- SENATORS' STATEMENTS
- ROUTINE PROCEEDINGS
- Senate Ethics Officer
- The Honourable Michael Duffy
- Canadian Human Rights Commission
- Privacy Commissioner
- Conflict of Interest for Senators
- Canada-France Interparliamentary Association
- Foreign Affairs and International Trade
- Distinguished Visitor in the Gallery
- QUESTION PERIOD
- Employment and Social Development
- Delayed Answers to Oral Questions
- National Defence
- Foreign Affairs
- Fisheries and Oceans
- ORDERS OF THE DAY
- Corrections and Conditional Release Act
- Food and Drugs Act
- Federal Framework on Lyme Disease Bill
- Rules, Procedures and the Rights of Parliament
- The Senate
- Appendix - Senators Lists
Tuesday, September 16, 2014
The Senate met at 2 p.m., the Speaker in the chair.
The Hon. the Speaker: Honourable senators, I have the honour to inform the Senate that a commission under the Great Seal of Canada has been issued to Michel Patrice, Law Clerk and Parliamentary Counsel, appointing him a Commissioner to administer the oath of allegiance to members of the Senate, and also to take and receive their declarations of qualification.
Hon. Senators: Hear, hear!
Hon. Elizabeth Hubley: Honourable senators, I would like to pay tribute to Mr. Hugh Allan "Buddy" MacMaster, who died in August at the age of 89 years.
Often called "the Dean of Cape Breton fiddling," he was one of the world's great traditional musicians. He brought the Cape Breton style into our living rooms and influenced generations of fiddlers, both at home and around the world.
As a small child he imitated his father's fiddle playing with a pair of sticks, later learning to play the real thing and performing for the first time in his teens. As an adult, he worked during the day for Canadian National Railway, playing fiddle most nights at house parties, weddings, benefits and legion halls around the region.
Mr. Bob MacEachern, a friend of Buddy's, summed up how these events often came about: "The first thing you did when organizing a concert was call Buddy to find out when he was available. Whatever date he happened to be free was your concert date — and then you would fill in with the other talent. If you had Buddy, you had a show."
It was said that Buddy rarely declined a gig. His niece, world-renowned fiddler Natalie MacMaster, said he didn't want to let anybody down.
In addition to his local shows, Buddy held court on CBC TV shows like "Ceilidh" and "The John Allan Cameron Show." After his retirement from CNR in 1989, he was able to take his unique style abroad, and recorded the first of five albums, Judique on the Floor.
His legendary musical life has been recognized in many ways: the Order of Canada, the Order of Nova Scotia, and honorary doctorate degrees from Cape Breton and St. Francis Xavier universities. He received the Dr. Helen Creighton Lifetime Achievement Award at the East Coast Music Awards in 2006, and earlier this year, he was named this year's Lifetime Achievement Award recipient by Folk Alliance International.
Buddy stayed in Judique for the rest of his life, passing away at his home just two months short of his ninetieth birthday. He leaves behind his beloved wife, Marie, and two children, Allan and Mary, as well as a large extended family and countless friends. Please join me in recognizing the legacy of the King of the Jigs, and in offering our sincere condolences to the MacMaster clan.
Hon. Douglas Black: Honourable senators, I rise today to congratulate my friend Jim Prentice on becoming Alberta's sixteenth premier.
Some Hon. Senators: Hear, hear!
Senator Black: I know, and many of you know, that Jim has the energy, the intelligence and the knowledge of Canada that will make him not only a great premier of Alberta but also a strong, national leader.
As the former Member of Parliament for Calgary Centre-North, Premier Prentice has served our government in a variety of ministerial portfolios, as well as serving as Chair of the Cabinet Committee on Operations.
Jim's leadership comes at a crucial time for Alberta. There is much to celebrate in Alberta. Alberta is the engine of the Canadian economy. We lead the country on most economic and social indicators, including growth, earnings, employment and educational attainment.
However, all is not rosy in paradise. Alberta is confronting several challenges that, if not met, will adversely affect both Alberta and Canada's prosperity.
In my view, one of the three most significant challenges facing Premier Prentice is to rebuild trust and accountability in government and its leaders. We are all public servants. Our role is to serve our province and our country to the best of our ability, while never accruing benefits or privileges through the offices we hold. The public's business must be done in a transparent fashion. This principle must be reaffirmed in Alberta, and Premier Prentice must do just that.
Second, ensuring market access for Alberta's energy resources is critical. This cannot be achieved without forging new partnerships based on trust with Aboriginal Canadians and demonstrating that Canada's ability to minimize potential environmental issues leads the world. Premier Prentice understands these two realities.
Finally, we must address Alberta's unique labour market challenges. We have a tremendous thirst for labour in our province. The frustration many Alberta businesses have expressed over recent changes to the Temporary Foreign Workers Program is a strong example of the challenges faced.
Jim Prentice understands the importance of these issues, and I look forward to working with him and his government to advocate for solutions to these issues. Please join me in congratulating Premier Prentice and his family as they step into this challenging role.
We are indebted to all our leaders for the contributions and sacrifices they make.
Some Hon. Senators: Hear, hear.
Hon. Pierrette Ringuette: Honourable senators, the summer was very exciting for people in my region. Acadia of the Lands and Forests hosted the World Acadian Congress from August 8 to 24.
For the first time, the World Acadian Congress brought together northwest New Brunswick, eastern Quebec, and much of Maine. Politicians from all levels of government, including our Speaker, visited us, and I can tell you that our region's legendary hospitality shone as bright as the star on the Acadian flag. We had more than 50,000 visitors. All our communities organized outstanding activities, including local artists' works, the unveiling of restored historic sites, symposiums and over 60 family gatherings.
I wish to congratulate the entire World Acadian Congress team and the thousands of volunteers from our communities who committed their time and energy to make the congress a resounding success.
That said, on Friday, August 8, the Governor General's Caring Canadian Award was given out to nine individuals from our region: Marielle Landry, Anne Martin, Samuel Moreau, Brigitte Morin, Émilien Nadeau, Lise Pelletier, Huguette Plourde, Nicole Plourde and Norman Thériault. Their tireless work made the World Acadian Congress a success.
Honourable senators, while I attended these awards and was proud that the Governor General had recognized their work, I must admit I was deeply, deeply disappointed by the mediocre ceremony. The awards were handed out behind the Governor General's It's An Honour! 10-wheeler tour truck.
In my humble opinion, there was nothing honourable about this ceremony. It was like they wanted to be done with it. I have participated in numerous awards ceremonies, and I believe the personnel at the Office of the Governor General owe an apology both individually and collectively to the recipients, their communities, and the thousands of volunteers that they brilliantly led.
I cannot end on a negative note, for all the organizers and volunteers showed great dedication and outstanding professionalism.
Bravo and long live the World Acadian Congress!
Hon. Asha Seth: Honourable senators, it is with a great sadness that I rise today to remember and commemorate the life of Vasu Chanchlani, a man who was deeply respected and admired in the Indo-Canadian community and across the GTA. Vasu Chanchlani was a person devoted to his family and his community. A native of Bhopal, the capital of the Indian state of Madhya Pradesh, Chanchlani worked very hard to become an internationally respected entrepreneur who, after moving to Canada in 1979, quickly became a community leader and supporter.
As a professional, he had a monumental impact as the founder of the Sigma Group of Companies, a global IT family of companies catering to leading organizations. I was always especially touched by his philanthropic work through the Chanchlani Research Centre at McMaster University, which has played a huge role in understanding the genetic and environmental causes of common diseases among diverse cultural groups, women and the socially disadvantaged in Canada and abroad.
We will never forget this great friend of our community, who has been taken from us far too soon. His legacy lives on in his many contributions to our city and country and through his loving family, wife and three children.
Honourable senators, when you were born, you cried and the world rejoiced. Live your life in a manner so that, when you die, the world cries and you rejoice. Chanchlani, my friend, you lived your life very well. May peace be with you.
Thank you very much, honourable senators, for your time.
Hon. Joseph A. Day: Honourable senators, good afternoon, and welcome back.
Earlier this month, honourable senators, Marilyn Williams, a resident of Saint John, New Brunswick, and a member of the Joints in Motion Training Team for the Arthritis Society, took part in a special trip to Belgium for the In Flanders Fields Marathon. This year's marathon marks the one hundredth anniversary of the start of the First World War. The marathon takes participants from all over the world on a memorable route through various important historical landmarks.
Marilyn, who suffers from arthritis herself, is a member of the Canadian Armed Forces reserve and has been fundraising for the Arthritis Society for many years. On a volunteer basis, she has managed to personally raise $43,000 for arthritis research.
Honourable senators, since 1999, the Arthritis Society has raised over $33 million to fund arthritis research that benefits the over 4.6 million Canadians living with this condition.
Marilyn said she never thought she could run a marathon, and yet she began this journey by successfully running a marathon in Flanders in 2004. A decade later, she is returning to do it again. The marathon in Flanders is very special to her as a member of the Canadian Armed Forces because she was running through the very fields where Canadian soldiers had fought and died between 1914 and 1918.
Honourable senators, regardless of her physical condition, Marilyn continues to run with the same determination and passion in order to help others and make a difference. She has been volunteering and serving Canada for 10 years.
Marilyn proves, day after day, that no matter the circumstances we are faced with in life, each of us can still contribute to a better Canada. Please join with me in congratulating Marilyn Williams for her devotion and sharing those wonderful Canadian values that make Canada stronger.
The Hon. the Speaker: Honourable senators, I wish to draw your attention to the presence in the gallery of Ms. Jinah Kim. She is the sister of the Honourable Senator Martin.
On behalf of all honourable senators, I welcome you to the Senate of Canada.
Hon. Senators: Hear, hear!
Hon. A. Raynell Andreychuk: Honourable senators, pursuant to section 45(2)(b) of the Conflict of Interest Code for Senators, I have the honour to table an inquiry report of the Senate Ethics Officer, which was transmitted to the Clerk of the Senate on June 25, 2014, pursuant to section 45(2)(a) of the code.
For clarity, I would note that this inquiry report is being considered under the provisions of the code that came into force on October 1, 2012, and in accordance with the third report of the Standing Senate Committee on Conflict of Interest for Senators, adopted by the Senate on April 1, 2014.
The Hon. the Speaker: Honourable senators, I have received a copy of the indictment relating to Senator Duffy, certified by the Ontario Court of Justice on July 22, 2014. Pursuant to rule 15- 4(1)(b), I now table the document.
The Hon. the Speaker: Honourable senators, I have the honour to table, in both official languages, the report of the Canadian Human Rights Commission pursuant to section 61 of the Canadian Human Rights Act.
The Hon. the Speaker: Honourable senators, I have the honour to table, in both official languages, the 2013-14 annual reports of the Office of the Privacy Commissioner of Canada, pursuant to section 72 of the Access to Information Act and section 72 of the Privacy Act.
Hon. A. Raynell Andreychuk: Honourable senators, I have the honour to inform the Senate that pursuant to rule 12-30(1) the Standing Senate Committee on Conflict of Interest for Senators deposited with the Clerk of the Senate on Monday, August 25, 2014, its sixth report, which deals with an inquiry report received on June 25, 2014, from the Senate Ethics Officer pursuant to subsection 46(1) of the Conflict of Interest Code for Senators, 2012.
Honourable senators, this is a report that, pursuant to rule 12- 31, is deemed presented and will be published in the Journals.
(For text of report, see today's Journals of the Senate, p. 1158.)
The Hon. the Speaker: I thank the honourable senator for reading that. I concur. That's usually what I say.
Senator Andreychuk: I'm very eager to have the chamber understand our process, and I thank you for pointing out that perhaps Your Honour should have had the first privilege of making that statement.
(On motion of Senator Andreychuk, report placed on Orders of the Day for consideration at the next sitting of the Senate.)
Hon. Yonah Martin (Deputy Leader of the Government): Honourable senators, with leave of the Senate and notwithstanding rule 5-5(g), I move:
That when the Senate adjourns today, it do stand adjourned until Thursday, September 18, 2014, at 1:30 p.m.
The Hon. the Speaker: Is leave granted, honourable senators?
Hon. Senators: Agreed.
The Hon. the Speaker: Is it your pleasure, honourable senators, to adopt the motion?
Hon. Senators: Agreed.
(Motion agreed to.)
Hon. Claudette Tardif: Honourable senators, I have the honour to table, in both official languages, the report of the Canadian parliamentary delegation of the Canada-France Interparliamentary Association respecting its participation at the 70th anniversary of the Normandy Landings, held in Normandy, France, from June 5 to 7, 2014.
Hon. A. Raynell Andreychuk: Honourable senators, I give notice that, at the next sitting of the Senate, I will move:
That the Standing Senate Committee on Foreign Affairs and International Trade be authorized to examine and report on: the potential for increased Canada-United States- Mexico trade and investment, including in growth areas in key resource, manufacturing and service sectors; the federal actions needed to realize any identified opportunities in these key sectors; and opportunities for deepening cooperation at the trilateral level; and
That the committee report to the Senate no later than March 31, 2015.
The Hon. the Speaker: Honourable senators, I draw your attention to the presence in the gallery of our former colleague, Senator Buth.
On behalf of all honourable senators, I welcome you back to the Senate of Canada.
Some Hon. Senators: Hear, hear!
Hon. James S. Cowan (Leader of the Opposition): Honourable senators, my question is for the Leader of the Government in the Senate. It's one of a series of questions we've received in response to our invitation to Canadians to ask questions on their behalf. We continue to provide the opportunity for Canadians to do so.
Today my question was received from Mr. Evan Brazeau of Toronto, Ontario. His question is this:
Since gaining a majority in 2011 and pursuing its tough- on-crime agenda, the Conservative Government has been stymied time and time again by the courts. Never before have judicial challenges been so commonplace. It is clear Prime Minister Harper sees these well-regarded institutions as mere obstacles in his path.
The latest defeat came at the hands of Ontario's top court. Provisions in the Truth in Sentencing Act that limit pretrial sentencing credit were struck down. The Appeal Court was quite clear in its ruling: "Like many attempts to replace the scalpel of discretion with a broadsword, its application misses the mark and results in unfairness, discrimination and ultimately unjust sentences."
Perhaps these rulings are a reflection of the Government's tendency to rush bills through Parliament in the absence of careful consideration. Instead of being encouraged, debate is often shut down. Rational amendments from opposition members are continually rejected. Simply put, this protocol is contrary to the fundamental principles of democracy.
No party should let their ideology undermine what's best for its citizens. So I —
— and this is Mr. Brazeau —
— ask of you: When will this government begin to work alongside other Parliamentarians instead of against them?
Hon. Claude Carignan (Leader of the Government): I did see this note still up on the Liberal senators' website, about being able to ask questions. As that individual points out, we are working to ensure that the streets in our Canadian regions and towns are better protected. We are also introducing bills that support the fight against crime. We are taking measures to support victims and want them to be involved in the judicial process.
On your side of the aisle, you take a completely different approach. The person who asked this question can see a clear difference between us and the opposition with regard to our approach to crime. Our approach involves defending the victims, while it seems that on your side, you take a more liberal approach to criminals.
Senator Cowan: Well, that's an interesting response, except that it doesn't address the question Mr. Brazeau asks. He asks: Why is it that the government continues to disregard the unprecedented number of challenges that are made to its legislation, based upon the Constitution of this country, the number of times when the courts have struck down the government's legislation, and why is it that the government continuously refuses to address these issues and to put a better process in place to ensure that its laws are not struck down when they're challenged by the courts?
Senator Carignan: Thousands of cases are heard every day in the courts thanks to the enforcement of laws passed by this Parliament. Sometimes the constitutionality of laws is challenged, in which case we must abide by various rulings, but when the Supreme Court asks us to take action, we do so.
Bill C-36 underwent a pre-study this summer by the Standing Senate Committee on Legal and Constitutional Affairs. This is a fine example of an instance where we have to exercise our parliamentary obligations and adopt a new legislative framework with regard to prostitution. I hope you will join us in passing this bill.
As far as the various decisions are concerned, including the one affecting truth in sentencing, when cases call legislation into question, we look at it in order to determine what to do next.
One thing is certain: Canadians should expect — and do expect — that violent offenders will be given sentences that reflect the severity of their crimes. We believe that the most dangerous criminals must remain behind bars, which is what they deserve. That is why in the last Throne Speech our government said, for example, that we would eliminate automatic early parole for repeat serious offenders. As for the worst offenders, our government will amend the law so that a life sentence is truly a life sentence. That is our legislative agenda. There is a very clear difference between this Conservative government and the NDP and Liberal opposition. Canadians can be sure that this government stands up for victims and not for criminals.
Senator Cowan: I don't think there's any question in the minds of Canadians, or indeed the minds of us observers and parliamentarians, about what the government's agenda is. The question is why the government continues to ignore the evidence presented by witnesses in the House of Commons and in the Senate, as well as the warnings of parliamentarians in that place and here, that many of the bills have a real chance of a successful challenge under the Charter of Rights and Freedoms. Many of the warnings that have been given to the government by parliamentarians, witnesses and experts alike, inside and outside Parliament, have been ignored by the government, and then the courts accept those objections and rule all or parts of the government's legislation unconstitutional.
As the Leader of the Government in this place, does that pattern not concern you? If it does, what are you going to do about it? What are you going to do to ensure that the agenda, which you are perfectly right to promote, is carried out in a way that complies with the law of the land?
Senator Carignan: As you know, many witnesses are called as part of the process to enact legislation. There was a good example of this in recent weeks with the pre-study of Bill C-36. Witnesses said that it is important to pass this bill. Some claim that the bill may be challenged. As is the case with any bill, it may be challenged, and ultimately it is the courts that ensure that a law is constitutional or, in this case, that it complies with the Charter of Rights and Freedoms.
One thing is certain: It is our role as legislators to listen to Canadians. Perhaps in the next election campaign, which, as you know, will take place in 2015, you will go door to door. You will then realize that Canadians share our concerns and believe that the most dangerous offenders deserve to remain behind bars and that repeat offenders should be kept off the streets so that our communities are safer.
Senator Cowan: Before we adjourned in June, I asked the Library of Parliament to prepare a paper for me outlining the number of constitutional challenges on bills since 2006, and I produced a document — which I'd be happy to share with any colleagues who would like to receive it — dealing with legislation and executive actions. It goes on for eight or nine pages. As we all know from the media and reports from courts over the summer, the list is even longer.
So I repeat my question: Are you not concerned that aspects of your agenda, which you continue to pursue, are also continually being struck down by the courts? Isn't that a concern? Surely the Government of Canada, above all, has a responsibility to respect the constitutional framework of this country.
Senator Carignan: Be careful with your numbers. If you start with rulings from 2006, you are probably dealing with legislation passed by the Liberals before that. We needed time to carry out our agenda. I did law school and graduate school and I also taught. I have taken courses, and given them, in which I had to study rulings where legislation passed by the Liberals was declared unconstitutional.
Hon. Grant Mitchell: Honourable senators, my question is about Canada's economy and focuses specifically on the fact that the Prime Minister is constantly giving the impression that Canada has the strongest economy in the world. The figures in no way justify that.
It's interesting to note that while the Conservatives continuously say that job creation is the strongest among Group of Seven countries, in fact since May 2013 we are down 13,600 full-time jobs. How is it that this government can possibly align its continuous argument that it's got the strongest economy in the world, that it's a great job creator, when in fact we're losing full-time jobs?
Hon. Claude Carignan (Leader of the Government): Senator, our government is focusing specifically on what matters to Canadians: job creation and economic growth.
Of all the G7 countries, our government is the one that has created the most jobs. More precisely, we have created almost 20 per cent more jobs per capita than our closest competitor in the world. Moreover, since the depths of the global recession in July 2009, over 1.1 million net new jobs have been created. Of those, 82 per cent were full-time and 78 per cent of them were created in the private sector.
In addition, the International Monetary Fund and the OECD predict that in the coming years, Canada will be one of the G7 economies posting the strongest growth.
Senator Mitchell, instead of your criticism, I was expecting you to take off your partisan hat and congratulate our government for the way in which it is managing the economy. As we have always said, the global economy remains fragile, and Canada is not immune to economic challenges beyond its borders.
We must stay the course and continue implementing our low- tax plan to stimulate job creation. Joe Oliver, our Minister of Finance, has just announced a credit that will benefit 90 per cent of the small businesses in Canada, enabling them to save $550 million over the next two years. These are concrete measures.
In the coming months, it will be important to keep a high- calibre manager in place and not subject ourselves to the risk that comes with your leader and the carelessness of some of the parliamentarians in the other place.
Senator Mitchell: Speaking of being partisan, that was a shot right there.
Your arguments regarding the Canadian economy are probably based on wishful thinking rather than statistics. Here is another illustration.
Why is it that you continue to argue the strength of your economic management when in fact, for example, the Canadian economy has performed 50 per cent less successfully than the benchmark U.S. S&P 500 stock market index? How is it that you continue to argue on the one hand that you're developing a stronger economy, when on the other hand our stock market has underperformed the S&P 500 by 50 per cent?
Senator Carignan: Senator Mitchell, I must confess, I am surprised that you are examining and measuring the economic parameters that Canadians care about and that you are doing so based on fluctuations in the stock market. Of course, the stock market is one factor to consider, but what matters most to people is employment and economic growth.
I imagine that in your situation, you follow the stock market daily, but what matters to Canadians is having a job and seeing good economic growth. As I was saying, since the depths of the global recession in July 2009, our government has created over 1.1 million net new jobs, 82 per cent of which are full-time. For those 1.1 million people, I can assure you, that is their stock market.
Senator Mitchell: It is interesting to hear the Leader of the Government in the Senate talk about the number of jobs his government has created, because he always bases it on 2009. However, this government came to power in 2006. What is the difference?
Why is it that you always talk about the jobs you've created since 2009 and not the jobs you've created since the time you started in government? You know why that is? I'll answer it for you: It's because you lost 500,000 jobs in the first three years and you don't want to talk about that.
Senator Carignan: Every time I give this answer, I repeat that it's important to start from the depths of the global recession in July 2009. If we want to know where we're going, we have to know where we came from. That's something you shouldn't forget.
We aren't immune to the economic challenges outside our borders. The global economy remains fragile, and we need to stay the course and continue with our low-tax plan to stimulate job creation and economic growth.
Our government is working hard to create jobs and stimulate growth. Economic Action Plan 2014 reflects that. We believe that measures to stimulate economic growth will help create jobs. These measures include creating the Canada Apprentice Loan, supporting more paid internships for young graduates, reducing red tape for small businesses, making unprecedented investments in research and innovation, and bringing in tax breaks for families.
Justin Trudeau admits that he doesn't have an economic policy and that he thinks the budget will balance itself. Either that, or he just invents a policy during Question Period. The Canadian Federation of Independent Business rejected the bizarre and ridiculous proposal Mr. Trudeau made during Question Period yesterday when he said, and I quote:
Some have suggested companies will lay off staff or hold off hiring just to stay under the threshold to receive the credit. I've got news for them, a small business owner doesn't have time to research the eligibility requirements and then carefully manage their payroll to receive a few hundred dollars over two years. But $550-million in the hands of Canada's entrepreneurs instead of the federal government just can't be a bad thing.
Let me repeat that it is important to listen to those concerned, the job creators. We must continue supporting them during this potentially fragile time. We are not immune to what is happening outside our borders. I also think we need to have the best captain.
Senator Mitchell: Canada's economic growth has been averaging 1.9 per cent since 2012, but economic growth in the United States over that same time has been 2.1 per cent.
The U.S. economy is growing faster than the Canadian economy. How is it that this government can continue to say, in spite of all the evidence to the contrary, in spite of all the numbers that don't support their case, that somehow Canada has the strongest economy in the Western world?
Senator Carignan: I don't understand why you don't like these numbers, unless it is for partisan reasons. You should be happy since they are good for Canada. The growth projections come from the International Monetary Fund and the OECD, both of which are predicting that Canada will be one of the G7 economies posting the strongest growth in the coming years. You should be celebrating and helping us pass these economic plans. New phases of the plan will be proposed in the coming months. I hope that you will vote with us to get these next phases passed.
Hon. Céline Hervieux-Payette: I would like to come back to what you were saying earlier about the Liberal leader's comments, which, even as an independent Liberal senator, I still support. With respect to the program that is being implemented to reduce Employment Insurance costs for small and medium-sized businesses, Jack Mintz, one of Canada's leading economists and researchers, said that this type of tax credit will simply prevent small businesses from growing. Businesses have to have 20 employees or less in order to benefit from this measure. As soon as they have 21 or 22 employees, they will be considered medium- sized businesses and will lose the contribution.
I would like to explain the information that Mr. Mintz gave us by saying that the Liberal leader understood, as I do, that a misleading method is being used. It is directly tied to the fact that the government wants to keep the Employment Insurance fund, and that $3.4 billion surplus, instead of giving it back to small and medium-sized businesses and reducing the contribution amount without the 20-employee limit.
I would simply like to remind you that this is not a partisan issue, but rather an economic one. Economists studied this and said that it was not the right approach. I understand that the government's ideology of not having a deficit is sacrosanct. However, the government needs to stop telling tall tales and saying that it is giving people gifts. It is not giving out gifts. It is preventing job creation, which is what economists said.
Hon. Claude Carignan (Leader of the Government): If I understand correctly, you were briefed by an economist, in the same room as Justin Trudeau, to establish your Liberal policy. I have nothing against that. However, call a spade a spade, or a Liberal a Liberal, and stop hiding behind the label of pseudo- independence.
I must remind you that we will not take any advice from the Liberals on managing and using the Employment Insurance fund, to which employees of businesses contribute. Honourable senators will recall that the Liberals took close to $60 billion from the Employment Insurance fund.
Hon. Joan Fraser (Deputy Leader of the Opposition): I would like to come back to the government leader's answer to a question that was asked earlier by my colleague, the Leader of the Opposition. Senator Carignan, you said that our role, as legislators, is to listen to Canadians — or perhaps to citizens; I don't remember the exact word you used. However, I do remember that you said that our role, as legislators, is to listen to the people.
I agree that this is one aspect of our role. However, wouldn't you agree that our primary role, as legislators, is to ensure that the legislation we enact complies with Canada's Constitution?
Hon. Claude Carignan (Leader of the Government): Senator Fraser, that is indeed part of our role. That is why our mandatory sentences for reckless shootings were upheld by the Ontario Superior Court in R. v. Major, c-14, 2009; our drunk driving provisions were upheld by the Supreme Court in R. v. St-Onge Lamoureux, c-2, 2008; our legislative measure to eliminate the two-for-one credit for prison sentences was upheld by the Ontario Superior Court in R. v. Johnson, c-25, 2009; and finally, our legislative measure to limit the use of house arrests was upheld by the Quebec Court of Appeal in R. v. Perry et al., c-9, 2007.
Senator Cowan: What about the other ones?
Hon. Yonah Martin (Deputy Leader of the Government): Honourable senators, I have the honour to table the answer to the oral question asked by the Honourable Senator Chaput on June 5, 2014, concerning the linguistic designation of Canadian Armed Forces units.
I also have the honour to table the answer to the oral question asked by Honourable Senator Fraser on June 5, 2014, concerning the contribution of the Canadian Armed Forces to peacekeeping. Lastly, I have the honour to table the oral question asked by the Honourable Senator Moore on March 5, 2014, concerning the Hamilton Declaration.
(Response to question raised by Hon. Maria Chaput on June 5, 2014)
In 2009, the Royal Canadian Air Force decided that 435 Squadron at Canadian Forces Base Winnipeg would be a bilingual unit. This decision has not changed.
The review of the linguistic designation of Canadian Armed Forces units, which aims to ensure compliance with the Official Languages Act, is ongoing.
While this review may lead to changes to the linguistic designation of some Canadian Armed Forces units, we cannot determine if 435 Squadron could be among them until the review is complete. At this moment, 435 Squadron remains a bilingual unit, and the review has had no effect on that designation.
It should be noted that the linguistic designation pertains only to the language(s) of work. All personal services will continue to be offered in the individual member's language of choice.
(Response to question raised by Hon. Joan Fraser on June 5, 2014)
Since 2006, the Canadian Armed Forces have provided 1,540 positions to peacekeeping operations.
For the purpose of answering this question, Canadian Armed Forces peacekeeping operations since 2006 include, in alphabetical order, operations AUGURAL, BOREAS, BRONZE, CALUMET, CROCODILE, DANACA, GLADIUS, JADE, KOBOLD, SAFARI, SATURN, SCULPTURE, SNOWGOOSE, and SOPRANO. Information on these current and past operations is available at www.forces.gc.ca.
The response refers to the number of positions, not the number of personnel, as some personnel could be deployed more than once, and is limited to deployments of more than 30 days.
(Response to question raised by Hon. Wilfred P. Moore on March 5, 2014)
The Government of Canada was not formally invited to participate in the negotiation or signing of the Hamilton Declaration. That said, Canada supports efforts to conserve and sustainably use the marine environment and its resources and in this regard Canada has been advocating a more robust use of existing international instruments and mechanisms.
The Hon. the Speaker: Honourable senators, I have received the following letter from the Speaker of the House of Commons. The letter is dated September 16, 2014, which I will read:
Attached for your information is a self-explanatory statement I made yesterday in the House of Commons to explain that due to an administrative error, an incorrect version of Bill C-479, which was passed by the House on June 4, 2014, had been transmitted to the Senate.
As you know, our respective officials have been collaborating on this matter, and I wish to inform you that an official version of the corrected copy of the Bill was transmitted to Senate officials yesterday, according to the usual administrative procedures. You will note that the corrected version, which I also attach for your information, incorporates the technical amendment to clause 6 that the House adopted at report stage.
Honourable senators, I first request permission to table this. Is it agreed, honourable senators?
Hon. Senators: Agreed.
The Hon. the Speaker: Honourable senators, St. Augustine teaches us that even out of bad one can find some good. The good I see in this circumstance is thank God we have a bicameral Parliament.
The method of communication between the two houses is by message. We duly received a message with a bill, and we gave that bill first reading.
We then had a motion in this house. We had second reading, which is usually on the principle of the bill. That was done, and after debate at second reading a motion was adopted, an order of this house, to refer the bill for detailed study to the Standing Senate Committee on Legal and Constitutional Affairs — all correctly following proper procedure.
We are now advised — and of course it was not necessary for them to advise us, because as our colleagues began to delve into the bill that they sent us, doing due diligence and good research, they determined that the bill that we received was not the bill as passed by the House of Commons. We were not surprised to be alerted through usual channels that they had made a pretty serious mistake.
I recall something like this happening in the past. The Senate rose to the occasion, and the bills were fixed and the proper legislation received Royal Assent.
In this instance, I am not prepared to read that new message because we have a message dealing with the same substance, which has been the subject of two readings and a debate to refer to committee, and the committee is seized of the bill that they sent us. However, at the same time, the Senate has always been credited for doing good work, as we will do with this bill.
I would ask guidance from the house as to how we wish to proceed, because there are a number of ways in which we could proceed. We must follow our rules no matter how we proceed, because without following the rules, unintended consequences can arise.
I would invite comments from honourable senators at the point we are at now, but I think we should provide a chance for everybody to study the document that has been tabled in the Senate. One way in which we could proceed is to rescind the orders of this house at some point in time. If that were to be done, then I would be comfortable in reading the message, which I understand probably has the bill as passed by the House of Commons. We would have to proceed de novo to deal with that bill. I am in the hands of the house.
However, if we were to go the direction of rescinding, that is a serious house order and our rules provide that notice must be given for a motion to do that. It is not ordinary notice; it is an enriched notice, for good reason; it is five days. But, of course the house may wish, with unanimous consent, not to wait five days. My counsel would be — and I am in the hands of the house — that in these kinds of circumstances it is best to follow strictly the rules that guide us through shallow waters and difficult tides.
I am in your hands, honourable senators. If there is no comment, I leave it at that point and invite you all to study the documents.
Hon. Claude Carignan (Leader of the Government): Honourable senators, I would like to thank His Honour for his explanation. It seems to me that given that an error was made in good faith when the message was sent and given that this bill reached second reading stage, I believe, on the last day of the previous session, there was an agreement in good faith between the two parties to move this bill forward, or in other words, to give it second reading and send it to committee, which is what happened.
I believe it is appropriate — and consistent with your suggestion to rescind, if I understood you correctly — to seek the unanimous consent of the chamber to immediately move forward.
Hon. Joan Fraser (Deputy Leader of the Opposition): Clearly, this was an error made in good faith; I don't think anybody disputes that. The table officers in the other place don't have as their mission in life to send false material to this house.
Nonetheless, an error was made. Our rules do provide for errors or for decisions that have been made by the Senate to be rescinded, as His Honour has just pointed out. It's a procedure provided for in the rules and it's an appropriate procedure. It requires five days' notice of a motion, and then the decision to rescind can be debated and, I would expect, passed, at which point we could proceed with the correct version of the bill.
But there is no urgency to this bill. It is not government legislation. It is a private member's bill and it seems to us, on this side, that there is no particular reason to suspend what would normally be the procedure to be followed. We would recommend using the procedure outlined in rule 5-12, which calls for a notice of motion of five days.
The Hon. the Speaker: The matter will now stand.
Hon. Judith Seidman moved second reading of Bill C-17, An Act to amend the Food and Drugs Act.
She said: Honourable senators, on June 16 of this year, a very important piece of legislation passed in the other place. Bill C-17, the proposed "Protecting Canadians from Unsafe Drugs Act," or "Vanessa's Law," represents a significant step forward for prescription drug safety in Canada.
The last substantial changes made to the Food and Drugs Act were passed in December 1962, over 50 years ago.
As many of you know, Bill C-17 has received all-party support in the other place. The bill is also widely supported by stakeholders, including patient groups, professional associations, academics and industry, in recognition of the important drug safety improvements that Vanessa's Law will deliver.
This bill would not be before us today without the extraordinary dedication of our colleague, Member of Parliament Terence Young, who has been advocating for these changes since the death of his daughter, Vanessa. Bill C-17 carries Vanessa's name and with it a reminder to do everything in our power to ensure that the prescription pharmaceuticals we use are safe.
Honourable senators, the Standing Senate Committee on Social Affairs, Science and Technology is in the process of completing the final stage of a four-part study on prescription pharmaceuticals. This study has been ongoing since March 2012 and has included a comprehensive review of the clinical trials infrastructure in Canada; the state of post-market surveillance systems; the impact of off-label drug use; and, finally, the unintended consequences of prescription pharmaceuticals, which include the critical issues of antibiotic resistance, abuse, misuse and addiction.
Throughout this study, we became aware of a number of recurring themes. These include the particular circumstances of population subgroups such as women, children and the elderly, who are often excluded from clinical trials; the lack of available data on adverse drugs reactions and the inconsistent uptake of electronic health systems; and the benefits of a life-cycle approach to drug management, which include equal emphasis on pre- and post-market oversight.
Honourable senators, Bill C-17 asks for significant changes that will protect Canadian families from unsafe prescription pharmaceuticals. These changes will enable Health Canada, through its minister, to perform a number of critical new functions.
Under Bill C-17, health-care institutions will be required to report serious adverse drug reactions and incidents related to medical devices, giving Health Canada access to critical drug- safety information. Drug and medical-device companies will be compelled to revise labels to clearly reflect health-risk information. The minister will have the power to recall unsafe products and take them off the market.
Contraventions of the law will be met with tough new penalties for unsafe products, including jail time and new fines of up to $5 million per day instead of the current $5,000. In addition, the courts will have discretion to impose even stronger fines if violations were caused intentionally.
The minister will be able to compel drug and medical-device companies to do further testing on a product, including when issues are identified in certain vulnerable populations, such as children. The minister will be able to order a drug or medical- device company to conduct an assessment of a product and provide the minister with the results. Also, through regulation, the minister will be able to place conditions on a market authorization of a drug or medical device. These terms and conditions can be used to require a drug company to submit a risk-management plan and any follow-ups as a condition of sale in Canada.
Honourable senators, it is important to note that thanks to amendments introduced by Mr. Young, "Vanessa's Law" includes additional patient safety measures, which were adopted by the Standing Committee on Health in the other place. These amendments respond directly to feedback from medical and legal experts and greatly improve transparency measures to ensure that Canadian patients, clinicians and researchers, are able to access critical drug-safety information. These amendments require that both positive and negative decisions about drug authorizations be disclosed and explained on a public website; they define the scope of confidential business information, CBI, and allow the Minister of Health to disclose CBI about a product if the minister believes the product may pose a serious risk to Canadians; and they oblige the disclosure of clinical trial information on a public registry.
I am pleased to note that the Standing Committee on Health in the other place strengthened the bill by introducing these amendments; they will result in greater transparency of Health Canada's post-approval activities.
Bill C-17 places an obligation on the minister to make publicly available all regulatory decisions and the reasons for them.
I would also like to take a moment to expand on another important change that Bill C-17 will make to the Food and Drugs Act. Bill C-17 places a mandatory reporting obligation on health- care institutions to report all serious adverse drug reactions to Health Canada. This obligation allows Health Canada to access important drug-safety information, allowing it to act quickly to prevent further harm, for example, by ordering a drug-label change or issuing a recall. The ultimate objective of this provision is to reduce deaths and injuries caused by adverse drug reactions.
The bill contains an accompanying provision that requires the Governor-in-Council to ensure that regulations developed in respect of this reporting obligation do not impose any unnecessary administrative burdens on health-care institutions. Provinces and territories were consulted in the development of this provision, and the Governor-in-Council plans to continue to work with them to develop regulations.
Honourable senators, Bill C-17 will revolutionize the Food and Drugs Act and allow Health Canada to finally institute a life-cycle approach to drug management. The minister will oversee the publication of a modernized regulatory framework for drugs that includes long-term studies of drug safety.
There is no doubt that this bill represents a sea change in drug management and patient safety in Canada.
As the Senate considers this transformative piece of legislation, we must recognize a number of people who have contributed to it: the Minister of Health, who has affirmed her commitment to this issue and pledged to ensure Health Canada works towards greater transparency and openness; Terence Young, whose passion and devotion to this issue has resulted in a bill that fosters strong patient-safety provisions in this country; the members of the Standing Committee on Health in the other place, who worked collaboratively to pass amendments that greatly enhance transparency; and the members of the Standing Senate Committee on Social Affairs, Science and Technology, for undertaking a rigorous study of this subject matter and making a unique contribution to an area of increasing concern and importance.
Bill C-17 is a fine example of the high-calibre work that our parliamentary system can accomplish. However, the process has yet to be completed; the bill must be studied by Senate committee.
Finally, honourable senators, I would like to draw your thoughts back to Vanessa, who is, ultimately, at the very essence of this bill.
Hon. James S. Cowan (Leader of the Opposition): I wonder if Senator Seidman would entertain a question.
Senator Seidman: Certainly.
Senator Cowan: Thank you for your speech. All of us share your admiration for Member of Parliament Young and the work he has done in very difficult circumstances. I'm sure all of us support the principle of this bill.
But as I read the reports of your committee regarding prescription drugs, great concerns were expressed in those reports about the capacity of Health Canada to carry out the work it is now responsible for. I think concerns about that were expressed by the committee.
Do you have any concerns about putting this additional load on Health Canada, and are you confident in their capacity to be able to do the job we will be handing them if we pass this bill?
Senator Seidman: Thank you, senator. There is no question that we heard testimony over a two-year period on clinical trials, post- market surveillance, off-label use and unintended consequences. In all cases, serious concerns were expressed at every level of the system, not only for Health Canada but the pharmaceutical industry, physicians, and even patient oversight, as well as patient education and patient understanding.
There are many pieces involved in this particular legislation, and I am certainly aware that, when it goes to committee, I have no doubt that the committee — and I hate to preclude which committee it will go to, but we might suspect which — and based on that committee's serious understanding and undertaking of a two-year period, they will have the proper questions, consultation and discussion about these very issues.
Senator Cowan: I'm sure you would agree with me that we have a responsibility, as legislators, when we pass legislation designed to deal with a problem recognized in society, that we also make sure there are sufficient resources available to deal with that problem and that we don't lead people to believe that we've addressed a problem when, through lack of resources or some other means, we're not really doing what we are leading them to believe we are doing. I'm sure you would agree with that.
Senator Seidman: Senator, there is no question that behind this bill — the motivation for this bill and all of us as servants of Canadians — that our main concern is protecting Canadians from unsafe drugs. This bill attempts to do that.
It certainly makes serious changes in oversight. I think there are many components to that oversight — not just Health Canada — so there will be regulations and the minister will be involved. The institutions themselves will be subject to oversight, very serious reporting requirements. There are, again, many levels of the world concerned with pharmaceutical drugs, many stakeholders and many aspects that are all part of oversight in this bill.
Hon. Jane Cordy: Thank you, Senator Seidman, for your speech. I think that those of us who are on the Social Affairs Committee are delighted to see that some progress is coming forward. I know we can't pre-judge which committee will get it, but there certainly is one committee that has done a lot of work over the past few years related to the pharmaceutical industry, Health Canada and safe drugs for Canadians.
I, too, would like to congratulate Terence Young; and anybody who has not read his book should do so, because in it you will get a clear idea of the type of advocacy work that he has worked tirelessly for over the past number of years, and he has turned a very personal tragedy into something positive.
You spoke on two occasions during your speech about the job done by the House of Commons committee and amendments that were brought forward. If this bill does go to the Social Affairs Committee, which has done so much work over the past couple of years, would the government be open to accepting not just amendments from the House of Commons side, but amendments from the Senate side in light of the background work we have done in this area?
Senator Seidman: Senator, I always assumed that that was the role of the Senate. The role of the Senate, as His Honour informed us earlier today, is sober second thought. It is our opportunity, indeed, to examine the bill, to hear witness testimony and to move forward from there with whatever possible amendments may or may not be required. I think that is for the committee to work on, to hear, to listen to witness testimony, and then to come to some decision about.
Hon. Terry M. Mercer: Senator Seidman, I appreciate your comments and I think we all have some appreciation for this bill, particularly for Mr. Young and the tragedy that happened to his family, but I want to continue on with Senator Cowan's train of thought.
We understand that in Budget 2012, 275 positions were cut from the health products division at Health Canada. This is a concern when we have this very good piece of legislation before us. In principle I support it, but legislation is no good if we can't enforce it. I don't expect you to necessarily have the answer today, but I would hope as this proceeds through the process that you, and the other members of the committee, will be brutal in your questioning of government officials as to how the implementation will happen and the fact that you cut 275 people in a division that will be responsible for implementing this important piece of legislation. It doesn't balance out. We cut 275 people, but oh, by the way, we want you to implement this legislation.
Perhaps you could tell me if it would be your intent before committee to call witnesses to answer those very specific questions.
Senator Seidman: Senator, I think some would say, at least people on our Standing Senate Committee on Social Affairs, Science and Technology, that we have been and continue to be brutal with government officials. We mince no words; we ask very hard questions because we're dealing with very serious issues and that is the health and safety of Canadians. We don't take that lightly, and we have no qualms about asking the kind of serious questions that you're demanding.
Hon. Art Eggleton: I would like to congratulate Senator Seidman on her presentation. I will speak on Thursday, as the critic for this side, and therefore I'll take the adjournment of the debate.
(On motion of Senator Eggleton, debate adjourned.)
Hon. Janis G. Johnson moved second reading of Bill C-442, An Act respecting a Federal Framework on Lyme Disease.
She said: Honourable senators, it is a great honour to address Bill C-442, An Act respecting a Federal Framework on Lyme Disease.
I thank Elizabeth May, member of Parliament, for asking me to do this and her leadership for giving me the honour to do so.
This proposed legislation is laudable, given that the disease has gone from being an anomaly roughly 40 years ago, to a growing risk to the health of Canadians today.
Researchers note that the geographic range of Lyme disease- carrying ticks has expanded from a small pocket in the northeast of the United States to a wide southern area of Canada.
In light of potentially serious health care issues, this bill focuses national attention on preventing and mitigating Lyme disease across Canada. It offers constructive suggestions about what more can be done to help prevent, identify and treat the disease.
Honourable senators, there is no question that Bill C-442 has struck a chord, and because of this, the federal government has recently enhanced its leadership role in responding to Lyme disease. Key elements proposed in the bill align well with the government's Action Plan on Lyme Disease.
The goals of the action plan are twofold: to prevent Lyme disease and to ensure that cases are treated in the early stages of the disease.
As such, the government is actively collaborating with the provinces and territories, non-governmental and leading health professional organizations, such as the College of Family Physicians of Canada and the Canadian Nurses Association, to deal with the growing health risk posed by Lyme disease.
The Public Health Agency of Canada recognizes that effective protection, prevention and control of Lyme disease require a coordinated, multi-partner and stakeholder engagement approach. The agency is providing national leadership, building consensus, mobilizing partnerships, strengthening surveillance and promoting education and awareness through this action plan, which focuses on three pillars: engagement, education and awareness; surveillance, prevention and control; and research and diagnosis. These three areas are consistent with the key elements of Bill C-442 and are already delivering results.
The agency has a well-established approach to national surveillance for both ticks and human cases of Lyme disease. To enhance its surveillance, prevention and control, the agency is consulting with stakeholders regarding improving prevention efforts, public health guidelines and reference tools on Lyme disease to reflect the latest scientific evidence and best practices.
Equally important, federally funded research is increasing our understanding of Lyme disease. The Canadian Institutes of Health Research, in connection with domestic and international partners, will explore new science and research to better detect, diagnose and treat Lyme disease among Canadians. This will assist medical professionals and provincial laboratories in their diagnosis of the disease.
Honourable senators, there is a need to help the public recognize the dangers of being bitten by ticks and how to prevent and treat tick bites. Removing infected ticks within 48 hours significantly reduces the risk of developing Lyme disease. We heard that some people do not visit their doctor following a bite, either because they do not notice it or because the early symptoms of Lyme disease can be difficult to identify. Many assume they have the flu and don't get any treatment.
The Canadian Public Health Agency is working with the College of Physicians and Surgeons of Canada to engage health professionals on Lyme disease by increasing their knowledge to diagnose and treat it in its early stages.
Diagnostic testing in the early stages of Lyme disease does not always detect the disease because the immune system has not yet developed antibodies, which the blood tests read, thereby potentially rendering inaccurate results. Thus, the Public Health Agency of Canada has committed to looking at new diagnostic methods, as they become available, to better diagnose Lyme disease in Canadians, and diagnostic methods are critical.
Currently, there are no vaccines commercially available that prevent this disease in humans. Until one is available, the government's public awareness campaign recommends that Canadians, particularly in areas where blacklegged ticks are known to occur, be vigilant in protecting themselves by wearing protective clothing and using insect repellent containing DEET or Icaridin. These are currently the best measures to guard against Lyme disease.
In most cases, the disease can be cured with immediate antibiotic treatment and, as it is an emerging disease in Canada, there seems to be a low level of awareness of how to diagnose and treat the disease by Canadian physicians.
Honourable senators, early and accurate diagnosis and treatment are crucial to prevent the onset of serious health problems. If left untreated, this disease can permanently change a person's health, leaving them with chronic illnesses like arthritis and heart disease and many neurological disorders.
Understanding this, the Public Health Agency is reviewing the current body of evidence on Lyme disease prevention, diagnosis and treatment and will work with partners to support new research to address gaps. The agency is also investing in research to find new strains and pathogens of tick-borne diseases, as well as enhanced surveillance to identify new risk areas to better inform Canadians.
The provisions set out in Bill C-442 are well-aligned with what the federal government is doing to effectively address Lyme disease. Through the Action Plan on Lyme Disease, the federal government has demonstrated concrete action to effectively address this serious disease. The Federal Framework on Lyme Disease proposed in this bill will better equip the government to further fulfil its leadership role in addressing this disease head-on.
(On motion of Senator Campbell, debate adjourned.)
The Senate proceeded to consideration of the fifth report of the Standing Committee on Rules, Procedures and the Rights of Parliament (amendments to the Rules of the Senate), presented in the Senate on June 11, 2014.
Hon. Vernon White moved the adoption of the report.
He said: Honourable senators, I am pleased to speak to the fifth report of the Standing Committee on Rules, Procedures, and the Rights of Parliament. The report proposes a system whereby it would be possible to end debate on an item of non-government business in the Senate, but only after we have had considerable discussion here in the chamber. Let me walk through the process briefly, using the example of a bill.
First, the process could not be started until the bill had been debated for at least three hours and called 15 times. That would give senators at least three and possibly more than five weeks to consider the bill. Let me emphasize that we rarely actually debate a bill or other item for this length of time. Last session, for example, only Bill C-377 was debated for more than three hours at both second and third readings. Some other bills got close but did not cross the threshold.
After the bill had met these two basic conditions, a sponsor or critic could, but would not be obliged to, give notice of a motion that debate on the bill be not further adjourned. The notice would be given in the normal way and one day's notice would be needed. At the next sitting, the notice of motion would appear on the Notice Paper.
When moved, certain special procedures would apply, based on the process for debating a motion to allocate time to government businesses. Debate could not be adjourned. Speaking times would be 10 minutes for most senators. The total debate could last a maximum of two and a half hours. The Senate could not adjourn during the debate, and the vote could not be deferred.
If the motion failed, notice of a similar motion could only be given after the basic conditions of being called another 15 times and another three hours of debate had been met a second time.
If, however, the motion were adopted, then, the next time the bill was called, debate would continue until it is completed, without adjournment. The normal rules would generally apply, with a few exceptions. Most notably, the Senate would not adjourn until after the debate is finished, and further amendments would not be allowed. After all the debate, the final vote could be deferred as normal.
This idea has been brought forward as a means of preventing the Senate from being blocked, for an undue length of time, from dealing with an item, while still ensuring that there is a great amount of chance for debate. We have sought to create a system that is clear and fair and that will promote debate.
We compared it to the systems in a number of other legislatures, the French Senate, the U.S. Senate, the Australian Senate, and the House of Lords as examples. All have some method whereby debate can be terminated. So a system of this type is not strange to Parliaments.
In the Canadian Commons, private members' business on the order of precedence is only debated for a maximum of two hours and then decided on. So our system certainly fosters considerably more debate than the system in the other place.
The system we propose for the Canadian Senate is clear since it would be in a single place in the rules. It is fair since it gives senators considerable time to speak over an extended period of time. Senators will, therefore, have a reasonable opportunity, usually five weeks or even longer, to consider a proposal, research it, formulate their thoughts and exchange views with colleagues. Consideration is not meant to be — nor would it be — rushed.
At the same time, it is only fair that the question should be put at some point. By setting relatively high initial conditions that must be met and limiting who can trigger the process, I think we struck a fair balance.
I also think that this proposal will actually encourage debate, which is one of our basic roles in this chamber. The sponsor, if he or she is thinking of invoking this process, will want to ensure that senators speak. Similarly, senators who oppose a proposal will have every interest in ensuring that their remarks actually get onto the record in a speech. Speeches will actually get prepared and be given within a reasonable time. Even when the process is invoked, there will still be a chance to debate. Any senator who has not debated will be able to take part if they wish.
I am convinced that this proposal will actually help encourage debate and foster public respect for this institution. I therefore commend the report to you and encourage you to adopt it after due reflection.
Hon. James S. Cowan (Leader of the Opposition): Honourable senators, I'm disappointed that I have to rise today to speak to this report. During my time in this chamber, our Standing Committee on Rules, Procedures, and the Rights of Parliament has always operated by consensus. That has been recognized explicitly by members of the committee from all sides over the years, and that's as it should be.
Senator David Smith, the former chair and now deputy chair of the committee, said, during the meeting of June 3:
. . . the culture of the Rules Committee has been for some years that you don't change the rules unless you have a consensus on both sides. You don't have to have total unanimity. I'm not into this one person veto stuff, but I think you at least want a consensus on both the government side and the opposition.
Our colleague Senator Nolin, who originally brought forward the report containing proposals to fast-track non-government business from the subcommittee on broadcasting, agreed. At the meeting of June 3, he said this:
I definitely have a lot of support for the comments that were made by Senator Smith, and definitely we need to find some kind of consensus.
But, one week after Senator Nolin spoke those words, suddenly everything had changed and changed dramatically. At the meeting on June 10 — the first meeting was June 3 — the tradition of consensus became no more than a relic of the past when Senator Frum moved that the committee make a decision on the subcommittee report without delay.
Following the introduction of her motion, Senator Smith once again spoke about the importance and need for consensus when it came to changing our rules. He said:
I don't think we have one today. Do you think we should abandon that culture, or should we keep working at it and try a little harder?
Senator Frum's response to Senator Smith was as follows:
I can say there is a lot about the culture of the Senate that people don't like. The culture of the Senate has not changed very much in almost 150 years, and people don't like our culture.
She went on to say:
If there was a consensus in the chamber, that's one thing. But the idea of a few self-empowered individuals getting in the way of the will of the house? It is not an attractive thing for the people.
So while I appreciate there is a culture here, I would say that culture is very slow moving, and it's hard for outsiders to embrace our culture. Sometimes you have to just take the plunge and try things.
The report now before us was adopted by the committee by a 9- 6 vote. And on the basis of this sharply divided vote, according to Senator Frum, the Senate should take the plunge and change its rules without further ado because that's the wish of the government majority.
Colleagues, rules, laws and constitutions are not put in place primarily to protect the majority. They exist to safeguard the minority. And the only purpose of this proposal to change our Rules is to give the majority even greater power over the minority in this chamber.
We've had numerous speeches this session, including from members opposite, pointing to the Senate's critical role representing minorities. How disingenuous to stand and speak of the need to defend minorities, while changing the Rules to bring the heavy hand of the majority down on the minority to prevent, to use Senator Frum's words, "a few self-empowered individuals getting in the way of the will of the house."
These changes would give the majority the ability to fast track those items of non-government business that it finds commendable, while delaying indefinitely those items it disagrees with, without ever having them come to a final vote.
Let me be clear: I believe that in light of the April decision of the Supreme Court of Canada on the Senate reference, we should step back and give some serious thought about how we can properly fulfill or better fulfill our constitutional responsibilities as a legislative chamber of sober second thought. That review could very well result in our reaching a consensus on recommendations of changes that should be made to our rules and procedures. But to begin the exercise by forcing rule changes through the Senate, without any measure of consensus, and then asking how we can all better do our job as legislators is simply and completely illogical. It's doing things backwards, and I'm not prepared to "take the plunge" at the urging of Senator Frum, or to roll the dice, to use another well-known line, while hoping for the best. This is Parliament, not a casino.
What particularly bothers me about this proposal, in addition to the lamentable process that's been followed, is that we will be putting in place a mechanism to give priority to private members' bills arriving from the other place, while the rules and procedures of that place provide no similar mechanism for our bills.
During the June 3 meeting of the Rules Committee, which was only the second meeting of the committee on this matter, Senator Joyal asked that information be provided to committee members about the treatment given by the House of Commons to private members' bills arriving from the Senate. He said:
If we want a private member's bill that has been introduced in the Senate by a senator to be considered in the other place and finally become legislation, I think it would be helpful if we could have an information sheet on the exact procedure in the other place. In other words, if we feel that our procedure needs to be modernized, let's compare it to the way that they do things on the other side before we conclude that there is one of the two chambers that is not really at par with the other.
As he then explained, he thought it important for members to understand "how it is done in the other place so that we try to take into account the picture of the institution of Parliament as a whole when we approach the issue of private member's bills."
A one-page note was prepared by the Library of Parliament on the treatment of private senators' public bills in the House of Commons, which was emailed to members of the committee during the late afternoon of Monday, June 9, the day before the committee's next scheduled meeting, which, as I said, was on June 10.
The note from the library makes it very clear that there is no such reciprocity between the chambers of Parliament when it comes to one another's private members' bills.
Senator Fraser explained to the committee on June 3 that "when we send bills passed by the Senate, other than government bills, to the House of Commons, they go to the bottom of the order of precedence. There they languish for a long, long time."
The research undertaken by the Library of Parliament and circulated, as I say, to members of the committee, confirmed Senator Fraser's view. The note from the Library of Parliament states:
Following a brief statement by the member of the House of Commons sponsoring the bill —
And this is a bill, a private member's bill, sponsored by one of us, which passes this house and goes to the House of Commons.
— the motion to give first reading to the bill is deemed carried. The bill is then added to the bottom of the Order of Precedence for private members' bills. The Order of Precedence determines the order in which a private member's bill will be considered by the House of Commons. The Order of Precedence consists of 30 bills taken from the much lengthier List for Consideration of Private Members' Business.
Our bills go to the bottom of the list, with 30 other pieces of legislation ahead of them.
This would not necessarily be a fatal flaw if every item of private members' business were called for debate every day in that chamber as they are in this chamber. But that's not what occurs in the other place. The rules of procedure in the House of Commons provide that debate on private members' business is limited to one hour per day. So if you're number 30 on the list, don't hold your breath for your turn at the hour of debate.
To make matters worse, the note prepared by the Library of Parliament also states: "Senators' bills may be designated as non-votable in the Private Members' Business Subcommittee of the House of Commons Standing Committee on Procedure and House Affairs . . . ." if it's found to have violated some rule of the House of Commons. There's no committee or subcommittee in our chamber with that kind of power. We have no comparable small group of senators with the power to decide that a private member's bill coming from the House of Commons will never be permitted to come to a vote here.
So our bills go to the bottom of the list there. They can be declared to be non-votable by a small group of members in the other place. What do we do? The majority on our Rules Committee now proposes that we make it even easier for House of Commons private members' bills to work their way through the Senate, asking nothing in return from the other place.
If the chair of our Rules Committee believes that we need to be able to expedite consideration of private members' bills from the other place, where is his concern for bills introduced by his own colleagues in this chamber that are sent down the hall?
Why did he not propose a joint meeting of the Standing Senate Committee on Rules, Procedures and the Rights of Parliament with the House of Commons Standing Committee on Procedure and House Affairs to discuss how to give equal treatment to one another's private members' bills?
Instead, he has presented a report that could have been drafted by members of the House of Commons Standing Committee on Procedure and House Affairs.
Colleagues, I think this is unacceptable. I can't understand or support a proposal coming from our Senate committee to establish a mechanism that would provide a fast track for House of Commons private members' business in this chamber, while obtaining nothing similar in return from the other place when it comes to our own legislation.
In my opinion, until the other place agrees to revise its own procedures to give Senate bills fair treatment, any changes we make to our Rules to allow for the more expeditious consideration of private members' bills should apply only to our own bills, and not to those that arrive from down the hall.
Hon. James S. Cowan (Leader of the Opposition): Therefore, I move that the report not now be adopted but that it be amended by:
1. Replacing paragraph 1.(j) with the following:
"That an item of Other Business that is not a Commons Public Bill be not further adjourned; or";
2. Replacing the main heading before new rule 6-13 with the following:
"Terminating Debate on an Item of Other Business that is not a Commons Public Bill";
3. Replacing the sub heading before new rule 6-13 with the following:
"Notice of motion that item of Other Business that is not a Commons Public Bill be not further adjourned";
4. In paragraph 2.6-13 (1), adding immediately following the words "Other Business", the words "that is not a Commons Public Bill";
5. In the first clause of Paragraph 2.6-13 (3), adding immediately following the words "Other Business", the words "that is not a Commons Public Bill";
6. In the first clause of paragraph 2.6-13 (5), adding immediately following the words "Other Business", the words "that is not a Commons Public Bill"
7. In paragraph 2.6-13 (7) (c), adding immediately following the words "Other Business" the words "that is not a Commons Public Bill";
8. And replacing the last line of paragraph 2.6-13(7) with the following:
"This process shall continue until the conclusion of debate on the item of Other Business that is not a Commons Public Bill".
Hon. Leo Housakos (Acting Speaker): Moved that the report be not now adopted but that it be amended by replacing —
Some Hon. Senators: Dispense.
The Hon. the Acting Speaker: It is moved by the Honourable Senator Cowan, seconded by the Honourable Senator Fraser, that the amendment to the bill be tabled. Question?
Senator Cowan: I think my motion, Mr. Speaker, with respect, was that the bill not be adopted but be amended in the way that I've set out in my amendment.
The Hon. the Acting Speaker: Correct, but the amendment is being put forward to the house for consideration.
Senator Carignan: It's a report. It's not a bill.
Senator Cowan: I meant to say "report."
Hon. Claude Carignan (Leader of the Government): Senator Cowan, I listened carefully to your presentation. I am little puzzled because, on the one hand, you make reference to the long- standing parliamentary tradition whereby there must be consensus between the two sides for a rule change to be made while on the other hand, at the same time, you keep telling everyone, the media, the public in general, that you are all independent and each of you makes decisions independently as a senator.
So how can we expect to get a consensus between the two sides if one of the sides is completely independent and everyone makes decisions on their own? There would never be any rule changes.
Senator Cowan: Let me explain this again. On January 29, Mr. Trudeau decided that senators were no longer part of the national Liberal caucus; and since that date, those of us who sit on this side are not members of the national Liberal caucus. We are still members, most of us — all of us, I believe — of the Liberal Party of Canada. We have designated ourselves as Liberal senators. As you know, under the Rules of the Senate — Senator LeBreton will have an opportunity. Perhaps she could do it when she's on her feet rather than muttering from her seat.
Senator Carignan, the situation is this: Since January 29, we have no longer been members of the national Liberal parliamentary caucus. We continue to sit as Liberal senators in the Senate Liberal caucus. The Speaker of this house has accepted that we are the official opposition in the Senate and that I am the Leader of the Opposition in the Senate, under the Rules of the Senate.
We are independent in that sense. We are no longer members of the national Liberal caucus. We have no connection with them. We take no direction from them. We take no guidance from them. We are not responsible to them in any way. But we meet —
Senator Tkachuk: Do you meet with them?
Senator Cowan: We do not meet with them. Thank you. We do not. We have not met with them since January 29, and that is the fact.
Senator Tkachuk: Oh, oh.
Senator Cowan: It's true. It happens to be true. You may not like it, but it happens to be true. That's the situation.
So we're independent in that sense, but we're not independent of the Liberal Party of Canada. We're still members of the Liberal Party of Canada.
But this has got nothing to do with partisan politics. This has nothing to do with Liberals or Conservatives or New Democrats. This has to do with the operations of the Senate and the way in which we conduct our business. The concerns I have with the proposed rule changes are that, first of all, they were imposed in committee by the majority on the minority. There was no consensus, as we all agreed had been the situation before.
Second, if these rule changes were passed, it would result in the government, the majority, being able to pick and choose amongst pieces of private members' business in this place and deciding which ones they wanted to fast-track and which ones they wanted to delay indefinitely.
That's the difficulty I have. Then you add on to that the fact that if we passed these rules, we would be giving preferential treatment to private members' bills coming from the House of Commons here for which there is no reciprocal treatment, and that seems to me to be unfair.
So if we want to proceed and say, "All right, we need to change the way in which private members' business is being done here," then surely it's sensible that we should sit down with our colleagues in the House of Commons and say, "We're looking at making these changes; will you agree to give the same kind of preferential treatment to our private members' bills that we give to yours?" That's all I'm saying. It's got nothing to do with Liberal, Conservative, New Democrat, or anything to do with that.
Senator Carignan: I hear your explanation about the pseudo- independence of the Liberal caucus. Earlier, though, I heard Senator Hervieux-Payette say that she was in a meeting with Justin Trudeau for a briefing by an economist. But let's say we get out of this debate. In your presentation, you say that the majority wants to impose its point of view. To my knowledge, we currently have six independent senators. As Leader of the Government, I have the power to give any notice of motion that I want in order to use time allocation. It is in the Rules. I have that power. As a senator, I don't need that power; I have it already, as you know, since you have criticized me a number of times for using it. What are we doing with this proposal? We are strengthening a senator's individual right to put forward a motion to say, "Please, senators, can you all consider my bill and debate it?" We are strengthening each senator's power to have his or her own bill debated. And you are criticizing us for wanting to impose our majority? I have that power. I don't need it. We are giving it to all the other senators, especially the independent senators who cannot sit in a caucus, so that they can at least introduce bills and have them debated, if they wish. In case you have forgotten, we are here to debate bills, not let them languish under desks and die of old age. We are here to debate them.
Can you explain to me how, if we, as the government, were to give more power to an individual independent senator, that would be an abuse of power by us as the majority? I don't understand.
Senator Cowan: Those of us on this side have regularly complained about the use and the threat of use of time allocation under your leadership and under the leadership of your predecessor, Senator LeBreton. It has been used, I think, to an unprecedented level with respect to government business.
If you boil it all down, you're saying, "Sure, we're ensuring everything comes up for final vote," but with those rule changes that are being proposed, when you peel it all away, the majority will decide which bills come to a vote when. If the majority decides that a particular private member's bill is not going to come to a vote, it won't come to a vote. That's the situation. That's what we object to.
Senator Carignan: Would you take another question?
How would you explain to Canadians that under your proposed amendment, a bill sponsored by a legitimate, elected MP and introduced by a senator would have fewer rights than a bill introduced by an unelected senator?
Senator Cowan: I'm not sure that I understand the question, Senator Carignan. It seems to me reasonable that if we are equal chambers — both chambers are independent, they're part of our Westminster-style parliamentary system and we respect the work that is done in the House of Commons — it would be seem to me reasonable that we would expect the same level of respect from them.
As I suggested in my remarks, if we say we will give the majority here the power to fast-track bills coming from there, why wouldn't we ask for similar consideration with respect to bills that those of us in this chamber put forth?
It's an academic question if it doesn't pass in this place, but we pass bills and they go to the bottom of the list over there. How is that fair? That doesn't make sense.
Senator Carignan: Senator, this sounds to me like someone who is mad about being left out of the other side: "If you don't give me something, I won't give you anything either." I think you'd be better off leaving your old opposition grudges to your friends in the other place so we can focus on how to go about debating bills.
In my opinion, whether a bill is introduced by an MP — especially if it is introduced by an MP — or by a senator, it must be debated here. Whether the bill is sponsored by an independent senator, a Liberal senator, an independent Liberal senator or a Conservative senator, even without the support of the house leader, it must at least be debated. I am sure that Senator Rivest agrees with that 100 per cent.
Hon. Pierre Claude Nolin: Senator Cowan, I just read your amendments. Do we understand that by including your amendments in the proposed change to the rule you would accept amending the rule for the new process if they're not bills coming from the House of Commons?
Senator Cowan: I proposed an amendment. I want the amendment debated and, at the end of the debate, I and my colleagues here and colleagues on the other side will vote. I'm not saying now how I would vote at such a time. I want to hear the debate.
Senator Nolin: I understand you want a debate on your amendment. I presume that at the end of that debate, by including your amendment to the rule change proposed by Senator White, and let's say that your amendment is accepted and Senator White's process is adapted to your amendment, it would mean that only bills coming from this chamber, the Senate, would be subjected to that new process, not those from the House of Commons. Am I reading your amendments properly? Is the answer yes?
Senator Cowan: I'm not sure that I understand your question, Senator Nolin.
Senator Nolin: I will repeat my question and leave it to the interpreters to translate it properly.
The way I read the amendments being proposed by Senator Cowan, if we adopt these amendments and adopt Senator White's motion, as amended by Senator Cowan, ultimately we would be adopting a new procedure for quick voting, time allocation, for Senate bills, but not for House bills. That is how I read Senator Cowan's amendments.
Am I right or wrong?
Senator Cowan: I'd like to look at that question and review the amendments I have made to be absolutely sure before I respond, so I will do that and perhaps I will speak to you about that.
Thank you for that question.
Hon. Yonah Martin (Deputy Leader of the Government): I have one question. Would you take a question, Senator Cowan?
Senator Cowan: Of course.
Senator Martin: The question is a simple one. At the time of the meetings of the Rules Committee, you would have had the opportunity to put forward this amendment for discussion. I recall, as a member of the Rules Committee, one of the reasons we brought it to the Senate floor was to allow everyone in the chamber to look at the report and the substance of what's being proposed and the rules changes.
I would say that it would be best to take the debate to that. As for the amendment that you are proposing, it seems it is taking away from the importance of that debate we should have.
My question to you is: why wasn't this amendment brought to the Rules Committee when we were having the discussion?
Senator Cowan: I was not a member of the committee. I didn't attend the committee meetings. It was only after I saw the report that I said I think this is wrong and how could we improve it, and the result of that discussion and those consultations was the amendment which I proposed today.
I couldn't have proposed it as you suggest because I wasn't at the meetings.
Senator Nolin: I want to say a few words about the main motion and certainly about the amendments. As far as the amendments are concerned, honourable senators, I will wait for Senator Cowan's response, and once I have that, I can use the rest of my time to comment on that response.
I would like to make three observations. First, when the committee met and we collectively agreed to address this issue, our primary objective was to come up with a procedure. There is currently a procedure for government bills, but there is nothing for bills that are not related to government business.
Second, and this was mentioned in questions and answers, the primary objective of this amendment is to promote debate. If you look closely, and remember what Senator White said, when we on the subcommittee were looking at the two conditions — three hours of debate and 15 sitting days — I can tell you that we three senators on the subcommittee initially thought this was too much.
When we tabled our report in committee, we realized that we had perhaps made a mistake and that there might have been something we didn't understand. The main objection was related to the concern that the amendments would restrict debate, when our objective was to allow debate.
The third point has to do with supporting and respecting the purpose of the Senate. The House of Commons can use whatever procedures it wants to — that's its choice. It can make mistakes in its procedures. It's not up to us to decide whether or not the House of Commons has good rules. It's up to us to improve our own, and if the House of Commons wants to copy ours to improve its Standing Orders, it will do so, but I don't think we should be commenting on that.
The Supreme Court just ruled that we are a fundamental Canadian political institution and that the Senate and the framers of the Constitution Act, 1867, deliberately chose the method of executive appointment of senators in order to allow the Senate to play the specific role of a complementary legislative body of sober second thought.
The Senate is a fundamental political institution and it has a role to play, as the Supreme Court pointed out. I think we need a procedure that gives those who want to debate a bill all the flexibility they need, whether the bill comes from the House or from a senator. We need ample time for debate, but it's not enough just to debate a bill. We also have to make a decision about that bill.
Honourable senators, the objective of the amendment is ultimately to improve our Rules so that the Senate becomes a better Senate that is more respectful of its role. That's why my colleagues and I originally thought we should create this procedure and amend our Rules to include it.
That's why the motion before us is the proper result of that process. I will reserve the rest of my time to respond to Senator Cowan's answer.
I will adjourn the debate to await the answer of Senator Cowan.
(On motion of Senator Nolin, debate adjourned.)
On the Order:
Resuming debate on the motion of the Honourable Senator Nolin, seconded by the Honourable Senator Joyal, P.C.:
That a Special Committee on Senate Modernization be appointed to consider methods to make the Senate more effective, more transparent and more responsible, within the current constitutional framework, in order, in part, to increase public confidence in the Senate;
That the committee be composed of nine members, to be nominated by the Committee of Selection, and that five members constitute a quorum;
That the committee have the power to send for persons, papers and records; to examine witnesses; and to publish such papers and evidence from day to day as may be ordered by the committee;
That the committee be authorized to hire outside experts;
That, notwithstanding rule 12-18(2)(b)(i), the committee have the power to sit from Monday to Friday, even though the Senate may then be adjourned for a period exceeding one week; and
That the committee be empowered to report from time to time and to submit its final report no later than December 31, 2015.
Hon. Joan Fraser (Deputy Leader of the Opposition): Honourable senators, this very interesting motion that was put forward by Senator Nolin is at day 14, and it is my understanding that after due reflection Senator Nolin has concluded that he has already spoken enough on this motion and does not wish to continue his remarks, as he would have had the right to do if he wished to exercise that right; so I would like to move the adjournment of the debate in my name, please.
(On motion of Senator Fraser, debate adjourned.)
On the Order:
Resuming debate on the motion of the Honourable Senator Downe, seconded by the Honourable Senator Chaput:
That the Senate call upon the Members of the House of Commons of the Parliament of Canada to join the Senate in its efforts to increase transparency by acknowledging the longstanding request of current and former Auditors General of Canada to examine the accounts of both Houses of Parliament, and thereby inviting the Auditor General of Canada to conduct a comprehensive audit of House of Commons expenses, including Members' expenses, and
That the audits of the House of Commons and the Senate be conducted concurrently, and the results for both Chambers of Parliament be published at the same time.
Hon. Elizabeth (Beth) Marshall: Honourable senators, my speech on this item is about 99 per cent done, but it affects the House of Commons so there are a few issues I wish to follow up on. I would like to speak to the motion, so I wish to adjourn this matter for the balance of my time.
(On motion of Senator Marshall, debate adjourned.)
(The Senate adjourned until Thursday, September 18, 2014, at 1:30 p.m.)