Debates of the Senate (Hansard)
1st Session, 39th Parliament,
Volume 143, Issue 38
Thursday, October 19, 2006
The Honourable Noël A. Kinsella, Speaker
Thursday, October 19, 2006
The Senate met at 1:30 p.m., the Speaker in the chair.
The Hon. the Speaker: Honourable senators, I have received a notice
from the Leader of the Opposition, who requests, pursuant to rule 22(10), that
the time provided for the consideration of Senators' Statements be extended
today for the purpose of paying tribute to the Honourable Lorne Bonnell, whose
death occurred on October 9, 2006.
I would remind senators that, pursuant to our rules, each senator will be
allowed only three minutes and may speak only once and that the time for
tributes shall not exceed 15 minutes.
Hon. Daniel Hays (Leader of the Opposition): Honourable senators,
today we pay tribute to a man we were privileged to have as a friend and
colleague, the late Senator Lorne Bonnell, who died last week surrounded by
members of his family at Queen Elizabeth Hospital, in Charlottetown.
From his humble beginnings in the small rural community of Hopefield, Prince
Edward Island, to his career in medicine, provincial politics and the Senate,
the Honourable Lorne Bonnell's private, public and professional life was a
monument to community service, conscience and social action.
Born in Hopefield, Prince Edward Island, and educated at Dalhousie
University, Dr. Lorne Bonnell made a tremendous contribution to the political
life of his province, as a member of the Legislative Assembly of Prince Edward
Island and in the roles of Minister of Health, Minister of Welfare, Minister of
Housing and Minister of Tourist Development.
Appointed to the Senate in 1971 by the Right Honourable Pierre Elliott
Trudeau, Lorne Bonnell served this institution with unfailing loyalty and
extraordinary dedication for nearly 30 years, chairing various committees such
as the Standing Senate Committee on Transport and Communications, the Standing
Senate Committee on Health, Welfare and Science and the Standing Senate
Committee on Social Affairs, Science and Technology.
Perhaps his finest quality was his love for and belief in people. He spent
his entire life tending to their health, be it as a medical practitioner or as a
passionate and eloquent defender of medicare, advocate for seniors' rights and
critic of child poverty. Moreover, he was a staunch believer in the
perfectibility of human nature through education, and one of his most lasting
and valuable contributions to the deliberations of our chamber, to the future of
our country, is surely the report of his Special Senate Committee on
Senator Bonnell was a good friend to both my father, who served in the Senate
with him, and to me, and I was deeply saddened by the news of his death. His
integrity, warmth and decency earned him countless friends and admirers, and his
passing leaves a void in the hearts of all those who knew and loved him.
We extend our sincere condolences to his family, in particular his children,
Mark and Linda, and his four grandchildren and all other members of the family.
Hon. Marjory LeBreton (Leader of the Government): Honourable senators,
I rise today to pay tribute to one of our former colleagues, Senator Mark Lorne
Bonnell, who passed away on October 9.
I must tell you, honourable senators, that, on a personal level, when I was
appointed to this place in June 1993, I, like many of my colleagues who were
appointed around that time, was made to feel most unwelcome by the then Liberal
Senator Frith used the occasion to question my legitimacy and that of my
Conservative colleagues. With his unkind words ringing in my ears, I was
approached by Senator Bonnell, welcoming me to the Senate and wishing me well as
I embarked on my new career. I was struck at the time by his extreme kindness.
While I did not know Dr. Bonnell until I was appointed to the Senate, I made
it my business to inform myself of the background of all my Senate colleagues at
the time. I learned that Dr. Bonnell's political career began in 1951, with his
election to Prince Edward Island's provincial legislature. Over the next 20
years, he enjoyed considerable electoral success, winning re-election five more
times. He held several different provincial government posts, including Minister
of Health, Minister of Welfare and Minister of Tourist Development.
In 1971, Dr. Bonnell stepped down from Prince Edward Island's legislative
assembly, but his absence from political life did not last long, because in
November of that same year, Lorne Bonnell was appointed to the Senate of Canada.
As a member of this chamber for the next 27 years, Senator Bonnell represented
the people of Prince Edward Island. In particular, he championed P.E.I.'s potato
producers and he was a strong advocate for the creation of a fixed link between
his province and New Brunswick long before the Confederation Bridge came into
being thanks to the Conservative government of Brian Mulroney.
I was impressed by Senator Bonnell's Special Senate Committee on
Post-Secondary Education, which in 1997 produced a comprehensive report on the
post-secondary education system, including the very first parliamentary review
of the student loan system. He was also a member of the Standing Senate
Committee on Social Affairs, Science and Technology, where I had an opportunity
to work with him on reviews of our legislation and on the committee's study on
the health of our veterans and servicemen and women.
Although he retired from this place in 1998, Senator Bonnell remained an
active figure. In 2001, in recognition of his lifetime of public service, he was
awarded an honorary degree from the University of Prince Edward Island.
On behalf of all Conservative senators, I wish to extend our sincere
condolences to Senator Bonnell's children and grandchildren, and his many
friends and colleagues.
Hon. Lorna Milne: Honourable senators, I have a short, personal
anecdote in respect of Senator Bonnell. He was not only a legend in Prince
Edward Island, he extended a warm, welcoming hand to me when I first came to the
Senate — a brand new senator in this rather strange and rather cold place. We
all know how overwhelming this place can be when you first come up, and you are
almost immediately drowned in a sea of paper.
I was working through such a sea of paper late one night in my office and not
looking forward to a lonely meal in a restaurant when there was a knock on my
office door. It was Senators Derek Lewis and Lorne Bonnell, who said that they
had seen a light under my door and thought that I might be working all alone, so
they invited me to join them for a Chinese meal. I almost trampled them on my
way out the door, I was so grateful for the invitation.
That evening, we shared good conversation and a dry sense of humour, which
Lorne Bonnell had in great measure. That was the first of a series of weekly
get-togethers, mainly with senators from the Atlantic area. I have always
appreciated it very much. I always appreciated Senator Bonnell's warmth, humour
and his kindness to a brand new senator.
Hon. Wilfred P. Moore: Honourable senators, it is with sadness that I
rise to pay tribute to the Honourable Lorne Bonnell, M.D., who passed away on
October 9, 2006, in Charlottetown, Prince Edward Island.
Dr. Bonnell was born on January 4, 1923, in Hopefield, Prince Edward Island.
Educated in medicine at Dalhousie University in Halifax, Nova Scotia, it is said
that he delivered more than 3,000 babies over the course of his medical career.
First elected to the House of Assembly of Prince Edward Island in 1951, he
was returned to office by the wise voters of 4th Kings for the next five
elections — a clear indication of just how hard this man worked on behalf of his
constituents and the people of his province, and how much he was appreciated.
His career in provincial politics was a great success. He served as Minister of
Health, Minister of Welfare, Minister of Tourism Development, Minister
responsible for Housing and as Liberal House Leader.
Appointed to the Senate on October 15, 1971, by the Right Honourable Pierre
Elliott Trudeau, Senator Bonnell, like his colleagues in that Liberal
government, dedicated himself to the public good. His great respect for the
dignity of Canadians and the betterment of their lives would lead him, while
Chair of the Standing Senate Committee on Health, Welfare and Science, to
produce a report in 1981 entitled Child At Risk, which is regarded as a
blueprint for addressing the issues faced by the youth of our country. His
contributions as Chair of the Special Senate Committee on Post-Secondary
Education resulted in the release of a report on the education of our youth that
brought the importance of this issue to the attention of the government of the
day and, on a personal note, inspired much of the work to which I have dedicated
myself in this chamber.
It is with such mixed emotions that I stand here today to pay tribute to a
man who touched so many lives in such a positive way over his 83 years. I am
proud not only to have known the man, but also to have been mentored by him, to
have been his colleague and, most important, to have been able to call him a
friend. All of this is tempered, of course, by the sadness of his passing. My
condolences go to his children, Mark and Linda, and his entire family. As I said
on February 17, 1998, upon the occasion of his retirement from this place,
"Senator Bonnell has done his Island and Canada proud...We shall miss him."
Hon. Elizabeth Hubley: Honourable senators, I am pleased to join in
the tributes to the late Senator Bonnell, a remarkable Islander and a truly
great Canadian. For most people in my province, Senator Bonnell was a living
legend, having accomplished so much during his lifetime in his chosen profession
of medicine and in the realm of politics and government. He was a man of great
energy and purpose with a desire to make a difference in the lives of others.
Senator Bonnell was a member of the cabinet of PEI's former Premier Alex B.
Campbell at a time when Prince Edward Island was undergoing tumultuous social
and economic change. As the then-Minister of Health, he introduced polio
vaccination for children and the pasteurization of milk to prevent tuberculosis.
He served as Minister of Health, Tourism Development, Welfare, and Minister
responsible for Housing during his time in provincial politics.
In 1971, he was appointed by Prime Minister Trudeau to the Senate of Canada.
Over his long and distinguished career in the Senate, he was deputy chair of the
Subcommittee on Veterans Affairs, where he fought to secure pensions for the
widows of veterans and their families. In addition to other committee work, in
1997 Senator Bonnell also chaired the Special Senate Committee on Post-Secondary
Education, an important policy issue that I addressed in my own 2004 inquiry,
with the late senator's encouragement.
Honourable senators, the late senator's biographer, Hesta MacDonald, compared
her subject to an old horse chestnut: a little hard and imposing on the outside
but beautiful and soft on the inside. Senator Bonnell's wisdom, intellect,
unique personality and public spirit will be greatly missed. I join with my
colleagues in expressing sincere condolences to Mark and Linda and to all family
Hon. Terry Stratton: Honourable senators, earlier today, according to
rule 43(3), I submitted written notification to the Clerk of the Senate that I
intended to raise a question of privilege later today. Consequently, I hereby
give oral notice, according to rule 43(7), that at the completion of the Orders
of the Day today, I intend to put before the Senate particulars of what is, I
believe, a contempt of Parliament and constitutes an affront to the privileges
of every senator and of this place.
At the appropriate time, I will prepare and move a motion referring the
matter to the Standing Committee on Rules, Procedures and the Rights of
Hon. Joan Fraser (Deputy Leader of the Opposition): On a point of
The Hon. the Speaker: Points of order should be raised following the
time provided for Question Period.
Senator Fraser: In reading rule 23, points of order may not be raised
during the daily routine of business or the daily Question Period, but we are
not into the daily routine of business yet.
The Hon. the Speaker: If the honourable senator will refer to the
Order Paper, on page 2, "Daily Routine of Business," No. 1, Senators'
Statements. We are under daily routine of business.
Hon. Norman K. Atkins: Honourable senators, we are all aware of the
government's spending cuts that were recently announced. Indeed, Minister
Flaherty stated that these cuts are in line with the priorities of Canadians.
How would he know? Judging by the rapid feedback and outcry, it is clear that
there was little or no consultation.
Almost all jobs in this country require literacy, so it stands to reason that
increased levels of literacy can ultimately decrease unemployment rates. Higher
literacy rates also increase the opportunities open to workers with lower skill
levels. It is clear that Canadian adults who are literate are better able to
maintain their independence and therefore less likely to rely on social
There are already differences in the availability and quality of literacy
programs and services across the country because many are offered at the
community level, where financial capacity varies so greatly from one part of
Canada to another. That suggests a need for better funding to help overcome that
disparity. Cutting literacy programs is, at the very least, short-sighted.
As we all know, tourism is a very important part of our economy in Canada.
Cuts to an agency such as the Canadian Tourism Commission, which promotes
international tourism including many visitors from the United States, and at a
time when the industry is just recovering from the effects of 9/11, will be felt
by people dependent on the tourism industry. This combined with cuts to funding
for our museums, and the decision not to proceed with projects such as the
Portrait Gallery, lessens our ability to appeal to and attract tourists.
Eliminating programs such as the Court Challenges Program inhibits the
ability of minority individuals within Canada who have no other means to make
representation to the court on issues that affect them.
Being fiscally responsible should not affect facilities and programs that
raise education levels and should not destroy tourism, affect minority rights or
affect those who are already at a disadvantage in the employment environment.
Contrary to the government's suggestion otherwise, many of the targeted
programs are currently deemed to be very effective and useful. While I recognize
that budget cuts are always difficult, are budget cuts that affect the most
vulnerable and disadvantaged in our society prudent, especially at a time when
we have a $13.2 billion surplus? Most Canadian families trim their expenses when
their incomes drop. When Canadian families earn more, not only do they try to
pay down their debt, but also they usually invest in the future. This type of
balanced approach would ensure that we can continue to nurture an even brighter
Honourable senators, I believe we all understand the importance of reducing
the debt. However, the government must be careful not to undermine our economic
potential and the potential of Canadians by making changes that cut the heart
out of social and cultural programs. The unintentional outcome of today's
short-term cost savings may, sadly, bring a greater financial burden and a
dimmer future for many Canadians.
Hon. Jerahmiel S. Grafstein: Honourable senators, yesterday I
questioned the wisdom of the Government of Ontario, a region I proudly
represent, with its refusal apparently to increase the minimum wage to $10.
Senator Murray, after my statement, questioned whether the federal government
had an existing minimum wage standard. To my surprise, and I think to his as
well, we discovered that the federal government some years ago had given up the
attempt to establish a minimum guideline for wages across Canada.
I went further into this question. I did not mean to single out my own
province, but I think this would be of interest to senators who represent all
provinces and all regions. I have a short outline of the minimum wages across
Canada for adult workers, as of 2004 — and these are the latest statistics I was
able to find; I will try to update them if I can. The list is as follows:
Alberta, October 1999 to 2004, $5.90 — again, I repeat, $5.90; British Columbia,
as of November 1, 2001, $8; Manitoba, April 2004, $7; New Brunswick, January
2004, $6.20; Newfoundland, November 2, 2002, $6; Northwest Territories, December
2003, $8.25; Nova Scotia, April 2004, $6.50; Prince Edward Island, January 2004,
$6.50; Quebec, May 2004, $7.45; Saskatchewan, November 2002, $6.65; and the
Yukon, $6.20, as of October 1998. We talked about Ontario earlier.
In looking at this, honourable senators — and the Standing Senate Committee
on Banking, Trade and Commerce has examined the question of productivity — I
have been able to discern no satisfactory evidence that raising the minimum wage
to $10 across the country would in any way, shape or form impair either our
productivity or our competitiveness. I encourage honourable senators to give
consideration to this matter and to urge their provincial governments and the
regions they represent to change what I consider to be a very unsatisfactory
failure to salute the working poor of this country who are seeking to educate
their children and to raise them to be contributing members of this country.
The Hon. the Speaker: Before proceeding, I wish to draw to the
attention of honourable senators the presence in the gallery of Mr. Vilhjalmur
Vilhjalmsson, Mayor of Reykjavik, and His Excellency Markus Antonsson, the
Icelandic Ambassador to Canada. They are guests of our colleague, the Honourable
Senator Janis Johnson.
On behalf of all honourable senators, I welcome you to the Senate of Canada.
The Hon. the Speaker: Honourable senators, I have the honour to table,
in both official languages, the report on my trip to Washington in June 2006,
with a Senate delegation.
The Hon. the Speaker: Honourable senators, I have the honour to table,
in both official languages, the annual report for 2005-06 of the Chief Electoral
Officer, pursuant to section 72 of the Privacy Act.
Hon. Tommy Banks: Honourable senators, my question is to the Leader of
the Government in the Senate. Today, the government introduced a clean air bill
with the inference that it will be the first clean air act. In fact, the first
clean air act was introduced by the government of Mr. Trudeau in 1971 and it,
along with other acts, was folded into and streamlined in the context of the
present CEPA, the Canadian Environmental Protection Act. That act has been
subjected to certain challenges, some of which went to the courts.
In its study of CEPA, the Standing Senate Committee on Energy, the
Environment and Natural Resources has been informed by what we regard as expert
legal opinion that the court's decision to uphold the provisions of CEPA and the
capacity of that act to guard Canada's environment depended, in large degree,
upon the fact of the designation of certain substances as toxic.
Honourable senators understand, as do most people familiar with this act,
that "toxic" does not mean that it will kill you. Toxic has a clear and well
understood scientific meaning. However, it is certainly generally harmful to
human life and to other aspects of our ecology.
The proposed legislation, which is called the clean air act, and which, as I
will address later, seems to confuse clean air with certain other ecological
considerations, has the effect of removing, as set out directly in the
proposition, a long list of substances from the list of designated toxic
substances that have heretofore existed in CEPA. I am wondering if the removal
of substances from the list of toxic substances in CEPA is what the government
actually intended to do, and if the government actually believes that in some
way that will further the interests of human health and the Canadian ecology?
Hon. Marjory LeBreton (Leader of the Government): I thank the
honourable senator for his question. As honourable senators know, the Minister
of the Environment and the Minister of Health introduced the proposed clean air
act this morning. This is an approach that this government is taking with regard
to the environment. In many ways, the environment is very much a health issue.
Before I answer the honourable senator's question specifically, it is
important to point out that air quality in Canada has worsened over the past
decade. Canada now ranks 27 out of 29 OECD countries for per capita sulphur
dioxide emissions, and 26 out of 29 for nitrous oxide emissions. Over half of
Canadians live in places where air quality does not meet existing standards.
Smog accounts for 60,000 emergency room visits and 17,000 hospital admissions in
Ontario alone. Air pollution contributed to a fourfold increase in the incidence
of asthma among children over the last 20 years. This is the situation that the
government faces as we try to address the issue of air pollution and greenhouse
The first part of the series of announcements that we will be making about
the initiatives we will be taking was carried out today by Ministers Ambrose and
Clement. I was pleased to see that the Liberal critic in the other place, Mr.
Godfrey, indicated they are prepared to send this bill to committee, something
which I often interpret as agreement in principle with what has been started.
I wish to put on the record that this is the first government to regulate
emissions. We are regulating the auto sector for the first time ever in Canada.
We are proposing tougher new regulations on air pollutants. We are proposing new
regulations to deal with hazardous pollutants from consumer products, such as
paint, ink and spray cans. We will monitor polluters and fine those who do not
meet their targets. We are proposing a solution whereby we would invest the
environment fines in a fund to help clean up the environment.
With regard to toxins, as the honourable senator knows, there was recently a
long list of toxins categorized by the minister. There is no question that this
is a complex issue. Canadians are concerned about the air they breathe, the
water they drink and the toxins that are in their foods.
Senator Banks: I apologize for not having made my question clear. If
this bill passes in its present form, among the 60 substances that will be
removed from the list of toxic substances that until this point have existed in
section 1 of the Canadian Environmental Protection Act are the following:
gaseous ammonia, nitric oxide, nitrogen dioxide, sulphur dioxide, carbon dioxide
and nitrous oxide.
Does the government believe that the removal of those substances from the
list of toxic substances under the Canadian Environmental Protection Act
advances the interests of the ecology of Canada? Is that what the government
Senator LeBreton: Perhaps I did not make my answer clear enough. The
fact is that today we started with the proposed clean air act. In my answer I
indicated that this is the first of a series of announcements we will be making
over the next few months to deal not only with the quality of our air, but also
with the issue of toxins in our food and in the environment, including some of
the products the honourable senator listed. I assure the honourable senator that
over the next few months the next phases of how we intend to deal with products
like this will be announced.
Senator Banks: I thank the leader for that answer. I will be very
interested, as will all senators, I am sure, in following the means by which
removal of toxics from the list of toxic substances will improve things.
The leader mentioned clean air. As I said earlier, it is my impression, and
has been for some time, that this government and its welcome initiatives, as
stated, have to a degree confused clean air with greenhouse gas emissions. The
two are linked only indirectly.
I am sure the leader knows that the committee of this house I presently have
the honour to chair, having succeeded Senator Taylor, who succeeded Senator
Hays, has for decades been extremely critical of the lack of progress and action
by previous governments in effecting the things that ought to have happened
under the CEPA framework legislation. However, with this bill the government
seems to be planning to spend the next year determining a framework for
regulation of greenhouse gases. CEPA is already a framework for the regulation
of greenhouse gases. Following that, the government intends to spend two more
years figuring out the specifics of those regulations. They plan to finalize the
regulations by 2010, if everything stays on schedule. The government will
somehow, by 2020, make those regulations applicable.
Does the government believe, with respect to greenhouse gases in particular —
not clean air, particulates or smog — that 2020 is the earliest time by which
emissions can be controlled?
Senator LeBreton: If the honourable senator looked at the package
released this morning and listened to the media conference of Minister Clement
and Minister Ambrose, he would certainly not come away with any impression other
than we certainly do know the difference between air pollution and greenhouse
The Alberta government has set 2020 as a target year, and that is a very
ambitious date. One of the federal Liberal leadership candidates announced a
target of 2050.
Many initiatives have been taken already. The announcement today is an
important initiative in a long series of initiatives that the government will be
taking. For the first time, this government is serious about addressing all
issues with regard to the environment, including air and water pollution and
greenhouse gas emissions. As I said to the honourable senator, in answer to a
question he posed the other day, it is a pity his own government did not listen
to him and his committee.
Senator Banks: I agree with the leader's last sentence; it is a pity
our government did not do those things. It should have and did not.
Will the Leader of the Government in the Senate confirm that the present
government intends not to impose caps on emissions of greenhouse gases prior to
the year 2020 and that that is represented in the proposed legislation presently
before us, as was said today in the lockup and was said today in the press
conference given by the ministers?
Senator LeBreton: I shall seek clarification on that point and provide
it in a delayed answer.
Hon. Daniel Hays (Leader of the Opposition): Honourable senators, my
question to the Leader of the Government today concerns Canada's Strategic
A controversy has arisen as to whether the President of the Treasury Board is
interfering in matters involving funding of a light rail transit system in
Ottawa. It is not that that I want to ask about.
I understand there are some 10 projects across Canada of this nature. For
instance, among others, there is a $300-million transit project in Toronto, a
$300-million RAV project in Vancouver and $108 million in my own province of
Alberta for the city of Edmonton. I wonder if I will be reading in papers about
the same exchange in terms of what is being characterized here as interference.
I do not think there is a question of the validity of the contract, but
certain information is being disclosed. By any measure, the President of the
Treasury Board has involved himself in a municipal issue. We would be very
sensitive, in my province, if a federal minister were so much in the news
regarding one of our cities.
Can the Leader of the Government advise, with regard to these 10 contracts,
if this is the kind of review and involvement in a municipal issue of this
nature under this program that we can expect from the President of the Treasury
Hon. Marjory LeBreton (Leader of the Government): I thank the
honourable senator for that question. I do not believe the President of the
Treasury Board is inserting himself in municipal politics. As to the particular
issue here in Ottawa, we have three high-profile people running — the incumbent
mayor and two others — and the light rail line has become an issue. There are
some questions about the validity of this proposal. Two of the people running
against the incumbent have questioned it.
Honourable senators, we are talking about $200 million of federal money.
There is conflicting information about the deadline by which the contract would
be required to be signed. I am just going by what I have been reading in the
newspaper accounts. Apparently, there was some view it was October 15 when in
fact it was December 15.
By the way, the President of the Treasury Board has been supported in his
decision by many people polled in Ottawa and by the local newspapers. He simply
feels that because there is significant federal money here, this proposal should
be ratified by the new city council.
I do not believe that Minister Baird has involved himself in the mayoralty
race. He has been on the public record as saying he has taken no position in who
he wants to see as mayor.
Senator Hays: I take it this is a matter of interest for the Treasury
Board such that if this project was in Calgary, hypothetically, or in Edmonton,
he would involve himself in the same way as he has with the City of Ottawa?
Senator LeBreton: The honourable senator said "hypothetically," and
it is hypothetical. I will not answer hypothetical questions. However, this was
a unique circumstance in Ottawa whereby the people involved were questioning the
decision to go ahead with this rail contract without full explanation to the
public. In the interests of fairness, the President of the Treasury Board, when
he realized that there was no danger in delaying the delivery of the $200
million, simply left the matter to be decided by the new council.
Senator Hays: The test is that if it becomes a municipal election
issue and people are expressing different views on it, then the President of the
Treasury Board will involve himself, if I understand the leader's answer, in
Ottawa, at least. If he would not do the same in Edmonton, the question is not
hypothetical. There is a $108 million Canada Strategic Infrastructure Fund
program being made available for light rail transit in Edmonton, although there
is an existing LRT. If the same issue came up at the municipal level as has come
up in Ottawa and Mr. Baird is even-handed in terms of what is under his
jurisdiction, namely this program, then he would involve himself as much in
Edmonton as he would in Ottawa; is that right?
Senator LeBreton: I do not agree with that statement at all. The
question is very simple. The Treasury Board decided to allow the new council to
endorse this proposal. If they endorse it, the money will be forthcoming.
Senator Hays: As people observe in other municipal governments, and
during campaigns these things are bound to come up, it may well be that the
President of the Treasury Board will be asked by one side or the other to
involve himself and say, "Hold this up," because there is an unresolved
matter. In terms of my province, we would resent a federal official involving
himself or herself that way in what is essentially a municipal matter. The
program involves the three orders of government, and neither the federal
government nor the provincial government are involved in the procurement.
Mr. Baird has put a process into question, and he could be asked to do that
anywhere. I think he should have the same role in one city as in another. I am
asking the Leader of the Government whether that is, in fact, the case.
Senator LeBreton: In the case of Ottawa, the funding is one-third,
one-third, one-third. I would imagine and hope that other cities with projects
such as this would be more forthcoming with the public so that there would not
be the concerns that have been expressed specifically here in Ottawa.
Senator Mitchell: It is none of your business.
Senator LeBreton: It is $200 million of Canadian taxpayers' money.
Senator Mercer: People are saying that the agreement is not worth the
paper it is written on.
Senator LeBreton: There are many members of the present Ottawa City
Council, and two credible people are running against the incumbent mayor. There
were significant questions, and no one knew anything about the decisions behind
much of this proposal. It was simply a prudent decision to allow the new council
to ratify or review the decision about the light rail system in Ottawa. When the
members of the new council, who will be elected in a few weeks, agree they want
to proceed with this project, the Treasury Board will be pleased to turn over
the $200 million.
Senator Hays: I will make one last try. I understand what the leader
is saying and what the rationale is, rightly or wrongly. However, my point is
that if the same circumstance existed in another city where we have this
Canadian Strategic Infrastructure Fund — I am asking because as a regional
representative, there are such programs in my province — would the President of
the Treasury Board assume it was his role to do in Edmonton, for example, what
he is doing in Ottawa?
Senator LeBreton: I hope that the people in Edmonton, Calgary,
Vancouver and other cities would be a little more forthcoming with information
and not precipitate this type of situation. Perhaps Senator Eggleton's and
Senator Atkins' candidates for the mayor's job could assist me in answering this
question — I am only joking. They are supporting credible candidates for the
mayor's job who have serious concerns about the lack of openness and
transparency about this particular light rail system in the city of Ottawa.
Hon. Claudette Tardif: Honourable senators, on August 16, 2006, a
website informed the Canadian public that Human Resources and Social Development
Canada was conducting consultations concerning the federal government's role in
post-secondary education. Unfortunately, the Web site that announced the
consultations was not the department's. Rather, it was a blog belonging to Paul
Wells, a Maclean's columnist.
As Mr. Wells stated:
It's insane to have a secret public consultation.
The deadline for submissions was September 8, but few had been informed that
the consultation process had even begun. Furthermore, the HRSDC web page did not
outline the parameters as to who could respond nor provide discussion documents
on the issue to guide feedback.
My question for the minister is this: Given the importance of post-secondary
education, why was the consultation process not extended, better explained and
more widely publicized to university associations and institutions, as well as
Hon. Marjory LeBreton (Leader of the Government): Honourable senators,
I do not read blogs and thus did not read the one written by Paul Wells. The
honourable senator asks a very good question, and I will endeavour to find out
because I do not have an answer for her at the moment.
Senator Tardif: I thank the minister. I look forward to the response
because I know that in many other instances consultation has not been done. I
think of the abolition of the Court Challenges Program in which, once again,
there was no consultation with the communities that were impacted.
Senator LeBreton: As the honourable senator knows, I was part of the
process in looking for savings this summer. We consulted many people during that
process. Obviously, some people who felt they should have been consulted
believed they were not. We were involved in a long consultation.
With respect to the particular question raised by the honourable senator, I
would not think it wise to post the notice and not give an opportunity to
respond. The honourable senator is quite right.
Hon. Joyce Fairbairn: Honourable senators, I have a question again
today. I went back and I read the statement of the Leader of the Government in
the Senate yesterday about the funding that was being offered by the federal
government on literacy. It was not unlike what we had already been doing: It
touched on skills training for immigrant populations; it touched on essential
skills and workplace initiatives from HRDC; it touched on money that is to be
allocated for Aboriginal teaching. The leader threw in some good information on
computers for schools. She also tossed in some special money for Prince Edward
Island and some sector council programming on workplace skills and training. The
foundation of the government's proposals is not so very different from many of
the things we were doing before.
However, the fundamental difference is that the federal government will no
longer partner up with the provinces and the territories on joint programming
taking place on the ground in those areas. That is very different from what we
have been trying to do over the years.
Without the partnership with the provinces and territories, how does one
expect to take on literacy program funding in the future that will actually
create learning for people of all ages who are in difficulty and need that kind
of help? How will the government be able to do that unless they maintain a close
partnership with the provinces? Indeed, the programming that is done on the
ground always has been on a joint basis with the federal government.
Hon. Marjory LeBreton (Leader of the Government): I thank the
honourable senator for her question. I misspoke in my answer yesterday when I
listed all of the projects. I left the impression that those projects were part
of the $81 million. I should have said that the $81 million was in addition to
the amount allocated for the literacy and skills programs that I listed
yesterday. When I read my answer, I realized that it appeared as if I was
listing those figures as part of the $81 million.
With regard to our continuing the relationship with the provinces and the
territories, with the $81 million in hand, Minister Finley will be working
together with her provincial and territorial counterparts on these literacy and
skills programs. I do not think it is fair to assume that somehow or other we
will be running these programs without the cooperation of the provinces and
territories. During the last election, one of the very important planks in our
platform was more cooperation and more work with the provinces and territories.
Hon. Joan Fraser (Deputy Leader of the Opposition): Honourable
senators, my question is for the minister for Montreal and it concerns the new
targeted initiative for older workers, announced this week by the Minister of
Human Resources and Social Development Canada, Ms. Finley.
As we all know, this initiative is intended to help older workers — here in
the Senate, we would not consider them that old — between 50 and 64 years of
age, who have lost their job and are not able to work elsewhere. The purpose of
this initiative is therefore a noble one. The total federal contribution — $70
million, including $19 million for Quebec — is not overwhelming, but it is
better than nothing.
However workers in major metropolitan areas such as Montreal, cannot benefit
from this program. In Montreal, there is a very large group of workers,
especially female workers, who need, almost desperately I would say, such a
program. I am referring to the workers in the textile industry, most of them
women and often immigrants, who tend to have low levels of literacy, I might
They are not capable of functioning particularly well in either of Canada's
official languages, and we know that this is an industry that faces significant
We also have indications that the Government of Quebec would have wished the
details of this program to be other than they are.
The Quebec Minister of Employment and Social Solidarity, Michelle Courchesne,
indicated as much in a scrum earlier this week. She mentioned a certain
uneasiness and said that the program announced by the federal government was not
Can the minister please explain why this large group of vulnerable workers,
who it would seem would be ideally suited for a program like this, will not be
able to benefit from it?
Hon. Michael Fortier (Minister of Public Works and Government Services):
Honourable senators, I will answer the senator's question in two parts.
Regarding the program, as the honourable senator knows, with the plant
closures that are taking place in the forestry and paper industry in Quebec, it
is important to have a program that targets workers in that sector.
With regard to Montreal, I will make two comments. First, the honourable
senator will understand that it is more difficult for someone living in La Tuque
to find work in La Tuque when the town's only sawmill closes than for someone in
the LaSalle district of Montreal, who has other opportunities.
The honourable senator also mentioned the clothing industry.
I am happy to share with the honourable senator that I visited Peerless, the
large suit-manufacturing business in Montreal, which employs 2,600 people on
Boulevard Pie-IX, just east of St. Laurent. The honourable senator should visit
Peerless, because the company is hiring hundreds of people every month. Peerless
is looking for employees.
The reason this type of program does not apply to a large city like Montreal
is because there are other opportunities in Montreal for people of that sector.
Peerless is just one example. This is why the program is designed the way it is.
Senator Fraser: Pie-IX is actually quite a chunk east of St. Laurent.
Of course, I have been there.
Everyone knows that forestry workers desperately need help, and a large
number of those who desperately need help are in Quebec. God forbid that anyone
should begrudge any help that is going to them. It seems to me that the one
should not exclude the other. The Government of Quebec made it plain that it did
not think that the one should exclude the other, and this is a federal-provincial program. Therefore, I ask the minister again: For those workers who
do not get hired by Peerless, or anyone else, why could we not have designed the
program to help them?
Senator Fortier: I believe I answered that question. The reason is
that, in a large city such as Montreal, there are other opportunities for folks
in that age group — 55 to 64 years — in the textile and clothing industry, as
well as opportunities outside that industry. That is the answer. People
understand that. When in Montreal, step out of Westmount and talk to real
people, who will tell the honourable senator that they understand that they can
find employment in other areas of Montreal. Montreal's economy is doing very
well and normal people understand that these policies apply to folks that live
in remote areas where there is only one industry. There is a big difference
between La Tuque and LaSalle.
Senator Fraser: The minister might be interested to know that I do not
live in Westmount.
The Hon. the Speaker: I regret to inform honourable senators that the
time for Question Period has expired.
Hon. Gerald J. Comeau (Deputy Leader of the Government): Honourable
senators, I have the honour of presenting a delayed answer to a question raised
by Senator Carstairs on October 3, 2006 with respect to the comments of the
minister to the International Congress on Care of the Terminally Ill.
(Response to question raised by Hon. Sharon Carstairs on October 3, 2006)
This government, and indeed Minister Clement, is committed to ensuring
quality health care for all Canadians, including palliative and end-of-life
Health Canada provides support for palliative and end-of-life care through
the Secretariat on Palliative and End-of-Life Care. The Secretariat's budget
is determined on a year-by-year basis by allocation from within departmental
resources. The five working groups under the Secretariat are aware that
funding is not ongoing and that there is no pre-set annual budget. In the
past, these resources have supported the palliative care community in the
implementation of national-level improvements to the education of health care
providers, accreditation standards for palliative care, and networks for
palliative care research. As well, the working groups are aware that at the
end of this fiscal year work will carry on but through a new mechanism which
will ensure the engagement of the palliative care community.
This is valuable work and this government looks forward to, and indeed
counts on, continued engagement of the palliative care community, with
available funding. This year, the government continues to support the
Secretariat, along with a range of other health care priorities. For example,
Health Canada is working with the Canadian Virtual Hospice to build an
interactive website to provide one-stop shopping for Canadian palliative and
end-of-life care researchers. This website will make available to researchers
information such as sources of research funding, research methodologies,
research findings, proposal summaries and the like. It will also provide
opportunities for networking among researchers, allow researchers to build on
each others' work, to broaden the scope of work and thus to improve the
capacity in Canada for palliative care research. This work is already under
way with available resources.
Another example is work now getting under way with the Canadian Association
of Schools of Nursing to secure consensus across Canada on specific palliative
care competencies for nurses. These competencies will lead to changes in
nursing curricula, and are key in improving the quality of care provided to
Canadians. This initiative is building on a similar project, also funded by
Health Canada, which will improve the training provided to physicians on
palliative and end-of-life care.
In addition to funding provided through the Secretariat, the federal
government supports palliative and end-of-life care through other means. Other
important initiatives funded by Health Canada include the $1.2M Educating
Future Physicians in Palliative and End-of-Life Care, the $750K Teaching
Interprofessional Collaborative Patient-Centred Practice Through the
Humanities, and the $4.3M Pallium Integrated Care Capacity Building
Initiative. Furthermore, Human Resources and Social Development Canada is
administering Employment Insurance Compassionate Care Benefits which allow
Canadians to take time away from their jobs to care for gravely ill loved
ones. Such federal initiatives are enhancing Canada's capacity to handle
Hon. Colin Kenny: Honourable senators, I have the honour of presenting
a delayed answer to an oral question raised by the Honourable Senator Tkachuk
yesterday with respect to the fourth report of the committee, specifically, the
number of copies of that report that were printed and distributed up to October
(Pursuant to rule 24(3), response to question raised by Hon. David Tkachuk
on October 18, 2006)
MANAGED TURMOIL: The Need to Upgrade Canadian Foreign Aid and Military
Strength to Deal with Massive Change (October 2006)
2,900 reports in English have been printed and 1,679 reports in English
have been distributed. 300 reports in French have been printed and
Hon. Joan Fraser (Deputy Leader of the Opposition): Honourable
senators, this is the point of order that I attempted to raise earlier. When I
rose earlier, I was acting on my perhaps mistaken interpretation of rule 23(6)
of the Rules of the Senate, which says that the Routine of Business shall
be called after Senators' Statements. I took that to mean that the Routine of
Business began after Senators' Statements. If I am in error, I would suggest
that the rules need to be reworked.
The substance of the point of order has to do with the notice of the question
of privilege that Senator Stratton raised earlier. Although all senators are
aware because they have all received the honourable senator's letter and heard
him give notice of question of privilege a few moments ago, they do not know
what it is about. I would suggest, therefore, that this notice of question of
privilege has not been properly devised.
The Rules of the Senate speak clearly to questions of privilege
because, as every authority agrees, questions of privilege are among the most
serious matters that parliamentarians ever have to consider. Essentially, they
have to do with preserving the integrity of Parliament. The Rules of the
Senate, like the authorities, are clear about the need to give timely and
adequate notice that a question of privilege is to be given. In particular, rule
43(7) says that after a senator has given notice in writing — which was sent out
this morning — the senator shall rise during the time provided for consideration
of Senators' Statements for the purpose of giving oral notice of the question of
privilege. Rule 43(7) states:
...for the purpose of giving oral notice of the question of privilege.
I suggest that the Senate has such detailed rules about notice so that
senators may be properly prepared to discuss the question of privilege on the
basis of some knowledge and reflection when it is ultimately brought in
substance before the chamber, which will happen later this day.
Citation 115 of Beauchesne's states:
A question of privilege must be brought to the attention of the House at
the first possible opportunity.
It does not say, "...notice that there will be sometime in the future a
question of privilege," but rather, "a question," which I understand to mean
the substance of the question.
I suggest that our rules are also referring to the substance of the question,
that it is not enough to say to senators, "I will do a bit of a Dance of the
Seven Veils here, and I am telling you now that I will do the dance later on."
Honourable senators, these are not games-playing matters; they are very
serious matters. I have no knowledge at all of what Senator Stratton's question
of privilege may be. I imagine that many senators in this chamber are in the
same position, and for us to consider his question properly, when it is raised,
we need to know. We have not been given that notice.
Hon. Gerald J. Comeau (Deputy Leader of the Government): I am quite
pleased that the honourable senator referred to rule 43(7). I will read the
A Senator having given a notice...shall be recognized during the time
provided for the consideration of "Senators' Statements", for the purpose of
giving oral notice of the question of privilege. In doing so, the Senator
shall indicate that he or she is prepared to move a motion either calling upon
the Senate to take action...
The rule does not in any way refer to the question of the substance of the
motion. The rule states that a senator has orally given notice that he or she
will move a motion.
It is well and good to want to know what the substance of the motion is — and
I empathize with my colleague on that point. If the rules are not clear enough,
or if we wish to have the rules made clearer, by all means, let us refer this to
the Rules Committee and ask that the rules be modified. However, for the time
being, as things stand now, the only requirement is that, having given written
notice, the senator then moves the oral motion during Senators' Statements,
without in any way having to provide the substance of the motion.
Getting back to the honourable senator's point — and I can empathize with
where she is coming from on this — we might want to have the Rules Committee
amplify this rule to read that the substance of the motion should be made part
of the rules, but at the present time it is not part of the rules. Therefore,
this is not a point of order, and I would ask that Your Honour view this as not
being a point of order.
The Hon. the Speaker: Is there further help for the chair?
Hon. Anne C. Cools: Honourable senators, I did not hear most of
Senator Fraser's intervention, but what I did hear is a suggestion that the
rules may be insufficient because they are not specific enough in the meaning of
notice. I should like to say that my understanding of "notice" means precisely
that, that one is giving notice so that individual senators are given notice in
order to be able to know what they are dealing with.
For example, if I were to rise in this place and give a notice of motion, for
the most part, the notice of motion would contain the motion that I would be
asking the Senate to consider. If I were to give a notice of inquiry, the notice
would contain what I am asking the Senate to look at. Granted, some notices are
pretty feeble, but that is a different matter for another day.
If one were to look at a court of law when lawyers engage in a notice of
motion, one would find an extremely detailed account of what the court is being
asked to examine and to wrap their minds around. Notice in a court of law does
not differ from notice in our situation at hand.
I shudder every time I hear people talk about re-doing and re-making the
rules. Dear Lord, when I came to this place 20 years ago, the rule book was 10
per cent the size of what it is now. I do not understand this business of every
day we wake up, someone takes a bottle of instant rules, removes a teaspoon, and
more rules grow.
I am holding the rule book in my hand. These rules are beyond the reach and
knowledge of most senators, so I shudder at the thought of creating more.
Currently there are simply too many rules.
The problem is not the insufficiency in the rules. The problem may be the
insufficiency in some people's minds and their understanding of the principles
of debate, or perhaps in the insufficiency in their understanding of the meaning
of "notice." Notice means that senators and members of the House of Commons
are not to be caught or taken by total surprise. Notice means that there should
be no mystery, for example, as to whether this question of privilege occurred in
the chamber or outside of the chamber.
One must be respectful and understand that any individual senator should not
have to give his or her entire hand away, but there should be at least enough
information in the notice to direct senators who may want to speak to it to know
where to go and look, whether the breach of privilege was in a newspaper article
of today or in a Senate committee this morning or in the proceedings of the
Senate yesterday or wherever.
I am sorry to disagree with Senator Fraser, but it is wrong to suggest that
the rules are insufficient about the meaning of notice of a question of
I do not know how much more the rules have to be spelled out so that people
can understand that debate is a precious thing and should proceed in accordance
with widely held principles. The first principle of justice and of the rule of
law is that persons who are impugned have a right to respond and have a right to
notice that they are being impugned.
This used to be called natural justice. I see many statements coming through
that demonstrate no concern that there is a world outside of our own or that
there are other people here who would like to speak. Perhaps what we need today
is for someone to consult the dictionary to find out what the word "notice"
really means. Perhaps we are becoming that elementary.
I wanted to say to Your Honour that honourable senators are owed some
description of what happened that should be judged a breach of privilege. In the
interests of circumspection, astuteness and political wisdom, perhaps senators
giving the notice should be guarded and sagacious in how they articulate it, but
it cannot be denied that information is required. Neither can it be asserted
that the rules are insufficient and that they do not require information in the
"notice." There is a body of law, which we are bound to, which is not all
recorded in these rules, and there is a body of principles that we have some
duty to uphold, even though they may not be in the rule book.
For example, is there a rule in the Senate rule book that says we should act
in a principled way? I do not know. However, it would be a breach of the rules
to say that there is no rule that says senators must act in accordance with the
In any event, Your Honour, notice means notice. It means that senators
receive notice of what they are being asked to consider and debate. It does not
mean keeping senators in total suspense. As a matter of fact, I would argue that
it does not mean keeping them in any suspense at all.
It is sometimes very difficult to watch us distort our own system. I was
raised to believe that this system of Parliament was the jewel not only of
British constitutionalism but of universal constitutionalism, and I shudder when
I hear statements that, because certain concepts are not spelled out here in
elementary language, that somehow or other they do not exist.
I submit to you that we have a command: We are under oath to Her Majesty to
treat each other and to treat the institution with a very high degree of
respect. The first duty that we have is to treat debate — both our right to
debate and our ability to debate — with a very certain and a very high level of
Hon. Jack Austin: Honourable senators, I would argue in the same
direction taken by Senator Cools. The issue really depends on rule 43(1) and the
reference in that rule to a putative question of privilege. If I understand the
meaning of "putative," it relates to the phrase that deals with "priority
over every other matter before the Senate." In order to determine whether the
question of privilege should take priority, we need to interpret the meaning of
the word "putative," which I would argue requires a disclosure of a general
nature. The chamber can then decide as a matter of process, or in the
circumstances, Your Honour can rule whether there is a putative question.
Hon. Tommy Banks: While Your Honour is looking at this question, which
I am sure you will, I would address your attention to rule 59(10) and ask if
there is, in fact, a conflict between that provision on the one hand and rule
43(7) on the other. I do not know very much about these things, but I think
there might be such a conflict.
Senator Cools: I have one small point, Your Honour. I was not planning
to speak in this debate, but I heard this particular exchange as I walked into
the chamber. One of the reasons that sufficient information must be disclosed in
the notice of a question of privilege is that the rule presupposes that Your
Honour is being asked to make a ruling that there is a prima facie case of
breach of privilege. In other words, Your Honour is not being asked to rule on
the substantive matter, but rather if there is sufficient evidence to be able to
allow the question to take priority over all others and consequently to allow
the senator to move a motion for debate on the substantive motion.
In point of fact, the rules anticipate that the real debate should take place
on that motion. Recently, it has become a habit; in fact, we have adopted an
inferior practice wherein that motion is not debated at all. I would suggest
that when a senator raises a question of privilege asking Your Honour for a
prima facie ruling contained in that senator's speech, there should also be a
notice of the motion that he or she intends to put before the house.
This is a very serious matter that goes to the unity of thought between our
rules on what I would call the entire body of the law of Parliament, the common
law, the laws of equity and the totality of what I would call the entire
The Hon. the Speaker: Let me thank the Honourable Senator Fraser for
raising the point of order. If all honourable senators would look at their
rules, they would see that there is a bit of a contradiction there in the
wording, and so the honourable senator's point is well made on that first part.
I would like to take some time to study the issue because, as Senator Austin
has pointed out, and as all honourable senators have indicated, this is an
important matter. I want it to be the agreement and the understanding of the
house that, should the Speaker take this matter under advisement, everything
would be frozen in time.
As to the timeliness of Senator Stratton's notice on the issue, it would be
understood that he has met the test of time, and that we must deal only with the
issue as to the fullness and adequacy of the notice.
With that, honourable senators, the chair will do its duty to the house and
take the matter under advisement.
Hon. Terry Stratton: Your Honour has taken it under advisement. Does
that mean for a week, a day or an hour?
The Hon. the Speaker: I will move with the fullness of dispatch and we
will try to have something for honourable senators next week when we return.
On a point of order on a different matter, we will hear from the Honourable
Hon. Lowell Murray: Honourable senators, my point of order is on an
entirely different matter. It also is not urgent, but it is a matter that Your
Honour may wish to take under advisement.
I would draw the attention of honourable senators to rule 24(1), Oral
Questions, which states:
24(1) When the Speaker calls the Question Period, a Senator may, without
notice, address an oral question to:
(a) the Leader of the Government in the Senate, if it is a question
relating to public affairs.
— and it is this next paragraph to which I draw your particular attention:
(b) a Senator who is a Minister of the Crown, if it is a question relating
to his ministerial responsibility, ...
Honourable senators, some time ago I heard an honourable senator ask a
question of one or the other of the ministers who were in this chamber in her or
his capacity as a member of the Treasury Board, which, as we know, is a
committee of the cabinet.
On several occasions, and most recently today, an honourable senator rose and
put a question to Senator Fortier, the Minister of Public Works and Government
Services, in his capacity as minister for Montreal. Senator Fortier is Minister
of Public Works and Government Services. That is his constitutional
responsibility, and my contention is that that is the only role in which he is
obliged to or may reply to questions during the oral Question Period. I am aware
that the rule refers to "ministerial responsibility." However, honourable
senators, the fact that Senator Fortier may have some responsibilities for the
Island of Montreal, or that Senator LeBreton may have responsibilities for
eastern Ontario, or that someone may be a chairman of a cabinet committee, does
not come under their portfolio responsibilities.
We are all aware of the circumstances under which Senator Fortier came into
the cabinet. It was so that the Island of Montreal would have a voice at the
cabinet table. However, he is not, I think, authorized to reply to questions in
that capacity any more than Mr. Thompson, the Minister of Veterans Affairs who
is minister for New Brunswick, is authorized to answer questions about New
Brunswick. These are matters within the Prime Minister's purview. Senator
Fortier is responsible to the Prime Minister for his activities in respect of
the Island of Montreal; not to Parliament.
We have had this sort of thing happen in the past. There is plenty of
precedent for appointing senators as cabinet ministers because of a lack of
elected representation from particular areas. Senator Austin was Minister of
State for Social Development in the Trudeau government. It was also understood
that he was there because he is a British Columbia senator. The same is true for
the late Senator Olson from Alberta, who was Minister of State for Economic
Development, and the late Senator Argue from Saskatchewan, who was Minister of
State for the Wheat Board, both provinces not having elected any Liberal
We asked questions routinely of those senators in relation to their portfolio
responsibilities, but there was never any suggestion that we could put questions
to them in their capacity as senators from a particular province.
This is a matter on which Your Honour may wish to hear other senators who may
be able to cite precedents. I am not aware of any, but there may be some. I
simply state that my contention is that Senator Fortier may answer questions in
the oral Question Period only in respect of his duties as Minister of Public
Works and Government Services.
Senator Fraser: The Honourable Senator Murray, as is always the case,
raises an interesting point, but he will not be surprised if I do not quite
I was not around when Senator Olson and other such persons were in office,
and because I did not realize this procedural matter would be raised today, I do
not have the quotations with me. However, we are all aware that when Senator
Fortier was named to this place and to the cabinet, he was publicly and
repeatedly identified as being the minister to represent Montreal. As a
confirmation that this is indeed a serious part of his ministerial
responsibility, I would note that he takes questions about Montreal. We know
that Senator Fortier may not have had the time to study our rule book in great
detail since he arrived. I also note that the Leader of the Government in the
Senate has been properly prudent about which questions should go to Senator
Fortier and which questions should not.
I can recall at least one occasion — I think it is more — when our side
directed a question to Senator Fortier, and the government leader rose to take
it because the question did not relate to either his ministerial
responsibilities for PWGSC or to Montreal. I take that as confirmation that in
this government it is formally the case that the Minister of Public Works is
also the minister for Montreal, to whom questions in this place may properly be
put on matters affecting Montreal.
Senator Comeau: Honourable senators, all we need to do is go back to
the rules. The rules, again, are very explicit. Rule 24(1) states:
When the Speaker calls the Question Period, a Senator may, without notice,
address an oral question to:
(a) the Leader of the Government in the Senate, if it is a question
relating to public affairs,
(b) a Senator who is a Minister of the Crown, if it is a question
relating to his ministerial responsibility...
We do not have ministers for Montreal. We do not have ministers for Nova
Scotia. We have ministers with special duties. They may report to the Prime
Minister on certain issues, but they are ministers and, in the case of our
colleague, Senator Fortier is the Minister of Public Works and that is his
Finally, a question may be asked to a chairman of a committee if it is a
question relating to the activities of that committee. I recall sitting here one
afternoon when the Leader of the Government in the Senate was not present. I sat
through a number of questions that were asked of me and I refused to answer. I
was summarily pilloried and darts were thrown.
Some Hon. Senators: No.
Senator Comeau: Go back to the Hansard and note the adjectives that
were thrown my way on that afternoon. I was not allowed to respond to the
questions because it is not provided for under the rules.
Honourable senators, all we need to do sometimes is go back to the rules and
read them. If we do not like the rules, let us send them to the Rules Committee
and change them to whatever we wish. However, as it stands now, these are the
rules. Let us simply apply them. Again, if we do not like them, we will make
For the time being, the Minister of Public Works is not the minister for
Montreal. He may have special responsibilities to report to the Prime Minister
concerning Montreal, but that is an entirely separate issue.
I would ask Your Honour, in his usual wise and reflective way, to reflect on
these comments. You may wish to remind us all to stick to the rules.
Hon. Wilfred P. Moore: I have listened to the remarks. It may be
useful and instructive for Your Honour to review the text of the official
appointment of this individual so as to ascertain his responsibilities. It may
well say that he is a minister responsible for the province. If that is the
stated public responsibility given to him, then I would think that beyond a
particular portfolio, he is a minister of whatever that responsibility may be.
Senator Murray: Various ministers of the Crown are also chairs of
cabinet committees. May you ask a question of a minister in his capacity as
chairman of the cabinet committee on social development or economics? You may
not. You may ask a question of the President of the Treasury Board because that
is a portfolio.
The idea is that ministers are responsible for their portfolios. When someone
wants to ask a question about the clothing industry in Quebec, alluded to by
Senator Fortier, those questions should be put to the Leader of the Government
in the Senate, who will go to the Minister of Industry or the Minister of Trade,
or the portfolio minister responsible — literally responsible — to Parliament.
The Hon. the Speaker: I wish to thank all honourable senators for
participating in the debate on this point of order. We will study the question
and issue a ruling.
On the Order:
Resuming debate on the inquiry of the Honourable Senator Fairbairn, P.C.,
calling the attention of the Senate to the State of Literacy in Canada, which
will give every Senator in this Chamber the opportunity to speak out on an
issue in our country that is often forgotten.—(Honourable Senator Tkachuk)
Hon. Jim Munson: Honourable senators, today, I wish to add my concerns
about recent cuts in government funding in support of literacy.
To preface his budget cuts on September 25, Treasury Board Minister Baird, in
a joint announcement with Finance Minister Flaherty, said:
We are trimming the fat and refocusing spending on the priorities of
After we saw what was cut, we have an idea of the image of Canada that this
government has. This government thinks programs that help the most vulnerable in
our society are fat that needs to be trimmed. What kind of crazy starvation diet
I know that I am not alone in my outrage and shame. How can programs that
support literacy in adults in Canada be considered fat by this government?
The Conservative government defends itself by saying that it will support
national or federal programs in support of literacy but will not support
regional or local groups working across the country to help millions of
Canadians who have trouble with reading and writing tasks. In essence, the
government is saying, "That is not my department. Go somewhere else if you need
help." That is the response of this government to a problem that has
far-reaching consequences on the lives of individuals, on the welfare of
families and on the future of our country.
How can we tolerate this government abandoning the most vulnerable Canadians,
people who are the least equipped to succeed and to participate in society?
Despite a $13-billion surplus, this Conservative government is saying to the
adult Canadians who have low literacy skills that they do not matter. If they
were not already excluded from much of society because of their lack of literacy
skills, these people would be outraged. The fact is that the people who need
literacy programs are the least likely to be aware of these cuts and call
Stephen Harper's government to account. Many people with low literacy are on the
edges of society, on the outside looking in, wanting to be active participants
in Canada's economy and society. They are less likely to have well-paying jobs.
They are less likely to vote. That is why these cuts are not only mean-spirited
but also cynical and calculated. That is why we honourable senators need to
We here in Ottawa need to remember that Canadians do not care what level of
government provides which service. What they expect is a government that meets
the pressing economic, health and social needs of its citizens. That is what
Here, in Canada, we have built a society based on values such as mutual help
and support. We believe that the government has to be a force for good and show
leadership in helping people get training and find good jobs. With these cuts to
literacy programs, this government is betraying the values that we hold dear.
Literacy is an economic issue because in today's labour market people change
jobs frequently and need to acquire new skills throughout their working lives.
Do not just take my word for it. Let me quote our Minister of Human Resources
and Social Development, the Honourable Diane Finley. On September 8,
International Literacy Day, Minister Finley said the following:
Strong literacy skills are more important than ever in today's
knowledge-based society. Literacy and other essential skills provide a
foundation for skills development and lifelong learning, and can help all
Canadians participate in our economic prosperity and improve their quality of
Statistics Canada says that a 1 per cent rise in literacy scores is
associated with an eventual 2.5 per cent relative rise in labour productivity
and a 1.4 per cent rise in our GDP. By boosting adult literacy levels by just 1
per cent, Canada could generate $18 billion per year. Thus, if we boost support
for literacy, we could more than cover the cost of the cuts the Harper
government just made.
We know that Canada's economy depends on immigration. Literacy skills are one
of the ways we help new arrivals to this country boost their language skills and
assimilate into their new society. Lack of literacy is one of the barriers that
prevent many Aboriginal people from getting better jobs and living healthier
Literacy programs are important to help immigrants and newcomers settle in
their new country. These programs help Aboriginal people seeking training to
find better jobs and lead healthier and happier lives.
Yet, on September 25, this government decided not to continue funding
programs across Canada that were reaching out and providing literacy training in
support of the thousands of adults who need help.
We know that there is a strong link between literacy and success on the job.
The better an individual's literacy skills, the more likely that person is to
have a good, well-paying job. The weaker an individual's literacy skills, the
more likely that person is to have a poor-paying job or no job at all. In fact,
people with low literacy have only two thirds of the incomes of other adults.
The inevitable consequence of this situation is poverty. There is a
connection between literacy and poverty. If we want to tackle poverty, we have
to tackle literacy.
Honourable senators know there is a connection between poverty and poor
health, just as there is a connection between poverty and literacy. Is there a
connection, then, between health and literacy?
People with low literacy skills are more likely to live and work in places
that are unsafe. They are more likely to be under stress. They are more likely
to have long-term health problems. Yet, they are less likely to understand the
complex information that accompanies medication and treatment for such health
problems. They are less likely to have access to information about eating well,
exercising and not smoking. If we want to improve the health of Canadians, we
must improve literacy rates. If we want to promote health, we must promote
It is clear that literacy is linked to many issues that affect the welfare of
our citizens and the future prosperity of our nation. Any cuts to literacy
programs, from my perspective, are incredibly short-sighted.
There is a clear link between literacy levels of parents and their children.
Parents with strong literacy skills are more involved in the education of their
children. Parents with strong literary skills are more likely to read to their
children and to provide opportunities for them to strengthen their literacy
skills. Those parents are partners in education.
Ms. Harper knows the importance of literacy for children. She and Minister
Baird were volunteering with CanWest in a promotion called "Raise a Reader."
To Ms. Harper and Mr. Baird, I say this: To raise a reader, it certainly helps
to be a reader.
If we want to tackle literacy in children, we have to tackle literacy in
adults. If we want a strong future, we have to tackle literacy. Our job,
honourable senators, is to hold this government to account and question such
mean-spirited, short-sighted budget cuts.
If we want to build a strong Canada, we have to train our people and ensure
that all Canadians have the tools they need to succeed. It is incumbent upon us,
honourable senators, to insist that the government reconsider these cutbacks and
provide its most vulnerable citizens with the necessary programs. With a $13-billion surplus, it has no excuse.
We have a $13-billion surplus. The people of Canada have needs that must be
addressed. They are not the fat to be trimmed off a surplus budget. If we are
not using this money for those who need help, what is it good for, honourable
Government is not always about value for money; it is about value for people.
Hon. Gerry St. Germain: The Honourable Senator Munson has put literacy
in question. There is political literacy as well. As a new member of the
Standing Senate Committee on National Security and Defence, and as a result of
e-mails I have been receiving, I would like it on the record that I was assigned
to this committee in early September by my leadership and was advised at the
time that there was a trip being planned to Europe, Dubai, and possibly
Afghanistan. I made certain inquiries at the time regarding the Afghanistan
portion of the trip, because I had commitments that conflicted with the earlier
portion of the trip. The information I received regarding travel in Afghanistan
and my past experience as a military officer resulted in my decision against
participating in this travel.
I believe this committee has done good work in the past and I look forward to
working with the members of it in the future. I am sure that my past actions in
this place indicate that I always attempt to do what my personal judgment
dictates, and I will continue to be guided by these instincts in all of my
decisions, regardless of from whence requests or direction may come.
On motion of Senator Tkachuk, debate adjourned.
On the Order:
Resuming debate on the inquiry of the Honourable Senator Mitchell, calling
the attention of the Senate to issues of importance to the regions in Alberta,
with particular emphasis on Grand Prairie.—(Honourable Senator St. Germain,
Hon. Gerry St. Germain: Honourable senators, I wish to speak on the
inquiry raised by Senator Mitchell last Tuesday concerning Grande Prairie,
Alberta. I welcome every opportunity to join in any debate about Aboriginal
conditions in Canada, the subject about which the honourable senator spoke.
It is important to monitor the progress of Canada's new government as it
works to improve the well-being of the Aboriginal peoples of Canada. In
collaboration with Aboriginal, provincial and territorial partners, the
government is producing real solutions to the issues facing Aboriginal people in
Canada. Honourable senators, the Honourable Jim Prentice, Minister of Indian
Affairs and Northern Development and Federal Interlocutor for Metis and
Non-Status Indians, has taken swift, decisive action on several fronts to help
Aboriginal people attain a better quality of life, both on and off reserves.
The government's approach has focused on enhancing Aboriginal people's
self-reliance through targeted efforts in four areas: First, Canada's government
is directing investments toward housing and education to empower individuals to
take greater control of their lives and futures; second, Canada's government is
working to accelerate land claim settlements; third, Canada's government is
promoting economic development, job training, skills development and
entrepreneurship to open opportunities for people; fourth, Canada's government
is laying the groundwork for responsible self-government by moving towards
modern and accountable government structures.
The federal budget of April 26, 2006 made abundantly clear this government's
commitment to finding real solutions to the challenges facing so many Aboriginal
communities. In total, the budget confirms funding of $3.7 billion for
investments in support of Aboriginal peoples.
Honourable senators will also remember that it was this new government that
approved the Indian Residential School Settlement Agreement in May and launched
the agreement's Advance Payment program.
Among other achievements to date, the government has directly addressed the
very pressing matter of drinking water concerns in First Nations communities.
This comprehensive plan, launched last March, includes a complete remedial plan
for First Nations communities with serious water issues, starting with the 21
communities most at risk. The plan implements a protocol for use by First
Nations community water systems staff with standards for design, construction,
operation, maintenance and monitoring of drinking water systems. In addition, a
three-member panel of experts has conducted Canada-wide public hearings on the
options for establishing a regulatory framework to ensure that safe drinking
water exists. First Nations have been waiting for this kind of decisive action
for a very long time.
Senator Grafstein has been a great advocate of making water safe across this
nation, and I congratulate him for that.
The government has provided a clear commitment to report regularly on
progress. The water situation has been addressed. It is a shame that we let the
situation get to this stage. Administrations in the past were responsible, but
this is now being done, and I must compliment the minister and the government
for this initiative.
In partnership with the First Nations Education Steering Committee, the
Province of British Columbia — my province — and Canada's government have also
made a major breakthrough for First Nations education in Canada. Under an
historic agreement signed in July, Canada and B.C. will strengthen First
Nations' capacity to exercise control over their education systems and
institutions. This agreement will create better learning opportunities for First
Nations students in British Columbia.
The Government of Canada will also continue to focus on accelerating specific
land claims settlements, each of which clears the path to new economic and
social opportunities for Aboriginal people and opens the way to strengthen
governments. Honourable senators, let me be crystal clear: This Minister of
Indian Affairs is acutely aware that land claims settlements are about justice,
respect and reconciliation, and about building a better future for our
Honourable senators will also be interested to know about an issue very much
concerned with justice and building a better future for Aboriginal women and
their children. I refer to the longstanding problem of matrimonial real property
on reserves and the lack of legal protection for Aboriginal women living on
reserve when a marriage breaks down. This highly complex issue has deprived
Aboriginal women of the basic human rights that other Canadians take for
In response to this pressing problem, the Government of Canada, together with
the Assembly of First Nations and the Native Women's Association of Canada,
launched a national consultation process aimed at finding a shared solution to
this issue. Consultations and dialogue sessions are being held in Aboriginal
communities right across the country. In dealing with issues as pressing as
water quality, education, housing and the rights and well-being of Aboriginal
women and children, the government and the Minister of Indian Affairs refused to
make vague promises and gestures. To improve the quality of life of Aboriginal
people in Canada, the government must show tangible results and clear
accountability. That is the course that the Government of Canada will continue
to pursue with the utmost dedication, working with Aboriginal partners to
develop effective, sustainable approaches to tackling the critical challenges of
On the matter of the Asia Pacific Gateway and the corridor initiative that
was raised by our colleague in his inquiry, I will reiterate what was said by
the Prime Minister. The Prime Minister announced federal contributions totalling
$591 million over a dozen Pacific Gateway projects. The goal is to help Canada
capture a larger share of the west coast shipping market. This is not a B.C.
initiative; this is a Canadian initiative. A total of $321 million will be
immediately committed to a variety of infrastructure, transportation, technology
and border security projects in Western Canada which are scheduled to be
completed within four years. This is a massive undertaking, and it is a
collaborative effort involving all levels of government and the private sector.
The private sector firms have committed over $3 billion in related capital
investment to the Asia Pacific Gateway and corridor-related projects between
2004 and 2010.
Container traffic at British Columbia's major commercial ports is expected to
rise to 7 million units annually by 2020, boosting Canada's share of west coast
container traffic from 9 to 14 per cent. Improving our international
transportation and trade links will lead to more business opportunities and jobs
for British Columbians and all Canadians.
Honourable senators, when the Harper government makes a commitment to do
something, Canadians can expect action. The new government does not believe in
making empty promises. The honourable senator from Alberta was unfortunately
misguided in some of his assertions on what has been done on Aboriginal issues,
as well as on the Pacific Gateway project. I am proud to stand here today and
tell you that our government may not be all things to all people, but what we
say is what we do. We deliver on promises, and that is what this whole system is
about. It is about looking after our Aboriginal peoples.
I can assure you, working with Senator Sibbeston and others from this
honourable place, that we will provide the results for our Aboriginal peoples.
It will not be idle, shallow talk. It will be a delivery on our commitment, and
we will make life better for Aboriginal women, Aboriginal children and
Aboriginals as a whole.
Hon. Jerahmiel S. Grafstein: I want to commend the senator for that
wonderful speech. We have heard great talk before, but he has gone one step
further; he has indicated that what this government says is what this government
does. I welcome that, if that is the case, but I would ask the honourable
senator just one question: In terms of measuring the water that will be created
by this new program, will the standard that the Department of Indian Affairs
intends to adopt be that of clean, healthy drinking water?
Senator St. Germain: Honourable senators, I am not current on what
terms of references are drafted as far as the quality of standards that will be
established, but I can assure the honourable senator of one thing: If there is
any doubt as to whether or not the standards will be high enough, I will look
into it; I will personally pursue this matter and get back to the honourable
senator, in order to reassure him or advise him of my findings as to what the
actual standards are. I have every belief, having spoken to the Minister of
Indian Affairs and Northern Development, that the highest standard will be set
and our Aboriginal peoples will be treated like the rest of Canada, if not
Senator Grafstein: That is reassuring, and I appreciate the honourable
senator undertaking to pursue this matter further. Let me conclude by saying
something for his information. There was evidence given previously, and it was
on the record for Senator Banks' committee when they looked at the question of
water. We discovered, to our amazement, that the standard established under the
food and drugs regime guidelines to establish the standards of water across the
country was voluntary and not mandatory. I complained about it in my bill that I
hope to resurrect, but the real issue was that even the voluntary standard was
eight years out of date. I repeat: Eight years out of date. That is not my
evidence; that is the evidence that was presented to the committee by the
We have heard all the wonderful statements that have been made, and I commend
the honourable senator for his energy in re-examining this matter. I would hope
that while he is pursuing it, he would come back and make a statement to this
chamber, indicating exactly what the standard is. If it is a standard under the
Food and Drugs Act, is that standard now up-to-date, because as of several
months ago it was eight years behind. The other point is: Will that standard be
enforced as soon as possible?
Senator St. Germain: Honourable senators, I will do my utmost to
source out the information and get back to the honourable senator and the Senate
as a whole.
Hon. Serge Joyal: Honourable senators, I listened to the honourable
senator with great interest. I want to commend him for his passion and
dedication in standing by the rights of the Aboriginal people of Canada.
The honourable senator has on the Order Paper a bill; it is Bill S-216,
providing for the Crown's recognition of self-governing First Nations of Canada.
Can he inform us of the progress he has been making in the promotion of that
bill with the Minister of Indian Affairs and Northern Development, in the
context of the commitment that he just outlined to us in his speech, and of the
commitment of the minister to promote the conditions and improvements to
self-government of the Aboriginal people? Can the honourable senator tell us
whether his bill is part of the overall objectives of the minister and the
government, so that we can debate his bill in the proper forum in committee and
quickly make the progress that the honourable senator hopes to make?
Senator St. Germain: Honourable senators, I would be presumptuous in
saying that my bill would influence the government or be part of the
government's initiatives, but I fervently hope, and have discussed with the
minister and others, that the bill will be an influence, and that the contents
of the bill could become part of policy, by virtue of the fact that self-governance is an important initiative in the overall well-being of our
I do not think I am speaking out of turn here in saying that I have discussed
this matter with the minister. The status of the bill is that the adjournment of
the debate has been taken by Senator Austin. I have had conversations with
Senator Austin as well with respect to moving the bill forward and, I hope,
getting it to the committee stage. He has indicated to me, and I do not think it
is any secret, that he would like to see more support from the Aboriginal
community. There is huge support in that community, and I think Senator Joyal is
aware of a great deal of the support that exists right across Canada with
respect to this enabling legislation.
For, honourable senators, Bill S-216 is strictly enabling legislation. It is
something that is being put forward that would enable Aboriginal communities
with a land base, and seeking to proceed by way of self-government, to take
control of their own destiny and improve their plight in life. It would mitigate
the costs considerably, as well as the time factor, if this bill was enacted
At the present stage, honourable senators, we are working on specific claims
and an economic review study in the Standing Senate Committee on Aboriginal
Peoples. These two issues, especially the economic development issue, tie right
in with self-governance because there is a clear indication from our studies
that economic prosperity and economic development is directly linked to the
ability of our First Nations to take control of their own destiny by way of
These recommendations are coming through. We are working on specific claims
such as the unjust and fraudulent removal or theft of lands from our Aboriginal
peoples. We are working on this issue at the moment because it will help our
Aboriginal communities economically if these specific claims are resolved.
All of this is tied together. I would urge Senator Joyal and honourable
senators on the other side to encourage Senator Austin to speak to the bill so
that we can proceed with it and get it to committee. I would remind the
honourable senator that the bill has only four days left on the Order Paper. I
have said right from the very beginning that I do not care whose name is on this
bill. I just want our Aboriginal people to be able to enter into a state of
self-government at a reasonable cost and in a reasonable period of time.
This is not something that Aboriginal people are forced into. It is strictly
an option they could enter into. I hope that answers the honourable senator's
I honestly believe that the present minister believes that self-government
is an important factor. He was a member of the Indian Claims Commission for 10
years, so he brings with him a litany of experience in the Aboriginal file.
Since 1982, the Metis have been included in our Constitution, under section
35. The honourable senator was part of that, and I know his commitment is
genuine. Any time I can answer a question for the honourable senator, and other
senators, I am very appreciative.
Hon. Joan Fraser (Deputy Leader of the Opposition): Honourable
senators, I have a very quick comment.
The Hon. the Speaker: You are on Senator St. Germain's time, and his
time has expired.
Senator Fraser: May I have 30 seconds leave?
Senator Prud'homme: I will count them.
Hon. Gerald J. Comeau (Deputy Leader of the Government): Generally,
honourable senators, I imagine that the Leader of the Opposition could speak on
the subject and then adjourn. I imagine that would be one way of doing it. I
give notice that next week I think both caucuses will be looking at the question
of 15 minutes plus. The concept initially of 15 minutes was to have 15 minutes.
We have taken the habit in the last two, three or four years that 15 minutes
means a 15-minute speech plus five minutes of questions and answers. I am, at
this point, giving notice that this matter will be looked at, and it should be
looked at by both caucuses, to determine whether we want to change the rules
again. We keep coming back to the rules not seeming to be adequate. If we want
to change the rules so that speeches will be 20 minutes, let us look at it, but
at least let us look at coming back to these 15-minute speeches.
Having said that, I think the Deputy Leader of the Opposition did want to
have a minute or so to get a point across.
Hon. Marcel Prud'homme: Before Senator Fraser speaks, I know she will
not mind a brief intervention. This might have escaped Senator Comeau, with whom
I like to cooperate, but he said we may come to terms after consultation with
the opposition. I know he is very sensitive to the fact that eight of us are not
part of an official caucus. We may have to look at that, too, Senator Murray and
I and others. In the meantime, I know he did not want to offend us when he said
it was only after consultation with the opposition.
Senator Comeau: That is a good point.
Senator Fraser: I now have two quick comments. First, to Senator
Prud'homme, there has not been any deal on this. The deputy leader and I meet
every day to discuss house business.
Senator Prud'homme: It worried me.
Senator Fraser: We have noticed that it is becoming almost automatic
for people to fill up the whole extra five minutes, and we agreed we would
remind our colleagues that it is not an automatic thing. It is a privilege, and
none of us should be abusing it.
My comment to Senator St. Germain is that Aboriginal people are fortunate to
have such a passionate advocate of their interests in this chamber and in the
government caucus. The honourable senator is not the only advocate, but he
certainly is a very articulate and passionate advocate. I cannot make any
commitments for Senator Austin, but I can undertake not to let this bill die on
the Order Paper.
With that, I would move the adjournment of the debate.
On motion of Senator Fraser, debate adjourned.
On the Order:
Resuming debate on the motion of the Honourable Senator Corbin, seconded by
the Honourable Senator Bryden:
That the Senate should recognize the inalienable right of the first
inhabitants of the land now known as Canada to use their ancestral language to
communicate for any purpose; and
That, to facilitate the expression of this right, the Senate should
immediately take the necessary administrative and technical measures so that
senators wishing to use their ancestral language in this House may do so.—(Honourable
Hon. Gerald J. Comeau (Deputy Leader of the Government): Honourable
senators, to follow up on yesterday's discussion, I checked with my colleagues
in Nova Scotia, and the first heavy snowfall has not yet arrived. However, I
request the consent of the Senate to refer this matter to the Standing Senate
Committee on Rules, Procedures and the Rights of Parliament for further study.
Hon. Eymard G. Corbin: Honourable senators, since this is my motion, I
would prefer that the Senate take a decision here in this chamber, rather than
refer it to the Standing Senate Committee on Rules, Procedures and the Rights of
Parliament. I think it addressed this issue a number of times during the last
session of the previous Parliament. Nevertheless, I would not object and I would
be pleased to support the motion of Senator Comeau.
The Hon. the Speaker: Is it your pleasure, honourable senators, to
adopt the motion?
Hon. Senators: Agreed.
On motion of Senator Comeau, motion referred to the Standing Committee on
Rules, Procedures and the Rights of Parliament.
Hon. Joan Fraser (Deputy Leader of the Opposition), for Senator
Grafstein, pursuant to notice of October 18, 2006, moved:
That, notwithstanding the Order of the Senate adopted on Tuesday, May 2,
2006, the Standing Senate Committee on Banking, Trade and Commerce, which was
authorized to examine and report on issues dealing with interprovincial
barriers to trade, be empowered to extend the date of presenting its final
report from October 31, 2006 to June 29, 2007; and
That the Committee retain until July 31, 2007 all powers necessary to
publicize its findings.
Hon. Gerald J. Comeau (Deputy Leader of the Government): Honourable
senators, this is one of those questions that I am quite sure the Deputy Leader
of the Opposition knows that we from time to time ask. Will this cost us any
more? Does this involve extra cost?
Senator Fraser: To the best of my knowledge, honourable senators, this
does not involve any extra cost. This study has been authorized by the Senate
and will not be completed on time. My understanding is that the committee
actually does hope to conclude its study well before the date stated here of
June 29, but, as a measure of prudence, it is asking for an extension to that
time just in case. We never know. Parliamentary calendars sometimes run away
Hon. Marcel Prud'homme: Honourable senators, I stand for one reason. I
should like to ask a question of the honourable senator, who has been serving
for a long time — since June 1984 — since this is his motion. I should like to
adjourn the debate until next week.
On motion of Senator Prud'homme, debate adjourned.
Hon. Terry Stratton: Honourable senators, I rise on a question of
privilege. Rule 59(10) states that notice is not required for raising a question
The Hon. the Speaker: The house has taken a decision on that matter.
Senator Stratton: I am following rule 59(10) that no notice is
required for a question of privilege. I would like to place my motion.
I move, seconded by the Honourable Senator LeBreton, that the question of
privilege in respect to the misuse of funds allocated by the Senate to the
Standing Senate Committee on National Security and Defence be referred to the
Standing Committee on Rules, Procedures and the Rights of Parliament for
investigation and report.
Hon. Joan Fraser (Deputy Leader of the Opposition): Your Honour, it is
my understanding that the rule to which Senator Stratton has just referred is
designed to refer to immediate matters. It is the only explanation I can find
for the existence of that rule; that is, if a question of privilege were to
arise in the course of proceedings as we speak, I could rise and say that I have
a question of privilege. That is the only explanation I can find for the fact
that rule 59(10) exists, but so do the detailed requirements for notice of
questions of privilege, including written questions of privilege, set out in
rule 43, which runs on through 12 subsections that have to do with timely but
I gather from what Senator Stratton just gave a glimpse of in terms of the
substance of his question of privilege that he is referring to a matter that did
not arise immediately here and now. I would then assume that rule 43 applies,
and as Your Honour has rightly observed, the Senate made a decision about that
earlier this day.
Senator Stratton: I would like to proceed with my motion, if I may. I
will make the argument for it, and then Your Honour can make a judgment
thereafter as to whether it is legitimate, realizing that one of the criteria
for a question of privilege is that it be done immediately. That was done today
right after what transpired with respect to the trip to Dubai by Senator Kenny.
The Hon. the Speaker: Honourable senators, I know the house wants to
deal with this matter in an orderly manner. If a point of order is to be raised
in order that the chair is not misunderstanding the rules, I would be happy to
hear that point of order.
My understanding is that a point of order was raised about the notice that
had been given on a question of privilege, and we heard the arguments. That
matter is under consideration by the chair. The house agreed that everything is
frozen in time. It is Senator Stratton's right to raise this question of
privilege, in which all honourable senators are interested because privilege is
something we all share, so that the timeliness of giving the notice of the
question of privilege is maintained. It is maintained until the chair rules on
the point of order.
As to where we are now, it would be out of order to raise this matter under
any rule. It is the ruling of the chair that we will proceed as we had agreed
earlier in the day. A ruling will come down on whether the notice of the
question of privilege was in order. If it is found to be in order, Senator
Stratton will be not at any disadvantage in the order of time in presenting the
argument as to whether there is a prima facie case.
Hon. Fernand Robichaud: Honourable senators, if you find the ruling to
be in accordance with the Rules of the Senate, we must proceed, but if
not, we can ignore it.
Hon. Daniel Hays (Leader of the Opposition): I want to observe that
His Honour has made a ruling, and the only step that can be taken is to
challenge the ruling. I am not challenging the ruling; I am standing to say that
we either respect the ruling or challenge it. I take my seat so as not to
Senator Robichaud: Honourable senators, I was not seeking to oppose
the ruling; I was merely trying to get the information I lacked.
The Hon. the Speaker: Honourable senators, that is the spirit in which
I accepted the intervention. A decision has been made and will be maintained.
That is the Speaker's decision.
Hon. Gerald J. Comeau (Deputy Leader of the Government): Honourable
senators, with leave of the Senate, and notwithstanding rule 58(1)(h), I move:
That when the Senate adjourns today, it do stand adjourned until Tuesday,
October 24, 2006, at 2 p.m.
The Hon. the Speaker: Honourable senators, is leave granted?
Hon. Senators: Agreed.
Motion agreed to.
The Senate adjourned until Tuesday, October 24, 2006, at 2 p.m.