Debates of the Senate (Hansard)
1st Session, 41st Parliament,
Volume 148, Issue 73
Tuesday, May 1, 2012
The Honourable Noël A. Kinsella, Speaker
Tuesday, May 1, 2012
The Senate met at 2 p.m., the Speaker in the chair.
Hon. Catherine S. Callbeck: Honourable senators, 2012 has been
declared the International Year of Cooperatives. According to the United
Nations, this commemorative year is intended to raise public awareness of the
invaluable contributions of cooperative enterprises to poverty reduction,
employment generation and social integration. The year will also highlight the
strengths of the cooperative business: They are owned and controlled by their
members, and they have a distinct commitment to both economic development and
It is estimated that as many as 1 billion people are involved in the
cooperative movement. The self-help principles on which the cooperative movement
is based make an enormous contribution to the needs of the people of developing
Here at home, cooperatives exist in virtually every sector of the Canadian
economy. One can be born in a health care cooperative and be buried by a funeral
co-op. In between, one can purchase a wide range of goods and services from
groceries to insurance, find employment in a workers' co-op, live in a housing
co-op, or engage in a broad range of economic, cultural and social activities
carried out by cooperatives.
Cooperatives and credit unions have a huge impact on communities right across
Canada. There are currently over 9,000 cooperatives and credit unions in this
country, and 18 million Canadians are members of at least one of them. Some
70,000 people volunteer their time to become members of the boards of co-ops and
credit unions. Co-ops and credit unions have combined assets of approximately
$252 billion, and they employ over 155,000 people. For example, the Desjardins
movement in Quebec is the largest employer in the whole province.
Honourable senators, the International Year of Cooperatives provides a great
opportunity to recognize the tremendous contributions that cooperatives make to
the economic and social well-being of the people of the world. These
community-based organizations care not only about the financial health of their
businesses but also about the quality of life and standard of living of the
people in the communities they serve. In so doing, they make a vital
contribution to the health of our economy and the well-being of our fellow
I ask you to join with me to pay tribute to the outstanding contributions
made by cooperatives and credit unions and to wish them continued success in the
The Hon. the Speaker: Honourable senators, I would like to draw your
attention to the presence in the gallery of Lyse Ricard, the Interim Senate
Honourable senators, I also wish to draw your attention to the presence in
the gallery of members from New Brunswick of the Canadian Police Association:
Dean Secord, Leah Secord, and John Thomson.
On behalf of all honourable senators, welcome to the Senate of Canada.
Hon. Donald H. Oliver: Honourable senators, I rise today to draw your
attention to Asian Heritage Month. Every May, we pay tribute to the many
contributions that Asian-Canadians have made to the creation of our diverse
Prime Minister Harper once said:
Canada is a country where people from very different cultural backgrounds
have bonded together to create a pluralistic and inclusive society. . . .
Asian Heritage Month provides an opportunity, not only to celebrates the
rich heritage of Asian Canadians, but also to recognize the important role
that they have played in building our great country. . . .
In 2002, the Government of Canada signed an official declaration to recognize
May as Asian Heritage Month. It reads as follows:
Diversity represents one of Canada's greatest strengths, and we strive to
ensure that all Canadians have the opportunity to reach their full potential
and participate in Canada's civic life.
Over the last two centuries, immigrants have journeyed to Canada from East,
Southern, Western, and Southeast Asia, bringing our society a rich cultural
heritage representing many languages, ethnicities and religious traditions. The
people of this diverse, vibrant and growing community have contributed to every
aspect of life in Canada, from the arts and science to sport, business and
Honourable senators, this month-long celebration gives Canadians a
opportunity to learn more about the many contributions of Asian Canadians to
create our diverse nation. I think, for instance, of such outstanding Canadians
as Chinese-born fashion designer Alfred Sung; Quebecer Kim Thuy Ly, best-selling author of Vietnamese ancestry; Douglas Jung, Canada's first M.P. of
Chinese extraction who helped thousands of Chinese regularize their status; and
the Honourable Bal Gosal, Minister of State for Sport who was born in India.
Throughout the month, events and activities will be organized in cities
across Canada to celebrate Asian-Canadian heritage.
In Ottawa, Asian Heritage Month festivities include a special event on May 16
at the Ottawa Public Library, where children of Asian immigrants will share
their stories. Member of parliament Michael Chong will be a featured speaker.
Honourable senators, there are nearly four million Canadians of Asian
ancestry in Canada today and there are dozens of Asian communities across the
country. Each one contributes to Canada's diverse landscape through their
fascinating cultures, traditions and histories. They are an integral part of
Canada's diversity. Please join me in celebrating their legacy by recognizing
Asian Heritage Month and honouring their countless contributions.
Hon. Mobina S. B. Jaffer: Honourable senators, for a number of years I
have been working alongside M.P. Patrick Brown as the Vice-Chair of the
All-Party Parliamentary Malaria Caucus. In addition, I work closely with
Buy-A-Net, an Ontario-based charitable organization, as well as a number of
other organizations, to help eradicate malaria.
I would like to take this opportunity to acknowledge the work of two amazing
Canadian women, Ms. Debra Lefebvre and Ms. Gail Fones, as well as an amazing
Ugandan woman, Ms. Sarah Komugisha, all of whom are members of the Buy-A-Net
organization. I would also like to acknowledge the work of Dr. Martin Nkundeki,
who has been the resident volunteer in Uganda for over six years.
Last Wednesday, April 25, as the international community commemorated World
Malaria Day, I returned to Katagoo, a village in Uganda, where I joined members
of Buy-A-Net and distributed over 500 insecticide-treated mosquito nets. I first
visited this village when Senator Stewart Olsen and I accompanied Prime Minister
Harper to Uganda for the Commonwealth Conference. I visited this village on
behalf of the Prime Minister and Canadians and, over the last six years, I have
returned to this area a number of times.
Over the years I made several friends in Katagoo, one of whom is Irene. Irene
and I are both grandmothers, and six years ago we bonded over the fact that we
both had just become grandparents. We both have always had many stories to share
about our precious grandchildren, Adam and Ayaan.
Last Wednesday, Irene was uncharacteristically quiet. As I observed her, I
was disturbed by her silence, so I went over to her and asked why she was so
quiet and unhappy. Tearfully, she explained to me that I had arrived with the
nets too late as her grandson Adam had died of malaria. I hugged Irene and
struggled to find words to console her.
Honourable senators, malaria is one of the leading causes of death for
children under the age of five and has claimed the lives of many children living
in Sub-Saharan Africa, just like Adam. In fact, every 50 seconds a child in
Africa dies of malaria. Sarah, Dr. Martin and I, along with many village
volunteers who joined us in distributing the bed nets, had a rough day. Sarah,
who had spent a number of hours making sure that all the arrangements had been
made, was very disappointed that the weather would not cooperate.
However, as we ventured out into the villages last Wednesday, not even the
torrential downpour was able to dampen the spirits of those who were anxiously
waiting to receive bed nets.
These mosquito nets, which can cover up to four people at a time, act as a
wall of defence and protect families from contracting malaria. Ownership of
these nets has proven to reduce child mortality rates of children under the age
of five by 23 per cent. Unfortunately, with heavy hearts, we had to turn away
several families because we ran out of nets to distribute.
Honourable senators, the effect of malaria on developing countries is
crippling. We, as Canadians, have the resources and the power to lead the fight
against malaria; now, we just need the will.
Hon. Hugh Segal: Honourable senators, I rise today to pay tribute to a
great Canadian, soldier, business and community leader, Jean Ostiguy, who passed
away on March 31 in Quebec. This great Canadian served his country tirelessly
and with both style and courage in peace and war.
In World War II, Mr. Ostiguy served in the Italian campaign as a captain in
the 4th Princess Louise Dragoon Guards and was wounded at Monte Cassino. He was
a distinguished graduate of the Royal Military College in Kingston and a
lifetime member of the RMC Club. He was honoured recently by being posted on the
college's wall of honour.
In private life after the war, he rose to the top of Canadian and Quebec
business, having been elected President of the Investment Dealers Association of
Canada and having been the founding President and CEO of the Richardson
investment bank in Quebec, which is a combination of other investment groups in
Quebec. He served on numerous corporate boards, but also made time for his
community, giving back always to the country and community whose freedom he
defended in World War II. Centraide, Hôpital Jean-Talon, the Royal Victoria
Hospital, the Canadian Council of Christians and Jews. and Collège militaire
royal all benefited immensely from his tireless donation of time and resources.
For 45 years Mr. Ostiguy was associated with the Maison des Étudiants
Canadiens in Paris, an organization he started and helped sustain for decades,
following in the footsteps of its founder, his grandfather, Senator
Joseph-Marcelin Wilson, who began the roots of the project on the Cité
Internationale site in Paris. His Legion of Honor of France, his Order of
Canada, his Honorary Lieutenant-Colonel's post of the Régiment de Maisonneuve,
and his Honorary Doctorate of Laws from RMC all underline how much he was loved,
appreciated and how much he will be missed.
Jean Ostiguy lived a life of patriotism, community service, business
leadership and love of family. He brought elegance, style and civility to
everything he did, all he touched, and the country and province he called home.
Canada and the world are far better places for the 90 years he lived, worked and
served others among us.
Hon. Ghislain Maltais: Honourable senators, 2012 marks the 75th
anniversary of the City of Baie-Comeau. Colonel Robert McCormick, owner of the
Chicago Tribune, founded Baie-Comeau in 1936, choosing the location because
it was in a large forested area rich in water and mineral resources.
Baie-Comeau was founded a few years before Canada's entry into World War II.
Dozens of workers left the construction site of the Quebec North Shore Paper
Company and served our country. Many never returned. Those who did made an
extraordinary contribution to the building of Baie-Comeau.
The City of Baie-Comeau is surrounded by priceless hydro-electric resources.
Using its three great rivers, the town produces 10,000 kilowatts of electricity,
which is a very large part of the electricity destined for New York City and the
provinces of Ontario and Quebec. Of course, the city has attracted other
In 1956, Canadian British Aluminum built an aluminum plant that today belongs
to Alcoa and is one of the largest aluminum plants in the world.
The quality of the city's workers and the determination of its municipal
councils and managers have made Baie-Comeau one of the most dynamic cities in
northern Quebec. Its seaport, which is accessible 12 months of the year, has
attracted businesses from western Canada. Cargill Grain stores grain in
Baie-Comeau destined for Europe and the Middle East.
Baie-Comeau is the gateway to northern Quebec and, with Quebec's Plan Nord,
it has a promising future. This will always be true thanks to the great people
who live there and who make Baie-Comeau a wonderful place to live.
The people of Baie-Comeau have good reason to celebrate their 75th
anniversary this year. Some very well-known people have left Baie-Comeau to fill
important positions in Canada, including the Right Honourable Brian Mulroney,
who raised Baie-Comeau's profile across Canada and around the world.
The emblem of the City of Baie-Comeau is the North Star. In the next 25 or 50
years, Baie-Comeau will continue to be a bright, shining star with citizens who
are happy to participate in the economy's development.
The City of Baie-Comeau serves as a fine example because it was founded by
anglophones and francophones who have always lived in perfect harmony and
continue to do so today without any problems or conflict. The residents of
Baie-Comeau have every reason to be proud and to celebrate. I will be there on
May 20, to join in the festivities to celebrate this anniversary. We will attend
a mass at the first cathedral in the Gulf of St. Lawrence, the Sainte Amélie
Cathedral. This celebration will allow everyone on the North Shore to gather
together and look to the future.
Happy anniversary Baie-Comeau!
Hon. Gerald J. Comeau (Acting Deputy Leader of the Government):
Honourable senators, pursuant to section 7 of the Special Economic Measures Act,
I have the honour to table, in both official languages, copies of the Special
Economic Measures (Burma) Regulations and the Special Economic Measures (Burma)
Permit Authorization Order, announced on April 24, 2012.
The Hon. the Speaker informed the Senate that a message had been
received from the House of Commons with Bill C-26, An Act to amend the Criminal
Code (citizen's arrest and the defences of property and persons).
(Bill read first time.)
The Hon. the Speaker: Honourable senators, when shall this bill be
read the second time?
(On motion of Senator Comeau, bill placed on the Orders of the Day for second
reading two days hence.)
The Hon. the Speaker informed the Senate that a message had been
received from the House of Commons with Bill C-310, An Act to amend the Criminal
Code (trafficking in persons).
(Bill read first time.)
The Hon. the Speaker: Honourable senators, when shall this bill be
read the second time?
(On motion of Senator Comeau, bill placed on the Orders of the Day for second
reading two days hence.)
Hon. Andrée Champagne: Honourable senators, I have the honour to
table, in both official languages, the report of the Canadian Parliamentary
Delegation of the Assemblée parlementaire de la Francophonie (APF) respecting
its participation at the Bureau Meeting, the Conference of Branch Chairs of the
America, the Steering Committee of the Network of Women Parliamentarians, the
Education, Communication and Cultural Affairs Committee, and the
Inter-Parliamentary Conference on the Diversity of Cultural Expressions (CIDEC)
held in Quebec City, Quebec, Canada, from January 30 to February 3, 2011.
Hon. Andrée Champagne: Honourable senators, I have the honour to
table, in both official languages, the report of the Canadian Parliamentary
Delegation of the Assemblée parlementaire de la Francophonie (APF) respecting
its participation at the Political Committee of the Assemblée parlementaire de
la Francophonie, held in Lomé, Togo, from March 14 to 16, 2012.
Hon. Percy Mockler: Honourable senators, I give notice that, two days
I will call the attention of the Senate to Hunger Awareness Week, an
initiative of the Food Banks of Canada from May 7-11, 2012 and the challenge
calling on Parliamentarians to fast on May 9, 2012 in order to experience
what hunger feels like for hundreds of thousands of Canadians.
Hon. Wilfred P. Moore: Honourable senators, my question is for the
Leader of the Government in the Senate.
The Parliamentary Budget Officer has stated that the government has been
keeping two sets books on the F-35 procurement costs. The Minister of National
Defence has said that he and the cabinet were aware of the discrepancy between
the $16 billion quoted to the media and the $25 billion stated by the Department
of National Defence to cabinet versus the actual $29 billion reported by the
Parliamentary Budget Officer.
Why did the government not come clean with Parliament and Canadians on the
actual cost of the F-35 program?
Hon. Marjory LeBreton (Leader of the Government): Honourable senators,
with regard to the Parliamentary Budget Officer, there are not two sets of
books. The Auditor General clearly reported on this file and, of course, did not
say there were two sets of books. I believe also that the newspaper accounts of
the appearance of Minister of National Defence before the Senate committee last
night were not accurate.
I believe that DND did release the acquisition cost for the F-35. The Auditor
General said that we should have additionally provided operating costs such as
fuel and pilot salaries that are currently also incurred with the CF-18s and
would exist with any aircraft purchased by Canada.
The Auditor General said in his report that we should have released all the
operating costs and the government has, of course, agreed with that
recommendation. We will not proceed with a purchase until the seven points that
we outlined in response to the Auditor General's report are completed and
developmental work is sufficiently advanced. This includes freezing funding and
establishing a secretariat to lead this process moving forward.
Senator Moore: Honourable senators, Al Capone also had accounting
I am most interested to hear the explanation of the leader of how DND and the
Department of Public Works have somehow managed to provide a dissenting opinion
to the Auditor General's report on the F-35 procurement. In fact, today in the
Public Accounts Committee in the other place, DND officials rejected the
estimated cost of $29 billion for the F-35 program that has been put forward by
the Parliamentary Budget Officer. They argued that the Auditor General was wrong
when he said key financial figures were kept hidden from Canadians.
Could the leader explain to this chamber how it is possible that, after the
scathing report by the Auditor General, these departments could find reason to
disagree with his findings? Does the government agree with him or with the two
Senator LeBreton: I just heard about the appearance this morning
before a committee in the other place. Obviously, the government accepts the
recommendations of the Auditor General. That is why we are establishing a new
secretariat to play a lead coordinating role in replacing the CF-18 fleet. As
indicated when we announced this a couple of weeks ago, we will be providing
regular updates to Parliament.
Senator Moore: I am pleased to hear that the leader is accepting the
report of the Auditor General as opposed to the opinions of the two departments
On Wednesday, April 4 of this year, Senator Cowan asked this question of the
The fact of the matter is — to use the leader's term — that he was right
and you were wrong. His estimate has now been validated by the Auditor
I think he was speaking about the Parliamentary Budget Officer. He went on to
Did it ever occur to the leader that she might not be getting the
straight goods here and that the information that the Parliamentary Budget
Officer had provided — and he had no axe to grind and no particular skin in
the game on this situation; he was doing the best job he could with the
information he had — might be right, as he has been proven to be right this
time, that time and all the other times?
In reply, the leader said:
I answered that a few moments ago. When I saw what the Parliamentary
Budget Officer had to say, I tended to discount it because he has a record
of being wrong more often than he has been right.
Yesterday before the Standing Senate Committee on National Security and
Defence, the Minister of Defence stated that cabinet knew the full cost of the
F-35 procurement before the last election. I would like to know: Why did the
Leader of the Government in the Senate, and as a member of cabinet, tell this
chamber that the Parliamentary Budget Officer's numbers were discounted by her
when she knew full well his numbers were accurate?
Senator LeBreton: The honourable senator quoted me correctly, and I
will repeat again that — and do not take my word for it; take the word of The
Globe and Mail, which did a comparative analysis of the reports of the
Parliamentary Budget Officer and those of the Department of Finance — the
Department of Finance was correct more often than the Parliamentary Budget
The Parliamentary Budget Officer is flat out wrong in saying there were two
sets of books. The Auditor General very clearly pointed out that in addition to
the purchasing cost of the aircraft — which was well known and reported by
National Defence and the government — the operating costs should also have been
added to it. I think the Department of National Defence was using 20 years and I
think the Auditor General thought it should it be over 36 years. However, the
fact of the matter is that the government had a base amount of money we were
prepared to spend on the F-35s, and obviously the acquisition cost of the F-35s
has not changed for quite some time.
The question here was that the Auditor General felt, and we now agree and we
have accepted his recommendation, that the operating costs, maintenance, the
costs of the pilots, the costs of the acquisition and the costs of operating the
F-35s should have been in the figure. This is what the Auditor General wants and
this is what the government will do.
I will point out there is a freeze on the file. We have a secretariat looking
at the matter, and the government has expended no costs. We have not signed a
contract, and no taxpayer dollars have been used to purchase these aircraft.
Senator Moore: Is the leader telling the chamber and Canadians that
when the costs of this program were presented to them the costs of operating and
maintaining the fleet of airplanes were not included?
Senator LeBreton: I think if the honourable senators look at my
answers in the past, the estimated unit cost of the F-35s has been well known.
In his report, the Auditor General said that in addition to the acquisition
costs for the F-35s, we should have provided operating costs such as jet fuel
and pilots' salaries — which are costs that are incurred in the operation of any
aircraft — and we should have included all the operating costs. I think he
wanted 36 years and the Department of National Defence had originally done an
estimate of 20 years.
The Auditor General wanted the full costs of the full lifespan of the F-35.
The government agreed. That was the one recommendation the Auditor General made.
The government agrees with the Auditor General; we have frozen the funds and set
up the secretariat, and no aircraft have been purchased. The secretariat is
taking a lead role in coordinating the procedure followed to replace the CF-18
fleet, and as I indicated the government will provide updates to Parliament on
the cost estimates.
Hon. Roméo Antonius Dallaire: I do not think the Auditor General is
the Pope, so he is not infallible. Nor do I think that overreaction is also a
smart government decision. Let me give just one example from that report, which
the government should have given far more thought to in its reaction rather than
starting to create a whole bunch of other means, which will slow down the actual
The CF-18 has gone through two major upgrades and refits in its lifespan.
These were never computed in the life costs of the aircraft. If we are going to
keep that aircraft for 36 years, you can bet your bottom dollar that there will
be a major refit sometime in there because the technology and the usage will
Now, that is not in the Auditor General's report. In my opinion if he is that
competent and that capable, then the figures that he is presenting are lacking
significantly in depth in comprehending the procurement system, but also really
looking at the full costs of it.
Does the leader still say that his report is worthy of the government's
making all these changes in the procurement process in order to achieve a
responsible acquisition of the F-35s?
Senator LeBreton: I thank the honourable senator for that question
because he makes the point that is part of the problem. The Auditor General made
some recommendations. We accept the Auditor General's recommendations. Senator
Dallaire makes the point that a lot of people have argued that it is impossible
to properly estimate the actual price. We know the purchase price of the F-35s,
but the Auditor General has suggested that we build in all of the maintenance
and operating costs of the F-35s. That is what the secretariat is now setting
out to do.
The honourable senator is quite right, and many people in the military have
made the same argument. Five years down the road we do not know what the
requirements will be. It might require additional maintenance or it might
require — who knows? I use the analogy of my little 2002 Ford Focus. It is a
great little car, the best car I ever owned. I paid $23,000 for it, but if I
look at that car and factor in my salary when I am driving — maintenance, two
sets of tires for winter and summer, insurance, gas, the cost of the roads that
I drive on, I figure my little Ford Focus is worth $150,000. That is the mug's
game we are into here, so I totally agree with Senator Dallaire.
We were dealing with the acquisition costs of the F-35. The Auditor General
made a recommendation that we should factor in all the operating costs. Whether
people agree with the Auditor General or not, we accept his recommendations and
the government is now setting out to respond. We set up the secretariat and we
are dealing with the recommendations of the Auditor General as he has instructed
Hon. James S. Cowan (Leader of the Opposition): Honourable senators,
the leader has said in response both to Honourable Senators Moore and Dallaire
that the acquisition cost is known. What is the acquisition cost of the 65 F-35
Senator LeBreton: We have set aside — I think the budget was $9
billion, but I do not have the figure for the unit costs in front of me. I will
take that question as notice. I did put that on the record, but there are so
many figures flying around here.
The fact is that the government always talked about having this envelope of
money to replace the aircraft. We were aware of the estimated unit costs of the
aircraft. Of course, we know that this is a development aircraft and that the
project was started some considerable time ago under the previous government. We
had an envelope of money that we were prepared to use for the replacement of the
The Auditor General looked at this file. We all know what the Auditor
General's report said about the roles of Industry, National Defence and Public
Works in this. We have set up the secretariat to oversee this. We have frozen
the program and indicated we will report to Parliament. There is nothing more I
can add at the moment.
Senator Cowan: A lot has been said and there is a lot of confusion.
The leader said twice here today that the acquisition cost of these aircraft is
known. Leaving aside the issues about other costs — ongoing maintenance costs —
I am simply asking the leader to give us what the government currently believes
is the acquisition costs of 65 F-35 aircraft.
Senator LeBreton: I have indicated that we have set aside a budget for
the acquisition of the F-35s. We always said we would stay within that budget.
The Auditor General has asked us to factor in other costs, which we are doing.
We set up the secretariat. Again, we have expended no taxpayers' dollars on
I will take the question as notice.
Senator Cowan: I am not interested in the fact that the secretariat
has been set up and it will look at all these other things. The leader said
twice today that she knew the acquisition costs of 65 F-35 aircraft. I just need
Senator LeBreton: I was referring to the testimony of the minister
last night before the Senate committee. The question seems to be, and this is
what seems to be confusing the public, about the unit cost of the aircraft.
There was an estimated figure — I will have to get back to Senator Cowan — and
then the operating costs were added in.
As Senator Dallaire points out, many people believe that it is very hard to
estimate the operating costs of any particular piece of equipment. We do not
know what we will be facing over 36 years.
Having said that, the government did have a set budget for the acquisition of
the aircraft. All of this now is on hold; the funds have all been frozen. There
is a secretariat looking at the whole program, and the government will report to
Hon. Jane Cordy: The Auditor General, as the leader said, recommended
that these operating costs and maintenance costs be included when determining
the unit costs. She has said that the government is accepting these
recommendations, but it has been my understanding that in the past it was
standard practice that these operating and maintenance costs be included. Why
did this government not include them? Why did it make a change? To say that the
Auditor General is recommending this is like saying it is something new that has
come out of the sky. This is not new; this has been standard practice in the
past. Why was it not included when the government was giving these costs to us?
Senator LeBreton: The Department of National Defence did release the
acquisition costs for the F-35. I was not privy to the testimony at the
committee this morning, but the Department of National Defence seemed to
indicate that they had the acquisition costs and then they had the operating
costs. This is why the secretariat has been put in place. The Auditor General
pointed out that among the Department of National Defence, the Department of
Industry and the Department of Public Works there was obviously some — I do not
know whether it was misunderstanding or what the procedure was. The fact of the
matter is that in addition to the acquisition costs for the F-35, the Auditor
General asked that all of the costs — operating, maintenance, fuel, salaries of
pilots — be factored into each aircraft so that each one would not only have the
acquisition costs but all the costs associated with that aircraft through its
lifetime. That is what the government has now agreed to do at the request of the
Auditor General. That is why we have set up a secretariat. That is why we have
frozen the funds, and that is why there will be a procedure in place to go
through the various steps. As I indicated, we will report to Parliament.
Senator Cordy: For the Auditor General to recommend that all costs be
factored in is not brand new. This has been standard practice and policy for
years and years. The change was in the government not including them. I ask the
leader again, why did her government not factor in all costs?
In fact, I remember Minister MacKay saying, "Well, when someone buys a new
car, they will not factor in the cost of insurance and gas to determine whether
they can afford it." I would say that it would be a very poor planner who would
not include whether they could afford the cost of insurance and gas before
buying a car.
In the same vein, I say again, why did this government not factor in all
costs? Why did it have to wait for the Auditor General to come out and suggest
that the government should be doing something that had been done in the past?
Senator LeBreton: I think I have been clear, honourable senators. With
Senator Dallaire's question, there are different points of view between the
acquisition costs and the operating costs. The Auditor General pointed out to
the government, to DND and Industry Canada — and senators can read his report —
the processes followed. The Auditor General made one recommendation in the
report, and that one recommendation was that for each aircraft it should have
been not only the acquisition costs but the total operating costs, all the
maintenance and everything for the life of the aircraft. I believe the Auditor
General indicated it was for 36 years, although, as Senator Dallaire indicated,
there is some question as to what the practice was in the past.
The fact is that there was something seriously wrong in the process among
DND, Industry and Public Works. That is why the government froze the project and
is setting up this secretariat. We have a seven-point plan now that we are
following, all of which reported to Parliament. There is nothing more I can add.
Hon. Céline Hervieux-Payette: Honourable senators, let us continue
with financial matters. We might wonder if the government should take remedial
This morning, as I was studying a report by the Canadian Centre for Policy
Alternatives, I read the following:
The Conservative government secretly lent more than $114 billion to
Canadian banks, although the Prime Minister and the Minister of Finance
boasted around the world that the federal government did not have to bail
out Canadian banks at the beginning of the financial crisis.
I have raised the issue a number of times but without mentioning the amount
of $114 billion, which includes amounts from the United States and various other
sources. This secret loan represents almost $3,400 per Canadian, which amounts
to more money per taxpayer than the U.S. provided to American banks.
In the U.S., the figures were made available to journalists and the public
whereas in Canada many documents had to be closely examined and studied in
detail in order to arrive at this conclusion.
How can the government expect Canadians to believe that the financial system
does not need reform and oversight when it secretly lends money to banks to
prevent their bankruptcy? How can this government continue to pay millions of
dollars annually to the CEOs of Canadian banks?
Hon. Marjory LeBreton (Leader of the Government): I am aware of the
report and the organization that prepared it. I look at reports like that and
consider the source. I did see that.
I have no knowledge whatsoever as to what the basis of that report is, so I
will take the honourable senator's question as notice.
Senator Hervieux-Payette: The minister has access to all the data. She
should go through the same exercise and seek information from several sources.
All these people with doctorates in economics can at least give us the figures
that the government is not providing. I will continue with the following:
The Bank of Canada has stated that Canadian homes are overvalued by 35 per
cent. The Canadian debt-to-income ratio is close to 153 per cent. I raise that
regularly because it is going up. The Canadian job market is far from being in
The Conservative government even went so far as to allow the Canada Mortgage
and Housing Corporation to purchase $69 billion of mortgage policies from
Canadian banks, effectively transferring the risks banks took with unsustainable
mortgages onto the backs of Canadian taxpayers. I was dumbfounded to read that
the Minister of Finance was tasking the Office of the Superintendent of
Financial Institutions last week to oversee CMHC to prevent it from insuring
risky mortgages and putting the organization at risk as well as the government.
However, the Minister of Finance and his department have promoted this risky
behaviour and changed the rules in order for CMHC to do that.
Why is the Conservative government trying to shift the responsibility onto
OSFI when it is the Minister of Finance and his own department who are
responsible for putting the Canadian housing market at risk?
Senator LeBreton: Actually, that is not true. Just as in the
honourable senator's previous question, she accepts the word of a left-wing
policy institution, the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives, that claims
that there have been bailouts of our banks. There is no basis for those claims
at all. With the honourable senator's financial background, she would certainly
have known if that were the case.
With regard to the new code of conduct on mortgage prepayment information,
the Minister of Finance has stepped quite regularly into the housing market. We
have previously strengthened mortgage rules to protect Canadians buying homes,
reduced the maximum mortgage period to 30 years, significantly reduced interest
payments that families can make on their mortgages, and are lowering to 85 per
cent the maximum amount lenders can provide when refinancing mortgages.
We have introduced Bill C-28 to provide for the appointment of a financial
literacy leader; we have introduced credit card reforms to ensure Canadians have
the information they need; our code of conduct is welcomed by consumer groups
and especially small businesses; and we continue to monitor compliance, with any
possible violations being investigated. With regard to Canada Mortgage and
Housing Corporation, the minister has now taken additional steps.
All of this is intended to continue to secure Canada's leading role in the
world with regard to the financial health of our country. The Minister of
Finance is to be commended because he and Canada are recognized around the
world, with all leading economies, as being a leader on the whole issue of
Senator Hervieux-Payette: The Leader of the Government in the Senate
was the one who introduced bills about accountability and also talked about
transparency. I want her to be transparent and look into the figures she has
with the Minister of Finance. CIBC received a government bailout of $21 billion
representing 148 per cent support of the bank's value; in fact, we could have
bought the shares and owned the bank. At least we would not have paid the
president millions of dollars. BMO received a bailout worth $17 billion
representing 118 per cent and Scotiabank a bailout worth $25 billion
representing 100 per cent of its value. That means that these banks were almost
bankrupt, if not bankrupt, technically.
Find the figures and contradict them rather than criticizing this
organization that did excellent work. I encourage honourable senators on both
sides of the Senate to read the report and see where Canada is in terms of
financial difficulty and what we can expect in the future if we have a
Senator LeBreton: First, the honourable senator would know that the
government did take timely and effective actions supporting lending to Canadian
households and businesses through the Extraordinary Financing Framework, which
was publicly and repeatedly laid out from the very start. There is no big secret
here. That most recently includes the last budget.
To suggest, honourable senator, that this has not been clear to Canadians is
incorrect. As publicly noted, the Insured Mortgage Purchase Program will have
generated an estimated $2.5 billion in net revenue for taxpayers. The government
has taken the proper steps in securing our housing market and ensuring that we
are and continue to be concerned about Canadian household debt. We believe we
are on the right track in addressing these issues.
Hon. Gerald J. Comeau (Acting Deputy Leader of the Government):
Honourable senators, I have the honour to table, in both official languages, the
answers to oral questions raised by Senator Chaput on February 29, 2012,
concerning electoral boundaries, and by Senator Jaffer on March 7, 2012,
concerning the United Nations Convention of the Rights of the Child.
(Response to question raised by Hon. Maria Chaput on February 29, 2012)
How were the names of members of electoral boundaries commissions
obtained? What was the process? Were there any interviews conducted,
recommendations made, or CVs obtained? How did the Government ensure that
these 20 members are a diverse group? Were there directives in this regard
and, if so, by whom were they issued?
Pursuant to section 4 of the Electoral Boundaries Readjustment Act,
electoral boundaries commissions consist of three members, a chairperson and
two other members.
- Section 5 of the Electoral Boundaries Readjustment Act
provides that the chairperson of each commission is appointed by the
chief justice of the province from among the judges of the court over
which the chief justice presides.
- Section 6 of the Electoral Boundaries Readjustment Act
provides that the other two members of each commission are appointed by
the Speaker of the House of Commons "from among such persons resident
in that province as the Speaker deems suitable".
Electoral boundaries are drawn by independent, non-partisan boundary
commissions. The Government has no role to play in the appointment of
commission members or the drawing of electoral boundaries.
Will the Government ensure that these commissions take official
language minority communities into account during this process?
Pursuant to subsection 15(1) of the Electoral Boundaries Readjustment
Act, electoral boundaries commissions must draw boundaries so that the
population of each electoral district in the province "shall, as closely as
reasonably possible, correspond to the electoral quota for the province".
However, commissions may depart from this rule where "the commission
considers it necessary or desirable" in order to "respect the community of
interest or community of identity in or the historical pattern of an
electoral district in the province" or to "maintain a manageable
geographic size for districts in sparsely populated, rural or northern
regions of the province".
For the purposes of the Official Languages Act, electoral
boundaries commissions are federal entities. Each electoral boundaries
commission is therefore subject to the requirements of the Official
Are the existing commissions going to hold only one public hearing or
several? Will those public hearings be announced in a manner that gives the
communities time to prepare their response?
Subsection 19(1) of the Electoral Boundaries Readjustment Act
requires electoral boundaries commissions to hold "at least one" public
hearing to hear representations by interested persons. However, commissions
typically hold several public hearings in the course of their deliberations.
- Commissions must give notice of the time and place for public
hearings by advertisement in the Canada Gazette and in at least
one newspaper of general circulation in the province at least 30 days
before the day on which the hearings commence.
- Persons interested in participating in the public hearings are
required to give notice in writing within 23 days of the advertisement
of the public hearing, although commissions may waive this requirement
if they decide it is in the public interest to do so.
- Commissions also accept written submissions from interested
(Response to question raised by Hon. Mobina S. B. Jaffer on March 7, 2012)
Children's rights are of priority concern within Canada's foreign policy
and development assistance. Canada is a party to the Convention on the
Rights of the Child and its first two Optional Protocols. Canada is an
active co-sponsor and supporter of the resolutions relating to child rights
presented at the UN General Assembly and the Human Rights Council.
As with all international treaties, Canada will conduct a careful
examination of the third Optional Protocol before it makes a decision.
The Government of Canada continues to work collaboratively with the
provinces, territories and Canadians to promote and protect children's
The rights of children in Canada are protected by domestic laws and
policies at the federal and the provincial / territorial levels. In
addition, the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms guarantees many rights
that protect children. Domestic remedies for violations of children's rights
are available in Canadian courts. Children are also able to bring complaints
under human rights legislation, such as the Canadian Human Rights Act.
The rights of children at both the domestic and international levels
remain a priority for our government and we continue to work hard to advance
Hon. Suzanne Fortin-Duplessis moved second reading of Bill S-10, An
Act to implement the Convention on Cluster Munitions.
She said: Honourable senators, Canada has recognized for a long time that
explosive remnants of war, including cluster munitions, cause humanitarian
consequences for civilians. Throughout the world, these weapons cause serious
harm to social and economic development; threaten access to essential
infrastructure; and injure, mutilate or, too often, kill innocent people.
Cluster munitions can be dropped from the air or launched from the ground.
They disperse dozens or even hundreds of explosive submunitions, which can cover
a large area in a short time, causing widespread damage and indiscriminate harm,
particularly when they are used in or near populated areas. What is more, many
of these submunitions do not detonate as anticipated and remain on the ground,
which makes them a serious threat. They have the same effect as mines and may
injure or kill civilians long after a conflict has ended. To date, it is
estimated that these weapons have been used in approximately 34 countries and
territories, often with devastating consequences. Nearly 98 per cent of all
recorded cluster munitions casualties have been civilian.
For a long time, Canada has played a prominent role on the international
stage in protecting civilians from explosive remnants of war. Honourable
senators will no doubt remember that, in the 1990s, Canada led the way through
the development, implementation and universal ratification — which is ongoing —
of the Ottawa Convention on Landmines.
Today, we continue to fulfill this long-term commitment. That is why we are
proud to present the bill prohibiting cluster munitions, which will make it
possible to fully implement the Convention on Cluster Munitions in anticipation
of Canada's ratification of this important treaty.
Canada was an active participant in the development of the convention, which
was adopted in Dublin in May 2008 and came into effect in April 2010. Canada was
among the first 94 countries to sign the convention in December 2008, and our
country's key contribution throughout the negotiation process is widely
recognized. Right now, 71 countries are party to the convention and 40 others
have signed but not yet ratified it.
The government is determined to achieve the objective of banning cluster
munitions, and it is convinced that the convention strikes a fair balance
between humanitarian and security considerations. In addition to setting high
humanitarian standards where cluster munitions are concerned, this document also
allows the signatories, under section 21, to continue to engage in combined
security operations with allies that have not signed — operations considered to
be essential to international security — without breaching their duties under
This balance is important for Canada. Our country and a number of other
allies have made that balance a top priority from day one of the negotiations of
the convention. A number of major allies and signatories to the convention
continue to subscribe to the importance of this balance. It allows us to
solidify our objective to rid the world of cluster munitions while ensuring that
the Canadian Forces can continue to participate in multinational operations with
allies that are important to Canada but have not signed the convention, such as
the United States.
The proposed Prohibiting Cluster Munitions Act is the expression of this
balance. First, it allows Canada to apply its humanitarian standards and fulfill
its obligations by unequivocally prohibiting the offences listed in the
convention. More specifically, the act prohibits the use, development,
production, acquisition, possession, transfer, import or export of cluster
munitions. It also prohibits the stockpiling of cluster munitions on Canadian
soil, since it prohibits any form of possession.
What is more, under the bill it is prohibited to assist, encourage or induce
anyone to engage in any prohibited activity including knowingly and directly
investing in the production of cluster munitions.
Second, the act allows Canada to continue to participate effectively in joint
military operations with allies who are not party to the Convention. It provides
for exceptions that give our military personnel the legal protection required to
participate in operations with armed forces of countries that are not party to
In this regard, it should be noted that multinational operations are of
crucial importance for our national security interests and they permit us to
make an international contribution. It is important that our men and women in
uniform not have to accept unnecessary responsibility when carrying out their
duties in such operations. These exceptions also apply to personnel on
secondment to allied forces. Such exchanges contribute to the preservation of
the unique military cooperation of Canada and the United States, which has
incomparable benefits in terms of security, defence and industrial operations.
Having said that, members of the Canadian Forces are still prohibited from
using cluster bombs in Canadian Forces operations and their use is strictly
prohibited when they are solely responsible for choosing which munitions to use.
In addition, the Canadian Forces will prohibit their members, through official
policies, from using cluster munitions, training themselves or others in their
use when they participate in exchanges with the armed forces of another country.
Moreover, the transport of cluster munitions by means of transportation
belonging to or controlled by Canadian Forces shall be prohibited.
Canada has never manufactured cluster munitions and has never used them in
its operations, and the Canadian Forces have already implemented important
measures to ensure Canada's compliance with the convention. The Canadian Forces
do have such munitions; however, they have been withdrawn from active service
and the last stocks will be destroyed in the next few years, a process that is
already well under way. We are convinced that their destruction will be
completed within eight years of the convention entering into force for Canada,
Canada is already committed to actively promoting the implementation and
universalization of the convention. Our country attended both meetings of the
states parties as an observer and oversaw the development of a work plan and an
informal implementation structure for the convention, both of which received
I would add that Canada has always been an international leader in funding
efforts to eliminate the explosive remnants of war.
As the fifth-largest international donor to this effort, our country
contributed over $30 million to such programs in 2010-11. Since 1999, we have
contributed over $370 million. Recently, the Minister of Foreign Affairs, the
Honourable John Baird, announced that our government will contribute $10 million
to help Libya secure a number of weapons in the wake of the recent conflict,
including explosive remnants of war.
In closing, Canada is determined to pursue its efforts to minimize human
suffering caused by conventional weapons, including cluster munitions, and to
promote the adoption, implementation and universalization of strict
international standards, such as those set out in the Convention on Cluster
Munitions. Once again, this government is proud to ratify the convention and to
implement all of its provisions by passing a federal law. The government will
continue to address Canada's security and defence imperatives while we wait for
the universalization of the convention.
(On motion of Senator Hubley, debate adjourned.)
Hon. Gerald J. Comeau (Acting Deputy Leader of the Government) moved
that Bill S-1003, An Act to authorize Industrial Alliance Pacific Insurance and
Financial Services Inc. to apply to be continued as a body corporate under the
laws of Quebec, be read the third time.
(Motion agreed to and bill read third time and passed.)
The Senate proceeded to consideration of the third report of the Standing
Committee on Conflict of Interest for Senators, (amendment to the Conflict of
Interest Code for Senators), presented in the Senate on March 29, 2012.
Hon. Terry Stratton moved the adoption of the report.
He said: Honourable senators, I am pleased to speak to the third report of
the Standing Committee on the Conflict of Interest for Senators and recommend
The Conflict of Interest Code for Senators was adopted in May 2005. At the
time, it was emphasized that the code was a work-in-progress and that only time
and experience would tell if the choices made at the time were the best
As an evolving document, the code may at any time be amended to adapt its
provisions to contemporary realities and to enhance public confidence and trust
in the conflict of interest regime applicable to senators. In that regard, your
committee was granted authority to exercise general and constant oversight over
the conflict of interest regime applicable to senators.
As part of this mandate, the committee ensures that the provisions of the
Conflict of Interest Code for Senators are clear and current. Your committee
held numerous meetings since last fall to consider current issues relating to
the conflict of interest regime applicable to senators. It met with the Senate
Ethics Officer on two occasions. After thoughtful consideration, your committee
is now proposing six amendments to the code. The objectives of these six
amendments are: to adapt the provisions of the code to contemporary realities
and practices; to avoid any misunderstanding about the outside activities of
senators; to increase the transparency of the conflict of interest regime
applicable to senators; and to enhance the public confidence and trust in the
conflict of interest regime applicable to senators.
The first amendment that your committee is proposing is with respect to
senators' employment, profession or business. There is currently some confusion
regarding the disclosure of employment, profession or business. In section 28,
the code provides a comprehensive list of the confidential disclosures senators
must make to the Senate Ethics Officer. There is no express provision with
respect to the disclosure of employment, profession or business. These are,
however, often disclosed indirectly through the disclosure of sources of income.
Therefore, the committee proposes that a senator's employment, profession or
business be disclosed to the Senate Ethics Officer, regardless of annual income.
This disclosure requirement would be in addition to the existing disclosure
requirements under section 28 of the code. This amendment would increase the
transparency, accountability and public confidence in the conflict of interest
regime applicable to senators. It would also avoid any misunderstanding about
the outside activities of senators.
Second, your committee proposes public disclosure of income over $2,000
annually and of assets and liabilities over $10,000. Currently the code requires
public disclosure of this information only for matters which could relate to the
parliamentary duties and functions of the senator or could lead to a conflict of
interest. This amendment would avoid any misunderstanding about the outside
activities of senators. It would also increase the transparency of the conflict
of interest regime applicable to the senators. Similarly, and for the same
reason, information about the senator's employment, profession or business would
also be included in the senator's public disclosure summary.
Third, the committee proposes that the senator's public disclosure summary be
posted on the Senate Ethics Officer's website. Every year the Senate Ethics
Officer prepares a public disclosure summary for each senator based on the
information provided in our annual disclosure statements. While public
disclosure summaries are public, they are made available to the public only in
the office of the Senate Ethics Officer during business hours or by fax upon
request. Your committee considers that these measures to provide access to our
public disclosure summaries are not adapted to contemporary realities. It
recommends that the public disclosure summaries be made available by utilizing
more modern means of communication, as is the case in other jurisdictions, in
addition to the existing measures through which they are made available to the
public. This amendment would ensure that people from Halifax, Montreal,
Winnipeg, Vancouver or Dawson City would have the same access to information
about public officials as people living in Ottawa.
The fourth amendment we are proposing pertains to the confidential disclosure
relating to spouses and common-law partners. Currently our disclosure
obligations with respect to family members are limited to contracts with the
Government of Canada and gifts and other benefits when these are acceptable and
in accordance with the code. This information is disclosed confidentially to the
Senate Ethics Officer and is also included in the senators' public disclosure
It was suggested that providing information relating to spouses and
common-law partners would enable the Senate Ethics Officer to give meaningful
advice about the real and potential conflict of interest involving senators'
spouses or common-law partners.
Therefore the committee proposes that with respect to his or her spouse or
common-law partner only, and not other family members, the senator should
disclose confidentially to the Senate Ethics Officer the same type of
information about his or her spouse that he or she discloses confidentially to
the Senate Ethics Officer about himself or herself.
This disclosure would remain confidential and not be made public. This
disclosure would be to the best of the senator's knowledge, information and
belief, ascertained by the senator's reasonable inquiry. As I have said, this
disclosure obligation would fall upon senators and not their spouses and
common-law partners. A senator would have to make reasonable inquiries and
report what he or she believes to be true.
The proposed fifth amendment would require that inquiry reports of the Senate
Ethics Officer be made public upon completion. Under the current provisions of
the code, the Senate Ethics Officer reports confidentially to the committee upon
the completion of an inquiry. The committee may then conduct an investigation
and report to the Senate. The report of the committee and the report of the
Senate Ethics Officer become public only when the committee reports to the
The committee proposes that an inquiry report from the Senate Ethics Officer
should become public as soon as it is received by the committee and in the same
form as it is received. The chair of the committee would table the inquiry
report in this chamber at the first opportunity. If the Senate is prorogued or
dissolved at the time, the report would be filed with the Clerk of the Senate.
I would like to underline that the name of the senator who was the subject of
an inquiry would be kept confidential, as is the case at present if no breach of
the code was found or if he or she requests that his or her name be kept
confidential. This amendment would reinforce the independence of the Senate
Ethics Officer, would ensure the integrity and public disclosure of his or her
inquiry reports and would increase the transparency of the code.
The sixth and last amendment that the committee is proposing would facilitate
senators' declarations of private interest. As all honourable senators know,
each of us must make a declaration of private interest when we or members of our
family have private interests that may be affected by a matter before the Senate
or before a committee of which we are a member. The code currently requires that
senators be present at the consideration of the matter in order to make a
declaration of private interest. The committee proposes to allow written
declarations of private interest without the requirement for the senator to be
present at the consideration of the matter by the Senate or the committee.
As I have said, the purpose of this amendment would be to facilitate the
declaration of private interest by senators.
The committee recommends that these six amendments to the code come into
force on October 1, 2012. This would provide sufficient time for the committee
and the Senate Ethics Officer to take any measures necessary to implement the
new provisions of the code.
The Conflict of Interest Code for Senators is based on the power of the
Senate to govern its internal affairs and discipline its members. This authority
was entrusted to the Senate at the time of Confederation and has been part of
its uncontested parliamentary privileges ever since. As a conflict of interest
regime represents an exercise of its privileges by the Senate, the duties and
functions accomplished and the information gathered in accordance with the code
are, as a result, protected by parliamentary privilege and may be used only for
the purpose for which they were gathered.
Conflict of interest rules for public officials have to meet a double
threshold. They must be sufficiently open and transparent as regards the
legitimate expectations of the public, and they must protect the legitimate
expectancy of privacy of senators and their families. The committee believes
that its six proposed amendments constitute an appropriate balance between these
Honourable senators, it is without any hesitation that I recommend the
adoption of the third report of the committee.
Senator Joyal: Question.
The Hon. the Speaker pro tempore: Are honourable
senators ready for the question?
Hon. Senators: Question.
The Hon. the Speaker pro tempore: It has been moved by
Senator Stratton and seconded by Senator Andreychuk that the third report of the
Standing Senate Committee on Conflict of Interest for Senators, amendment to the
Conflict of Interest Code for Senators, presented in the Senate on March 29,
2012, be now adopted.
Is it your pleasure, honourable senators to adopt the motion?
Hon. Senators: Agreed.
Senator Stratton: I want to thank everyone in the chamber for this. A
lot of work was done by the committee. The second in command is Senator Joyal,
and he and Senator Andreychuk are long-serving members of the committee, along
with Senator Angus. Senator Cordy — and I wish to thank her as well — and I are
recent additions to the committee. I want to thank all the committee members for
their work and thank honourable senators for their cooperation in this chamber.
While I am up, I would like to introduce Ms. Ricard, our new Interim Senate
Ethics Officer. Hopefully, if we treat her appropriately, she may become our
permanent Senate Ethics Officer. Welcome to you, madam.
Hon. Senators: Hear, hear!
Senator Stratton: His Honour was kind enough to send us all resumés of
Ms. Ricard, which I suggest honourable senators read because it is a long,
detailed and, I think, substantial resumé of her dedication to public service.
(Motion agreed to and report adopted.)
Leave having been given to revert to Other Business, Reports of Committees,
Order No. 1:
The Senate proceeded to consideration of the fifth report of the Standing
Senate Committee on Aboriginal Peoples (budget—study on the evolving legal and
political recognition of the collective identity and rights of Métis in
Canada—power to hire staff and to travel), presented in the Senate on April 26,
Hon. Dennis Glen Patterson moved the adoption of the report.
He said: Honourable senators, this is the fifth report of the Standing Senate
Committee on Aboriginal Peoples. We propose to study the evolving legal and
political recognition of the collective identity and rights of Metis in Canada.
This is a subject that, we are informed by our venerable chair, Senator St.
Germain, has not been studied before by our committee, a study of the Metis.
The report authorizes the committee to travel on fact-finding missions to
hear from representatives of Metis in their communities in various locations in
Canada — Western Canada, Northern Canada, northern Ontario and possibly the
Honourable senators, I would like to move the adoption of this report.
The Hon. the Speaker pro tempore: Are honourable
senators ready for the question?
Some Hon. Senators: Question.
The Hon. the Speaker pro tempore: Is it your pleasure,
honourable senators, to adopt the motion?
Some Hon. Senators: Agreed.
(Motion agreed to and report adopted.)
On the Order:
Resuming debate on the motion of the Honourable Senator Ogilvie, seconded
by the Honourable Senator Patterson, that the seventh report of the Standing
Senate Committee on Social Affairs, Science and Technology entitled: Time
for Transformative Change: A Review of the 2004 Health Accord, tabled in
the Senate on March 27, 2012, be adopted and that, pursuant to rule 131(2),
the Senate request a complete and detailed response from the government,
with the Minister of Health being identified as minister responsible for
responding to the report.
Hon. Catherine S. Callbeck: Honourable senators, I am pleased today to
rise to speak to the report Time for Transformative Change: A Review of the
2004 Health Accord.
First, I want to thank all members of the committee, the researchers, the
clerk and all others who worked so hard on this report. I especially want to
thank the committee's chair, Senator Ogilvie, and our deputy chair, Senator
Eggleton, for their leadership during this study.
I would like to thank all the witnesses who took the time to share their
views with us. We heard from a wide variety of people: the Health Council of
Canada and the Canadian Institutes of Health Information, which are both
responsible for monitoring progress in the implementation of the 10-Year Plan;
federal and provincial government officials; health-professional organizations
and service providers; and academics and research organizations. We also
accepted written submissions from almost 30 organizations and individuals who
wanted to share their thoughts with the committee.
There are both negative and positive comments about the health care system
from people across the country. In polls, Canadians consistently name health as
one of their most important issues. Overall, while the committee found that some
progress had been made, there is still a great deal of work to do.
Senator Ogilvie and Senator Eggleton have already spoken extensively about
the committee's findings and its recommendations, so I do not plan to repeat
that information. However, I wish to comment on three areas of the report.
The first is the National Pharmaceutical Strategy. Back in 2004, the First
Ministers agreed to establish a National Pharmaceutical Strategy. They set up a
Ministerial Task Force, which included all the health ministers and was
co-chaired by the federal minister. The task force would be responsible for the
development and implementation of the strategy, which involved design and cost
options for catastrophic pharmaceutical coverage.
The first progress report on the National Pharmaceutical Strategy was issued
in September 2006, and it listed four significant accomplishments. First,
federal-provincial-territorial representatives agreed on principles to guide
development of a catastrophic drug coverage plan. These principles call for a
plan that is universal, equitable, transparent, evidence based, integrated, and
sustainable. Second, the task force developed and calculated costs for two plan
designs based on either fixed or variable percentages of family income. Third,
they agreed to expand the federal Common Drug Review as a basis for a national
formulary. Fourth, the task force agreed to establish a national framework for a
program that would cover expensive drugs for very rare diseases.
However, after the progress report in September 2006, work on the strategy
stalled. A number of jurisdictions brought in their own programs, like
catastrophic drug coverage, but as the committee noted in its report, access to
and coverage of pharmaceuticals differ from province to province.
That is why the committee recommended that the federal government work with
the provinces and territories to develop a national pharmacare program based on
the principles of universal and equitable access for all Canadians, which would
include a national catastrophic drug coverage program and a national formulary.
I am pleased with this recommendation. Though many Canadians receive some
help with their drug costs through a patchwork of public and private insurance
plans, this patchwork leads to inequities. Each province and territory has its
own programs, with its own eligibility requirements and benefits levels.
Depending on a person's province of residence, the assistance available can vary
According to a survey by Statistics Canada from 2009, about one quarter of
Canadians are not covered by public drug plans through their provinces or
territories. All in all, about 2 per cent of our population do not have
prescription drug coverage at all. In the Maritimes and Alberta, the number of
those who do not have drug coverage is between 20 to 30 per cent.
Canadians across the country are falling through the cracks. About 8 per cent
of Canadians admit they did not fill a prescription in the previous 12 months
because of financial costs. That should be unacceptable to us. Equal access to
health care should never be based on where a person lives in Canada.
The second topic in the report that I wish to talk about today is home care.
During the course of our study, the committee found that there has been some
progress in improving access to services but that reporting by responsible
jurisdictions was lacking. We also heard about the increased cost of drugs and
supplies experienced by patients and families as a result of being treated out
The committee made a number of recommendations on the issue of home care,
including the development of indicators to measure the quality and consistency
of home care, end-of-life care, and other continuing care services; the creation
and implementation of an awareness campaign about the importance of planning
end-of-life care; the expansion of public pharmaceutical coverage to drugs and
supplies used by home care recipients; and the development and implementation of
a strategy for continuing care that would integrate home, facility-based
long-term, respite and palliative care services fully within health care
I am pleased with those recommendations. Certainly, we are seeing a lot of
disparities between jurisdictions. For example, in my own province of P.E.I.,
coverage for medications, supplies, equipment and oxygen remains the
responsibility of the individual if they are receiving their care at home. Due
to the high costs in my province, patients want to stay in the hospital in order
to ensure that their medications and equipment are covered. Being at home is now
far more costly for the person and their family.
So we should be doing more to ensure that people can stay at home, as
research shows that patients prefer to remain in their home and that the cost of
providing care is less than in an acute-care setting.
As governments struggle to bring soaring health care costs under control, we
must be looking at the long-term savings that can come from helping people to
stay at home, rather than taking up beds in hospitals.
The third area I would like to address is prevention, promotion and public
health. The committee heard that it was important not only to address issues
like chronic disease or obesity but also to address health disparities and the
social determinants of health that contribute to those disparities. When the
Subcommittee on Population Health, under the leadership of Senator Keon, did its
study into the impact of these social determinants, we noted they can greatly
affect relative health status. I am glad the committee recommended the
That the federal government work with provincial and territorial, and
municipal governments to develop a Pan-Canadian Public Health Strategy that
prioritizes healthy living, obesity, injury prevention, mental health, and
the reduction of health inequities among Canadians, with a particular focus
on children, through the adoption of a population-health approach that
centres on addressing the underlying social determinants of health.
Public policy should focus on and strive to narrow the health inequities
between Canadians of different socio-economic backgrounds. We would all benefit
from it. A healthy population requires less government spending on health care,
income support and social services. It will also encourage economic growth and
productivity. Being healthy allows people to be more productive, and higher
productivity brings about economic growth. The benefits from preventing heart
disease alone are estimated to be about $20 billion per year by the year 2020.
The rewards are not only economic; healthy citizens participate more actively
and make greater contributions in their own communities.
Healthy living is also important to overall health. Right now, the obesity
problem in this country just gets worse. According to Statistics Canada, nearly
13 million adult Canadians are considered overweight or obese. For children, 26
per cent are overweight or obese. Childhood obesity in Canada has tripled over
the past 30 years, but a focus on healthy living could change that.
For example, the Public Health Agency of Canada notes that people who are
physically active live longer, healthier lives. Active people are more
productive and more likely to avoid illness and injury. According to a 2005
study by the Public Health Agency, the economic burden of physical inactivity is
more than $5 billion, both in direct health care expenditures and in indirect
costs such as loss of productivity and premature death. The cost of physical
inactivity to the health care system alone was estimated to be almost $2 billion
Honourable senators, there is much to be done to transform the health care
system. The committee believes that the implementation of the recommendations in
our report would go a long way to making that happen. I hope the federal
government and the provincial and territorial partners take these
recommendations and use them as a base for further collaboration and innovation.
I urge the quick adoption of this report so that the government can begin its
The Hon. the Speaker pro tempore: Honourable senators,
is there further debate or questions? Are honourable senators ready for the
Some Hon. Senators: Question.
The Hon. the Speaker pro tempore: Is it your pleasure,
honourable senators, to adopt the motion?
(Motion agreed to and report adopted.)
On the Order:
Resuming debate on the inquiry of the Honourable Senator Cowan calling
the attention of the Senate to the 30th Anniversary of the Canadian
Charter of Rights and Freedoms, which has done so much to build pride in
our country and our national identity.
Hon. Jane Cordy: Honourable senators, I did speak to Senator
Andreychuk, and I know that the inquiry is adjourned in her name, so I ask that
when speakers today finish speaking it be adjourned again in the name of Senator
Honourable senators, as we all know, April 17 marked the thirtieth
anniversary of the signing of the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms. The
thirty years have gone by quickly, and I am sure many can remember clearly the
signing of the document by Prime Minister Trudeau and Her Majesty Queen
Elizabeth II on Parliament Hill.
Unfortunately, the Harper government refused to mark this milestone in a
significant way, so I am thankful to Senator Cowan for initiating this inquiry
to provide the opportunity for senators to recognize the anniversary of the
signing of this important document.
The Charter helped entrench Canadian shared values, and it reflects our
beliefs that Canadians have a fundamental right to live free from discrimination
based on race, religion, gender or disabilities. Canadian are presumed innocent
until proven guilty in a court of law. They have freedom of peaceful assembly,
freedom of the press, freedom of thought, belief, opinion and expression.
I feel a great sense of pride when I travel around the world as a
representative of Canada when attending NATO meetings. Canada garners much
respect and is held in high esteem around the globe. I am always deeply honoured
to represent our country. It is this same sense of pride all Canadians should
feel and indeed do feel with respect to the Charter of Rights and Freedoms, a
document that is admired the world over.
This admiration is evident as many countries have looked to Canada's
Constitution and Charter for guidance when it comes to the drafting of their own
constitutions. A forthcoming study by two law professors in the United States
analyzed the content of 729 constitutions drafted between 1946 and 2006 and
found that the U.S. Constitution no longer serves as the main source of
inspiration for constitution-making around the world. Rather, it is Canada's
Charter of Rights and Freedoms that now leads the way in providing that
The Canadian Charter most appropriately addresses the values and concerns
shared by most common-law nations today in a way the American Constitution does
not. It is worth noting that the American Constitution is the oldest national
constitution in force and, as such, is not as attractive a blueprint to address
today's values and modern problems. An example of that can be found in the ways
the two documents address equality, a value that has become a fundamental right
underpinning multicultural, multiracial and multi-religious nations of today.
The U.S. Constitution does not protect rights of freedom from discrimination
based on race or sex, whereas those rights are distinctly protected in Canada's
The protection of these equality rights was also a major reason officials in
South Africa looked to Canada's Charter when drafting their laws regarding the
rights of their citizens in the 1990s.
The Charter has also been an influence in Israel's basic laws on human
rights, as well as the drafting of the bill of rights in Hong Kong, South Africa
and New Zealand.
It is encouraging to discover that Canadian values are shared not just by us
but are values that many the world over wish to enshrine in law. We should be
proud to celebrate the fact that we are a beacon of light for the peoples of
other nations wanting to develop and entrench in their own societies the rights
and freedoms that provide for a free and just society.
Bob Rae spoke in favour of the Charter in the other place 30 years ago, and
he voted for the patriation of the Constitution 30 years ago. On the thirtieth
anniversary on April 17 of this year, Mr. Rae stated:
The Charter enshrines our most cherished Canadian values. It reflects our
belief that Canadians have a fundamental right to live free from
discrimination, to assemble peacefully and express our opinions, to vote in
elections unimpeded, to be presumed innocent until proven guilty, and
fundamentally, that our individual rights take precedence over the rights of
Honourable senators, the anniversary of the Canadian Charter of Rights and
Freedoms should be celebrated by all Canadians, regardless of what political
party they may support. It makes Canadians who we are. It is our Charter, a
Charter for all Canadians, helping to shape our collective identity. It should
not be ignored.
Thank you, honourable senators.
Hon. Vivienne Poy: Honourable senators, I rise today to take part in
this inquiry on the thirtieth anniversary of the Canadian Charter of Rights and
Freedoms. As an immigrant to Canada and a visible minority, I consider the
Charter to be one of the unique determining factors that defines me as a
Canadian. The core values as expressed through the Charter bind me to other
Canadians in a shared sense of citizenship.
I am aware of the political scenario that existed when the Charter was
brought into being, initially without the support of the Prime Minister of
Britain, Margaret Thatcher, as well as of the British High Commissioner to
Canada, John Ford, because they believed that the House of Commons should be
supreme in the interpretation of the rights of its citizens. There was also a
lack of the desired backing from all the provinces.
I do recognize that the Charter is not perfect. However, time has proven that
our Canadian model works well in our multicultural society, and whether one
likes the term "multiculturalism" or not, diversity is a fact of life in
After the Second World War, due to our declining birth rate and our aging
population, the Canadian government had to turn to immigration for population
growth and economic prosperity. The Charter of Rights and Freedoms of 1982 was
timely because the 1980s were the years when the immigration of visible
minorities increased dramatically. Since then, the Canadian population has
become increasingly diverse and, while our pluralistic groups cultivate common
ground in Canadian society, the Charter became the instrument with which to
interpret and articulate our national values while simultaneously preserving and
enhancing the multicultural heritage of Canadians.
The Charter is not just a legal document. It is expressed in our thinking and
in our way of life. It is expressed in our language rights and it has advanced
the equality of women. It can be seen in the multicultural curriculum in our
schools, in our celebration of many religions, and in our recognition of Black
History Month, as well as Asian Heritage Month, which happens to begin today.
It is reflected in our horror at the bullying of gays and others who may be
perceived as different from ourselves.
The Charter reflects Canada's struggle with the challenges of a modern,
multicultural, multilingual society, and it confirms that we are a participant
in a global world. It is a document that entails compromise and dialogue. It
protects religious freedoms and multiculturalism and simultaneously safeguards
gender rights and the rights of gays and lesbians. It recognizes collective
rights while acknowledging the paramount importance of individual rights. It has
a unique structure for balancing what may appear to be opposing interests. It is
a distinctly Canadian document in that, just as Canada was founded on the basis
of dialogue and engagement, the Charter balances the rights and freedoms of many
groups that make up our society. As a result of Charter jurisprudence, Canada
has become a moral leader in the world.
Today, I want to focus on the Charter's effects on the multiculturalism
policy adopted in 1971 and on our broader approach to our very diverse
It was the Charter that gave weight to the policy, through article 2, that
guarantees freedom of conscience and religion, thought, belief and expression,
peaceful assembly and association. Article 15 extends the effects of article 2
by promising equality before the law to enjoy these freedoms without
discrimination based on race, national or ethnic origin, colour, religion, sex,
age, or mental or physical disabilities. Article 27 is an explicit statement of
Canada's commitment to "the preservation and enhancement of the
multicultural heritage of Canadians."
In 1985, just three years after the passage of the Charter, one of the most
pivotal cases in terms of the rights of immigrants to Canada occurred in the case of
Singh v. Minister of Employment and Immigration, where refugees were found
to have the same rights as Canadian citizens. The Supreme Court of Canada ruled
that the Immigration Act was unconstitutional because it effectively denied
refugee claimants the right to a fair hearing and, as a result, they could be
deprived of the security of the person in a manner that is not in keeping with
principles of fundamental justice, a violation of section 7 of the Charter which
states that "Everyone has the right to life, liberty, and security of the
The court also ruled that, according to section 2 of the Canadian Bill of
Rights, persons had a right to a full and fair hearing of their case. Since
then, April 4 has been recognized as Refugee Rights Day. According to the
Immigration and Refugee Board, "This decision significantly changed Canada's
refugee determination process and helped lead to the creation of the IRB as we
Shortly after this, Baltej Singh Dhillon, a Sikh, applied to the RCMP for
acceptance into the force. He met the entrance requirements, but was initially
told that he would have to give up wearing the turban in favour of the force's
traditional hat. He was allowed to train with no guarantee that he could wear
the turban after graduation. The RCMP Commissioner, Norman Inkster, sided with
Dhillon in April 1989 and proposed a change to the RCMP rules. A petition to
retain the traditional dress went to Parliament and, in March 1990, Solicitor
General Pierre Cadieux, responsible for the RCMP, gave his ruling allowing the
wearing of the turban in the RCMP. The decision marked another victory for Canada's
Charter of Rights and Freedoms. The fact that Dhillon could wear his turban as
an RCMP officer established a precedent that opened the door for all Sikh
Canadians to enter the RCMP.
Over 10 years later, Gurbaj Singh Multani's ceremonial kirpan fell out of its
cloth holder in school. The mother of another student saw it and complained, and
the principal sent Gurbaj home. Over the course of many years and many court
decisions, the issue of whether Gurbaj could carry his kirpan, as required by
the Sikh religion, found its way to the Supreme Court of Canada where, in an
eight-to-zero decision on March 2, 2006, the court ruled that a total ban on the
kirpan in schools violates the Charter of Rights and Freedoms' section on
Most recently, the Supreme Court of Canada is considering whether a sexual
assault complainant may testify in court while wearing a niqab for religious
reasons. One of the defendants in a sexual assault case claimed that his right
to full answer and defence was infringed by the complainant, N.S., testifying
while wearing her niqab. He argued that, in order to effectively cross-examine
the complainant, it is essential to be able to observe her demeanor. No doubt,
this case will have a far-reaching impact on many Canadians.
The Charter does not prioritize the courts over Parliament, even though it
may challenge legislation that may have been drafted without consideration of
the broader implications for all groups.
Currently, there is legislation in the other place that impacts refugee
rights and some groups have indicated that this may be subjected to Charter
challenges. The Charter recognizes that the best outcome occurs when there is
dialogue and engagement between Parliament and the courts.
The Charter is an uniquely Canadian achievement, and it is recognized as a
great accomplishment worldwide. In addition to our public health care, Canada's
reputation in the world is largely based on the Charter of Rights and Freedoms
and the artful way it weighs competing interests. While recognizing that there
are norms that all citizens must follow and that these norms are continuously
changing, the Charter is the means by which the courts can respond to reflect
society's attitudes. It engages both the minority and the majority in
negotiation and dialogue.
Over the past 30 years, Canada has become a freer and fairer country.
Honourable senators, it was not the norm to have women in policing, in law, in
medicine or in the Armed Forces 30 years ago, but all of this has changed and so
have society's attitudes.
The same can be said about our support for gay marriage. Only a few years
after same-sex marriage was legalized in Canada, with much debate, the rights of
gays to marry have become a non-issue. This shows the importance of the
positive influence of the Charter on Canadian society.
The same is true for the many other groups who have been impacted by the
Charter. It would be interesting for honourable senators to know that the legal
protection for minority rights under the Charter is of utmost importance among
well-educated immigrants I have spoken to. It was the deciding factor for them
to come to Canada instead of the United States. These are the immigrants Canada
I am very proud that the Charter of Rights and Freedoms has shaped Canada as
a progressive country among nations over the last three decades. The Americans
call Canada "the new constitutional superpower," and the Canadian model has
been studied, emulated and adopted abroad. On the thirtieth anniversary of the
Charter, I celebrate with all Canadians the document that unites us as citizens
of this great country.
(On motion of Senator Poy, for Senator Andreychuk, debate adjourned.)
The Hon. the Speaker: Honourable senators, I wish to draw your
attention to the presence in the gallery of two distinguished members of the
Legislative Assembly of New Brunswick: the Honourable Madeleine Dubé, Minister
of Health; and Mr. Jack Carr, MLA, New Maryland—Sunbury West.
Welcome to the Senate of Canada.
Hon. Senators: Hear, hear.
On the Order:
Resuming debate on the inquiry of the Honourable Senator Robichaud, P.C.,
calling the attention of the Senate to the 2009 poverty reduction strategy
of New Brunswick.
Hon. Rose-Marie Losier-Cool: Honourable senators, today I wish to
follow up on the inquiry made by my colleague from New Brunswick, Senator
Robichaud, on February 7, 2012, regarding poverty in our province and the
provincial government's strategy to reduce or eliminate it.
Today I wish to talk to you about one particular aspect of poverty, that is,
poverty among seniors, and even more specifically, among older women. As a woman
myself, I know I will one day be a senior, and perhaps older, but I will never
In February, the National Pensioners and Senior Citizens Federation sent the
government a submission summarizing the factors that contribute to poverty among
seniors. Some of them are a lack of pension, a low level of education, being a
non-integrated immigrant, illness or the onset of chronic illness, wage
inequities and disability.
The federation also confirmed that single women, single mothers and older
women carry a higher burden of poverty. According to the federation, half of
seniors' income depends on transfer payments and these payments are four times
greater for seniors than they are for other recipients in our society.
In its recommendations, the federation suggests increasing Old Age Security
and Guaranteed Income Supplement payments. The federation also recommends that
the federal government increase its contribution to the Canada Pension Plan so
the plan can pay out twice as much in payments to beneficiaries. Seniors would
then have enough income to rise above the poverty line. According to Statistics
Canada, this threshold is calculated based on three variables: the pre-tax low
income cut-off, the post-tax low income measure and the market basket measure.
In New Brunswick, for a family of two adults and two children, this combined
poverty line corresponds roughly to an annual income of $24,300 in rural areas,
$23,900 in the capital, Fredericton, and $22,900 in Moncton.
According to the 2006 census, 13.8 per cent of people in New Brunswick live
below the poverty line. That represents a bit more than 100,000 people. Out of
the nearly 119,000 people over 65 living in my province, more than 11 per cent —
or 11,700 people — live below the poverty line. The current percentage of
seniors in the province is 15.8 per cent, which is higher than the national
average of 14 per cent. In 25 years, it is predicted that a quarter of the
population of my province will be over 65.
The statistics from the 2006 census also show us that more than 45 per cent
of the 29,000 single mothers in my province live in poverty. Others who are
potentially living in poverty: half of the 93,000 single people who earn a
maximum annual salary of $20,000. When you consider that the average life
expectancy of women is 81, compared to 74 for men, you realize that poverty
among seniors is a women's issue.
These annual incomes are inadequate, honourable senators. On average in my
province, it costs $6,100 a year for food and $9,100 a year for housing. Add
those sums together and you have minimum annual expenses of $15,200. For
clothing, fuel, licensing fees and some recreational activities, there remains
only $4,800 a year on average for a single person and less than $9,000 for a
single mother. Now think about single seniors or older single mothers and you
will see that the situation for our seniors, our female seniors, is far from
Only 122,000 New Brunswickers contribute to a registered pension plan, which
means that most of the seniors in my province are left to the mercy of their
savings and government contributions, whether they be in the form of provincial
social assistance or the federal Old Age Security and Guaranteed Income
Supplement programs. This is a difficult situation, honourable senators, and it
will only become more difficult now that the current federal government has
decided to increase the age of eligibility for Old Age Security and the
Guaranteed Income Supplement to 67 by 2025. This measure in the most recent
federal budget is going to cause a lot of harm to my province.
What can be done to help seniors escape from poverty? The Association
acadienne et francophone des aînées et aînés du Nouveau Brunswick has made a
number of recommendations.
During the most recent provincial election campaign in New Brunswick, in the
fall of 2010, the AAFANB raised the following issues that contribute to poverty
among seniors in New Brunswick:
- Property taxes that increase each year and force some seniors to abandon
- The high cost of ambulance services, which compromise seniors' health;
- The fact that women have less access to workplace retirement plans and
receive fewer benefits than men;
- The need to increase the contributions of workers and employers from
5.33 per cent to 7 per cent; and
- The need to increase the basic welfare rate to help the most vulnerable
members of society.
The AAFANB recommended that the provincial government:
- Impose higher taxes on people who earn over $150,000 a year;
- Raise corporate tax rates to 13 per cent;
- Invest more in home care;
- Invest in volunteerism by people aged 50 and over;
- Achieve pay equity for child care workers;
- Initiate a generic drug policy;
- Increase provincial income by creating highway tolls for motorists
entering the province; and
- Keep the HST at its current level so as not to penalize the poor of the
Unfortunately, in its budget tabled March 27, the Government of New Brunswick
did not respond to any of these recommendations, except to allocate the small
amount of $6.4 million to address pay equity; fortunately, the government did
not increase the HST.
I know that my province, like others in Canada, is facing financial
difficulties. However, I find it regrettable that seniors continue to be ignored
when planning the future of New Brunswick.
Premier David Alward recently established a panel on seniors, which will be
submitting its report to the government this summer. I hope that this expert
panel will recommend useful solutions and that these solutions will be
implemented as quickly as possible.
(On motion of Senator Losier-Cool, for Senator Tardif, debate adjourned.)
On the Order:
Resuming debate on the inquiry of the Honourable Senator Champagne, P.C.,
calling the attention of the Senate to euthanasia and assisted suicide.
Hon. Terry Stratton: Honourable senators, I would like to speak
briefly today to Senator Champagne's inquiry on euthanasia and assisted suicide.
I would first like to pay tribute to Senator Champagne for her courage in
what she went through a couple of years ago. It was an incredible story of the
spark of life that resides in us all as she fought against all odds, with the
help of a brilliant young doctor, to survive an otherwise deadly disease. My hat
is off to her for that courage and her struggle and desire for life. I commend
her for that incredible journey.
I also want to commend her today for another battle that she is fighting of a
personal nature in her family. I know that it is indeed tough.
There are others in this room as well who are facing difficult times and have
survived severe battles with cancer and other things. We have to take our hats
off to them for those struggles and admire them for their courage. Senator Fred
Dickson passed away after a four-year battle with cancer, but he turned up,
whenever he was able to, with a smile and quiet dedication, and with quiet
courage in the battle that he ultimately lost.
Others in this room are looking after people who require care as a result of
diseases such as cancer, heart disease, dementia and others. These individuals
show dedication beyond what I would call the norm because of their love and
caring for people. We have to take our hats off to them for that. They do it not
only in the short term but struggle with these people in their final days. It is
amazing that they have the courage to continue because it is not a walk in the
My hat is off to all people and in particular senators in this room who are
dedicating their lives to looking after others.
I had intended to speak about euthanasia, but I feel that is inappropriate
because this is Senator Champagne's inquiry. It is an inquiry into life, the
spark and vitality in all of us, and the drive to protect life and help those in
need. That is how I interpret her dedication. I would like to leave it at that
rather than going on with what I really want to say.
I will put a motion on the Order Paper in the next couple of weeks on the
end-of-life issue that we all ultimately have to face. I think it is appropriate
that we talk about that at this time. Who better to do that than this chamber?
The Hon. the Speaker: If there are no other senators wishing to speak
to this inquiry, the inquiry is considered debated.
Hon. Gerald J. Comeau (Acting Deputy Leader of the Government),
pursuant to notice of March 27, 2012, moved:
That the Standing Committee on Internal Economy, Budgets and
Administration be authorized to examine and report on the powers and
responsibilities of the officers of parliament, and their reporting
relationships to the two houses; and
That the committee present is final report no later than March 31, 2013.
He said: I would like to bring the attention of honourable senators to a
letter dated February 16 of last year entitled "The Accountability of Agents of
Parliament" signed by the seven officers of Parliament: the Auditor General,
the Chief Electoral Officer, the Commissioner of Official Languages; the
Information Commissioner, the Privacy Commissioner, the Public Sector Integrity
Commissioner and the Commissioner of Lobbying.
With leave, I would like to table copies of the letter in both official
The Hon. the Speaker: Is that agreed, honourable senators?
Hon. Senators: Agreed.
The Hon. the Speaker: So ordered.
Senator Comeau: The letter, honourable senators, was addressed to the
Speaker of the House of Commons; the Chair of the Advisory Panel on the Funding
and Oversight of Officers of Parliament; the Standing Committee on Public
Accounts; the Standing Committee on Procedure and House Affairs of the House of
Commons; the Standing Committee on Official Languages; the Standing Committee on
Access to Information, Privacy and Ethics; and the Standing Committee on
Government Operations and Estimates. Copies were sent to the clerk of each of
Copies were also sent to the Clerk of the Privy Council and the Treasury
Board Secretariat. The Speaker of the Senate was also copied. However, as you
know, he does not chair a committee and, therefore, he cannot follow up the
letter and no instructions were given regarding this letter.
I believe that the exclusion of senators from the list of recipients raises a
number of serious questions about our duties and responsibilities as members of
Canada's Parliament. Although the senders call themselves agents of Parliament,
the fact that they excluded the Senate suggests that these agents do not believe
senators have a role to play in this issue.
Exclusion of senators seems to indicate that we are not part of Parliament.
Unlike the Commons, no Senate committee chair or clerk received a copy of the
letter. Given that the Senate is one of the two Houses of Parliament and that
the senders call themselves agents of Parliament, why did they exclude the
chairs of Senate committees? Did the agents of Parliament simply forget the
Is it possible that they consider the Senate to be unimportant and
undeserving of their attention? Do they consider themselves agents of the House
of Commons, not of Parliament?
Incidentally, I learned of this letter by way of an article that appeared in
The Hill Times. I recently read in the Ottawa Citizen dated
December 23, 2011, that the officers of Parliament wrote a follow-up letter in
September. As far as I know, the Senate was again excluded.
The value of our institution may well be questioned by the media and the
official opposition in the other place, but it is my view that the officers of
Parliament have no business defining our roles and responsibilities. Otherwise,
we would be remiss in our duties toward this institution.
Another concern in the letter is their self-designation as agents of
Parliament." The letter claims that "Agents of Parliament" is the term used
by government because the term "Officers of Parliament" is confusing.
Apart from the legal issues raised by the agent-principal relationship, I
would suggest that the officers have added to the confusion even more by using
the term agent in French, rather than the more precise term mandataire.
I did find, when I was reviewing some of these old documents, where an agent
of Parliament — the Auditor General — referred to that position as a
mandataire. They used the words interchangeably. I am quoting from a
document where the Auditor General said:
As Officers, or Agents, of Parliament, we report directly to Parliament
on matters covered by our mandates . . .
Be that as it may, it seems interchangeable between agent and
It would be important to confirm if they are truly agents of parliamentarians
in the legal sense of the word. If not, what does the designation "Agent of
Parliament" mean? Where did this assignment of agency originate? When and who
in government has assigned and authorized this designation? Was Parliament
consulted? Does this agent designation assume that we have delegated our
responsibilities to agents and that they are speaking and acting on our behalf
as our agents? What are the legal, political and constitutional implications of
this agency assignment or designation?
In fact, can parliamentarians legally and constitutionally delegate
authority, responsibility and accountability to agents? Exactly what are we
delegating? What is the extent or the limits of the delegated authority to the
agents? Should we not at least take the cautious step of getting a legal opinion
on the implications of this agent-principal assignment? If we do not object, is
there an implicit agreement that we accept and thereby entrench the agent-principal contract? Have Commons parliamentarians authorized this agent
designation in a formal way?
Given that the Parliament consists of the Commons, the Senate and the
Governor General, are the officers of Parliament therefore also agents of the
Governor General? Can they be agents of the head of state? If not, are they
truly officers or agents of Parliament?
I started checking in various dictionaries what the definition of "agent"
is, and I will go through a few of them here. The references are quite similar.
Basically it says that the principal assigns powers and responsibilities.
Merriam-Webster describes an agent thus:
One who is authorized to act for or in the place of another.
In regards to agency. An act done by one agent within the scope of his
authority binds the principal in the same manner as if the principal himself
had done it. A universal agent is one appointed to act for the principal in
Another definition states:
Those who do an act and those who consent to it being done are visited
with the same penalty.
In other words, if an agent does something on our behalf we are responsible;
we have given that assignment.
Interestingly, Jowitt also says:
An agent who represents himself to have an authority when in fact he has
none is liable for a breach of implied warranty of authority.
The agents of Parliament are calling themselves our agents when they may not
have the authority to pass that on. However, if we do not act on it, are we in
fact implicitly saying that they do have it?
Wikipedia says an agent in commercial law is:
. . . a person who is authorized to act on behalf of another (called the
principal) to create a legal relationship with a third party.
I presume we are not talking about commercial law here, but it is still the
I would like to refer to testimony from the Senate Committee of the Whole of
December 12, 2011, which we held regarding the nomination of Mario Dion for
Public Sector Integrity Commissioner. I will quote the comments as they appear
Senator Comeau asked a question:
You are saying that we have given you, through the act, part of our
constitutional responsibility to act as our agent, rather than to act as an
The response from Mr. Dion:
If my appointment is approved.
He was basically saying, "Yes, if you approve my appointment, I will be
acting as your agent."
Senator Comeau said:
You are saying that you will become an agent. I think you are equating
the word "agent" with "mandataire," "mandated."
Mr. Dion's response was:
Yes, to act on someone's behalf.
There is little doubt there that he is talking about our behalf. There seems
to be no ambiguity in his mind whatsoever that he is acting and speaking on our
behalf as our agent.
We should all exercise great caution in assigning agency to the officers of
Parliament. From time to time, some of us might disagree with the government
policies of certain officers of Parliament, and we reserve the right to express
that disagreement. But if the officer is our agent, can we disagree with him or
her? Moreover, do we really want to hand over the little bit of power we hold as
members of Canada's Parliament to others?
Other concerns are raised in the letter, and you will have a chance to read
it. It refers to "guardians of Canadian values," on page 3. It is in one of
the paragraphs there. They say in that paragraph that officers of Parliament
describe themselves as "guardians of values that transcend the political
objectives and partisan debates of the day."
I may have misinterpreted the meaning, but the statement leaves me very
uncomfortable in that we would have them as the guardians of values that
transcend the political objectives in partisan debates of the day. What does
that mean? Are officers of Parliament in fact mandated to transcend or be above
parliamentarians? Are they truly mandated to guard or protect Canadians from the
political and partisan debates of parliamentarians? We should seek clarification
on what this means.
On page 3, point 3, the section on departmental audit committees seems to
suggest that parliamentary officers requested an exemption from Treasury Board
policy and are therefore allowed to appoint their own "independent"
departmental audit committee members.
I ask the question: Is this appropriate? How can independent departmental
audit committee members be independent if they are appointed by the officer of
Parliament that they are mandated to audit? How can the audit committee members
provide objective, independent advice if their position is indebted to the very
officer of Parliament who makes their appointment?
At page 4, point four, agents are auditing one another. Officers audit one
another. Does this not create a weakness because one officer may not wish to be
too harsh on the officer who may be auditing the first officer in the next few
The Senate was excluded from the discussion, but I wonder if consideration
was given to appointing independent auditors who do not audit one another.
On page 5, in the second paragraph, point 5 is the formalization of the
oversight role of the parliamentary advisory panel on funding and oversight. It
would be important for us to review the 2005 framework agreement on which we
were again not consulted or invited.
What is the composition of this panel, which has been operational since 2005
and chaired by the Speaker of the House of Commons? This is a House of Commons
panel. Why was consideration not given to forming a joint committee, similar to
the one on the Library of Parliament and others?
Who are the panel members? Who appoints the panel members? It is not us.
Does the committee operate in public? If not, why is it not transparent and
Turning to pages 5, 6 and 7, it refers to the Corbett report. Honourable
senators will be reading this in the letter. We should get copies and review the
terms of reference and the report.
Who commissioned the study? Was it the government, the Commons or the Senate?
Was the Senate involved in any way? Was the Senate copied? What was Corbett's
mandate? Is the Senate mentioned at all in the report? I have not seen the
report, but it is supposedly out there as handed over to the House of Commons.
On page 6, under "The Agents of Parliament support the formalization of the
Advisory Panel in the Standing Orders of the House of Commons," again, the
Senate is excluded. Is it appropriate for the officers of Parliament to exclude
and ignore the Senate from this public policy decision? Would it not be
reasonable for the Senate to at least be informed, if not consulted on this
decision? Is it acceptable for the Senate to be ignored in these public policy
I would like to propose some suggested issues to examine as we proceed with
this, if the motion is adopted eventually.
We should critically examine the substance of the letter; prepare a timeline
of decisions on the funding and oversight initiatives; and review and summarize
the Commons' meetings on the subject and follow-up actions as a result of the
May I seek five more minutes?
Hon. Senators: Agreed.
Senator Comeau: We should review the panel deliberations and
decisions. What messages are the officers trying to convey?
We should consider the merits of the criticisms of the Commons
parliamentarians to whom the officers addressed the letter. In the letter they
criticize the Commons. Are we also subject to this criticism? We do not know,
because we were excluded. Would the same criticism apply to Senate
parliamentarians if they had been sent the letter?
Is it fair for officers of Parliament to conclude that Commons committees
and, possibly, Senate committees are not doing their job? Are the officers now
independent of parliamentary oversight? In fact, who do the officers ultimately
report to: directly to Canadians, to each other, to the media or to Parliament?
Who oversees the officers or agents of Parliament? Does the presentation of
an annual report to Parliament meet the oversight criteria? What mechanisms are
already in place to oversee the activities of officers of Parliament? Have the
officers correctly determined that "the current accountability framework
governing officers of Parliament is sound"?
What are their mandates? Are their mandates significantly different? What are
the scope and limitations of the ombudsmen's mandates? How far does their power
to participate directly and publicly in political activities and partisan
Are the officers or agents of Parliament free to disregard public
instructions from Parliament and to lobby for new government policies? How do
their mandates and powers compare with those in other parliamentary
To guide us, we should invite experts such as Donald Savoie and many others
who have published on this subject. We should also invite the government's
representatives to answer our questions.
I have a motion for committee to study the issues raised by the letter: Given
the numerous questions raised by the letter, I propose the Standing Committee on
Internal Economy, Budgets and Administration be authorized to consider the
contents of the letter. This is not a government issue; this is a parliamentary
issue. It is a reasonable study to learn why the Senate was excluded from the
letter and to seek clarification of a number of issues raised by the letter.
It is reasonable to evaluate the extent of the powers, limitations,
responsibilities, authority and relationship of officers of Parliament with both
Commons and Senate parliamentarians.
I appeal to our collective duty to protect and uphold the honour of our
institution and for all senators to join with me in a non-partisan effort to
get answers to the serious questions raised by this letter and to make it clear
that we take our responsibilities seriously.
Hon. Anne C. Cools: Honourable senators, I note that Senator Comeau in
his brilliant speech made reference to particular documents. Could he table
those documents? It would be so much easier for us to get access to them if he
would table them.
Senator Comeau: Yes. I did make reference to the letters. In fact, I
did ask for permission to table them in both official languages. There was just
one mention of a line from a report, but I can have that available to anyone who
Hon. Serge Joyal: Would the honourable senator accept some questions?
Senator Comeau: Yes, of course.
Senator Joyal: The text of the motion indicates that Senator Comeau
would like to refer the letter he mentioned to the Standing Committee on
Internal Economy, Budgets and Administration. After listening attentively, I
came to the conclusion that many of the questions that Senator Comeau raised are
constitutional in nature.
In fact, his argument is essentially based on the defence of the institution
of the Senate, its powers and its role as defined in the Constitution. Should
this question not be referred to the Standing Senate Committee on Legal and
Constitutional Affairs, where most of the members have already addressed the
status of the Senate, its role, its duties and its privileges during previous
work that I do not need to get into?
Accordingly, that committee appears to be better equipped, not that I do not
sympathize with the formidable work that the members of the Standing Committee
on Internal Economy do, but in terms of substance, I believe that the Standing
Senate Committee on Legal and Constitutional Affairs would be better equipped to
thoroughly examine the implications of the letter the senator read.
Senator Comeau: The senator indicated that the Standing Senate
Committee on Legal and Constitutional Affairs was very busy. That is one of the
reasons why I did not consider it to examine this matter.
However, generally speaking, the Standing Committee on Internal Economy,
Budgets and Administration regularly meets with a certain number of officers of
Parliament and several matters could be researched by this committee, which has
more time. It would certainly be interesting to look at the whole constitutional
aspect of this matter.
(On motion of Senator Tardif, debate adjourned.)
(The Senate adjourned until Wednesday, May 2, 2012, at 1:30 p.m.)