance. It was nonetheless a political
platform. I am sure that members opposite can understand that. The Natural Law
Party, on the other hand, caused concerns to many candidates of other parties in
that their political platform, such as it was, appeared to be closely tied to
courses of transcendental meditation. There is nothing wrong in offering such
courses to the public, of course, but the public should not be funding
promotional activities for such courses during an election campaign. If the
public considered this to be a worthy electoral objective, I am sure that such a
sentiment would have translated into something more than 0.6 per cent of the
I agree with the honourable member for Edmonton Southwest, who stated in his
September 1995 submission to the Standing Committee on Procedure and House
Affairs in the other place, which reviewed this bill:
In my view, the Canadian taxpayer ended up subsidizing the advertising
campaign for a contemplative lifestyle associated with fee-based courses in
meditation techniques, rather than the activities of a political party
providing economic and social alternatives.
My own long-standing support for the political perspectives of the Liberal
Party is well known. I note with pride the degree of Liberal support for the
legislative initiative of the honourable member for Edmonton Southwest. Such
support provides an illustration of how the other place can function in the best
interests of all Canadians, rather than degenerating, as is often the case, into
heated, partisan debates where the best interests of Canadians quite often are
Liberals in the other place supported this initiative for three main reasons:
consideration of fiscal restraint, considerations of fairness in the electoral
system, and considerations of the comprehensive manner in which this legislation
was developed during the course of passage in that House.
Honourable senators, the Conservatives in the other place, in their awesome
battle array, came forward and unanimously supported the motion.
With respect to considerations of fiscal restraint, members in the other
place recognize the need to ensure that scarce dollars are not directed to
electoral activities that receive marginal or trivial support. Nearly $1.2
million in election expense reimbursements would not have been paid subsequent
to the 1993 election if this legislation had been in place at that time.
With respect to fairness in the electoral system, there is a need to ensure
that the system for financing electoral campaigns does not unduly restrict the
electoral choices of Canadians. It is for this reason that the voter support
thresholds for election expense reimbursements at the party level are set at
comparatively low levels. A regional party without broad-based national support
will be entitled to election expense reimbursement if in a particular riding it
receives 5 per cent of the popular vote.
Honourable senators, I might mention that even in the worst of times in
Alberta, when I was protected by little more than the game laws, the party I was
leading still managed to get 5 per cent support. The same registered political
party must field candidates in at least 50 electoral districts in order to
obtain and maintain its registration.
This bill was described by the parliamentary secretary to the Leader of the
Government in the other place as a good balance between the often conflicting
considerations of fiscal restraint and electoral fairness. I agree with this
sentiment. No one is suggesting that marginal political parties should not exist
or that they should not have the right to speak out or field candidates in an
electoral event. The right to present oneself to electors is still the right of
any Canadian. The issue in that context is the need to apply fiscal constraint
in a logical and fair manner.
With respect to the comprehensive manner in which the legislation was
developed during the course of its passage in the other place, the bill met with
the consensus of the members of all parties. This in part was due to the
concurrence by the honourable member from Edmonton Southwest with respect to the
amendment of his bill.
On May 15, 1996, the honourable parliamentary secretary to the Leader of the
Government in the other place said:
It shows what can be accomplished when members work together.
The government's support of the bill today is tangible proof of its belief
in the importance and the relevance of private members' bills.
Honourable senators, thank you for bearing with me thus far. This action is
something that is long overdue. I am prepared to answer any questions that
honourable senators may have on this matter.
Committee Authorized to Study
Present State and Future of Forestry
On the Order:
Resuming debate on the motion of the Honourable Senator Spivak, seconded by
the Honourable Senator Simard:
That the Standing Senate Committee on Agriculture and Forestry be
authorized to examine the present state and the future of forestry in
That the Committee present its report no later than March 31, 1997.-(Honourable
Hon. Nicholas W. Taylor: Honourable senators, in supporting this
motion, I wish to mention that my first committee meeting following my
appointment as a senator occurred when I became a member of the Standing Senate
Committee on Agriculture and Forestry. After listening for some time to the
discussion, and looking at what that committee had done last year, the year
before, as well as this year, I concluded that, up to that point, there had been
no mention of forestry. It seems that there had been quite an antipathy between
agriculture and forestry for many years. In fact, many farmers had been taught
that the only good tree was a dead tree, or one that was out of sight somewhere
so that it could be converted to land.
It is an interesting fact that our society will probably be condemned to
spending, over the next 50 years, as much money on growing trees and replacing
water on the land as we spent in the last hundred years cutting down trees and
draining the water off the land. That, in itself, is a rather interesting
analogy of how civilization develops. Perhaps that is one of the reasons that
the human race has lasted as long as it has. We spend a hundred years doing
something, and then the next hundred years correcting what we did in the first
hundred years. It seems to go around in a complete circle.
I talked to the honourable senator from Manitoba, Senator Spivak. We found
out that we were "brethren 'neath the skin," so to speak.
"Woodsman, spare that tree" is one of our main mottoes. We agreed that
we both wanted to do something on forestry.
One of the interesting aspects today - and many people do not realize this -
is that the boreal forest, which is named after the aurora borealis, and so on,
is the last of the big timber areas outside of the Amazon Basin. We are cutting
down that boreal forest at a great rate. For instance, in Alberta the forest
area set aside to cut for paper and timber is larger in size than a country such
A full 35 per cent of the Canadian land mass is committed to forestry. Only 3
per cent of this land is privately held. Provincial governments and the federal
government must do more to protect the land for our future generations.
More important, it is not a case of simply replacing trees. Those of us who
are involved with the forestry industry today have come to realize two important
things: First, trees are the lungs of the earth. Trees are now grown, under
subsidy, in many areas of the world in an attempt to counteract pollution, and
not for cutting to be converted into paper. Second, the biological techniques,
the microbiology and the whole biodiversity that exists in a forest - and we now
find this to be the case with our prairie grasses - cannot be replaced in 25 or
30 years as can a tree. In other words, we must do some heavy thinking so that
we are not clearcutting our forests and simply replacing trees.
Much more than that is at stake. There is also the whole question of our new
- and as yet undiscovered - medicines. Our new vaccines may well be discovered
in some of these ancient forest regimes. It is not a case of replacing the
forest; it also involves saving certain amounts of the forest almost in a fossil
state. Some of the microbacteria that exist in a forest today might have taken
100 or 200 years to develop.
Senator Spivak has already spoken on this subject - in fact, we worked on it
together - but in the short time that is available to me today, I want to
impress upon my fellow senators that we should spend our best money and time in
the future on determining what should be done about our forests.
Employment Insurance Bill-Motion
To Authorize Committee to travel During Study-Debate Continued
On the Order:
Resuming debate on the motion of the Honourable Senator Simard, seconded by
the Honourable Senator Kinsella that it be an instruction of this House that
the Standing Senate Committee on Social Affairs, Science and Technology
adjourn from time to time and from place to place in Canada when it begins
consideration of Bill C-12, An Act respecting employment insurance in
Canada.-(Honourable Senator Kinsella).
Hon. Orville H. Phillips: Honourable senators, in rising to support
Senator Simard's motion, I do so with some trepidation, and with a feeling that
it is a futile effort. Nevertheless, I will attempt to appeal to senators,
especially to senators from Quebec and Atlantic Canada.
I remember, as I am sure do many of my honourable friends opposite, that in
1989 the Liberal senators could not deal fairly with amendments without
travelling to Atlantic Canada. They did so, and they said that it was of great
benefit to them at that time.
I do not see why it would not be beneficial to travel in this case. What has
happened between 1989 and 1996 to make travelling no longer necessary? People
are greatly concerned about such matters out there in the maritimes and in
Quebec, and I am sure honourable senators would like to hear those concerns.
I will start my appeal with the Deputy Leader of the Government in the
Senator Berntson: That is good place to start!
Senator Phillips: The Deputy Leader of the Government in the Senate
holds a position of great influence. I have listened to him for many hours in
this chamber as he rather tediously read speeches that were prepared for him by
Senator MacEachen on such important matters as the coal miners, unemployment,
and the fishery problems in Atlantic Canada.
Hon. B. Alasdair Graham, Deputy Leader of the Government: Honourable
senators, that is a great revelation to me!
Senator Phillips: Today, Senator Graham, I am sure you are aware that
there is a problem with the coal mines in Cape Breton, where there has been a
loss of jobs.
Senator Graham: That is right. You should come to the committee
hearing tonight, Senator Phillips, and hear more about it.
Senator Phillips: Presently, there is a very high rate of unemployment
in Cape Breton. Surely Senator Graham would want to hear from those people in
person. I would imagine that he might be the last person who would want to cut
back on unemployment insurance benefits in Cape Breton.
Therefore, honourable senators, it is with a great deal of expectation that I
appeal to Senator Graham to support this motion and oppose Bill C-12.
Next, I will turn to the two Liberal members from my own province. First, I
wish to refer to my honourable friend Senator Bonnell. He has had a long,
distinguished career in the Prince Edward Island legislature, and in this
chamber. He boasts, with a certain justification, that he has always opposed
legislation that would oppress the poor, the handicapped and those on welfare.
I know from statements made by Senator Bonnell on Prince Edward Island that
he is opposed to this bill. I should like him to vote with us on this motion. I
am expecting his vote from the other side.
Senator Anderson has been closely associated with the agricultural community
in Prince Edward Island through her brother's association with the potato
industry. She knows the difficulty farm labourers will encounter, and I am sure
she would like us to hear from them. I know they would enjoy telling the Senate
about their difficulties and that she would benefit from hearing from them.
I turn now to New Brunswick. I regret that Senator Robichaud, a respected
former premier of that province, is not in the chamber. He must know that his
many supporters in New Brunswick still count on him. For years they supported
Louis Robichaud and I have confidence that he will not let them down now.
I appreciate that my honourable colleague Senator Bryden is listening
Senator Bryden: Oh, I am.
Senator Phillips: For a long time he was a very effective Liberal
organizer in New Brunswick.
Senator DeWare: He still is.
Senator Phillips: He became effective by listening to people. It seems
only logical that he would listen to the concerns of the people in New
Senator Bryden: I have never listened to people like Senator Simard,
so I cannot be offended by what they may say.
Senator Phillips: I am sure the honourable senator can continue to do
that even during this trip.
The opposition to this legislation in New Brunswick, particularly in the
northern part, is extensive. Senator Bryden, as a former Liberal organizer in
New Brunswick, is familiar with the electorate in the riding of Minister Doug
Young. I am sure Senator Bryden would want to go to northern New Brunswick and
hear the views of those people.
Senator Bryden: They have already been heard by the minister.
Basically, they have nothing left to offer the government or the minister.
Senator Phillips: From what I saw on television, the minister was not
talking to them; they were talking to him but he was not listening. He was
avoiding them. I do not expect Senator Bryden to avoid them.
Senator Bryden: That was just the paid organizers.
Senator Phillips: If the mob in New Brunswick were all paid
organizers, it must have cost someone a fortune.
I will now turn to my good friend Senator Corbin, a former member of the
House of Commons who was repeatedly elected.
Senator Simard: A good Liberal, too.
Senator Phillips: No matter how much the tide was going against the
Liberals, Senator Corbin always seemed to bob up like a buoy on top of the tide
and ride it through.
Senator Corbin: That kind of speech does not work in my party.
Senator Phillips: Time and time again, people placed their faith in
Senator Corbin. He justified that faith. Will he now destroy that faith? Will he
ruin his reputation? My only request of him now is that he go and listen to
those who have faith in him. I will discuss the merits of the bill with him
Senator Corbin: If I may be allowed, I can respond to the honourable
senator's request immediately.
Senator Phillips: Certainly. However, if my honourable friend's
intention is to make a speech, he should wait until I have concluded my remarks.
Senator Corbin: Our member of the House of Commons is doing an
excellent job, and she has my support.
Senator Phillips: Oh! Oh! Wait until the people in New Brunswick hear
Senator Corbin: Do not worry.
Senator Phillips: I am not worried, but perhaps Senator Corbin should
Senator Landry is a newcomer to this chamber, but he is well known by those
who will be affected by passage of this bill. For years he made a very
respectable living by buying and processing fish. He thoroughly understands the
implication of this bill on fish plant workers and on fishermen, but it would
not hurt to refresh his memory and for him to help those in despair. If they
feel they have the ear of someone like Senator Landry, whom they all know and
respect, it would benefit them greatly.
Hon. John G. Bryden: Your Honour, I have a point of order. Since this
entire approach is directed at Atlantic Canada, I would remind Senator Phillips
that, in our time zone, it is already 5:58 p.m.
Senator Phillips: I will mention Senator Stewart briefly. He is
somewhat of an academic who has always kept roots in Nova Scotia. I hope he will
maintain that contact by listening to what those people have to say.
To my friends from Newfoundland, Senators Petten and Lewis, I make a special
appeal because I know that they are reasonable people who share my concern.
Newfoundland, as all honourable senators know, has been especially hard hit by
the depletion of the cod fishery. These two gentlemen exhibited great concern
over that issue.
For a Newfoundland Liberal to vote against this motion and in support of Bill
C-12 would be like someone in Florida praying for another hurricane. This bill
will be just as disastrous as the cod depletion. Please, my honourable friends,
go and listen.
Today I will make but a brief reference to Senator Rompkey and say more
tomorrow. I would not want the committee to go without him. As a member of the
steering committee, I know he will want the committee to go. It would be
interesting to go to Newfoundland with the Honourable Senator Rompkey and see
what Newfoundlanders think of his presentation of this bill in this chamber.
Since Senator Bryden is watching the clock, I will have to leave out my
colleagues from Quebec, but let us not forget that it is not only Atlantic
Canada that is being devastated by this disastrous bill. Rural Quebec and
Montreal will also be hard hit.
Honourable senators, I ask you to support this motion for travel. If
honourable senators opposite think they can avoid having to explain the bill, I
can assure them that they cannot, because we on this side are prepared to go out
and express our concerns to the people. The many people who will be adversely
affected by this bill have the same concerns as honourable senators on this
side. In fact, I confess that we got most of our concerns from listening to the
Try it, honourable senators, and I am sure you will share our concerns. Just
vote to travel. We will deal with the bill at a separate time.
Hon. Brenda M. Robertson: Honourable senators, I wish to speak in
support of this motion which authorizes the Standing Committee on Social
Affairs, Science and Technology to travel to hear Canadians when it begins
consideration of Bill C-12. I shall stick closely to my notes because there are
points I want to make and if I digress, I may lose valuable time.
The idea of public consultation in itself always presents dilemmas: Why
consult; who to consult; where to consult; and what to do following the
consultations. These are fundamental issues which present very difficult choices
to a legislative body, even when a bill is not controversial.
The overriding problem in the present situation, however, is that Bill C-12
is not a simple piece of legislation. It is not a routine housekeeping bill, nor
should it be treated as one. Perhaps the mildest interpretation of the
legislation is that it makes profound changes to the Unemployment Insurance
Program and the way it is managed. It is the meaning of the words "profound
changes" in the context of the lives of thousands of Canadians, and
disproportionately Atlantic Canadians, that this chamber really should consider.
Although Premier McKenna's letter to the Prime Minister was written before
third reading in the other place, it nevertheless describes the suspicions and
the feelings that Atlantic Canadians still harbour about Bill C-12. I will quote
from the premier's letter which was published in the Saint John Telegraph-Journal.
In my submission, the proposal has fatal flaws. One is that it is
deliberately targeted to Atlantic Canada and Eastern Quebec and will be seen
as such by the citizens. For the province of New Brunswick alone, the impact
of these changes will remove approximately $175 million per year from our
economy. This is little short of devastating.
Another supporter of the government who is in touch with the public
perception of Bill C-12 is Prince Edward Island MP Joe McGuire. He reported to
the Summerside Journal Pioneer following third reading that the bill is
far from perfect but that changes had to be made because the previous system
also had serious flaws. That may well be but, honourable senators, I simply
cannot ignore these comments from two supporters of the government who are also
in touch with their people. I submit that their words must carry considerable
weight in the consideration of this motion. In the province of New Brunswick in
particular, the premier's words should carry a lot of weight.
Premier McKenna's letter to the Prime Minister also made the point that the
legislation "will create an enormous amount of anxiety amongst our
citizens." The public reaction to the legislation, particularly in our
province, has proved the premier correct, and it is this anxiety that honourable
senators now have an opportunity to address.
If there is one thing that I have learned during my years of public service,
it is that the way to deal with citizens' anxiety is to get the troublesome
issues out into the open. The best way to do that is to let the citizens have
their say, to listen to their concerns, to assure them that something is not
being railroaded through and that their views will be taken into account.
Honourable senators, if I have a criticism of the process pursued by the
other place in studying changes to the unemployment insurance legislation - or
the employment insurance legislation - it is that the parliamentary committee's
public consultation was restricted largely to hearing citizens and organizations
living in the regions through a video-conferencing system, and that only
following application to the committee and then upon invitation could the
As well, a number of people expressed their serious reservations to me about
this process because although many asked to be heard from Atlantic Canada,
significantly fewer appeared. This created the perception that those groups and
individuals most opposed to the legislation were ignored, while those who were
less critical were invited to appear.
I believe that process is, and was, completely unacceptable. It increases
suspicions that something is up, that something is being rammed through. It
results in protests as the only available alternative for communication and
political expression and contributes to undermining public respect and support
for government institutions.
That is why I support the New Brunswick Coalition - Citizens Committee's
position on public hearings. Last month the committee held three public hearings
throughout New Brunswick. The 33 presentations by citizens and organizations
were summarized and published in its final report. I shall quote from that
summary report of their public meetings.
The process by which the government has chosen to hear individuals and
groups' concerns on Bill C-12 is deplored and denounced.
The Citizens Committee also said:
The 33 briefs also deplore that the parliamentary committee chose a
video-conferencing process instead of face to face meetings. Deplored also is
the fact that people have to be invited in order to be heard.
Honourable senators, it is this well-deserved public censure that influences
my thinking as I reflect upon the competing arguments about the right approach
to public consultation on Bill C-12. I have been through this exercise before,
as has Senator Simard and other members of this chamber. My recollection is that
the Special Senate Committee on Bill C-21 first determined how many people we
needed to hear. That became the basis for determining the hearing schedule and
deciding whether we needed to travel. That approach certainly seemed sensible at
What strikes me as odd in the present context is that the Senate committee
has already decided not to travel, which is both well in advance of receiving
the bill and well prior to having the faintest idea of the numbers of
individuals and organizations who may wish to be heard. In fact, the committee
has not even taken out advertisements informing Canadians that public hearings
will be held and, as far as I can determine, all the Senate committee did was
send out a press release, which very few self-respecting news editors would
publish because it is really not hard news.
It is as if public hearings are not on. Honourable senators, I suspect that
is exactly what the government members on the committee intended; just get the
bill through as quickly as possible and with a minimum of fuss. That is the only
conclusion I can draw.
Again, to put this into perspective, the decision not to travel and not to
advertise is a breathtaking about-face by government members opposite. I
remember that during committee discussion of the modest changes to unemployment
insurance legislation in 1989 Senator Cools, argued:
...we should look at travelling very seriously. I think the committee
should be open and that we should look in a very serious way at the
possibility of, as was described by the witness from the Atlantic area...
putting faces on these people.
On the question of advertising Senator Cools said:
...we should place some advertisements and find out how many more people
around the country would be interested in appearing as witnesses if they had
information about this committee. Therefore I think we should go ahead and
test those waters.
It strikes me that in thinking through these tough issues of public
consultation, one test of how far to go is to rely on past experience. In that
sense, Bill C-21 is instructive. Although that bill did not mean the profound
changes for as many people as Bill C-12, I support Senator Simard's argument,
with the condition that, as a minimum, the employment insurance bill should
receive the same careful and serious consideration that Bill C-21 received.
I urge all honourable senators to think seriously about the profound changes
to the unemployment insurance program and the way it will be managed; to
seriously consider the economic impact it will have on the weakest economies in
the country - and I remind honourable senators that the premier of New Brunswick
has said that the impact will be little short of devastating. I urge honourable
senators to think about the anxiety amongst our citizens and the measures the
Senate might pursue to reduce that anxiety while enhancing public respect and
support for Parliament; and to think about the role the Senate might play in
putting faces on these people, those most affected by the changes to the UI
program. I respectfully suggest that it is through serious consideration of
these issues that honourable senators opposite will arrive at a rational
approach to Bill C-12 and the question of travel.
Honourable senators, I wish to join with the mover of this motion in urging
the Standing Senate Committee on Social Affairs, Science and Technology to
reconsider its decision not to travel and not to advertise its mandate to study
the provisions of Bill C-12. I can assure you that if the committee will not
travel, Senator Phillips and others among us will.