Debates of the Senate (Hansard)
1st Session, 39th Parliament,
Volume 143, Issue 70
Wednesday, February 14, 2007
The Honourable Rose-Marie Losier-Cool, Speaker pro tempore
Wednesday, February 14, 2007
The Senate met at 1:30 p.m., the Speaker pro tempore in the chair.
Hon. Nick G. Sibbeston: Honourable senators, on February 23, the 2007
Canada Winter Games will begin in Whitehorse, Yukon. This marks the fortieth
anniversary of this important sporting event that runs until March 10. All three
northern territories have joined forces in a pan-northern approach to showcase
the largest event ever staged north of the sixtieth parallel. More than 3,600
athletes, coaches and managers will gather in Whitehorse to compete for a total
of 1,122 medals in 22 sports.
Honourable senators, with the 2007 Winter Games, every province and territory
will have played a part in hosting the Canada Games over the years. This is a
great accomplishment and one well worth celebrating.
Like all great events in Canada, the Canada Winter Games have always relied
on the efforts of countless dedicated volunteers, and this year will be no
different. People from across the North will be donating their time and energy
to host, promote and support these games.
All Canadians will have a chance to share in the excitement and the great
performances by our young athletes, the next generation of champions. More than
150 hours of television coverage will be provided by CBC, TSN, SRC, RDS and
I urge senators and Canadians from coast to coast to watch these games. The
opening ceremonies will be broadcast live on CBC Newsworld on February 23.
I also invite all my colleagues to come north at some point during the games
to see the beautiful city of Whitehorse and the northern lands. February 23 to
March 10 — mark it on your calendars.
Hon. Terry Stratton: I rise today, honourable senators, to honour the
lives of two fallen firefighters and their four surviving colleagues.
On Sunday, February 4, the alarm sounded in a Winnipeg firehouse, and 25
firefighters rushed to respond to a major fire that was devouring a home. Even
though they had been told there was no one inside, they were required by their
protocol to check every room in the house. In carrying out their duty and
putting their lives on the line to perhaps save another, Captain Thomas Nichols,
age 57, who had been a firefighter for 32 years, and Captain Harold Lessard, age
55, a firefighter with 31 years of service, led their team into that inferno.
They entered a second-storey room and had only seconds of warning before the
room erupted in a ball of fire, melting their fire-retardant jackets, pants and
breathing masks. One firefighter, 33-year-old Lionel Crowther, jumped from a
second-story window at the urging of Captain Lessard seconds before the
flashover. He is still hospitalized and in stable condition. The two captains
and another firefighter, Ed Wiebe, were trapped inside. Ed Wiebe remains in
hospital with burns to 70 per cent of his body. Firefighters Darcy Funk and
Scott Atchison were treated and released from hospital.
In the days following the announcement of the deaths of these two heroes and
of the injuries sustained by the other firefighters who responded, the Winnipeg
Fire Department received word from all over North America of firefighters and
other peace officers who would attend the public memorial service held in
Winnipeg's MTS Centre this morning. Over 2,000 firefighters from Canada and the
United States marched through downtown Winnipeg to salute the memory of their
fallen colleagues, and thousands of other peace officers, paramedics and
ordinary people filled Winnipeg's 15,000-seat MTS Centre.
This morning, in tribute, the Canadian Forces Snowbirds flew over downtown
Winnipeg in "missing man formation."
Captain Thomas Nichols was a 32-year veteran of the Winnipeg Fire Department
and a carpenter. He leaves behind his wife of 34 years, Linda, two children and
three siblings. He had the fortune of seeing both his children married in 2006.
Captain Harold Lessard was a 31-year veteran of the Winnipeg Fire Department
who loved gardening and spending time with friends and family. He leaves behind
his wife, Lynn, two children and three siblings.
Honourable senators, I would like us, as the Canadian Senate, to join with
Winnipeg to mourn the loss of these two heroes and pray for comfort for the
families and for the recovery of the remaining two hospitalized firefighters.
In the words of Pastor Young at Captain Lessard's private funeral on February
8, "In the days and months and years to come, each act of kindness, each act of
bravery, performed by a city firefighter will carry with it a little bit of
Lessard and Nichols."
Hon. Roméo Antonius Dallaire: Honourable senators, since February 12
is International Child Soldiers Day, or Red Hand Day, I would like to draw to
your attention the scourge affecting more than 300,000 children under the age of
18 around the world.
Three hundred thousand boys and girls are being forced to serve in deadly
conflicts and used as combatants on the fighting lines, cooks or sexual objects
in the Sudan, Sri Lanka, Congo, and so on.
Over the past decade, due to armed conflicts, more than 2 million children
have been killed and 6 million injured or mutilated by landmines.
Red Hand Day, or International Child Soldiers Day, was initiated on February
2, 2002, when the Optional Protocol to the Convention on the Rights of the Child
on the Involvement of Children in Armed Conflict entered into force, and at that
time 144 countries signed onto it, including Canada. The protocol states that no
youth below the age of 18 should be recruited, trained or utilized in military
operations or carry weapons in any conflict around the world.
Along the same line, I would like to acknowledge and commend the efforts of
the French Minister of Foreign Affairs, Philippe Douste-Blazy, who hosted in
Paris, on February 5 and 6, an international conference on child soldiers.
Following the French foreign minister's trip to Uganda and Burundi in
February 2006, he has been personally engaged by the issue of child soldiers.
France has also chaired the Security Council working group on children involved
in armed conflict since November 2005.
This conference, entitled "Let Us Free Children of War," brought together
representatives from 58 countries, NGOs, civil society — including child
soldiers — the European Union, the UN and Canada. UNICEF co-chaired the
conference. Canada was one of the countries present at the conference; a
delegation of two CIDA bureaucrats and one DFAIT official attended the event.
However, the absence of both the Minister of Foreign Affairs and the Minister of
International Cooperation was noticed.
These are the following major points agreed to in the Paris Principles with
respect to child soldiers: the unconditional release of children involved in
armed forces and armed groups; their permanent reintegration into society, where
a place must be made for them; and strategies to prevent the recruitment or use
of children by armed forces and armed groups.
We are now in an era where the bulk of conflicts around the world — Sudan,
Congo, Sri Lanka — are being conducted not by soldiers but by children. Children
have become the new most-sophisticated, low-technology weapons system in the
world, yet the issue has not attracted enough attention that we intervene to
stop such conflicts or such recruitment. We watch and we continue to watch.
Honourable senators, next week I will introduce a motion in which I hope to
advance Canada's position in regard to the eradication of the use of child
soldiers as weapons of war.
Hon. Andrée Champagne: Honourable senators, last Thursday evening, I
had the privilege of witnessing a memorable moment in the world of Canadian
At Pollack Hall, the Schulich School of Music of McGill University paid
tribute to two of its former professors who passed away in 2006. These two great
musicians and pedagogues have left students who today enjoy enviable
reputations. Some are performing on the world's great stages, while others have
chosen to pass on what they learned from these teachers to the next generation.
Pianist Charles Reiner was born in Budapest, Hungary. He was studying at the
Franz Liszt Academy when war ravaged his country. Liberated by the American army
from the concentration camp where he had spent several years, he chose to flee
the communist regime and go to Switzerland.
After studying with Dinu Lipatti at the Geneva Conservatory, he came to
Canada and settled in Montreal, where his talents as a pianist and his sensitive
musicality earned him an important place in the city's fertile artistic
environment. He enjoyed a distinguished career as a soloist and an accompanist.
For decades, he accompanied violinist Henryk Szeryng around the world. Here in
Canada, Arthur Leblanc, Maureen Forrester and many others made use of his
talents. He was a professor at McGill University for nearly 40 years, and three
generations of students reaped the benefits of his knowledge, his generosity and
his immense sensitivity.
Baritone Jan Hugo Simons was born in Düsseldorf, Germany, and spent his
childhood in The Hague. Concerned about the rise of Nazism in Europe, his family
emigrated to Montreal in 1939, a few months before the Second World War began.
He studied in Montreal and made his stage debut accompanied by a young Oscar
Peterson. No one will forget his elegant interpretations of lieder and
oratorios. In 1963, he became a professor at McGill University. He also taught
at Marianopolis College and Vanier College. Today, a number of his students are
singing on major stages around the world.
Thanks to the dedication of Sandra Wilson, with the assistance of Nadia
Turbide, the Thursday evening tribute concert gave us an opportunity to remember
these two great musicians and listen to some of their students. The piano
soloists and accompanists paid tribute to Charles Reiner with both their
excellence in playing and the way they listened attentively to the soloists,
singers and instrumentalists. For their part, the vocal artists called to mind
the technique and subtle interpretation taught by Jan Simons.
It was a memorable evening at the Schulich School of Music at McGill
University, as memorable as the two teachers we remembered with sadness, of
course, but also with admiration and gratitude, two great artists who chose to
make a new life in Canada.
Hon. Jane Cordy: Honourable senators, I rise today to congratulate
Gordie Sampson, who this past Sunday became Cape Breton's first Grammy winner.
Gordie won the award for co-writing the song Jesus, Take the Wheel, which
was recorded and performed by American Idol winner Carrie Underwood. The
song went on to top the billboard charts of the United States for six weeks last
Gordie has been interested in music since the age of six, starting with
guitar, learning piano and then drums. He has spent much of his time in
Nashville writing songs for other artists, but managed to find the time to
record his second solo album and is currently working on his third album. The
native of Big Pond has worked with some of the biggest names in music, and now
winning the highest honour the music industry has to offer bodes well for a long
and successful career.
I wish to send my best wishes and congratulations to Gordie Sampson for
receiving such an honour.
The Hon. the Speaker pro tempore: Honourable senators, I
wish to draw to your attention the presence in the gallery of Sheikh Ali Sbayti,
the Imam of Montreal's Muslim community centre and representative of the
Ahlul-Bayt centre in Ottawa; Sayed Nabil Abbas, representative of the Islamic
Shiite Supreme Council in Canada; Faraj Naklah, president of the Canadian
Palestinian Foundation of Québec; Sheikh Said Fawaz, representative of the
Muslim World League; and Dr. Bashar El-Solh, president of the Canadian Muslim
They are guests of the honourable Senator Marcel Prud'homme, P.C.
On behalf of all senators, I welcome you to the Senate of Canada.
Hon. Marcel Prud'homme: Honourable senators, surely one of the
greatest things a senator can try to do is bring Canadian citizens together. As
you know, this evening an important event will take place, an event to bring
closure to the ordeal suffered by Maher Arar and his wife, Monia Mazigh. They
will be the guests of honour at a reception in room 200, where all Canadian
communities will express their friendship to the couple.
Today, I have tried to show my fellow senators that, in Canada, it is
possible to unite people of all linguistic and religious backgrounds. I urge you
to follow the example you see before you in the gallery today by showing greater
openness to these new Canadian citizens.
Gathered here today are Christians, Sunnis and Shiites, most of whom came
from a troubled part of the world; either Palestine or Lebanon.
I will be there with MPs Meili Faille, Omar Alghabra, Bill Casey, Stéphane
Dion, Jack Layton and Gilles Duceppe to present them with the Charter of Human
Rights to mark the establishment of the Arar-Mazigh Scholarship in Human Rights,
a bursary for human rights studies at the University of Ottawa, which is to be
inaugurated and announced this evening.
I would like to thank you for being so kind as to welcome these people, who
represent their communities at the highest level. I hope they will understand
that, in Canada, it is possible to work together and that the diaspora has a
major role to play in bringing rationality and peace back to that troubled part
of the world.
Hon. Tommy Banks, Chair of the Standing Senate Committee on Energy,
the Environment and Natural Resources, presented the following report:
Wednesday, February 14, 2007
The Standing Senate Committee on Energy, the Environment and Natural
Resources has the honour to present its
Your Committee, to which was referred Bill S-205, An Act to amend the Food
and Drugs Act (clean drinking water), has, in obedience to the Order of
Reference of Tuesday, October 31, 2006, examined the said Bill and now reports
the same without amendment.
He said: Honourable senators, this is Senator Grafstein's water bill, which
we have seen before, and I am happy to inform the Senate that this report is
The Hon. the Speaker pro tempore: Honourable senators,
when shall this bill be read the third time?
On motion of Senator Banks, bill placed on the Orders of the Day for third
reading at the next sitting of the Senate.
Hon. Art Eggleton: Honourable senators, I have the honour to table, in
both official languages, the ninth report of the Social Affairs, Science and
Technology Committee, which deals with proposed regulations under section 8 of
the Assisted Human Reproduction Act.
On motion of Senator Eggleton, report placed on the Orders of the Day for
consideration at the next sitting of the Senate.
Hon. Andrée Champagne: Honourable senators, pursuant to rule 23(6), I
have the honour to table, in both official languages, the report of the Canadian
Section of the Assemblée parlementaire de la Francophonie, which participated in
the APF Bureau meeting held in Châlons-en-Champagne, France, from January 16 to
Hon. Céline Hervieux-Payette (Leader of the Opposition): Honourable
senators, I would like to express my best wishes for a speedy recovery for the Honourable Leader of the Government, who is feeling ill today.
My question is for the Minister of Public Works and Government Services. My
honourable colleague opposite and I would probably both agree that Quebecers
have been stunned by the Quebec Conservative Party's new advertisements.
What the minister and his party may not realize is that Quebecers should not
be surprised by the desperation shown by the Conservatives in resorting to such
tactics. I agree with their strategists that they have good reason to fear the
credibility of the new leader of the Liberal Party.
Will the minister please tell us if the company Republik Publicité+Design,
chosen to create the somewhat bizarre advertisements, has obtained contracts
from the new Conservative government, which has been in power for nearly a year?
Hon. Michael Fortier (Minister of Public Works and Government Services):
I thank the honourable senator for her question. I can verify whether or not the
advertising firm has received contracts from the Conservative government, but I
believe the advertising campaign was run by the Conservative Party. Thus, it is
the Conservative Party that paid for the advertisements.
I assume that Senator Hervieux-Payette's question pertains to government
contracts. I will look into it and report back to her.
Senator Hervieux-Payette: Honourable senators, could the minister find
out for us, as part of his inquiries, how much money his department has spent on
public opinion polls in the current fiscal year, and how much this government
will have spent on advertising for all departments by the end of the current
fiscal year, on March 31, 2007?
Senator Fortier: I understand that the question pertains to the entire
fiscal year. I thought that the Leader of the Opposition wished to obtain
information for the year to this point. I can wait until the end of the fiscal
year to answer her question, unless she would like me to stop the clock today.
Senator Hervieux-Payette: I think that the answer should cover the
period of one year less a month. That would give us an idea of the amounts spent
on advertising by the current Conservative government.
Senator Fortier: I would be pleased to report back when I have the
Hon. Claudette Tardif (Deputy Leader of the Opposition): Honourable
senators, the Minister of Public Works and Government Services has confirmed the
government's plan to sell public buildings to private interests, and then lease
them back in order to avoid spending billions of dollars on maintaining these
According to the minister, the goal is to stop the haemorrhaging and to avoid
even higher renovation expenses for the buildings in question in the next five,
ten or fifteen years. Can the minister explain how Canadian taxpayers will save
money with a fire sale of these public buildings to private interests?
Hon. Michael Fortier (Minister of Public Works and Government Services):
I thank the honourable senator for her question. No decision has been made on
the suggestions from the group of experts I met with in the summer. I think it
is important to point that out. Nonetheless, if by chance the sale of these
buildings goes through, I would not describe this as a fire sale.
What I have observed in this portfolio is probably not much different than
what Mr. Bryson, your colleague, observed less than two years ago. This is a
portfolio that, unfortunately, was neglected for a number of decades — I am not
blaming any government in particular. When governments are faced with priorities
and choices and it comes time to spend taxpayers' money, sometimes the highest
priority is not to reinvest in roofs, elevators, windows, floors and walls.
These assets belong to everyone, not just one person. In the past 45 years we
have accumulated a colossal bill in reinvestment. As I said, I noticed that we
have behaved like very bad property owners. We have accumulated, over those
years, one of the largest portfolios in North America, with 375 buildings.
Today, if we were to start over by collectively asking what we need to provide
services to Canadians under the Constitution, we could ask whether we truly need
a network of 375 buildings. I think the answer lies in the question.
Senator Tardif: In light of the rumours going around, can the minister
assure us that he intends to exclude the heritage buildings at issue in the
Auditor General's report?
Senator Fortier: I can assure you that no decision has been made. We
will certainly take into consideration the heritage aspects of the buildings we
own, regardless of the solution we come up with.
Hon. Hugh Segal: Honourable senators, my question is for the Minister
of Public Works and Government Services. I note that the minister's department
announced the creation of a new advisory group relative to the naming of a
federal government building in Vancouver in honour of the Late Honourable Howard
Green. While I appreciate the department's and the minister's desire to be
respectful of various opinions expressed relative to that possible naming, could
he assure this chamber that in the consideration of options for naming that
building there will be no prima facie rejection of the compelling merits
associated with the name of Howard Green?
Hon. Michael Fortier (Minister of Public Works and Government Services):
I thank the honourable senator for his question. I referred the matter back to
committee after it was discovered last October that a controversy surrounds the
name. I asked the committee to meet again to determine whether it would stand by
its recommendation, but the committee could not reach a consensus. I chose to
form another committee, and when I issued the press release I said that the
matter would be open to any and all suggestions — no exclusions. If individuals
wish to put forward the name of Howard Green again, they can do so, and I will
put that in the hands of the committee and await its recommendations to me.
Hon. Terry M. Mercer: Honourable senators, my question is for the
Minister of Public Works and Government Services. Senator Tardif's question on
the sale of government buildings reminds me of an advertisement that aired on
television frequently. Perhaps the minister never saw that ad for oil filters
for cars, but the tag line was, "You can pay me now or you can pay me later."
The maintenance on buildings must be paid. If we own the buildings, we should do
According to a recent report by the Auditor General, federal heritage
buildings are at risk of falling down because of the weak conservation policy of
Canada's new government. The federal government owns 1,300 federal heritage
buildings and some national 206 historic sites, some of them belonging to the
Department of Public Works. The Auditor General's report says that there exists
only sporadic efforts to conserve these buildings. Will the Minister of Public
Works and Government Services provide a list of all the buildings owned by his
department and assure us that the needs of these buildings are being addressed
to prevent them from falling down?
Hon. Michael Fortier (Minister of Public Works and Government Services):
Honourable senators, we indicated clearly to the Auditor General yesterday that
we take these matters seriously. We will be looking at options to ensure that in
the future proper care and attention is given to those assets so they are
properly maintained, which is really what we all wish to be done.
Senator Mercer: I thank the minister for his response.
Honourable senators, it seems that all is not well with the relationship
between members of Canada's new cabinet. According to the Auditor General, the
reason that there exists only sporadic efforts to conserve these buildings is
because of a gap in departmental policies and cooperation between — guess who —
Public Works and Government Services Canada and Treasury Board.
Will the Minister of Public Works and Government Services assure this chamber
that steps are being taken to work with his colleagues at Treasury Board to
ensure that their policies relating to heritage buildings are structured to
prevent these buildings from falling down? Will the minister ensure that the
sites under his department and which are referred to in the Auditor General's
report will be there tomorrow?
Senator Fortier: Honourable senators, I can reassure my honourable
friend that I personally get along well with my colleagues in cabinet and even
my colleagues outside cabinet. The former President of the Treasury Board and
the new President of the Treasury Board asked those employees within government
to speak to one another. In terms of the folks who are actually on the ground,
she is correct: There needs to be better coordination between all the different
departments that interact with respect to these types of policies. Treasury
Board officials and officials of the Department of Public Works do get involved
in the maintenance of these assets and they need to better coordinate their
Hon. Robert W. Peterson: Honourable senators, my question is to the
Minister of Public Works. Canada's new government will drive into Toronto today
to deliver $36 million to help get more green cars on Canadian roads. Meanwhile,
the parliamentary precinct has countless vehicles that could be replaced with
hydro technologies as an example of leadership.
Can the Minister of Public Works and Government Services assure this chamber
that a plan is being developed to procure replacements for these gas-guzzling
vehicles so that the government will fulfill its commitments to a cleaner,
Hon. Michael Fortier (Minister of Public Works and Government Services):
Honourable senators, I think I answered a similar question last spring.
The Department of Public Works and Government Services is responsible for
replacing the car fleet that we own. Every single car that we are purchasing is
to be a hybrid car. That is the direction from the department. Unless the
honourable senator knows something that I do not know, I repeat: Every single
car that has been replaced has been replaced by a hybrid vehicle.
Hon. Robert W. Peterson: Honourable senators, in light of the Prime
Minister's new-found pledge to protect the environment, this amount of money for
Toronto pales in comparison to the recent announcement of almost $350 million
for Quebec's environmental plans. It appears that Canada's new government has a
flare for taking old Liberal funding for the environment and reintroducing it as
Can the minister assure us that there will be new funding coming from his
department to help fight pollution — or will there be a recycling of funding
promised by the old Liberal government?
Hon. Michael Fortier (Minister of Public Works and Government Services):
The honourable senator is asking me whether my department will make
announcements with respect to environmentally friendly policies. Within my
department, as Senator Peterson well knows, there is the Office of Greening
Government Operations, OGGO, which I addressed in the past and which has been in
place for a little over a year. Under OGGO's mandate, with respect to the very
important and significant supply chain to the government, more and more of our
suppliers are conserving energy and recycling, and we are using our purchasing
power to instil discipline within the supply chain. Public Works and Government
Services Canada is proud of the Office of Greening Government Operations.
Hon. Joan Fraser: I believe it was a question that I put to the
minister last spring to which he referred in responding to Senator Peterson.
Senator Fortier: A different seat.
Senator Fraser: Slightly. At that time, I was asking about the fleet
of cars used by ministers. As I recall, the answer was that Canada's new
government was stuck with the fleet that had been bought by the, dare I say,
wonderful old government.
Canada's government is now the new government, and the answer that was given
then and the statistics that were available then were out of date. Hence, I
would be grateful if the minister would undertake to provide for us the most
recent statistics on the composition of the government's entire fleet, beginning
with cars used by ministers. Also, I do not think Minister Fortier needs to take
this as notice, although the quest for statistics would be notice: Could he tell
us, now that Canada's former and new government has become a green government,
whether he is extending to the whole of the government fleet the order that I
gather the Prime Minister has given — better late than never — that ministerial
cars on Parliament Hill should not sit around idling their engines? We know that
is the easy way to cut greenhouse gas emissions. Is there a policy in force for
the government's entire fleet?
Hon. Michael Fortier (Minister of Public Works and Government Services):
I thank the honourable senator for the question. With respect to the ministerial
car fleet, she is right. We are waiting for these cars to go past their
"sell-by" date before we replace them.
With respect to an edict, I certainly read it, although it was meant for the
ministerial drivers. I think many people read into it that everyone in
government should be aware that idling is damaging to our environment and should
use common sense when sitting behind the wheel of a government-owned car.
With respect to a government-wide edict, I am not aware that there is one. I
could look into it, however.
Senator Fraser: Would the minister take back to his colleagues in
cabinet the concept that common sense on this matter has been around for some
time and has not been that effective and that perhaps it is time for the
Government of Canada to order the drivers of its vehicles not to idle their
engines when stopped, unless there is an overwhelming reason, such as national
security, for doing so?
Senator Fortier: Honourable senators, I shall take that under
consideration and discuss it with my colleagues.
Hon. James S. Cowan: My question is for the Minister of Public Works
and Government Services.
International Traffic in Arms Regulations of the U.S. State Department
require Canadian companies that receive defence contracts from the U.S.
government or sub-contracts with American defence companies to comply with U.S.
security measures. These measures require the U.S. to deny access to data,
products, services and even employment to citizens who hold dual citizenship or
who were born in countries deemed to be threats to American national security.
What is this government doing to ensure that these discriminatory rules are
not applied to disqualify Canadian suppliers and citizens?
Hon. Michael Fortier (Minister of Public Works and Government Services):
As the honourable senator knows, the Prime Minister has raised this issue with
the President, the foreign minister has raised it with his counterpart and the
defence minister has done the same. The Americans are very much aware that we
take exception to the extraterritorial approach in the legislation. We will
continue defending Canadian businesses and their right to use Canadian nationals
to work on any and all contracts that they get, whether it is from a U.S.
company or a non-U.S. company.
Senator Cowan: How long would the government expect to wait before
receiving a response from their friends in the White House?
Senator Fortier: I do not like that characterization. In some cases,
Canadian companies that have contracts with U.S. companies have had to move
employees around. These cases are well known and we have protested, along with
these Canadian companies. These companies are trying to get business from U.S.
companies that need to comply with ITARs, so we are protesting to the proper
authorities in the U.S the application of this act to Canadian nationals. We
have seen some improvement.
On the acquisition of the C-17, the Department of Public Works is responsible
for buying those aircraft. We have clauses in the contract ensuring that the
purchase of these aircraft from Boeing is executed without the application of
ITARs, which is a positive development.
We will continue talking to our friends in the U.S. on behalf of smaller
Canadian companies. Since we are the Canadian government, when we buy an asset
it is different from a Canadian company servicing a U.S. company that is stuck
having to apply ITARs. However, we will continue to stick up for Canadian
companies and ensure they do not have to move employees around because they have
Senator Cowan: With respect to the C-17s, did I understand the
minister to say that the Americans have agreed that ITARS will not apply, so
there will be no discrimination or restrictions on access by Canadian
subcontractors to data and no restrictions with respect to dual citizenship?
Senator Fortier: We are buying the aircraft from Boeing, so the
process of purchasing these aircraft is not subject to that rule. We have a
contractual undertaking from Boeing that this purchase is outside of ITARS. We
take delivery of the aircraft and no Canadian suppliers are involved.
The aircraft are already built to fly, which is very different, as the
honourable senator understands, from a supplier based in Toronto that has a
contract with Boeing to build part of an asset that Boeing builds for other
countries. We are buying and taking delivery of something that is already built.
Hon. Jean-Claude Rivest: Honourable senators, I realize that the
Canadian government must continue its negotiations with the American government
to explain Canada's legal and constitutional reality. I also realize that mutual
economic and financial interests must be respected.
However, the minister is well aware that, in Quebec for example, a worker of
Moroccan origin, an honest citizen of Canada for some 15 years who was working
for Bell Helicopter, lost his job, or was transferred to another job that is not
related to his abilities and personal expertise because of Bell Helicopter
contracts. The Canadian government, regardless of the nature and importance of
these negotiations with the American government, will, in this specific
instance, get a decision issued by Quebec's rights and freedoms commission,
under both the Quebec and the Canadian Charters.
Does the minister realize that the Canadian government has the primary
responsibility for ensuring the respect of Canadian constitutional laws within
its jurisdiction, and that regardless of the outcome of these discussions with
the American government, it will, as a government, have to ensure the respect of
these laws? If this Moroccan worker wins his case, then, in all likelihood, the
Canadian government will have to give him back his job to abide by its own laws.
Is not the primary responsibility of a government to ensure the respect of its
own laws in its jurisdiction?
Senator Fortier: I thank the honourable senator for his question. Of
course, I fully understand the regulatory framework that applies to this type of
situation in Canada.
In the case of a contract between a private company, such as Bell Helicopter,
and a client in the United States, the private company may decide to transfer an
individual to another position so that it can keep the contract. If a company
like Bell Helicopter does not do so, it could lose the contract. We are aware of
what happened, and we complained to the American authorities. As I explained,
the Prime Minister raised this issue with Mr. Bush and Mr. McKay did the same
with Ms. Rice, and we will continue to denounce the extraterritorial application
of these laws.
American companies that have to deal with these laws find themselves in a
difficult position when they give contracts to private companies, just like
private companies in Canada risk losing their contracts if they do not comply
with their American clients' demands.
This is a bad situation for some Canadian contractors. The good news is that
such cases are rare. That is very good news, but the bad news is that it is
still happening. We must to protest when such situations arise.
Hon. Marcel Prud'homme: Honourable senators, let me be very clear: A
Canadian is a Canadian is a Canadian. The only way to debate this issue is to
have a discussion in which the Prime Minister and Mr. Bush are involved
directly. That gives us some consolation, but I should like to help the minister
in his reflections.
In 1979, Parliament had before it a bill that was not passed because an
election was called on Monday night, March 26, 1979. Under that bill,
involvement in primary, secondary or tertiary contracts with Israel would have
been allowed and no clause would deprive Canadians of Jewish faith from
participating in any of these contracts.
To me, that was disgusting and unacceptable. My position at that time was
very clear: It was unacceptable to deprive Canadians of anything because of
their religion or for any other reason.
This question is not a personal attack on the minister. His staff is well
equipped and I hope they will research what took place in March 1979 when we had
a similar situation. Fortunately, an election was called and we never had to
decide the matter. The bill was referred to the House Committee on Foreign
Affairs and National Defence, which I chaired. We sent it back to the House
where it was debated. Unfortunately, a prominent Liberal of the time conveyed to
the Conservatives the discussion that took place in our caucus, which was not
acceptable to either the Prime Minister or me.
There are precedents for such proposals as this and we should never allow
them. I know it is difficult to refuse a big contract, but private industries,
like others, should know that a Canadian is a Canadian is a Canadian.
Senator Fortier: Honourable senators, I would like to thank Senator
Prud'homme, and I agree with what he said. I think what I have been saying for
the past 10 minutes is in sync with what he just said. We will continue to
protest the application of these measures in Canada. The good news is that very
few cases have arisen, but we still have to look at the situation as a whole
because even one case is too many.
Hon. Gerald J. Comeau (Deputy Leader of the Government): Honourable
senators, I have the honour to table an answer to the oral question raised by
Senator Lorna Milne on February 1, 2007, concerning the Canadian Wheat Board,
plebiscite on marketing of barley.
(Response to question raised by Hon. Lorna Milne on February 1, 2007)
The question on the ballot in the barley plebiscite as originally announced
is very clear and is not being changed. Farmers will be easily able to
determine which option on the ballot reflects their preference.
The minister has asked officials to revise and simplify the producer
declaration form that will accompany the ballot. This action was taken in
order to ensure the widest possible participation in the plebiscite. The
producer will sign the producer declaration form in order to declare that
he/she is eligible to vote (i.e., has produced grain in 2006 and has produced
barley in at least one of the past five years).
The cost of revising the producer declaration has yet to be determined.
Once this is done, the cost will be tabled in the Senate as requested.
Voters will have the same amount of time to vote as before although the
mail-out was delayed a week. Ballots were mailed out beginning February 7 and
the final day for ballots to be postmarked will be March 13.
Hon. Gerald J. Comeau (Deputy Leader of the Government): Honourable
senators, pursuant to rule 27(1), I wish to inform the Senate that, when we
proceed to Government Business, the items shall be called in the following
sequence: Item No. 1, Item No. 4, Item No. 2, Item No. 5, Item No. 6 and Item
No. 3, all under Bills. All remaining items will then be called in the order in
which they stand on the Order Paper.
Hon. Consiglio Di Nino moved the third reading of Bill C-28, A second
Act to implement certain provisions of the budget tabled in Parliament on May 2,
He said: Honourable senators, I would like to speak today on the occasion of
the debate at third reading on Bill C-28. This bill will implement certain tax
measures that were not included in the budget implementation bill that was
adopted last year and received Royal Assent on June 22, 2006.
Budget 2006 focussed on this government's priorities: delivering results for
Canadians on the issues that are most important to them. Our achievements on
these issues have already begun benefiting Canadians.
Our first budget laid the groundwork so that we can continue to reach new
heights and build an even greater country.
Let us look at the measures that were announced in the 2006 budget to give
effect to our overall plan. We gave significant tax breaks to all Canadians. We
took steps to make sure taxpayers' money would be spent wisely. We invested in
families, education, industry, security and infrastructure, but that is, by no
I think, beginning with last October's introduction of the Tax Fairness Plan
for Canadians, that this plan was built on the steps taken in Budget 2006. It
reduced the general corporate income tax rate one half percentage point for
businesses as of January 1, 2011. The plan will provide tax relief for low- and
middle-income seniors. Moreover, for Canadians receiving a pension, in a major
policy change, the government will permit income-splitting for pensioners
beginning in 2007. This will significantly enhance the incentives to save and
invest for family retirement security.
All told, the tax fairness plan provides $1 billion per year in tax relief
for seniors and pensioners.
Then, in November, the government published Advantage Canada: Building a
Strong Economy for Canadians, a national, long-term economic plan designed
to make Canada a true leader in the global economy. The plan, unveiled along
with the economic and fiscal update, features a new national objective to
eliminate Canada's total government net debt in less than a generation and
further reduce taxes for all Canadians.
Ultimately, honourable senators, what the government has done, is create new
opportunities for all Canadians.
It is on those opportunities from Budget 2006 that I would like to focus my
Canada's new government believes in creating those new opportunities for
Canadians, wherever they live, and that is what Budget 2006 — and, indeed, the
measures in this bill — will do.
Bill C-28 incorporates a number of measures that reflect the government's
desire to invest in education, training and transition to work opportunities, so
that Canadians can achieve their full potential and have the choices they want.
Let us first examine the measures related to education. As we all know,
helping our children pursue a college or university education can be very
expensive, especially when it comes to purchasing textbooks. In order to help
those facing these expenses, Bill C-28 proposes introducing a new,
non-refundable tax credit, in recognition of the cost of textbooks. This measure
will apply as of the 2006 taxation year.
This new tax credit will benefit nearly two million post-secondary students.
Given that many Canadians are pursuing part-time studies, I am pleased to
announce that both full-time and part-time students will be entitled to the
textbook tax credit.
That is a good move, is it not? Helping students with the cost of textbooks
is just one of the steps that Canada's new government has taken to help
post-secondary students with their education-related expenses.
Many students earn scholarships to help them meet their tuition expenses.
Under current legislation, only the first $3,000 in scholarship, fellowship and
bursary income received by post-secondary students is not taxed. In other
words, any money received in excess of $3,000 is included as income for tax
purposes. This government believes that students should be rewarded, not
penalized, for their hard work at school. That is why Bill C-28 contains a
proposal to fully exempt scholarship, fellowship and bursary income from tax.
This important measure will provide tax relief to more than 100,000 deserving
post-secondary students. These two measures contained in this bill recognize the
importance of a more educated and skilled labour force to improve Canada's
competitiveness in today's global economy.
Honourable senators, certainly education is important, but there is also a
need to help Canadians find the right job. We often hear of employers who are
looking for people to fill the need for skilled workers. This is especially true
in the construction industry, although not exclusive to it. Budget 2006 helps by
proposing a new apprenticeship job creation tax credit. This credit will
encourage employers to hire new apprentices to learn a skilled trade.
Under the measures proposed in Bill C-28, eligible employers will receive a
tax credit equal to 10 per cent of the wages paid to qualifying apprentices in
the first two years of their contract, to a maximum credit of $2,000 per
apprentice per year.
In the words of the Leah Myers, President of Durham College:
. . . apprenticeship tax credits and incentives is an important step toward
helping Canada develop a better skilled and educated workforce that is able to
compete in today's global economy.
That comment was in a Canadian Construction Association news release of May
The government recognizes that it can also help Canadians once they finish
their education and enter the workforce. That is when the new Canada employment
credit can be of help. This new tax credit, announced in budget 2006, is
complementary to the individual income tax cut and takes into account the
additional costs to Canadians entering the labour force. These costs might be
related to buying uniforms for work at a store or in a company, or the cost of
special safety equipment, which is required for those who work on a construction
Sometimes, for low-income workers in particular, these costs can be the
determining factor in whether they accept a job or not. The Canada employment
credit changes things by covering some of the employment-related costs for
Over the course of a year, the credit offers a $500 tax deduction on
employment income in 2006. Since it came into effect in the middle of the year,
Canadian workers will be entitled to a $250 tax deduction in 2006. Effective
January 1, 2007, the employment credit will double, rising to $1,000 a year.
Complementing the Canada employment credit in providing financial relief for
work-related expenses is a new tax deduction for tool expenses for people
working in the trades. Many people employed in the trades must own their own
tools as a condition of employment. To provide assistance to these workers,
Budget 2006 provides a tax deduction of up to $500 for the cost of tools in
excess of $1,000. The Canada employment credit and tools deduction together will
provide tax relief to some 700,000 employed tradespeople.
Earlier in my remarks, honourable senators, I spoke of the benefits this bill
provides for people from coast to coast. Speaking of coasts, Bill C-28 provides
relief for fishers who sell their interests in fishing licences and other
fishing property. Afforded the same treatment as farmers, fishers will benefit
from a $500,000 lifetime capital gains exemption and be able to defer tax when
they transfer fishing property to their children or grandchildren.
According to Lawrence MacAulay, the Member for Cardigan, Prince Edward
Island, and former minister and Secretary of State, the government's tax relief
measures for fishers:
...will be a boost to rural communities and young fishers trying to get
into the industry. Without the tax exemption, prices for fishing fleets were
reaching exorbitant and prohibitive costs for newcomers to enter the field.
When I heard it announced, I stood up and applauded them. . . . I'm
tremendously pleased that this has been achieved.
That is a quote from the Charlottetown Guardian of May 4, 2006.
Honourable senators, I am sure you will agree with Mahatma Gandhi, who said,
"It is health that is real wealth." This government certainly agrees with that
sentiment. That is why we introduced the children's fitness tax credit in Budget
2006. This investment in the health of our children will help make it possible
for more young Canadians to be involved in sport and physical activity. At the
same time, it gives parents a tax break. It is available on up to $500 of
eligible registration fees.
I am pleased that we are delivering on this important commitment to Canadian
families. The credit will apply to an ongoing supervised program suitable for
children under the age of 16 in which substantially all of the activities
undertaken include a significant amount of physical activity that contributes to
It is important to emphasize that substantial additional support will be
provided to children eligible for the disability tax credit to recognize the
unique barriers they face in becoming more active. It is our hope that this
grant will improve children's fitness and, eventually, the health and well-being
of our entire population.
The intent of this measure is to encourage children to get into the habit of
regular physical activity, and others agree with us. Chris Rudge, CEO of the
Canadian Olympic Committee, said:
We acknowledge the good first step that the government has taken in this
new Children's Fitness Tax Credit which will help more children become
involved in sports and physical activity.
That quote is contained in the Canadian Olympic Committee Press Release,
dated May 2, 2006.
On the issue of public transit, Bill C-28 will authorize a tax credit for
annual or monthly passes effective July 1, 2006. This will ease traffic
congestion, especially in our busy urban centres, and increase affordability for
the approximately 2 million public transit users in our country. Gloria Kovach
of the Federation of Canadian Municipalities said that the "transit tax credit
should revitalize public transit and contribute to a healthier environment and
Honourable senators, Canada's new government is working on behalf of Canadian
families, students, workers and seniors. Measures proposed in Bill C-28 benefit
them and the entire country. This government will continue to do everything in
its power to ensure that Canadians benefit from available opportunities.
Measures contained in this bill will foster prosperity for today's Canada and
for future generations. I trust, honourable senators, that you will give this
bill due consideration.
Hon. Leonard J. Gustafson: With respect to the sharing of pensions in
this bill, is there any limit to the amount or any cap?
Senator Di Nino: Yes. I believe the honourable senator is talking
about the ability to file one tax return; the ability for pensioners to be able
to, in effect, file together, so that they diminish their tax payable. Is that
what the honourable senator is talking about?
Senator Gustafson: Yes.
Senator Di Nino: The measures in Budget 2006, including C-28, increase
the pension income credit from $1,000 to $2,000 and allow pensioners to combine
the two pensions, including RRSPs — only if they are over 65 — in order to
reduce their payable tax.
I believe there is a maximum, but I cannot tell my honourable friend what
that is offhand.
Hon. Percy Downe: The Honourable Senator Di Nino quoted Liberal MP
Lawrence MacAulay in some detail in his speech about how pleased Mr. MacAulay
was with the initiative on fishers, as he called them — fishermen and women who
work in the industry — and how pleased he was that the government adopted the
Is the senator aware that this initiative was moved by Mr. MacAulay? It was
his initiative that the government adopted, not the government's initiative.
Senator Di Nino: I know that there was some initiative in the House of
Commons, which I believe included some of our own members, such as Gerald Keddy.
That is not the important thing. What is important is that this government took
action on an issue of great importance to the Atlantic Provinces. Whether it is
your idea, our idea or a joint idea, it does not make any difference. The
important thing is that the Harper government said, "That is a good idea; let
us put it into place." Many people across the country, but particularly in the
Atlantic Provinces, will benefit from it.
Senator Downe: I agree fully that it is a good initiative, but I do
not think the proper credit was given to Mr. MacAulay, who led this initiative.
He led it on behalf of the fishers of Eastern Canada. The government ended up in
a bind in the House of Commons. Check the transcript. They were in the position
of either voting against the motion or voting for it, and at the last minute the
government caved. Had it not been for Mr. MacAulay, this initiative would not be
Hon. Yoine Goldstein: Does the honourable senator have any idea or any
statistics about how many Canadian lower-class and middle-class families will be
able to take advantage of the $500 tax credit for youngsters involved in sport
and physical activity?
Senator Di Nino: I think my colleague, Senator Mitchell, will answer
the question for me.
I do not think that is possible to ascertain without doing great research. I
do not have an answer for that question. Having said that, I can tell the
honourable senator that we have had tremendous interest, including my office,
from people asking for information on how to apply for this credit. I am
involved in a number of initiatives in the city of Toronto, many of which relate
to children. I have been also helping organizations that provide facilities for
physical activity for children. There has been a great deal of interest, but I
cannot specifically answer the honourable senator's question.
Hon. John G. Bryden: Will the honourable senator take a question from
Senator Di Nino: Absolutely.
Senator Bryden: He is an equal-opportunity senator.
To follow-up on Senator Gustafson's question on the sharing of pension funds
so that taxes are paid together, which pensions are those?
Senator Di Nino: To the best of my knowledge, it is any pension that
any pensioner receives, including RRSPs; but I believe that RRSPs are only
included if the pensioner is 65 years or older. I believe the Canadian Pension
Plan, corporate pension plans and the Old Age Security pension are all included.
Senator Bryden: I have a supplementary question. This was done in the
2006 budget — is that what the honourable senator is saying?
I shall give the honourable senator a little more information. It is my
understanding — and sorry for the language — that after having broken its word
on the income trusts issue, the government decided that one of the ways to
soften up senior citizens was to allow senior citizens who lost 20 per cent of
their investments as a result of that decision to be able to average their
pension income. This would apply to senior citizens over the age of 65 who were
husband and wife. For example, I could put my Senate income in with my wife's,
as well as any RRSPs, if I were lucky enough to have RRSPs. Then, for tax
purposes, the two levels of income would be the same.
That is a good thing, except that it has not happened yet. It will not
happen, as I understand it, until the budget bill of 2007. Is that correct?
Senator Di Nino: I believe the measure was contained in the 2006
budget. It is not specifically part of Bill C-28. I am tempted to say that it
was included in the first budget implementation bill, but not having the
detailed information about that first bill with me, I really cannot say for
What I can tell the honourable senator is that the measure was universally
applauded by the seniors across this country. It is probably one of the most
positive things to have been done for seniors by a government, particularly in
light of the doubling of the pension income credit, from $1,000 to $2,000.
The honourable senator may be right on the 2007 bill. I cannot say that, but
my recollection is that it was contained in the first part of the budget
implementation bill; Bill C-28 is the second.
Senator Bryden: I know we are not in a debate, but I believe the
announcement was made that this measure was being contemplated. However, my
understanding is that legislation will be required — the budget bill that will
come up — to make it apply to what is the largest portion of a senior's pension
— that is, the portion received from an employer and RRSPs. For quite a long
time, it has been possible to share CPP pensions — in other words, an individual
who receives $10 can combine his or her pension with someone who receives the
maximum amount. They can average them out.
I appreciate that there is no reason for the honourable senator to come
prepared to answer that question, but he was talking about one other issue, the
$500 tax credit to get young people active. I want to ask the honourable senator
I believe that it is the case, although not included initially, that dance
has now been included as one of the activities that are eligible for the credit.
At the same time, it was suggested that music be included as well. Does the
honourable senator know whether or not both of those are included?
Senator Di Nino: At second reading I responded to that; I listed the
activities that were included. As I said at the time, I do not think Revenue
Canada has fully completed the list.
An expert panel report was prepared, which talks about any activity that
would contain physical activity and have a certain cardiovascular value to it.
Again, to the best of my knowledge, I am not sure that all of those specific
activities have been defined, other than those that we put on the record the
There was a question of some dancing — I think it was Senator Trenholme
Counsell who asked the question. I believe dancing was on the list that I
provided, but I think it was more of a specific dance program rather than all
Senator Bryden: There was a controversy, in the sports area, over
whether archery would be included. I thought it particularly apropos that we try
to trace that down today, it being Valentine's Day and there being many Cupids
wandering around. I wonder if the honourable senator could comment.
Senator Di Nino: If the honourable senator is suggesting that it
should be, I am suggesting that it should only be if the person one is trying to
reach with one's bow and arrow is five or six miles away, where one can hike to
visit a sweetheart of either gender.
Senator Milne: Or you are running away from the arrow.
Senator Di Nino: Hiking is included. One would have to hike a long way
before shooting the arrow for hiking to be included.
Hon. Grant Mitchell: Back to the question of pensioners' income
splitting. Am I to understand that if a person has a defined benefit pension,
which generally comes with relatively low risk, that individual could be
entitled to split his or her pension income with a partner or spouse whenever
the individual is entitled to collect a pension? Let us take the example of a
teacher who could collect a pension at age 55 versus an individual who will be
exclusively dependent on savings, whether RRSP, RIF or non-registered savings,
who will not be able to split that income until age 65? You were at the meeting
with the minister yesterday and I think that is exactly what he said.
Senator Di Nino: Because that matter is not part of Bill C-28, I am
not sure I am competent to answer the question. It is complex. The honourable
senator was there, as I was, and when the question was asked of the minister he
said quite clearly that, for RRSPs, it would have to be after one reaches the
age of 65.
Senator Mitchell: The honourable senator would agree, I would imagine,
that it would not seem fair that someone who has a pension could start to split
as early as age 55 — or as early as they could begin their pension — but that an
individual who does not have a pension could not benefit from splitting until
age 65, if the person has to depend on RRSPs.
Senator Di Nino: Honourable senators, I am not sure fairness is based
on age; it is based on an ability to look after oneself. For all I know, not
only does one have an RRSP, the individual may also have a pension plan and
other income. Certainly, the fact remains that there is a different treatment
for the two different pensions.
Hon. Jerahmiel S. Grafstein: I have a curious question on income
splitting as it relates to family law. Two pensioners might decide, perhaps just
at tax time, to file their returns indicating that they have split their income
for tax purposes. If that decision were made by one partner, would it require
the partner in receipt of the benefit of income splitting to share that income
stream with the contributing partner for that year?
Senator Di Nino: That question could better be answered by most of my
colleagues in this chamber who are lawyers. If the honourable senator wishes, I
would be pleased to obtain a proper answer to his question because I am not
competent to respond to it.
Senator Grafstein: When the government provides an apparent benefit,
it is important that there be a concomitant responsibility to share, in real
terms, that revenue stream for that current year. That is my understanding of
the proposal. It is important that the public understands that the taxpayer is
not only entitled to the tax benefit but also to the income consequences such
that the partner is responsible for sharing the revenue stream when income
splitting is considered. The public must understand the responsibilities as well
as the benefits.
Senator Di Nino: As we have seen in the past, the details of these
measures will be contained in the interpretation bulletins and explanatory notes
that will accompany the passage of the bill. I am quite confident that those
charged with the responsibility of ensuring that the public has full
understanding of the new measure will deal with those issues. If the honourable
senator is specifically asking me to inquire and obtain a response, I will do
so. Otherwise, the information will be contained in the accompanying
interpretation bulletins and explanatory notes.
Senator Mitchell: Honourable senators, I would like to contribute to
the third reading debate of Bill C-28 with a few summary comments. I will put
them in the context of what our party leader, Stéphane Dion, believes should be
the three elements of a modern 21st century Canadian government: a sustainable
environment, social justice, and a strong, wealth-developing economy.
When taken in this context, the debate of this bill and what it reflects in
the sense of this government's economic and social policies does not measure up
particularly well to those three parameters. Nothing in this document deals with
the environment; it does not deal with productivity in the economy, which is
essential for a strong, sustainable economy; and it reverses advancement and
progress on social justice because it literally punishes the vulnerable.
I was struck by a comment made last week by the Minister of the Environment,
John Baird, when he raised his side of the argument to what can only be
described as a new level of hysteria. He said that if Canada were to pursue the
Kyoto Protocol in a reasonable way and measure up to its international
obligations, the Canadian economy would collapse like the Russian economy
Honourable senators, I feel the frustration that I am sure many Canadians
feel because Bill C-28 so clearly underlines the government's failure to
recognize the strong opportunity, potential and link between strong
environmental policy and strong economic policy for the future.
The following analogy is emerging more and more in people's thinking, and I
have heard it mentioned in a number of places. In 1939, we could not have
imagined what it would take to participate as Canadians and win that war. Could
we have imagined it, I bet that we never would have believed it possible.
However, Canadians rose to the challenge and did it, and in doing so,
fundamentally restructured our economy. For perhaps the wrong reasons, the
Canadian economy became very strong as a result of that remarkable enterprise
between 1939 and 1945. However, this government categorically denies that in
some senses we are in much the same position today as we face the new challenge
of the environment with climate change and the Kyoto Protocol. Perhaps the
government cannot imagine that it is possible to meet this new challenge and
that it can be done by Canadians. That causes tremendous frustration for me
because I have a great sense of the energy and capability of Canadians to rise
to any challenge, domestically or internationally, historic or otherwise; and
this is domestic, international and historic. Why would this government diminish
its appreciation that Canadians would be up to that challenge?
The government is hiding behind its lack of imagination and claims that
living up to the Kyoto Protocol will destroy the Canadian economy. Why can the
government not capture the idea that, quite to the contrary, this challenge is
an historic opportunity that will stimulate our economy over the long term? At
some time, the current nature of our economy will become exhausted and will not
be sustainable, possibly because the world will no longer put up with pollution,
as it has in the past, or because our resources will be less utilized or
If we want a sustainable environment and a sustainable economy, we need to
understand that the two converge. A 21st century government requires the
imagination to capture that concept. It must understand that a sustainable
economy and a sustainable environment are intertwined, but that understanding is
not reflected in this document. This government is failing miserably by virtue
of the fact that it has not captured the important element of what is possible
for Canadians in this economy and in this environment.
To add insult to injury, what do we get? We get a tax credit for bus passes
that, I believe, amounts to $3 per week per pass. The former Minister of the
Environment had the audacity to suggest that this policy is already responsible
for getting the equivalent of 56,000 cars off the road. How many people are
driving their cars today because the cost of taking a bus is too expensive by $3
per week? No one. If you can afford to drive a car, you do not need to save $3
on the bus. The reason people are not taking the bus or rapid transit is because
it is not convenient or not available. You do not make it available at $3 per
week; you buy votes.
Senator Mercer: Mr. Baird can shut the thing down.
Senator Mitchell: He can shut the whole thing down in his home town.
Perhaps the government thinks they can buy votes for $3 per week. We cannot buy
an environmentally sustainable future or strong national transportation policy
or accessibility to the kind of rapid and public transit systems that we need if
we are to have an effective economy and get people to where they need to go
while paying respect to the environment in the way that we should. The savings
of $3 per week, I would argue, is nothing more than pure political spin. If the
government were serious about a transportation policy and about the environment,
they would do something about building public transit infrastructure, and they
are not doing that.
There is a tremendous opportunity in Canada today, because I know that
Canadians have grasped the importance of environmental policy. Sometimes to do
the right thing in politics takes a great deal of political credit, and often
great governments — I do not see one right now — have expended that credit to do
This circumstance now is very different. The Canadian people understand the
importance of this issue, and they are probably looking for, as we are over on
this side, some support incentive for CO2 capture and storage, which would be a
breakthrough in allowing the oil sands in Alberta to develop in an
environmentally sound way, reduce greenhouse gases, carbon dioxide, and in fact
begin to develop a new industry for the future. One day, mark my words, CO2 will
have great market value. I hope we will not see it evaporate into the air
because this government did not have the predisposition to capture the
opportunity by helping the industry capture carbon dioxide.
We have seen cuts to research and development, when in fact research and
development is exactly what modern economies, modern governments are pursuing,
because they see the new industry and economies of the future as being
knowledge-based, science-based and research-based. This government has retreated
to the 20th century, maybe to the 19th century, and cut research and
development. Imagine if we were promoting research and development into
environmentally sustainable technologies that would not only help us reach our
Kyoto accord obligations, but would begin to form the basis of a new
knowledge-based economy with new technologies and new industrial initiatives
that we could export around the world. Canada could once again be a leader in an
important international challenge.
We could develop conservation initiatives. One of the concerns in Nova Scotia
would be trying to meet the Kyoto accord through cutting carbon dioxide and
electrical generation which they believe would put a tremendous burden on their
economy. It would increase costs. There are ways to minimize and mitigate that
possibility. Imagine a government considering that possibility and anticipating
that perhaps they could assist business and individuals in the Maritimes and
elsewhere in this country to find ways to conserve energy so that as the cost
per unit went up, the volume required would go down. In fact, honourable
senators, the exact opposite happened. Immediately after they entered into
government they cancelled the very programs that would facilitate that approach.
Now, although they are arguing that they are somehow resurrecting them, it is
clear that they will not fund them the way they had been funded. It is a poor
second effort of "re-gifting" because it has not been funded properly.
I know that people on both coasts are concerned about the state of the
oceans, and there are creative environmental initiatives which this government
has not embraced to create ocean reserves which would be study centres, and in a
sense national parks of the oceans. That is a new and modern initiative that
other countries are embracing. I am from Alberta, and I am thinking of Drayton
Valley. This government of dinosaurs cannot see the tremendous potential and
contribution that this could make. They would be at home in Drumheller.
An Hon. Senator: Fossils and dinosaurs.
Senator Mitchell: I think half of the carbon dioxide that has been
emitted into the air is as a result of transportation. Again, we see no
initiative, no effort, no imagination here to begin to address the issue of
On the first element of a modern 21st century Canadian government, a
sustainable environment, this government simply misses the bill. In fact, by
missing the environmental bill, as it were, they miss the tremendous economic
opportunity that would come with development in that area, and other countries
are already leaping ahead of us. If we want to be an economy of the future and
be competitive, to use a Conservative word, we had better get on top of things.
It is not in this budget.
Honourable senators might expect a Conservative government of the mind or the
spin that somehow they are exquisitely good for economies and economic
development would have confronted, in this economic document, the issue of
productivity, but no. In fact, the foundation of their taxation policy is a cut
to the GST by one percentage point, which will put $5 billion back into the
economy annually. The GST, as every waking, living, breathing economist knows,
except the one who leads the government in the other House, is not an initiative
that promotes productivity. It reduces productivity. They take one of the most
significant issues facing our economy today as we fall behind our competitors in
competitiveness, the U.S. for example, and they throw $5 billion at making it
worse. Instead, they should be looking at a much more aggressive taxation
policy, among other things, that could enhance productivity.
That brings me to another point. During the election they made many promises,
and we are beginning to see many of those promises broken.
An Hon. Senator: Like Sheila Copps.
Senator Mitchell: We will see many more of them broken, but one of
them was —
An Hon. Senator: Like the GST.
Senator Mitchell: Sheila stood up to it. She stood up and ran. Why do
they not call bi-elections in Calgary and run on the income trust issue and see
what happens? Sheila Copps did that. She put her money where her mouth was, and
she won again.
The government promised they would bring in a capital gains reduction.
Admittedly, it is one of the most complicated taxation initiatives known to the
Canadian people, but they promised that if you booked a capital gain on a stock,
for example, and reinvested that within six months, you would not have to pay
tax on it. Nothing has happened on that promise. All of a sudden they are
miserably quiet on that one. Instead they have done GST reductions, which do
almost nothing except spin exceptionally well in the middle of an election
An Hon. Senator: Shame!
Senator Mitchell: I will come back to income splitting under the
productivity issue. You could argue that that would be a way of lowering income
taxes and stimulating the economy. There is a debate that needs to be addressed
in that respect, but of course the one place where they have announced to do it,
it is not fair. The minister said yesterday, "if you have a pension, you will
be able to split your pension income at any time, so if you started at 50 or 55
years old you are able to split right away." However, if the only way you have
been able to fund your retirement is by saving, because you do not work for a
place that has pensions, and fewer and fewer places do, and you take the
additional risk — because pensions tend to be less risky — of investing and
building your own RSP or your own non-registered investments to fund your
retirement, you will not be able to split your income until you are 65. Is that
fair? I can remember Minister Flaherty talking yesterday, if I am not mistaken,
about fairness in taxation. Tell me how that is fair in taxation. Tell me how
the GST cut is fairness in taxation. The poor do not get the benefit. The rich
That brings me to my third point about not living up to social justice, and
in fact retreating from social justice. I recommend a book called Whose
Freedom? by George Lakoff, in which he makes it clear what motivates the
right wing versus the progressives. One of the many points he makes is that the
right wing is inclined to reward the rich and punish the poor, punish the
vulnerable. We see punishing the vulnerable in many measures in this budget.
They have cut literacy funding, programs to women, early childhood education —
which is of particular advantage to women who often are trapped in the home
because they do not have adequate child care programs.
They have cut the Law Reform Commission which has been essential to
establishing fairness for those who are more vulnerable in our society. They
have done all of those things to punish the poor, to set back social justice
while rewarding people who have money. If you have money, you can put your
children into hockey and you have an income which is taxable, so you can write
off $500 and make your $77. If you have money, you can go to university and now
you get to save $77, I think it is, on books.
If you have money, you can go to university with a taxable income, and now
you get to write off your scholarship and bursaries, which probably most
students never had to pay tax on because they were not taxable.
My point is that there are three fundamentally important elements of modern,
progressive, forward-thinking government for the 21st century. One of them is
social justice. This document fails miserably on social justice. In fact, it
sets us back to maybe the 19th century in some regards. Another element is a
strong economy. This document does not address for a moment the issue of
productivity, which is essential to our economic well-being and future. It
denies and diminishes any focus on the environment. The third element, and
perhaps the most important element of any modern, futuristic, 21st century
government, is a sustainable environment.
This budget will unfortunately pass, but it will pass on division.
Some Hon. Senators: Hear, hear!
The Hon. the Speaker pro tempore: Are honourable
senators ready for the question?
Some Hon. Senators: Question!
The Hon. the Speaker pro tempore: It was moved by the
Honourable Senator Di Nino, seconded by the Honourable Senator Stratton, that
Bill C-28 be read the third time now. Is it your pleasure, honourable senators,
to adopt the motion?
Motion agreed to and bill read third time and passed, on division.
On the Order:
Resuming debate on the motion of the Honourable Senator Eyton, seconded by
the Honourable Senator Meighen, for the second reading of Bill C-26, to amend
the Criminal Code (criminal interest rate).
Hon. Catherine S. Callbeck: Honourable senators, I rise today in
support of Bill C-26, which will amend section 347 of the Criminal Code, which
deals with criminal interest rates.
Section 347 of the Criminal Code currently states that it is an offence to
enter into an agreement or arrangement to receive interest at a criminal rate,
which is defined as more than 60 per cent per year. This amendment was added in
1980. Its initial purpose was to help fight loansharking and its role in
organized crime. Bill C-26 will essentially exempt payday lenders from this
section of the legislation if provinces and territories bring forth legislation
to regulate the industry in their particular province.
As we have heard in this chamber in the past, payday loans are short-term
loans for a small amount, generally repaid at the borrower's next payday. The
average loan is approximately $280 for 10 days and is usually repaid with a
The payday lending industry has been growing substantially since 1994. More
than 1 million Canadians use its services, with a turnover of about $2 billion
annually. There are currently more than 1,350 lenders across the country. A
quick glance shows six listings in the phone book in my home province of Prince
Edward Island. However, despite its prominence across Canada, the payday lending
industry is virtually unregulated. There have been no reported convictions of
payday lenders under section 347 of the Criminal Code.
Many concerns have been raised over the years about the practices in the
payday loan industry. Certainly, our former colleague, Senator Plamondon, made
us all aware of these issues during her debate on her private bill to amend the
Criminal Code (criminal interest rate). These concerns have also come from the
provinces and territories, as well as consumer advocacy groups. There is, for
example, the high cost of borrowing. When all borrowing costs associated with a
payday loan are taken into account, the effective interest rates are well above
60 per cent on a per annum basis. For all intents and purposes, they are already
charging above the criminal interest rate. Section 347 defines interest as the
"aggregate of all charges and expenses, whether in the form of a fee, fine,
penalty, commission or other similar charge or expense or in any form . . . ."
There have been other concerns, such as inadequate disclosure of all terms in
a contract, unfair collection methods — which include harassing phone calls and
inappropriate calls to a place of employment — and the practice of rolling over
loans, essentially allowing borrowers to extend or renew their loans, all the
while charging more costs, fees and interest.
In fact, applications for certification of class action suits have already
been successful in B.C., Ontario and Alberta. These class actions generally
argue that the defendants have been unjustly enriched by charging interest and
fees in violation of section 347. One decision, Kilroy v. A OK Payday Loans
Inc. (2006) has found in favour of the plaintiff, concluding that the lender
had charged interest in excess of the criminal rate and had been unjustly
I wish to point out that the majority of payday lenders in this country,
about 850 of them, are members of the Canadian Payday Loan Association, which
has a Code of Best Business Practices. Nevertheless, this code is voluntary and,
of course, does not have any effect on approximately the 500 payday lenders who
are not members of the CPLA.
Given these issues with payday lenders, I am extremely pleased that this
federal government is building on the hard work done by the previous Liberal
government and has moved forward with this legislation. The federal government,
through Industry Canada, has been collaborating with several provincial
governments since 2000 as part of the Consumer Measures Committee working group
on the alternative consumer credit marketplace. Members have been working
towards regulation of the payday lending industry and have consulted with
consumer and stakeholder groups on this issue. During these consultations, it
was agreed by the federal, provincial and territorial governments that section
347 of the Criminal Code needed to be amended so that provinces and territories
could regulate the industry on their own.
In October 2005, the former minister of justice, the Honourable Irwin Cotler,
acknowledged that a consensus had been met with regard to section 347. He
received cabinet approval to amend this particular section of the Criminal Code.
The subsequent federal election ended these initiatives.
This proposed legislation today, Bill C-26, does essentially what the
previous government had intended. It exempts payday lenders from the Criminal
Code, but only in provinces and territories that have measures in place to
protect consumers. Regulating provinces and territories must have limits on the
cost to consumers of payday borrowing, a low limit of $1,500 and a lending
period limit of 62 days. I would point out that these limits were developed in
consultation with the provinces and territories. In addition, lenders would need
to be licensed as such by the province.
Two provinces have already moved forward on this and passed their own
legislation. In Manitoba, Bill 25 was passed on November 28, 2005. An amendment
to the Consumer Protection Act, the legislation allows the province to fully
regulate the payday lending industry. It includes provisions to prevent charging
extra fees for rollovers, to allow borrowers 48 hours to reconsider the
arrangement and to prevent having consumers sign over future wages. Lenders will
need to be licensed and bonded. The Manitoba Consumers' Bureau will have the
right to inspect them. The province's Public Utility Board will set the maximum
costs of credit for lenders.
The province of Nova Scotia passed Bill 87 in late November 2005. It amended
the province's Consumer Protection Act. It includes provisions that allow the
Nova Scotia Utility and Review Board to set the maximum amounts of interest
rates and require full disclosure of all fees and costs. The bill also prohibits
rollovers, having more than one loan at a time and loans greater than a
proportion of the borrower's pay. The legislation also allows borrowers 24 hours
to reconsider a loan.
On the whole, I believe that this legislation, Bill C-26, is an important
step in protecting Canadian consumers against those payday lenders who may be in
a position to take advantage of an unexpected financial crisis. The industry
will continue to operate but with controls.
Honourable senators, I encourage you to support Bill C-26 so these reforms
can be implemented quickly and further improve consumer protections in the
payday lending industry.
Some Hon. Senators: Hear, hear!
On motion of Senator Hervieux-Payette, debate adjourned.
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. Lorna Milne: Honourable senators, it is my pleasure to speak
today on this bill to amend the Constitution Act, 1867, regarding Senate tenure,
known as Bill S-4.
This bill represents an idea that has been debated and discussed among many
of us for a long time, the notion that honourable senators be appointed for a
specific term in office. While I have supported this change in theory for some
time — in fact, since I was appointed to this place — I have a number of
concerns regarding the proposal put forward in Bill S-4. I want to share them
My main concern with Bill S-4, as written, was touched upon by my honourable
colleague, Senator Joyal, when he recently spoke to this bill. Putting aside for
a moment the argument that the approach taken by this government may be
unconstitutional, the main concern I have is simply the length of term chosen by
A second but no less important concern is that under Bill S-4, a senator's
term may be renewable. I was interested in following the proceedings of the
Special Senate Committee on Senate Reform when they reviewed this bill, and I
want to take this opportunity to thank the members of that committee for their
contributions during this study.
Amid that review, I recall a point made during the hearings by Senator
Hubley, among others, when she noted that since 1965, the average stay of a
senator within the Senate is about nine and a half years. With this mind, it
would seem that making a change to eight years would not be that substantial.
However, this change glosses over the fundamental role of the Senate as an
independent parliamentary institution, an essential part of our bicameral system
of parliamentary government and the importance of the institutional memory of
Simply put, the implementation of an eight-year-term limit followed by a
possible renewal would inflict substantial damage on the current system of
government. This sentiment is seemingly echoed in a white paper presented to the
British Parliament last week about reform to the House of Lords.
The paper states that one of the strengths of the current House of Lords is
the continuity of its membership. Members serve for life, and new members make
up a small proportion of the House. The white paper explains this practice is
valuable because the length of service ensures that members look beyond
short-term considerations and political expediency and take a long-range view of
the issues before them.
The paper also argues that this continuity ensures that a great deal of
experience of both the legislative process and the work of the House of Lords
can readily be passed on to new members when they are named to that House.
Honourable senators, long before this act came before us — in fact, since I
arrived in this place — I have contemplated the essential question that Bill S-4
poses. After substantial consideration, I came to the conclusion that a 15-year
term would be an appropriate length of time for a senator to serve the
Parliament of Canada.
Without going into too much detail, I contend that the initial five years in
this place are spent learning how this place works. Goodness knows, I am still
learning. The next five could be devoted to the hard work and the long hours
necessary to perform the tasks we are mandated to do. The final five-year
segment could be concentrated on providing the leadership and the institutional
memory this chamber absolutely requires for its proper operation.
Honourable senators, it is purely a coincidence that the British government,
after issuing 12 separate reports on the same aspect of House of Lords reform,
came to the same conclusion and are recommending 15-year terms for members of
that esteemed chamber.
To give honourable senators an idea of what would change if Bill S-4 were in
force today in terms of the continuity of its membership, if we were to go to an
eight-year term, 54 present senators would no longer be here, including the
entire government leadership and indeed, the entire caucus of the Conservative
Party except two. None of our honourable Progressive Conservative colleagues
would be with us either, except Senator McCoy. In addition, only two of the
other five independent senators would be here.
If the entire collective memory of this place vanishes after eight years and
all senators that have been appointed by one Prime Minister, what would happen
to the essential nature of this place? I will tell you.
The very argument that some critics have used to heap scorn upon this chamber
will come true. This chamber will simply become a rubber stamp for the other
place and the reigning Prime Minister. If appointed to an eight-year renewable
term, this government will be successful in ripping away the independence of
senators that the builders of this country debated for so long to ensure, as
Senator Furey pointed out yesterday.
Moreover, Bill S-4, if passed as written, would make each of our successors
beholden to the sitting Prime Minister that appointed them. To be blunt, the
first four years of their term will be spent saying "thank you" while the last
four years will be spent asking "please, sir, can I have another term?"
It is my view that if the bill before honourable senators becomes law of the
land, apathy and contempt for this chamber will only grow. It will result in the
ever-louder chorus of critics singing, why bother with the Senate at all.
Given the views of the current Prime Minister regarding this place, I am not
surprised. It appears he will try anything to rid himself of anyone who could
criticize his actions based on either history or, heaven forbid, on fact.
Forget an elected Senate. I believe that the current Prime Minister's bravado
about Senate reform is a thinly veiled attempt simply to eliminate this chamber
from our parliamentary system. This kind of short-term consideration and
political expediency is precisely what the Fathers of Confederation designed
this chamber to withstand.
Honourable senators, on its face, eight years seems like a long time.
However, I have found through personal experience that while eight years is a
substantial amount of time, it can go by very quickly when one is working toward
the betterment of this country.
In short, I do not believe that eight years is a long enough time for the
institutional memory of this place to be properly maintained. The further
question of allowing eight-year appointments to be renewable makes this
proposition akin to the analogy of the trained seal, which has been used so
often to describe the activity of members of the other place.
As a result, I fear that not only the effectiveness but even the existence of
this chamber will be placed in jeopardy if we are not allowed to take a more
serious look at what this government wants to achieve in its Senate reform
initiative. This bill must be amended in committee, and that includes, by the
way, even the title of the bill, which means something different in French than
I urge the committee to consider all term limits on Senate tenure, including
my own recommendation of 15 years, and even term limits from the date of
appointment up to age 65 or 70. I believe these are all clearly constitutional
changes to Senate tenure, and I am looking forward to studying this bill in
Hon. Marilyn Trenholme Counsell: Honourable senators, I stand here
with Bill S-4 in my hand, a tiny document of fewer than 300 words — 276 is my
count — which has challenged honourable senators to delve deeply into the
history of our beloved country and to delve deeply into their own consciousness,
each in his or her own way, to respond to a project of law of extraordinary
significance and of profound consequences; an act, no less, to amend the
Constitution Act, 1867.
The magnificent speeches in response to Bill S-4 are testimony to the
impressive and undeniable experience of the women and men who have been given
the privilege, with all its obligations, of sitting in this chamber. Throughout
these speeches, I have been reminded of the wisdom and passion of individual
senators. Many of you have brought to this debate a lifetime of study in law,
history, political science and governmental affairs. You have spoken
brilliantly, giving a rare glimpse of what sober second thought is meant to
offer our parliamentary system. Yes, your years of experience in the Senate of
Canada have added to your individual capacity to approach legislation with
caution and with respect.
It has been beautiful to hear Senator Hubley speak about her beloved Prince
Edward Island and Senator Dyck speak about minorities. Since Confederation, the
Senate has been here for the smallest and the weakest.
Listening to so much thoughtful and inspiring debate made me wish that many
more Canadians from coast to coast to coast could have the privilege that is
mine, to sit amidst persons of finely honed intellect and of undeniable
commitment to our democratic institutions. Sadly, there would seem to be a
decline in respect for Canada's Senate and, if this is so, in my opinion, too
much of this decline is due to naked politics.
If this is an unfair comment, why then has Canada's Conservative government
approached Senate reform in such a glib, superficial manner? Is this a game plan
to score political points? Why otherwise would there be one bill in the Senate
and another in the House of Commons? Who in their right mind, accepting his or
her responsibility to exercise sober second thought, would play this
parliamentary game of piecemeal changes to the Senate?
Where is there any consultation that would pay tribute to the Fathers of
Confederation who, in their wisdom and after long reflection, gave to Canada an
institution of substance based on fairness and on the hope that Canada's
parliamentary processes would always embody the principles of wisdom, prudence
and, indeed, longevity?
On June 1, 2006, the Leader of the Government in the Senate spoke about
building consensus, yet there is no evidence that the government, which the
honourable senator represents, is making any effort to build consensus. Where is
the consultation with provinces and territories? Where is there any input from
scholars? Just how did the number "eight" emerge as the desirable tenure for
This may seem like levity, but I can imagine the Prime Minister — the
magician of political quick fixes — drawing a number from a hat: "Ah, yes, eight
years it will be!"
There is nothing "modest" about the intent of Bill S-4, as the Prime
Minister and the Leader of the Government in the Senate have declared. It is
nothing less than an attempt at bold, brave and, some might add, "brazen"
legislation. If you think I am mean-spirited, take a look at the French TV
advertisements against Stéphane Dion.
The honourable leader said, "We do not have a gun pointed at anyone's
head," but I would say this is shotgun legislation — quick, ill-considered and
serving merely the exigency of the moment, that are scoring political points.
The leader has said, "We are not acting in haste." Why then, day after day,
do the senators on the government side react so vehemently to ongoing debate on
Bill S-4? Surely, the Fathers of Confederation would have expected nothing less.
On a lighter note, I grew up hearing people say that someone would turn over
in their grave if something happened. It occurs to me that the Fathers of
Confederation might turn over in their graves if they knew the haste and hustle
with which this bill is being bulldozed through this historic institution, not
truly to serve valid Senate reform but to ensure election readiness by a
minority government in dire straits.
Compared to so many of my Senate colleagues, I am a baby, yet I am one of the
oldest senators. Honourable Senator Carstairs raised the issue of discrimination
vis-à-vis mandatory retirement at 75 years. I wish it were not so. The
Honourable Leader of the Government in the Senate seemed to get caught on
Senator Carstairs' question. Her reply:
Obviously the maximum age of 75 is waived, so it will be perhaps an
amendment in committee. . . . it would only stand to reason: if we are to
remove the requirement at one end, why we would not do so at the other?
Is this, honourable senators, justifiable haste or is it merely "make it up
as you go"? Find the answer in the magician's hat! Piecemeal legislation! Read
it from a teleprompter and it will come across so smooth that Canadians might
Yes, Bill S-4 is politics; not sound Senate reform; not constitutionally
sound; not acceptable for an institution that has served Canada well for nearly
a century and a half. I see nothing in Bill S-4 to convince me that it deserves
Perhaps I might take comfort from the words of Senator Segal:
. . . there will be ample opportunity in committee for members of the house
on all sides who have legitimate and specific concerns to address them at that
Senator Segal continued:
. . . we would be sending a powerful message . . . to Canadians about our
common will not to acquiesce in matters with which we do not agree, but rather
to put forward to study in a thoughtful way —
— this legislation.
Yet, there is, in this honourable senator's speech, more confusion when he
. . . where I stand on the issue of a retroactive amendment so that people
now in this institution are not grandfathered. . . . if . . . we are called
upon to make various sacrifices . . . we would rise to the occasion.
That is quite confusing.
Is that clear, honourable senators? Whose word do we take? Did the Prime
Minister build consensus in his own caucus on Bill S-4, or was it conceived in a
sentimental moment with those nearest and dearest to him? Surely, such a
question is appropriate on St. Valentine's Day. I wish the Honourable Leader of
the Government in the Senate were here.
Honourable senators, my own position is clear. I am in favour of Senate
reform. I believe this Parliament, its leaders, its elected members and its
senators should undertake a plan of consultation with the provinces and
territories, with scholars and with experts and, of course, with the people of
Canada. We should study carefully the example of Westminster, noting especially
all that is worthy of emulating from recent reforms in the House of Lords.
I do not believe Bill S-4 is worthy of our support unless it can be improved
and strengthened through sustained and dedicated study in committee. If this
should happen, I believe Canada's Senate will have kept faith with the Fathers
of Confederation and with the citizens of this proud and democratic country.
Hon. Leonard J. Gustafson: Has the honourable senator thought about
the fact that if there is Senate reform the powers of the Senate may increase? I
cannot agree with what the honourable senator said about decreasing the powers
of the Senate; I think they will increase. Would that not neuter the House of
Commons and take away from their power?
Senator Trenholme Counsell: The question the honourable senator is
asking is in reference to Bill C-43, which talks about an "election" that
would give the Prime Minister of the day some insight into the wishes of the
provinces, or however it goes. It is explained in different ways on different
days, depending on which television station you are watching or which
teleprompter is being used.
I do not believe that senators, in their wisdom, would ever want to undermine
the role of the House of Commons. We have different but complementary roles. I
believe that the wisdom with which this institution and the other institution
were founded will survive and we will complement each other.
I do not know exactly why the honourable senator asked me that question
because I do not think I implied that we would want to increase the powers of
the Senate. I am in favour of Senate reform, based on very extensive and careful
consultation, and certainly not this bill, unless it is studied thoroughly by
hearing from many witnesses.
I am not in any way implying that our power be increased. I am simply
implying that we should continue to embody and to dedicate ourselves to the
original purposes as defined by the Fathers of Confederation, namely, sober
second thought, protection of regional interests and protection of minorities.
Senator Gustafson: Not to debate, but I think it would be automatic.
Senator Nancy Ruth: Nothing is automatic.
Senator Gustafson: There would be an entirely different group of
people in the Senate. Given that they would be elected, they would feel that
they would have equal powers, if not even the last word.
Senator Trenholme Counsell: I think we are confusing the bills. This
bill has nothing to do with the election of senators. This bill has only to do
with the tenure of senators. Perhaps the honourable senator's comments would be
more appropriate at another time.
On motion of Senator Tardif, debate adjourned, on division.
On the Order:
Resuming debate on the motion of the Honourable Senator Di Nino, seconded
by the Honourable Senator Andreychuk:
That the Senate urge the Government of the People's Republic of China and
the Dalai Lama, notwithstanding their differences on Tibet's historical
relationship with China, to continue their dialogue in a forward-looking
manner that will lead to pragmatic solutions that respect the Chinese
constitutional framework, the territorial integrity of China and fulfill the
aspirations of the Tibetan people for a unified and genuinely autonomous
Tibet.—(Honourable Senator Jaffer)
Hon. Mira Spivak: Honourable senators, I am pleased to lend support to
this motion in the hope that an organized effort by parliamentarians worldwide
will spur the Government of the People's Republic of China and the Dalai Lama to
find a lasting solution to the tragedy of Tibet.
It is something to be hoped for on humanitarian grounds, by all those
concerned with social justice, and on grounds that are often overlooked in the
mainstream debate — the huge importance of the state of Tibet's environment to
much of Asia.
Some have called China's environmental degradation of Tibet in the last 50
years nothing short of "ecocide." As Asia's principal watershed and the source
of its major rivers, rivers that provide water for 47 per cent of the world's
population, what happens environmentally in Tibet is of great concern to the
continent and to the world.
What happened between the 1949 troop invasion and late last decade was
massive deforestation. Within 40 years, some 40 per cent of Tibet's forests
vanished — forests that grew on steep slopes of river valleys. The result was
predictable. The Yellow River, the Yangtze and others that originate in Tibet
became among the five most heavily-silted rivers in the world.
Then came the disastrous Yangtze River floods of 1998. China belatedly placed
a ban on logging. Since then, there have been eyewitness accounts of illegal
logging and video footage of hillsides set on fire so that the blackened tree
trunks can be harvested.
Reforestation in Tibet is slow and ineffective. China estimates that it will
take 50 years to reforest denuded areas by its preferred method — dropping seeds
from aircraft. Meanwhile, erosion of steep slopes grows worse.
The second half of the last century also saw widespread degradation of
Tibet's grasslands, conversion of marginal lands to agriculture and extensive
desertification. Large-scale hydro developments have displaced Tibetans from
their homes and their lands. The rate of mineral extraction from Tibet also is
rapidly increasing. Unfortunately, Canadian companies are profiting from some of
As an environmental watch group concluded, reversing the environmental
degradation that has occurred in Tibet:
. . . is in the long-term interest of all the neighbouring countries as
environmental conditions in Tibet have major transboundary effects, notably in
India, China, Bangladesh and Pakistan. Nearly half of the global population,
particularly in these four countries, depends on the rivers of Tibet for their
One of the many boons of an agreement between China and the Dalai Lama could
be greater respect for the land and the headwaters of rivers that quench Asia.
It is an outcome that most people would welcome, I am sure.
I urge parliamentarians everywhere to urge the parties to "press on" with
On motion of Senator Tardif, for Senator Jaffer, debate adjourned.
The Senate adjourned until Thursday, February 15, 2007, at 1:30 p.m.