- SENATORS' STATEMENTS
- ROUTINE PROCEEDINGS
- QUESTION PERIOD
- ORDERS OF THE DAY
- Immigration and Refugee Protection Act
Civil Marriage Act
- The Senate
- Recreational Atlantic Salmon Fishing
- The Senate
- Remembrance Day
- Appendix - Senators Lists
- Immigration and Refugee Protection Act
Tuesday, January 27, 2015
The Senate met at 2 p.m., the Speaker in the chair.
The Hon. the Speaker: Honourable senators, pursuant to rule 4-3(1), the Leader of the Government has requested that the time for Senators' Statements be extended today in order to pay tribute to the Honourable Senator Jean-Claude Rivest, who will be retiring on January 31, 2015.
I would like to remind honourable senators that, pursuant to our Rules, each senator will be allowed three minutes and may speak only once.
Is it agreed that we will continue our tributes to Senator Rivest under Senators' Statements?
Hon. Senators: Agreed.
The Hon. the Speaker: We will therefore have the balance of the 30 minutes for these tributes, not including the time allotted for Senator Rivest's response. Any time remaining after tributes can be used for other statements.
Is it agreed, honourable senators?
Hon. Senators: Agreed.
Hon. Claude Carignan (Leader of the Government): Honourable senators, I like to obey the rules, and I believe the same is true of the Honourable Senator Rivest. Nonetheless, I would like to have the right to speak for more than three minutes and more than once to pay tribute to our colleague, the Honourable Jean-Claude Rivest, who is retiring.
Honourable senators, the time has come to say farewell to our friend and colleague Jean-Claude. He is leaving not only the upper chamber, to which he was appointed on March 11, 1993, by the Right Honourable Brian Mulroney, but also public life as a parliamentarian and political advisor.
After he completed his law studies, in 1967, the young Mr. Rivest became a special assistant to the former Premier of Quebec and then leader of the opposition in the National Assembly, the Honourable Jean Lesage. In 1970, he joined the office of the brand-new Premier of Quebec, the Honourable Robert Bourassa.
His exact title during that period is one of the greatest political mysteries of the 20th century in Quebec. Special advisor, strategic advisor, political attaché, spin doctor? Nobody really knew. I suspect that not even the premier's office knew what title to give him.
Then, in 1976, he became a special advisor to the interim opposition leader, a position he held until 1979, when he was elected as a member in a by-election. Believe it or not, he was re-elected in 1981. He completed his mandate but did not run again in the 1985 election. Instead, he once again became a very, very special advisor to the premier.
This is how Senator Rivest was described by a former Parti Québécois leadership candidate in a book on the Bourassa years:
Jean-Claude Rivest is . . . Robert Bourassa's right-hand man. Confidant, advisor and court jester by turns . . . Rivest is the man for the job if it calls for cynicism and finesse, strategic thinking and crafty doublespeak .
He writes throne speeches, relays messages and influences journalists, for whom he is a privileged source . . . . His greatest feat: having written, on behalf and under the byline of a journalist who was too tired or too drunk, a rave review of one of Bourassa's speeches.
He knows the true seat of power, the bunker, and that's where he intends to operate — between tennis sets.
Jean-Claude is a peerless constitutional negotiator. He was part of the dealings and negotiations for the Victoria, Meech and Charlottetown accords. He did not feel at all out of place when he was appointed to the Senate in 1993, where he sat as a Progressive Conservative until 2004, and then as an independent senator.
Well, independent . . . I wouldn't say truly independent, because Senator Rivest has always demonstrated a fierce loyalty to Quebec, his province of origin, and to French, his mother tongue. Senator Rivest has always provided regional representation by tirelessly defending the interests of Quebecers, with the courage of his convictions.
Honourable senators, you will agree with me that in leaving us, Senator Rivest is depriving us of a collegial, erudite, learned, generous and committed colleague. His many years in Quebec and Canadian politics have turned him into a walking encyclopedia. I like to think
that now that he will have more time, we will see him on television more often, commenting on the news and sharing his knowledge and insights in order to help us understand current and future political issues.
As I have already told him many times, I hope, for my generation's sake, that he will write his memoirs in order to provide another perspective on the years the Liberal Party of Quebec spent in power under the leadership of former Premier Robert Bourassa.
Senator Rivest, I thank you for everything you have done for the Senate and its members, of course. However, I also want to thank you for all the years you have devoted to improving the quality of life of Quebecers and Canadians.
Come back and see us often, because we will miss you.
As I mentioned at our executive meeting this morning, when we talked about the tributes we planned to pay to Jean-Claude Rivest today, after I was appointed to the Senate in 2009, when I sat down in my seat and I looked at the people who made up this chamber, when I saw Jean-Claude Rivest, I said to myself, "What an important institution. What a privilege to be sitting in the same room as Jean-Claude."
My dear Jean-Claude, I would also like to take this opportunity to wish you a very happy birthday and all the best in your retirement. Thank you, Jean-Claude!
Hon. Senators: Hear, hear!!
Hon. James S. Cowan (Leader of the Opposition): Colleagues, I would like to add my voice to that of my friend, Senator Carignan, in paying tribute to one of our most senior colleagues, Senator Rivest, as he prepares to leave the Senate.
As Senator Carignan has noted, Senator Rivest has been a practising lawyer, an elected member of the National Assembly of Quebec and, for the past almost 21 years, a senator. But when you look at his official biography, very little of this is emphasized. What you see is: "Profession: Senior Political Adviser."
The pride behind that entry reflects one of the most honourable aspects of political life — a trust and respect that can only be earned.
Here in this chamber, where our job is to give a serious, independent second look at government initiatives, we know the value of thoughtful advice in politics. The best leaders know the importance of a strong team and the critical need to have an adviser you can turn to, trusting you will get their best advice, even and perhaps especially when it isn't exactly what you want to hear.
The list of Quebec leaders who looked to Senator Rivest for advice is impressive: Jean Lesage; Gérard Levesque; and the leader with whom Senator Rivest was most closely associated, Premier Robert Bourassa. In Quebec, those were years of sometimes great turmoil but also of great dreams and great accomplishments. I suspect there was more than one occasion when Senator Rivest reflected on the Chinese dual wish and curse: May you live in interesting times! He certainly did, and the province and country are the better for his involvement.
Senator Rivest found his calling early. Not long after setting up a law practice in his hometown, he was approached by a new client who was a member of the Quebec Liberal Party. That was it; his future was changed forever.
He soon began working for Jean Lesage, then Leader of the Official Opposition. He headed up the opposition research bureau and then moved on to advise first Mr. Bourassa and then Mr. Levesque, before running successfully for the National Assembly. Instead of running again in 1985, he became a senior political adviser to Premier Bourassa, a position he held until Prime Minister Mulroney appointed him to this chamber in 1993.
His 20-plus years here have been marked by the same seriousness of purpose and thoughtful analysis that built his reputation for wise counsel. Whether he was speaking as a member of the Liberal Party of Quebec, as a member of the former Progressive Conservative Party of Canada, or as an Independent, the substance and driving forces behind his interventions have never changed. His principles were his guide throughout; his dedication to his province and country has always been paramount.
I have always been impressed by his ability to pose probing questions in debate and to jump in to ask the important supplementary question during Question Period. I will miss his strong voice in this chamber on countless files, from his questions about the appointment of judges to the Supreme Court or tolls on the Champlain Bridge, to speeches on Canada's linguistic duality, to his insights about the value and role of the Senate, to his strong, principled opposition to Bill C-377. His contributions have always been incisive and have significantly advanced our debates.
Before concluding, I must acknowledge that although Senator Rivest was a lifelong member of the Liberal Party of Quebec, when he was appointed to the Senate he chose to take his seat here as a Progressive Conservative. When he rose to deliver his maiden speech in the Senate on April 29, 1993, Senator Royce Frith, who held the position I now hold as Leader of the Opposition, called out to him, pointing out his Liberal roots. Senator Rivest proudly acknowledged that he was still a member of the Quebec Liberal Party, even while sitting in the Senate as a Progressive Conservative. Senator Frith suggested he was ". . . just badly oriented . . ." and invited him to "Step right over this way." Well, it took a few years, but Senator Frith would be happy, as I am, that while you may not have come all this way, you have taken a few steps toward our direction, and we're grateful for that.
Senator Rivest, throughout your long career you have demonstrated the true meaning of public service, and the honour of thoughtful, independent advice, whether behind closed doors to premiers or on the floor of the Senate to governments. You will be missed. My very best wishes for happiness and continued fulfilment as you set out on the next stage of your long and very distinguished career.
Hon. Yonah Martin (Deputy Leader of the Government): Honourable senators, I rise today to pay tribute to our colleague who is retiring, the Honourable Jean-Claude Rivest, the senator for Stadacona, Quebec, who has had a long and remarkable career in public service.
Prior to his appointment by former Prime Minister Brian Mulroney, our distinguished colleague also served as a member of the National Assembly in Quebec City from 1979 to 1985. He is an iconic leader to the people of Quebec, and his legacy lives on to this day, as we heard from our Leader of the Government in the Senate, Senator Carignan.
As a senator, Jean-Claude Rivest has played an integral role, sitting on the Standing Senate Committee on Legal and Constitutional Affairs, sitting as Deputy Chair of the Standing Committee on Official Languages, and serving on a number of other committees. He has demonstrated his leadership with his insights and contributions to debates, committee work, activities and initiatives over the course of his Senate tenure, which began on March 11, 1993.
On a personal level, it has been a pleasure and honour getting to know you better, particularly in my role as deputy leader. I remember you saying to me in our very first conversation after I assumed my role that I had your support on any procedural matters where unanimous consent is needed to ask for leave of the Senate. Your openness, our open line of communication, and our very warm and collegial working relationship in your role as an independent senator was something I truly appreciated and has been a source of support to me more than you can imagine. Merci, senator.
Often you could be found at the front lines when my staff contacted your office, and they would be met with your kindness. My staff and I believe that the secret to your enduring popularity and iconic status, beyond your wisdom and expertise and this great reputation preceding you, is your humility and generosity of spirit.
Thank you, senator.
Senator Rivest, I want to take this opportunity to tell you what an honour it has been to serve in the Senate of Canada with you.
Honourable colleagues, I hope you will join me in congratulating the Honourable Jean-Claude Rivest as he begins the next chapter of his life. Thank you for your service to the people of Quebec and Canada over the many years of your public life.
You will be sadly missed in this chamber. Thank you.
Hon. Dennis Dawson: Honourable senators, Senator Carignan began by saying that he wished he could speak longer and more often. I will begin by saying that the first thing Senator Rivest said to me was, "Don't forget that I speak after you."
What I would like to remind him, however, is that tomorrow he will be gone and I will still be here.
I have known Jean-Claude for a very long time. I will start with Raymond Garneau, who is the one who got Jean-Claude into politics. In his book entitled: De Lesage à Bourassa — Senator Rivest worked for Lesage, Bourassa, Couillard and others — Mr. Garneau said that he met and offered a job to a young law graduate from Laval University. He said:
I never regretted my choice. Jean-Claude was competent and had a sense of humour that always lightened the mood. I enjoyed working with him.
He was the intellectual and Mr. Garneau was the man of action.
Throughout all those years in politics, as Jean Lesage's assistant and later as a member of the National Assembly, until he was appointed to the Senate, Jean-Claude Rivest showed an unfailing commitment to Quebec. Often working behind the scenes, he had a considerable influence on many of the major issues that marked the history of Quebec over the past 35 or 40 years. I am thinking, for example, of the debates surrounding the Meech Lake Accord, up until Premier Bourassa's solemn declaration in June 1990 following the failure of that agreement. Jean-Claude's influence was certainly felt in the determination expressed by Premier Bourassa to promote and protect Quebec, the homeland of North America's only francophone majority.
Jean-Claude Rivest is also known for his great sense of humour. For him, humour was a way to withstand the terrible pressure that often goes along with a career in politics. Jean-Claude's quick wit helped him to keep it together, and no one could get to him. You never get bored of spending time with him, and you should see how he lights up when he talks to students. He has spent a lot of time with them in recent years, teaching them the ins and outs of the Constitution, and I am sure he will continue to do so in the future. Even with his political opponents, Jean-Claude did not hesitate to use humour to annoy them and send them politely on their way. In good times and bad, Jean-Claude never lost his sense of humour. There are many stories I chose not to tell. I told some of them to my friend and political mentor, Senator Joyal. He and I know Jean-Claude from his political activities in Quebec. If you want to know more about these stories, just come and ask me.
Senator Rivest also loves to share stories about the politicians he served or rubbed shoulders with. Those of you who know him well have heard the same stories dozens of times, but each time he finds a way to add some detail or a connotation that gets us laughing at the same old story.
Those who have had the opportunity to work with him have very much appreciated him as a colleague. He is a generous guy who, with his incessant jokes, shows that his heart is in the right place.
Those of you who have known him for years will agree that it's impossible to think of him without thinking of Denise Giguère, who unfortunately passed away from cancer and who was his loyal and faithful assistant for many years. She was so warm and compassionate — no doubt necessary qualities for working with Jean-Claude. She had such a calm way of making him come to his senses. I'm sure that Jean-Claude has some fond thoughts for this woman who had to put up with him for so many years and did so with a smile on her face, with efficiency and with unwavering determination.
We all wish Jean-Claude a happy retirement. With all his experience, he could certainly weave an extraordinary tale about the great debates that have marked the history of Quebec since the 1970s. That will obviously be his decision, but in the meantime, we caution him to be careful on his Harley-Davidson in case he gets the urge to get back into politics or public life.
Thank you, Jean-Claude, for your friendship and good humour. We'll miss you.
Hon. Senators: Hear, hear!
Hon. Jacques Demers: Honourable senators, this won't be too complicated. I was asked to speak about Senator Rivest today, and I will speak from the heart, as all those who have already spoken have done.
The words that come to mind when I think of Senator Rivest are the following: remarkable simplicity, vocation and career. You know, these days, with everything that's been going on for some time now, it is extremely difficult to leave political life with integrity and with the respect of the entire population of Quebec. It takes some doing.
I remember asking Senator Rivest for some advice one day, and I asked him to be discreet. He gave me some good advice and I greatly appreciated it.
Some members of the House of Commons and the Senate — and some who haven't been around that long — find it hard to say hello. Senator Rivest said hello to everyone, always with respect.
He loved what he did. As Senator Joyal said this morning, Jean-Claude Rivest always had respect for the Senate. When times were tough in the Senate, he remained grounded, and as an independent senator, he always voted according to his convictions.
We often talked about his favourite hockey team, the Canadiens. He was appointed to the Senate on April 29, 1993; six weeks later, his favourite team won the Stanley Cup.
Senator Rivest, congratulations. I wish you all the best and a happy 90th birthday.
Hon. Senators: Hear, hear!
Hon. Marie-P. Charette-Poulin: Honourable senators, I rise to pay tribute to our colleague, the Honourable Jean-Claude Rivest, who today is starting what will be his last week with us in the Senate.
Each one of us brings to this chamber his or her own expertise, experience and perspective, which complement each other and make this honourable institution strong.
Senator Rivest has represented the people in the senatorial designation of Stadacona, all of Quebec and, really, all of Canada for over two decades. His unique perspective is deeply rooted in his desire to serve the people.
Yes, Senator Rivest arrived in the Senate in 1993, armed with many years of provincial government experience in Quebec's National Assembly. He was also very experienced in interprovincial affairs and acutely aware of the challenges facing minority and linguistic groups in other provinces.
I have had the pleasure of sitting in this chamber alongside Senator Rivest for the better part of those two decades, and we have participated together in a number of parliamentary missions. I'm sure you will agree that travelling with our colleagues is one of the best ways to get to know them. That is how I learned that Senator Rivest is not just a remarkable parliamentarian and politician, but also trustworthy, reliable, thoughtful and blessed with an utterly delightful sense of humour.
Honourable senators, Senator Rivest's departure means that we are losing a wonderful colleague, and I ask you to join me in wishing him a truly heartfelt farewell.
Hon. Senators: Hear, hear!
Hon. David Tkachuk: I got to know Senator Rivest in our caucus, of course. We were both appointed in 1993 by Prime Minister Mulroney, a man we loved and admired. I served with Senator Rivest until 2004. Of course, when he left, I was a little upset, and I think many of our caucus members were a little upset, but we lived on the same floor together, so I constantly urged him to come back to the caucus and sometimes begged him to come back to the caucus. It would have been nice to have him in our caucus. We need help in Quebec, as all of you know, and Senator Rivest would have provided so much of that.
Of course, he always said he liked his independence. That was always his excuse, but little did I know how influential he could be as he got the whole Liberal caucus to join him. It just shows you how much influence the Liberals had. I mean, they were asking him to join them. Instead they joined him.
Senator Rivest, I hear that you will be teaching at a university. God bless you for that. The universities need people like you, and you will give your sage advice to young people. Senator Rivest, they are the lucky ones.
With that, God bless you, happy birthday and continued success.
Hon. Pierrette Ringuette: Honourable senators, I would like to join my colleagues in paying tribute to Senator Rivest, who, as they pointed out, is leaving prematurely.
You probably noticed that when I would pass behind Senator Rivest, I had the habit of pulling or twirling his hair. I would tease him because, as we know very well, Senator Rivest has a good sense of humour and in turn teases me by sometimes calling me a Brayonne or Acadienne.
Senator Rivest, you have made a remarkable contribution to both Quebec and Canada. The first time I saw you was at the Meech Lake Accord meetings. You were on the roof of the old station with Mr. Bourassa, who was drinking a glass of milk. However, I don't know if you were drinking the same thing at the time. It was during those meetings that I realized the important role that Senator Rivest played in politics in our country.
I will miss your presence in our caucus of smokers, whose numbers are dwindling. I can assure you that the brief conversations we had while smoking were extremely interesting and enlightening compared to some of the speeches we hear in this place.
I wish Senator Rivest good health, lots of time in his garden, which he loves so much, time with his wife, and as much time as possible sharing his experience and knowledge with young Canadians. I hope he will also travel outside Quebec because he has so much to offer.
Thank you for everything you have done for our chamber.
I hope that you and your partner, Nicole, who has always supported you, will enjoy retirement. Nicole is also retiring and I would like to take this opportunity to wish her a happy retirement as well. Thank you.
The Hon. the Speaker: The Honourable Jean-Claude Rivest for his right of reply.
Hon. Jean-Claude Rivest: Thank you for your very kind remarks. I would like to begin by thanking the Right Honourable Brian Mulroney, who granted me the extraordinary privilege of continuing to serve Quebec and Canada in this place, the Senate. This gave me an opportunity to make the most of the skills and resources I had acquired and to put them to good use in this federal assembly, as I had done in the National Assembly. I see my friend Raynell.
It was 1993, the middle of March, and Raynell and I became senators of Canada on the same day. It was a great day for the Senate, imagine, to get Rivest and Andreychuk on the same day.
Thank you, everyone. I want to say that I think that what I will miss the most when I retire is your friendship. As we said in our little meeting this morning, all of our colleagues are so dedicated to the public and the regions they serve. Moreover, a parliamentary institution like the Senate is only is good as the human relationships that form within it, regardless of our individual convictions and values.
I would like to commend the hard work done by my faithful assistant, Nicole Chevalier, who has been my secretary for 12 years now. I would also like to recognize Diane Parent, who, for 10 years, was also a member of my staff. Nicole managed my schedule, appointments, attendance, files and so on. As our friend Jacques Demers will no doubt understand, taking care of a senator like me is extremely difficult. Nicole was my coach and was responsible for coming up with a game plan, and I had to abide by her decisions.
I never really understood why, but Nicole could always somehow turn a `no' into a `yes'. For example, if I said I had to see a certain person or attend a certain meeting, she would say no. A few days later, I would realize that I was seeing the person or going to the meeting. That is one of the mysteries of coaches, and I had an excellent coach in Nicole Chevalier.
I'd like to thank our Speaker and all those who came before him, as well as the entire Senate staff, in both administration and security. I'd also like to say how much I appreciated the quality of the services provided to parliamentarians by the professionals at the Library of Parliament. I was absolutely amazed to see how they made themselves available and how very skilled they are. Throughout my time here I was impressed by the unbelievable job that they do.
I have nothing but high regard for all of you and for your friendship. As I leave this chamber, I have nothing but good memories of the hundreds of colleagues I have had — and you can imagine how many I've had in 20 years.
They remind me of the good old days of the Progressive Conservative caucus. At the time, the Conservatives were progressive, and we were 56 members of the caucus. There remain now four: Raynell, David, Janet and Marjory and yourself, Mr. Speaker. You can imagine 56 caucus members 20 years ago; now we are four, five. That's tempus fugit, as we say in Latin.
Some senators spoke about my rather unorthodox political career, as I am retiring after not just 22 years here, but 47 years in politics. It would appear that a life in politics isn't very well regarded. I got into politics at the age of 25 and I haven't been without work a single day since — I can see Dennis Dawson cracking a smile. That doesn't mean that I've worked every day, but I've always been influenced by the changing times and seasons. I would disappear from time to time. I have a story to share about that. Premier Bourassa wanted to see me but couldn't reach me. He had me pulled over by the Sûreté du Québec. The officer who pulled me over told me that he hadn't stopped me because I'd committed an offence but because the premier wanted to talk to me. That was novel. I wasn't a model of discipline.
Senators talked about my time in the Quebec National Assembly, where I became very involved in the Quebec Liberal Party, as everyone knows.
In the 1960s, 1970s, 1980s and 1990s — years that defined modern-day Quebec — I had the opportunity and privilege to work with the leaders of the Liberal Party of Quebec. Except for the period when I was a member of the National Assembly, during the first referendum, I had the opportunity to work with the leaders of the Liberal Party of Quebec, and I must say, now that the threat against Canadian unity has taken a breather — long may it last — I felt that the Liberal Party of Quebec was instrumental in defending Canadian unity, not just for Quebec, but also for Canada. I would like to pay tribute to those who led the Liberal Party of Quebec, but also to the hundreds of thousands of Quebecers who supported that party.
There are some similarities between the Liberal Party and an institution such as the Senate. They are made up of conservatives, liberals, and social democrats who work within the same party, which is not easy to manage, I admit, but who have the same vision of Quebec, the same vision of Canada. I believe that the hundreds of thousands of people who supported the Liberal Party for all those years certainly deserve much of the credit for saving Canadian unity when it was threatened.
Those were the days that built Quebec and developed it into a modern society. I don't mind saying that the Parti Québécois, despite its sovereignist leanings, also contributed significantly. However, building a strong Quebec society goes hand in hand with Canadian unity. All the other regions of Canada went down a similar path. We just wanted to make sure that in this country's political and cultural makeup, Quebec could be a major partner and make its own unique contribution to building modern-day Canada. In attempting to build Quebec the way we did, we were attempting to build Canadian unity and identity. Again, I pay tribute to all those who joined the Liberal Party of Quebec during those years.
Mr. Speaker, while in the Senate, I have had the opportunity to work on several committees. I have almost always been a member of one or more committees. Early on, I was on the Official Languages Committee, and I have almost always been on the Legal and Constitutional Affairs Committee. That committee is undoubtedly the one that travels and costs the least. I believe that the longest trip we ever took was from the East Block to the Victoria Building. I found that to be a very interesting committee.
I would like to talk about the quality of our relationships with departmental officials. I believe that is the case for the other committees too. The Legal and Constitutional Affairs Committee has enjoyed very close collaboration with them in the work we do. I have always appreciated their discretion and professionalism. I mean no disrespect to members of the House of Commons, but it seems to me that people are more inclined to talk about real things and real problems before a Senate committee because the political element is much less dominant.
As I said earlier, Mr. Speaker, I had the opportunity to participate in the work of the Official Languages Committee, and I would like to emphasize the importance of the Official Languages Act in creating Canadian identity.
I would now like to express my hope concerning the First Nations of Canada. I know that our colleagues have worked very hard within various Senate committees, but I think it is high time the First Nations file was given priority once and for all. First Nations must have the right to make their own decisions about what is best for their communities. I'm not saying that past efforts have been ineffective or inappropriate. I'm sure they were worthwhile, but I think we need to put more energy into that file to better assert Canadian identity. That's important.
We should also address linguistic duality. In light of the changing demographics, we must act on our concerns and address linguistic duality not only in the provision of services to individuals, as required by the Official Languages Act, but also in our support to communities. We must continue to enrich them and to open them to immigration, as our colleague, Senator Chaput, recently asked of international communities, because the world is changing and we must broaden our horizons. Maintaining the linguistic duality of Canada is to enrich the character of our country and ensure that Canada is unique. Canada is not the United States; Canada is Canada.
I had the opportunity, as part of our Senate activities, to work towards that goal. I think that you realize that I have always been somewhat sensitive to these issues. I am a long-standing member of the Canada-France Interparliamentary Association. Thanks to the leadership of my colleagues, Senator Bacon and Senator Tardif, we Quebecers have definitely developed very close ties with France. We have used our relations with French parliamentarians to strengthen the so-called Canadian francophone community outside Quebec. We have worked very hard to show our colleagues and friends from France that there is a French fact outside Quebec, and I have been very pleased to support initiatives in that regard.
Mr. Speaker, I do not want to monopolize the chamber's time. I believe that I have provided an overview of all my activities. Once again, this is definitely an important turning point for me. As for the future, I continue to believe that Quebec can be and can remain Quebec, can shape its identity on its own and at a very deep level, and in the end, also have the opportunity — because it is an opportunity — to do so in the broader political space that is Canada. Canada bears witness to and supports the Quebec reality with such force and authority, that we could do no better ourselves with lesser means. I believe that Canada is an opportunity for Quebec. I have tried to persuade those Canadians of the sovereignist persuasion, who did not believe it. Quebec is also an opportunity for Canada because it allows it to affirm its political character.
In light of our changing world, globalization, and even the dangers we face, I think that Canada would do well to once again work towards setting an example in the world. We need to find a way to show the world that people of all religions, all languages and all cultures can work together to build something beautiful. I think that the world needs to hear Canada's voice, as was the case with Lester B. Pearson during the Suez crisis or with Brian Mulroney in the fight against apartheid. I think that Canada's primary international goal should be to share our experience and show that it's possible for human beings to strive towards living together in freedom and with dignity.
Our country's values are the values of our Charter of Rights and Freedoms. Canada can speak to that because it is a universal charter.
What I just spoke of is precisely the role of the Senate. You said so yourselves this morning: the Senate has a role to play. It is a matter of developing that role, finding a way, figuring it out. You came up with all kinds of ideas this morning. We need to speak to these values, but not in a partisan way. We need to speak to the plurality of values. In the Senate we have conservative, liberal and social democratic values. We need to continue to promote these ideas, and this is something we can do in the Senate with perhaps greater authority.
We also need to restore the authority of our institutions. The public is quite cynical about our democracy. The Senate will work to restructure itself, redefine itself and give itself a new mandate. I'm sure that this new mandate will reflect the values Canadians hold dear. It will be a big step toward ensuring that Canadians regain trust in their public institutions: the House of Commons, the Senate and all governments in Canada.
That is what I will try to do, in some small way, with my university students. That is what I have tried to do here in the Senate.
I will conclude by saying this:
I did it my way.
Hon. Senators: Hear, hear!
The Hon. the Speaker: Honourable senators, I wish to draw your attention to the presence in the gallery of a group of students, participants in the Children's Breakfast Club from various schools in the Toronto area. They are guests of the Honourable Senator Mitchell.
On behalf of all honourable senators, I welcome you to the Senate of Canada.
Hon. Senators: Hear, hear!
Hon. Elizabeth Hubley: Honourable senators, earlier this month Prince Edward Island lost one of its most beloved adopted sons, the immensely talented Don Harron, who died at the age of 90 years.
Mr. Harron was an actor, a writer, a comedian and a broadcaster, who began his career in university, performing for CBC Radio and New Play Society. After graduation, Harron appeared in a number of plays and reviews in Toronto, then spent two years in London, England, performing in the West End production of A Streetcar Named Desire and working as a writer and actor.
He returned home in the early 1950s and went on to appear at the Stratford Festival, taking on several roles in plays such as All's Well That Ends Well and Richard III.
He appeared in a number of television programs and plays over the years and became a radio host for CBC Radio's "Morningside" from 1977 to 1982. He even had a television program of his own, the "The Don Harron Show," which ran from 1983 to 1985 on CTV.
His most memorable creation was Charlie Farquharson, a rural Ontario farmer, from somewhere near Parry Sound, who opined on domestic and world affairs with a mix of malapropisms and sharp wit. The character became a fixture on the country music variety show "Hee Haw." Harron also wrote more than a dozen books in Farquharson's voice.
Most importantly for my home province, Mr. Harron, along with Norman and Elaine Campbell, turned L.M. Montgomery's cherished novel about a mischievous Island girl with red pigtails into the acclaimed Anne of Green Gables: The Musical. This musical is highly successful, having toured internationally, and has become the longest-running annual production in the world, at 51 successive seasons at the Charlottetown Festival.
Don Harron loved P.E.I. and spent many summers at his cottage in Blooming Point. Just last summer, he celebrated his ninetieth birthday at the Tracadie Community Centre, surrounded by countless friends and well-wishers from across the province. He leaves behind a legacy in the arts and in life, and I have no doubt he will be sorely missed for his kindness, his clear wit and his compassion for others.
Please join me in offering our deepest condolences to his wife, Claudette Gareau, his three daughters and his many loved ones and friends.
Hon. Jacques Demers: Honourable senators, today is Family Literacy Day, a day that is very important to people with certain problems.
A lot of people seem to have difficulty understanding the major problem we have. As a person who is dyslexic, I know it is extremely difficult to overcome that, but you can always overcome it with hard work, discipline and, more importantly, desire.
Quebec has an aging population. It is not just people aged 60 or 70 who have these problems. Teachers will understand what I am saying.
Teachers who have taught school will understand what I'm saying.
We have a very hard time. We are talking about an average of 45 or 46 per cent. With all due respect to Senator Watt, who has left, in Aboriginal communities the proportion is as high as 55 per cent.
I have always thought that sitting at a desk in school, going to university, learning and making the most of the opportunities afforded by going to school is a gift.
People who have literacy problems are often called stupid, dumb, unintelligent and other hurtful names. Being treated like that hurts for more than just a month; it can hurt people for life.
I must admit that some progress has been made when it comes to literacy. However, there is still a lot of work to be done. We have an aging population. We need to give young people the opportunity to learn.
We have to give the opportunity to our young men and women to get educated and be dedicated to giving them that opportunity. There are different degrees of literacy. Some are not able to sit down and — as hard as the teachers work — to pick it up because of mental disorders, but in some cases there are too many kids for one teacher.
I hope that this day, as I was able to say last year, will remind all of us that we have a responsibility, on both sides, just to talk about it. Senator Fairbairn was extremely important, when she was here, in talking about literacy. That meant a lot to me. Senator Callbeck was also. On this side, I talk to my good friend Senator Seidman. I think we must realize that it's urgent to make sure that we give our young kids the opportunity to get a good education. Too many of our young kids are pulling out of school and are not there to be guided.
Too many young people are not getting guidance. I wish they would, now more than ever.
I would like to thank Senator Carignan. He asked me to be part of a committee that sits on Mondays. I told him that, insofar as possible, I would rather have the opportunity to go and speak to young people in schools on Mondays. That is what I have done in Ontario, in Quebec and all over. I hope that when I go and speak to these young people, I can at least help them understand the importance of getting an education.
Without any education, your future is not bright.
I would like to end in this way, without insulting anybody. It is not because you have a degree at university; it is not because you are educated to the nines that you are a smarter person than the person next to you who does not have the greatest education. I have seen, heard and witnessed people — and I'm not attacking anybody in this room — with tremendous education who did not have judgment and did not use their education to the maximum. In some places around Canada and the States, they're sitting on the streets.
Hon. Serge Joyal: Honourable senators, tomorrow, Wednesday, January 28, the law faculty of the University of Ottawa will host a special symposium — in fact, quite a unique one — on the essential elements involved in the future renewal of the Senate of Canada.
This symposium is organized at the suggestion of some senators, as was mentioned this morning by the Speaker in his address. The symposium follows the important ruling made by the Supreme Court last spring on the constitutional status of the Senate, after a reference to the court by the Canadian government and a unanimous decision of the Quebec Court of Appeal on the same issue.
The symposium will be the occasion for five leading Canadian scholars to share their analysis and reflections on the implications of the Supreme Court ruling for the understanding of the nature of the Senate as an essential institution of Parliament with a unique role in the legislative process and a composition that is well defined in the Constitution.
The Supreme Court in particular recognized the Senate as an essential component of the full legislative process. It specified that the Senate is a complementary legislative body to the House of Commons. What is more, it underscored that the Senate must exercise its responsibilities independently by expressing the point of view of the various regions of the country, including the point of view of minorities, and that the Senate therefore embodies, in its essence, the federal principle that characterizes our system of government.
The group of five noted scholars includes Professor Don Desserud from the Faculty of Political Science of the University of Prince Edward Island.
Professor Stéphane Beaulac, professor of law at the Université de Montréal.
Professor Errol Mendes, professor of law at the University of Ottawa; Professor Paul Thomas, professor emeritus of political science from the University of Manitoba; and Professor David Smith, professor emeritus of political science from the University of Saskatchewan.
This symposium, which will take place at the Gowlings Moot Court of the University of Ottawa, will offer to senators in attendance, after the presentation of the scholars, the opportunity to express their views with the scholars in the form of questions or comments. However, this symposium will be a participatory exercise of reflection that will produce a result. It will not be only a salon discussion that entertains academic views and adjourn without a result.
In fact, the objective of the symposium is first to pick up on the professional experience of seasoned Canadian scholars to get the comprehensive analysis of the implication of the ruling of the Supreme Court on the Senate, first, for a refined understanding of the nature of the institution of the Senate, and second, which aspects of the operation and composition of the chamber could be improved and enhanced by any avenues but without having to reopen the Constitution.
Once that first step of the exercise has been completed, a summary report of the various contributions should be published later, before spring, and then widely circulated among MPs, senators, MLAs and also former senators — for instance, Senators Lowell Murray, Sharon Carstairs, Noël Kinsella and Dan Hays — and of course the wider university community and even political party representatives. Once that broader consultation is completed, the refined report will be published and shared amongst senators and parliamentarians, for initiatives of renewal of the Senate to be taken after a consensus is formed among senators on the priorities to be addressed.
I cannot but stress the appropriateness of the invitation from the Faculty of Law of the University of Ottawa to all senators to attend, express their views and contribute to the renewal of the role of the Senate in addressing the needs of all Canadians in a contemporary Parliament. All senators will certainly be warmly welcomed tomorrow morning.
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 Public Sector Integrity Commissioner of Canada, pursuant to section 72 of both the Access to Information Act and the Privacy Act.
The Hon. the Speaker informed the Senate that a message had been received from the House of Commons with Bill C-40, An Act respecting the Rouge National Urban Park.
(Bill read first time.)
The Hon. the Speaker: Honourable senators, when shall this bill be read the second time?
(On motion of Senator Martin, bill placed on the Orders of the Day for second reading two days hence.)
Hon. James S. Cowan (Leader of the Opposition): My question is for the Leader of the Government in the Senate, and it pertains to the Council of the Federation.
This Friday, January 30, the Council of the Federation will meet in Ottawa to discuss issues of national importance, with a primary focus on the economy. Canada's 13 provincial and territorial leaders will meet at the Delta Ottawa City Centre, a 10-minute walk from here and less than a kilometre from Parliament Hill. The Prime Minister was invited to attend, but he declined.
I'm sure we'll all agree that the economy is in a precarious state. Oil prices are plummeting. In November, the government's economic and fiscal update projected oil prices in the range of $80. Today, they're about $45. This is a national issue. Canada's premiers understand this, and they want to get together to talk about the economy, to talk about the effects of the plummeting price of oil and other critical issues facing Canadians. That, I suggest, is what Canadians expect of their elected leaders — to work together to address the problems facing the nation. Yet the Prime Minister refuses to attend.
The economic situation has proven serious enough for the government to postpone its budget, but not serious enough to meet and discuss with provincial leaders. So my question is very simple: Why will the Prime Minister not sit down with the provinces on Friday of this week?
Hon. Claude Carignan (Leader of the Government): As you know, senator, the government continues to work with the provinces on the various common challenges that affect them.
As far as the price of oil is concerned, as the Prime Minister and the Minister of Finance have said, the drop in the price of oil has different consequences for the economy, including lower prices at the pumps and a lower energy bill for manufacturing companies.
Although the drop in the price of oil gives the government less room to manoeuvre, Budget 2015 will be a balanced budget. As Minister Oliver said, we will not bring down the budget before April, and the drop in the price of oil will limit how flexible the government can be. Nonetheless, we will balance the budget in 2015.
As we have said, Canada is not immune to the economic challenges facing the rest of the world. For that reason, our government is working hard to help create jobs and grow the economy.
I can tell you that at times such as these, we are extremely proud to have a leader like Stephen Harper and to stay away from Justin Trudeau.
Senator Cowan: I'm sure Mr. Harper appreciates your endorsement, but that wasn't the question.
An Hon. Senator: Oh, oh.
Senator Cowan: If you had listened, Senator Tkachuk, you would have understood. You can read it tomorrow.
We are facing a very difficult situation in this country. We're not blaming the government for falling oil prices, but, as you have pointed out yourself in the initial part of your response, that has a different impact depending on where you live in the country. It may be good for some parts of the country; it may be bad for other parts of the country. But surely one of the roles of the leader of the country — Mr. Harper, whose talents you extol so frequently — is to bring together and meet with other elected leaders, and to sit down and talk about the effects which the economic impact has on those various parts of the country. Why will he not do that?
Senator Carignan: As I said, we prefer actions to words. The Prime Minister is in constant contact with the provincial premiers. The Minister of Finance is also in constant contact with his colleagues, just as all the cabinet ministers are in contact with their provincial counterparts with respect to matters that affect the provinces.
As for finances, Minister Oliver has been very clear: No change will be made to the forecast methodology. Minister Oliver will not present his budget before April, and lower oil prices will have an impact on the budget. Therefore, the government is working hard to help create jobs and grow the Canadian economy.
Senator Cowan: The premiers met together last August in Charlottetown; the Prime Minister did not attend. The council met before that in November 2013; he didn't attend that meeting. In fact, Senator Carignan, the Prime Minister has not sat down with his provincial and territorial counterparts since 2009, six years ago, and that was an informal dinner meeting which is hardly a substitute for a serious federal-provincial discussion involving electing leaders of our country.
This year, Canada will celebrate the two hundredth anniversary of the birth of your patron saint, Sir John A. Macdonald. Your Prime Minister praised our country's first Prime Minister, saying this:
Because without Sir John A. Macdonald, Canada as we know it — the best country in the world — simply would not exist.
He added this:
Nation-building is never complete.
Surely a critical part of nation-building is sitting down with other elected leaders to talk about common problems. That's the kind of coalition and consensus-building that Sir John A. Macdonald used when he formed this country, and that's the approach which this Prime Minister consistently and continually rejects.
So I ask again: Why won't the Prime Minister show the leadership that Canadians expect and drive or walk a few blocks to the Delta and sit down with the other elected leaders to discuss the very serious situation that all of us agree faces all Canadians? Why won't he do that?
Senator Carignan: Honourable senator, you mentioned the Council of the Federation and Sir John A. Macdonald's views. To my knowledge, the Council of the Federation did not exist when the country was created all those years ago. We can hold different views, but not necessarily have different objectives.
I would simply like to remind you that just sitting on the Council of the Federation does not necessarily create jobs. Canada has the best job creation record in the G7. I will tell you again, since perhaps the six-week break caused you to forget Canada's excellent record in the area of job creation. Over 1.2 million net new jobs have been created since the depths of the global recession.
To put this in perspective, we have created almost 20 per cent more jobs than our closest competitor, and the vast majority of those jobs are full-time, well-paying, private-sector jobs. Some 82 per cent are full-time jobs, 84 per cent are in the private sector and 66 per cent have been created in high-paying industries.
Our government has a plan that consists of keeping taxes low in order to promote job creation and growth in all sectors of the Canadian economy. This plan is working, and it will allow Canada to return to a balanced budget this year. We are proud of our plan, which involves reducing the tax burden and providing families with tax relief directly so they can then reinvest it in the Canadian economy.
Finally, I would remind you that on November 26, 2014, the International Monetary Fund congratulated our government on the progress it has made in terms of reducing the deficit and on other measures it has taken recently to lower taxes for Canadian families.
I am very proud of my government and I have full confidence in my Prime Minister.
Hon. Joan Fraser (Deputy Leader of the Opposition): Supplementary question, honourable senators. We still haven't got to the nub of this question, which has to do with the notion that in a federation such as ours, there has to be — if it's going to work well — contact, formal consultation and collaboration between the leaders of the various governments.
It's all very well to say that the sectoral ministers meet. I know that they do and that they do the best work they can, but there are decisions that can only be made by leaders of governments and, historically, it has been the case that those decisions were more likely to be productive for the country as a whole if they were taken in cooperation rather than in isolation.
If the Prime Minister will not meet with the premiers despite their repeated requests at a time of serious economic difficulty, when will he meet with the premiers? What occasion could arise where this Prime Minister would get down off his high horse and agree to meet with his counterparts from the rest of the country?
Senator Carignan: Senator, you mentioned that this is a time of serious economic difficulty. I don't think you listened to my previous answer. Canada has the best record on job creation in the G7. Canada's economy will continue to grow this year, and all economists agree that Canada's growth will continue in the coming months and years.
I don't know. Maybe the Liberals' problem is that they consider more than 2 per cent growth to be economic difficulty. That's rather odd.
I prefer relying on our very own economist, the Prime Minister, to manage the economy.
As for meetings with the premiers, these meetings are held regularly. The Prime Minister frequently meets with provincial premiers on various occasions, as all ministers do as part of their respective responsibilities.
I think that's the right way to do things.
Hon. Jane Cordy: Honourable senators, before I ask my supplementary, I want to thank you, leader, very much. Before Christmas I asked a number of questions about the Davidson family in Alberta. I had an email a couple of days before Christmas indicating that the problem had been resolved and that Mrs. Davidson now has a caregiver for her son. I sincerely thank you for the help that you and your office have given on that file. Since I asked my question publicly, and I could have done so privately, I thought I should thank you publicly as well.
With regard to my supplementary to Senator Cowan's question, which you haven't answered, you spoke about the track record of this government. I guess the track record I see includes budgets that have been in deficit since this government has been in power. When I think back to the Chrétien-Martin years, the problem was how to spend the surplus, which in hindsight was a pretty good problem to have. In fact, when your government took over, there was a $13 billion surplus, which was long gone even before the recession hit.
Falling oil prices are creating serious problems, which you stated earlier. When I went to fill up my car yesterday, it cost only $40, which was great for me but not for the economy of Canada. We tend to think of Alberta, the oil province as being most affected. However, it's not just affecting Alberta; it's affecting all of the Atlantic Provinces. My province of Nova Scotia will suffer from the lack of revenue. In addition, a high number of Nova Scotians, particularly young people, travel back and forth to jobs in Alberta. If Alberta starts to cut back, those jobs held by people outside the province will likely be the first jobs to go.
Getting back to Senator Cowan's question, which you didn't answer, the premiers are going to be in Ottawa. The premier of my province, Premier McNeil, is greatly concerned about the effects of low gas prices on the economy. Why will the Prime Minister not get in his car — and he doesn't even have to drive as he can be dropped off by his driver — and meet with the premiers for a short period of time? If the economy is serious enough that the budget is not to be brought down until later in the spring, would it not be natural for the Prime Minister to consider it polite and prudent to meet with the premiers of this country?
Senator Carignan: I would like to thank Senator Cordy for her kind words. I was very glad to hear that the woman's situation had been resolved. As you yourself have noticed, we believe that actions are more important than words. With respect to discussions with the premiers, as I said, the Prime Minister has regular conversations with the provincial premiers when appropriate in light of the issues, and that is what he will continue to do.
Senator Cordy: Such conversations are great, although I'm not sure how regular they are. It is very important, I believe, to sit down with a group of premiers from across the country and deal with an issue that is of great concern to the premiers of this country. The premier of my province and those of other provinces in the Atlantic region are greatly concerned about the effect that this will have on the number of people, Nova Scotians in my case, who travel to Alberta. When we fly home on Thursday night and fly back on Monday, and I'm sure every senator from Atlantic Canada can tell you that the plane is filled with people from Atlantic Canada flying to Alberta to work for two or three weeks and then back for two or three weeks at home. If these jobs are lost, it will play havoc with the budgets of the Atlantic provinces.
Surely the Prime Minister can show some leadership and compassion and sit down with the premiers from across the country to deal with an extremely serious issue. The Prime Minister and the Minister of Finance consider it so serious that they have delayed the budget. Surely the Prime Minister can show enough leadership and compassion to meet with the premiers of the provinces.
Senator Carignan: Senator, as you pointed out, there are pros and cons to falling oil prices. You said that you saved money, and I don't know what you'll do with that extra cash. Some Canadians will decide to eat out at restaurants, and others will make purchases they had not planned to make. They might decide to invest in the manufacturing sector.
The situation has also led to a lower dollar, which boosts purchasing. Many economists and businesses are excited about the opportunities that will be created because all of this will have an impact, both positive and negative, on the economy. One thing is for sure: The government will balance the budget in 2015, and Canadian families can count on the measures that the government has announced. They will have more money in their pockets and can spend it as they see fit. That money will not be spent by bureaucrats.
Senator Cordy: I am very fortunate: If I want to take the money saved when I fill up my car with gas and go to a restaurant, I can do that easily. But the Nova Scotians who may lose their jobs in Alberta won't have enough money to buy groceries let alone go to a restaurant. I find your comments offensive for the people wondering whether they are going to lose their jobs and you are suggesting they can go to a restaurant with the money they save when filling their car with gas.
I ask again as this is a very serious issue. I might have saved $15 yesterday, but I'm not losing my job. This is serious to the people of Nova Scotia and the premier of my province, who will be in Ottawa for the meetings. What a wonderful opportunity for the Prime Minister to show leadership and to meet with them. Why will he not meet with the premiers?
Senator Carignan: Senator, as I said, Canada has the best job creation record in the G7, with more than 1.2 million new well-paid jobs. Most of those new jobs are in the private sector. As I said, jobs are being created in factories, restaurants and other sectors.
The lower Canadian dollar also presents opportunities. Some people might have to change jobs, but job creation will continue and our goal is to keep giving families more money so that they can spend it as they see fit, according to their priorities. Our goal is to continue to promote a stronger economy for all Canadians.
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 Hervieux-Payette on October 21, 2014, concerning national revenue and the provision of financial information to the United States.
(Response to question raised by the Honourable Céline Hervieux-Payette on October 21, 2014)
The Canada-United States Enhanced Tax Information Exchange Agreement (the "Agreement") signed on February 5, 2014 does not create a new platform for the exchange of information. Indeed, the legal instrument pursuant to which the information will be exchanged is the Canada-U.S. Tax Convention — a bilateral tax treaty signed in 1980. More specifically, the exchange of tax information between Canada and the U.S. is a longstanding practice authorized under Article XXVII of the Convention and the exchanged information is protected by the Convention's strict safeguards. The Convention clearly sets out that exchanged information must be treated as secret, be used solely for tax purposes and disclosed only to those involved in the assessment, collection, administration or enforcement of taxes. In addition to the assurances provided in the Convention, the CRA remains committed to maintaining its policies and practices that safeguard against unauthorized disclosure of information. CRA and U.S. Internal Revenue Service (IRS) officials are confident that a secure infrastructure for an effective exchange relationship exists.
The Agreement aims to improve international tax compliance on a reciprocal basis. The Agreement results in the CRA sharing information with the U.S. IRS on certain entities and individuals that reside in the U.S. and on U.S. citizens residing outside of the U.S. who have accounts with Canadian financial institutions. The Agreement is reciprocal, meaning that information will flow both ways between the tax administrations of the two countries to assist each in administering its own domestic tax laws. The information exchanged will provide tax authorities with greater information on accounts held by their taxpayers in the other country. In June 2014, Parliament enacted legislation to implement the Agreement in Canada. More notably, Part XVIII was added to the Income Tax Act to require certain Canadian financial institutions that maintain financial accounts held by certain entities, individuals who reside in the U.S., and U.S. citizens residing outside of the U.S. to report certain information to the CRA.
For the purposes of Part XVIII, a Canadian financial institution will be either a reporting Canadian financial institution or a non-reporting Canadian financial institution. The distinction is important because Part XVIII reporting obligations generally apply only to reporting Canadian financial institutions. Non-reporting financial institutions include smaller deposit-taking institutions with less than US$175 million in assets. Moreover, financial institutions with a local client base can benefit from a partial exemption, such that they do not have to report on the accounts of Canadian residents. Each cooperative must self-assess its status, and perform its due diligence requirements for the purpose of Part XVIII based on its particular facts and circumstances. It is not expected that many small cooperatives will have a reporting obligation after performing their self-assessment and due diligence. In order to assist Canadian financial institutions of all sizes with their due diligence and reporting requirements under Part XVIII, the CRA has posted extensive guidance on its website.
If a cooperative or other Canadian financial institution has reporting requirements under Part XVIII, it is important to note that key Canadian savings vehicles are exempt from being reported on, including most federally registered accounts such as Registered Retirement Savings Plans, Registered Retirement Income Funds, Registered Disability Savings Plans, and Tax-Free Savings Accounts.
On Government Business, Motions, Order No. 78, by the Honourable Yonah Martin:
That, pursuant to rule 7-2, not more than a further six hours of debate be allocated for consideration at third reading stage of Bill S-7, An Act to amend the Immigration and Refugee Protection Act, the Civil Marriage Act and the Criminal Code and to make consequential amendments to other Acts.
On the Order:
Resuming debate on the motion of the Honourable Senator Joyal, P.C., seconded by the Honourable Senator Robichaud, P.C.:
That the Senate urges the Government to take the necessary measures to establish a National Commission for the 150th Anniversary of Confederation charged with the responsibility of preparing and implementing celebrations, projects and initiatives across the country to mark the 150th anniversary of Confederation during the year 2017. Further, the Senate urges that the membership of this commission include representatives from all the provinces and territories and that, in addition to any budget voted by Parliament, the commission be able to receive contributions from Canadians.
Hon. Yonah Martin (Deputy Leader of the Government): I move adjournment of the debate.
(On motion of Senator Martin, debate adjourned.)
On the Order:
Resuming debate on the inquiry of the Honourable Senator Maltais, calling the attention of the Senate to the protection of the Atlantic salmon sports fishery in the marine areas of Eastern Canada, and the importance of protecting Atlantic salmon for future generations.
Hon. Nicole Eaton:
The Cigar Butt danced across Gallagher into a stretch of sunlight. Was there a silver flash? Or was my hopeful self only imagining it?
I cast again, watching the line slowly unfurl over the same patch of sunlight. A bump — then nothing. I pull the line in . . . and the guide replaces the Cigar Butt with a Black Bear Green Butt.
I throw the line out at the exact same distance, at the same target. A dark head emerges from the pool. I watch. Time stands still; a sixteenth of a second is an eternity.
The salmon mouths the Black Bear Green Butt and I pull my rod sharply up to tighten the line and set the hook.
Whap! My reel sings as the salmon pulls my line out. My arms strain at the effort of keeping my rod vertical to my body.
The line slackens; I reel in very fast till the line is taut once more. Quiet, even the birds aren't singing.
The reel starts spinning again as the fish makes a run for the rapids below the pool.
It jumps, I bow, and once more I reel in again. And so the dance continues for 20 minutes.
Time is running out; once in the net, the guide gently removes the hook from the salmon's mouth, then puts the valiant warrior back in the water. Holding it by its tail he gently massages its sides.
When the tail starts moving, he lets it go and in a flash of silver, the salmon is gone.
Honourable senators, I rise today to engage in debate on Honourable Senator Maltais' inquiry in respect of the safeguarding of the Atlantic salmon fishery in the marine areas of Eastern Canada and the importance of protecting Atlantic salmon for future generations.
Canada is a country that is rich in fresh water; that is a fact. On an average annual basis, Canadian rivers discharge nearly nine per cent of the world's renewable water supply, although Canada has less than one per cent of the world's population.
It's important to note that in Canada, there are more than 1,000 Atlantic salmon rivers. Alarmingly, though, many salmon runs are endangered or at risk. A recent report released by the Atlantic Salmon Federation, the world's leading non-profit organization dedicated to wild salmon conservation, tells a troubling story. In it, data gathered by the Committee on the Status of Endangered Wildlife in Canada is shared. It shows that many of Eastern Canada's Atlantic salmon runs have been listed as endangered, at risk, or of special concern.
According to the Atlantic Salmon Federation's expert view, this is due in part to overfishing both in Canadian rivers and in international waters, overfishing by Greenland, overfishing in Saint-Pierre and Miquelon, habitat destruction, open-net pen salmon aquaculture and climate change.
This organization believes that while not all the problems can be easily resolved, some common-sense measures could be taken immediately.
These suggested approaches could go a long way towards not only slowing the Atlantic salmon's decline, but rebuilding their populations to healthy, self-sustaining levels. They would also benefit rural economies and communities in Eastern Canada which rely upon them.
These are common-sense solutions, and they are as follows: First, the Department of Fisheries and Oceans needs to ensure there is sufficient capacity necessary to implement the provisions of the amended Fisheries Act and protect the important salmon spawning and rearing habitat.
The act was last amended in 2012 to focus on protecting the productivity of recreational, commercial and Aboriginal fisheries. The amendments were intended to deal with the significant threats to the fisheries and their habitat.
Second, DFO must manage the threats to the sustainability and ongoing productivity of Canada's commercial, recreational and Aboriginal fisheries. The department must also work in partnership with others engaged in fishery protection to ensure optimum safeguarding and remediation of salmon stocks.
Third, the Atlantic Salmon Federation maintains that compliance with catch-and-release laws for salmon is key to the population health of the species.
Colleagues, New Brunswick, Nova Scotia and Newfoundland and Labrador all have laws requiring the release of all caught large salmon; only in Quebec are they still permitted to be retained.
Junior salmon — or grilse, as they are known — are salmon that have only spent one winter at sea before returning to the river. The experts at the Atlantic Salmon Federation maintain that it is the protection of this element of the stock that will help keep salmon numbers up. Currently, anglers may retain one grilse a day to a maximum of four for the season in New Brunswick and Nova Scotia, and up to a maximum of six in Newfoundland and Labrador, depending upon the river. The New Brunswick Salmon Council is, in fact, urging recreational fishermen to release all grisle catches in an effort to keep that province's stocks healthy.
The Atlantic Salmon Federation is also advocating that, in Labrador, Canada should work with First Nations to satisfy their subsistence through selective harvest, which would enable the careful release of the valuable large spawners. Many other First Nations in the southern Maritimes can't conduct their food, social and ceremonial fisheries for Atlantic salmon because the salmon runs adjacent to their communities are endangered.
There needs to be expanded assessment to get a true picture of the health of Labrador's salmon populations that are found in more than 100 rivers. Expanded assessment would enable better management and conservation of stocks.
With regard to the issue of international overfishing, let us examine the situation with both the Greenland and Saint-Pierre and Miquelon fisheries, respectively. Greenland also needs to implement better management, regulation, monitoring and reporting on its salmon fishery. In 2013, Greenland harvested 47 tonnes of salmon, 82 per cent of which were of Canadian origin. The Atlantic Salmon Federation believes that the Greenland harvest should be limited to a subsistence fishery, which historically represents a yield of about 20 tonnes.
In the case of Saint-Pierre and Miquelon, the North Atlantic Salmon Conservation Organization, of which Canada is a member, must make a bigger effort to get France to the table to discuss ways to deal with this rising interceptory fishing. Last year's harvest by Saint-Pierre and Miquelon was the largest in 44 years, at 5.3 tonnes and nearly all of it was Canadian salmon, since they have no salmon rivers of their own.
While Senator Maltais and I both have only recreational experience with salmon fishing, I think it's relevant and appropriate that we are debating this issue in this chamber. The reality is that the lucrative recreational fishing industry, as well as the thousands of good jobs that this industry creates in Atlantic Canada and rural Quebec, are in danger.
One thing seems certain: Without taking steps to ensure healthy and sustainable habitat, there are no fish. We need to embrace this reality and, collectively, we need to act. We must restore our wild salmon runs to health.
We must clearly communicate the changes to the Fisheries Act and their implications to industry, to First Nations and to those overfishing internationally, and we must do so working alongside concerned conservation organizations.
Honourable colleagues, as Hume Cronyn, the actor, once said, recalling vacations at La Roche, Quebec: "It's never the actual fishing that stays with you, only the quality of your surroundings: its smells and sounds — its feel — so that suddenly, years later, you can catch the odour of wet pine needles, or hear the happy giggle of fast water running over stones and be transported back, immediately and totally."
I have described today a wonderfully Canadian experience — an idyllic yet exhilarating adventure where the line between nature and human nature becomes beautifully blurred.
Moreover, the Atlantic salmon is a cultural icon, in addition to being an important indicator of the health of the environment in Quebec and Atlantic Canada.
Ascribing to the recommended catch-and-release regimen will help ensure that the Atlantic salmon fishery remains sustainable and hopefully robust in the future.
(On motion of Senator Cowan, debate adjourned.)
On the Order:
Resuming debate on the inquiry of the Honourable Senator Nolin, calling the attention of the Senate to the activities of some Senators in promoting and defending causes that concern public interest.
Hon. Joan Fraser (Deputy Leader of the Opposition): Honourable senators, when I first spoke on this inquiry, which is one of Senator Nolin's series of inquiries, this one concerning the activities of some senators in promoting and defending causes that concern the public interest, I spoke comparatively briefly about the very impressive number of senators who devote time, energy and skill to the defence of various good causes — literacy, autism. The list is long;. I won't repeat it.
It occurred to me, as I was thinking about continuing my remarks, because I adjourned after having spoken for only a few minutes, that there is a cause that concerns the public interest that we all need to think very seriously about and act upon, and that is ensuring that this chamber functions as effectively as possible in the public interest.
We all believe that. We all are proud to be here. We all share respect and, dare I say, even love for this institution and what it can be at its best. But it's our responsibility to be sure that it functions at its best. That means that we have to take our responsibilities seriously, to act as the second house of Parliament, an independent or autonomous chamber of Parliament that has the duty of sober second thought and the duty to act on that sober second thought when that seems appropriate.
This came to mind in particular last week when I was privileged to be a member of the delegation of the Canada-United Kingdom parliamentary association which visited London and Edinburgh. Although our sessions were largely concerned with devolution, which is a big topic in the United Kingdom right now, we also considered other things.
One of our, to me, most instructive sessions came with two clerks, one from the House of Commons and one from the House of Lords. They had quite a few interesting things to say about how it works, among other things, how the functioning of the House of Lords is going to be affected by devolution to Scotland, not to mention the functioning of the House of Commons. What I want to talk about today is the answer they gave us when — I think I asked, but maybe it was Senator Nancy Ruth — one of us asked how often does the House of Lords amend Commons bills? I doubt that very many of you will guess the answer. The answer is 4,000 to 5,000 times per year or session — 4,000 to 5,000 amendments from the House of Lords.
Apparently 90 per cent or so of those are amendments that are proposed or approved by the government. Some of them, indeed, result from inter-party consultation in the House of Commons and, because the bill has already made it to the House of Lords, the relevant amendment gets to be made there. Some of them result, as is proper and predictable, from work done in the House of Lords, which has discovered flaws, technical or otherwise, in a bill that the government agrees need to be corrected. So, 90 per cent of those amendments are supported by the government and, indeed, many of them are proposed by the government. That leaves 10 per cent, 400 to 500 amendments not proposed or supported by the government but passed nonetheless by the House of Lords.
Compare and contrast that with our own performance in this chamber of late, one of my colleagues says, which was in significant measure modelled on the House of Lords and in particular was designed to mirror that function of sober second thought.
Senator Bellemare, in her speeches in this series of inquiries, spoke to us about having been deeply impressed by her reading of John Stuart Mill. Well, I have been deeply impressed by the reading of a more recent author, a book published by the Oxford University Press by Dr. Meg Russell, an expert on the House of Lords; this book is called The Contemporary House of Lords: Westminster Bicameralism Revived.
Her methodology may differ slightly from that of the clerks who spoke to us last week in London, but she also confirms that the House of Lords routinely amends bills that come to it from the House of Commons.
I would cite, for example, a study she did of just eight bills, but these were not unimportant bills; they covered topics ranging from health, corporate homicide, energy, and welfare reform, plus some others, and these eight bills were spread over two different parliaments. She wanted to be sure that she wasn't just looking at one moment in time — one parliament nearly 10 years ago now and one 3 or 4 years ago.
In those eight bills, the Lords made 260 government amendments, but also made 40 non-government amendments. I repeat: These were important bills.
As I understand it — and this is backed up by Dr. Russell, who knows an awful lot more about the House of Lords than I do — the amendments are sometimes technical in nature, as they have historically often been here. People catch a flaw in a bill and they correct it. There's nothing wrong with that; that's what we're supposed to do, I thought. They are also, as often as not, concerned with civil liberties, what we would call the Charter of Rights, probably, and with constitutional propriety. Is the bill in conformity with the Constitution? We all know that the Constitution of the United Kingdom is unwritten, but it is real, and they take it very seriously. When the House of Lords sees a problem with the constitutional propriety of a bill or its effect on civil liberties, the House of Lords acts to fix the bill.
Having at one point sat on the government side of this chamber, I know that there is a very strong tendency to say that if a bill comes to us that the government supports, it's wrong and disloyal for us to try to change that bill in any way. But I learned that that's wrong, that what we do best to strengthen the government and Parliament is to do our job properly. That is the greatest service to the public interest and therefore to our parties that we can perform.
Let me tell you what Dr. Russell says about this. She says:
Bicameralism should not be considered a zero-sum game, where one legislative chamber necessarily gets stronger at the expense of the other.
She goes on to say:
A more assertive Lords therefore complements an already more assertive and professional House of Commons. The two chambers, with their very different and complementary memberships, have created a stronger parliament overall.
Colleagues, that is what the Fathers of Confederation wanted us to do. That is what we have been called here to do. That's why the people of Canada pay for us to serve the public interest and in so doing to create a stronger Parliament. I earnestly hope that as we reflect upon how we can best serve the public interest, we will come to the conclusion that sometimes the best way to serve the public interest is to point out things that need to be fixed and then to fix them.
Some Hon. Senators: Hear, hear.
(On motion of Senator Cordy, debate adjourned.)
On the Order:
Resuming debate on the inquiry of the Honourable Senator Cools, calling the attention of the Senate to November 11, known to all as Remembrance Day, of this, the centennial year of the July 28 start of hostilities in the 1914-1918 Great War, which day is given to the national and collective mourning of Canadians, on which we remember and honour the many who served and who fell in the service of God, King and Country, and, whose incalculable sacrifice of their lives, we honour in our simultaneous yet individual, personal acts of prayer and remembrance, wherein we pause and bow our heads together in sacred unity, at the eleventh hour, of the eleventh day, of the eleventh month, for the many who gave themselves, and:
To those who served in World War I, with its stupendous sacrifices, its massive mobilisation and fielding of millions of men, on all sides, and to its enormous casualties and losses of life, and, to our young country's noble contribution to this far away overseas War, of 620,000 men, being ten percent of Canada's then population, and, to our 60,661 fallen, being ten percent of those serving, and, to Canada's Prime Minister, the Conservative, Robert Borden's success in earning Canada's representation at the 1919 Allies' Paris Peace Conference, and, to his and his Ministers' presence there, and, to the respect he earned for Canadian contribution to the war, and for Canada's control of its foreign affairs, wars and peace, and, to the changing relations between the Allied leaders, and, to their changing politics at home, and, to Canadians at home and abroad, particularly the Canadian-born British Prime Minister, Andrew Bonar Law and the Canadian Max Aitken, known as Lord Beaverbrook, both of whom were active in British politics in these events, and who endeavoured, in 1922, to avoid a new war at Chanak, in the Turkish Dardanelles.
Hon. Elizabeth (Beth) Marshall: Honourable senators, I have completed my research on this inquiry, and I actually have the speech written. I'd like to have a few days to check it over to make sure my numbers are right and to dot my i's and cross my t's. I will be speaking to this next week. I would like to move the adjournment for the balance of my time.
(On motion of Senator Marshall, debate adjourned.)
(The Senate adjourned until Wednesday, January 28, 2015, at 1:30 p.m.)