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57 Elizabeth II, A.D. 2008, Canada

Journals of the Senate

2nd Session, 39th Parliament


Issue 47

Tuesday, April 8, 2008
2:00 p.m.

The Honourable Noël A. Kinsella, Speaker


The Members convened were:

The Honourable Senators

Adams, Andreychuk, Angus, Bacon, Baker, Banks, Biron, Brown, Callbeck, Campbell, Carstairs, Champagne, Chaput, Charette-Poulin, Cochrane, Comeau, Cook, Cools, Corbin, Cordy, Cowan, Dallaire, Dawson, Day, De Bané, Di Nino, Downe, Dyck, Eggleton, Fairbairn, Fox, Fraser, Furey, Gill, Goldstein, Grafstein, Gustafson, Harb, Hervieux-Payette, Hubley, Jaffer, Johnson, Joyal, Keon, Kinsella, Lapointe, LeBreton, Losier-Cool, Lovelace Nicholas, Mahovlich, McCoy, Mercer, Milne, Moore, Munson, Murray, Nancy Ruth, Nolin, Oliver, Pépin, Peterson, Phalen, Prud'homme, Ringuette, Rivest, Robichaud, Rompkey, St. Germain, Segal, Sibbeston, Smith, Spivak, Stollery, Stratton, Tardif, Tkachuk, Trenholme Counsell, Watt

The Members in attendance to business were:

The Honourable Senators

Adams, Andreychuk, Angus, Bacon, Baker, Banks, Biron, Brown, Callbeck, Campbell, Carstairs, Champagne, Chaput, Charette-Poulin, Cochrane, Comeau, Cook, Cools, Corbin, Cordy, Cowan, Dallaire, Dawson, Day, De Bané, Di Nino, Downe, Dyck, Eggleton, Fairbairn, *Fortier, Fox, Fraser, Furey, Gill, Goldstein, Grafstein, Gustafson, Harb, Hervieux-Payette, Hubley, Jaffer, Johnson, Joyal, *Kenny, Keon, Kinsella, Lapointe, LeBreton, Losier-Cool, Lovelace Nicholas, Mahovlich, McCoy, *Meighen, Mercer, Milne, *Mitchell, Moore, Munson, Murray, Nancy Ruth, Nolin, Oliver, Pépin, Peterson, Phalen, Prud'homme, Ringuette, Rivest, Robichaud, Rompkey, St. Germain, Segal, Sibbeston, Smith, Spivak, Stollery, Stratton, Tardif, Tkachuk, Trenholme Counsell, Watt, *Zimmer

PRAYERS

The Senate observed a minute of silence in memory of Private Terry John Street, who died in the service of his country and while helping the people of Afghanistan.

SENATORS' STATEMENTS

Some Honourable Senators made statements.

DAILY ROUTINE OF BUSINESS

Tabling of Documents

With leave of the Senate,

The Honourable Senator Kinsella tabled the following:

Report of the Parliamentary Delegation of the Senate, led by the Speaker of the Senate, respecting its visit to Kuwait, Yemen and Oman, from January 6 to 17, 2008.—Sessional Paper No. 2/39-522S.

The Honourable Senator Comeau tabled the following:

Second Report of the Independent Advisor into the Allegations Respecting Financial Dealings Between Mr. Karlheinz Schreiber and the Right Honourable Brian Mulroney.—Sessional Paper No. 2/39-523.

Presentation of Reports from Standing or Special Committees

The Honourable Senator Day, Chair of the Standing Senate Committee on National Finance, presented its twelfth report (The Human Resource Management Issues in the Public Service).

(The report is printed as an appendix.)

The Honourable Senator Day moved, seconded by the Honourable Senator Moore, that the report be placed on the Orders of the Day for consideration at the next sitting.

The question being put on the motion, it was adopted.

Introduction and First Reading of Senate Public Bills

The Honourable Senator Grafstein presented a Bill S-232, An Act to prohibit the transfer of certain assets and operations from MacDonald, Dettwiler and Associates Limited to Alliant Techsystems Incorporated.

The bill was read the first time.

The Honourable Senator Grafstein moved, seconded by the Honourable Senator Corbin, that the bill be placed on the Orders of the Day for a second reading two days hence.

The question being put on the motion, it was adopted.

SPEAKER'S RULING

On Tuesday, March 11, 2008, at the beginning of Orders of the Day, Senator Murray rose on a point of order to complain about the conduct of Question Period during recent sittings. In particular, he objected to several questions touching on a confidence vote that occurred in the House of Commons in May 2005.

Senator Murray expressed concerns about these questions and answers for two reasons. First, he argued that they did not fall within the administrative responsibility of the Government. Second, he said they involved reflections upon proceedings in the other place, and were therefore inappropriate.

In response, Senator Mercer noted that similar questions have been dealt with in the other place. Senator Fraser, in turn, argued that the issues raised were of such a nature that they could be discussed. For her part, Senator Carstairs referred to Beauchesne's to remind the Senate that Question Period involves the Cabinet submitting its conduct of public affairs to the scrutiny of the Opposition. Senator Nolin expressed the view that the issue to be considered is whether the question relates to ``public affairs.''

I would like to thank all Honourable Senators for their contributions to discussion on this point of order.

Question Period in the Senate provides an opportunity to seek information from the Government or from Chairs of committees. Rule 24(1) outlines what questions can be asked of whom. A question posed to a committee Chair must relate to the activities of that committee. Questions posed to the Leader of the Government in the Senate should relate to public affairs. Other Ministers in the Senate can also be asked questions, but only in relation to their ministerial responsibilities.

Question Period in the Senate is, therefore, not the same as that in the other place. The Leader of the Government has broader responsibility for answering questions than any other single Cabinet Minister. Moreover, the atmosphere here tends to be calm and reflective, as befits the high respect Honourable Senators have for each other, despite their range of views on many issues.

In considering Senator Murray's first point, that the recent questions do not relate to the administrative responsibilities of the Government, we must take into account the different roles for the Leader and any other Ministers in the Senate that have already been noted. The latter are only answerable for their ``ministerial responsibilities.'' This point was dealt with in the October 31, 2006 Ruling on questions addressed to the Minister of Public Works and Government Services, and is similar to the restriction noted at page 426 of House of Commons Procedure and Practice, where Marleau and Montpetit state that questions should be ``within the administrative responsibility of the government or the individual Minister addressed.''

However, rule 24(1) clearly gives the Leader of the Government in the Senate a larger role. The Leader can be asked questions about ``public affairs'' in general. This is a very broad term, in keeping with the expansive responsibilities encompassed by that position. The Senate has not chosen to narrow its meaning or to develop guidelines as to acceptable questions.

We must be cautious, therefore, about imposing restrictions on questions to the Leader that appropriately apply to those asked of other Ministers in the Senate. In considering the nature of questions asked of the Leader, a Ruling by Speaker Molgat is perhaps relevant. On April 2, 1998, he stated ``that matters are presumed to be in order, except where the contrary is clearly established to be the case.'' This is a sound general principle for us in the Senate. Applied to Question Period, it suggests that, unless clearly out of order—as would be the case of overly-broad questions addressed to Ministers other than the Leader—the Speaker should err on the side of allowing questions.

In practice, of course, the Senate is to a great extent a self-regulating Chamber. As such, Senators have considerable responsibility for determining how business is to be conducted. In the absence of clear guidance from the Chamber itself, Senators rely on their own understanding of ``public affairs.'' Senators should only ask questions that they believe are, in fact, related to ``public affairs.'' Similarly, the Leader should only answer questions that she believes to be related to ``public affairs.'' Senators themselves are best positioned to determine whether a question is appropriate, and how it should be answered.

Given that the questions at the source of this point of order were asked and answered, and guided by the principle that it is preferable to err on the side of allowing an exchange of information, unless clearly prohibited, it would be inappropriate for the Speaker to rule the questions at issue out of order.

With respect to Senator Murray's second point, questioning the propriety of references to votes in the other place, I note that Marleau and Montpetit state, at pages 522-523, that disrespectful reflections on either House are not permitted and that references to Senate proceedings are ``discouraged'' in the Commons. Similarly, in the Senate our practice is to focus on what occurs here and outside Parliament; it is not to engage in discussions on the proceedings or procedures of the other place. This is a sound practice. During Question Period and at other times Senators should be guided by this limitation.

Question Period in the Senate is an important part of the sitting, and it is in all our interest to ensure that it remains effective. The model of Question Period in the other place has not been embraced as one to be followed in the Senate. Nevertheless, from time to time, the nature of a given issue may generate lively reactions among Senators. We must, however, be wary of an appearance of disorder seeping into our proceedings.

While the questions on which the point of order was raised were not out of order, I once again encourage all Honourable Senators to reflect on the manner in which we conduct ourselves in order to ensure that we preserve the useful flow of information that has long been the tradition and hallmark of Question Period in the Senate.

ORDERS OF THE DAY

GOVERNMENT BUSINESS

Inquiries

Order No. 1 was called and postponed until the next sitting.

Reports of Committees

Orders No. 1 and 2 were called and postponed until the next sitting.

OTHER BUSINESS

Senate Public Bills

Orders No. 1 to 13 were called and postponed until the next sitting.

Commons Public Bills

Orders No. 1 to 3 were called and postponed until the next sitting.

Resuming debate on the motion of the Honourable Senator Comeau, seconded by the Honourable Senator Di Nino, for the second reading of Bill C-299, An Act to amend the Criminal Code (identification information obtained by fraud or false pretence).

After debate,

The Honourable Senator Tardif moved, seconded by the Honourable Senator Fraser, that further debate on the motion be adjourned until the next sitting.

The question being put on the motion, it was adopted.

Second reading of Bill C-428, An Act to amend the Controlled Drugs and Substances Act (methamphetamine).

The Honourable Senator Johnson moved, seconded by the Honourable Senator Segal, that the bill be read the second time.

After debate,

The Honourable Senator Tardif moved, seconded by the Honourable Senator Cowan, that further debate on the motion be adjourned until the next sitting.

The question being put on the motion, it was adopted.

Order No. 6 was called and postponed until the next sitting.

Reports of Committees

Consideration of the eleventh report of the Standing Senate Committee on National Finance (Bill S-219, An Act to amend the Public Service Employment Act (elimination of bureaucratic patronage and establishment of national area of selection), with an amendment), presented in the Senate on April 3, 2008.

The Honourable Senator Day moved, seconded by the Honourable Senator Banks, that the report be adopted.

After debate,

The Honourable Senator Tkachuk, for the Honourable Senator Stratton, moved, seconded by the Honourable Senator Comeau, that further debate on the motion be adjourned until the next sitting.

The question being put on the motion, it was adopted.

Consideration of the ninth report (interim) of the Standing Senate Committee on Social Affairs, Science and Technology, entitled: Population Health Policy: Federal, Provincial, and Territorial Perspectives, tabled in the Senate on April 2, 2008.

The Honourable Senator Keon moved, seconded by the Honourable Senator Andreychuk, that the report be adopted.

After debate,

The question being put on the motion, it was adopted.

Orders No. 3 to 7 were called and postponed until the next sitting.

Other

Order No. 9 (inquiry) was called and postponed until the next sitting.

Resuming debate on the inquiry of the Honourable Senator Comeau, calling the attention of the Senate to the debilitating nature of arthritis and its effect on all Canadians.

After debate,

The Honourable Senator Tkachuk moved, seconded by the Honourable Senator Cochrane, that further debate on the inquiry be adjourned until the next sitting.

The question being put on the motion, it was adopted.

Orders No. 8, 3, 7 (inquiries), 11 (motion), 11 (inquiry) and 6 (motion) were called and postponed until the next sitting.

Resuming debate on the inquiry of the Honourable Senator Di Nino, calling the attention of the Senate to the voting age in Canada for federal elections and referendums.

After debate,

The Honourable Senator Cowan moved, seconded by the Honourable Senator Gill, that further debate on the inquiry be adjourned until the next sitting.

The question being put on the motion, it was adopted.

Orders No. 88, 68, 3, 69, 79, 4, 78 (motions), 10 (inquiry), 62 and 76 (motions) were called and postponed until the next sitting.

INQUIRIES

The Honourable Senator Hubley called the attention of the Senate to the current state of maternity and parental benefits in Canada, to the challenges facing working Canadians who decide to have children, and to the options for improving federal benefits programs to address these challenges.

After debate,

The Honourable Senator Cordy moved, seconded by the Honourable Senator Fraser, that further debate on the inquiry be adjourned until the next sitting.

The question being put on the motion, it was adopted.

REPORTS DEPOSITED WITH THE CLERK OF THE SENATE PURSUANT TO RULE 28(2):

Proposed regulation amending the Immigration and Refugee Protection Regulations (PRRA) and Regulatory Impact Analysis Statement, dated March 31, 2008, pursuant to the Immigration and Refugee Protection Act, S.C. 2004, c. 15, s. 70.Sessional Paper No. 2/39-512.

Proposed regulation amending the Immigration and Refugee Protection Regulations (Permanent Resident Card) and Regulatory Impact Analysis Statement, dated March 31, 2008, pursuant to the Immigration and Refugee Protection Act, S.C. 2004, c. 15, s. 70.Sessional Paper No. 2/39-513.

Summary of the Corporate Plan for 2008-2009 of the Sport Dispute Resolution Centre of Canada, pursuant to the Physical Activity and Sport Act, S.C. 2003, c. 2, sbs. 32(4).Sessional Paper No. 2/39-514.

Report of the Blue Water Bridge Authority, together with the Auditor General's Report, for the year 2007, pursuant to the Financial Administration Act, R.S.C. 1985, c. F-11, sbs. 150(1).Sessional Paper No. 2/39-515.

Reports of the Atlantic Pilotage Authority for the year ended December 31, 2007, pursuant to the Access to Information Act and to the Privacy Act, R.S.C. 1985, c. A-1 and P-21, sbs. 72(2).Sessional Paper No. 2/39-516.

Reports of the Belledune Port Authority, Halifax Port Authority, Montréal Port Authority, North Fraser River Port Authority, Prince Rupert Port Authority, Saguenay Port authority, Sept-Îles Port Authority, Thunder Bay Port Authority, Trois-Rivières Port Authority, Windsor Port Authority, Fraser River Port Authority, Hamilton Port Authority, Nanaimo Port Authority, Port Alberni Port Authority, Québec Port Authority, Saint John Port Authority, St. John's Port Authority, Toronto Port Authority and Vancouver Port Authority for the year ended December 31, 2007, pursuant to the Access to Information Act and to the Privacy Act, R.S.C. 1985, c. A-1 and P-21, sbs. 72(2).—Sessional Paper No. 2/39-517.

Reports of the RCMH-MRCH Inc. for the fiscal year ended March 31, 2007, pursuant to the Access to Information Act and to the Privacy Act, R.S.C. 1985, c. A-1 and P-21, sbs. 72(2). —Sessional Paper No. 2/39-518.

Summary of the Corporate Plan for 2008-2012 of the Business Development Bank of Canada, pursuant to the Financial Administration Act, R.S.C. 1985, c. F-11, sbs. 125(4).Sessional Paper No. 2/39-519.

Report on the administration of the Firearms Act for the year 2006, pursuant to the Firearms Act, R.S.C. 1995, c. 39, sbs. 93(2).Sessional Paper No. 2/39-520.

Reports of VIA Rail Canada Inc. for the year ended December 31, 2007, pursuant to the Access to Information Act and to the Privacy Act, R.S.C. 1985, c. A-1 and P-21, sbs. 72(2). —Sessional Paper No. 2/39-521.

ADJOURNMENT

The Honourable Senator Comeau moved, seconded by the Honourable Senator Di Nino:

That the Senate do now adjourn.

The question being put on the motion, it was adopted.

(Accordingly, at 4:10 p.m. the Senate was continued until 1:30 p.m. tomorrow.)


Changes in Membership of Committees Pursuant to Rule 85(4)

Standing Senate Committee on Banking, Trade and Commerce

The names of the Honourable Senators Massicotte, Harb and Meighen substituted for those of the Honourable Senators Dawson, De Bané and Nolin (April 3).

Standing Senate Committee on Aboriginal Peoples

The name of the Honourable Senator Tkachuk substituted for that of the Honourable Senator Gustafson (April 4).

The name of the Honourable Senator Gustafson substituted for that of the Honourable Senator Tkachuk (April 7).

Standing Senate Committee on Official Languages

The names of the Honourable Senators Ringuette and Kinsella substituted for those of the Honourable Senators Goldstein and Comeau (April 7).

The names of the Honourable Senators Comeau and Goldstein substituted for those of the Honourable Senators Kinsella and Ringuette (April 8).

Standing Senate Committee on Transport and Communications

The name of the Honourable Senator Nolin substituted for that of the Honourable Senator Eyton (April 8).