Debates of the Senate (Hansard)
1st Session, 41st Parliament,
Volume 148, Issue 111
Wednesday, October 24, 2012
The Honourable Noël A. Kinsella, Speaker
Wednesday, October 24, 2012
The Senate met at 1:30 p.m., the Speaker in the chair.
The Hon. the Speaker informed the Senate that a message had been
received from the House of Commons returning Bill S-206, An Act respecting World
Autism Awareness Day, and acquainting the Senate that they had passed this bill
Hon. Janis G. Johnson: Honourable senators, on Saturday, October 20,
2012, the statue of Sigtryggur Jónasson, the Father of New Iceland, was unveiled
before a large crowd in Riverton, Manitoba.
On the same afternoon, there was also the unveiling of a Historic Sites and
Monuments Board of Canada plaque commemorating Sigtryggur Jónasson as a national
"Commemorating historic people like Sigtryggur Jónasson pays tribute to their
achievements while confirming the importance they hold for us today as
Canadians," said Minister Kent.
This day marked years of effort by the Icelandic River Heritage Sites group,
a volunteer organization led by Chair Harley Jonasson and renowned historian and
genealogist Nelson Gerrard.
As a proud descendant of Canada's Icelandic community and senator for
Manitoba, this event was of special significance to me personally, along with
members of my family. Every community in Canada can trace its origins back to an
individual, or a set of individuals, who played a decisive role in the early
days of their settlement in our great land.
For those who came to Canada from Iceland in the 1870s and afterwards, the
name Sigtryggur Jónasson is at the heart of their heritage. He was a man who
demonstrated leadership from an early age, moving to Canada in 1872 at the age
of 20 and founding the New Iceland settlement on the west shore of Lake Winnipeg
in what is now Manitoba.
Jónasson was instrumental in ensuring that the vast majority of the
approximately 20,000 Icelanders who immigrated to North America between 1870 and
1914 settled in Canada. They were, as Governor General Lord Dufferin said at the
time, the finest settlers he had ever known.
As a man of many talents cultivated through a deep upbringing in literature,
Sigtryggur served as a community leader, publisher, businessman and politician,
becoming the first elected leader of the self-administered Icelandic community
and subsequently represented his community in the Manitoba legislature.
Honourable senators, Sigtryggur Jónasson was a model Canadian pioneer leader
who devoted his life to the economic, social and cultural well-being of his
people within the Dominion of Canada. He also serves us today as an example of
how multiculturalism should and can work. His vision and passion for this
country, passed down through the generations, created a vibrant community of
Canadians with a proud Icelandic heritage who were determined to make life a
success in their new land, to call it home — and we have for 140 years.
Please join me in saluting Sigtryggur Jónasson and his many contributions to
Hon. Roméo Antonius Dallaire: Honourable senators, I rise today to
talk about two international days that took place at the beginning of October
and deserve our attention. Some of our colleagues have spoken on them and I wish
to add my voice.
The first day is the International Day of the Girl Child, a new day of
recognition that was celebrated on October 11. It is no surprise that girls,
regardless of where they come from, generally experience more violence,
discrimination and other abuses than boys. According to Status of Women Canada,
depression rates and sexual harassment in Canada are more pronounced among
girls. We have seen how cyberbullying has in fact brought death to girls, as
they have committed suicide while trying to survive under some of these horrific
While the situation of some girls in Canada is not only unacceptable but
inappropriate in a society that believes in human rights and gender equality,
the situation of girls in other countries is by far much worse. In areas that
are more challenging than Canada, in imploding nations, failing states and
societies that simply do not recognize gender equality of women and men, let
alone of girls, some girls are turned into child soldiers and are forced to live
under the most dire conditions and are, in fact, used as bush wives and sex
slaves as early as 12 and 13 years old.
The purpose of this day is to help us remember that we are not living in a
perfectly egalitarian society at home, but unfortunately there are other
societies that have even worse conditions to which we should not remain ignorant
or aloof from. I believe we have a responsibility, as a leading middle power in
the world, to participate in assisting them.
Hon. Roméo Antonius Dallaire: Honourable senators, the second date I
wish to mention is the World Mental Health Day that took place on October 10.
Mental disorders represent approximately 15 per cent of diseases in the world.
In Canada, one in five people will be affected by various levels of mental
There are a number of mental illnesses and it is important to remember that
no one is immune. Mental illness does not target specific victims and knows no
boundaries. Anyone can be affected by mental illness, regardless of their age
and social background. We have statistics of the costs in the billions of
dollars to our society for people who are falling victim to these illnesses.
My intent is to draw attention not to the cost but rather to the sharp
increase in mental illness during the last 20 years. The Canadian Mental Health
Association indicates that mental illness is a primary cause of disability in
Canada. As a result, people with mental illness are quite often unemployed,
which in turn affects their families and the continuum of those families as
citizens who wish to participate in the advancement of our society.
Individuals with mental illness have to live with the situation, but we must
recognize that their families are also so engaged and significantly affected,
and there is a mental illness impact on communities when we do not take care of
the first level of mental illness in families.
Hon Elizabeth Hubley: Honourable senators, this is National Foster
Family Week. I am happy to rise today to recognize and celebrate dedicated
foster families across the country. According to the 2011 Census, almost 50,000
children are living in foster care. These children are part of our communities,
attend our local schools and play in our neighbourhood parks. In the future, one
could be your doctor, your neighbour or your member of Parliament. To become all
they can be, these kids need strong support and the skills and confidence that
only a caring family can inspire. Foster families provide vulnerable children
with stability, patience, love and understanding. They plant the seeds for
future success by teaching children what it means to be a valued member of a
family and a community.
Canadian foster families, like the children they care for, come in all shapes
and sizes and from different backgrounds and different situations. They are
single parents, same-sex couples, older parents, young professionals and
families with both biological and foster children. They all share a desire to
make a difference in the life of a child; and what a difference they make.
Foster families turn lives around. They can inspire children to overcome their
difficult pasts and achieve great things. I know. I have met foster parents and
foster children and have heard their stories.
Most recently, Senator Callbeck and I were thrilled to present Diamond
Jubilee Medals to deserving foster parents in Prince Edward Island. They are an
inspirational group and had wonderful things to say about their experiences and
In honour of National Foster Family Week, I hope that all honourable senators
will join me in thanking foster families for all that they do. I would encourage
all Canadians who may be curious about foster parenting to get in touch with
their local foster family association or provincial or territorial government.
Children in your community need your love and support.
Hon. Percy Mockler: Honourable senators, on behalf of all New
Brunswickers, I would like to commend the exceptional leadership of one
particular New Brunswick family in the forestry sector. I would like to
recognize J.D. Irving, Limited, or "JDI" as it is known back home.
There is no doubt in my mind that the Irving family is an icon across Canada,
North America and the world when it comes to forestry research and development.
Honourable senators, the true test of character and strong value is to consider
someone's behaviour when no one is watching and to judge behaviour when it is
Honourable senators, for those reasons, I am eager and proud to recognize the
Irving family; we call J.D. Irving "Jim." People do not care who we are until
they know what we care for. I know that J.D. Irving, Limited, has called New
Brunswick home for 130 years. Without a doubt they are a leader in reforestation
across the world. Even looking around this chamber today, I see some senators
who have planted trees.
Senator Mercer: How is my tree doing?
Senator Mockler: As a leader in reforestation, Irving has planted more
than 877 million trees since 1957. It is unprecedented. Honourable senators,
some of my colleagues in both houses witnessed for themselves, when they visited
the Black Brook District, how J.D. Irving, Limited, continues to inspire
innovation and advancement through research and technology in forestry. J.D.
Irving is synonymous with best practices and sustainable forestry —
— in terms of sustainable management.
Being a pioneer of GIS and GPS technology, Mr. Irving and his team represent
the corporate social conscience with Canadian values. Yes, the proudly New
Brunswick company has also made great strides in advancing Canada's
understanding of climate change and the impact on our forests. This JDI case
study was featured by the National Round Table on the Environment and the
Economy and is entitled Facing the Elements: Building Business Resilience in
a Changing Climate.
Honourable senators, I congratulate Mr. J.D. Irving and J.D. Irving, Limited,
for their outstanding performance as they conduct alternative thinning treatment
to measure the affect on birds, small mammals, insects, ground vegetation and
mosses. Let us unanimously congratulate JDI's unique areas program. It is the
winner of the national Canadian Council on Ecological Areas award for leadership
in promoting sustainable ecosystem management and its role in designating land and resources for conservation.
This family makes us proud, regardless of where we live in Canada. I thank the
Hon. Joseph A. Day: Honourable senators, with so much being written on
the 200th anniversary of the War of 1812 to 1814 between British North America
and the United States of America, many not-so-well-known events of our history
are being rediscovered. I remind honourable senators of one such event about the
104th New Brunswick Regiment of Foot. This event serves to illustrate how one
area of our country has come to the aid of another and the sacrifices made to
keep our country united.
With the recommencement of hostilities between Britain and France in 1803, a
shortage of British regiments in North America led to the creation of five
defensive units in the colonies. These units were responsible only for the
defence of the area where they were stationed. One such unit was formed in New
Brunswick and volunteered for general service. The unit was elevated to an
infantry unit of the line known as the 104th New Brunswick Regiment of Foot in
1810. It was the only Canadian regiment to be raised to full-time regular
service in the then British army. The unit could be moved to any British
garrison in theatre of operations as a regular part of the British army.
When war broke out with the United States in 1812, detachments of the 104th
were posted along the main New Brunswick border. With the buildup of American
troops in Sackets Harbor, opposite Kingston, Ontario, and upstate New York
during the winter of 1812 to 1813, there was deep concern about a pending
American invasion of Upper Canada that spring. To strengthen Upper Canada's
defences before the end of the winter, six companies of the 104th were ordered
to trek overland to Quebec and then on to Kingston. In all, roughly 573 soldiers
made that march. Setting off from Fredericton, New Brunswick, on snowshoes on
February 16, the 104th marched 550 kilometres in minus 31-degree temperatures,
arriving in Quebec City in mid-March. The trek took 24 days in the unforgiving
Canadian winter. After two weeks in garrison in Quebec City to recover, the
104th set out for Kingston where they arrived on April 12, having covered a
total of 1,125 kilometres on foot. These soldiers were poorly clothed and were
provided with the meekest of rations. As such, their march stands out as one of
the great feats of Canadian military history.
Regiments typically have identifying flags around which the soldiers rally.
Those flags are referred to as the regimental colours. The colours of the 104th
Regiment were carried proudly during that entire journey. After the regiment was
disbanded, the colours were retired to then Lieutenant-General Martin Hunter of
the regiment who lived in Scotland. One hundred years later, his family donated
the colours to a museum in New Brunswick. Through the generous donations of Jack
Irving and his son John of Saint John, New Brunswick, the 104th regimental
colours have been restored and are now part of a collection at the New Brunswick
museum. Those colours have been loaned to Canada's War Museum in Ottawa and are
part of the 1812 exhibit there.
I encourage honourable senators to visit the War of 1812 exhibit at the War
Museum. While viewing the colours of the 104th New Brunswick Regiment of Foot,
imagine the 600 soldiers marching through the cold of winter from New Brunswick
to Ontario to help keep Canada independent from the United States.
Hon. Catherine S. Callbeck: Honourable senators, I am pleased to rise
today to congratulate Mr. Terry Affleck, one of this year's winners of the
Council of the Federation Literacy Award. Mr. Affleck was presented with his
award last week by the Premier of Prince Edward Island, the Honourable Robert
Ghiz, who noted that the award acknowledges the importance of literacy as an
essential building block in the development of a vibrant society and a
Early in his school career, Mr. Affleck did well. He tells us that after the
fifth grade, low self-esteem and a sense of rebellion caused him to have
problems. Like many in the 1950s, he chose to quit school and begin work. His
parents did not mind as jobs were plentiful for someone without a formal
education. He was a good worker and was easily able to find work to suit his
It was not until his children were born that he realized he could not read
well enough to help them with their homework. Though he spent more years trying
to hide the fact that he could not read well, a good friend finally encouraged
him to seek help. He was paired with tutor Micheline Dufour, and he has not
At the age of 63, Mr. Affleck learned to read, and at 66 he is just one
subject away from earning his grade 12 equivalency. He has shown great courage
and dedication in his journey to overcome his literacy challenges. I am pleased
that his hard work and enthusiasm has been recognized by the Council of the
Mr. Affleck's story is not an uncommon one, and it clearly illustrates the
importance of solving this country's literacy problems. As I have said many
times in this chamber, more than 40 per cent of working-age Canadians, those
aged 16 to 65 years, have low literacy skills. In fact, when we include seniors,
the percentage rises to 48 per cent. That means that nearly half of Canadians
have low literacy skills. They have trouble coping with the demands of everyday
life and work. Improving these skills has real benefits to these individuals and
to society as a whole.
Honourable senators, I would like to congratulate Mr. Affleck and all those
adult learners who have taken the steps to improve their literacy skills. I
would also like to thank Ms. Dufour and tutors across the country for their work
helping to turn the tide on low literacy skills. Without a doubt, we all benefit
from success stories like this one.
Hon. Claude Carignan (Deputy Leader of the Government): Honourable
senators, I have the honour to table, in both official languages, the annual
report of the Office of the Correctional Investigator for the fiscal year ended
March 31, 2012, pursuant to the Corrections and Conditional Release Act.
Hon. Claude Carignan (Deputy Leader of the Government): Honourable
senators, I give notice that, at the next sitting of the Senate, I will move:
That, in accordance with rule 10-11(1), the Standing Senate Committee on
National Finance be authorized to examine the subject-matter of all of Bill
C-45, A second Act to implement certain provisions of the budget tabled in
Parliament on March 29, 2012 and other measures, introduced in the House of
Commons on October 18, 2012, in advance of the said bill coming before the
That the Standing Senate Committee on National Finance be authorized to
sit for the purposes of its study of the subject-matter of Bill C-45 even
though the Senate may then be sitting, with the application of rule 12-18(1)
being suspended in relation thereto; and
That, in addition, and notwithstanding any normal practice:
1. The following committees be separately authorized to examine the
subject-matter of the following elements contained in Bill C-45 in
advance of it coming before the Senate:
(a) the Standing Senate Committee on Banking, Trade and
Commerce: those elements contained in Divisions 1, 3, 6 and 14 of
(b) the Standing Senate Committee on Energy, the
Environment and Natural Resources: those elements contained in
Divisions 4, 18 and 21 of Part 4;
(c) the Standing Senate Committee on Transport and
Communications: those elements contained in Divisions 5, 12 and 20
of Part 4;
(d) the Standing Senate Committee on Aboriginal Peoples:
those elements contained in Division 8 of Part 4; and
(e) the Standing Senate Committee on Agriculture and
Forestry: those elements contained in Division 19 of Part 4;
2. The various committees listed in point one that are authorized to
examine the subject-matter of particular elements of Bill C-45 submit
their final reports to the Senate no later than November 30, 2012; and
3. As the reports from the various committees authorized to examine
the subject-matter of particular elements of Bill C-45 are tabled in the
Senate they be deemed referred to the Standing Senate Committee on
National Finance so that it may take those reports into consideration
during its study of the subject-matter of all of Bill C-45.
Hon. Janis G. Johnson: Honourable senators, I have the honour to
table, in both official languages, the report of the Canadian parliamentary
delegation of the Canada-United States Inter-Parliamentary Group to the
Thirty-sixth Annual Conference of New England Governors and Eastern Canadian
Premiers, held in Burlington, Vermont, United States of America, from July 29 to
Hon. Gerry St. Germain: Honourable senators, pursuant to rule 5-6 of
the Rules of the Senate, I give notice that, two days hence:
I will call the attention of the Senate to the current state of First
Nations self-government in Canada.
Hon. Elizabeth Hubley: Honourable senators, my question is to the
Leader of the Government in the Senate. Her government's latest omnibus bill
proposes even greater changes to one of our country's oldest pieces of
legislation, the Navigable Waters Protection Act, making this act the latest
victim in her government's plan to destroy environmental protection in our
Her government's claim is that changing this act's name to the "Navigation
Protection Act" is indicative of the act's commitment to protecting the right of
navigation, but what about the protection of Canada's vital waterways? How can
her government claim that this proposed legislation focuses on the protection of
navigation when these changes would reduce protection for the vast majority of Canada's
Hon. Marjory LeBreton (Leader of the Government): Honourable senators,
with regard the Navigable Waters Protection Act — the provisions in Bill C-45
and the new "Navigation Protection Act" — this particular legislation has always
been and will remain about navigation and navigation only. The amendments will
focus resources to ensure that this is still the case. This will not affect the
government's protection of the environment. We have strong environmental laws in
this country, such as the Canadian Environmental Protection Act, the Federal
Sustainable Development Act, the Migratory Birds Convention Act, the Species at
Risk Act and the Canadian Environmental Assessment Act.
I repeat to the honourable senator that this particular section of the budget
implementation bill is strictly about navigation and navigation only.
Senator Hubley: Changing the intent of the Navigable Waters Protection
Act would drastically loosen environmental protections by dramatically limiting
the number of waterways protected. Of the tens of thousands of lakes in Canada,
this new act would only protect 97 of them, as well as 62 rivers and 3 oceans.
This means that any waterway not on the list would be affected by building a
dam, pipeline, mine or bridge. How can this new "Navigation Protection Act"
focus on the protection of navigation when the proposed changes would reduce the
protection of most of Canada's waterways?
Senator LeBreton: I think I already answered that. There are many acts
presently in place to appropriately protect the environment. This particular
bill is about navigation and navigation only. All the other acts I mentioned are
there to protect the environment and they will continue to do so.
Hon. Terry M. Mercer: Honourable senators, I have asked several times
about certain employees at the Atlantic Canada Opportunities Agency and how they
were hired. A recent report by the Public Service Commission into the hiring of
five people at ACOA found no political interference, but it did revoke two of
the positions for improper conduct by senior officials and found errors in a
third case. One of these cases was Kevin MacAdam. His position was revoked, yet
he is still employed because he has appealed the findings of the report.
The commission found four senior ACOA executives, including the current and
former president of the agency, acted improperly in appointing MacAdam. What
action is the federal government taking to censure these executives at ACOA?
Hon. Marjory LeBreton (Leader of the Government): Honourable senators,
the government welcomes the report of the Public Service Commission. This
independent investigation did not find evidence of any wrongdoing, as the
honourable senator pointed out, or influence on the part of ministers or
I hasten to point out, especially given the honourable senator's capacity as
former Executive Director of the Liberal Party of Canada, that this same
commission reported back in 2006. They covered a period from the 1990s up until
we formed government. That report said that the Liberals gave ministerial aides
free rides into the public service. It was well documented and is in the report.
In this case there was no political or ministerial interference.
Senator Mercer: At some point this government will have to start
taking responsibility for things that go on in the government.
My question really is not about Mr. MacAdam but the report that said there
was improper conduct by senior officials. The Public Service Commission has no
authority to censure anyone and can only recommend corrective action.
The ball is in the federal government's hands to discipline these senior
officials. Since these investigations into ACOA appear to be the largest
investigations ever done by the Public Service Commission, what is the federal
government doing to ensure that this improper conduct by senior officials does
not happen again?
Senator LeBreton: If we go back, I believe up until this report was
released, Senator Mercer's basic charge was that there was political
interference by a minister or political staff. The Public Service Commission
clearly found that not to be the case. Obviously, the findings of the Public
Service Commission into the hiring of these individuals resulted in their
employment not continuing.
There is nothing more I can say. The fact is that the Public Service
Commission found there was no influence or wrongdoing on the part of political
ministers or staffers. Appropriate action was taken and, of course, this is
something quite different than what happened in the past.
Senator Mercer: Well, the government refuses to take responsibility.
They made this ruling against Mr. MacAdam. The question is: Is Mr. MacAdam
still on the payroll? Is he still in Ottawa attending French language courses
when there are quite adequate French language programs in Atlantic Canada and
the Province of Prince Edward Island? There is a school that can do the
training. Is he on special status in Ottawa where his expenses are paid? Is the
government paying for his appeal? Are we now on the hook for the lawyers that
Mr. MacAdam is using to appeal the ruling of the Public Service Commission?
Senator LeBreton: The honourable senator is on a major fishing
expedition here. I believe, although I stand to be corrected, that I read
somewhere that the individual in question is taking legal action. If that is the
case, of course I cannot comment further.
Hon. Roméo Antonius Dallaire: Honourable senators, my question is for
the Leader of the Government in the Senate, and it pertains to the honourable
Vic Toews, Minister of Public Safety, whom I had the opportunity to meet
recently at a ceremony to commemorate Canadian police officers who were killed
in the line of duty. Over 1,000 police officers gathered on Parliament Hill on that very rainy day. We had the opportunity to have an informal conversation
on various topics.
Last Sunday, the minister was invited to appear on CTV's Question Period,
where the topic of discussion was a case in which he was personally involved,
that of Omar Khadr. The message was as follows:
Canada has duty to Khadr: Says "terrorist" must be rehabilitated.
If I were the Minister of Public Safety, one of the things I would do would
be to reduce threats to public safety.
Not wanting to create a threat, the first thing I would have done would have
been to prevent the situation from becoming a threat. How do you explain the
fact that the government wants to rehabilitate this so-called terrorist and yet
it continues to demonize him and ensure that Canadians are convinced that he is
a terrorist? The government wants to rehabilitate him, but it also wants to keep
him in prison. Do you think it makes sense for a minister to continue to act
Hon. Marjory LeBreton (Leader of the Government): Honourable senators,
there is one very simple fact, which is that Mr. Khadr is a convicted terrorist
and murderer. That is the fact. Minister Toews simply stated the fact and, as
the honourable senator points out, indicated that despite this known fact, of
course, measures will be taken to rehabilitate him.
Senator Dallaire: It is interesting that the argument is to
rehabilitate a terrorist; yet, when asked about whether Mr. Khadr was really a
terrorist or was he maybe possibly a child soldier, the answer that was given
was the following: "I do believe we have an obligation to rehabilitate him even
though he is not a child soldier in the technical sense of that word."
I had the opportunity when I was sitting on the Human Rights Committee to
take on our Minister of Justice in the report to the UN in which the minister
said child soldiers are only those who wear uniforms and are part of government
organizations, while we know that the definition covers in fact those who are
not in uniform, those who are in non-governmental structures and those who are
either carrying a weapon or being raped as a child soldier girl in support of
In the case of Omar Khadr and the statement, what technical dimension does
Omar Khadr not fit in the fundamental convention that we wrote and pushed and
that over 100 countries have reinforced our position in defining what a child
Senator LeBreton: We have had this argument before about what is and
is not a child soldier.
The simple fact of the matter is that Mr. Khadr is a convicted murderer and
terrorist. He was brought back to Canada. He is now in our penal system. Any
future decisions that are made with regard to Mr. Khadr will be made by the
independent Parole Board of Canada.
Senator Dallaire: Honourable senators, yes, and I expect that they
will do that, especially since he was brought back to Canada, not in broad
daylight, but rather, very early on a Saturday morning, in what I would call an
undercover operation, knowing that two days later the minister chose not to give
his consent and that an American plane had to bring Mr. Khadr back. I would like
to quote another comment made by our minister.
I think it would have been a mistake to wait for six years so the
Americans would dump him on our borders, because he is a Canadian citizen.
This is really a reversal. Even though the individual may have committed a
crime — and we can debate that and will go through that for years, I gather — to
treat a Canadian citizen thus, saying the Americans will dump this guy on our
borders and we have to take him so we finally decide to take him, is that the
way ministers proceed in responding to their responsibilities as ministers of
the Crown to Canadian citizens, whether or not they like their politics or the
politics of their family?
Senator LeBreton: Honourable senators, Minister Toews acted
responsibly in this matter. As he said he would do, he reviewed all the relevant
materials with regard to this particular individual.
With regard to Mr. Khadr's return to Canada, Senator Dallaire obviously has
much more intimate details about how he arrived here than I do, so I cannot
respond to what he said in that regard.
Hon. Jim Munson: My question is for the Leader of the Government in
the Senate, but before I ask the question I want to thank senators from the
other side and this side for their support for my autism bill. I am humbled by
that. I watched the debate in the House of Commons last night and it was
something to see, from all parties. It is more than just awareness. There is a
plan behind this bill, and we will continue to push toward this issue.
Hon. Senators: Hear, hear!
Senator Munson: I came to the Hill in 1972, 1974 — a long time ago —
but it is the first time I felt, as I walked off the Hill and looked back up at
the Peace Tower and saw the clock strike eight o'clock, "My goodness, I am a
lawmaker." It was one of those moments, because in a private member's bill one
just does not think these things will happen. It took some time. I was very
proud that I could share that with everyone in the Senate.
I would also like to associate myself with the remarks of the government
leader on Lincoln Alexander. In those days in the 1970s, without television, in
the House of Commons as a young reporter I sat down and looked at Jim McGrath
and Lincoln Alexander and Gordon Fairweather and all those Progressive
Conservatives who sat there, and Lincoln was extremely important in my life as a
young reporter. He took me literally under his arm and showed me a few things
about what goes on here. What a gentleman and what a man. I want to associate
myself with the leader on those remarks she made yesterday.
The question today has to do with tightening belts. When it comes to
advertising with this government, during Mr. Harper's government's first five
years in office, the spending in advertising has gone up $128 million over
budget. That is 37 per cent more than was originally allocated. It cannot be
attributed to any single event or issue.
We see here a government overspending on the advertising budget each and
every year it has been in office. Canadians could not run their households this
way, so why does the government feel it can do differently when it comes to
managing our country?
Hon. Marjory LeBreton (Leader of the Government): I thank the
honourable senator, and with regard to his private member's bill, he is to be
congratulated. Autism is a very serious condition, affecting a great number of
I am encouraged over the last few years by the attention that this government
and Parliament have paid to private member's bills. Probably more private
member's bills now make it through Parliament, good bills from both sides that
benefit all of our fellow citizens.
With regard to Lincoln Alexander, I thank the senator for his comments. I
noticed the reference to Lincoln Alexander's rather looming size. The honourable
senator talks about being on the Hill since the early 1970s. I have been here
since the early 1960s and I met Lincoln Alexander when John Diefenbaker
convinced him to run in the 1965 election. I travelled on that election with our
colleague Joyce Fairbairn. I was a political person at the time and she was a
media person at the time.
With regard to advertising, as the honourable senator knows, the government
undertakes a lot of advertising to inform Canadian citizens. It is the
responsibility of the government to communicate important programs and
initiatives to Canadians and we see these many times, whether health
announcements or announcements with regard to programs the government has
available for Canadian citizens to avail themselves of to increase their skills,
go back to school or what have you. Advertisement expenses for 2010-11 were well
below those of the last full year under Senator Munson's former government,
which at that time were $111 million.
Senator Munson: I thank the leader for her first two answers.
As to the second answer, she keeps referring back to the government I served
in, but we are talking about today. We are talking about fiscal restraint today
and living within our budgets. We all have to do that, both here in the Senate
and in the House of Commons. The question has to do with overspending and living
within available means.
The leader's government has been cutting thousands of civil service jobs and
preaching fiscal restraint to Canadians. I am sure Canadians like to see the
public service taking the brunt of the restraint program.
However, the government launched a $16 million advertising blitz to promote
the economic action plan. That amount was for the first quarter of this year.
That initiative is long over and done with. Her government has other recent
advertisement spending, including $5 million to promote better jobs, $4.5
million to recognize the bicentennial of the War of 1812, $8 million to spruce
up the cuts to Old Age Security, and $5 million to paint her government as
responsible environmental stewards. Ironically, this last one comes at a time
when the Experimental Lakes Area is being cut to save $2 million annually and
the National Round Table on the Environment and the Economy was dissolved for a
savings of $5.5 million. At a time when global economic circumstances demand
fiscal prudence, why is the government spending this way?
Senator LeBreton: I think I responded to that in my first answer,
honourable senators. It is the responsibility of the government to inform
Canadians of available programs they can access, such as enrolling in skills
training. The advertisement has a website, which has been extremely well used by
the citizenry of this country, as people access the various government programs
that are available. The advertising we do is focused primarily on the objectives
of this government, which are jobs, the economy and prosperity.
Some Hon. Senators: Hear, hear!
The Hon. the Speaker: We will not take time away from Question Period,
but as honourable senators know, here in the northeast end of the Senate
chamber, above the first window, we find the name of Governor General Grey.
Right now, at the south end of our chamber, we have the Grey Cup.
Hon. Senators: Hear, hear!
The Hon. the Speaker: The Grey Cup is below the bar, accompanied by
Mark Cohon, CFL Commissioner, and Russ Jackson, an iconic Canadian quarterback
whose jersey was No. 12 and who was recently inducted into the Canada's Walk of
Accompanying Mr. Jackson and Mr. Cohon are Bryce Russell and Ave Poggione.
They are all here below the bar to help Canadians mark the centenary of this
great Canadian sports trophy.
On behalf of all honourable senators, thank you for bringing the Grey Cup to
the Senate chamber.
Hon. Senators: Hear, hear!
The Hon. the Speaker: Honourable senators, there is time for a final
question in Question Period.
Hon. Maria Chaput: Honourable senators, my question is for the Leader
of the Government in the Senate. A few weeks ago, I asked the minister a
question about the Experimental Lakes Area program. This research project, led
by a team of scientists, was the responsibility of Fisheries and Oceans Canada.
As the minister knows, Fisheries and Oceans Canada will no longer be
responsible for this project and thus will no longer manage it.
This project is one of a kind. Sixty-three per cent of Canadians support it,
more than 25,000 Canadians have signed a petition to save it, and a considerable
number of municipalities have passed resolutions and sent letters to that effect
to Prime Minister Harper.
Once again, I would like to know why the leader's government is abandoning
this research project and the team of scientists. Why will she not transfer it
instead to another department?
If Fisheries and Oceans will not or cannot manage this project, why not
transfer it to the Department of the Environment, for example?
Hon. Marjory LeBreton (Leader of the Government): Honourable senators,
my answer is the same as it has been to several questions regarding the
Experimental Lakes Area facility. The decision has been made to end this program
as a federal facility.
We have also made other decisions, such as unprecedented new investments in
science and technology since 2006. I will give a few examples.
Since 2006, we have invested millions in science to update and refit over a
dozen laboratories and by constructing three new science vessels. We have
invested in complete ocean mapping for Canada's Law of the Sea submission and in
science funding to support emerging commercial fishing in the Arctic. We have
also made additional scientific investments to counter threats from aquatic
invasive species, as the honourable senator knows.
Honourable senators, the government is ending the federal funding of this
particular program, but there are many more programs in the area of scientific
research that we have invested in and will continue to invest in to ensure that
we have the very best scientific research available.
Hon. Elizabeth (Beth) Marshall moved second reading of Bill C-46, An
Act to amend the Members of Parliament Retiring Allowances Act.
She said: Honourable senators, I rise to invite all members of this chamber
to support Bill C-46, An Act to amend the Members of Parliament Retiring
Allowances Act. As is known, this bill was introduced in the other place last
Friday and all parties agreed to move it as quickly as possible and pass it
without further debate. The bill is now before us today and I think we all
recognize the value and merit of this legislation.
It will result in much-needed pension reform for members of both Houses of
Parliament. It will bring our contribution rates more fairly in line with other
public sector pension plans and will produce substantial savings for Canadian
Honourable senators, this is a landmark piece of legislation. It proposes
changes that will require parliamentarians to pay their fair share of their
pension contributions. This has never happened in Canadian history, and it is a
change that is long overdue.
It is a change that also underscores our government's strong commitment to
keeping taxes low and managing the country's finances in a prudent and
During these uncertain economic times, we must ensure the sustainability of
our social programs and our fiscal position for generations to come. We must
prepare today for the demographic pressures that the Canadian economy will face
over the longer term.
It is worth remembering that in 1970 life expectancy was 69 years for men and
76 years for women. Today, it is 79 years for men and 83 years for women. The
baby boom generation is also the largest age cohort in history.
Indeed, Canadians are living longer and healthier lives. In addition, many
workers wish to work longer and increase their retirement income. Bill C-46 is
just one of the steps our government is taking to address these important
challenges of our time.
As proposed in the budget implementation bill, Bill C-45, we also plan to
change the age of retirement for new public service employees and increase
contribution rates for both new and existing public service employees.
Honourable senators, these measures to reform public sector and MP pensions
will save taxpayers $2.6 billion over the next five years. However, more than
that, they will contribute to ensuring Canada's sound fiscal position, which
continues to stand out as one of the best in the world.
As we all know, Canada has weathered the global recession better than most
other industrialized countries. Many factors explain this achievement. They
include our solid economic fundamentals and the implementation of the stimulus
phase of Canada's Economic Action Plan, which positioned Canada to succeed in a
highly competitive global economy.
Since we introduced the Economic Action Plan, Canada has recovered more than
all of the output and all of the jobs lost during the recession. In fact, since
July 2009, employment has increased by almost 770,000 jobs and is now close to
340,000 above its pre-recession peak. This is the strongest job growth among G7
countries over the recovery.
That said, it is not surprising that both the International Monetary Fund and
the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development forecasts that Canada
will have among the strongest economic growth in the G7 over this year and next.
Indeed, the world has noticed our strong performance, and we can all take pride
in Canada's strong response to the global recession.
However, Canada cannot rest on this record of success. That is why our
Economic Action Plan 2012, released last March, focuses on the drivers of growth
and job creation, including innovation, investment, education, skills and
communities. Our plan is also underpinned by an ongoing commitment to keep taxes
low and return to balanced budgets.
Honourable senators, I am proud to say that our government is on track to
return to balanced budgets in the medium term. Not many other countries can say
that. We will do it without cutting transfers to Canadians or provinces that
support health care and social services, as promised.
Balanced budgets are not important for their own sake but for what they make
possible and what they avoid. Reducing the debt frees up tax dollars that would
otherwise be absorbed by interest costs. This money can then be reinvested in
the things that matter to Canadians, like health care, public services, or lower
Reducing the debt also strengthens the country's ability to respond to
economic shocks, such as the recent global financial crisis and challenges such
as our aging population. It signals that we have our act together and that we
care about staying prosperous for the future.
Ensuring that we stay on track to balancing the budget has not been easy.
Some of the measures we have taken include the following: We put a four-year cap
on salary increases in the public service in March 2011 that resulted in annual
savings of $1 billion. We froze the salaries of the Prime Minister, ministers,
MPs and senators until 2013. We put a three-year cap on travel and hospitality
costs within the public service and strengthened the rules around these
activities. We brought an end to voluntary severance for public servants who
quit or retire, an entitlement dating back to the 1960s, which will save the
government $500 million annually. We stopped minting the Canadian penny, which
cost 1.6 cents to produce.
In the past year, we have undertaken a comprehensive strategic review where
we have put billions of dollars of direct program spending under the microscope.
It has been a big job that has required all federal departments and agencies to
examine every function and activity within their organizations to ensure value
for money, including their operations, systems and processes. We have looked at
ourselves carefully and asked some tough questions about who we are and what we
want to be. It has been hard work, but the effort was well worth it. We have
managed to find $5.2 billion in ongoing annual savings.
Honourable senators, I am sharing this with you today to demonstrate that the
bill before us today is not an isolated effort. It is part of the bigger
picture. It is one of the many actions our government has taken to ensure the
sustainability of public finances and social programs for future generations.
Here are some of the changes in Bill C46. This bill will increase plan member
contribution rates in order to bring the share of the current pension plan's
service cost of members of Parliament from 14 per cent to 50 per cent. Today, we
contribute 7 per cent of our salaries to the pension plan. When we move to a
50:50 cost-sharing ratio, plan members will contribute just over 20 per cent of
our salaries. It means that the contribution for a member of the other place
will increase from $11,060 in 2012 to $38,769 by 2017. In after-tax dollars,
this will mean an increase from $5,930 to just over $20,000.
As for the contribution of senators, it will increase from just over $9,000
in 2012 to just over $32,000 by 2017. In after-tax dollars, it will mean an
increase from approximately $5,000 to just over $17,000.
Additionally, effective January 1, 2016, the age at which plan members can
retire with an unreduced pension will be raised from age 55 to age 65. This
means that, starting in 2016, early retirement can be as early as age 55, with a
reduction of 1 per cent for each year less than the normal retirement age.
With these changes, the government is expected to save approximately $29
million by 2017-18.
I can also confirm that the accrual rate will remain the same at 3 per cent
and that the maximum pension will be 75 per cent of a member's total average
I know that these are all important changes for us. Pensions provide
invaluable income security. They allow us to support ourselves after we retire
and even provide financial support to dependants, so the changes proposed in
Bill C-46 cannot, and should not, be taken lightly.
At the same time, I think we can all recognize that members should contribute
their fair share to their pensions. It is the right thing to do. We have known
this for a long time. This is what this legislation will achieve. We cannot
delay any longer.
I commend our government for moving so quickly on this reform by introducing
Bill C-46 last Friday. I therefore encourage all senators to vote with me in
support of this important piece of legislation. In doing so, we will be leading
Hon. Grant Mitchell: Honourable senators, I have a few things to say
about this bill. If I can start by putting it into some context, I think there
is a great deal of concern amongst caucus members on all sides of the other
place and even here. I have talked to many Conservative caucus members, both
senators and, in particular, members of Parliament, who are deeply concerned
about this, and not just in a personal, self-serving way. Actually, quite the
contrary, because the people who serve on all sides of both houses — I am
aggressive about things from time to time, but the fact of the matter is these
are people who are, by and large, pretty much dedicated to what they do and are
pretty much prepared make a lot of sacrifices in the process of doing it. We are
in politics. We who have been in elected politics know the great deal of stress,
strain, pressure and undeniable, unrelenting hard work that is involved in that.
These are dedicated people to begin with.
There are bigger issues than just what any given one of us takes home at any
given moment in our political careers. There is a bigger issue when we begin to
dramatically reduce the take-home pay — and I will talk about members of
Parliament because to talk about us would be self-serving — to begin to reduce
the take-home pay of members of Parliament by, in this case, about 20 per cent
in one fell swoop.
That begins to have a broad-based impact on the nature of the other place,
the nature of the people who will be in that place, and the demographics, what
they reflect, their ability to remain focused and not distracted and so on.
I would like to address some specific technical, perhaps arcane details about
the numbers involved in this, but I also would like for people to keep in mind
that there is a broader philosophical context within which this should be
debated and that we as senators have a role to play right now. We do not have to
rush this. January 2013 is the very earliest we need to pass this legislation,
but we need to consider in this place of the hackneyed term "sober second
thought" what exactly this means in the short term and particularly in the
longer term for the quality of Parliament, for its ability to do its job, for
the nature of the public policy process. Even if we voted to accept our changes,
we could do something about their changes that would be a great contribution, I
think, in the longer term for the quality of Parliament, the quality of
politics, the quality of the public policy process and ultimately to how well
this country is run.
It is interesting, as an aside, that the honourable senator would announce
again how well Canada is doing and then turn around and cut the take-home pay of
the people responsible for having done it. I do not know what corporate private
sector group would want to cut the pay of people who had done as well as this
senator would say. I do not believe that they have done that well, but I am
taking her at her word and saying there is that irony.
At a basic level, I am concerned that there is really a lack of understanding
amongst many of the people in both these houses, amongst the Treasury Board
people we have spoken with, even amongst the people who provided this briefing
to the Conservative Party caucus. This is the caucus briefing right here, and it
says the government will pay 20 per cent of the Senate pay salary and 20 per
cent of the MP salary. If one does the math, it is not 20 per cent but rather 25
per cent. I am just saying, if one looks at the briefing figures, those are not
right. One could calculate that $32,298 is certainly just about 25 per cent of
what we are paid, but that is not what they are saying. They say 20 per cent,
but that is not the case; it is 25 per cent. The MPs' situation is the same
thing: $38,796 is not 20 per cent. That is 25 per cent of their gross pay. The
briefing cannot even get that right.
Then I see, and this is another thing that concerns me, this idea that the
government is making quite a bit about the sacrifice the Prime Minister is
making. I agree he is taking some cut in pay. He will still be looking at about
$180,000 in pension, which will be considerably more than almost anyone else.
The briefing that was received, I would point out, is misleading. It says here
that the Prime Minister pays an additional 7 per cent of the salary paid to him
as Prime Minister for the special Prime Minister's allowance. I doubt that he is
paying an additional 7 per cent, which would mean he would be paying 14 per cent
of that. I expect he is paying 7 per cent on his additional pay, just like the
Leader of the Government in the Senate is paying 7 per cent, not 14 per cent, on
her additional pay as leader, just like every chair and deputy chair who are
paying 7 per cent, not 14 per cent, of their additional pay. This is very likely
Also interesting, when one looks at the formula by which the Prime Minister's
special pension will be calculated, read it carefully. Either this is misleading
— that is, the people who gave the briefing cannot get it right — or it is
disturbing. It says it will be 3 per cent times the number of years in which the
Prime Minister held office and times the Prime Minister's salary at the time the
payment of the allowance begins.
Let us say the Prime Minister, and this one might well retire before he is 55
— hopefully he retires at the next election — is 55 years old. He will not start
his pension allowance until he is 67. Will his 3 per cent times his 20 years,
his 60 per cent, whatever it is, be based upon his salary at age 55, when he
quits being the Prime Minister, or will it be based upon what the salary will be
for the position when he, the retired prime minister, is age 67, what the Prime
Minister's then current salary is? No private sector pension gets that. I quit
at age 60 and I start collecting my pension let us say at age 65. I was earning
$80,000 a year at 60, but the person in my position when I am 65 and happily
retired is now earning $150,000. I am not getting that percentage of that. I am
getting a percentage of $80,000.
Every member of Parliament and every senator is under the same circumstances.
The Prime Minister, however, may not be. He may be getting quite a different
deal. It is one of those questions we need to answer. It is quite misleading,
and honourable senators are at least being misled. We need to take some time to
sort that out and to find out what exactly it is that the Prime Minister will
receive, and we need take some time and check the numbers because clearly the
numbers in the government's own briefing are internally consistent and
The real impact of this will be on take-home pay. Right now, a member of
Parliament's base take-home pay is about $7,200 a month. After this increase,
the base pay will go from $7,200 — I am sort of doing the inverse of Senator
Marshall's figures — to $5,800 a month. That is, I think, about a 20 per cent
reduction in take-home pay overnight. It is going from $7,200 to $5,800.
I am not defensive about what is happening to the Senate salary, but I will
say it will go from about $6,800 to about $5,600. I am imagining a youngish,
compared to me, 45-year-old member of Parliament in the other house, of course,
at 45 years old with $5,800 take-home pay, perhaps a mortgage of $1,500, a child
or two in university. Maybe that is costing $1,000 or $1,500 a month. Even if
honourable senators' children can find a job in these days for summer
employment, it is very expensive to send them to university. Now I am at about
$3,000. Looking at Senator Brazeau, he is a young senator. He will have children
going to university about this stage in his life, age 45, perhaps, we hope. Now
we are at $3,000. That leaves $2,800 a month to pay for the heat, light, food,
maybe spend a holiday with the family, which has been neglected to some extent
because members have been away at least 125 nights a year sitting there, not to
mention travel, not to mention the Saturday nights and the Sunday afternoons
that are missed because of job requirements representing constituents.
I am not saying that $5,800 for many Canadians is not a lot of money, but it
is not a huge amount of money, and it certainly is difficult for someone at 45
years old, the kind of person one would expect would be desirable as a member of
Parliament representing people, to live any kind of quality of life that would
reflect the kinds of stress, pressures, responsibilities — Senator Marshall's
successes she would argue they have had — in any way, shape or form. I think it
behooves us to consider the kind of change that really is.
At a philosophical level, what does that mean? It really means that if one is
not rich, one will have a very difficult time sitting in the House of Commons
without being distracted because one would have to find a part-time job, do
contract work, try to maintain the farm. There are two homes to consider. To
some extent, yes, they get covered, but if one is in Ottawa a lot, not all
expenses are covered by any means.
One starts to change the nature of the representation that Canadians will
get, and I for one would like to see a house that reflects a 45-year-old with a
mortgage and a couple of children, maybe one or both of them in university. I
would like to see a House of Commons that reflects a 35-year-old who could
afford to be here. I would like to see a House of Commons that remains a house
of commons and not a house of elites. If one has to survive on $5,800 — I know;
honourable senators can criticize me, saying that is a lot of money. We know
most of the people in this place here are not living on $5,800 of take-home pay
a month. Over there, they will be, and it will be very difficult.
This is difficult to say, and I will be criticized for saying it, I am sure.
I am politically vulnerable for saying it, but Western industrialized
democracies have made a huge effort to pay their politicians sufficiently well
so that corruption becomes a thing of the past. We are all above reproach. All
of our MPs are above reproach, but the pressures of not making enough money can
become an issue, I am just saying, and that is why it needs to be maintained at
a certain level. I see the leader here nodding her head. We could talk about
brown paper bags with cash in it, because there is pressure all the time. That
is why pay needs absolutely to be adequate.
I am arguing that a 20 per cent cut overnight, from one day to the next, in
take-home pay, to $5,800, does begin to raise questions about the adequacy of
I also want to argue this: There is a strange irony here. There are people
over there or here who would say that this is acceptable, arbitrarily, without
debate or consideration, and that we have to cut it all and that is ironic. What
it says is that we diminish ourselves. We think, I do not, but ideologically,
that the Conservative view is that government sucks, that it is not worth
anything, that public servants and politicians can never be as good as the
private sector and that we have never played a role in building this country to
what it is today.
The fact of the matter is that these are worthy positions and that they are a
very high calling. Every time we diminish them, we send the wrong message about
that role and about what we do. If they want to reflect very quickly how they
diminish it, then just cut people's take-home pay by 20 per cent in one fell
I do not know why it is that somehow intrinsically the Conservative ideology
is that all things government are bad and if you are in it that reflects upon
you. However, they sit there happily and seem to run hard to get there.
The other thing to keep in mind in the context of how little this will be to
some people, honourable senators, is one cannot opt out. If one gets here and
has a mortgage and a couple of kids in university, or one child ends up getting
a chance to go to Harvard that one had not anticipated, or the furnace blows up,
or the car breaks down and a new one must be bought, one cannot opt out. One
cannot stop paying that 25 per cent of one's pay because we are all locked in,
period. There is no recourse, no way out. That money is gone. One cannot do
anything about it.
One tries to motivate people. One tries to deal with people as a leader and
understand, because they are working for that leader. Mr. Harper is their boss.
That is what he thinks of those people working in his caucus. How many people
would want to work for a boss who thinks that little of them, who would do that
to them and their family, jamming it through in 2 hours and 15 minutes? We are
going to look at it tonight in committee and finish it tomorrow.
I think we have to consider this in a broader, philosophical way. We have to
understand in the Senate that we have a role to protect and to sustain the
integrity, the productivity, the efficiency, and the quality of both of these
houses. I am talking on behalf of MPs right now because we can play that role
and we can defend them without being self-serving.
There are other technical things that I think need to be questioned. These
are actuarial, technical considerations. None of us see the inside of this. We
do not sit on a board that supervises the actuary. Does anyone know what the
actuarial assumptions are for this or how long senators live? We just heard
today that the average Canadian's life expectancy is 79 years, or four years
after the retirement age for senators. The average senator could pay for this
for 25 years. I will give honourable senators an example how the numbers do not
If one starts at 50 and pays $40,000 a year, give or take, for 25 years, now
they are maxed. One gets the 75 per cent and will be entitled to a $100,000 a
year pension. In those 25 years, one will have paid in $803,000 oneself.
I did get one actuarial assumption. The long-term rate they will put on it is
5.7 per cent, which is lower than what the average return on CPP has been over
the last 10 years. One can add that in and calculate it. That senator, over 25
years, will have put in $803,000. It will work out to something like about $2.4
million that they will have put in themselves, with earnings at 5.7 per cent.
The government will match that. They never have, as a note. That is why, when
they say it will save money, it actually will not, because the government has
not been spending it, but it will make money for the government.
Even if one takes just what the senator's contribution is and add in the
return, it is about $2.4 million. A senator would have to live to be 99 years
old before he or she got back, at $100,000 a year, the money he or she put in
and that would not even have accounted for the money one was making on that pool
of money. One would have to probably have to live to be 110. The average
Canadian lives to 79: four years. That senator cannot opt out. He or she will be
paying $40,000 a year for 25 years, cannot opt out and has a good chance to live
to 79 and make $400,000 of it back. Way to be. Who is doing the actuarial work
Here is another question raised by actuaries. We are paying the same
percentage of our pay as are members of Parliament. They are paying 25 per cent
and we will be paying 25 per cent. Yes, they will get a bigger payout per year
because they are making more, but it is all proportional.
All of that is equal and yet we hardly ever take our pensions until we are
75. They take their pensions much younger because they do not tend to last as
long as we do. They will get, having paid the same proportion, paid out a lot
longer, on average, than any senator is. Why are we paying the same proportion?
I am just asking. I hope the Senate Conservatives will agree to have the
actuarial chief sit before the Senate committee just so we can ask those kinds
Not only that, the government is saying that we will pay more but we will get
the same pension. However, we will not, because they will take CPP out of it.
That reduces the cost. That actually reduces the value of pension that one is
buying with one's new 25 per cent pension payment.
Let us just say there is a senator who will get a pension of $45,000 a year
and $8,000 CPP. Before my 25 per cent would have bought me $40,000, but now my
25 per cent is buying me $32,000. I have just had a 20 per cent cut in the value
of my pension. It is breathtaking. I cannot believe there was not at least
someone who stood in that Conservative caucus to say, "Mr. Harper, wait a
By the way, if one is 60 and has not started taking CPP or QPP — I am not
licensed to talk about this — I would just say, "Do the math." One is way better
to start early, because one has to live to 83 or 84 or 85 to make it up. Now any
senator who is 60 is crazy not to take their CPP before they retire. They are
crazy not to take it, because if they wait they will lose it all. If one is 60
and one can get it for 15 years and not wait until one is 71, why would one not
take it? It will be discounted at 75.
I am saying that it reduces the cost of the pension by whatever percentage
that CPP will be of one's pension. It reduces the cost to the government of that
pension. However, one is still paying the same amount.
Not only that, but they have also reduced the cost of the pension, maybe not
so relevant to all of us, but to some of us, because they have increased the age
from 55 to 65. Over there these people think they are buying the same amount of
pension for, they are told, 20 per cent more. They think they are buying the
same amount of pension for a 25 per cent increase, but they are not buying the
same amount of pension. They are buying an amount of pension less the CPP value
and less what it would cost to give them their pensions at 55 instead of 65.
Who is doing the actuarial work on this and why are we being affected in
exactly the same way as MPs? We have a completely different set of demographics.
We do not live as long after we begin to collect, period. Their caucus sat there
and said, "Yes, yes, yes. Let me clap, Mr. Harper. Way to be." They are getting
their $180,000 and getting less pension for more money and seem quite happy to
do that. Even if it is not about them, they should be unhappy about what it does
to the future of this Parliament, the nature of the people who can be in it and
the nature of the people who will make themselves available to do this. I can go
on about the political implications of that, but they probably do not want to
The other thing is the returns assumption. This is one that really is
interesting. I do not know because I have not seen it, but Treasury Board says
that the assumption to this point has been 10 per cent return. I do not know
what the 10 per cent return was on, because we do not have a pool. Our money
goes into general revenue and we are paid out of general revenue. The government
does not pay anything anywhere. I will get into the prudence of management,
because that is debt they are not counting. In their debt is unfunded pension
They are saying they will reduce it to 5.7 per cent long term. I just went
and checked on what CPP has done. Last year, CPP did 6.6 per cent. These are
pretty tough times. The year before, it did 11.9 per cent, and the year before
it did 14.9 per cent.
Over the last 10 years — tough years — it has averaged 5.9 per cent. Somehow,
the actuarial chief said, "Let us pick this number, 5.7, and put it there."
People do not understand the relevance of the rate. The relevance of the rate is
that, if that pool of funds, which does not exist and should, is making more
money, government and pension subscribers have to pay less money into it. It is
very relevant. CPP can return 5.9 per cent over 10 years. It can return probably
about 10 per cent, on average, over the last three years. We will get 5.7 per
cent for the long term. Does anybody know if that will be changed if the returns
change? What if the interest rates go to 15 per cent? They will. They always do.
There is always a cycle. Will that change, or will it happen on the way? Will we
have the political guts?
The other thing I should mention is that the Conservative MPs that I talked
to said that the Prime Minister had taken the freeze off of their pay.
I said, "So you will get a 1 per cent raise. How much is that — $1,500 a
year? How much extra are you paying into your pension? I think you are paying
into your pension $28,000 a year extra." Let us not be bought off by that 1 per
cent freeze off our pay nonsense. It will take you 25 years to make it up just
for the one year.
I would propose and would hope that perhaps the committee could make an
amendment that would say that there should be senator and member of Parliament
representation on a board that supervises our pension. It is the only good
thing. You may think that you are okay because you have the Conservative
government for the next infinite number of years. They are okay and obviously
taking really good care of you, and you can trust them. I do not know of many
private sector pensions that do not have board members who would be happy about
calling in their actuary and firing them if they did not like what they were
doing. Yet, we never get to see. I do not even know that this committee will be
allowed to call the Chief Actuary. It is breathtaking if we do not, and it needs
to be done because we need to find out what assumptions they are making about
this pension plan so that we know why we are getting to this point.
I will finish by saying that there is also the question of prudent
management. I remember when I was first elected to the Alberta legislature, and
they were touting how fiscally prudent they were and how they had no deficit,
although that changed very quickly because Conservatives usually get themselves
into deficits quickly. I said, "It is funny; you say that you have no deficit,
but you have a $13-billion unfunded pension liability — teachers' pensions,
public service pensions." For years they had been accruing the liability
notationally. They had never put any money into it to cover it. They were
putting pension subscribers' payments into general revenue and paying them out
of general revenue.
That is exactly what is happening to your pension right now. We have no pool.
We have no one managing money on our behalf. We have no oversight on a pension
plan that will secure the future for many people who are not independently
wealthy, and you are doing this because it is just good politics, easy good
politics. You are bending like a sapling to play that game.
I am saying that at the very least we need to take time to consider that this
is not being prudently managed, that there are fundamental actuarial issues that
we need, as people responsible for our families — as responsible people
generally — to consider and that there is a broader, greater philosophical issue, which is this: What
is the impact of this kind of arbitrary, overnight, precipitous cut in take-home
pay for members of Parliament? What will that do to that place and the quality
of government that Canadians will enjoy or not enjoy for years to come?
Hon. Claude Carignan (Deputy Leader of the Government): Honourable
senators, I listened to Senator Mitchell's comments carefully. He seems to be
saying that people will be making less money. But I see it more as a matter of
deferring salaries. It is money that is contributed and set aside so that people
can receive a pension in the future. This pension, compared to other pensions in
Canada, is relatively good. However, we must note that we will fund this
pension. The public will not fund it; we, as parliamentarians, will fund it.
The senator seems to be saying that salaries are high in the House of Commons
in order to ensure that we have good-quality representatives.
Senator Mitchell: That is not what I said.
Senator Carignan: He also said that salaries are high so that we get
quality candidates running for the House of Commons. The senator's comments seem
to indicate that we could end up with poor representation if the salaries were
not as high.
I would like to point out that the salary of most, if not all,
representatives in provincial legislative assemblies is less than $100,000. But
in the House of Commons it is $157,000, which is 50 per cent higher.
Is the senator saying that, even though the members of these legislative
assemblies are elected, they do not have the knowledge or abilities required to
represent their constituents well?
Senator Mitchell: I was in Alberta in a legislature for a long time,
and I know what it is like to make $32,000 a year when you have three kids. I am
not saying that it is too much money. I am saying $157,000 is probably about
right, but that less another $1,400 a month take home-pay is not right. I think
that at least it has consequences.
I just want to mention where this can end up. I meant to use this as an
example. I was an adversary of Ralph Klein, the former premier. We fought tooth
and nail, as you can imagine. We were always cordial, and we would end up in the
gym running together and talking. I have always admired the public servant he
was. Ralph Klein was a mayor for a long time and probably did not get much in
the way of a pension. He stood up in 1993 and canceled the pension in Alberta to
win an election. He won, and he was premier for 14 years. Instead of the
pension, they put in a severance package.
I do not agree with a lot of what he did, but I will give him his due: He was
a dedicated public servant. He retired with $600,000. That was taxable, so he
ended up with $400,000. At interest rates today, that is $14,000 a year, give or
take. He has dementia, and who will take care of his wife and his family? Who
will do that? He may be okay because he was a premier, and there are people who
will look after him.
That is another point about why you need to make decent money in politics and
have a decent pension. I do not know how many of you have been through this, but
you will find, particularly in opposition but even in government, that
ex-politicians are discredited. No matter how good they were, there is a pall
over them, and people think that they cannot do very much. It is increasingly
difficult for them to get re-established. The Prime Minister will be fine and
will make millions of dollars, and probably Mr. Flaherty will be fine because he
is the finance minister. However, take a good, young backbench MP like Michael
Chong. I could mention all kinds of them. It will become increasingly difficult.
It is difficult for them to get re-established. I am not saying pay them too
much, but pay them a reasonable amount. If the $157,000 has been reasonable for
your government over the last seven years, I do not know why 20 per cent less
take-home pay, all of a sudden, will be an improvement. I think that if that was
presented to most Canadians, if the Prime Minister stood up and said, "I have
fantastic people working for me and working hard for Canadians, and they deserve
to be treated fairly like you Canadians deserve to be treated fairly by your
employers," they would accept it instead of, in this derogatory way, always
putting politicians down, diminishing the work that the government does. If you
said to any Canadian, "We will cut your take home pay 20 per cent overnight,"
how do you think they would feel about their bosses? How reasonable would they
think that was?
You can make your argument in that regard. You probably have some independent
wealth; I do not know. You should talk to some of those people over there
because I have, and they are deeply disturbed. They are right to be disturbed,
not just for themselves but also for what it means for this parliamentary
Senator Carignan: The Senator indicated that the pension should be
significant and of good quality.
He is implying that the pension, as it would be here, would not be enough to
give members of Parliament adequate independence and a good retirement.
In spite of these reforms, because they will still get significant benefits,
members of Parliament will continue to accumulate 3 per cent of their salary per
year of service in the pension fund. Can you name a company in Canada that
accumulates 3 per cent a year?
Senator Mitchell: No; but first, I would like to see how many people
at a relatively senior executive level, which MPs should be considered to be
commensurate with, have an average job in those companies for six years. That is
the average length of time that an MP is in office, so they do not get a huge
pension. At six years, they get 18 per cent. Now, they will have to wait some
The issue is not how big the pension is, because it will be the same size,
but one has to get there from here. One has to get to that pension at 65 years
of age now. One will not be able to work that long because very few people will
be able to afford it.
I did not say that the pension is inadequate in what it will pay out. It is
very adequate, but getting there from here will be a problem if one is taking a reduction in pay of $1,400 a month. This is a
human issue about colleagues, in particular, some of the younger ones. Senator
Carignan should talk to them. It is also a human issue about people who can make
a choice each day about where they want to be. If they can make $250,000 and get
benefits and stock options, et cetera, then maybe their spouse will say, "You
know what? I do not want to have you away from home 125 days a year going to
Ottawa and not seeing our kids."
I will tell honourable senators a story about what happened in my life in
respect of the sacrifices. I was in politics for 12 years overall as an MLA and
the leader for 4 years and I was never home. Three weeks after the election that
I led in, I had a little time on a Sunday afternoon and I stood in the backyard.
My wife, Teresa, was there and our youngest son, Brady, who was about six years
old. He stood beside me and looked not to me but to my wife and said, "Mom, has
dad ever been in the backyard?" One Friday night, I came home about 11 p.m. Our
middle son, who was seven years old at the time, was just getting up to go to
the washroom. He looked down the hall and said, "Dad, what are you doing home
This is a human issue. People over there, who are colleagues, will pay a
horrible price; and honourable senators say they care about families? Try to
raise three kids on $5,800 a month when one is away 125 nights a year just
because one is in Ottawa, not to mention the nights one is travelling half way
around these huge ridings. Think about that.
Politics are played all the time. We senators could stand back and say,
"Okay; we will take our cuts. We will pay more." I am happy to do it so that no
one can say that we are self-interested. We should stand up in this chamber and
say that we are not going to watch that happen to our colleagues and make it
impossible for many very good people to want to serve, to do it in any way,
shape or form that is reasonable and does not create enormous stress and
pressure on them and their families. This is the challenge.
The other side can be smart about it and play debating points — go ahead.
However, this is not about that. For once, we should rise above that stuff. We
should say that we will do what is right for the parliamentary system, not for
us personally but for our colleagues who work so hard and see so little of their
young kids, and for the future of this place and the country. Put this in
perspective, honourable senators, because this is serious stuff about people's
Hon. George J. Furey: Honourable senators, I want to thank Senator
Marshall and Senator Mitchell for their comments, as they were very helpful.
Just to be clear, I am not sure I heard the Honourable Senator Mitchell
correctly when he talked about the Canada Pension Plan. Did he say that Canada
Pension Plan monies will not be clawed back in the traditional sense, but that
the actual pension will be reduced by similar amounts? Can he explain that?
Senator Mitchell: Yes. You are paying for a pension. Let us say you
are in office for 10 years and retire at the age of 60. At that point, you will
receive 30 per cent of $132,000, which is about $39,000 a year. You have paid
for that. You have also been paying $2,300 to $2,400 a year for your CPP. You
have paid for that, too.
Come your retirement, you will not be paid $39,000 a year. You will be paid
$32,000 a year out of this pension and $8,000 a year out of your CPP. Instead of
receiving $48,000, you will receive $40,000. The numbers are: 10 years, 3 per
cent, and 30 per cent of $130,000. That means you will have bought yourself a
pension of $39,000 that you will receive at 65 and a CPP benefit of about $8,000
if you started your contributions early. Instead of receiving $48,000, which you
have been counting on, you will receive $32,000. As well, you will pay 25 per
cent into the pension instead of 7 per cent — a huge increase — and will have a
20 per cent reduction in your retirement income.
Senator Furey: Honourable senators, I found that a tad confusing. Let
me see if I have it right.
If I am receiving $40,000 in pension payments and $8,000 in Canada Pension
payments. With this new change, my $40,000 will be reduced to $32,000. At the
end of the day, I will still receive $40,000 with the benefit of the Canada
Pension Plan, which I paid into all my life. Is that correct?
Senator Mitchell: Absolutely. It will not happen to Senator Carignan
until after 2016. For everything after 2016, that is when it will happen.
If one is here for another 20 years, it will impact one; and it is not fair
or right. We bought our share of CPP. Last year, the fund made 11 per cent, so
they are carrying themselves, thanks to former Finance Minister Paul Martin who
got it back on track after Mr. Mulroney screwed it up. We own that, and now the
government will take it away from us and these next people. It is not right or
fair. I do not think many people over there understood that that would happen.
The same thing can be said about the reduction in costs that they are saving by
going from 55 years of age to 65 years of age, which our pension will still be
Hon. Roméo Antonius Dallaire: Honourable senators, there is a kind of
grandfather clause for people pre-2016, which we acknowledge. People post-2016
will be hit by these changes. Will we go through a similar debate with Bill C-45
regarding the public service, the Canadian Forces and the RCMP?
Those who have been serving in combat for the last 10 years, still have
another 20 years to serve, if they stay alive. When they come back home, they
will see over the next five years a potential pay reduction of 20 per cent from
the same government that says they love our forces, protect them, equip them and
do all kinds of great things for them. Those veterans who will be the longest
serving — the young guys who fought, not the older chaps who will not be so
affected — will be eating this massive cut over the next five years as a thank
you on their return home from serving overseas. Is that correct?
Senator Mitchell: That is absolutely correct. We are not sure because
we have not seen exactly how much the take-home pay of a corporal, sergeant,
captain or general will be reduced because their pension payments will go up.
Imagine having just returned from Afghanistan, perhaps with PTSD or otherwise
injured, having given your all for your country, and learning that the
government is going to cut your pay.
We should review that in the Defence Committee with the help of actuaries. I
would like to put that on the agenda.
Senator Dallaire: As the ADM in National Defence when I was a
three-star general, I was the deputy chair of our superannuation group, and we
took decisions on where pensions were going. I cannot imagine having DND under a
pension plan on which they have absolutely no say, that Treasury Board would be
running it, really for the government and not for the soldiers. Is that what is
Senator Mitchell: That is correct. Even more disconcerting, it was
clear that the good people we heard from in Treasury Board had not anticipated
many of our questions. That is disconcerting given that they are the ones
running our pensions.
I suppose they got these figures in their briefing note from Treasury Board,
but they are wrong. They cannot even figure out what $38,000 is of $157,000, and
that is who is managing our pensions. We need to restructure this in a
business-like fashion; we need to have money put aside; and we need a board with
representation from both us and them.
Hon. Percy E. Downe: Is it the view of Senator Mitchell that if the
government wanted to save money it would allow an opting-out clause? If we are
not in, that would be an additional saving.
Senator Mitchell: That is an interesting point. If we pay more money,
it will just go into general revenue, which is saving some money in a sense, but
they would never put the money up. Whatever we pay does not save the government
money because it never paid the money anyway.
If one could opt out, that would save money because there would be no
government obligation. The problem with opting out is that it puts politicians
in a terrible fix. Some will want to opt out, especially the ones with money,
and those who do not have money will be very vulnerable politically. It opens
the door to playing games over pay and benefits for politicians, which is the
most destructive game that can be played, and it is played day in and day out
across this country, and it is being played right, because we cannot defend
However, the Senate can do this for members of Parliament. We can accept the
changes for ourselves and not be self-serving, but we can do what is right for
Senator Downe: The Deputy Leader of the Government asked about the 3
per cent accrual rate on the pension. Deputy ministers currently receive 4 per
cent. Does the honourable senator know whether that will be changed?
Senator Mitchell: A deputy minister who has been in the government for
25 years and has been a deputy minister for 10 years will get 90 per cent of
their pay. They get two times the benefit recognition for their time as deputy
minister. Again, that is done because the government has to attract good people.
They have not been able to pay those people the $400,000, $500,000, $600,000 or
more that they could earn in the private sector, so they find a way to
compensate them that is not as provocative as giving them higher pay. To some
extent, that is how pensions have evolved for members of Parliament as well.
I do not want to attack a public servant's pension because they can often
earn a lot more money elsewhere, and we need really good people in there,
although the government often discredits them and hires a deputy minister of the
environment who does not know about climate change, but generally they have been
very good and effective.
The Hon. the Speaker: Is Senator Mitchell asking for five more
Senator Mitchell: Yes.
Hon. Patrick Brazeau: Senator Mitchell talked about family values with
regard to this legislation. Obviously this legislation will affect me as a
Canadian citizen and as a father. He told personal stories about his children. I
understand that because I take care of a first-line hockey team, which is not in
lockout, so I understand some of the effects this might have.
Keeping with family values, Senator Mitchell said that this may affect
members of Parliament and others due to a $1,400-a-month reduction in pay. He
seems to be suggesting, and he can correct me if I am wrong, that if people get
less pay they will spend less time with their families. I can tell you that
whether I get $2,000 less or $5,000 less on my pay I will spend the same amount
of time with my family, because that is a Conservative principle.
Can the senator vouch for that or was his speech just the typical Liberal
rhetoric of entitlements?
Senator Mitchell: I will not dignify that with a response. I am
talking about the reality of this. Senator Brazeau should consider the reality
for the people in the other place, many of whom are under great pressure.
Perhaps Senator Brazeau does not feel that pressure because he does not seem to
be around here that often. He has a poor attendance record, but if somebody
takes the job seriously and wants to —
Some Hon. Senators: Oh, oh!
Senator Mitchell: He opened it up.
They are whipped for votes. They spend 125 days a year here, give or take,
which is a lot of time away from their families. I am just saying that is
something that people take into consideration when they decide whether to come
here. Maybe they will not be able to afford a holiday with their family whom
they have not seen for 125 nights. You can make your debating points, but
consider the human costs of this. The senator probably knows quite a lot about
Hon. Joseph A. Day: Honourable senators, I had not intended to speak
and will not speak long, but I want to make the point on the record that this
bill, as Senator Marshall indicated during her remarks, for which I thank her,
was introduced in the House of Commons on Friday. It went through the House of
Commons and arrived here yesterday. Under our rules we would normally have
second reading two days hence, but we are dealing with it today. Pursuant to our
normal rules we would not normally have heard any of this debate today, but this
side is cooperating with that side and the executive branch which seems, for
some reason, to be pushing very hard to have this bill dealt with quickly.
We would like the record to show that we have cooperated fully. I have been
working very hard trying to line up witnesses who, like us, have only seen this
bill for the last two days. It is hard to find a witness who can tell us the
impact of this legislation on an existing pension plan.
Honourable senators, I assure you that we are working diligently on this
matter at the Finance Committee. We will be starting our hearings on Bill C-46
this evening. After hearing the very well prepared and well delivered
presentation of Senator Mitchell, if senators have any questions, particularly
about the delicate question of the clawback of CPP, please let any member of the
Finance Committee know in order to assist us in selecting witnesses as quickly
as possible to deal with this matter.
The Hon. the Speaker: Are honourable senators ready for the question?
Hon. Senators: Question.
The Hon. the Speaker: Is it your pleasure, honourable senators, to
adopt the motion?
Hon. Senators: Agreed.
(Motion agreed to and bill read second time.)
The Hon. the Speaker: Honourable senators, when shall this bill be
read the third time?
(On motion of Senator Carignan, bill referred to the Standing Senate
Committee on National Finance.)
On the Order:
Resuming debate on the motion of the Honourable Senator Boisvenu,
seconded by the Honourable Senator Marshall, for the second reading of Bill
C-316, An Act to amend the Employment Insurance Act (incarceration).
Hon. Hugh Segal: Honourable senators, I rise today to speak to the
private member's bill, Bill C-316. I very much respect the right of any member
of Parliament to introduce a bill into the other place, and if such a bill
passes and reaches the Senate, I also believe it is our duty to give it due
reflection and debate.
I have the utmost respect for the bill's sponsor, Senator Boisvenu, who
always makes an enormous contribution to justice for victims and public
I have read the bill. I read the sponsor's speech in its support, and I
listened carefully to Senator Eggleton last week on the matter. I have given it
due reflection, and I am of the opinion that this bill serves little purpose
except to doubly punish an individual who commits an offence, pays their dues of
serving usually less than two years, and upon release is then unable to access
the benefits for which he or she was deemed qualified and eligible before their
term of short incarceration, as an individual who paid into the Employment
Insurance program when they were employed before that activity was interrupted
by their difficulty with the law.
Who are we talking about here, honourable senators? Often these are people
who have failed to pay fines; they have perhaps tried to cash a bogus cheque.
Perhaps they shoplifted from a supermarket or were picked up drunk and
disorderly. These are not drug kingpins, nor are they hardened, violent
criminals. They are very often — it is not a surprise — possibly struggling with
poverty or literacy, unable to provide for themselves and their families, and
they are usually poor. As senators in this chamber will know, 90 per cent of
those who occupy provincial and federal institutions as guests of Her Majesty,
in the correctional sense, come from the 10 per cent of the population who live
beneath the poverty line in this country. Let us be clear about whom this bill
would punish most directly.
I am not excusing the behaviour that puts someone in jail, even for a short
period of time, but frankly, if we are offering rehabilitation in our
maximum-security and medium-security prisons — as we should be — why are we
imposing such draconian restraints on people who were actually in the labour
force long enough to qualify for EI benefits before their unfortunate encounter
with the authorities?
I accept the premise that if you commit the crime, you should do the time.
Whatever happened to compassion, honourable senators? When did we decide that
when people enter our penal institutions it is our job to make their lives as
difficult as possible within that frame of reference? Their freedom has been
taken away through due process. It may in fact be appropriate. They have been
sentenced to a period of time in many provincial institutions — provincial
institutions where people are serving two years less a day or they are in on
remand. They are triple bunked, honourable senators, in a 400-square-foot piece
of real estate.
To the extent they were working people who paid into the Employment Insurance
program and those benefits are still accruing to their families for their short
period of incarceration or when they come out, as beneficiaries they have the
right to get access to some training programs or other institutional help that
will allow them to get back into the labour force, this bill would say: No, no;
we do not have that kind of kindness or decency in our hearts anymore as
Canadians. We are not prepared to do that.
Honourable senators, there was a notion that an individual who was found
guilty of let us say a non-violent crime, a more serious misdemeanour, actually
paid their dues, did their time and got on with their life. This is not a
reckless notion. This is not a notion that spreads disorder across our society.
It is one that says face due process, face the responsibility for the crime you
have committed, but then get out and begin your life anew. There are
organizations like the John Howard Society, the Elizabeth Fry Society and others
that are there for that specific reason.
Do honourable senators know that in many of our provinces, in our
jurisdictions provincially, the local community and social services ministry,
run by the provinces, have something called harm reduction officers? If one
happens to live in a city that has a plethora of prisons, as we do in the
sovereign city of Kingston, most of the work they do is to try to help people
who leave institutions to get their life going again. Sometimes that means a meal or
two as they look for work. Sometimes that means helping them get in shape to
find work. The fact that we would rip away Employment Insurance payments for the
brief period they are available and the relatively modest amounts that they
provide is just another way of the state saying, "You do not get to rebuild your
life, ever. You do not get to do your time, pay your fine, pay your debt so
society, and move on."
Honourable senators, however well-intentioned this piece of legislation may
be in terms of fairness to law-abiding people outside of prison who are not
eligible for Employment Insurance, it is not the fault of the people who are in
those institutions that the cuts that began in the mid-1990s have reduced the
amount of Canadians who are out of work and are eligible for Employment
Insurance by 40 per cent. That is not the fault of a young person who is guilty
of a misdemeanour or non-violent and non-serious crime today.
Honourable senators, I will not stand in the way of this bill going forward
to committee for careful analysis and hearing. I hope that, before that
committee, senators would give some consideration to amendments that will
protect the non-violent criminal and make sure they continue during their brief
period of time as a guest of Her Majesty to get measures of financial support
from programs to which they have paid and contributed, as did their employer,
and for which they are eligible so they can continue to be part of our society
when they leave, having paid their dues, and become part of the broader
Hon. Grant Mitchell: That was a very enlightened analysis of that bill
by Senator Segal, and I applaud him for it. I was taken by the honourable
senator's point — a powerful one — that many people incarcerated at any given
time, especially at the provincial level, are there for not paying a fine or for
financial crimes; I guess many crimes are.
I understand, and I have not checked these statistics for some time, that
disproportionately women are often incarcerated because of those kinds of
crimes. They cannot pay a fine; they are prostitutes because they are reduced to
that for trying to create a living. I wonder if the honourable senator
considered that in his research for this speech and would address it.
I also think it is interesting and that it would be relevant to consider in
this context that no matter where a woman is, in a jail or elsewhere, she tends
to have the greater responsibility for raising children. Often they will be
single mothers. Again, it is a disproportionate burden if that small income from
EI is now retracted from these mothers and their children. I just make those
points; if the honourable senator would like to comment, that would be great.
Senator Segal: Senator Mitchell is correct that often people involved
in that level of minor crime are single women. We know that the largest single
group amongst those who live beneath the poverty line are single mothers who, in
fact, face some of those difficult choices on an ongoing basis.
We should also be frank in this chamber today that a large number of people
who are in jail for those kinds of circumstances are our Aboriginal brothers and
sisters, and in fact for a population that is 3 to 5 per cent or less, depending
on how you count the population in different parts of Canada, the
overrepresentation of our First Nations in our penal institutions, federal and
provincial, is, in my view, a national embarrassment.
Hon. Céline Hervieux-Payette: Honourable senators, I commend my
colleague for taking the right approach with this issue. He wonders what the
government is trying to accomplish. Do developed western countries generally
send people to prison and strip them of their rights? What will be the
consequences for 18- 25-year olds, who often find themselves in this situation?
We spoke about women earlier. We spoke about Aboriginal peoples. I ask the
question on behalf of young people who are just starting out in the work world
at a time when the economy is not creating an abundance of jobs. There may be a
shortage of workers for certain specialized businesses. But for young people
with little professional training, or with other problems, does treating them
this way as they start their life really solve the problem?
Senator Segal: Honourable senators, I thank the senator for her
question. One of the major changes to the makeup of Canada's poor that has taken
place in the past ten years is that, for the first time, young people account
for a significant proportion of the poor.
Around 1975, we introduced a guaranteed income for seniors because many
seniors were living in difficult circumstances. At the time, the number of poor
seniors dropped from 30 per cent to 3 per cent when this new guarantee was
introduced for veterans and Canadian seniors.
Within the past ten years, two groups have moved into the ranks of the poor
for the first time: young people under 27 and many immigrants to Canada. In
Canada's history, first-generation immigrants to Canada have generally done
better than their Canadian neighbours. Nowadays, many new immigrants from
certain countries, including young immigrants, have serious problems. More
members of the general population are among the poor than before.
This shows how a punitive policy like the one that appears in this
legislation will create another financial penalty for young people who have
problems with the police and who want to get their lives back on track. We are
only making things more difficult for them, and this is a mistake for Canadian
Hon. Pierre-Hugues Boisvenu: Honourable senators, I first wish to
thank Senator Segal, for giving me an opportunity to enlighten you regarding the
profile of the kinds of criminals who are in jails, that is, those serving
sentences less than two years in length. It is a myth that only people who
failed to pay their speeding tickets or other small-time young offenders are in
jails. The characteristics of provincial jails in Canada have changed
drastically over the past ten years.
The first group of criminals that can be found in provincial jails are
members of street gangs: nearly one-third are from this group. Another third are
sexual predators. There are four times more sexual predators in provincial
jails, proportionately, than in federal penitentiaries, because our sentences
for these types of crimes are still less than two years. The third kind of
criminals found in these jails are those who commit home invasions, or the theft
and sale of cars.
To believe that some poor guy who has not paid his speeding tickets will end
up in jail is simply misguided. People like that no longer go to jail; they
perform community service. These are not small-time reprobates who get in
trouble with the police on the weekend because they had one too many beers. That
is not who you will find in provincial jails; rather, you will find a very tough
group of criminals.
To learn about prison stays in Quebec, for example, honourable senators can
consult Les portes tournantes by Yves Thériault. An offender will end up
in a Quebec prison eight times. The poorest members of society are not on
employment insurance; they are on welfare and lose none of their entitlements.
I respect the sympathy that the honourable senator has for people in need.
However, the Employment Insurance Act is based on eligibility, and eligibility
is based on a specific period of 52 weeks. It is based on a person's
availability for work. If a person is not available for work, then he cannot
earn credits and cannot receive employment insurance benefits.
How can we tell honest Canadian workers who pay taxes and who lose their jobs
that they are not eligible for benefits because the qualifying period is only 52
weeks long and then give benefits to people who committed a crime and excluded
themselves from the system —
The Hon. the Speaker: Is it agreed, honourable senators, that Senator
Segal be granted five more minutes?
Hon. Senators: Agreed.
Senator Boisvenu: How can we explain to honest Canadian citizens and
workers that we are going to grant a privilege to people who voluntarily
excluded themselves from the labour market, a privilege that is not extended to
people who will never go to prison and who choose to be honest, law-abiding
What would you tell those people who do not understand why criminals are
being granted a privilege that honest people are not?
Senator Segal: I thank the honourable senator for the question. With
his permission, I will respond in English so as to be precise in my choice of
words. First, the notion that being in prison constitutes a decision by the
prisoner to voluntarily exclude himself from the employment market strikes me,
if I may say so, with respect, as a bit of a stretch.
Second, I take note with great respect of the groups that the honourable
senator has indicated are to be found more in our prisons today than might have
been the case in the past. This is a bill that deals with amendments to the
Employment Insurance Act. If there are a lot of members of street gangs who are
contributing to Employment Insurance as we speak, with employer support, then
that might produce a disproportionate and perverse outcome from the context that
I have shared with honourable senators in this place, but as I suspect it is
unlikely that many members of street gangs are contributors to the Employment
Insurance fund, their circumstance is unaffected by this bill. The kind of folks
who will be affected by this bill — people who are working, contributing, whose
employer was contributing — who then found themselves in prison for a period of
time and hence, based on this bill, would not retain the eligibility for which
they had contributed and been eligible until that moment, in my view — and we
will disagree on this — that is a principle that is offensive to the notion of
John Diefenbaker and his Progressive Conservative government, and the Honourable
Mike Starr, Minister of Labour, who wanted to maintain a balance so that, even
for those in the most desperate circumstances, whom the law has incarcerated,
their chance to rebuild their lives is not thrown out the window.
Senator Boisvenu: Honourable senators, I have one final question for
Senator Segal. What will the senator say to the honest workers who pay taxes,
who lose their job and who are not entitled to employment insurance because
their qualifying period is 52 weeks, when people who were out of the labour
market have a 104-week qualifying period?
What will he tell workers who are struggling, who will look to employment
insurance and who will be told that they are not entitled because their 52-week
qualifying period is not complete, when criminals get 104 weeks?
Senator Segal: My answer to those people would be that their
eligibility issues and access, which might be problematic and should be
addressed in other public policy ways, will not be helped by hurting the
prospects of other Canadians. That is what I would say to them. This is not
about being nasty to others because your own circumstance is difficult.
Whatever happened to compassion? Whatever happened to believing we are all in
this together? Whatever happened to believing that when people are at the worst,
most difficult part of their lives, we want to give them a staircase up? That
used to be the Canadian way. It is still the Canadian way.
Many of the people that the honourable senator is concerned about — with
great compassion and genuine feeling — who are not eligible for Employment
Insurance because the rules have been changed might not take the position that
their frustration is made better by hurting people guilty of very insignificant
crimes — people who find themselves in prison for a short period of time; they
might not feel that being tougher on other people makes their lives better.
Some Hon. Senators: Hear, hear.
The Hon. the Speaker: Are honourable senators ready for the question?
Hon. Senators: Question.
The Hon. the Speaker: Is it your pleasure, honourable senators, to
adopt the motion?
Some Hon. Senators: Agreed.
An Hon. Senator: On division.
(Motion agreed to and bill read second time, on division.)
The Hon. the Speaker: Honourable senators, when shall this bill be
read the third time?
(On motion of Senator Carignan, bill referred to the Standing Senate
Committee on Social Affairs, Science and Technology.)
On the Order:
Resuming debate on the motion of the Honourable Senator Ataullahjan,
seconded by the Honourable Senator Braley, for the second reading of Bill
C-300, An Act respecting a Federal Framework for Suicide Prevention.
Hon. Claudette Tardif (Deputy Leader of the Opposition): Honourable
senators, I know that Senator Dallaire wanted to participate in the debate
today. There is very little time remaining, but I want to ensure that we save
the 45 minutes for the critic of the bill, Senator Dawson.
Hon. Roméo Antonius Dallaire: Honourable senators, Senator Tardif is
correct and I would like to participate in the debate, but I would like to
postpone this opportunity until I return next week.
The Hon. the Speaker: To clarify, Bill C-300 will continue to stand
adjourned in the name of Senator Dawson, who is the critic of the bill and who
has 45 minutes, but senators agree that Senator Dallaire has the right to speak
to this debate.
On the Order:
Resuming debate on the inquiry of the Honourable Senator Callbeck,
calling the attention of the Senate to the importance of literacy, given
that more than ever Canada requires increased knowledge and skills in order
to maintain its global competitiveness and to increase its ability to
respond to changing labour markets.
Hon. Jacques Demers: Honourable senators, I rise today to speak about
a subject that is dear to my heart and that is literacy in Canada.
September 8 was International Literacy Day, which reminds us of the
importance of literacy for individuals and organizations throughout the world.
On September 21, Canadians celebrated Essential Skills Day, which is held
during Life Literacy Month. This is a day that provides nationwide awareness of
the nine essential skills recognized by the Government of Canada.
It is unacceptable that, in 2012, many Canadians continue to face challenges
in their everyday lives because of literacy issues. Over 42 per cent of
Canadians between the ages of 16 and 65 do not have the minimum literacy skills
they need to cope with everyday life and work.
We need to start creating awareness. Attention must be brought to the
importance of education, mainly the education of our youth.
With an aging population, it could affect many aspects of Canadians' lives in
the long run if changes are not made. This is why it is important that we
continue to focus on the youth of today as they are our future.
Honourable senators, this issue must be addressed. Literacy affects aspects
of Canadian life from health, property, the workplace and even the justice
system. This is a problem. Almost 17 per cent of Aboriginal people age 15 to 49
have no formal schooling and between 40 and 50 per cent of people speak their
Aboriginal language but do not read.
In Quebec, there are approximately 500,000 people aged 16 to 65 with very
limited literacy, document literacy and numeracy skills. This needs to be
addressed; we can no longer sit back and watch this happen.
Another important issue surrounding literacy is school drop-out rates, which
are often related to difficulties involving literacy and numeracy skills.
Although drop-out rates have declined slightly over the past few years, they are
still high in some regions. We need to find solutions to resolve this ongoing
problem in Canadian society.
Many are aware that I myself have struggled with literacy in the past. I am
also proof that anyone can successfully overcome this obstacle.
Hon. Senators: Hear, hear.
Senator Demers: Thank you, honourable senators. I am very passionate
when it comes to the cause. Everything done has to be for that benefit. Our
society is full of promising young men and women. We cannot give up on them.
Honourable senators, I am familiar with previous efforts to promote literacy.
We must persevere and stay the course. It is up to us to raise awareness in
every province and territory. We must continue to recognize and support literacy
programs and services, and this must be a priority. Many Canadians, young and
old, are capable of learning and have the perseverance to do so.
Let us help them reach their potential.
I would also like to take a moment to thank the Minister of Human Resources
and Skills Development, the Honourable Diane Finley, and Senator Callbeck, who
have been a great support — I really appreciate — their efforts and dedication
surrounding the issue of literacy in Canadian society.
Hon. Senators: Hear, hear!
The Hon. the Speaker: Honourable senators, it now being four o'clock,
and pursuant to the order adopted by the Senate on October 18, 2011, I declare
the Senate continued until Thursday, October 25, 2012 at 1:30 p.m., the Senate
(The Senate adjourned to Thursday, October 25, 2012, at 1:30 p.m.)