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Debates of the Senate (Hansard)

1st Session, 39th Parliament,
Volume 143, Issue 44

Wednesday, November 1, 2006
The Honourable Noël A. Kinsella, Speaker


 

THE SENATE

Wednesday, November 1, 2006

The Senate met at 1:30 p.m., the Speaker in the chair.

Prayers.

[Translation]

SENATORS' STATEMENTS

The Honourable Jean Lapointe

Congratulations on Receiving Audio-Visual Preservation Trust of Canada Masterworks Award

Hon. Daniel Hays (Leader of the Opposition): Honourable senators, I would like to bring to your attention the fact that, last week, one of our colleagues, Senator Jean Lapointe, achieved distinction by being selected to receive a Masterworks Award. These awards are given out each year by the Audio-Visual Preservation Trust of Canada.

[English]

The Audio-Visual Preservation Trust of Canada is a partnership between the federal government and the private sector, whose mandate is to promote the preservation of Canada's audiovisual heritage and facilitate access to it. Each year, since the beginning of this decade, the Trust has recognized several culturally significant classics from the archives of the Canadian radio, film and television sound recording industries.

[Translation]

The Trust awarded the Honourable Jean Lapointe this prestigious honour in Toronto on October 26 in recognition of his exceptional contribution to Canada's cultural heritage as the lead actor in the television series Duplessis.

Produced by Radio-Canada in 1977 and aired across Canada in both official languages, the Duplessis television series is a masterwork that brings to life a very important era in contemporary Quebec history. Many commentators have said that Jean Lapointe's brilliant portrayal of Maurice Duplessis is the one that Canadians are most familiar with and that best explains the strong and controversial man who left an indelible mark on his province.

Honourable senators, as an actor, artist, poet, singer-songwriter, troubadour or parliamentarian, Senator Lapointe never ceases to move us and touch us with his many talents, his warmth and his modesty.

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Not only has he brought honour to the world of arts, culture and performance, his presence brings great honour to this institution as well.

I would like to express my sincere congratulations to Senator Lapointe on being selected to receive this prestigious award and I invite all of my colleagues to give him a big round of applause.

[English]

United States Proposal to Hold Live Fire Exercises on Great Lakes

Response by Kingston City Council

Hon. Hugh Segal: Honourable senators, I wish to bring to your attention a resolution passed on October 24 by the council of the Corporation of the City of Kingston with respect to Canada-U.S. relations.

WHEREAS the proposal by the US Coast Guard to conduct live-fire training exercises within designated safety zones on the Great Lakes may constitute a risk to the quality of the City of Kingston's drinking water supply, recreational boating and fishing industries and contribute to the cumulative degradation of the aquatic environment of the Great Lakes;

THEREFORE BE IT RESOLVED THAT City Council direct staff to correspond with the United States Coast Guard, the United States Environmental Protection Agency and Environment Canada expressing our concern over the proposed activity and requesting that exercises not take place until a proper consultation with all affected parties can take place;

— and further —

THAT City Council directs staff to correspond with the appropriate City representatives of the City of Windsor, Ontario and Duluth, Minnesota expressing the City of Kingston's willingness to add our voice to their opposition to the practice of live-fire exercises within the Great Lakes waterways;

— and further —

THAT City Council directs staff to correspond with our Canadian Great Lakes neighbours in Belleville, Quinte West, Gananoque, Brockville, Prescott and Cornwall, informing them of the situation and requesting they join us in voicing concern and opposition to the proposed practice of live-fire exercises.

I wish to put on the record, honourable senators, that the lack of discussion with their Canadian neighbours is a diversion by the Americans from our long history of naval cooperation. It may be within the right of the Americans to initiate these exercises. I believe that the close diplomatic relationship we share should afford us the courtesy of consultation.

The Government of Canada is currently reviewing the environmental and safety impacts of these tests. I hope that testing will not begin after the November 12 date set by the Americans, that our two countries might come to some agreement regarding any impact such exercises might have north of the forty-ninth parallel, and proper consultation will take place on both sides of our common border.

[Translation]

Important Role of Military Families in Military Life

Hon. Lucie Pépin: Honourable senators, as we mentioned yesterday, a contingent of 76 soldiers from Valcartier left Quebec City last Monday, on their way to Afghanistan. These soldiers will join some 3,000 soldiers, sailors and Air Force members who are already serving on missions somewhere around the world.

Our Armed Forces are increasingly called upon more and more to endure very difficult conditions. This situation causes increased stress on Canadian Forces members, as well as on their families, who must now go through even longer periods of separation.

More than ever before, given the dangerous context of the missions, support for the families is extremely important, especially because, without the moral support of their families, our soldiers could not properly carry out their tours of duty. I am sure that all senators are proud of our Canadian Forces members and wish only to demonstrate their pride. Personally, I believe that one of the best ways to back our soldiers is by supporting the partners they have left behind.

[English]

As I have previously stated in this chamber, we recognize that all our soldiers' spouses are heroes, just as our soldiers are heroes. We do not say much about these women when we talk about the Canadian Forces, but they are there always at their spouse's side.

These women are just as dedicated to the Canadian Forces. Their lives, too, are shaped by the military, with its frequent moves and a lifestyle a world apart from that of civilians. These women and their children live in unique circumstances and must often face numerous financial, professional, personal and emotional challenges.

These past years, I have noticed the remarkable courage of military spouses, especially when their partners are on missions overseas. During this period, their days are filled with the anguish of knowing their spouses are facing danger. Without complaint they strive forward beyond the debates, rumours and comments linked to the deployment of their spouses overseas.

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[Translation]

Honourable senators, I invite you to show your support for the spouses and children of our soldiers every time you have the opportunity. There are many ways to help families feel they are not alone. One of the best ways is to tell them how much we appreciate their sacrifice and to let them know we recognize that they do not have an easy life.

Honourable senators, we ask much our troops. In turn, they ask that, during these difficult times, Canadians stand not only behind them, but beside their families.

[English]

Support our troops by supporting military families.

Gainer the Gopher Declared Persona Non Grata in Calgary

Hon. David Tkachuk: Honourable senators, a significant event is taking place on the Prairies. It is so significant that it may do damage to the nation, or to paraphrase Michael Ignatieff, both our nations. The usually confident — some might say cocky, if that word is still politically correct — Albertans, specifically the Calgary Stampeders, are blocking the appearance of the Saskatchewan Roughrider mascot from appearing at McMahon Stadium this weekend.

Yes, Gainer the Gopher will not be allowed to be there for the semi-final game. There is still an investigation going on as to whether he is banned from Calgary, but he is definitely banned from McMahon Stadium.

Some might wonder why this crass discriminatory act is taking place. After all, gophers are not rats, which Alberta has banned for decades, and successfully so.

Judging from the reaction to the number one talk show in Saskatchewan, John Gormley Live, many in our province are deeply concerned that the Albertans may end up banning people from Saskatchewan next.

Where would we find work? This is not a laughing matter. There are those in our province who do not care. Rider's defensive back, Scott Schultz, was quoted as saying: "Gainer does not even wear pants. I would not let him in there, either." That is easy for him to say. He has a job.

This is the hot topic of discussion. Some in the Saskatchewan legislature are speculating that it was a Tory plot engineered by the Prime Minister, who has been rumoured to be beholden to the Alberta football teams, to confuse Gainer with the income trust announcements. Owing to the Prime Minister's edict, of course, no Saskatchewan or Alberta ministers are able to comment on this matter. Ralph Goodale has said that this is all due to greenhouse gases.

Frankly, it is to quiet the thousands of Saskatchewan Roughrider fans who will be in McMahon Stadium this weekend, cheering for the Roughriders. All those Saskatchewan expatriates living in Calgary are still cheering for the green and white. Go, riders, go.

World War I

Ninetieth Anniversary of Battles of the Somme and Beaumont-Hamel

Hon. Elizabeth Hubley: Honourable senators, on July 1, when Canadians were celebrating Canada Day, a delegation of veterans, parliamentarians, government officials and students gathered at a war memorial in France to mark the ninetieth anniversary of tragic and remarkable events in our history. I am speaking about the battles of the Somme and Beaumont-Hamel during the First World War, in which many soldiers of the then-Dominion of Newfoundland and Labrador especially paid the great sacrifice. Of the 801 Newfoundlanders who went into battle on that morning of July 1, 1916, only 68 were able to respond to roll call the following day.

Soldiers from the Canadian corps did not join the fighting until late in the summer, but when they did the carnage was tremendous, and before the main attack had even begun they suffered more than 2,600 casualties.

This summer's ceremony of remembrance took place at the Beaumont-Hamel Newfoundland Memorial. Dignitaries attending the ceremony included the Minister of Veterans Affairs, the Honourable Greg Thompson; Minister of Fisheries and Oceans, the Honourable Loyola Hearn; Newfoundland and Labrador Lietutenant-Governor, His Honour Edward Roberts; Newfoundland and Labrador Premier, the Honourable Danny Williams; Senator Bill Rompkey; and the Canadian Ambassador to France, Mr. Claude Laverdure.

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A small group of veterans also were in attendance to remember and pay homage to their fallen comrades, as well as a group of young Canadians from the provinces and territories. The depth of emotion and mutual understanding between the two groups was great.

Honourable senators, as Canadians we honour and respect our veterans, and as parliamentarians we enact legislation to ensure they have an acceptable quality of life. However, coming face-to-face with their deeds of epic courage, dedication to duty and sacrifice, as we did this summer in France, was an unforgettable experience for me personally. Many tears were shed as words fell short of adequately expressing our feelings and our gratitude.

Literacy Action Day

Hon. Joyce Fairbairn: Honourable senators, over the last few weeks we have had a vigorous exchange in the Senate of views, concerns and hopes on the issue of literacy in Canada. Those discussions will no doubt continue with a view to offering the best possible opportunities to those who need help in learning all across the country.

On November 9, all of us will have an opportunity to meet and hear from those who work with this difficult issue and learners who have benefited from that help in each province and territory as they make their annual visit to Parliament Hill for Literacy Action Day. This day is organized by the Movement for Canadian Literacy and Le Federation canadienne pour l'alphabetisation en français, with the assistance of our other national organizations — Frontier College, Laubach Literacy, ABC Canada, the National Adult Literacy Database, and the newest member, the National Indigenous Literacy Association. Without their support, we would not have a literacy movement on the ground in the cities, towns and villages in every province and territory in Canada.

For the past 13 years, members of Parliament and senators have opened their doors to meet with people from their ridings and provinces who can tell them directly how the movement is doing and what can be done to make it better. Each of us has received an invitation to join in the Literacy Action Day luncheon at noon in room 256-S, where Senator Cochrane and myself will welcome all of you and representatives from each party in the House of Commons. We hope you will participate in a day that is greatly appreciated by all those who work in the literacy community.


[Translation]

ROUTINE PROCEEDINGS

Medical Devices Registry Bill

First Reading

Hon. Mac Harb presented Bill S-221, to establish and maintain a national registry of medical devices.

Bill read first time.

The Hon. the Speaker: Honourable senators, when shall this bill be read the second time?

On motion of Senator Harb, bill placed on the Orders of the Day for second reading two days hence.

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[English]

Canada-United States Inter-Parliamentary Group

Council of State Governments Eastern Regional Conference, July 30-August 2, 2006—Report Tabled

Hon. Jerahmiel S. Grafstein: Honourable senators, I have the honour to table, in both official languages, the report of the Canadian delegation to the Canada-United States Inter-Parliamentary Group respecting its participation at the forty-sixth annual meeting and Regional Policy Forum of the Council of State Governments, Eastern Regional Conference, held in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, from July 30 to August 2, 2006.

Council of State Governments Western Annual Meeting, August 10-13, 2006—Report Tabled

Hon. Jerahmiel S. Grafstein: Honourable senators, I have the honour to table, in both official languages, the report of the Canadian delegation to the Canada-United States Inter-Parliamentary Group respecting its participation at the 2006 annual meeting of the Council of State Governments, West: Alliance with an Altitude, held in Breckenridge, Colorado, from August 10 to 13, 2006.

Meeting of Canadian/American Border Trade Alliance, September 10-12, 2006—Report Tabled

Hon. Jerahmiel S. Grafstein: Honourable senators, I have the honour to table, in both official languages, the report of the Canadian delegation to the Canada-United States Inter-Parliamentary Group respecting its participation at the meeting of Canadian/American Border Trade Alliance—U.S./Canadian Border: A Unified Focus, held in Washington, D.C., from September 10 to 12, 2006.

Legal and Constitutional Affairs

Notice of Motion to Authorize Committee to Refer Documents from Previous Parliaments to Study on Bill S-213

Hon. John G. Bryden: Honourable senators, I give notice that, at the next sitting of the Senate, I will move:

That the papers and evidence received and taken by the Standing Senate Committee on Legal and Constitutional Affairs in relation to:

  • Bill C-15B, An Act to amend the Criminal Code (cruelty to animals and firearms) and the Firearms Act during the First Session of the Thirty-Seventh Parliament;
     
  • Bill C-10, An Act to amend the Criminal Code (cruelty to animals and firearms) and the Firearms Act, and Bill C-10B, Act to amend the Criminal Code (cruelty to animals) during the Second Session of the Thirty-Seventh Parliament;
     
  • Bill C-22, An Act to amend the Criminal Code (cruelty to animals) during the Third Session of the Thirty-Seventh Parliament; and
     
  • Bill S-24, An Act to amend the Criminal Code (cruelty to animals) during the First Session of the Thirty-Eighth Parliament;

be referred to the Committee for its study on Bill S-213, An Act to amend the Criminal Code (cruelty to animals).

[Translation]

Official Languages

Notice of Motion to Authorize Committee to Meet During Sitting of the Senate

Hon. Maria Chaput: Honourable senators, I give notice that, at the next sitting of the Senate, I shall move:

That the Standing Senate Committee on Official Languages have the power to sit on Monday, November 6, 2006 at 4 p.m., even though the Senate may then be sitting, and that rule 95(4) be suspended in relation thereto.


[English]

QUESTION PERIOD

Finance

Income Trusts—Change in Tax Treatment

Hon. Daniel Hays (Leader of the Opposition): Honourable senators, my question is directed to the Leader of the Government in the Senate. Yesterday, the Minister of Finance made an announcement that took me by surprise, and I think all other Canadians, particularly because, in its election platform before the January 23, 2006 election, the Conservative Party made a commitment, which could not be clearer, not to do that.

I have several pages of confirmation, but I will quote only one:

A Conservative government will:

Stop the Liberal attack on retirement savings and preserve income trusts by not imposing any new taxes on them.

So says the Conservative Party of Canada backgrounder entitled, "Security for Seniors," dated September 9, 2005.

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My surprise and disappointment is also reinforced by looking at today's market.

An Hon. Senator: How much did you lose?

Senator Hays: How much did you lose?

The index for income trusts, which was at well over $200 billion, has lost almost $30 billion in value in the last few hours. Because it is an income type instrument, the market is well able to calculate the decreased value of the asset based on the new tax treatment that was announced by the minister yesterday.

My question is this: What has changed between the time the Conservative Party made this commitment to Canadians and the announcement made yesterday?

Hon. Marjory LeBreton (Leader of the Government): I thank Senator Hays for his question.

First, the portion that the honourable senator read from our platform is correct. We were specifically dealing with seniors in our policy platform. Of course, in our platform there was no mention of maintaining a huge benefit on the income trusts for large corporations.

The fact is — and I think it was borne out by watching the markets this morning — the income trusts market is volatile, and we knew it would be. However, other parts of the market are performing strongly.

Minister Flaherty did something that I am sure Minister Goodale in the previous government wanted to do. However, the conflicting signals coming from the Department of Finance caused a situation whereby what he wanted to do and what was done were two different things.

After caucus this morning, I watched a gentleman representing the Canadian Association of Retired Persons on CBC Newsworld. He was well pleased with what the government has done in terms of seniors.

First, anyone in an income trust plan at the moment will have four years in which to handle their portfolios. Second, with regard to income splitting — something for which seniors have been calling for some time — seniors were pleased. As well, they were also pleased with the $1,000 increase in the age credit amount for seniors.

All in all, once people have had a chance to digest this decision, they will realize that this program could not have continued because the program unfairly shifted the tax burden onto the backs of ordinary individual Canadians and their families. We are not in government to create tax havens for large corporations.

Some Hon. Senators: Oh, oh!

Senator Hays: I am sorry, but Canadians would not have put their confidence in a particular instrument that was marketed had they not believed that the government of the day meant in its platform in the last election that it would not change the tax treatment of income trusts. This decision is nothing more than a broken promise.

On the treatment of resource revenues, Premier Williams and Premier Calvert have made their complaints known. That was transformed from a promise into a preference. This decision is a flat-out reversal on a position taken, which I am sure helped the leader's party a great deal in the last election.

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One of the quotes I will read — and I did not see the senior that the honourable senator saw — is from The Globe and Mail today in an article by Brian Laghi.

'I would suggest there is going to be a political backlash when the Tory candidate comes and knocks on the door,' said Sandy McIntyre, senior vice-president of Sentry Select Capital.

They have just elected a Liberal government. I think it matters that much.

What has happened to bring about this reversal, which comes at a great cost to seniors — the ones the honourable senator wants to help? I appreciate that the government is offering some benefits but they do not hold a candle to the $30 billion that disappeared in the last few hours.

Senator LeBreton: Honourable senators, since we are into the business of quoting people, how about I quote from an article by Eric Reguly in the same edition of The Globe and Mail:

Jim Flaherty is exceedingly brave...the man did the right thing.

Or how about Don Drummond, well known to us all, chief economist at the TD Bank, who said on Canada AM:

You can debate the merits of the action, but I think that to come out with a clear statement was absolutely terrifically positive.

Or how about Steven Chase from The Globe and Mail, since the Leader of the Opposition is talking about today's issue of The Globe and Mail:

The Tories are tackling what the Liberals left unfinished last year.

Some Hon. Senators: Hear, hear!

Senator LeBreton: Most Canadian seniors whom I know — and I happen to be one of them — are happy that the government has finally addressed the issue of income splitting. It will help seniors immensely. As most of the economists and observers have stated this morning, this situation was shifting the tax burden, if it were allowed to continue, onto the backs of individual, ordinary, everyday Canadians, seniors included. Seniors who have money in these income trusts, as this gentleman pointed out this morning, need not be alarmed. They have four years to deal with their investments.

This gentleman from the Canadian Association of Retired Persons pointed out that for the seniors he represents, the major announcement, as far as these seniors were concerned yesterday, was the income splitting announcement.

Senator Hays: The major announcement was changing the tax treatment of income trusts and I like my quote better than the honourable leader's.

The question remains: If the government was planning to do something in this area, many alternatives were offered that are less draconian. The government has chosen the most draconian approach with the most awful result for seniors and people who have their savings in these income trusts. These seniors feel betrayed, having been promised that this change would not happen.

Therefore, for the last time, I ask what has happened to make this the policy of the Department of Finance in the face of what was promised and in the face of the other suggestions that would have seen a change in the tax treatment of income trusts? Any change would also have been a broken promise but other alternatives would not have produced this disastrous result.

Senator LeBreton: I do not accept that this result is disastrous at all. The problem, when you cut right down to it, is that the Liberal Party cannot understand how we could announce a major tax measure like this without leaking it all over the place. I think that issue is probably what is bothering the honourable senator more than anything else.

With respect to the matter of seniors, once the market adjusts and we get through today, and there is no question we knew this day would be volatile for the markets, the tax fairness plan for seniors will provide over $1 billion annually to Canadians in new tax relief to Canadian pensioners and seniors through two major initiatives.

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First, we will permit income splitting for pensioners beginning in 2007, and second, we are increasing the age credit amount by $1,000, from $4,066 to $5,066, retroactive to January 1, 2006. These two good measures will significantly enhance the incentives to save and invest for family retirement security.

The Senate

Request for Change to Rules to Make Minister of Public Works and Government Services Accountable for Political Responsibility to Montreal

Hon. Francis Fox: Honourable senators, yesterday the Speaker of the Senate handed down a precedent-based ruling precluding questions being put to the Minister of Public Works on the responsibilities assigned to him by the Prime Minister as minister responsible for Montreal. In view of the fact that one of the main reasons for the appointment of the senator from Montreal to the cabinet was the absence of government representation from Montreal, and given that the Senate is master of its own proceedings, would the Leader of the Government in the Senate support changes or an exception to the rules to allow the minister responsible for Montreal to respond to questions on his Montreal responsibilities, thereby making him accountable?

Hon. Marjory LeBreton (Leader of the Government): As much as I appreciate the assistance of my colleague Senator Fortier — a talented individual whose primary responsibility upon being named to the cabinet was the Department of Public Works, where he is doing an outstanding job — far be it from me, in my relatively new role as Leader of the Government in the Senate, to ever challenge the ruling of a Speaker.

Hon. Dennis Dawson: In 1979, I was in the other place, as we often say, and I remember when Jacques Flynn was in the Senate. He would answer questions. I have to go back to 1979 because when Mr. Flaherty talks, I sort of remember "short-term pain for long-term gain." Is he trying to make Mr. Crosbie look good?

If you Google "Michael Fortier, minister," nine times out of ten "minister for Montreal" will show up. I am asking, as did my friend Senator Fox, whether we can change the rules. If Senator Fortier is the minister responsible for Montreal, we would like to ask him a few questions. I have a few questions on Quebec.

Senator Mercer: We want transparency.

Senator Angus: We want change.

Senator LeBreton: I thank the honourable senator for his question. I certainly remember 1979. Jacques Flynn was the government leader in the Senate during the Clark government.

In the Senate, we have rules and we have a Rules Committee. I am quite certain that the Rules Committee would be happy to hear the honourable senator's submissions. Perhaps he could refer the question to that committee.

In my position as Leader of the Government in the Senate, the rules are the rules, as my father used to say to me, and I am not in a position to change them.

Finance

Income Trusts—Change in Tax Treatment

Hon. Larry W. Campbell: I note that the Leader of the Government in the Senate continually refers to economists when she is looking at the changes to income trusts. I would remind honourable senators that the definition of an economist, including the Prime Minister, is an accountant with a bad personality.

We keep hearing about how these changes will help seniors, or that it was all about the seniors in the last session. I would like to bring to your attention a quotation from Mr. Solberg:

Mr. Speaker, if the finance minister is really so concerned, then why does he not do something about it? Why does he not stand in his place right now and say without equivocation that income trusts are here to stay and he will not implement taxes on them?

There is no mention of seniors; simply that income trusts are here to stay. That was from Mr. Solberg. I wonder what his position is on this matter now?

Hon. Marjory LeBreton (Leader of the Government): I thank the honourable senator for his question. I suppose that is why Minister Solberg is Minister of Citizenship and Immigration and Minister Flaherty is Minister of Finance.

Senator Mercer: Great combination.

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Canadian Wheat Board

Wheat Growers—Proposal for Plebiscite—Removal of Wheat Farmers from Voters List

Hon. Lorna Milne: Honourable senators, my question is to the Leader of the Government in the Senate. On Monday, Minister Strahl released his task force report on the Canadian Wheat Board, which recommended that a plebiscite be held among members on proposed changes to the board's operations. Yesterday, Minister Strahl announced that a vote would be held among the barley growers. For that, I congratulate him. However, barley growers represent only a small proportion of the members of the Canadian Wheat Board. Why not hold a plebiscite among the wheat growers, too? Is Minister Strahl afraid of the results?

Hon. Marjory LeBreton (Leader of the Government): I thank the honourable senator for her question. No, Minister Strahl is not afraid of the results. We campaigned on marketing choice. The barley producers are a specific group and they are ready to go. Minister Strahl supports the plebiscite amongst the barley growers.

As the honourable senator knows, the task force reported to Minister Strahl a few days ago. He is studying their recommendations and making every effort to accommodate all points of view on the matter. At the end of the day, the question is marketing choice.

On the matter of the Wheat Board, I should draw the following to the attention of honourable senators, because members in the other place have also been asking questions about this matter. The House of Commons Standing Committee on Agriculture and Agri-Food report, The Future Role of Government in Agriculture, recommended:

That the board of directors of the Canadian Wheat Board authorize, on a trial basis, a free market for the sale of wheat and barley.

That is recommendation number 14 of this report, which was released in June of 2002. The committee was chaired by Liberal MP Charles Hubbard and included current Liberal MPs Paul Steckle and Mark Eyking. Mr. Steckle is currently the associate agriculture critic.

On this particular issue, there is support for marketing choice not only on this side but also this view is shared by some of the honourable senator's colleagues in the other place.

Senator Milne: I thank the honourable senator for her answer. In fact, honourable senators, the results of any election already have been skewed. The removal of 16,000 grain growers from the voters list for the Canadian Wheat Board was based on improper procedure and on slanted and deeply flawed information. The removal happened after these grain growers had already been informed, back on September 5, that the election was on and that they would be receiving their ballots shortly. The removal was based on their production of grain over two years, 2005 and 2006. For the information of honourable senators, this year's production is still unknown; it is basically zero at this point. Much of this year's grain crop is still on the farm; it has not yet been sold.

Last year, 2005, was a disastrous year for grain growers. Because of the weather, most Western grain growers had to sell their crop as feed grain, which is of such poor quality that it is not handled by the Canadian Wheat Board at all. In order to become reinstated on the voters list, each one of these 16,000 farmers must first apply to the Wheat Board election returning officer for an affidavit form. Second, they must find and pay either a notary public or a lawyer to witness their signature on the affidavit. I remind senators that these are rural people who live perhaps 100 miles from the closest lawyer or notary public. Third, they must send their signed affidavit back to the returning officer.

Is the Leader of the Government in the Senate also aware of how unfairly this government is treating these 16,000 Western farmers? On their behalf, will the Leader of the Government in the Senate ask her fellow cabinet members to take another look at this issue? Will she ask Minister Strahl to call a plebiscite among the wheat farmers?

(1415)

Senator LeBreton: I thank the honourable senator for her question. She is quite right: There are people who are not on the potential voters list for directors elections who, apparently, have not been producing for two years. Their names can be reinstated on the list after they make a statutory declaration that they are currently involved in the grain business.

The Wheat Board is working with an elections coordinator to compile a voters list on the basis of those who have sold and delivered grain to the Wheat Board in the last two crop years. These elections are being conducted by an independent chartered accountancy firm selected by the Wheat Board.

I simply wish to express my confidence that this is a fair process. It is being conducted, as I mentioned, by independent chartered accountants. I believe that anyone who makes the statement and can prove that they are still operating in the industry will have the right to vote.

Agriculture and Agri-Food

Canadian Wheat Board—Wheat Sales to United States—Difference in Rights Between Ontario and Western Farmers

Hon. Leonard J. Gustafson: Honourable senators, for clarification I wish to ask the Leader of the Government in the Senate this question: How is it that the Ontario farmer can sell his wheat to the United States? In fact, 80 per cent of the grain grown in Ontario is presently sold to the United States. A Western farmer cannot do that. Why is it that our farmers should be prohibited from doing that?

Hon. Marjory LeBreton (Leader of the Government): That is one of the reasons why I was interested in the questions posed by Senator Milne, an Ontario senator. The thought crossed my mind that there is no Wheat Board in Ontario, although Ontario does grow a considerable amount of wheat.

Senator Gustafson is quite right: Farmers in Ontario are free to sell their product on the common market. That is exactly what some producers in Western Canada want to do. That is exactly why we campaigned quite openly and fairly prior to the last election on the whole issue of marketing choice.

Senator Bryden: Like income trusts.

Finance

Income Trusts—Canadian Wheat Board—Inconsistency in Policy

Hon. Larry W. Campbell: Honourable senators, I would like to know exactly where the leader is coming from. On the one hand, we are beating back big business with income trusts. On the other hand, we are promoting big business by getting rid of the Wheat Board.

I would ask the Leader of the Government in the Senate to request of her colleagues that they allow independent observers from another country to watch the Wheat Board elections, in order to ensure impartiality. Furthermore, I would ask that they consult with the Chief Electoral Officer to assist in choosing the observers.

Hon. Marjory LeBreton (Leader of the Government): I was raised on a farm, honourable senators. Although we thought we were pretty big, we were not big business.

I simply go back to what I said: Prior to the last election, the government campaigned on marketing choice. That is exactly the option that we want to pursue.

Justice

Abolishment of Law Commission of Canada

Hon. Tommy Banks: Honourable senators, my question is to the Leader of the Government in the Senate. First, I wish to say that the answer given about Minister Solberg is the best answer I have heard for a long time from anybody, anywhere.

My question, however, is on a different subject. I am holding in my hand an act of Parliament called the Law Commission of Canada Act. This is an act of Parliament that was assented to on May 29, 1996, and came into force on April 21, 1997. This is not a resolution, or a motion, or a suggestion: It is an act of Parliament. In the same sense, Moses did not come down from the mountain with 10 suggestions; he came down with Ten Commandments. In a way, this is a commandment. As I understand it, although I may be disabused of this impression, the government executive is a function of Parliament. Parliament is not a function of government. In the case of this act, the government has defied, if I may say, the express will of Parliament. This act of Parliament set into place the Law Commission of Canada, which was up and running and providing a well-known and valuable service to government.

(1420)

Rather than come to Parliament when the government disagrees with the existence of this act and its resulting organization to ask Parliament to reconsider the matter and to rescind the act, which is Parliament's prerogative, it decided to end, not merely reduce, the budget of the Law Commission of Canada. The government seeks to do indirectly something that it may not do directly, and has not even asked to do it directly.

How is it possible that this government has decided to do what it wishes to do, notwithstanding what it may have been obliged to do by an act of Parliament?

Hon. Marjory LeBreton (Leader of the Government): I thank the Honourable Senator Banks for his question. Like many policy areas of government, no matter what the political stripe, there comes a time when such agencies or commissions are no longer relevant or required. The decision of the government in its cost-savings initiative was to not continue funding to the Law Commission of Canada.

In respect of the legality of Parliament rescinding, not pursuing, not following through on or applying a sunset clause to certain acts, I shall obtain the information for the honourable senator in a delayed answer as soon as possible.

Funding for Legal Aid

Hon. Mobina S. B. Jaffer: My question is to the Leader of the Government in the Senate. Will her government commit to restoring the funding for legal aid? When the Minister of Justice met with his provincial counterparts, it is my understanding that no commitment was made to restore the funding. Will the government restore some legal aid funding on a permanent basis?

Hon. Marjory LeBreton (Leader of the Government): I thank the Honourable Senator Jaffer for her question. Our government and the previous government are well aware that the provinces and territories are experiencing considerable pressure in the area of legal aid, for which the federal funding was scheduled to end on March 31, 2006. However, this government decided to extend the existing funding levels for one year. The extension will allow the Government of Canada to work closely with the provincial and territorial officials to develop a long-term approach to legal aid. Many are aware that the problem is not only the money but also the entire structure of the legal aid system, which needs to be looked at by the provinces and territories.

The funding has been extended to March 2007 so that the government can work with the provinces and the territories to develop a long-term approach to a legal aid system.

(1425)

[Translation]

Delayed Answer to Oral Question

Hon. Gerald J. Comeau (Deputy Leader of the Government): Honourable senators, I have the honour of presenting a response to a question raised in the Senate by Senator Rompkey on October 17, 2006, regarding the Fallow Field legislation.

Natural Resources

Proposed Fallow Field Legislation

(Response to question raised by Hon. Bill Rompkey on October 17, 2006)

The Government of Canada is committed to promoting competitive market principles and working to provide investors with long-term stability and transparency, especially with respect to predictable fiscal and regulatory regimes.

We are interested in growing the Atlantic Canada offshore oil and gas industry for the benefit of Canada and the Atlantic region in particular. The Atlantic Canada offshore oil and gas sector makes an important contribution to social and economic well-being of the region.

The Government of Canada has been working closely with our provincial government partners and other stakeholders in a forum called the Atlantic Energy Roundtable in making the Atlantic Canada offshore a more attractive investment opportunity.

The roundtable has proven to be an effective forum for governments, offshore operators, supply and service companies, labour and regulators to discuss issues and opportunities of common interest.

Together, we have brought about significant achievements in the three areas of focus: developing effective and efficient regulatory systems, reducing exploration and development costs, and increasing opportunities for local supply and service companies.

The Government of Canada continues to discuss opportunities and challenges in the Canada-Newfoundland and Labrador offshore area with the provincial government.


ORDERS OF THE DAY

Business of the Senate

Hon. Gerald J. Comeau (Deputy Leader of the Government): Honourable senators, pursuant to rule 27(1), I give notice that, when we proceed to Government Business, the Senate will address the items beginning with Item No. 1, under Reports of Committees, followed by the other items in the order in which they stand on the Order Paper.

[English]

Federal Accountability Bill

Report of Committee—Debate Continued

On the Order:

Resuming debate on the motion of the Honourable Senator Stratton, seconded by the Honourable Senator Comeau, for the adoption of the fourth report of the Standing Senate Committee on Legal and Constitutional Affairs (Bill C-2, providing for conflict of interest rules, restrictions on election financing and measures respecting administrative transparency, oversight and accountability, with amendments and observations), presented in the Senate on October 26, 2006.

Motion in Amendment

Hon. Lorna Milne: Honourable senators, I move:

That the fourth report of the Standing Senate Committee on Legal and Constitutional Affairs be not now adopted but that it be amended at amendment No. 146(a) by adding, in the French version, after the word "Commission," the following:

"ou le renouvellement de son mandat."

The Hon. the Speaker: Honourable senators will recall that amendments by way of a house order can be made, and we will deal with them subsequently.

Senator Cools, on a point of order.

Hon. Anne C. Cools: This is not particularly relevant personally to Senator Milne, but yesterday I noted that the leaders rose in their places and spoke of the agreement to allow amendments to be stacked. That is my recollection. I know that the Senate has done this sort of thing before, particularly at third reading.

My question in respect of my point of order is that this is not the bill per se; this is a report that is before us. Could the leaders or someone explain to me this novel process whereby a Senate committee report will be amended here on the floor? I know it has happened once or twice, but it certainly cannot be described as a practice.

It seems to me, in olden times, if it were the will of the house and of the senators that the committee report was in need of amendment, that report had to go back to the committee to be amended therein.

I am not speaking against Senator Milne's amendment at all. I am just inquiring about the process. Perhaps we could have some sort of clarification on this phenomenon of, willy-nilly, amending a report of a committee here on the floor of the house.

A committee report is the creature of the committee and does involve the committee to a large extent. Maybe there is an explanation. Maybe I am just a dinosaur or maybe this is something from even more distant olden times. Most parliamentary practices are slipping into dissuasion, as they say.

The Hon. the Speaker: I thank the honourable senator for raising that point. Perhaps the chair will be able to bring clarification.

On page 678 of the Journals of the Senate, you will read the order of the house. It says:

... with respect to the debate on the motion for the adoption of the fourth report of the Standing Senate Committee on Legal and Constitutional Affairs, motions in amendment and subamendment be allowed for debate simultaneously without setting aside debate on the motion for the adoption of the report, and, at the conclusion of the debate, all questions be put to dispose of any and all subamendments, amendments and the main motion.

(1430)

Senator Cools: That is not the point.

The Hon. the Speaker: As amendments are made to the report at the end of that debate, there will be a determination by the house as to what that report will look like. If amendments are made to parts of the report that effectively change the shape of the report as far as the bill is concerned, when it gets to third reading we will still have an opportunity to move amendments.

We are at report stage. It is the house order that we proceed this way. It has also now been confirmed by the chair.

Senator Milne: Honourable senators, perhaps in explanation I should say that this amendment is a technical amendment that corrects a mistake in the French translation of the report; it was caught by our Senate legal counsel.

I sincerely hope this discussion is not taking from my time, honourable senators, as I am now pleased to explain some of the amendments that were made in committee to this far-reaching legislation, Bill C-2.

Before I begin my comments in earnest, I want to thank the chair of the Standing Senate Committee on Legal and Constitutional Affairs, the Honourable Senator Oliver, for both his contributions during our investigation into this bill and for his exhibition of grace under pressure. His fair and balanced approach during our meetings was much appreciated and I look forward to working with him and the other members of the committee during future examinations of this government's law and order agenda.

I particularly want to extend both my thanks and my gratitude to the staff of the committee and the Library of Parliament for their extraordinary efforts on this bill.

Honourable senators, this act presented a significant challenge for your committee. Bill C-2 contains 317 legislative clauses spelled out over 214 pages and was the subject of over 100 hours of committee testimony from almost 150 witnesses. During our 30 meetings on this bill, it became increasingly apparent that this legislative project was in dire need of a thorough review, regardless of what was said in the media and by some members in the other place.

The legislation that was brought before your committee amends 45 acts of Parliament. I want to comment on one of the many topics covered in Bill C-2 in which I took a particular interest, the proposed changes to the Access to Information Act.

A number of provisions found in Bill C-2 will expand the coverage of the Access to Information Act to include foundations created under federal statute, Crown corporations and a number of officers of Parliament. I believe this expansion is a good thing. However, after reviewing these provisions, members of your committee believe that there were cases where the balance between Canadians' right to know and what information needs to be withheld for the greater good was not properly struck in Bill C-2. In some cases, the bill does not go far enough.

However, in other cases, honourable senators, this bill, as it was presented to your committee, goes too far and does not protect confidential and commercially sensitive information that has been gathered, in the past, by foundations, Crown corporations and officers of Parliament.

A case that symbolized this argument was the one brought to the attention of your committee by Sustainable Development Technology Canada, SDTC. This entity was created to help bring to the market new technologies that create solutions for clean air, greenhouse gas reductions, clean water and clean soil. Ninety per cent of SDTC's funding recipients are small- and medium-sized enterprises whose future is entirely dependent on SDTC's ability to keep their intellectual property secret until it can be patented.

We found that their organization is similar in nature to Export Development Canada and the Business Development Bank of Canada in that their ability to function is based on handling third-party confidential information. In addition, it was noted that since SDTC's inception, they have had a mechanism established for handling confidentiality, which was stipulated in their original mandate.

Until the introduction of Bill C-2, they had always been able to provide a guarantee that they would not release their clients' confidential information. Therefore, your committee unanimously agreed to provide increased protection to this foundation to ensure the confidentiality of their applicants' information.

However, there was one amendment proposed by SDTC that all committee members could also agree upon, and that amendment concerned the removal of the retrospective and retroactive nature of the Access to Information Act changes in Bill C-2. Before being amended by your committee, Bill C-2 provided access-to-information requesters with access to all the records in their possession held by officers of Parliament and the foundations, once the bill came into force, regardless of how long ago they were obtained or produced, or under what guarantee or expectation of confidentiality.

Therefore, past applicants for financial assistance with one of the listed foundations, for example, would now run the risk of having their information disclosed, even though, at the time their application was submitted, the foundation in question was not subject to the Access to Information Act. Both the Canada Millennium Scholarship Foundation and SDTC commented that they will have great difficulties dealing with this unintended consequence. After hearing these concerns, members of your committee felt that Bill C-2, as proposed, did not go far enough in protecting the rights of applicants who, in the past, have entered into agreement with various foundations and Crown corporations under the condition that their commercially sensitive information remain confidential.

In a similar vein, your committee found that in the first reading version of Bill C-2, there was a provision allowing the head of the National Arts Centre to refuse to disclose documents that would reveal the contract terms of a performer or the identity of a donor who made a donation in confidence. At the committee stage in the other place, this provision was removed.

When the National Arts Centre appeared before your committee, they testified that it is necessary to provide protection against the disclosure of the amount the National Arts Centre pays a director, designer or performer.

Artistic contracts vary based on the size of the venue, the discipline, the size of the role, and the reputation of the artist. As all artists are not paid the same fees, there is a need to keep individual contracts confidential. Many leading artists would not want to perform at the National Arts Centre if this information were to be made public. In addition, if the fees the NAC pays for artists became public, it would seriously undermine the ability of the NAC to secure certain artists and to negotiate fair terms. As well, many donors who provide financial assistance to the National Arts Centre do so under the condition of anonymity. Therefore, it was decided that the clause providing this protection should be reinserted into Bill C-2.

You will recall earlier in my remarks, honourable senators, I noted that this bill, as it was presented to your committee, did not adequately protect information that was gathered by foundations, Crown corporations and officers of Parliament. Unfortunately, members of your committee also found that there were also occasions where this bill goes too far in keeping secret some information that Canadians have a right to know, under the correct circumstances.

When I first reviewed the bill, I was alarmed to learn that 10 new exemptions were added that would effectively limit the information that Canadians could obtain regarding the operation of Crown corporations, boards, agencies and officers of Parliament.

The exemptions outlined in Bill C-2 would remove the present ability of a requester to seek a judicial order to access information requested from any of the following officers of Parliament regarding an investigation or audit: The Auditor General, the Commissioner of Official Languages, the Information Commissioner, the Privacy Commissioner, the Commissioner of Lobbying, the Chief Electoral Officer and the Public Service Integrity Officer.

(1440)

In fact, the only limitation provided in Bill C-2 to this ban is that information being withheld by the Information Commissioner or the Privacy Commissioner during an investigation would be subject to the normal process, commonly referred to as an injury test, once their investigations were concluded. This means that all of the information that would be gathered by all of the other officers of Parliament during the course of an investigation or audit could be kept secret forever, with no possibility for Canadians ever to obtain this information. Even cabinet documents are not kept secret forever, so why should officers of Parliament need to be so secretive?

To my mind, the ability to keep documents secret forever is contrary to the spirit of the Access to Information Act. The former Information Commissioner, during a recent appearance before the Standing Committee on Access to Information, Privacy and Ethics in the other place, noted:

The core purpose of the Access to Information Act is to make governments accountable and to ensure the health of our democracy by enabling citizens to know the real story of what governments are up to and to deter and expose corruption and mismanagement.

Does keeping documents secret forever sound like something that would make governments more accountable and ensure the health of our democracy? I suggest not.

It was with this sentiment in mind that a number of these exemptions were amended so that these officers would retain their ability to withhold information during their investigations, but then that information would be subject to an injury test once their audits and examinations were concluded. This injury test would be based on a determination by the officer of Parliament in question that it is reasonable to expect that some injury, harm or prejudice will occur to the government, to an individual, or to a third party commercial entity, if the information is requested or released.

The Information Commissioner noted in his submission to your committee that officers of Parliament do not need a blanket of secrecy over their work when there are already injury test-based exemptions in the Access to Information Act. The Canadian Bar Association, in their written submission, noted that:

While the underlying concerns about providing access are understandable, the choice of language pertaining to an "investigation, examination or audit" in a number of instances does not seem justifiable, especially in light of the lack of time limits on the exemption. One can understand the need to protect sources in an investigation to encourage full disclosure of information, but it will be in the public interest to obtain information as to how an audit or investigation was conducted, aspects unrelated to the impetus behind such exemptions.

The committee also heard evidence supporting this change from the Public Service Integrity Commissioner, the Canadian Newspaper Association and the Registrar of Official Lobbyists. To my mind, honourable senators, the changes that were proposed during clause-by-clause consideration of this bill will help stem the tide of secrecy that was about to sweep away the right of Canadians to know how their officers of Parliament operate.

A second example where this government fails to prove its case is its attempt to include the Canadian Wheat Board as a government institution subject to the Access to Information Act. The Canadian Wheat Board was not mentioned in the first reading version of Bill C-2 in the other place. The federal accountability act was amended at the committee stage in the other place to make the Canadian Wheat Board subject to the Access to Information Act. In response, the Canadian Wheat Board argued before your committee that it is not a Crown corporation, since their board structure was changed in 1998 so that it would be governed by an independent board where 10 of the 15 directors are elected by farmers, and no government money is involved in their operations.

The act that created the new Canadian Wheat Board specifically states that it is neither an agent of the Crown nor a Crown corporation. The Canadian Wheat Board is accountable to the farmers of Western Canada who sell their grain through the Canadian Wheat Board. Those farmers, not the taxpayers of Canada, pay the corporation's operating costs. They claim to not possess government information, nor is their information under the control of the Government of Canada. Armed with this information, it was felt by your committee that the Canadian Wheat Board should not be subject to the Access to Information Act at this time. I do not wish to speculate here on why the Canadian Wheat Board was included in Bill C-2. However, it does raise an interesting question for future discussion.

At the heart of this balance between the right of Canadians to know and the protection of confidential information collected by government institutions sits the final amendment that I wish to bring to your attention today: The inclusion of a public interest override to the Access to Information Act.

A number of witnesses, including the Canadian Bar Association, the British Columbia Freedom of Information and Privacy Association and the Canadian Newspaper Association, proposed adding a general public interest override for all exemptions. This would authorize the head of the government institution in question to disclose information that is, for any other reason, clearly in the public interest to do so.

The Hon. the Speaker: Honourable senators, Senator Milne's allotted time has expired.

Senator Milne: Honourable senators, I ask for leave to continue my remarks.

Hon. Gerald J. Comeau (Deputy Leader of the Government): We will agree to a five-minute extension.

The Hon. the Speaker: Is it agreed, honourable senators?

Hon. Senators: Agreed.

Senator Milne: Thank you, honourable senators.

These people proposed adding a general public interest override for all exemptions. This would authorize the head of the government institution to disclose information that is, for any other reason, clearly in the public interest to do so.

On this subject, the Canadian Bar Association concluded:

In short, the proposed legislation lacks sufficient definition in the areas of scope and time limits that paradoxically will restrict accountability and transparency in government. The addition of a broad "public interest" override to the Access to Information Act would also assist in ensuring that the legislation does not operate contrary to these goals.

The inclusion of a public interest override builds on the public interest provision already contained within section 20 of the Access to Information Act regarding third party information, and it mimics similar provisions found in the access to information legislation in many provinces.

As you can see, honourable senators, your committee has been clearly focussed during its study of the access to information provisions of Bill C-2 on how to maintain the proper balance between the right of Canadians to know and the protection of private individuals and commercially-sensitive information.

Unfortunately, perhaps due to the wide scope of this legislation, it became apparent during your committee's deliberations that neither the Access to Information Commissioner nor the Privacy Commissioner could have been consulted during the drafting phase of this bill. They both confirmed this fact when they appeared before us.

In conclusion, honourable senators, these amendments are sincerely intended to address this oversight, to improve this bill, to make it actually do what the government has stated time and again is its intent: To open government departments and entities up to public scrutiny.

Finally, they are a sincere attempt to treat both the new entities being brought under the Access to Information Act and their past customers fairly. Entities such as the SDTC and the NAC must be allowed to fulfil their mandate. Past customers have entrusted privileged information to these government bodies under different rules, and that commercially valuable information should be properly protected. It would be a disservice to the people of Canada and to the corporations that have chosen to conduct business here to treat them in any other manner.

I had also wished to comment on the establishment of a public appointments commission. This is a section of the bill that received very little attention, but I feel it is important enough to warrant specific mention. Therefore, I intend to address the provisions creating this commission during the third reading of this bill.

With all of this in mind, honourable senators, I urge you to support these amendments.

(1450)

Hon. A. Raynell Andreychuk: Honourable senators, Senator Milne used the words "the members agreed" and "the members said." With respect, the bill was reported on division. There was unanimous agreement on some amendments, and on some we strongly disagreed.

With regard, in particular, to access to information by the Auditor General, the senator used the term "the members stated and agreed." Would it be fair to interpret that as referring to Liberal senators?

Senator Milne: The honourable senator is quite right. Many of the amendments were passed unanimously. I believe that about six of the proposed amendments were defeated, and the rest were passed by the majority of the committee. One may read into that "the majority of members of the committee."

Senator Andreychuk: There were many sequential amendments. One amendment, which was passed unanimously, led to over 20 very substantive amendments. I did not use the term "technical," because Senator Day did not wish me to use that term. Nonetheless, they were sequential amendments to which we agreed, but they were very substantive. The amendments that Senator Milne quite rightly pointed out today were substantive, and on those we disagreed. Therefore, the term "the members" is somewhat misleading. It includes members of the committee from the governing party, and we would not want to be included in that description.

Senator Milne: Senator Andreychuk is quite right. Many of these amendments are sequential in nature. However, there were substantive amendments proposed by the other side to which we agreed. I still say "the majority of members of the committee."

Senator Cools: On a point of order, honourable senators, it is my understanding of the process that once votes are cast and counted, the end result is a decision of the committee, not of the minority members or of the majority members. At the end, it is the decision of the committee.

Any time a vote is taken on any question in this house, the decision is a decision of the whole house. One cannot say that any decision is passed by a majority. A decision is passed by the committee, or adopted by the committee. It becomes the committee's decision, even if one dislikes it.

Perhaps we should clarify the confusion.

The Hon. the Speaker: We will take that as a clarification.

Hon. Rod A. A. Zimmer: Honourable senators, I rise today in support of the amendments proposed by the Standing Senate Committee on Legal and Constitutional Affairs to the portion of Bill C-2 on the federal accountability act, which deals with political financing.

I was humbled and honoured to be part of the deliberations on this legislation, which will be the boilerplate for political financing for years to come. It is critical that we get this right. I therefore make my remarks today with candour and respect.

Bill C-24, which came into effect in 2003, was the most significant reform of political financing since the Election Expenses Act of 1974, and consequently contained a clause that called for a House of Commons committee to conduct a review "to consider the effects of the provisions of this Act, concerning political financing." According to section 63(1) of Bill C-24, that review would take place after the Chief Electoral Officer submitted his report to the House of Commons following the first general election held under the new financing rules.

Honourable senators, that report was tabled by Mr. Kingsley in September of 2005, and to date no review has been conducted. To now proceed with further changes without having the benefit of that review does not appear to be the most logical way of dealing with such critical elements of our democratic electoral process.

Although we agree that the imposition of certain donation limits may discourage the improper influence of parties, after hearing from a diverse group of stakeholders we have concluded that the maximum amounts proposed for donations by individuals could have unintended negative consequences, particularly for small political parties. Furthermore, we have serious misgivings about the prohibition on political donations by corporations and trade unions for the same reason, and because its constitutionality is questionable.

In his testimony before the committee, Arthur Kroeger, Chair of the Canadian Policy Research Network, an expert in the field of public governance, rightly questioned whether we have hit the right balance between control and being sensible. We have no evidence that abuses are occurring at the current donation limits. Therefore, what justification do we have for curbing freedom of political expression as drastically as is proposed by this bill?

The government did no comparative studies on how the provinces treat political donations. Such a comparison would have revealed that federal contribution limits proposed by Bill C-2 represent a significant downward departure from those imposed by most of the provinces where the vast majority of constituencies are smaller than federal constituencies. Several provinces have absolutely no contribution limits. Those provinces that do have contribution restrictions normally have limits much higher than what is proposed in Bill C-2. The limits in Alberta, for instance, for individuals wishing to contribute to the electoral process within their province during a provincial election would be up to 30 times higher than limits for Canadians wishing to support, during a federal election, the political party that they thought could best represent their interest. It is difficult to justify a measure producing such disparity, particularly when a scheduled federal review of the political financing system is cancelled in order to bring about this result.

Honourable senators, witnesses before the committee and representatives of smaller political parties were concerned that the reduced political contribution limits would severely impair their ability to raise needed campaign funds. Some of the smaller political parties in particular noted that they are dependent upon relatively large contributions from a small number of contributors. Instead of the current $5,000 limit under Bill C-2, Canadians will be permitted to contribute a maximum of only $1,000 to leadership hopefuls as well as to candidates of unregistered parties.

Honourable senators, Will Arlow of the Canadian Action Party described the new limits as punishing and hostile to the small parties. Marvin Glass of the Communist Party of Canada added that the main point is that this makes small parties a self-fulfilling prophecy. He said that the proposals are almost guaranteed to keep them small.

(1500)

We also heard concerns that the proposed limits will be inadequate if the frequency of general elections increases. Professor Errol Mendes of the University of Ottawa's Faculty of Law noted that while several witnesses testified that the average contributions by individuals are under $1,000 in this country, these limits do not seem to take into account the possibility that Canada may move towards more frequent elections due to unstable minority governments. A $1,000 limit today may be totally inadequate in a few years' time.

With respect to donations by corporations and trade unions, only two provinces — Manitoba and Quebec — prohibit them. We have heard from Mr. Pierre Côté, Quebec's Chief Electoral Officer for 20 years, that he and others in Quebec are beginning to question whether the total prohibition on corporate contributions was a good idea. He noted that "financing by the public, or going door to door, is no longer enough to cover the increasingly high costs of election campaigns, especially, the ever-increasing cost of television advertising."

Furthermore, the Supreme Court of Canada has stated in several cases that political contributions are a form of protected expression and can only be subject to reasonable limits, demonstrably justified, in a free and democratic society. The question requiring further analysis is: Can the government show that only a full prohibition will enable it to achieve its objective?

Honourable senators, we have concerns that, if challenged, the prohibition on political contributions by corporations and trade unions may not pass the constitutionality test. We therefore submitted a strong observation on this issue.

Political donations play an important role in our democratic electoral system, and it is important that we ensure a balanced approach, where adherents of all political parties can participate equally. The motivation behind measures to enhance the accountability of government and improve the electoral process should not be motivated by partisan, political considerations, as was suggested by a number of our witnesses.

Professor Leslie Pal of Carleton University testified:

For me, as a matter of democratic practice, one of the most fundamental aspects of democracy is for people to be able to support political parties and other representatives of their political interests.... The political party in power has a better capacity to raise individual donations as compared with its competitors... the introduction of these limits plays well politically. It also plays well strategically to the capacities of the current government.

The committee believes that reductions proposed in this legislation need to be improved, particularly after hearing the virtually unanimous testimony from representatives of smaller parties about the serious harm these limits would do to their ability to participate in the political process. Consequently, the contribution limits to leadership contestants and to candidates of unregistered parties should be decreased to $2,000, instead of to $1,000 as is proposed in Bill C-2. Likewise, the contributions for registered political parties, local constituencies and their candidates should be $2,000.

Honourable senators, we have also recommended that the government reconsider its proposed ban on the already modest amounts unions and corporations may donate at the local constituency level, particularly in view of evidence presented by the smaller parties who, it appears, may be unevenly affected. In light of what we have heard, the committee believes that this total ban on union and corporation contributions needs to be re-examined carefully, in a larger review of political financing that the government should initiate, as was provided for in Bill C-24.

Honourable senators, we did not recommend any changes to the provision that states that the Chief Electoral Officer will appoint returning officers in each of the electoral districts. We feel that this provision in the government's legislation is good.

It is vital to examine this piece of legislation closely and not make dramatic decisions on donation limits so that we do not strangle the democratic process as it affects smaller parties.

We agree that, while it is important to engage the grassroots of all political entities, it is equally important to allow others to partake in the process at a modest level, because political financing is the life-blood of the democratic process in this country.

Honourable senators, the current government is a good example, as its party was able to evolve into its current position from modest beginnings through an amalgamation of two democratic processes. It is important for all of us to have individual communion and to recognize that the strength of our system in this great adventure we call Canada makes the democratic process work.

Historically, parties that eventually become the government of all the people have had humble beginnings and, through an open and transparent way, the democratic process gained power. Honourable senators, it is the Canadian way.

In conclusion, I want to join Senator Day and Senator Stratton in thanking the chair, Senator Oliver, and all other members of the committee from both sides of the chamber for their dedication and commitment to this enormous task. As a rookie senator, I witnessed senators on both sides put aside other responsibilities and engagements, and sacrifice their personal time for the overall good of this important piece of legislation.

Once again, I extend my sincere appreciation to the many others who worked on this legislation, including legal draftspeople, parliamentary counsel, the committee clerk and his team, and all staff members who researched, advised and supported the committee through this historic journey. They were unflinching in their support, particularly through the clause-by-clause adventure, a necessary and vital experience. They were reliable and ensured that our days began on the most productive note. Long after we adjourned for the evening, they were still there, preparing for the next day. To all of them, I offer a heartfelt thank you. Your contribution to this historic legislation has not gone unnoticed.

Finally, to the more than 150 witnesses who made an effort to attend and share their insight, I say "mille fois merci." You have provided an invaluable assistance to this committee in improving this important piece of legislation that will continue to improve the freedoms and lives of Canadians for generations to come.

The Hon. the Speaker pro tempore: Senator Di Nino has a question. Will Senator Zimmer accept a question?

Senator Zimmer: Yes.

Hon. Consiglio Di Nino: Thank you kindly. Let me first say I was not part of the committee. Therefore, my questions may have been covered by witnesses.

The honourable senator gave information about contributions. During the hearings, was there any discussion about the myriad of tax credits, refunds, rebates, tax deductibility, et cetera, available to those who make contributions?

Senator Zimmer: I thank the honourable senator for the question. Yes, there was. We went through a variety of those issues, as far as tax receipts go, and it came up when we discussed convention fees. We looked at exempting convention fees, because in the current existing legislation of Bill C-24, the individuals that crafted the legislation admitted that they made an error in not including in legislation the fees and costs of conventions and also donations to leadership candidates. We looked at making an exemption from that. We decided that would be the wrong way to go because doing so is not open and transparent. Therefore, we added the provision to the first portion of a donation to a registered party. We felt that would be the most open way of doing it.

In addition, a question was raised in the amendments, and it was raised in a way where it talked about convention fees. We discussed the issue in that venue at that point.

Senator Di Nino: That is helpful. My question was a little wider than that. Honourable senators who have been here long enough will know I was one of the few people who applauded Prime Minister Chrétien when he introduced the legislation, because I had suggested for a long time that that legislation was appropriate, and I would have gone even further.

(1510)

The issue really is the perception that the taxpayers of this country are not bearing the cost of running the political system. I do not have a scientific analysis of this point but I had my numbers checked by an accountant. When you add the tax credit, the tax rebates to candidates and to political parties — that is, refunds that they receive after each election — and you add the deductibility of corporations for events that they attend with clients in support of political parties —

The Hon. the Speaker pro tempore: Honourable senators, Senator Zimmer's time is over. Are you asking for more time, Senator Zimmer?

Senator Di Nino: I would just like to complete the question and then I will deal with this matter at another time, if that is in order. Do I have permission to do so?

The Hon. the Speaker pro tempore: Senator Zimmer, are you asking for more time?

Senator Zimmer: Yes, please. I would request more time.

Hon. Joan Fraser (Deputy Leader of the Opposition): Five minutes.

Senator Di Nino: I do not need that long.

My contention is that the perception that taxpayers are not paying for political contributions when they are made by corporations or individuals is incorrect. When you add the amount of money that we give back in tax credits, tax refunds, tax rebates and allowance, I suggest to you that taxpayers are paying for every nickel of the cost of the political system in this country. Will the honourable senator agree with me that we should adjust the rebates and the per-vote allowance? Otherwise, you are increasing the taxpayers' contributions to the political system. Does the honourable senator have an opinion on that?

Senator Zimmer: That is a very interesting proposal. I have not looked in that direction because I have followed the vein of Bill C-24 and Bill C-2. However, that is at the other end of the teeter-totter; it is an interesting aspect. I am not a tax expert in that area but I recently reviewed some legislation. I pulled up some information about that point on the tax credit system in the last few days. I have not explored that, but it is an interesting concept and something which I would enjoy discussing at a future point.

Hon. George Baker: Honourable senators, I will not be as long as 15 minutes. I have just a few words to say concerning this bill. I have been asked to say a few words concerning the section dealing with the Director of Public Prosecutions.

Before I do that, I would like to congratulate the members of the committee. I have spent 30 years in the House of Commons, as you all know, and I was an active committee member. However, I must say that the Senate committees are far more impressive in their manner of carrying on business than are the committees of the House of Commons. Evidence of that is found not just in the senators on the committee. I must congratulate the chair of the committee, Professor Oliver. I am sorry, but I always call him "professor" because we had a page here recently whose mother and father were both taught at law school by Senator Oliver. One of them ended up being a minister of justice and the other one a director of prosecutions, so Senator Oliver must have been a fairly good professor.

Members of the committee representing the government side with their leader, Senator Stratton, and the Liberal side as well did a commendable job in a minority situation.

Also, honourable senators, I wish to point out that we heard from some witnesses who were not heard in the House of Commons committee; for example, the Canadian Bar Association. Can you imagine passing a bill as complicated as this — one that changes the law so dramatically — and the Canadian Bar Association is not heard in the House of Commons? That is not so strange, though, because that has happened in the past. The Canadian Bar Association said, "We sent along a few comments but, because that committee was in such a rush, we could not make their schedule." This is the Canadian Bar Association. The amendments that arose from that committee hearing were all suggested by the witnesses. Honourable senators, I can tell you that for a fact.

I have been asked to speak today on the Director of Public Prosecutions. When I looked at that section of the bill, the first thing that came to my mind was: Here is the Americanization of the Canadian system of justice. That is the first thing that came to my mind. I went to that committee looking at the section that said the Director of Public Prosecutions could initiate a prosecution. What does "initiate" mean? In other sections it was "institute prosecutions". What does "institute" mean? The witnesses all said that there is no precedent for this language. There is such a thing as "commence proceedings" in section 2 of the Criminal Code for the Attorney General, but that is not to "institute proceedings."

When the specific bills were looked at in Bill C-2, it was discovered that under the Elections Act, what does "institute" mean? By law, the Director of Public Prosecutions makes the decision on whether or not charges will be laid. The Director of Public Prosecutions, and only the director, can make the decision on whether or not to lay a charge. The Director of Public Prosecutions then assumes the prosecution after the charge is laid and carries out the prosecution.

We had the Donald Marshal inquiry into a wrongful conviction of first degree murder in Nova Scotia, and we had a commission of inquiry into the wrongful conviction of three persons on first degree murder in Newfoundland. Imagine the gentleman being in jail for several years and then discovering that someone else admits to the crime. Those commissions of inquiry were headed first by T. Alex Hickman, former Chief Justice of Newfoundland and a good friend of Senator Furey's — I remember him well — and John Crosbie. I was the Clerk of the Newfoundland legislature and I taught them parliamentary procedure back in the early 1960s.

When they conducted their commissions of inquiry, I read them very carefully. I also read the Newfoundland commission of inquiry into wrongful convictions very carefully. They both came to the same conclusion about one fact, and that is that a public prosecutor, a Crown solicitor, a Crown attorney, should not become too closely associated with an investigation and the laying of charges because it removes from the Canadian system of justice what is called that objective, hard second look that is made by a Crown prosecutor when they receive a case on which the police have charged, and they look at it again to determine whether they should proceed, and how. Should it be first degree murder or second degree murder, or should it be something less, or should they stay the charge? That is part of the Canadian system of justice.

I was reading Justice Binnie 2002, in R v. Regan. That is the way Justice Binnie defined it, and that is the way all the justices of the Supreme Court of Canada identify that crucial hard, second look. The Americans do not have that system in the United States. They have something else called the fifth, which means that they do not have to answer a question. We do not have that in Canada. You must answer a question in Canada, but we have other protections. This is one of them, as the Supreme Court of Canada has pointed out; that second look that a Crown prosecutor takes. I read this bill and said, "Oops, what is this? This is an Americanization. I will move that this entire section be taken out."

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Honourable senators, I did not do that, and I will tell you why. The honourable senator is saying, "shame," but perhaps a court in the future will say that this violates the Charter and takes away something that we have in our system. That might happen. What did we do in the committee? We heard from the Right Honourable Antonio Lamer, former Chief Justice of the Supreme Court of Canada. He said that there is nothing wrong with the system in this bill. Is that right, Senator Stratton? Is that right, Mr. Chairman? The committee heard from the Deputy Minister of Justice, John Sims, that great author from Manitoba, who said that there is nothing wrong with this bill. We heard from two justices from courts of appeal, one from British Columbia and one from Ontario, who said nothing was wrong with this bill. What clinched it for me to not do anything about it was a comment by the Chairman of the Criminal Lawyers Defence Association of the Canadian Bar Association. He said that they could not find anything wrong with it. Honourable senators, the point is that the changes made in the bill came from the suggestions and recommendations made by the witnesses and vetted through the Senate committee.

Another thing jumped out at me when I read this: five- to ten-year delays are found in four pieces of legislation. Do honourable senators know that under Bill C-2, a cabinet minister could be found guilty of breaking the law but the commissioner need not charge him for five years? Three bills use the words, "summary offence" and the fourth one uses "administrative law." It can be as long as five years before the laying of a charge is necessary by the commissioner. In the Criminal Code, what does it say about summary conviction offences? It is six months for all other Canadians. Former Chief Justice Lamer said that, under the Criminal Code, it is six months. What is five years doing in this bill?

There was another provision in the bill that would allow them to wait ten years from the moment an offence took place until the laying of a charge for a summary conviction offence. For example, an election worker three elections ago could be charged ten years after the fact with a minor offence. Imagine that. Memories fade and people fade. You cannot lay charges for summary conviction offences ten years after the fact.

The committee looked at the issue and decided to be consistent. There are a couple of laws in Canada, such as the Fisheries Act, the Environment Act and a section on deleterious substances in rivers, whereby there is a two-year period before a charge needs to be laid so that scientists have time to identify the substance in their laboratory. That was the excuse for the two years delay in laying charges for a summary conviction offence.

This bill says five years. We suggested reducing it to two years. Senator Nolin is not in the chamber but I am sure he would have raised this point if I had not done so. The Department of Justice said that there are two precedents for this delay. They are in the Old Age Security Act. I looked at the Old Age Security Act and searched for the reason for bringing in the delay. It was there because very old persons also in receipt of Canada Pension Disability might have made an error, and officials wanted five years to determine whether they should lay charges. No case has ever been litigated and yet the Government of Canada, with the five-year inclusion, was saying: You give us this old age security section to protect our cabinet ministers. That was the reality. The committee changed it, not back to six months but back to two years in the four sections that were changed, and five years being the extension in which a charge must be laid under that section.

Objectively, all of the amendments were made after the committee heard from the witnesses. I commend all senators on the Legal Committee. It was a real experience. Every committee member deserves our congratulations.

Hon. Terry Stratton: I would ask the honourable senator if he would take a question?

Senator Baker: Yes.

Senator Stratton: With respect to the five-year delay, as the honourable senator well knows and as Mr. Joe Wild, attorney for the Treasury Board, put quite clearly, some events relating to the Geometry inquiry go back to 1995. All of the mentions of delay are linked to those activities examined by the commission. The time frame is five years after the discovery of the event. Once one discovers the event or the malfeasance or whatever, one may need to take five years to develop and research the case efficiently. Thereafter, one has an additional five years to lay a charge. That is the intent of this bill, as a result of the complications in Geometry that led to the five and the ten years. Does the honourable senator have a response?

Senator Baker: Certainly, I have a comment. The Chief Electoral Officer was the first witness to appear before the committee. The first question asked by me was: Do you intend to go back and lay any charges in connection with the Geometry inquiry or the findings of the commission? Senator Stratton will agree, I am sure, that Mr. Kingsley said, no.

Senator Stratton: Do not put words in my mouth.

Senator Baker: He said, no, he would not do it. He went outside the room and said to the media that he did not intend to do that.

I know the subject of five-year and ten-year periods fairly well because I read about all the relevant reported cases. I subscribe to Quicklaw and Westlaw Carswell, and have read every case pertaining to the two-year period, but there are no cases pertaining to the five-year period. The Supreme Court of Canada in R.B. Gateway described exactly what was in the law.

The five and ten means exactly this: From the time the commissioner is aware that an offence has been created, he or she has five years to lay a charge. However, the time from the time the offence took place until the laying of the charge shall not exceed ten years. The point is: a commissioner who looks at conflict of interest and is aware that an offence has taken place does not need five years to accumulate more evidence if they know the offence has taken place. They do not need to go into a laboratory to examine the chemical substance, and they do not need to consult with senior citizens.

Senator Fraser: Would Senator Baker accept another question?

The Hon. the Speaker pro tempore: Honourable senators, I advise that Senator Baker's time has expired. Is the honourable senator asking for leave to continue?

Senator Baker: Yes.

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The Hon. the Speaker pro tempore: Is there an agreement on more time? Five minutes?

Hon. Senators: Agreed.

Senator Fraser: My question will not take that long and I doubt that the answer will.

I listened with fascination to the legal precedents and whatnot that have been cited, but not being a lawyer, I am a little lost. However, in my non-lawyer's mind, one principle that has become embedded is that justice delayed is justice denied. It seems to me that a stretch of 10 years for what might have been, in the beginning, a truly minor offence, would — does the honourable senator see where I am going, and do I have a point here?

Senator Baker: Absolutely, the honourable senator has an excellent point. For example, it is just like getting off a bus and bumping into someone on the sidewalk, but not realizing you bumped into someone. Then, a few years later, that person finds out you are a senator and decides to charge you with common assault.

If you touch someone, that is common assault. You could be assaulted by words under the definition of common assault. That would be a hybrid offence, which is summary conviction if they would not make it indictable; indictable is forever, but summary conviction is six months.

The honourable senator makes an excellent point. It is a denial of what is called, quite simply, fairness. Many things break down into fairness. You read the case law — should a search warrant be thrown out? Should the evidence be dismissed under section 24(2) of the Charter? Should it be excluded, if it goes to the fairness of trial? That means exclusion, in simple terms.

The honourable senator is absolutely right. Memories fade. You do not know who the witnesses were 10 years ago.

An excellent example is R. v. Nunziata. John Nunziata was running for the mayoralty of Toronto and in the middle of his campaign, he was charged with a violation of the Elections Act — he and his official agent. The judge started his judgment by saying, It is unfortunate that something that happened two elections ago, which Mr. Nunziata is pleading innocent to, should come to haunt him in the middle of a mayoralty contest.

He was judged to be not guilty. When you read the reasoning of the judge, it talks about the passage of time and how that passage of time is contrary to the Charter. In this bill, we are looking at a 10-year time period and completely disregarding what was in law recognized as being unfair and violating the Charter — in fact, it is section 7 — so the honourable senator is absolutely right; it is fundamental justice.

On motion of Senator Campbell, debate adjourned.

Constitution Act, 1867

Bill to Amend—Second Reading—Debate Continued

On the Order:

Resuming debate on the motion of the Honourable Senator LeBreton, P.C., seconded by the Honourable Senator Comeau, for the second reading of Bill S-4, to amend the Constitution Act, 1867 (Senate tenure).

Hon. W. David Angus: Honourable senators, I rise today to join the debate at second reading of Bill S-4, to amend the Constitution Act, 1867, on Senate tenure.

It is my genuine belief, honourable senators, that we all recognize in our hearts of hearts that this fine institution, the Senate of Canada, requires revision and renewal so that its structure is once again appropriate to the contemporary state of our Canadian democracy, and is responsive to the needs of an effectively functioning parliamentary system accountable to and in the best interests of all Canadians.

I was summoned to this place in June of 1993, at a time when the image of Canada's upper chamber was at an all-time low. Canadian senators were, at the time, considered by the general Canadian public as flacks, hacks, fat cats and retired bag men. In short, the public viewed us as a tired bunch of old fogeys who added no value and were a useless strain on the public purse.

The deplorable spectacle of the GST debate, complete with noisy kazoos, raucous behaviour and unprecedented insults ad hominem was a recent memory; and then the Senate was faced with the indefensible, unexplained and ongoing absenteeism of a senator who failed to show up in this chamber for as many as 11 months at a time.

As well, there existed an unsavoury aroma surrounding the activities of some senators and ex-senators who had run afoul of the law or were accused of unethical conduct and conflicts of interest. To make matters worse, there was the poorly presented and weakly defended $6,000 stipend affair.

Canadians across the land were clamouring for Senate reform and the outcry was loudest from Western Canada, where the Triple-E Senate movement was at its height. Many citizens, including members of the NDP, were calling for outright abolition of the Senate.

Preston Manning and his new Reform Party were strident proponents of Triple-E — elected, equal and efficient. They claimed there was no place in a modern democracy for an appointed, non-elected legislative body. As well, they rightly pointed to the fact that as Canada had developed and grown westward, its demographics had changed substantially, such that the Senate regions were no longer equal, as contemplated by the Fathers of Confederation.

Furthermore, they said, the Senate was not fulfilling one of its key original missions of representing regions and minorities. In fact, it had become nothing, in their view, but a sometimes obstructive and frequently cantankerous and all too partisan legislative review body.

The public was upset, honourable senators, and in no mood to be placated by minor changes or inaction. They called the Senate a home for the aged, a reactionary, autocratic and immoral body, a fifth wheel on the Canadian coach, a pension scheme for party warriors, a reward for wealthy party contributors and, generally, an anachronism.

Honourable senators, less than 10 years after Confederation in 1867, our Senate had already become the subject of great controversy; and calls for Senate reform have been continual and often strident ever since. In 1883 even, Senate reform was the main plank in the Liberal Party's election campaign platform.

However, except for abolition of life tenures, replaced by mandatory retirement age of 75 in 1965, and the watering down in 1982 of the Senate's original veto power on constitutional amendments, there has been no concrete legislative reform or renewal of our Senate whatsoever. This notwithstanding numerous studies, including two major joint parliamentary studies on the subject, plus the failed attempts at reform by comprehensive constitutional change as set forth in the Meech Lake and Charlottetown accords.

Senator Cools: I remember it well.

Senator Angus: Honourable senators, it is now time for effective action, and I sense that we all feel this way. I sure hope so.

The Conservative government in its election platform, Stand up for Canada, and later in its Speech from the Throne, promised to address Senate reform and renewal in a tangible way by starting a process of modernizing our institution so that it better reflects the democratic values of Canadians and the needs of Canada's regions. True to its word, the government, on May 30, introduced in this place, Bill S-4, with a view to limiting senators' terms to eight years, renewable. In so doing, the government made it clear that this was but the first step in an incremental process of renewal. As well, it started the process here in the Senate so as to give us, as senators, an opportunity to be directly involved in the process of renewal, an opportunity to have a significant measure of control over our own destiny, or at least some ownership of the renewal process.

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As well, the government evidently chose to proceed this way as opposed to resorting directly to a comprehensive constitutional amendment pursuant to the Constitution Act 1982 because it recognizes that Senate reform is a delicate process which needs to be proceeded with carefully and only after serious study and reflection each step of the way.

Also, it is clear from the preamble to Bill S-4 that the government wants to retain the Senate. It recognizes, as did Senator Hays on Monday evening when he spoke in this chamber, that the Senate has rendered excellent service to Canadians over many years, and it continues to play a useful and important role in our parliamentary system, notwithstanding the fact that it has unfortunately been permitted to endure for 140 years without being reformed, upgraded, adjusted, modernized and/or renewed as necessary along the way.

The Senate itself, honourable senators, has prudently come to recognize its own shortcomings over the years, and has, especially since 1993 from time to time, demonstrated that it must not exercise its full constitutional powers, such as those of disallowance. If it wishes to survive, it must change its ways or at least find more favour with Canadians.

However, honourable senators, it is no longer acceptable to Canadians that the Senate continue in this manner. Our citizens wish to see real renewal and change. It is in our best interests to respond to wishes and requirements such as these without further delay.

Therefore, honourable senators, Bill S-4 represents a fresh start at Senate reform. I earnestly believe it is a sane and sensible first step. As the Prime Minister said recently, honourable senators, there are basically three options for our Senate: One, the status quo; two, abolition; or three, reform and renewal in a productive way. For me, honourable senators, neither the status quo nor abolition are realistic or reasonable options. I submit, therefore, that we must get on with the process of renewal and I urge all honourable senators to support the "Fresh Start" incremental process initiated by Prime Minister Harper's government with Bill S-4.

I am comforted in this regard with the Senate's reaction so far. We have demonstrated a willingness to listen and to participate in a process involving being masters of our own destiny. The creation of the Special Senate Committee on Senate Reform, that committee's study of the subject-matter of Bill S-4 and the subsequent report tabled here last week, the Murray-Austin motion and the study and report on the same, are activities that indicate to me, honourable senators, that we certainly can, and indeed are willing to participate constructively in a fresh, new renewal process.

I have had the privilege of serving as deputy chair of the special committee and working cooperatively with Senator Hays, chair of that special committee, and with all our colleagues on the committee, Liberal and Conservative alike. I thank Senator Hays for his kind words of Monday evening on this subject and about the committee generally, and more particularly about our fine staff and backup people from the parliamentary library. I fully concur with his laudatory remarks.

I wish to say, honourable senators, that the more we heard the evidence and reviewed the historical record, the more my personal interest in and support for Senate renewal was reinforced.

I fully support the two reports which the special committee has issued, and if it is in order, I would be pleased that these second reading remarks could be construed as well to be enthusiastically in support of adoption of these reports, but I leave it to honourable senators in that regard.

In more recent years, I have detected a trend whereby the Senate has toned down its partisan rhetoric.

Senator Cools: I did not notice.

Senator Angus: I have noticed, and obstructive tactics, and particularly in Senator Cools' case, in my view, she asked for it.

Senator Cools: No, I did not.

Senator Angus: I withdraw any reference to the honourable senator. She is right; I withdraw the reference, with deep respect. she is on the ball, just checking. Just checking.

Senator Cools: Act like a senator.

Senator Angus: The senators appear to be awake, let the record show it.

Senator Cools: The record is quite clear.

Senator Angus: In my humble opinion, the Senate has been acting in a fashion that indicates our awareness of the negative views that Canadians have held about the Senate. I hope we are not reversing this trend today.

Senator Cools: I think the honourable senator is.

Senator Angus: I do not want to.

Positive and effective public relation measures have been taken with a view to highlighting the very good work being done by the Senate in developing sound public policy, in carrying out our legislative review role in a responsible and independent, sober-second-thought mode, and in demonstrating sensitivity to our duty of representing regions and their diverse minority interests. This latter function is more important, honourable senators, than ever before, given the way Canada has evolved and developed over the years into a marvellous mosaic of cultures and people, in our pluralistic and multicultural society.

The Canada of today is a vastly different place than it was in 1867. If the Fathers of Confederation could see us today, be sure, honourable senators, that they would have come up with a vastly different-looking upper chamber.

Honourable senators, we have demonstrated of late our realization of these factors. Canadians have taken note of our new attitude. They believe that we will take positive action for Senate renewal. The clamour for Triple-E reform, especially in the West, has abated. The subject was not even mentioned in the recent Alberta leadership convention of the Conservative Party. As well, I do not believe it has been mentioned at all as an issue in the federal Liberal leadership race.

In short, the national atmosphere today is much more conducive to a sober, constructive process of Senate renewal such as the measured, incremental and fresh approach initiated by the Harper government with Bill S-4 so that the Senate may evolve in accordance with the principles of modern democracy and the expectations of all Canadians.

Thus, honourable senators, I urge you to keep up this constructive attitude and to approve Bill S-4 in principle, and as soon as other senators have spoken at second reading, that the bill then be referred to the Special Senate Committee on Senate Reform.

Hon. Gerry St. Germain: I have a question for the honourable senator. Will he accept a question?

Senator Angus: Of course.

Senator St. Germain: The Honourable Senator Angus brings to this place legal expertise. He talks of fresh renewal, and I concur with what he has said. During the committee's work, did the honourable senator determine how many steps can be taken before the constitutional aspects need to be taken into consideration? Was that discussed during this process? Has the committee indicated whether there are any other steps that could be taken without requiring actual material changes to the Constitution?

Senator Angus: I thank the honourable senator for that question. Yes, a substantial amount of time was devoted during the committee hearings to listening to the constitutional experts and political scientists from across the country as to what would be in the competency of Parliament alone under section 44 of the Constitution Act, 1982. It seemed to be the better view, and the report that has been filed speaks for itself, that this Bill S-4 is within the competence of Parliament.

It is also in the suggestion of the report that has been tabled by Senator Hays that there may well be other issues that could be dealt with by Parliament.

I believe it is the intention of this government that, as these issues come into focus and measures can be taken to further the incremental process of Senate renewal, they will be acted on. I am confident and excited about this process.

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Hon. Norman K. Atkins: The honourable senator keeps referring to Canadians in the general context. Has the new Conservative government done any polling to confirm the opinions that the honourable senator has expressed here today?

Senator Angus: I have the sense that that question should more properly be addressed to the Leader of the Government in the Senate.

On motion of Senator Hubley, debate adjourned.

Heritage Lighthouse Protection Bill

Second Reading—Debate Adjourned

Hon. Pat Carney moved second reading of Bill S-220, to protect heritage lighthouses.

She said: Honourable senators, this bill represents the sixth attempt in as many years to grant protection to heritage lighthouses of Canada. It was introduced five times previously, including during the Second Session of the Thirty-sixth Parliament, the First, Second and Third Sessions of the Thirty-seventh Parliament, and the First Session of the Thirty-eighth Parliament, and it has proceeded to committee stage in the other place. It never received Royal Assent before those parliaments rose.

While this bill was co-authored by me and the late Senator Forrestall, it was introduced five times by him, and it is in his memory that I speak today.

Despite the broad support in Parliament for this bill from all parties, the fact that we have not been able to enact it thus far represents a legislative embarrassment. It should be noted that this bill is supported in principle by the Departments of the Environment, Heritage and Fisheries and Oceans. Aside from the obvious negative political optics of such failure, even more regrettable is the practical damage being sustained by the lighthouses no longer in operation and the loss to the communities they have served, and where they stand as a proud pillar of heritage. Each day that goes by without the kind of legal protection afforded by the heritage lighthouse protection bill is a day that lighthouses are left exposed to neglect.

This bill addresses the problem that lighthouses, once deemed to be surplus to operational requirements, have no mechanism for their preservation. In the past they have been blown up, burned down, jack-hammered or left prey to vandalism, because the operational departments have no means of transferring them to interested community groups that are prepared to take on their maintenance. The present heritage designations are too restrictive to apply to most and do not provide a public consultation process.

The main feature of this bill is to facilitate the designation and preservation of heritage lighthouses as part of Canada's culture and history, and to protect them from being altered or disposed of without public consultation. The bill defines heritage lighthouses as any lighthouse, together with all buildings and other works belonging thereto and in connection with which, as designated by the minister on the recommendation of the board as a heritage lighthouse.

The board referred to is the National Historic Sites and Monuments Board.

It defines "alter" as "to change in any manner" and includes "to restore or renovate" but does not include the performance of routine maintenance and repairs.

Honourable senators, I could take the time of the Senate to read the other main purposes of this short bill, but it would serve the interests of the Senate better to move this bill into committee where these aspects can be addressed.

The key to this bill is that the Canadian public will be consulted before any lighthouse is disposed of or destroyed, because currently there is no method by which to protect those structures.

The substantive provisions of this bill remain the same as they were the past five times it was introduced, and each time it received unanimous support in this chamber. I have been in communication with the government and believe that there may be minor amendments made to the bill at committee stage to align it with other legislation that was passed since this bill was first proposed.

I hope this bill can be referred to committee today.

Hon. Jim Munson: Honourable senators, I agree that this bill should be sent to the appropriate committee today. I have a keen interest in this bill. My great-great-uncle, James Munson, was the first lighthouse keeper in Cape Enrage, New Brunswick. It is a wonderful place just outside of Fundy National Park. It is the home of regulation-sized Munsons. I somehow got short shrift.

It is a great historical story which must be put on the record. I would like to speak to this bill at report stage when it returns from committee.

The Hon. the Speaker: Are honourable senators ready for the question?

Some Hon. Senators: Question!

Hon. Gerald J. Comeau (Deputy Leader of the Government): I move the adjournment of the debate.

Senator Carney: Honourable senators, it was my understanding from my house leader that this bill would go to committee today. Can I be told why the deputy leader has moved the adjournment of the debate when it has been agreed with the opposition and the committee that it be sent to committee?

Senator Comeau: There is no agreement that it would be sent to committee today.

On motion of Senator Comeau, debate adjourned.

Study on Present State and Future of Agriculture and Forestry

Interim Report of Agriculture and Forestry Committee—Debate Continued

On the Order:

Resuming debate on the consideration of the third report (interim) of the Standing Senate Committee on Agriculture and Forestry, entitled: Agriculture and Agri-Food Policy in Canada: Putting Farmers First!, tabled in the Senate on June 21, 2006.—(Honourable Senator Gustafson)

Hon. Leonard J. Gustafson: Honourable senators, I rise to speak on this interim report of the Standing Senate Committee on Agriculture and Forestry. The subject matter of this report is possibly the most important issue that Canada faces today. I cannot think of one that is more important. Some may say that I am a biased farmer. That may be true, but agriculture is facing the most difficult years in the history of this country, with the exception of the 1930s.

Canadians have a responsibility. There is nothing more important than the land; there is no more being made. All the exports of our country — fish, lumber, oil, gas, minerals and agricultural products — come from the land. In Canada, there are 167 million acres of agricultural land. Canadians must realize that this wealth is useless without our farmers, who are the best in the world.

The Hon. the Speaker: Honourable senators, it is four o'clock. There is a house order. I believe that all honourable senators will agree that Senator Gustafson hold the adjournment of the debate on this item. He has about 13 and a half minutes remaining.

On motion of Senator Gustafson, debate adjourned.

The Hon. the Speaker: Pursuant to the order adopted by the Senate on April 6, 2005, I declare the Senate adjourned.

The Senate adjourned until Thursday, November 2, 2006 at 1:30 p.m.