- SENATORS' STATEMENTS
- ROUTINE PROCEEDINGS
- The Senate
- Legal and Constitutional Affairs
- Study on Issue of Cyberbullying
- QUESTION PERIOD
- ORDERS OF THE DAY
- Northern Jobs and Growth Bill
- Immigration and Refugee Protection Act
- Internal Economy, Budgets and Administration
- Human Rights
- Committee Authorized to Extend Date of Final Report on Monitoring the Implementation of Recommendations Contained in a Report on the Study of International Obligations Regarding Children's Rights and Freedoms
- Committee Authorized to Extend Date of Final Report on Study of Issues of Discrimination in Hiring and Promotion Practices of Federal Public Service and Labour Market Outcomes for Minority Groups in Private Sector
- Committee Authorized to Extend Date of Final Report on Study of Issues Related to International and National Human Rights Obligations
Wednesday, May 22, 2013
The Senate met at 1:30 p.m., the Speaker in the chair.
Hon. Jim Munson: Honourable senators, given the special nature of this day, I would like to seek leave from the Senate to deliver my statement while seated, to honour Canadians who use wheelchairs each and every day.
The Hon. the Speaker: Is leave granted, honourable senators?
Hon. Senators: Agreed.
Senator Munson: Thank you, honourable senators.
Twenty-six parliamentarians are taking part today in the sixth annual Chair-Leaders Campaign, organized each year by Spinal Cord Injury Canada. Here in the chamber I am joined by Senator Buth, and in spirit by Senators Martin and White. To help raise awareness of issues affecting Canadians living with a spinal cord injury — an SCI — each of us will spend the entire day in a wheelchair. It has not been easy, especially trying to get on to Parliament Hill where they are building a fortress and an awful ramp for people who are confined to a wheelchair. I do not know how they can come up the Elgin Street entrance now, as it is so steep and difficult. We have to learn, even during construction, to do better than this for those who are in wheelchairs.
The challenges of living with an SCI are difficult for most of us to fully understand. I can tell honourable senators that getting into a wheelchair and manoeuvring through the streets, doorways and corridors that we typically take on foot every day, this experience — as it has been the last four or five years — has been a real eye opener. I am sure my Chair-Leaders compatriots will agree that spending a day in a wheelchair can be stressful and at times very humbling, but it is far from a true-life experience. The realities of living with a spinal cord injury cannot be reproduced; ways to get from one place to another and to participate in the dynamics of our communities and society, they accommodate those who cannot walk as the exceptions, if at all.
I want to repeat that we have to take a good look at our own backyard and our front yard here. What we are doing for wheelchair accessibility on Parliament Hill is just not right.
I support Spinal Cord Injury Canada because it is based on insight, knowledge and compassion. Since 1945, Spinal Cord Injury Canada has been set on fulfilling the goal of improving the lives of Canadians living with an SCI and other permanent mobility disabilities. Today the organization has more than 300 staff and 40 offices across the country.
The Chair-Leaders event is about enabling Canadians to see and reflect on what "accessibility" really means. This afternoon we will have a reception around five o'clock in the other Speaker's chambers. I remind honourable senators to think of the 88,000 Canadians who are confined to wheelchairs every day.
Hon. Mobina S. B. Jaffer: Honourable senators, on Saturday, May 18, I was honoured to join thousands of Canadians of many different faiths at the inauguration of the Baitur Rahman Mosque in Delta, British Columbia. The Baitur Rahman Mosque is now the largest Ahmadiyya Muslim house of worship in British Columbia.
It was a great honour for British Columbia to host His Holiness Mirza Masroor Ahmad, Khalifa-tul Masih V, head of the international Ahmadiyya Muslim Community, who presented a keynote address at the reception. Speaking about the new mosque, His Holiness Mirza Masroor Ahmad declared:
... this Mosque will prove to be a source of spreading love, affection, peace and brotherhood for all people irrespective of whether they are Ahmadi or non-Ahmadi or whether they are Muslim or non-Muslim. The doors of our Mosque will always be open to the people of all religions, because this mosque is a means of manifesting God's Grace, Mercy, Love and Compassion for mankind.
The Ahmadiyya Muslim Community is an international religious organization with branches in over 190 countries. It was established in 1889 by Hazrat Mirza Ghulam Ahmad in Punjab, India. According to the Ahmadiyya Muslim Community Canada, the community is an embodiment of the benevolent message of Islam — peace, universal brotherhood and submission to the will of God — in its pristine purity. It encourages interfaith dialogue, advocating peace, tolerance, love and understanding among followers of different faiths.
I was honoured, honourable senators, to read a message from my leader, Justin Trudeau, at the event. Mr. Trudeau said:
With this new mosque, the community gains so much more than just a new building.
They gain a site for people to gather, to come together and share their lives, supporting each other through the hard times and rejoicing in the prosperous ones.
Honourable senators, the magnificent Baitur Rahman Mosque exemplifies the pluralism and acceptance that defines Canada at its best. Ahmadi Muslims are persecuted in many other countries around the world, but here, in Canada, we recognize and celebrate their constitutional right to freedom of conscience and religion. We are grateful for the contributions that their community makes to promote freedom, human dignity and peace in Canada and around the world. As His Holiness Mirza Masroor Ahmad said on Saturday:
Whenever a new mosque is built, a new chapter for religious freedom is open.
Canada is fortunate to host the new mosque and to support the Ahmadi community's continued pursuit of peace and acceptance worldwide under the leadership of its President Malik Khan and Asif Khan.
Honourable senators, I hope that you will join me in congratulating the Ahmadiyya Muslim Community, especially the 25,000 Ahmadi Muslims who live in Canada, on the beautiful new Baitur Rahman Mosque, which stands as a testament of their profound and enduring belief: Love for all, hatred for none.
Hon. Elizabeth Hubley: Honourable senators, I rise today to recognize the ninety-fifth anniversary of 4-H Prince Edward Island and the one hundredth national anniversary of the organization.
4-H was established in Manitoba in 1913 and is one of Canada's largest running youth clubs. The 4-H program provides youth ages 9 to 21 with opportunities to enhance leadership skills and life skills while promoting agricultural awareness. The 4-Hs stand for Head, Heart, Health and Hands, and the members' pledge to their club, community and country is:
My Head to clearer thinking,
My Heart to greater loyalty,
My Hands to larger service,
And my Health to better living
In Prince Edward Island, 4-H began in 1918 and was known as the Boys and Girls Club. Separate clubs were in existence for every project, and among the first clubs to be formed were for swine and poultry. In 1933 the programs expanded outside of livestock and started the first sewing clubs.
In 1952, the name Boys and Girls Club was officially changed to 4-H Club, and the program adapted today's common 4-H cloverleaf logo. Clubs across the island formed for many new projects, including gardening, forestry, grain, potatoes and, most recently, horse sense for those young people devoted to our equine friends.
By the late 1950s, 4-H was a very strong island organization, with 130 active clubs and 2,200 members. As 4-H went through transformations in the 1960s and 1970s, clubs amalgamated and, unfortunately, membership numbers dropped. However, members stayed active and the fiftieth anniversary on Prince Edward Island was celebrated with a provincial rally in 1968. The club has continued to diversify and implement programs to keep up with the changing times.
Today, in Prince Edward Island, there are 252 leaders and 561 members in 22 clubs across the province. The clubs mainly consist of members from 9 to 21 years old, with some clubs having a Cloverbuds group of 6 to 8-year-olds.
4-H is truly a diverse organization, with a wide variety of projects for many interests. Projects include photography, livestock, computers, cooking, the outdoors and many more.
I congratulate all past and present members of 4-H and encourage young people across our country to join this unique organization. Being a member of 4-H offers you the chance to make new friends, travel, learn a new skill with hands-on experience, explore future career opportunities and, most of all, have fun.
Hon. Claude Carignan (Deputy Leader of the Government): Honourable senators, I give notice that two days hence, I will move:
That the Special Senate Committee on Anti-Terrorism be dissolved from the time of the adoption of this motion.
Hon. Bob Runciman: Honourable senators, I give notice that, at the next sitting of the Senate, I will move:
That, for the purposes of its consideration of Bill C-15, An Act to amend the National Defence Act and to make consequential amendments to other Acts, the Standing Senate Committee on Legal and Constitutional Affairs be authorized to meet from 3:00 p.m. to 5:00 p.m. on Tuesday, May 28, 2013 and from 3:00 p.m. to 6:30 p.m. on Wednesday, May 29, 2013, even though the Senate may then be sitting, and that rule 12-18(1) be suspended in relation thereto.
Hon. Mobina S. B. Jaffer: Honourable senators, I give notice that, at the next sitting of the Senate, I will move:
That, notwithstanding the Order of the Senate adopted on Wednesday, November 30, 2011, the Standing Senate Committee on Human Rights retain all powers necessary until March 31, 2014 to publicize its findings in its report entitled: Cyberbullying Hurts: Respect for Rights in the Digital Age tabled in the Senate on December 12, 2012.
Hon. James S. Cowan (Leader of the Opposition): Honourable senators, my questions today, again, are for my friend, the Leader of the Government in the Senate. Yesterday, I asked some questions and you provided some information and some responses to those questions with respect to Mr. Wright, who was, until recently, the Chief of Staff to the Prime Minister.
There are a lot of things we do not know — and we agreed on that — but there are two things that we do know. The first is that he had conversations with Senator Duffy, which resulted in a gift by Mr. Wright to Senator Duffy so that he could repay the housing allowance claims to the Senate. The second point that we also know is that these conversations took place while the Standing Senate Committee on Internal Economy was overseeing a forensic audit of Senator Duffy's expenses that was being conducted by Deloitte.
You indicated to me yesterday that you did not know of those conversations. My question is: Is it normal practice for the staff of the Prime Minister's Office to intervene in the Senate on major issues without informing you, the Government Leader in the Senate and the cabinet minister responsible to the Senate, about what they are doing?
Hon. Marjory LeBreton (Leader of the Government): Well, Senator Cowan, let me be very clear. As I made it very clear yesterday, neither the Prime Minister nor I were aware of these discussions. Since I was not aware of them and since these were obviously private discussions between Mr. Wright and Senator Duffy, I was not privy to the conversations and so any discussion of what the Senate may or may not do obviously I was not part of.
The Senate had a process that we were going through. I went over it with you yesterday and, as far as I knew, that was the process we were following. It is as simple as that.
Some Hon. Senators: Hear, hear.
Senator Cowan: I appreciate the applause. Thank you.
I accept the answer you give, Senator LeBreton, that you did not know of this. I accept that, but my question was: Do you think that it is odd, and is it common practice for the Chief of Staff of the Prime Minister to be holding conversations with a member of your caucus in this Senate, where you hold the position of Government Leader in the Senate and cabinet minister responsible for this Senate in the Government of Canada? Do you not think it is odd that those conversations took place without your knowledge?
Senator LeBreton: Well, obviously they were private conversations and, if they are private conversations, they would be without my knowledge, obviously. It is very clear, Senator Cowan. As I said yesterday, we followed a process.
An Hon. Senator: Cover-up!
Senator LeBreton: It is not a cover-up.
I am absolutely comfortable with the process. The fact is, these discussions between the former Chief of Staff to the Prime Minister and the now independent Senator Mike Duffy have been referred to the Ethics Commissioner. I am quite sure that, in the fullness of time, she will get to the bottom of what actually transpired here and answer your questions and my questions.
Senator Cowan: Senator LeBreton, do you think it is reasonable to characterize a conversation between the Prime Minister's Chief of Staff and a senator who is under a forensic audit — a sitting senator — as a private conversation, when that conversation leads to a transfer of more than $90,000 from that Chief of Staff to that senator? How can you consider that to be a private conversation?
Senator LeBreton: The fact is, that is how they described it. It is not my description, and that is my understanding of it. My understanding of it is that Senator Duffy and Nigel Wright had these conversations. They were obviously private. None of us knew anything about it. I am not going to prejudge what the Ethics Commissioner may find in her investigation of this matter. Insofar as this place is concerned, we have taken steps — proper steps — to return the report on Senator Duffy to Internal Economy.
I believe the Internal Economy Committee has members from both sides who are outstanding senators. I have absolute confidence in all members of the Internal Economy Committee, on both sides, that they will look at this very seriously and take the appropriate action.
Senator Cowan: Senator LeBreton, do you know whether or not Prime Minister Harper or Mr. Wright or anyone in the Prime Minister's Office had any conversations with any member of the Internal Economy Committee with respect to what would or would not be in the reports that were presented by Senator Tkachuk here on May 9?
Senator LeBreton: Honourable senators, I answered that yesterday and I said no, I was not, and I do not believe there were conversations. Furthermore, as to all the rumours about what may or may not have happened, the fact of the matter is the Internal Economy Committee, with senators on both sides, reported to this chamber on all three senators and also on the rule changes, which I am going to be —
An Hon. Senator: It was not unanimous.
Senator LeBreton: It was a report of the committee. It is up to the committee to decide how they report it. I cannot answer for the committee.
Senator Carignan: It was a big majority — big majority.
Senator LeBreton: They reported in here; it is the property of the Senate, and the Senate will deal with it. Of the three reports, we dealt with two of them last night, and one is still a subject of debate. The other is on the changes to the rules, which I intend to address later today when it comes up on the Order Paper.
Hon. George J. Furey: I have a supplementary question to the leader: You are aware, Senator LeBreton, that those reports were majority reports and not unanimous reports, are you not?
Senator LeBreton: Yes, I am, but, Senator Furey, you are the deputy chair of the committee. If you had such a terrible problem with the reports that your committee tabled in this Senate, you had an opportunity to get up and say so.
Some Hon. Senators: He did!
Senator Cowan: I think the record will show that Senator Furey made that absolutely clear when Senator Tkachuk tabled those reports.
Yesterday, Senator LeBreton, I was asking you about the statement by Mr. Wright, and he said that he did not advise the Prime Minister of the means by which Senator Duffy's expenses were repaid. I asked you whether there was any significance to the inclusion of those words "of the means," and whether there was any difference between saying that you had no knowledge of the means of the repayment or you had no knowledge of the repayment, and your answer was that you did not know.
Since we were on that terminological discussion, I thought we might today look at the statement that was made by one Benjamin Perrin. As I understand it, Mr. Perrin was, until last month, Special Advisor, Legal Affairs and Policy in the Prime Minister's Office. He apparently was working on or involved in some way in the transaction between Mr. Wright and Senator Duffy that resulted in the $90,000 payment. I want to quote exactly what he said.
I was not consulted on, and did not participate in, Nigel Wright's decision to write a personal cheque to reimburse Senator Duffy's expenses.
Do you know the nature of Mr. Perrin's involvement in the arrangements between Senator Duffy and Mr. Wright?
Senator LeBreton: Well, I think Mr. Perrin's statement speaks for itself. At least today, Senator Cowan, you actually know who Mr. Perrin is. Yesterday you were assuming he was Privy Council; you were picking potential titles out of the air. I have never met Mr. Perrin. I do not know Mr. Perrin. I do not know what his role was in the Prime Minister's Office, but it is not — that is absolutely the truth. I would not know the gentleman if I fell over him.
The fact of the matter is he made a statement yesterday, but this does not change the facts, and it does not change Mr. Wright's statement. It does not change the Prime Minister's response to Mr. Wright's statement. The fact of the matter is, and I think it is very clear, that this was not known to the Prime Minister until it was reported on CTV News by Robert Fife.
You can go on with your conspiracy theories. I was very interested last night to hear David Herle, who worked in the Prime Minister's office of Paul Martin, absolutely saying that Paul Martin did not know about the sponsorship scandal.
An Hon. Senator: You cannot turn that clock.
Senator Cowan: When they really get cornered they try to change the channel, do they not?
Senator Tardif: Exactly, or attack.
Senator Cowan: This is not a fishing expedition, it is not a conspiracy theory. The facts that I put to you a few moments ago about his being — "the fact of the matter is," to quote you, the fact of the matter is that Nigel Wright was the Prime Minister's chief of staff. The fact of the matter is that he cut a personal cheque to Senator Duffy to cover Senator Duffy's claims while Senator Duffy was in the middle of a forensic audit.
The fact of the matter is that Benjamin Perrin was, at the time we are talking about, the Special Advisor, Legal Affairs and Policy in the Prime Minister's Office, and the fact of the matter is that he was involved in some way — and that is what I am trying to find out — in the negotiation of these arrangements. It is inconceivable to me, Senator LeBreton, that someone who is as experienced a businessman, as experienced an adviser as Nigel Wright, would have, without consulting anyone, without any kind of arrangements being made, reached into his pocket, pulled out his chequebook and written a cheque for $90,000 to someone who was in the situation I have described.
All I am asking you is do you know, and if you do not know will you find out, precisely what the arrangement was that took place and what role Mr. Perrin played in the development of those arrangements.
There was a great deal yesterday to say there was no written agreement. Forget that. There were some arrangements, clearly there were some arrangements, and so I am asking you do you know what those arrangements were? If you do not know, will you find out, and if you do not know what Mr. Perrin's role is, will you find out and tell us?
Senator LeBreton: The answer is no, no and no, and the fact of the matter is all of the things that you have put on before us here are all obviously statements that were made by Mr. Wright and Mr. Perrin, but the real fact of the matter is, as you engage in your conspiracy theories, the real fact of the matter is, there is a very reputable individual who will get to the bottom of this. Her name is Mary Dawson and she is the Ethics Commissioner.
Senator Furey: Honourable senators, my question is for the leader. Senator LeBreton, last evening you used your Conservative majority here in the chamber to refer Senator Duffy's report back to the committee. As you are no doubt aware, there are controversies swirling around how the Conservative majority in that committee handled the report at first instance. My question to you is, in the interests of openness, transparency and accountability, words you have used many, many times, both in this chamber and outside, would you support having the committee's hearings open and accessible to all Canadians and to the media?
Senator LeBreton: Well, first of all, again, I believe that the Internal Economy Committee, unlike the Internal Economy in the other place, actually does conduct their business in an open, public way, but, Senator Furey, the Internal Economy Committee is a committee of the Senate of Canada. You are the deputy chair of that committee. I, as the Leader of the Government in the Senate, will not and could not direct any member of any committee — you may find this very funny, but if I were to do so your friend Senator Mercer would have a heart attack over there because I did so.
Senator Furey: I have a supplementary question.
Obfuscation, obfuscation. My question is not whether or not you would direct the committee to do anything. God forbid that I would even suggest that, Senator LeBreton.
My question to you is, as the Leader of the Government in the Senate, would you be prepared to support an open, transparent committee hearing that would be accessible to the media and to all Canadians?
Senator LeBreton: Well, Senator Furey, you will hear in a few moments when I speak what I actually think about some of the things that had gone on in this place in the past until we, as a government, actually —
Some Hon. Senators: Oh, oh.
Senator LeBreton: When we got the majority in this place, we opened the doors and let the light shine in.
Some Hon. Senators: Oh, oh.
Senator LeBreton: That is why all of these sessions now are in the public venue. I would simply say to you, Senator Furey, that whatever decisions the Internal Economy Committee makes, of course I would fully support.
Senator Furey: On a further supplementary question, in light of all those wonderful things you just said about your government, Senator LeBreton, my question still is this: Would you support open, transparent committee meetings that would be accessible to the Canadian public and to the media?
Senator LeBreton: Am I having trouble being heard here? I just said, Senator Furey, that I, as a senator and as Leader of the Government in the Senate, would be prepared to live with and accept any decision made by the members of the Internal Economy Committee. I cannot be clearer than that.
Senator Cowan: Let me try that in a slightly different way as a follow up and supplementary to the question of my friend, Senator Furey. Yesterday, you mentioned that you and I had signed a letter addressed to the chair and deputy chair of the Internal Economy Committee, which I was pleased to co-sign with you, requesting that the reports be made public and that they be tabled as soon as possible. Would you be prepared to sign a similar letter with me asking that the Internal Economy Committee have the hearings of this committee with respect to this issue open to the public?
Senator LeBreton: Well, you know, Senator Cowan, I was very interested yesterday in the exchange over this when I was going through the process of the letter we signed and you proudly proclaimed, "which I drafted." I am glad you put that on the record because it showed how I was willing to cooperate in the interests of the Senate. I am glad you put on the record that you drafted it, and I was very happy to sign it.
The matter now is back on the Senate floor. It is in the hands of Internal Economy. As I just stated, I will be very happy — and I am sure all of us will be very happy, because committees of the Senate are the masters of their own committees — to support any move that the Internal Economy Committee makes with regard to how they are going to proceed and whatever results they may come up with. It is up to them. I eagerly await their work. They are good senators, and Senator Furey was the chair of the Internal Economy Committee for many years. We have excellent senators on that committee. Senator Beth Marshall is a former Auditor General of Newfoundland and Labrador. We have excellent members on the committee. Let them do their work.
Senator Cowan: Senator LeBreton, I listened carefully to your comments, and I am sure there was a yes in there somewhere. Being the optimist that I am and in the spirit of the cooperation that you referred to, I will draft a letter. I will have it on your desk later this afternoon, and I look forward to signing it. Perhaps we can deliver it together to Senator Tkachuk and Senator Furey.
Senator LeBreton: Well, Senator Cowan, you have always been very good in the Senate at putting words in my mouth. Now, you are suggesting that you are going to put words on my desk. Yes, it worked because we cooperated and did the right thing the last time; and we will do the right thing this time, which is you should trust the members of the Internal Economy Committee on your side. I certainly trust the ones on my side.
Hon. Wilfred P. Moore: I have a question for the Leader of the Government in the Senate. I will try what Senator Furey and Senator Cowan tried. I would like to know what your personal preference is in the interests of honesty and integrity not just of the parties involved but of this institution. Would it not be to have this matter aired in public? Aside from guidance from what the committee might say, what is your personal preference here in the interests of the institution and of the democracy of Canada?
Some Hon. Senators: Hear, hear.
Senator LeBreton: Well, I think you should be very interested in the speech I am about to give after we are through this. Senator Moore, I answered the question of Senator Furey and I answered the question of Senator Cowan. The Senate Committee of Internal Economy and Administration is seized again with this issue. I trust all members of the committee; and I have great respect for the former chair, now the deputy chair. I think we should put great faith in the committee members. They will do the right thing, I am absolutely sure. Whatever they decide and however they want to proceed with this, they will have my full support.
Some Hon. Senators: Hear, hear.
Senator Moore: I guess that means you have no thoughts on this matter. Whatever the committee decides in the majority that your party holds will be fine by you, regardless of what might come out of it. That is so disappointing.
Have you got something to say? Does someone have something to say over there?
An Hon. Senator: No.
Senator Moore: I did not think so. I did not think so.
Leader, the timeline that we heard yesterday indicated that toward the end of February this year, Senator Duffy said he was going to pay back the $90,000 that was demanded of him. I do not know the source of that sum. I do not know where that amount came from. We know that it was part of the discussion earlier between him and Mr. Wright. Where did that sum come from at that time, a week or two beforehand when it was being discussed in terms of how it was going to be paid?
Senator LeBreton: Actually, I understand that when Senator Duffy went on public television in February — and I could be wrong, but this is my understanding — and indicated that he was going to repay the money, he actually got the figure from Senate administration.
Senator Moore: Senate administration? Can you find that out? I think it is important. If you could find out the source of that figure, it would go a long way to indicating what has gone on here and who knew what and, more important, when. If you could check on that, leader, I would really appreciate it.
Senator LeBreton: That is my understanding. I believe when Senator Duffy indicated — and we find out now that was not the case — that he was going to repay the money, I understand his office approached the Senate administration asking for the amount of money he claimed. That will be something for the Internal Economy Committee when they are going over all of this — and, I expect, the Ethics Commissioner. That is only my understanding, and I cannot verify that. That is a matter, Senator Moore, that the Senate Internal Economy Committee will have to address — or the Ethics Commissioner.
Hon. Dennis Dawson: Honourable senators, perhaps something was lost in the translation, but I understand that on the same night the senator said he would repay the money, he also said that he had secured a loan from the Royal Bank of Canada. I did not hear anyone from the Royal Bank of Canada confirm that. I believe that it may have been yet another fabrication following a series of lies that began in February.
However, given that the Leader of the Government in the Senate mentioned that interview, can she tell us when she became aware that the senator did not get a loan from the Royal Bank?
Senator LeBreton: Actually, I believed that because that is what he said — that he had repaid the money. I actually relied on stories in the media — although I know sometimes that can be a little iffy — that he had said that he had taken out a loan with the Royal Bank of Canada and repaid the money. That is what I believed. That is what all of us believed, and that is what we all believed on May 9 when we tabled all the reports in the Senate. Of course, that was what we believed up until last Tuesday night when there was a different story on CTV News.
Senator Dawson: At what time, Madam Minister, did you stop believing him? Because, obviously — I am saying this very honourably — he has misled you; he has obviously misled part of the house on this side. But at what time did you arrive at, or were told by the Prime Minister's Office, that you were being lied to, either by the Prime Minister's Office or by Mr. Duffy?
Senator LeBreton: Well, Senator Dawson, I was told nothing by the Prime Minister's Office. I made it very clear that the Prime Minister was not aware of this. What was the precise moment on this particular issue that I did not believe Senator Duffy? It was when I watched Bob Fife on CTV News last Tuesday night.
Senator Dawson: Well, I hope Bob Fife has another show for tonight because, honestly, we stopped believing him much earlier than that. We had started thinking that probably there was some side influence and, obviously, if our vice-chair was being told on the subcommittee of the Internal Economy that the majority of the Conservatives wanted the text to be changed, then there was some kind of outside influence. It did not come from the top, and it did not necessarily happen from the Prime Minister's Office or your office, but someone obviously said to Senator Stewart Olsen and to Senator Tkachuk that they were doing something wrong.
Senator LeBreton: You know, Senator Dawson, that is actually — what you may have thought, or what any of us thought, or when you suspected what or whatever is not relevant to what we are facing here. What we are facing here is a situation where we conducted ourselves, on both sides and through the committee process, following a process. We found out after the fact — after we did all of this on May 9 — that what we believed was not the case.
But my understanding — and you are saying things about things that went on in the committee that I am unaware of — is that the committee reached its conclusions based on a report from an independent auditor and that the report reflects the fact that the money was repaid. That is what the report reflects; that is what is on the record.
Now, after the fact, we are dealing with a different set of circumstances, but we can only deal with what we were dealing with, and that is what we were dealing with.
Hon. Claudette Tardif (Deputy Leader of the Opposition): Senator Duffy also indicated in an email that he would not cooperate with the auditors on orders from the PMO. Do you believe that to be true, Madam Minister?
Senator LeBreton: Well, that is for Internal Economy to determine when they are going over this, and that is also for the Ethics Commissioner. I am not going to get into a debate through this whole process of who said what or sent what emails. I have no knowledge of these emails; I have not seen them. I can only rely on what I have heard and, as you know, a lot of it is based on not factual information, so I am not going to get into what might have been in an email or what might not have been.
We have processes in place that can properly deal with this. Let them do their work.
Hon. Jane Cordy: What is interesting is the Internal Economy Committee has always worked in a nonpartisan way, but I have to tell you that the last meeting that we had of Internal Economy, when these reports were dealt with, was anything but objective. The Liberals on the committee certainly knew that the fix was in, and the Liberals on the committee certainly voted against the whitewashing of Senator Duffy's report.
However, what I would like to know is who in the Prime Minister's Office, besides Nigel Wright, was aware of the $90,000 in hush money that was given to Senator Duffy?
Senator LeBreton: Well, first of all, Senator Cordy, this will be all fully addressed by the Ethics Commissioner. I have not got the answer to this. All we know is the facts that we know, and we dealt with them here in the Senate.
An Hon. Senator: Oh, oh.
Senator LeBreton: Well, you know, I know you have a problem with facts, Senator Mercer, but I do not, and I tell the truth.
The fact is we believed a certain set of circumstances were in play up until May 9. That has changed. We have the committee of Internal Economy with senators on both sides. I am quite sure that they will deal with this, and we have the Senate Ethics Officer. We also have Mary Dawson, the Ethics Commissioner in the other place — plus, she is responsible for public office-holders — so let us see what comes out of those investigations.
On the Order:
Resuming debate on the motion of the Honourable Senator Patterson, seconded by the Honourable Senator Segal, for the third reading of Bill C-47, An Act to enact the Nunavut Planning and Project Assessment Act and the Northwest Territories Surface Rights Board Act and to make related and consequential amendments to other Acts.
The Hon. the Speaker: Is it your pleasure, honourable senators, to adopt the motion?
Hon. Senators: Agreed.
(Motion agreed to and bill read third time.)
Hon. Nicole Eaton moved third reading of Bill C-43, An Act to amend the Immigration and Refugee Protection Act.
She said: I thank honourable senators very much for giving me this last opportunity to speak to Bill C-43, an important piece of legislation that will ultimately improve the safety of our citizens and the communities in which they live. Our party pledged to Canadians to undertake these changes during the last election. They will improve our immigration system and the practices around it by speeding up the removal of foreign criminals.
Honourable senators, throughout debate on this bill in this place to date, we have heard a good deal about the fundamentals and essence of this legislation. However, during the debates, both in this place and in committee, some honourable senators have raised concerns and criticized the bill. I would like to respond to those concerns and criticisms.
By way of a reminder, under this bill's proposed provisions of the Immigration and Refugee Protection Act, a foreign national who is given a custodial sentence of six months or longer by a Canadian criminal court will be considered criminally inadmissible to Canada. As a consequence, a deportation order will be issued for them. Pre-removal risk assessment is still mandatory and the appeal system through the courts remains available to them.
The commission of a serious criminal act is the choice and decision of the criminal. These criminals, having made such a choice, must be and, through this bill, will be held responsible for their acts. When Canada opens its doors of generosity and opportunity to a foreign national, we ask but two things: that they live in Canada and that they do not commit a serious criminal act.
Honourable senators, in our study of this legislation, we have heard a concern from those across the floor regarding its requirements for foreign nationals seeking a visa and who have been tagged as a security risk to be interviewed by CSIS. Our honourable senators on the other side took issue with this, citing concerns that such interviews are too open-ended and might become "fishing expeditions," as the Honourable Senator Eggleton termed it.
Honourable senators, we believe in the notion that our institutions, such as the Canadian Security Intelligence Service and the Canada Border Services Agency, are thorough yet fair in the conduct of these interviews.
Honourable senators opposite also stated concern over the provision that allows the minister to deny entry to a foreign national on the basis of public policy or negative discretion, as it is termed. We are a progressive country, yet when it comes to the notion of negative discretion we are not at par with our peers. Countries such as the United Kingdom, the United States, France, Australia, among others, all maintain very broad discretionary powers in this regard. In fact, most countries have powers that are much more discretionary than those contained in Bill C-43. For example, in the U.K., the Home Office has barred the entry of individuals whose presence is considered not conducive to the public good. In Australia, the Minister for Immigration and Citizenship has various powers to act personally in the national interest. It is up to the minister to determine whether a decision is warranted. In addition, Australia's immigration law allows for visa refusals based on foreign policy interests and the likelihood that an individual will promote or participate in violence in the community.
In the United States, the Secretary of State may direct a consular officer to refuse a visa, if necessary, for U.S. foreign policy or security interests. The Secretary of Homeland Security can delegate the authority to immigration officers to revoke a visa. Additionally, the President may restrict the international travel and suspend the entry of certain individuals whose presence would be considered detrimental to the U.S.
Minister Kenney spoke to the need for negative discretion when he attended at committee. When doing so, he cited a unanimous motion passed by the Quebec National Assembly asking him to prevent entry of extremists, showing the call for the use of the new negative discretion powers. The Quebec National Assembly sought this in the face of two foreign nationals seeking entry into Canada who had made homophobic statements and whose discourse trivialized violence against women. The National Assembly reaffirmed that these backward positions have no place in a democratic society and go against the fundamental values of Quebec society, namely, equality between men and women, and respect for the physical integrity of persons.
In light of such entreaties, the minister reached the conclusion that it was wise and optimal to maintain some degree of discretion around public policy concerns and considerations in the legislation. We endorse his position in this regard. We remain equally confident of the provisions in the legislation affording consideration of humanitarian and compassionate considerations, and whether to deport individuals from Canada for reasons of national security, terrorism or organized crime — categories all of serious inadmissibility to this country.
These speak to the issues raised by Honourable Senator Munson, who reminded the committee and Minister Kenney of the United Nations' position regarding the inclusion under Article 3, section 1, in the Convention on the Rights of the Child, specifically that the Continuing Committee of Officials on Human Rights urged Canada to ensure that legislation and procedures use the best interests of the child.
Honourable senators, in all applications of Canada's immigration law, the best interest of minor children is always considered in every decision by visa officers, border service agents, the Immigration and Refugee Board and by the Federal Court. That is always a consideration, and nothing in Bill C-43 changes that.
The government will in no way be responsible for dividing family members if a serious foreign criminal is removed; that said, a child is the responsibility of the parent and as such should remain with the parent.
Let us make our position clear once again. If people commit serious crimes, they have lost the privilege of staying in Canada as a permanent resident.
The vast majority of immigrants whom we welcome as permanent residents are law-abiding people who would never dream of committing a serious crime and who also expect that those who do should lose the privilege of staying in Canada. As a government, every year on average we admit 257,000 permanent residents. It is the highest sustained level of immigration in Canadian history and the highest per capita level of immigration in the developed world, adding almost 0.8 per cent to our population every year.
However, it must be noted that over the past five years we have seen an average of about 800 permanent residents per year who commit serious violent crimes that carry penal sentences of six months or more. In 2010, it was 849; in 2009, it was 1,086; and in 2011, it was 564. That is a tiny fraction of a per cent of the number of permanent residents in Canada. Bill C-43 focuses only on the tiny minority who commit serious crimes.
The honourable opposition also raised concern — a concern that I might add is frankly baffling — regarding the bill's provisions around removal of application privilege for a period of five years in the case of misrepresentation. If ever there was and is a need for due diligence, full and frank disclosure and an absolute attention to detail, it is in this key step of the process. We take instances of misrepresentation in the immigration application process very seriously. This law needs no less than this important provision. It is fundamental to its integrity, and so too is the notion of what constitutes serious criminality. The provision of reducing the current two-year sentence length to a period of more than six months has to do with the denial of access to the Immigration Appeal Division to permanent residents who are sentenced in Canada to more than six months of imprisonment.
The committee heard a myriad of hypothetical creative situations around the what-ifs regarding this provision. However, the fact remains that this provision, too, speaks to the law's integrity. If one does not wish to endure withdrawal of the privilege of appeal, one can make the determined choice not to commit the crime or one may, through the courts, appeal the criminal conviction that brought about the sentence in the first place.
Again, honourable senators, we seek through this legislation to protect the just and to make processes around the treatment of criminals more robust and reflective of the serious nature of the crimes they perpetrate. That is why the retroactivity of its provisions will apply with regard to observance of mandatory minimum conditions to those in Canada both in custody and those whose files are still under review.
The conditions are simple and straightforward. They must report biannually to the Canadian Border Services Agency on their whereabouts and report as well on any changes in their circumstances. It is appropriate and indeed wise to see such conditions also imposed on individuals currently in Canada who are either being considered, or are determined to be, inadmissible for security reasons.
Honourable senators, Bill C-43 is legislation that puts an end to procedural games that saw foreign criminals navigate myriad processes, delaying or avoiding their ultimate removal. In closing, I would like to respond to Senator Jaffer, whose debate intervention reminded us of our need to consider the collective commitment to an ideal greater than any one individual.
Honourable senators, I say that Canada remains a beacon of hope for those eager to live in peace and safety. Our Canada is a nation where it is both humane and compassionate to protect our citizens from criminals who make the purposeful and determined decision to be involved in war crimes, crimes against humanity, serious human rights violations and organized criminality. We have not lost sight of our values; on the contrary, the need to affirm them and protect them is perhaps clearer than ever before. Bill C-43 helps us to do this in many ways.
Honourable senators, this legislation has much community and stakeholder support. We are pleased to affirm that the bill has endorsements from the Canadian Association of Chiefs of Police, the Canadian Police Association and victim rights groups, including Victims of Violence and many other experts.
This is good, well considered and thoroughly studied legislation. I wish to thank Honourable Senators Campbell and Jaffer for their contributions to the debate on this bill. I offer my sincere thanks and appreciation as well to Senator Eggleton in his eloquent role as critic.
This legislation deserves the support of honourable senators and is worthy of swift passage.
The Hon. the Speaker pro tempore: Are there any questions, honourable senators?
Hon. Art Eggleton: Thank you very much. I think one of the key issues here has been serious crime: What is a serious crime? In this case, we are talking about changing what is now a two-year line. In other words, if you are over the two-year line, then you cannot appeal to the Immigration Appeal Division. If you are under, you can, except now it will become six months. In becoming six months, there is the concern that this brings in a wider range of crimes that may have been committed.
The phrase the honourable senator and the minister used was "serious crimes," and we all know that, certainly, murder, rape and many of these big ones are doubly serious crimes. However, where would the honourable senator draw the line on what she would call a "serious crime" for the use of this denial of an appeal to the Immigration Appeal Division?
Senator Eaton: I thank the honourable senator for his question. I will define "serious criminality" as it was defined in the Immigration and Refugee Protection Act, introduced by the previous Liberal government: assault with a weapon; drug trafficking — in order to receive a serious offence for drug possession, it must include intent to traffic — robbery; and sexual assault.
Senator Eggleton: Those are serious crimes, but there are some others that would get caught in this six months' division because the legislation does not spell out those serious crimes. It talks about the period of the sentence, namely, six months.
I will speak to that further when I take the adjournment, if I might. I have another question.
Senator Eaton: That was the definition of serious criminality with those examples.
Senator Eggleton: I understand that. Under questioning, the minister and others said that they would rely upon the period of time as opposed to that definition.
In any event, the senator said this would cut down on abuse. There are some people who have carried on challenges for many years before they were, in fact, removed from the country. I understand that part of it; it has gone too far. However, for most of those cases, as I understand it, the challenges have been court challenges. The Immigration Appeal Division, which is what is at stake here, is actually a very short period of time. How will we be able to save much time, then, if the challenges are all in the legal system, in the courts?
Senator Eaton: I suppose that is speculation in that we do not know; we cannot surmise what people will do. However, if someone receives a sentence longer than six months, is flagged for deportation and has a pre-risk removal assessment, it depends on whether that person wants to go through the court system. However, it has taken away the easy way. Well, it is a start. We have to make it easier and faster.
Hon. Mobina S. B. Jaffer: Thank you very much for taking my question, and also for acknowledging me in your remarks. I appreciate that.
Since the honourable senator has come to this place, she has taken quite an interest in issues of immigration. It would be trite for me to say that often we are on differing sides, but I think on this question, which is on the rights of children, we will both be on the same side. The honourable senator spoke eloquently about what we have to look at in regard to the rights of the child, or with the convention, what is in the best interests of the child.
I will pose a question that was put to us many times at the hearing. If a baby is brought to Canada at the age of three months, and then, as an adult of 19 years commits an offence, is it in the best interests of that young person to send him or her back to a country he or she does not know? That young person is a product of someone we raised in this country. What is the opinion of the honourable senator?
Senator Eaton: I thank the honourable senator for the question. Yes, I have been interested in immigration affairs, as the honourable senator has.
I have to say that a young person who came to this country at a very young age and by the age of 19 has not decided whether he or she wants to become a Canadian citizen is still a permanent resident who goes to jail for longer than six months. May I suggest, and this is where we may differ, that person has committed a serious offence, and perhaps deserves to go back to the country of origin, if, first, that person has not taken enough interest in Canada to become a citizen, and, second, that person has not followed the two things that we ask of a permanent resident: to live in this country and to remain crime-free.
Senator Jaffer: It is very interesting that the senator would say that by the age of 19 that young person has not taken an interest. A 19-year-old for most Canadians is a young person. Obviously, we do not agree with this.
The other question that I would like to follow up with is what Senator Eggleton was asking. One of the other things that came up at committee was the fact that if a person could get six months under the law, because of the circumstances of what will happen to him or her under immigration, the judge may give a sentence of less than six months' imprisonment so that that person would not have to face the consequences of immigration law. At the hearing, the senator stated that she was concerned that Canadians would be treated differently from foreign nationals. How has the senator resolved this issue? Has she spoken to the minister about it?
Senator Eaton: I do not think Canadian citizens should suffer because they are Canadian citizens. I hope judges will judge the crime on the crime. I am not quite sure but I understand there is a ruling in the Supreme Court that they should know that someone could be deported. However, I would hope that judges would simply give to either a Canadian citizen or permanent resident a sentence that fits the crime.
(On motion of Senator Eggleton, debate adjourned.)
The Senate proceeded to consideration of the twenty-fifth report of the Standing Committee on Internal Economy, Budgets and Administration (Policies and guidelines relating to Senators' travel), presented in the Senate on May 9, 2013.
Hon. Marjory LeBreton (Leader of the Government) moved the adoption of this report.
She said: Honourable senators, in a few weeks' time, I will mark the twentieth anniversary of my appointment to the Senate of Canada. Thanks to the Right Honourable Brian Mulroney, I was honoured and humbled to be appointed to the Senate, thereby stepping over to the other side of political involvement, from the political operative side to a more public parliamentary role. I shall be forever grateful to Mr. Mulroney for the opportunity to continue to be a part of a profession I love and have practised for five decades, the honourable profession of politics.
Interestingly, honourable senators, there was a big spending issue raging at the time. Senators had voted themselves a $6,000 raise. The debate raged on. The media were camped outside the Senate doors and I walked into my first real scrum as a parliamentarian, having just left the position of Deputy Chief of Staff and Director of Appointments in Brian Mulroney's office, where I had, of course, been involved in assisting the Prime Minister in the Senate appointments process.
I was asked what I thought of the debate and the fact that there was such a demand for a rather large increase in salary. My response was simply that many whom I had talked to who were successful in their efforts to secure a Senate seat did not raise any concerns with me regarding salaries or perks. Needless to say, my first scrum did not impress many of my new colleagues.
While this measure passed the Senate, the outrage was such that the then new Prime Minister, Kim Campbell, saw to it that the Senate was brought back in July and the decision was reversed.
Honourable senators, we are a fortunate few. There have been fewer than 1,000 Canadians who have been summoned to the Senate since Confederation in 1867. Think of that for a moment: fewer than 1,000. We are fortunate indeed. To be appointed to the Senate of Canada is an honour and a privilege. Great work has been done and will continue to be done in the Senate.
Unfortunately, some in our ranks over the years, over many years, take the word "privilege" and ascribe to it a whole different meaning. The Senate is a different place than it was decades ago, certainly a different place than it was when I started working for the party when John Diefenbaker was the Prime Minister.
Our membership is more diverse. We have people from many cultural and ethnic backgrounds. We have tradespeople, police officers, teachers, scientists, nurses, doctors, diplomats, political activists, accountants, lawyers, and many who served as elected politicians in provincial legislatures, municipalities and in the House of Commons, and one third of us are women.
Most of us conduct our affairs in an honest and ethical way. Most of us work hard, attend to our duties in the Senate, and seriously debate and question the issues before us. Unfortunately, there are a few, and there have been a few, who actually believe that this honour, this position, was owed to them based on their own inflated view of their role or stature at any given time. Therein lies the rub, honourable senators. Senators in that category view the Senate, and all the resources available, as their right. Their own self-importance transcends reality.
That reality is that we should be here to act in the public good, represent our regions and, yes, be active participants in the political process. We are, after all, members of a political party, members either of the government or the opposition side, privy to the confidences shared within our respective caucuses and, as such, we are the public faces of the political parties of our choice. This all falls within the realm of our conduct as members of the Senate of Canada, and this is entirely appropriate.
Politics is an honourable profession, and politicians overwhelmingly are honest and decent people. They are, put simply, your neighbour and my neighbour.
That brings me back to the point I made earlier about those who put a whole new meaning on the privilege of being appointed to the Senate. There are some, unfortunately, who believe that it is the Canadian public, the Canadian taxpayer or their political colleagues who are privileged by their presence, rather than the other way around. This narcissism on their part is the crux of the situation before us and, believe me, no truer words were spoken than when my colleague Senator Dave Tkachuk stood in this place here and said: "This is a Senate crisis, pure and simple."
How is it that we find ourselves in this crisis? Is this something that is new or unique? No. The answer is clearly no. I have observed many events as a member of this chamber and, while I am proud to be a senator, I personally never saw myself as part of the so-called "old boys' club" — kind of hard to when you are a woman.
When I was appointed, our colleague the late Norman Atkins, when congratulating me, said these words, and I paraphrase: "Marjory, you are now part of a very exclusive club." Can we not hear him saying it? I thought to myself at the time, "Norman does not know me very well."
I mentioned the uproar during my first few weeks as a senator. As I watched the Liberals, who considered themselves superior, I cringed every time I walked through the door and was saluted by a member of the Senate protective staff, quietly asking them, "Please do not do this," only to be told by them that they were following orders. In my view, saluting is for officers of the law and members of the military. I saw myself as a normal, everyday Canadian whose good fortune it was to be in a job that I loved. I am now happy to report that, finally, this arcane practice of saluting has been stopped, and I am extremely proud of my role in seeing an end to it.
Do not get me wrong, honourable senators; I believe in our history and traditions, and some of those traditions are demonstrated each and every day as we adhere to the principles of our Westminster system of government. However, honourable senators, we are living in the 21st century. The "this is the way it has always been done" just does not cut it anymore. I know it, and I have known it for years.
When our Conservative Party formed a minority government early in 2006, we were vastly outnumbered here in the Senate. There were 67 Liberals, 23 Conservatives, 5 independents, 4 Progressive Conservatives and 1 NDP.
We promised Senate reform and we promised accountability. We passed the Federal Accountability Act, which strengthened the powers of the Auditor General, toughened the Office of the Ethics Commissioner, reformed political party financing, dramatically tightened lobbying rules, and beefed up auditing and accountability within federal government departments.
In the Senate we, on this side, governed from a severe minority position. From 2006 to 2008 the Prime Minister recommended only two individuals be summoned to the Senate: Michael Fortier, to give voice to the city of Montreal and our new young government, on the promise that he would resign the seat and seek elected office in a future election, which of course he did; and, of course, Bert Brown, who was elected by the people of Alberta, thereby respecting the voters of Alberta.
Brian Mulroney respected those voters when the late Stan Waters was summoned to the Senate. Jean Chrétien and Paul Martin did not. Prime Minister Stephen Harper has also respected those voters: not once, not twice, but four times.
During that first term of our government, with our diminished numbers in this chamber, we advanced our promise to reform the Senate. We even, as a chamber, established a special Senate committee chaired by the Honourable Dan Hays, a Liberal. The Prime Minister appeared as a witness before the committee, the first time in the history of our country that a sitting Prime Minister appeared before a Senate committee.
The election in October 2008 produced another minority Conservative government, albeit a strengthened minority, but a minority nonetheless. At a media availability on October 15 — I was there, as I travelled with the Prime Minister — the day following the 2008 election, the Prime Minister, in answer to a question about the Senate, reiterated our promise to reform the Senate but stated categorically that he would move to fill the vacant Senate seats because the government could not tolerate a situation where our legislative agenda was being thwarted by senators appointed by two previous Liberal prime ministers.
As a matter of fact, a Liberal senator from Nova Scotia, Senator Moore, put down a motion in the Senate to force the Prime Minister to fill these vacancies, and I will read the motion. These are the words of Senator Moore:
Honourable senators, I join this debate out of concern for the future of this institution, out of concern for the proper functioning of Parliament as a whole and out of concern for the rights of provinces that do not appear to receive much consideration from the current government.
I would like to thank Senator Banks for raising this important issue. He rightly draws our attention to a problem that needs to be addressed soon. We cannot sit by as this institution atrophies as a result of the Prime Minister's policy of refusing to fill vacancies.
In preparing my remarks today, I was surprised by yesterday's announcement that the Prime Minister intends to depart from the policy he has followed for the last 14 months and appoint a new senator for Alberta.
An elected senator, I might add.
Again quoting Senator Moore:
At first I thought my remarks might now be overtaken by a change in the government's stance, but I realize my concern over the lack of appointments is now even more justified. As a senator from Nova Scotia, it is hard to accept that the Prime Minister allows vacancies from smaller provinces to pile up, some seats having gone unfilled literally for years. Yet, when it comes to his own home province, which has no vacancies, the Prime Minister has announced an appointment before a seat even becomes available.
Of course, the Prime Minister was simply signalling that he would appoint an elected senator when that seat became available.
Since that time, honourable senators, the Prime Minister has invited many outstanding Canadians to join our ranks to sit on the government side of the Senate, many known and active Conservatives, but many who brought to this place new expertise, a fresh perspective and a more representative face to the Senate of Canada. We are extremely proud of the calibre of individuals who sit on the government side of the Senate.
To put this into perspective, the Conservatives formed the government in February 2006, but it was not until the fall of 2010 that we were finally able to function with a working majority in the Senate. The election of 2011, forced by a Liberal motion of non-confidence in the House of Commons that defeated our government in the other place, resulted in a majority Conservative government.
Where are we now, honourable senators? We are facing a Senate crisis, pure and simple, as my friend Senator Tkachuk declared when the reports of the Internal Economy Committee were tabled. And why? Because when the Conservative side finally had a working majority in this place, we changed the rules in line with the promise made to the Canadian public in the Federal Accountability Act. We moved, at the first opportunity, to make the Senate more open, more accountable and more transparent. It was determined from September 2010 onward that senators' expenses would be publicly reported on a quarterly basis. Had that not taken place, no one would be any the wiser. Things would have carried on in the old Liberal way — nudge, nudge, wink, wink. Rumours about Liberal senators hosting lavish dinner parties in their Ottawa homes, accessing their expensive wine cellars, all on the public and Senate dime; three or four senators getting a staffer to drive them to the airport and then all claiming, without receipts, a $30 taxi fare; many Liberal senators representing various regions of the country having permanent homes here in Ottawa — my list is very long.
Honourable senators, I repeat, the change the Conservative majority initiated in the Senate by informing the public on a quarterly basis just exactly what their senators were spending has finally shone the light where it was never shone before.
Some Hon. Senators: Hear, hear.
Senator LeBreton: Had we not done this —
Senator Cowan: Some are not applauding.
Senator LeBreton: I expect that maybe there will be the odd senator, mostly on your side, Senator Cowan, who does not agree with this, but these are my own words.
Senator Cowan: I am listening to every word you say.
Senator LeBreton: I am glad you are.
Senator Cowan: I always do. I might learn something someday.
Senator LeBreton: I cannot make the same claim all the time.
Honourable senators, I repeat, the change the Conservative majority initiated in the Senate by informing the public on a quarterly basis just exactly what their senators are spending has finally shone the light where it has never shone before. Had we not done this, there would be no hyped-up media stories about spending abuses, no hypothetical blathering from the likes of Ralph Goodale or Wayne Easter. To her great credit, at least Judy Sgro had the good sense to keep her head down on this matter, because we all know about the story over on the other side on this very issue. There would be no public outrage, other than the ongoing unhappiness with the Senate in general, and those who have been manipulating our archaic rules to suit themselves would have quietly continued doing what has obviously gone on for years.
The sad reality is that some in our midst bought into the old way of doing things. They should have listened to and watched what we were saying and doing and not to those who counselled, "It is okay, this is the way it has always been done — carry on."
The reality, therefore, is that we are facing this crisis because we have flung open the doors and revealed what was going on, and now rather than being credited for doing so, we are paying the price for taking this important and necessary step.
I am not surprised. I am a Conservative and I know more than most around this town, populated by Liberal elites and their media lickspittles, tut-tutting about our government and yearning for the good old Liberal days, and I know that we are never given the benefit of the doubt and are rarely given credit for all the good work we do.
We are not perfect, but we have conducted ourselves in an appropriate and honourable way. Some say to me, "Why did you insist on doing this and opening this can of worms?" I say, to quote Bill O'Reilly, despite what we are going through as a government, I am glad we did.
When all of these spending abuse stories broke, I said to a few of my staff that out of all the difficult times we will undoubtedly face, all of the wide-eyed accusations, all the distortions of the truth, there is actually a silver lining. No more can rules be misinterpreted because some have a problem understanding them. No more so-called honour system claiming Senate business. Finally we will be able to fix this mess once and for all.
To those in the media who should know better, to those who think that this will be all swept under the carpet, think again. There is no broom and there is no carpet here. These changes are going to be made.
Honourable senators, I am pleased with the report that has been presented to us by the Internal Economy Committee. The report responds to the recommendations of the three external audits and will consolidate and define terms related to residency for the purpose of claiming expenses, an area that was shown to be obviously lacking.
The report also makes a number of recommendations to bring the travel policy in line with established practices in the private sector, something that should have been done a long time ago. Senators will be required to provide a specific purpose for travel; simply claiming "Senate business" is no longer enough. Senators claiming mileage must keep a road travel log; a senator's word will no longer be enough. Receipts will be required when claiming taxi expenses. Imagine that.
These changes must be adopted. It is in the public interest. These loopholes that are open to abuse must be closed. The changes will protect us all from the actions of a few who may abuse the present system.
Important limits will be placed on the 64-point travel system. Senators will no longer be able to fly to Europe, Asia or other places around the globe under this system. Senators will be limited to 12 trips outside the province that are not to the National Capital Region. The fact is that the travel system was never intended to fly senators all over the country in order to conduct their own personal business; it was intended to get senators to and from work here in the national capital.
Senator Mercer: Names!
Senator LeBreton: It will also place limits on the number of per diems.
I was expecting this kind of reaction, because of course this is what has gone on for years, and I know you do not like these changes.
Senator Downe: We expected a non-partisan speech. We are all disappointed.
Senator LeBreton: The fact is, as I said, these 64 travel points were intended to get senators to and from their Senate duties here in the national capital.
A limit will also be placed on the number of per diems that may be claimed while in Ottawa. The system was never intended to allow senators to stay in Ottawa over the summer months, pop into the office for an hour or so and claim a $90 per diem. The system was meant to assist senators while attending the business of the chamber and its committees. However, recognizing that senators are sometimes in Ottawa when the Senate is not sitting, conducting legitimate Senate business outside of sitting times, senators will be able to claim per diems up to an additional 20 days while on legitimate, documented Senate business.
The report also provides for greater administrative oversight, requiring the administration of the Senate to provide monthly reports on travel to the Internal Economy Committee. The report also finally removes the honour principle from the Senate Administrative Rules, something that I have asked to be done for years. It is simply not acceptable to limit, in the current ways, the ability of the administration to inquire into the expenses of senators or refuse payment of improper expenses on the presumption of one's honour, that their word is good enough. That standard is not good enough in the private sector, it is not good enough for the Canada Revenue Agency, and it is certainly not good enough for senators.
The Senate of Canada, honourable senators, is not an old boys' club. It is a public institution that is meant to serve the public and ought to be accountable to the public. We must act and be seen to be acting in the public interest. Part of our role is to hold the government to account, but if we are to survive as an institution, we must also hold ourselves to account. We are facing this crisis over expenses. We will not survive if we are subjected to any more scandals like this. This is why we must act. This is why we must make these changes.
Moving forward, honourable senators, the adoption of this report will represent a large step forward. However, it is only one step. Further review will be necessary, and Internal Economy and administration must do more to ensure greater financial responsibility and transparency in order to regain the public's trust. The committee must take a serious look at its internal and external audit processes to ensure they are strong and that problems, where they exist, can be caught early and addressed immediately.
While our Clerk has shown great leadership in transforming the culture of the administration, vigilance must be applied to continue this transformation into a professional bureaucracy that serves the interests of the public good and not individual senators, as was the case before he took over as our Clerk.
The administration must also implement proper monitoring of expenses and refuse payment of improper expenses when they are claimed, not after they have been paid. The recommendations of the Auditor General in his June 2012 report must be fully implemented. To increase the personal responsibility of the senators to the public, we simply must provide greater transparency, especially regarding travel expenses.
While the current system of quarterly proactive disclosure shone a light on the problems we currently face, it is now simply not good enough. We must move to a system that discloses travel expenses in a manner consistent with that followed by cabinet ministers, as Senator Verner knows very well. With respect to office expenses, we must provide reports that are as detailed as those that are provided in the House of Commons.
Honourable senators, if we are to have any hope of regaining the public's trust, we simply must undertake these further measures and we must adopt this report that is before us today.
Before I conclude, I invite honourable senators to compare my record. I can proudly say that I personally have led by example. I will compare my record with that of my predecessor, the Honourable Jack Austin. I would like to put on the record expenses by both him and me. Do not be shocked. This is part of the public record.
These are figures directly related to our position as Leader of the Government in the Senate, as posted by the Privy Council Office. There are, of course, no published figures of his spending in the Senate, because until we changed the rules, these were hidden. However, honourable senators will get the picture. This is based on an analysis from 2004 to 2010.
Senator Austin was Leader of the Government in the Senate for just over two years, from December 2004 to February 2006. This is the Privy Council Office; this is not the Senate. Where he lived was a Senate matter, and of course we do not have access to his Senate records.
Senator Austin claimed expenses for two years of $143,267.63. My expenses from 2006 to 2010 —
Senator Joyal: He was living in British Columbia. He was from British Columbia. How can you compare that?
Some Hon. Senators: Oh, oh.
Senator LeBreton: I am talking about Privy Council numbers and his job as the Leader of the Government in the Senate. Where he lived and when he travelled is all part of the Senate record, of course, which we have no access to because it was not open.
I will continue. Senator Austin claimed expenses for two years of $143,267.63. My expenses from 2006 to 2010, one month short of five years, were $26,199.62.
On hospitality in those two years — again, these are claimed by the Privy Council in his position of Leader of the Government in the Senate — Senator Austin claimed $11,709.81, and I claimed zero, because I pay my own way.
The average expense per exempt staffer — and these are again just on expenses, based on 14 staff — for Senator Austin, for over two years, was $9,396.98. The average expense per exempt staffer for over five years with my office was $1,904.61.
As I said a moment ago, you get the picture. I would invite a review of my expenses, both as a senator and as a member of cabinet which, thanks to the changes we have introduced in the Senate, are all part of the public record.
While all of this is true inasmuch as it deals with the reality of the Senate, there is a much bigger problem here, and that is the Senate itself as an institution. You know that and I know that. Canadians do not support an institution that has remained virtually unchanged since Confederation.
In closing, honourable senators, we must face reality. We must listen to Canadians. The unelected, unaccountable nature of the Senate is not sustainable. Our government has tried to bring in reforms, a difficult prospect when we were in minority in both houses, and I must admit a missed opportunity for a brief period of time before there were challenges in the courts. Proof of that is when you look back over the past decade and analyze public outrage over what has been going on in the Senate. Whether it is a senator advancing some controversial idea or seeking out a specific profile on a given issue, the fact is the public reacts negatively because they do not believe our institution has legitimacy.
As my retired mechanic husband and his Tim Hortons friends say — and you will excuse my language — "Who in the hell do they think they are?" You may not like to hear this, but the fact of the matter is the same situation faced by a member of the House of Commons would be viewed differently because they are elected and accountable. We are not. Unless and until this body is reformed, that is the reality.
As a government, we look forward to receiving the Supreme Court of Canada's decision on what is required to reform the Senate or what is required to abolish the Senate. There are, however, actions that can be taken now, actions that I have just outlined in this speech, and take them we must to protect all of us who conduct ourselves properly.
Some Hon. Senators: Hear, hear.
Hon. James S. Cowan (Leader of the Opposition): Honourable senators, before I begin my remarks I must say that I am disappointed by the remarks of Senator LeBreton. She holds the position of Leader of the Government in the Senate. She has an overwhelming majority in this Senate. She has certain responsibilities and certain standards that her colleagues expect her to maintain.
I listened with care to the early part of her speech and I agreed with a great deal of it. Senator LeBreton talked about how lucky we are to be here and how few Canadians have been fortunate enough to be called to this place and given an opportunity to serve here, and I agreed with much of that. Then, instead of continuing in that high tone, her speech descended into what I could only describe as a sort of selective self-congratulatory distortion of history.
Senator LeBreton followed that up with a drive-by smear of not only senators who are here today, without naming them, but a general smear, and she talked about people who had served this place before, including people who had held the position that she holds today. She then went on and talked about people who had served as officers of this Senate who are not here and cannot defend themselves. I suggest, with the greatest respect, that this kind of drive-by smear is unworthy of her position as Leader of the Government in the Senate, and we expect better.
Some Hon. Senators: Hear, hear.
Senator Cowan: Honourable senators, the Senate of Canada costs more than $90 million a year to operate. As senators, we have a special responsibility to ensure that those monies are spent properly and accounted for appropriately to those who provide them — the taxpayers of Canada. Naturally, our financial control systems and our accounting measures have evolved over the years. We have in place accounting and expenditure control systems that by and large work well, and we account to the public for the way in which we spend their money in an open and transparent manner.
Financial control and public disclosure systems and standards are always, in any institution, very much a work-in-progress, requiring constant examination and, where necessary, change and improvement. The Senate of Canada is not and never has been an exception to that rule. Can they be clarified and improved? Of course they can. Are they confusing, inadequate and antiquated? Of course not.
Honourable senators, it is the responsibility of our Standing Committee on Internal Economy, Budgets and Administration, the Internal Economy Committee, to oversee the internal administration of the Senate and the allocation and use of its resources. Part of that responsibility, the responsibility of the Internal Economy Committee, is to ensure that our financial control systems and standards are appropriate and modified where necessary. Historically that is what has happened. The systems and standards have evolved to reflect developing best practices and the advice of experts such as the Auditor General, our own external auditors and our excellent accounting staff and financial control staff of the Senate itself.
For the most part, this work has been carried out in a non-partisan way because these are, or should be, institutional rather than partisan issues. Unfortunately, honourable senators, that is not the foundation upon which the report that is before us today is built. This report was bulldozed through the Internal Economy Committee a week ago last Thursday. Senator Tkachuk attempted to ram it through the Senate that very day before most of us had an opportunity to read it, much less study it.
This report is not the product of the sort of careful consideration and study that we have come to expect from the Internal Economy Committee. This report does next to nothing to deal with the abuse allegations that are the subject of the reports tabled that same day with respect to Senators Brazeau, Duffy and Harb. Nothing in this report would have prevented or identified earlier the improprieties alleged to have been committed by these three senators.
Honourable senators, make no mistake; the twenty-fifth report of our Committee on Internal Economy is a politically motivated document, designed to distract our attention and that of the media and the public from focusing on those other reports.
Some of the recommendations are entirely reasonable. Who can argue that expense claims should not be supported by receipts — I always assumed they were — or that mileage claims should not be supported by appropriate documentation? However, some of the other proposals seem, on the face of them, less obviously sound.
In order to carry out our duties and responsibilities as senators, it is necessary for us to travel, primarily between the province we represent and Ottawa, and occasionally, and properly, elsewhere in the country and on occasion abroad. Of course, all travel expenses charged to the Senate must be incurred in the discharge of our duties and responsibilities as senators. Our ability to travel should not be unlimited. It should be subject to reasonable, but not unreasonable, restrictions. No explanation has been offered to us, either by Senator Tkachuk when he presented the report or Senator LeBreton when she moved it today or in the course of her address earlier this afternoon. No explanation has been offered to us as to why the changes proposed in this report are necessary or even desirable to achieve that standard of reasonableness. As Senator LeBreton is reported to have told her own caucus on May 9, this is the time for implementation, not negotiation.
Honourable senators, our current controversy is not about the clarity or adequacy of the rules; it is about the observance or non-observance by some senators of those rules. There are a number of proposals in this report that deserve support; others, as I say, appear to be less deserving, but, as I said at the outset, this report was intended as a distraction rather than as a serious attempt at reform.
My suggestion is that we remove that distraction by adopting this report today, while making it clear to the Internal Economy Committee that we expect better of them in the future.
Some Hon. Senators: Hear hear.
The Hon. the Speaker: Is there further debate?
Hon. Terry M. Mercer: I do not plan to speak long, honourable senators, but I do think it is worth mentioning that the changes to the travel policy are going to limit the ability of many senators to do the good work that they do for the people of Canada.
I think of Senator Munson's work on autism across the country. The 12 trips that he is allowed to take will limit him. Twelve points are available for him to do that work and many other things, including his work with Special Olympics, as well.
I think of Senator White's work on restorative justice in the North. When you travel there, you do not do it overnight. It takes quite a while.
My colleague Senator Dallaire — probably one of the busiest guys here — does work on child soldiers. He is across this country, back and forth, all the time, doing good work on behalf of Canadians and the Senate. His work will be limited.
I think of Senator Jaffer's good work on behalf of human rights across the country, meeting with groups of people who are concerned about human rights and who have concerns about the changes that need to be made or changes that have been made. Senator Jaffer's travel will be restricted.
Senator Kenny, who has been here a long time, has a record of being out there, reaching out to various groups across the country. I do not want to itemize all of the things that Senator Kenny does because it is a long list, but, for example, his work on restricting tobacco advertising for young Canadians is a very worthwhile effort that would be restricted by this.
I think Senator Cowan is right. I was sort of surprised when I arrived here that one did not need a receipt for a taxi when one went to the airport. In any other job I was ever in, I always needed a receipt, so I provided them. A travel log makes perfect sense to me and, indeed, even without a travel log, I will give an example. I will use myself as an example.
I travelled from my home in Mount Uniacke, Nova Scotia, to Antigonish, Nova Scotia, for an event one day. I put in a claim for it. I got a call from the Senate administration saying, "Senator Mercer, you have gone 40 kilometres too far." When I got in the car, I pressed the little button on my car. When I got back, I recorded it and sent a note to my assistant. I would be happy to use a travel log if one was provided. What they did not know was that I had gone to Antigonish, but, on the way back, I had gone to the town of Pictou and done some work there, which took me off of that path on my way back, et cetera. They cannot tell that by the description of my trip to Antigonish, but this Senate administration does a good job of checking up on that. I do not necessarily think they should be using Google.
There is one thing this does not catch, though, honourable senators, if the intention of the government is to limit or to moderate travel. It does not account for the travel that those people on that side have access to when they travel with ministers. There is a record of this government that is different from previous governments. Previously when ministers travelled to international meetings, they took members of the opposition with them, but this government, honourable senators, does not do that. They do take some of their own colleagues with them. Perhaps they might want to amend this so that all senators will have to report the travel that they take with ministers, whether it be overseas or across the country, because that does not come out of the 64 points. More important, it does not come out of the 12 points, which is the real problem here.
Honourable senators, I have never taken one of these overseas trips, other than, for example, for the Commonwealth Parliamentary Association, the Canada-U.K. Parliamentary Association or one of those groups, but I know others have. I know Senator LeBreton, I think in 2007, went to the APEC meeting in Port Douglas, Australia. It cost the taxpayers $17,222.91. She did not tell us about that. No, she decided to say that Senator Austin, from Vancouver, spent a little more than she did when she lives in Manotick. In terms of the size of this country, Manotick is just around the corner. It is not really right around the corner. It is a little drive, but it is only about a half-hour drive.
Senator LeBreton: I do not claim mileage. I have been in the Senate for 20 years, and I have never claimed mileage.
Senator Mercer: No, but you also have a driver. Do not go sugar-coating yourself and attacking the good name of Senator Jack Austin, who served this Senate for many years.
I support many of these changes, other than that particular one that limits our travel to only 12 trips to places across Canada that are not for our travel back to our own province because it does restrict us. It will make the work we do here much more difficult.
I support those, but I really resent your personal attacks on people without naming names other than saying our good friend Senator Austin, who is not here to defend himself. You should be ashamed of yourself, Senator LeBreton.
The Hon. the Speaker: Further debate?
Hon. Anne C. Cools: Honourable senators, I would like to have some questions answered about the twenty-fifth report of the Standing Committee on Internal Economy, Budgets and Administration on the Senate Travel Policy. It is a little difficult because the chair is not here. I am just wondering who is fielding questions on behalf of the committee for the report? It is the chair's report, so who is sponsoring it in his stead?
The Hon. the Speaker: The adoption of the report has been moved by the Honourable Senator LeBreton and seconded by the Honourable Senator Carignan.
Senator Cools: Then I can ask questions of one or both of them. Would that be satisfactory? Do we have a choice? Can I choose? I will do it alphabetically. I will go with "C".
My question —
The Hon. the Speaker: Why do you not make your intervention, and questions you have you might present as rhetorical questions as part of the speech. Then, after your speech, when it is time for comments and questions of you, perhaps the information you are seeking could be achieved that way.
Senator Cools: I thank you very much for your suggestion, Your Honour, but it is a standard practice that the sponsor of a report fields questions about the report. There was a time when a motion would not be adopted here if the mover of the motion was not prepared to speak to it.
My overwhelming concern covers sections (a), (b) and (c) of the first paragraph of the report. I would like to know why the Internal Economy Committee needs to have in its possession those three items from individual senators. I am speaking of the senators' proof — the driver's licences, the health cards and the relevant pages of their income tax returns. I understand why someone should see proof of our existence, but no auditor or certifier needs to take possession of said documents or copies. This matter of ownership touches personal privacy in very personal ways.
If I could have an answer to that, I would feel greatly gratified. It is especially of interest to me since I make no claims on these housing allowances. I have been told that these personal items have to be demanded of every senator so as to avoid charges of discrimination. However, I have never known an auditor who took ownership of the documents audited. An auditor looks at documents and certifies that he or she has seen them. It seems to me that someone with the proper credentials and under the proper circumstances can look at these documents and certify that they have seen them. I do not see why possession of these documents has to be taken and why there have to be files anywhere in this building of these very personal items.
This is a very relevant question, and someone should answer it — maybe the deputy chair of the committee. It is a very important question. For what reason does the committee need volumes of files of this personal information when in a few years' time no one will remember where and what they are?
The Hon. the Speaker: Honourable senators —
Senator Cools: This is not my speech; this is a question.
The Hon. the Speaker: Honourable senators, the question before the house is on the twenty-fifth report of the Standing Committee on Internal Economy, Budgets and Administration. After a cursory reading of that report it is my understanding that it does not deal with this matter. Does it? Then I stand corrected.
Senator Cools: The twenty-fifth report, which was presented on Thursday, May 9, 2013, says at (a):
That accompanying their primary residence declaration each senator furnish a driver's licence, a health card and the relevant page of their income tax form each and every time the declaration is signed. This declaration is signed annually for the purpose of claiming living expenses in the NCR;
Someone has to explain to honourable senators why the committee has decided that these documents have to be in their possession. I am sympathetic to a process wherein the law clerk or someone credentialed witnesses and certifies that a senator meets and presents proof of their existence. I understand that. However, I do not understand why anyone has to take possession of those documents. I guess I am talking to myself.
Senator Nolin: No, you are not; we are listening.
Senator Cools: Would anyone else care to answer?
Hon. Claude Carignan (Deputy Leader of the Government): Honourable senators, I understand that Senator Cools is exercising her right to speak by raising questions. I have to hear those questions in this manner because senators can ask questions only when they rise to speak.
Senator LeBreton spoke earlier. Senator Cools could have asked her as many questions as she wanted to then because Senator LeBreton did not have a time limit. Senator Cools could have asked questions for two hours. However, that is not what happened. Senator Cowan rose to speak, which put an end to Senator LeBreton's time.
If no one has the floor, senators can ask the individuals who take questions, namely, the Leader of the Government and committee chairs, these types of questions during Question Period. If Senator Cools wants to raise questions during her speech, she can also use that technique. However, no one can answer questions during a speech.
The Hon. the Speaker: Order, please. Honourable senators, we are going to follow the rules here. We are on debate. After an honourable senator has spoken, normally for 15 minutes although leaders have unlimited time, any other honourable senator is able to ask a question or make a comment, if the senator who has spoken agrees to answer the question.
Senator Cools has 15 minutes, some of that time has been used. We are on debate.
Senator Cools: I move the adjournment of the debate. I had questions for the chair of the committee, which I have had for quite some time. Since I am being compelled to make this a speech, I will work on a speech, present it and use the rest of my time accordingly. I take the adjournment of the debate.
(On motion of Senator Cools, debate adjourned.)
Hon. Mobina S. B. Jaffer, pursuant to notice of May 8, 2013, moved:
That notwithstanding the Order of the Senate adopted on November 2, 2011 and June 27, 2012, the date for the final report of the Standing Senate Committee on Human Rights on the monitoring of the implementation of recommendations contained in the committee's report entitled Children: The Silenced Citizens: Effective Implementation of Canada's International Obligations with Respect to the Rights of Children be extended from June 28, 2013 to June 26, 2014.
The Hon. the Speaker: Is it your pleasure, honourable senators, to adopt the motion?
Hon. Senators: Agreed.
(Motion agreed to.)
Hon. Mobina S. B. Jaffer, pursuant to notice of May 8, 2013, moved:
That notwithstanding the Order of the Senate adopted on October 26, 2011 and June 27, 2012, the date for the final report of the Standing Senate Committee on Human Rights on issues of discrimination in the hiring and promotion practices of the Federal Public Service, to study the extent to which targets to achieve employment equity are being met, and to examine labour market outcomes for minority groups in the private sector be extended from June 28, 2013 to June 26, 2014.
The Hon. the Speaker: Is it your pleasure, honourable senators, to adopt the motion?
Hon. Senators: Agreed.
(Motion agreed to.)
Hon. Mobina S. B. Jaffer, pursuant to notice of May 8, 2013, moved:
That notwithstanding the Order of the Senate adopted on June 22, 2011 and June 27, 2012, the date for the final report of the Standing Senate Committee on Human Rights on issues relating to human rights and, inter alia, to review the machinery of government dealing with Canada's international and national human rights obligations be extended from June 28, 2013 to June 26, 2014.
The Hon. the Speaker: Is it your pleasure, honourable senators, to adopt the motion?
Hon. Senators: Agreed.
(Motion agreed to.)
(The Senate adjourned until Thursday, May 23, 2013, at 1:30 p.m.)