Hon. John G. Bryden: Honourable senators, the Honourable Charles
McElman, New Brunswick senator, Nashwaak Valley, who served his country with
honour and distinction for more than half a century — nearly half of that period
in this chamber — died since we last met. Retiring in 1990, his contribution to
the public life of his province and country will long be cherished and
In life, as in death, he was a modest man. His instructions that there be no
eulogy at his funeral were honoured. In his January memorial service in
Fredericton, the order of service of the Anglican Book of Common Prayer was
followed. In his homily, the Reverend Barry Crais told those attending:
In keeping with this modesty, this service is deliberately simple. On more
than one occasion Charles McElman told me of his admiration for this form of
burial service, which was the same, as he said, "for princes as for paupers.''
Honourable senators, the service had to be moved from his home church to a
larger one in order to accommodate the more than 400 people who attended to
mourn and remember Charles McElman. Representing this chamber were Senator
Corbin and myself, and Senator Kinsella and Senator Atkins from the opposition.
There is so much to remember about Charles McElman. His career spanned that
of a junior bank employee, wartime service in the Royal Canadian Air Force,
Secretary of the New Brunswick Liquor Control Board, Personal Secretary to
Premier John McNair, the First Executive Secretary of the New Brunswick Liberal
Association in its first permanent party office, Executive Assistant to Premier
Louis J. Robichaud, and member of the Senate of Canada for 24 years.
After a devastating defeat of the McNair Liberal government in 1952, Charles
McElman worked tirelessly for the next eight years to rebuild the Liberal Party
in New Brunswick. Working in partnership with Louis Robichaud, who became party
leader in 1958 and premier in 1960, they boldly tackled the deep-seated economic
and social problems of New Brunswick, particularly the plight and crisis of
rural life. Together they were determined to bring about changes that would
bring social justice and equality of opportunity to the people of New Brunswick.
The Program for Equal Opportunity, which was developed in the face of fierce
opposition by some, stood then and stands now as one of the most innovative
social reform programs undertaken in this country.
In 1966, Charles McElman was summoned to the Senate of Canada. He became, to
use his words, "a committee man.'' A stickler for rules and proper processes
and procedures, he served throughout his career in the upper chamber on two
committees little known outside the Senate: the Standing Committee on Internal
Economy, Budgets and Administration, and the Standing Committee on Privileges,
Standing Rules and Orders. Over the years, he also served on a number of other
committees, including the Transport Committee — so important to Atlantic Canada
— the Defence Committee and the Foreign Affairs Committee. He is remembered as
being a key member of the Special Committee on Mass Media, which was concerned
with media concentration.
The rebel and reformer in Charles McElman came out in the Senate when he
battled what was then its most powerful committee — the Banking, Trade and
Commerce Committee. He objected to those on the committee with directorships in
financial institutions examining bills that affected those same institutions
without declaring a conflict of interest. Traditionally, that committee was the
only one to exclude senators not on that committee from its in camera sessions.
Charles McElman successfully battled to have the Banking, Trade and Commerce
Committee follow the rules laid down for all committees in the Senate.
Honourable senators, Charles McElman was a strong defender of the role of the
Senate of Canada as it existed. However, he said he would defend an elected
Senate provided it met the Triple-E concept: elected, effective, equal
representation by province. He said he thought this development unlikely,
however, with the country's premiers so dedicated to their concept of executive
Charles McElman never shied away from the designation of "politician.'' He
I continue to wear the designation of politician as a badge of honour. In
my view it is one of the highest callings that anyone can aspire to.
Honourable senators, Charles McElman regarded the future of the Senate with
confidence. He noted on his retirement that only nine senators remained who were
in the chamber when he was appointed. He said:
There is an exceptional turnover that does actually occur in this non-elected
body. Each infusion of new senators, new ideas and new energies causes a
continuing evolvement — dare I say reform — to the important work of the chamber
and its many committees.
As for the future, Charles McElman said he was confident the Senate would
continue to function well in our bicameral system to the benefit of all
Canadians. He said: "It would continue to reform itself from within. It should
not delay while awaiting reform from without.''
As I said earlier, Charles McElman was a modest man. That is not to say he
could not be a tough man in dealing with political issues. There are many still
in New Brunswick and elsewhere in this country, friends and foes alike, who bear
scars from their political relations with him. Charles McElman, in all things he
did, always had the courage of his convictions and what he viewed as the best
interests of his
party, his province and his country. Most of the time he was right. He was
always proud of his earlier days as a consummate backroom political operative.
The fact that he was able to evolve to become comfortable in the front room of
the Senate of Canada showed his capacity to accept changed roles.
Pierre Elliott Trudeau was Prime Minister for two-thirds of the time Charles
McElman was in the Senate. When he retired from the Senate, Prime Minister
I soon came to understand what an astute politician Charles McElman is. His
integrity is total, as is his unwavering support of the Liberal Party of
Canada. I always admired Charles McElman for his excellence.
Louis Robichaud expressed his admiration at the time of former Senator
McElman's retirement by saying:
Never in my life have I met a man so dedicated, so loyal, so courageous, so
cooperative, so understanding and so willing to serve the cause of his fellow
man. His contribution has been immense.
Former Premier Frank McKenna said, "A team player, he offers views and
advice that let the chips fall where they may.''
When Charles McElman worked in his home study, he was always in view of a
card on his bulletin board with a quote from Adlai Stevenson, which states as
Democracy is not self-executing. We have to make it work and to make it
work we have to understand it. Sober thought and fearless criticism are
impossible without critical thinkers and thinking critics.
When he retired in 1990, 14 senators paid him tribute in this chamber. One of
them was former Prince Edward Island Senator Lorne Bonnell, who captured much of
the essence of Charles McElman when he said:
Charles McElman was not only a Liberal but a reformer; a man with ideas,
prepared to fight for those ideas and a man who not only thought of himself but
he thought of the poor, the underprivileged, the disabled and those in need in
Charles McElman loved his family and his devoted wife, Jessie, who
predeceased him. His death is a great loss, but we have so much to be grateful
for in remembering him and his great contribution to public life.
I suspect that former Senator Charles McElman would have liked us to remember
him for one more thing: being one of the most accomplished fly fishermen on his
beloved Nashwaak River.
In closing, honourable senators, I want to acknowledge the contribution of
Senator McElman's long-time friend and political ally, Wendell Fulton, to these
few words of tribute in his honour.
Hon. Noël A. Kinsella (Deputy Leader of the Opposition): Honourable
senators, as indicated by Senator Bryden, a few weeks ago we gathered at Christ
Church Parish Church in Fredericton to celebrate the life of our friend, former
Senator Charles McElman.
As Senator Bryden said, the format of the funeral ritual was, at Charlie's
request, a simple liturgy of the Book of Common Prayer. Notwithstanding the
presence of several lords spiritual in the persons of the current and former
Bishops of Fredericton and a church overflowing with the participation of public
and private sector officials, the province bade farewell to one of her most
Born in Devon, on the north side of the Saint John River, at Fredericton,
Charlie was a wonderful New Brunswicker and a great Canadian. Indeed, his
special tie to our province was symbolized by the fact that his day of birth was
June 18, the same day of the year on which, in 1784, at the Court of St. James,
there was issued the proclamation which gave birth to the Province of New
Brunswick. Educated in New Brunswick, Senator McElman served his country during
the Second World War with the Royal Canadian Air Force.
The field of banking and service as secretary of the New Brunswick Liquor
Control Board profited from his work prior to becoming a pivotal counsellor and
ally to Liberal premiers of our province.
Senator McElman had been a careful political thinker and an astute
strategist. As a political scientist, he had recognized that the question of the
relationship between political theory and political action has exercised
students of politics and political militants since antiquity. "No practice
without theory,'' Charlie would declare — no doubt with the approval of Plato
The equal opportunity program introduced in New Brunswick by Senator Louis J.
Robichaud's government in no small way carried the mark of Senator McElman, who
directed operations in the premier's office during that era.
Equally remarkable had been the fortitude and strength of Senator McElman
during the Senate inquiry into the concentration of ownership of the media. He
would no doubt welcome a renewed study today.
Honourable senators, our friend who sat in this chamber located on the banks
of the Ottawa never forgot the solid values he learned as a boy in Devon along
the banks of the Saint John. Like the Eighth Duke of Devonshire, Spencer Compton
Cavendish, Charlie McElman had frequently held high office in Liberal affairs,
but not so much with the orientation of Cavendish's whigs as with the politics
of Canadian liberal parties.
A man of conviction but a fair man and one ready to share wise counsel, I
recall one of my last encounters with Charlie. It took place along the fish
tackle aisle at the Canadian Tire store in Fredericton. Charlie, as indicated by
Senator Bryden, was a master fly fisher. He inquired of me if I had been fishing
recently. I replied that I had not because I had been too busy, whereupon he
advised that any man who was too busy to go fishing is too busy.
In bidding farewell to Charles Robert McElman, we pay tribute to a native of
Fredericton, an airman who served his country in a time of need, a political
thinker and strategist and an honourable member of this chamber. May he now be
at peace in the bosom of Abraham.
Hon. Eymard G. Corbin: Honourable senators, the Honourable Charles
McElman was a distinguished gentleman and a man of principle. He was my mentor
in the Senate, even before my appointment to the Senate. As Senator Bryden so
eloquently put it, he would have been embarrassed by all the tributes paid to
He was known for his hard work, his loyalty, his strength of mind, his
tremendous compassion and his discretion. For the major part of his life, he was
a public figure, but he was also a very humble man.
He was a pillar here in the Senate and also in the New Brunswick Liberal
Party. He retired early because he loved his family, especially his wife. He
truly believed that public life first in New Brunswick and then in Ottawa had
kept him away from his dear ones, especially his wife, and he wanted to make up
for lost time.
I made it a point of attending his funeral to pay him a personal tribute. He
was a wise but firm advisor to me. I owe him a lot. I am very grateful to him,
and I will remember him for a long time. I learned a great deal just by watching
him take part in our debates and meetings and by following his advice.
Hon. Gerry St. Germain: Honourable senators, earlier today I gave
written notice of my question of privilege to the office of the Clerk. I believe
it has been circulated to all senators. I apologize for not providing it in both
official languages, but I just do not have the resources to do so.
The six bases for my question of privilege are as follows. First, at page 56
of Bourinot's Parliamentary Procedure, it states:
It has been frequently decided that the following matters fall within the
category of breech of privileges:
1. Disobedience to, or evasion of, any of the orders or rules which are
made for the convenience or efficiency of the proceedings of the house.
Second, Joseph Maingot states that, to constitute privilege, generally there
must be some improper obstruction to the member performing his parliamentary
work in either a direct or constructive way.
Third, discussions have taken place in this chamber regarding my status and
the status of the Leader of the Opposition in the Senate. These discussions have
not included me and have resulted in a denial of my privileges in this chamber.
Fourth, in 1993, the Speaker of the other place ruled on matters relating to
the orders of that place and agreed that they were indeed questions of
privilege. The particular situation dealt with the late tabling of a government
response to a committee of the other place. In his ruling on April 19, 1993, at
page 18106 of the Commons Debates, the Speaker said as follows: "Members cannot
function if they do not have access to the material they need for work and if
our rules are being ignored...''
Fifth, most members of either chamber would agree with this Speaker's
rulings. Of particular importance is the recognition by the Speaker that
ignoring the rules of that place constituted a breach of privilege.
Sixth, the particular traditions and precedent being ignored here are related
to the first rule of the Senate of Canada.
The very first section of Canada's Rules of the Senate states that precedent
and tradition are critical elements in any decision made by the Senate that
deals with a question not covered in the rules. Rule 1(1) states:
In all cases not provided for in these rules, the customs, usages, forms
and proceedings of either House of the Parliament of Canada shall, mutatis
mutandis, be followed in the Senate or in any committee thereof.
Our "customs, usages, forms and proceedings'' require that we look to three
sources for governance of this place. The first place is in the rules
themselves. The second is precedent. The third is in the traditions of this
Given that we have no rules governing the selection of the official
opposition in the Senate, we are required by our own rules to examine the
precedents and traditions. There is no precedent for the Senate itself, but
precedents from the House of Lords and from the Australian Senate are most
clear. The official opposition in the upper chamber is selected with a reference
to the party serving as official opposition in the lower chamber.
Finally, we must look to our own traditions. Our own traditions show over 100
years of government and opposition leaders in the other place selecting their
respective counterparts in the Senate.
Therefore, the necessary requirements for the selection of the leader of the
official opposition in the Senate of Canada are clearly laid before us. I see no
rational reason other than "might makes right'' for this breach of our rules.
Finally, I ask leave of the Senate to table a research document that will
provide the chamber and its officials with the background research on this very
The Hon. the Speaker: Is leave granted?
Hon. Senators: Agreed.
Senator St. Germain: Thank you, honourable senators.
In accordance with the rules, at the completion of the Orders of Day today, I
will go into more detail with respect to this issue. I wish honourable senators
to know that I am prepared to have this matter referred to the Standing
Committee on Privileges, Standing Rules and Orders so that they can examine this
and report back.
The Hon. the Speaker: Honourable senators, Senator St. Germain has
deposited with the Clerk, in a timely manner, a notice of a question of
privilege and has called our attention to it under Senators' Statements as
required by rule 43. The Senate shall take up consideration of whether the
circumstances constitute a question of privilege. This will occur not later than
eight o'clock this evening or immediately after the Senate has completed
consideration of Orders of the Day for today's sitting, whichever comes first.
Hon. Jerahmiel S. Grafstein: Honourable senators, I rise in tribute to
the late Al Waxman. Acting can be the most perilous of professions. An actor's
persona becomes someone else's commodity, always at risk to the vagaries of
public taste. Choices give way to the imperative of work and work in turn
becomes fodder for criticism. To be an actor demands hidden reserves of
confidence to overcome obstacles to recognition.
Behind the sparkling smile, Al Waxman husbanded this hidden confidence in
abundance. Recently I wrote Al a long, discursive letter about his zestful
autobiography. I quickly received a moving and cheery call. Al and I had been
friends for over 40 years, since our student days at Western and then at the
University of Toronto Law School in the 1950s. When we next met, Al laughingly
said to me, "Think of it, Jerry. You are a failed actor and I am a failed
lawyer. Now, who has had the more successful career?''
"You, Al,'' I said, "you, of course.''
Back in the 1950s, Al chose insecurity over security, succeeding beyond
anyone's imagination except his own. He never stopped working. His career
resonated from acting to directing and even to songwriting, from King of
Kensington to directing Anne Frank. From starring in Death of a Salesman to the
avuncular police captain in Cagney & Lacey, Al never stopped improving.
My favourite was his portrayal of the venal Jack Adams in the hockey classic,
Net Worth. For you see, he was inoculated early with the Talmudic gene for the
endless search for personal perfection.
So let us all mark his cenotaph. Rarely does any actor transcend his time and
place in Canada as Al did. He was quintessentially Canadian, choosing to live
and work here though the lure of New York, Hollywood and even London beckoned.
Nothing so exemplified Al's quest for personal perfection than the role he was
slated to star in this summer at Stratford. He was to play the controversial
Shylock in The Merchant of Venice. He reckoned this posed a great critical risk.
He was obsessed with striking the appropriate artistic balance, and so he did
what he always did: He studied. He was never an accidental artist.
Honourable senators, Al Waxman was more. He owned other gifts. He had the
gift of friendship and the gift of giving. There was no charitable event across
Canada too large or none too small that he would not help.
Al, like all actors, vacillated between the hunger for celebrity and the
hunger for self-improvement. Yet he never wavered in his gift of giving. He
lived the Judaic ideal that dictates that charity is the highest human act of
May I tell one small political story, honourable senators. In the first
Lastman campaign for mayor of Toronto, I asked Al to participate in a cultural
task force to craft a cultural policy for the new Toronto. This, I thought, was
necessary to counter the overwhelming support that Lastman's opponent was
receiving from the cultural establishment in Toronto. Al joined our group with
gusto and imagination. When Lastman's campaign badly sagged a week before the
election date, Al called and said, "Let me take him out for a walk around
Kensington to pick us his spirit and see if we can boost his numbers.'' Al felt
his celebrity would rub off. True to his word, Al did exactly that. He "main-
streeted'' with Lastman and was instrumental in helping turn around the
faltering Lastman campaign. Everyone knew Mel, but everyone loved Al.
The day after the election, Al called me and said, "Now, let's put that
cultural policy in practice.'' He never stopped working.
Al loved his profession, but above all he loved his family. When his wife,
Sarah, told me that he had died of heart failure, I told her, "That simply
could not be. Al's heart could never fail.''
Al, we are still dismayed that you left us so abruptly. We are still angry we
were robbed, so prematurely, of your gift of company. So now, all I can say to
you is, "Al, go to heaven.''
May I conclude with a quote from Scriptures: "See the man who is diligent in
his work. He shall stand before kings.''
Hon. Jean-Claude Rivest: Honourable senators, I should like to draw
your attention to the bill on young offenders, which creates considerable
problems in many regions of Canada, but Quebec in particular.
All senators need to be aware of the fact that all professionals working with
delinquent youth in Quebec object very strenuously to the contents of the bill
to amend the Young Offenders Act, which was introduced in the House of Commons
When I speak of professionals, I include not only justices and Crown
attorneys, defence counsel and police officers, but also and particularly all
the men and women working within government organizations, as volunteers, or in
the social reintegration of young offenders.
We can readily understand that a country as large and diversified as Canada
can have a number of approaches to the problem of young offenders. I believe the
Minister of Justice has a good grasp of the reality, but she also needs to
translate that reality into the bill she is introducing in order to allow any
provincial government the freedom to adopt a particular approach to juvenile
delinquency or to continue the approach it is already using.
In Quebec, honourable senators, the approach to young offenders is far more
focussed on rehabilitation. The general philosophy in Quebec has been quite
successful; the statistics indicate that there have been absolutely remarkable
results with delinquent youth. In fact, those results are the best in all of
I would call upon the honourable senators to make their colleagues, and the
minister in particular, more aware of this reality and of Quebec's objection to
certain provisions of this bill. This bill is a federal responsibility, since it
falls under the Criminal Code, but it is a social issue above all.
Hon. Sharon Carstairs (Leader of the Government): Honourable senators,
I rise to speak on the recent death of Mr. David Iftody, the former Member of
Parliament for Provencher, who died on Monday at the age of 44 from an apparent
Many of us knew David in his capacity as chair of the Liberal rural caucus
and as a member of the Standing Committee on Industry in the other place. David
came to see me while I was the leader of the Liberal Party of Manitoba to
discuss his decision to run in the Provencher constituency in eastern Manitoba.
It was not a traditional Liberal riding. In fact, it was held for many years by
the Honourable Jake Epp. However, David was energetic and enthusiastic about his
chances because Mr. Epp was stepping down. As it turned out, he was right.
David was dedicated to the needs of his constituency from the time he was
first elected in 1993. He loved being a member of Parliament and gave it his
all, both of his time and of his effort.
A social worker by profession, David worked for many years at the Manitoba
Youth Care Centre and was always interested in keeping in touch with young
people and involving them in the political process.
During the Red River floods of 1997, many of us remember seeing David on
television and in the newspapers working side by side with the people who lived
in the flooded communities — his communities — and serving as a strong voice on
their behalf during those difficult times. David was very involved with his
riding and with his constituents. He was proud to represent them and to work on
David's death, coming as it did without warning and totally unexpectedly,
reminds us all to treat each day as something important and of value. David did,
and I believe he would want all of us to do the same.
I extend my condolences to his very extended family.
Hon. Donald H. Oliver: Honourable senators, one of our
responsibilities under the Constitution Act is to represent the interests of the
regions of Canada. With that in mind, I am pleased to call the attention of
honourable senators to a campaign of fairness launched by the Premier of Nova
Scotia, the Honourable John F. Hamm. The purpose of this campaign is to urge the
federal government to fulfil its obligations under section 36(1) and (2) of the
Constitution Act, 1982. Nova Scotia is not seeking special treatment but wants
to ensure that the Canadian government honours its constitutional commitments
and agreements with the province.
Last November, honourable senators, Atlantic premiers sent a joint letter to
the Prime Minister outlining the region's concern that the equalization program
has not been fully realized. The fiscal capacity of Atlantic provinces is still
7 per cent below those of others. This disparity damages the ability of Atlantic
provinces to offer services comparable to those provided in other provinces. The
Atlantic premiers have called for consideration of three fundamental
initiatives: the adoption of a national average standard for equalization, which
would thereby assure that the program is truly committed to equalization; the
removal of the GNP ceiling on equalization payments; and finally, broadening of
the revenue coverage of the program, which would include user fees as a revenue
These initiatives will improve the equalization program, an improvement that
would add an additional $248 million to Nova Scotia's treasury. The initiatives
would also empower the Atlantic provinces to provide comparable qualities of
Apart from the equalization program, Nova Scotia's concerns also relate to
the benefits of the offshore resources. The province feels it should be a
principal beneficiary of any resources off the shore of the province, as
outlined in the Canada-Nova Scotia Offshore Petroleum Resources Accord of 1986.
Honourable senators, Nova Scotia and the Atlantic provinces should be
supported in every effort that would decrease dependence upon federal funding
and transfers. Premier John Hamm will be speaking at the National Press Club's
Newsmaker Breakfast tomorrow, February 7, on the subject of his campaign for
fairness. I urge all honourable senators to attend so that they can understand
the significance and lend their support to this important initiative.
The Hon. the Speaker: Honourable senators, I regret to advise that the
time for Senators' Statements has expired. I have on my list Senators Fairbairn,
Spivak and Johnson. I anticipate that some of them wish to speak out of respect
for our former colleague.
The rule is very strict on Senators' Statements. However, it does provide
that either whip might approach the Chair for an extension of time. In the
absence of that, I have no choice but to move on to the next item.
Hon. Mira Spivak: Honourable senators, I wish to ask leave to pay
tribute to David Iftody.
The Hon. the Speaker: Honourable Senator Spivak, the rule is very
clear. Time has expired. We can return to Senators' Statements tomorrow, but we
are unable to do so today.
Senator Spivak: I wanted simply to ask leave to say a few words of
tribute to David Iftody.
Some Hon. Senators: Tomorrow.
The Hon. the Speaker: I cannot accept that request under Senators'
Statements, Senator Spivak. I am bound by the rules. This is a matter on which
we have spent considerable time and to which my predecessor and I are sensitive
in terms of our desire to limit the time and length for Senators' Statements.
Hon. Lorna Milne: Honourable senators, I have the honour to table, in
both official languages, the report of the Canadian delegation of the
Canada-Europe Parliamentary Association, which represented Canada at the Fourth
Part of the 2000 Session of the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe,
in Strasbourg, France, from September 25 to 29, 2000.
Hon. Douglas Roche: Honourable senators, I give notice that two days
hence, I will move:
That the Senate of Canada recommends that the Government of Canada avoid
involvement and support for the development of a National Missile Defence
(NMD) System that would run counter to the legal obligations enshrined in the
Anti-Ballistic Missile Treaty, which has been a cornerstone of strategic
stability and an important foundation for international efforts on nuclear
disarmament and non-proliferation for almost 30 years.
Hon. Donald H. Oliver: Honourable senators, I give notice that on
Thursday next, I will draw the attention of the Senate to the Coca-Cola
settlement and the preceding lawsuit regarding racial bias in order to inform
the Senate about recurrent issues concerning employment discrimination. I will
also refer to the details of the settlement, analysis of the case, the reality
of North America's corporate culture and the importance of the issue to Canada.
Hon. Donald H. Oliver: Honourable senators, I give notice that on
Thursday next, I will draw the attention of the Senate to the relationship of
Canadian business and the Ottawa bureaucracy and how it was affected by the
recent circulation of a memorandum by Peter Dey, the former chair of the Ontario
Securities Commission and now Chairman of Morgan Stanley Canada. I will also
draw honourable senators' attention to that relationship in relation to a recent
publication by the Public Policy Forum dealing with the two solitudes.
Hon. Donald H. Oliver: Honourable senators, I give notice that on
Thursday next, I will draw the attention of the Senate to the historical
importance to Canadians of February being proclaimed Black History Month.
Hon. Mira Spivak: Honourable senators, my question relates to the
Speech from the Throne, but first let me congratulate the government on the many
stated or implied environmental and health initiatives in the speech. There is a
good deal in there on which I am sure we can all agree, but the devil, of
course, is in the details. I was particularly interested in the statement that
the government will strengthen laws and research efforts to develop appropriate
standards for toxic substances and environmental contaminants that will reflect
the special vulnerabilities of children. This was something many witnesses
called for in our committee hearings on the Canadian Environmental Protection
Act and something that we on this side supported, but the government at that
time was not ready to accept it. It is also in keeping with the motion
unanimously passed by this chamber some 15 months ago urging the government to
establish an office of children's environmental health.
My question for the Leader of the Government in the Senate — and I wish to
take this occasion to congratulate her again — is this: By what mechanism does
the government intend to fulfil this pledge contained in the Speech from the
Hon. Sharon Carstairs (Leader of the Government): Honourable senators,
I am sure that we were all delighted in the chamber to hear references made yet
again in the Speech from the Throne — because it is not the only reference — to
work that this institution has done and to recognize that work in terms of
suggestions we have made in our study of legislation. However, I cannot answer
the question of the honourable senator as to the nature of mechanism. I know
that it is still in the planning stages, and I will obtain information for the
honourable senator as soon as possible.
Senator Spivak: In obtaining that information, perhaps the Leader of
the Government could answer my other questions. Will CEPA be revisited before
the mandatory five-year period in this particular instance? Will an office of
children's environmental health be established within a department or separate
agency? Finally, how soon we can expect action on this issue?
Senator Carstairs: Honourable senators, I will add to my inquiry to
the Minister of the Environment her questions as to when they expect to get the
mechanism up and functioning; whether CEPA will, indeed, have a mandatory
five-year review; and whether we will establish an office on children's health.
Hon. Donald H. Oliver: Honourable senators, my question is directed to
the Leader of the Government in the Senate. It has to do with Crown
Canada's Auditor General, Denis Desautels, has outlined several serious
deficiencies in the way Crown corporations are governed. The weaknesses fall
into three areas: weak boards of directors, ineffective audit committees, and
the government's inability or unwillingness to challenge corporate plans before
With respect to the boards, the Auditor General makes several specific
recommendations, including the development of a board skills profile before
appointments are made, with selection to be based on that profile. Is it the
intention of the Government of Canada to ensure that, in the future, Crown
corporations submit board skills profiles to the appropriate minister, to the
Privy Council Office and to the PMO? Will the government ensure that it acts
upon these stated requirements in its selection of directors?
Hon. Sharon Carstairs (Leader of the Government): Honourable senators,
in his report, the Auditor General has indicated his grave concerns with respect
to appointed boards of directors of Crown corporations. However, it is important
for all of us to remember that the most important principle must be good
corporate governance, something which is essential for the operation of all
Crown corporations. The government is determined to appoint qualified and
competent persons; however, it will also respect the need for diversity, for
geographic balance and, indeed, for gender and visible minority balance, all of
which are necessary in the appointment process concerning Crown corporations.
The government has also made strides with regard to the time a director
remains in office, which in itself can contribute to good governance. If there
is too much turnover, then, clearly, the principles of good governance are not
Hon. Donald H. Oliver: Honourable senators, I should now like to
address the Auditor General's concerns about audit committees.
Honourable senators, in the private sector, the audit committee is the engine
of a well-functioning board, yet the Auditor General has found that half of all
Crown corporation audit committees are operating below an effective level. Two
of the 14 audit committees examined did not have even a single member with any
accounting or financial management experience. In other words, they could barely
understand financial statements, and certainly would not ask probing questions
about the corporation's financial risks and accounting.
Could the Leader of the Government in the Senate advise the Senate as to what
specific steps the government will take to ensure that those who sit on Crown
corporation audit committees are at least able to read the balance sheet and
challenge the numbers that are laid before them?
Hon. Sharon Carstairs (Leader of the Government): Honourable senators,
obviously, it is important that skilled people sit on boards of directors,
whether on Crown corporations or private corporations. Clearly, a knowledge of
how to read a balance sheet is an important skill. At one point in time in this
country we thought that the only people who were appropriate for certain
positions in life were lawyers. It now seems that the only people appropriate
for certain positions in life are chartered accountants. I think we have to find
a balance in all things.
Hon. Terry Stratton: Honourable senators, my question is addressed to
the Leader of the Government in the Senate. It has to do with the Employment
Insurance Fund. I have asked this question every year for the last four years. I
first asked the question when the surplus was around $8 billion. It is now $35
billion, and growing. That amounts to three years' worth of benefits.
Premiums are supposed to be set at a level that will cover the cost of the
program while ensuring stable rates over a business cycle, yet the government
continues to set premiums at levels that drive that surplus up further.
On at least two separate occasions the Auditor General has recommended that
the government and the EI Commission disclose the way the EI legislation is
interpreted when premiums are set. Could the minister advise us as to why no
such disclosure was made when premiums were set for this year on December 31?
Hon. Sharon Carstairs (Leader of the Government): Honourable senators,
the Auditor General has again raised the concern of the lack of clarity in the
EI system. That is exactly why last December the government accepted the advice
of the EI Commission to cut premiums for 2001 by $1.2 billion by lowering the
premium rate by 15 cents. That is in addition to the $5.2 billion in savings to
Canadians resulting from other reductions over the past six years.
At the time of tabling Bill C-44, the government committed itself to
developing a new EI rate setting mechanism. That bill, under a different number,
has now been introduced in the House of Commons. It will come to the Senate very
soon. I hope that the Honourable Senator Stratton can provide a lively
discussion in that committee debate.
Senator Stratton: Honourable senators, I should like the minister to
clarify one point. She stated that the rates set in December were done so on a
fair basis. The EI actuary has stated that to break even the program could run
on premiums of $1.75. That amount would still look after all the requirements.
However, the rate is $2.25. Can the minister explain the difference?
Senator Carstairs: Honourable senators, as the honourable senator
knows, in the ultimate analysis of any situation, the government must decide
what the final rate should be. I think the government is exercising caution in
this regard, caution which is worthy of merit.
Senator Stratton: Honourable senators, if we have a surplus of $35
billion, why do we need a surcharge of 50 cents? There is a $35-billion surplus
sitting there. Surely to goodness we could set the rate at $1.75, allowing the
rates to drop considerably.
Senator Carstairs: Honourable senators, the rates have already dropped
considerably. The government is monitoring this situation most carefully, which
is exemplified by the number of reductions that have taken place over the last
Hon. Pierre Claude Nolin: Honourable senators, last year the media had
a field day with the administrative problems at the Department of Human
Resources Development and later the Canadian International Development Agency.
Today, we learn from the Auditor General's report that it is the Department
of Canadian Heritage's turn to have problems with its grant approval process.
This is not the first time the Auditor General has made such a remark.
In 1998, the Auditor General of Canada had already warned Parliament about
the serious shortcomings in the grant approval process within Heritage Canada's
Multiculturalism Directorate. It is clear from the Auditor General's report that
the situation has grown worse.
In fact, 19 per cent of the files examined in an internal audit did not meet
Treasury Board's standards of due diligence. Furthermore, 37 per cent of
applications for which grants were approved were considered barely acceptable.
So, in 56 per cent of the cases examined in the internal audit, a grant was
approved for reasons I would characterize as dubious.
Can the minister tell us why, in the space of two years, the situation has
grown worse rather than better?
Hon. Sharon Carstairs (Leader of the Government): Honourable senators,
there may be some dispute as to the facts set out in his particular question.
As the honourable senator indicated, when the Auditor General released his
report in 1998, he pointed out some concerns to the Department of Canadian
Heritage. Since that time, audits have become a standard practice in that
department. Management has accepted and has already addressed most of the
recommendations of the Auditor General's follow-up audit, which has taken place,
and the department has clarified its strategic objective and has provided
additional training for staff, strengthened control and assessment mechanisms
and implemented an enhanced management framework. The Auditor General himself
noted that the department has undertaken a number of initiatives to address the
problems we found and to strengthen due diligence across the department.
Hon. Pierre Claude Nolin: The Auditor General tells us that in 1998,
30 per cent of grants approved did not meet Treasury Board's due diligence
requirements. Now, in 2001, 56 per cent of files fail to meet these
requirements. I respect the figures given by the Auditor General. In spite of
everything, the conclusion now reached is that all the department's efforts were
in vain. Things have simply gotten worse. Could the minister tell me what role
the Minister of Canadian Heritage plays in the grant approval process?
Hon. Sharon Carstairs (Leader of the Government): The honourable
senator has asked: What is the role of the minister? Honourable senators, it is
the role of the minister to ensure that due diligence is practised and that the
auditing recommendations are fulfilled to the best of her ability. The Auditor
General has noted that there have been a number of important initiatives to
address the problems and to strengthen the due diligence across the department.
For that, the minister should be congratulated.
Senator Nolin: My question is more specific than that. What is the
role is the Minister of Canadian Heritage required to play in the granting
process within the multiculturalism directorate?
Senator Carstairs: Ultimately, honourable senators, the minister is
responsible for anything in her department.
Senator Nolin: She is signing off on a contribution. She has no
authority to give away that money.
Senator Carstairs: Quite frankly, honourable senators, I do not know
if the minister signs off on every single grant. However, I will get that
information for the honourable senator. Ultimately, she is responsible.
Hon. Lowell Murray: Honourable senators, my question is for the Leader
of the Government in the Senate. In the view of the federal government, which of
the principles of the Canada Health Act does New Brunswick violate by its
decision to fund only those abortions that are conducted in its public
Hon. Sharon Carstairs (Leader of the Government): I wish to thank the
honourable senator for his question regarding the issue of abortion services not
only in the province of New Brunswick but also in the other provinces across
Honourable senators, it is very clear that necessary medical services are to
be paid for. That is part of the underlying principle of the Canada Health Act,
and it is the part of the Health Act to which the reference should be made.
Senator Murray: Well, perhaps the leader could explain to me in what
respect that principle, which would be the principle of public administration
and funding, is violated by the decision of the Province of New Brunswick and
also of Manitoba, as she notes implicitly, to regulate the performance of
abortions in that way?
Senator Carstairs: The honourable senator should know that all insured
physician services and hospital services should be provided at no cost to
insured persons — that is, to almost every person living in this country —
certainly all Canadian citizens — whether those services are provided in a
hospital or in a clinic. The essence is: Is it an insured service?
Senator Murray: My friend says, "The essence is: Is it an insured
service?'' The five Canada Health Act principles are very clear. How can the
government insist that the Province of New Brunswick or the Province of
Manitoba, which have the right, as all provinces do, to regulate health
services, are in violation of the Canada Health Act when the service is
available in its public hospitals and is paid for as an insured service in that
While I am on my feet, I might ask the minister whether she would obtain a
formal statement from her colleague the Minister of Health, as well as a copy of
any written communication that surely would have been sent by Mr. Rock to the
provinces in question.
Senator Carstairs: Honourable senators, I will answer the second part
of the question first. Yes, I will undertake to find any formal statement or
communication between the Honourable Minister of Health and the respective
minister in the Province of New Brunswick.
I wish to remind the honourable senator that in September 2000 all first
ministers agreed, in a document which they all signed, that they would uphold
the principles of the Canada Health Act. Ensuring that an insured service is
protected, whether it is provided in a clinic or in a hospital, is one of those
Senator Murray: While the minister is inquiring of the Minister of
Health on that matter, perhaps she would return to the specific question I asked
in the first place. The principles of the Canada Health Act are universality,
accessibility, comprehensiveness, public administration and portability among
the provinces. Which of those principles is being violated by either New
Brunswick or Manitoba, or by any other province, in the case of abortions?
Senator Carstairs: Honourable senators, I would suggest that, perhaps,
up to three of the principles are being violated, namely, universality,
accessibility and, in cases involving women in Prince Edward Island,
Hon. Leonard J. Gustafson: Honourable senators, as everyone in this
chamber knows, there has been a lot of talk about agriculture but little action,
to the point where it is very serious. A professor who teaches at the University
of Saskatoon and at the University in California was on CBC radio this morning
saying that in this past year the subsidies in the U.S. have been historically
higher than ever and will be higher next year than they are now — that is,
approximately $25 billion. We keep getting the answer from our government, "We
will try to get the Americans and the Europeans off subsidies.'' That will not
My question is this: When will the government realize that this is a serious
problem? The professor predicted that next year's farm income in the grain
sector — not the dairy sector or some of the other sectors under the board —
will be down considerably from what it is this year. Farms cannot survive in
that situation. It is now to the point where the government must do something to
save this industry in Canada. There was little mention of it in the Speech from
the Throne, even after the farmers demonstrated here. There was no mention of it
as the Prime Minister met with the President of the United States, and I guess
that is to be understood. However, other things were mentioned.
The question farmers want to know is this: When will the government take this
matter seriously and take some action and stop telling us that they "will get
the Europeans and the Americans off subsidies?''
Hon. Sharon Carstairs (Leader of the Government): Honourable senators,
this issue is clearly a concern not only to the government but to me in
particular, as I do live in one of the provinces where oilseeds and the grains
industry are important to the economy.
The reality is that if we try to play the subsidy game with the United States
and the Europeans, we will simply never be able to match the amounts of money
that they are prepared to pour into this particular sector. We must then look at
alternative proposals. One of those alternatives is to negotiate the absence of
subsidies from other countries, primarily the United States and the European
In addition, we must continue to work on programs which will help our farmers
now. The Agriculture Income Disaster Assistance program was one. The safety net
programs are another. Such initiatives, particularly safety net programs, were
announced in the Speech from the Throne, because it is important to help our
farmers over the next few years as negotiations take place at the world trade
Senator Gustafson: Honourable senators, some believe that it is not
the political arm of the government that is resisting this support, but rather
the bureaucracy that has decided the kind of agriculture we will have in Canada,
and no one is able to stand up to them. Does the Leader of the Government share
in that opinion?
Senator Carstairs: Honourable senators, I have no idea whether the
bureaucracy is holding up anything. I do know, however, that the
federal-provincial safety net package worth $5.5 billion was announced last
year. In addition, the Canadian Farm Income Program contributed another $2.1
billion. Canada is doing its part. It needs to do more. That is why a better
safety net program is being examined and advanced. Hopefully, those efforts will
meet the needs of our agricultural producers but, ultimately, we have to get rid
of the subsidies which are paid in enormous amounts of money by the Americans
and by the Europeans.
Senator Gustafson: Honourable senators, in my opinion, that will not
happen. When will the government take some action on this situation? The AIDA
program did not work. Ask any farmer in Saskatchewan, Alberta, Manitoba or
Ontario, and they will tell you the program did not work. It was a joke.
When will the government take some serious action to benefit all of Canada,
Ontario as well as Western Canada? This is becoming an alienating thing. This
lack of action is actually alienating Western Canada, and that is a sad
situation. The government has money for other things in the millions and
billions of dollars. I will not name them. The leader knows what they are. Yet
there is no real money for the farmers. If there is money, it has gone to the
bureaucracy in administration costs.
Senator Carstairs: Honourable senators, I certainly do not agree with
the proposition set forth by the honourable senator. For example, he says that
the AIDA program has not worked. AIDA has provided $154 million in cheques to
farmers. That is $154 million that farmers would not have had if AIDA had not
been in existence, so it is not possible to say the program is not working. Yes,
it had administrative difficulties. That is clear. Many of those administrative
difficulties were corrected, and the response rate for AIDA program has
increased dramatically. To say that $154 million paid out by the federal
Department of Agriculture has not worked is simply not true.
Hon. Gerald J. Comeau: My question is further to the one raised last
week by Senator Nolin with regard to the word "viable'' which appears in the
French version of the Speech from the Throne in connection with the commitment
to protect francophone minority communities in Canada and to promote their
In her answer, the minister stated that francophone minority communities
should view the word "viable'' in a much larger context. This does not answer
Senator Nolin's question. Could the Leader of the Government in the Senate look
up the definition of the word "viable''?
Will this new concept be used to assess minority communities on the verge of
disappearing or being assimilated, especially smaller communities such as those
in Nova Scotia, Prince Edward Island, Newfoundland and others? The word
"viable'' did not just happen in a document of this kind. It was carefully
chosen and probably indicates a policy shift on the part of the government.
Hon. Sharon Carstairs (Leader of the Government): Honourable senators,
as per my undertaking to Senator Nolin, I requested the semantic definitions of
the two words in question as used in the Speech from the Throne. I will be
pleased to share any reply received with Senator Comeau.
We must also bear in mind that this government is committed to helping the
official language communities to thrive. We want both francophone and anglophone
communities across the country to develop and to flourish. Our linguistic
duality must be recognized as a genuine asset in this country for each and every
Senator Comeau: Could the leader of the government also look at the
definition of the criteria and factors which will be taken into account to
determine which of these communities are "viable, or sustainable''?
Senator Carstairs: I thank the honourable senator for that question,
and I would be pleased to add it to the question that has already gone forward.
Hon. Marie-P. Poulin moved the second reading of Bill S-3, to amend
the Motor Vehicle Transport Act, 1987, and to make consequential amendments to
She said: Honourable senators, I am pleased to introduce the amendments to
the 1987 Motor Vehicle Transport Act. This bill applies to an industry that is
the cornerstone of Canada's and North America's economy. It involves cooperation
between the federal government and the provinces. It concerns road safety, more
Honourable senators, permit me to say a few words about the Motor Vehicle
Transport Act in its present form.
The act governs many truck and bus transportation businesses that come under
federal jurisdiction. These are motor carrier undertakings that operate beyond
the borders of a single province and are known as extra-provincial carriers.
The federal government is responsible for regulating the safety of their
operations. The provincial governments are, under the Constitution, responsible
for carriers operating solely within their province. They are also responsible
for issuing drivers' licenses, registering vehicles and applying traffic
Aware of the important role of the provinces in road transportation, the
federal government has traditionally delegated its responsibilities to them so
there may be only one regulatory level for all Canadian motor carriers.
The Motor Vehicle Transport Act empowers the provincial and territorial
governments to regulate federal carriers.
Legislation is vital to shared responsibility for the national regulation of
motor carriers. In addition, it is very important because of the strategic
direction it gives to the national regulatory framework.
As the senator for Sudbury representing a region in Northern Ontario, I
should like to take a few minutes to detail the importance of the trucking
industry in Canada.
Its importance to Canada's economy cannot be overestimated. Almost all the
goods we use are transported by truck. It is the primary means of getting fresh
fruits and vegetables to our local supermarket, of delivering raw materials and
parts to manufacturers and assembly plants, and of distributing finished
products to market.
In Canada, trucking generates revenues from merchandise in excess of $40
Trucking represents over 84 per cent of all revenues attributable to the
surface transportation of goods, and approximately three- quarters of trucking
activities are carried out by extra-provincial motor carriers.
The trucking industry is extremely diversified. It consists of large
multinationals, small and medium-sized businesses and a great many individuals
who use their own trucks. There are over 700,000 heavy vehicles and almost
250,000 operators of fleets in Canada.
Clearly, regulating this vital industry could have a major impact on the
Canadian economy. The well-being of Canadians is directly proportional to the
effectiveness of the trucking industry.
The Canadian bus transportation industry is not as large, but it too meets an
essential need. Buses, including charters, generate revenues of half a billion
dollars annually and are responsible for one-third of the intercity
transportation of travellers not attributable to private passenger vehicles.
It is in everyone's interest for buses to continue to be able to offer
Canadians an economical and safe means of transportation.
Honourable senators, let us look at the importance of safety, for the safety
of motor vehicle transportation is at the very heart of the bill being
introduced today. Trucking has increased rapidly with the growth in economic
activity. Since 1991, the number of kilometre-tonnes of goods within Canada has
increased by more than 60 per cent and the number of kilometre-tonnes at the
border between Canada and the United States is now three times what it was in
Honourable senators, this remarkable increase did not result in a higher
number of accidents involving heavy vehicles. In fact, the accident rate
involving such vehicles has gone down. Moreover, motor coaches have an
impressive record of passenger safety. Some years, there is not a single
fatality among passengers in motor coaches.
However, sometimes a tragic accident affecting a large number of people does
occur. Also, any collision involving a school bus raises serious concerns.
Unfortunately, every year, there are still over 54,000 accidents involving
commercial vehicles. Over 500 people lose their lives in these accidents, while
an additional 11,000 suffer serious injuries. Honourable senators, the cost of
these accidents to society is so high that the safety of trucks and motor
coaches must remain a priority for all governments.
Some of the successful initiatives regarding commercial truckers are related
to the detailed safety standards governing the vehicles themselves. The Canada
Motor Vehicle Safety Act, which is administered by Transport Canada, prescribes
the safety standards applying to new trucks and motor coaches. Recent
improvements to these standards include anti-lock brake systems, self-adjusting
brake mechanisms and reflecting bands to improve visibility.
Honourable senators, you can rest assured that, thanks to these standards,
the new heavy vehicles that travel our highways are equipped with major new
technological features to improve safety.
Honourable senators, as I indicated earlier, each province has laws and
regulations governing the operation of commercial vehicles. These provincial
safety regimes are patterned after the National Safety Code for Motor Carriers.
There are 15 National Safety Code standards covering all aspects of safe
commercial vehicle operation. The standards address the driver, the vehicle and
motor carrier management.
Over the past few years, the federal, provincial and territorial governments,
in consultation with industry and public interest groups, have made a major
effort to develop an umbrella standard based on real on-road safety performance.
This effort recently culminated in the new National Safety Code Standard 14
safety rating. This standard provides a framework for provincial governments to
rate motor carriers based on their actual on-road safety performance.
Based on this knowledge, governments are able to take appropriate enforcement
action, carriers know where they stand relative to the industry, and shippers
are able to choose a carrier in an informed way. All parties will have
important, real-world information on motor carrier safety. At the same time,
primary responsibility for safe operation remains clearly where it should be, on
the motor carrier itself.
Fully implemented, the safety rating regime means that records of collisions,
traffic offences and violations of safety standards will be collected for each
motor carrier from wherever that motor carrier operates. The jurisdiction in
which a safety incident occurs will transmit information to the province where
the carrier is registered. Based on a compilation of all these records, the home
jurisdiction creates a safety rating for each motor carrier. The amendment being
discussed today will enable each provincial government to apply the new safety
rating standard to federally regulated motor carriers. Clearly, for a national
and international program such as this, it is important that carriers be rated
in a similar fashion in every jurisdiction.
The bill establishes a framework for consistent safety rating. Based on this
safety rating, provinces will issue a safety fitness certificate. This is a
carrier's permission to operate anywhere in Canada.
The bill provides for and Transport Canada is working towards agreement with
the United States and Mexico such that safe motor carriers can look forward to
seamless treatment from safety regulators across North America.
Honourable senators, permit me to close on the issue of partnerships and
cooperation: partnerships between governments and cooperation with stakeholders.
The National Safety Code for Motor Carriers is a product of a
federal-provincial-territorial memorandum of understanding signed in 1987.
National Safety Code standards are developed and maintained by federal-
provincial committees that also include industry, labour and public interest
groups. The bill before us today reflects progress made through the consensus
process toward advanced and consistent national safety recognition. This bill
establishes a framework for a national program administered by provincial
governments in a consistent manner toward all motor carriers. I believe that
this cooperative arrangement is the best way to achieve the highest feasible
level of safety for commercial vehicle operation throughout Canada.
In conclusion, honourable senators, the bill to amend the Motor Vehicle
Transport Act, 1987, is the product of such consultation and consensus and is
founded on partnerships. The amended act will apply motor carrier regulation
based on real on- road safety performance. Moreover, passage of this bill will
provide an important impetus for a continuing cooperative process between
governments, industry and public interest groups, building on work already
accomplished to improve the safety on our roads.
Hon. Lorna Milne moved the second reading of Bill S-5, to amend the
Blue Water Bridge Authority Act.
She said: Honourable senators, I am pleased to speak at the second reading of
the proposed legislation to amend the Blue Water Bridge Authority Act.
Many of us are probably unaware that the Canada-U.S. international crossing
between Port Edward-Sarnia, Ontario, and Port Huron, Michigan, has a history of
300 years as a transportation centre and area of strategic importance.
First Nations, French, British, American and Canadian settlements adjacent to
the head of the St. Clair River led to the need, over the years, to locate
forts, roads, railways and highways in the area. The growth of travel and
commerce in that area eventually necessitated the building of tunnels, ferries
and bridges across the St. Clair River. Construction of the Blue Water Bridge
began on June 14, 1937, and it was opened to the public the following year on
October 10, 1938.
Over 50 years later, in 1992, an international task force studying the Blue
Water Bridge crossing concluded that the existing bridge was operating in excess
of its design capacity and that a second bridge should be built. Planning and
environmental assessment work was initiated in the summer of 1993. Construction
began in the spring of 1995, and two years later a second Blue Water span was
opened to traffic on July 22, 1997. Once the new bridge was opened, the original
60 year-old bridge was temporarily closed for much-needed rehabilitation.
The Blue Water Bridge links Canada's national highway system with the U.S.
interstate system. In particular, it joins Ontario Highway 402 to Interstates 69
and 94 on the American side, and it is the quickest, most direct route from
Montreal or Toronto to Chicago and the American Midwest.
Honourable senators, the Blue Water Bridge is the second largest Canada-U.S.
gateway in terms of exports and the second busiest crossing for trucks. An
average of 14,000 vehicles per day cross the Blue Water Bridge, and on a busy
day as many as 20,000 vehicles, including well over 6,000 trucks, may cross this
The Blue Water Bridge is Canada's fastest-growing crossing, with traffic
increases of about 8 per cent per year. The bridge is primarily a long-distance
crossing. I am told that about 2,500 to 3,000 trucks per month from the province
of Quebec cross this bridge, heading to the United States. Obviously, this
bridge is important to many of our provinces, not just Ontario.
The Blue Water Bridge Authority has owned and operated the Canadian half of
this bridge since the early 1960s. The authority was created by the federal
government by An Act respecting the International Bridge over the St. Clair
River known as the Blue Water Bridge. This act was assented to on May 21, 1964.
Honourable senators, the purpose of this amendment to the Blue Water Bridge
Act of 1964 is to update the ability of the Blue Water Bridge Authority to
borrow funds. The current act limits the power of the authority to borrow funds
unless the bond interest rate is less than or equal to 6.5 per cent. Not only is
this restriction not in keeping with current practice, but at present it is
impossible. Other international bridges have an established maximum borrowing
This amendment proposes a maximum borrowing limit of $125 million, which will
be adequate to handle the authority's long- term debt, currently totalling about
$60 million, and their multi- year capital plan, totalling an additional $55
Honourable senators, the Blue Water Bridge Authority is continually looking
for ways to improve their operation and to make their crossing as efficient and
as safe as possible. Their capital plan identifies major modifications to the
terminal layout to improve the flow of traffic and to address safety concerns
identified by independent consultants. Without the passage of this legislation,
the authority will be unable to borrow the necessary funds to make these
The Blue Water Bridge Authority is a public body basically independent of the
Crown. It operates at arm's length. It is not an agent or employee of the Crown,
and the Crown is therefore not liable for its debts. It receives no federal
This proposed legislation to amend the Blue Water Bridge Authority Act is
important for Canada's economic viability and competitiveness. With Canada-U.S.
trade growing at an average annual pace of more than 10 per cent, we cannot
afford to ignore the crucial economic role our international border crossings
play in facilitating the movement of this trade.
Honourable senators, I hope you will all join with me in giving expeditious
consideration to this important initiative. The Blue Water Bridge Authority
needs this legislation in order to continue to operate and maintain this
important transportation link efficiently and to make capital improvements in
the most cost- effective manner possible.
Hon. Sheila Finestone moved the second reading of Bill S-7, to amend
the Broadcasting Act.—(Honourable Senator Finestone, P.C.).
She said: Honourable senators, the purpose of Bill S-7 is to amend the
Broadcasting Act. Bill S-7 proceeded through second reading stage and was
referred to the appropriate standing committee of the Senate for study. However,
the bill died on the Order Paper with the calling of the national general
The summary of Bill S-7 states:
This enactment amends the Broadcasting Act in order to enable the Canadian
Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission to make regulations
establishing criteria for the awarding of costs, and to give the Commission
the power to award and tax costs between the parties that appear before it.
Within the context of this bill, I bring the full attention of honourable
senators to one significant area that requires further elaboration and is the
basis for the amendment which I am advancing. Consider the following, honourable
We know that under sections 56 and 57 of the Telecommunications Act, the
Canadian Radio-Television and Telecommunications Commission, or CRTC, has the
power to compensate the organizations or individuals appearing before it during
proceedings on telecommunications. The act also authorizes the CRTC to establish
the refund criteria and to determine to whom costs will be repaid and by whom.
Conversely, the Broadcasting Act does not envision such provisions.
Consequently, the CRTC has no power to either award costs or establish the
criteria of awards under such an act. This is an imbalance that causes concern
and requires immediate rectification.
Honourable senators, why is it essential to amend the Broadcasting Act?
First, this amendment brings the Broadcasting Act into concordance with the
Telecommunications Act where the rights for cost recovery have existed for
Second, this amendment will be extremely beneficial to the Canadian public.
Cost awards will allow consumers and public interest groups, as well as
individuals, to develop thorough research and substantial evidence to represent
effectively the interests of citizens in broadcasting and cable television
policy and regulatory proceedings.
Third, convergence and the information highway have created a deep interplay
between telecommunications and the broadcasting services used by the public,
such as new media and the Internet. Often, the CRTC has been faced with issues
involving both the Telecommunications Act and the Broadcasting Act. Regardless
of the validity of the arguments presented, the CRTC has been able to award only
those costs covered under the Telecommunications Act, but not under the
Broadcasting Act even though the information provided under both acts has proven
pertinent and value-added.
Fourth, the vastness of the funding available to media companies is in
outright contrast to the financial limitations faced by consumers and their
representative groups. This condition therefore creates imbalances and
inequalities that are inconsistent with our democratic system. Substantive and
effective participation by consumer organizations representing the interests of
citizens is often hampered by financial limitations owing to the fact that
detailed research studies and expert assistance are very costly.
Fifth, this much needed amendment brings into symmetry and balances both
acts. Thus, consumers will be fairly and equally treated in all proceedings
before the commission, whether conducted under the Broadcasting Act or the
Sixth, consumer groups across Canada strongly support this initiative, since
they are aware of the importance of equal representation under the Broadcasting
Act. Among the organizations supporting the proposed amendment are the British
Columbia Public Interest Center, the Public Interest Law Center, the National
Anti-Poverty Organization, the Canadian Labour Congress, Action Réseau
Consommateur, the Canadian Library Association, the Manitoba chapter of the
Consumers' Association of Canada, the Communication Workers Union, Rural Dignity
of Canada, the Association coopérative d'économie familiale, and the Public
Interest Advocacy Centre.
Seventh, other regulatory agencies in Canada provide for the payment of
intervenor costs. Many tribunals that regulate public utilities or important
public services award costs of public interest intervenors to reimburse them for
I want to thank our honourable Speaker for the fact that when he was Deputy
Leader of the Government in this place, I was allowed to research this matter
In addition to the CRTC, funding is available for consumer groups
participating in hearings on electrical and natural gas proceedings in many
provinces in Canada, such as British Columbia, Alberta, Manitoba, Ontario and
Quebec. At the federal level, the Canadian Transportation Agency is another
example of a tribunal with the power to award costs. To give honourable senators
an example, the Régie de l'énergie in Quebec may rule that electric power or
natural gas distributors pay all or part of the expenses of intervenors whose
participation the Régie considers useful.
The British Columbia Utilities Commission applies award criteria similar to
those used by the CRTC for telecommunications, such as the intervenor's
contribution to a better understanding of the issues, interest in the issues
under discussion and the effect that the commission's decision will have on the
people the intervenor is representing.
Eighth, the issues examined by the commission could have a wider repercussion
on the population in general. For example, national issues, such as television
policy or cable television distribution regulations, or more specific issues,
such as the rate consumers pay for cable television services, could be
potentially at stake.
Again, I must point out, honourable senators, that the high level of
citizens' participation in telecommunications matters cannot be compared to the
level of citizens' participation in broadcasting proceedings, for one reason.
Simply stated, they have not been able to secure their participation because of
The issue of effective citizen participation has become even more relevant
since this bill was first introduced last summer. Over the past few months, the
CRTC has instituted a number of proceedings relating to convergence, pricing,
service and industry consolidation, which are of great interest and relevance to
For example, CRTC Public Notice 2000-113 deals with the impending shift from
analogue to digital broadcasting. I pulled that switch for digital broadcasting
to start in Canada. Little did I know it would have this kind of impact.
Who will bear the costs and how will consumer choices be affected in view of
the enormous expenses involved in this technological change?
As another example, CRTC Public Notice 2000-165 deals with policy revisions
for companies owning certain types of programming services. What are the
implications of consolidation, vertical and horizontal integration for citizens
in terms of pricing, choice of service, diversity of expression and competition?
Honourable senators, in our changing communications sector, Canadians deserve
answers to these questions. We know how industries' and consumers' points of
view differ and how issues of this magnitude need to be treated in a fair and
balanced way for the benefit of all.
Without the ability to recover costs related to the gathering of substantial
evidence, consumer participation is limited. While consumers and consumer groups
may be able to present short briefs expressing general principles and
expectations, they are not able to afford in-depth research and testimony. Their
meagre efforts crumble under the weight of evidence put forward by the industry.
I should like to underscore the wording that is used for the proposed
amendment on broadcasting, for it is exactly the same as that used in the
Telecommunications Act. As a point of information, however, I clarify that the
use of the term "taxation'' is proper in the context of the amendment and does
not relate to the fiscal or money-raising powers and authority of the
government. As unfortunate a choice of words this may be to you and me,
"taxation'' is the proper legal term used by the courts in regulatory agencies
such as the CRTC.
Who will be funded? Not everyone who appears before the CRTC in a proceeding
will automatically qualify for a cost award. With the passage of this amendment,
the CRTC will draw the rules of procedure that will be used to determine the
criteria for awarding costs under the Broadcasting Act. As with the criteria
that already exists in telecommunications rules of procedure for costs,
applicants must demonstrate to the commission that they are representative of a
group of citizens, that they have participated in the proceedings in a
responsible way, and that they have contributed substantially to a better
understanding of the issues in question. These are rigorous tests.
Who pays the costs for these awards?
The costs are met by companies that come under the jurisdiction of the CRTC
who took part in the proceedings and will be affected by the outcome. One of the
principles of reimbursement is to compensate deserving intervenors for the costs
incurred by an intervention, based on the fair market value of the work
performed. Like the costs for company representation, the funds come from the
key industry intervenors' services budget.
I would say to you, honourable senators, it is the cost of doing business.
The CRTC has always followed this practice in telecommunications, and this
practice was confirmed as appropriate by the Supreme Court of Canada in 1986.
Honourable senators, in broadcasting in 1997 and 1998, the CRTC processed —
and I found these figures astonishing — 1,379 applications relating to
television, radio, broadcasting distribution undertakings, pay and specialty
television undertakings. These included requests for new licences, licence
amendments and renewals, applications to transfer ownership control and cable
rate filings. The commission also issued 658 broadcasting decisions and 143
public notices. Cost awards were not available for any of these proceedings to
community interest groups.
On the other hand, in telecommunications in 1997-98, the CRTC processed 2,123
telecommunications-related applications and issued a total of 1,912 telecom
decisions, orders, public notices, cost orders and taxation notices. Consumer
groups do not participate in every proceeding, just those most relevant to their
interests. In 1997, at the height of the CRTC proceedings reregulating the
telephone sector, there were eight cost awards, usually involving coalitions of
consumer groups, amounting to some $752,880.
Honourable senators, I understand that this figure may sound high; however,
compared to over $20 billion per year in revenue by the industry, I would
suggest to you that $700,000 becomes a fairly insignificant amount.
Since 1997, with the major regulatory work necessary to reshape the industry
coming to completion, we have seen the volume of proceedings and amount of costs
decline. In 1998, the CRTC made 16 cost awards, amounting to $552,683.16; in
1999, four cost awards were made, amounting to $155,635.12. With the exception
of those years featuring major regulatory or policy proceedings, the cost of
awards in the future is expected to tend toward these lower amounts.
Furthermore, in exercising its responsibility under the Broadcasting Act, the
CRTC is given decision-making powers that are important for and have a great
impact on Canadians associated with the promotion of Canadian culture, the
setting of rates, the introduction of competition, and the resolution of
Under section 3(d)(i) of the Broadcasting Act, the commission is instructed
to safeguard, enrich and strengthen the cultural, political, social and economic
fabric of Canada. Therefore, for the process of decision-making to be congruent
with our Canadian principles of fairness and equity, it is vital that the
process be conducted on the basis of openness, impartiality and transparency.
This amendment, therefore, affords us the opportunity to translate these
normative principles into functional ones so that the goods of wise governance
may be delivered effectively in these important regulatory hearings.
Hon. Noël A. Kinsella (Deputy Leader of the Opposition): Honourable
senators, I should like to say a few words about the bill introduced by Senator
Finestone. I have in front of me two versions of the text of the bill, one long
and one short, and I can tell from the expressions on the faces of my colleagues
over there that they are unanimously in agreement for me to choose the short
I had the honour to support this bill in the last Parliament, and I have not
changed my position on it. In fact, I think that this house should continue its
examination in committee on this, because it is an important initiative.
Briefly, a number of elements in the bill have attracted my support. First,
through this amendment to the Broadcasting Act the Canadian public will have
more equitable representation and participation in regulatory and policy matters
relating to the broadcasting and cable and television industry in our country.
That is a principle that I embrace, and it is an important principle underlying
this bill. A second attractive feature of the bill, in my eyes, is that this
change would be of benefit to the CRTC by improving the quality of evidence it
receives and considers as part of the commission's policy and regulatory
decision-making process. Third, this amendment is fair and will not burden the
broadcasting industry itself.
It seems to me, honourable senators, that the bill is supportive of an
important principle of public policy, namely, that citizens participate in and
be represented at policy, regulatory and other decision-making activities of the
government and government agencies and be able to do so in an effective way.
It seems to me also that the bill and the amendments that it seeks to bring
about will not diminish the ability of Canadians to express their general views
about matters relating to the broadcasting sector to the CRTC through the means
that are often used already, letters, e-mails and such. This level of
participation will indeed continue. Nor will this change mean that CRTC
proceedings will become too legalistic, thereby beyond the reach of individual
To the contrary, the changes in communications to which I have just alluded
mean that, in order to have opportunities to truly participate on a fair and
equitable basis and to be effective while doing so, citizens and interest groups
representing larger communities need the resources to develop substantive
evidence and substantive submissions to complement and enhance general
submissions and comments.
One does not have to be the proverbial rocket scientist to know that the
industry sector has significant means available to it to prepare and present its
briefs. Communities of Canadians do not have the same kind of resources, and the
means that are being provided for here will level the playing field
significantly. The amendment seeks to create the means to ensure that sufficient
resources are available, when warranted, to facilitate this level of
participation and representation by ordinary groups of Canadian citizens. The
result will be that the interests of Canadian consumers will be better balanced
with those of the giant media companies in decisions taken by the regulatory
agency, the CRTC.
The change to the Broadcasting Act will also benefit the CRTC itself. Why?
Quite simply, it will be able to make good decisions that balance the interests
and needs of the public with the interests and needs of industry. The commission
needs to have, as one can understand, quality research and evidence presented
during its regulatory proceedings. The increased complexity of the
communications industry, networks and services requires companies and public
participants to have a comparable increased level of expertise and to provide
more detailed information in their respective submissions, whether legal,
economic, socio-cultural or any other type of research or analysis that would
make the decision-making process that much more thoughtful. Improving the
abilities of citizens and citizens' groups to formulate their views will improve
the quality of evidence before the regulatory agency and improve the
commission's ability to render fair and balanced decisions and to more
effectively manage communication activities through policy regulations.
Finally, honourable senators, it struck me that the amendment the bill
proposes to the act is fair, for it does not create a burden for the
broadcasters or other communication companies. The bill adopts the same
long-established model for facilitating greater and more effective public
participation through the awarding of costs to intervenors, which has worked
with great success under the Telecommunications Act. Cost awards have not been a
burden to the industry nor to those broadcasters who have participated in
telecommunication proceedings. Similarly, I do not believe costs awarded in the
future under the Broadcast Act will be a burden for broadcasting or cable
companies. Considering the value of awards, as has been the case with
telecommunications, those costs are likely to be very small when compared to the
revenues or the other expenses in the given industry. The substantive
participation by public interest groups in telecommunications proceedings
facilitated by intervenor cost awards has worked. It has helped to create
regulatory decisions that are equitable for a large number of interests.
My reading of Senator Finestone's Bill S-7 leads me to conclude that
regulatory proceedings conducted under the Broadcasting Act will lead to greater
fairness and a higher quality of evidence and data before the decision-making
body. It is for these reasons I support the principles of this bill and
recommend its adoption at second reading.
Hon. Serge Joyal moved the second reading of Bill S-8, to maintain the
principles relating to the role of the Senate as established by the Constitution
of Canada.—(Honourable Senator Joyal, P.C.).
He said: Honourable senators, the bill that I have the honour to place before
you today for debate at second reading is without precedent in our history.
Basically, it has two objectives. The first one is to raise awareness of the
many instances, especially in recent years, when legislation passed in good
faith by Parliament neglected to recognize that the Senate has a role and a
status equal to that of the House of Commons. The second one is to remedy this
omission by amending these acts so that they recognize the Senate's full status
in the Canadian legislative process.
Let us begin with a review of the scale of the problem. Is this just a matter
of a few isolated cases or is it, rather, a recurring practice involving a
significant number of examples? A review of the statutes has identified 47 acts
passed since 1920 that fail to give the Senate a role and status equal to the
one of the House of Commons. Of these 47 acts, 20 of them have been inoperative
with respect to the provisions of interest to us as senators. This leaves 27
acts that exclude the Senate and prevent it from carrying out its legitimate
responsibilities. More important, since the 35th Parliament — that is, in the
last seven years, since 1994 — eight bills have been introduced with that kind
of clause excluding the Senate. Five were amended in the Senate and the House of
Commons, and one was the object of a commitment by the government that the
corrective amendment would occur in due course. The proposed bank act died with
the end of 36th Parliament and Bill C-20 was adopted without amendment. Bill S-
8 aims to amend the 27 acts still in effect that suggest a difference in status
between the two Houses of Parliament.
The act to give effect to the requirement for clarity as set out in the
opinion of the Supreme Court of Canada in the Quebec secession reference, passed
June 30, 2000, is not covered by this bill. Given its exceptional objective —
that of empowering the Canadian government to undertake negotiations leading to
the dismemberment of the country-it should be the subject of special
consideration at the appropriate time. Bill S-8 is therefore an omnibus bill,
designed to re-establish the role of the Senate of Canada in 27 acts passed by
the Parliament of Canada.
We see no reason to try to determine what Parliament's intentions were when
these provisions excluding the Senate were passed. The reasons no doubt varied
widely, ranging from simple omission to a conviction that the Senate had no
stake in the matter at issue.
Whatever the identified or acknowledged motive, the result is the same: The
Senate is deprived of its fundamental role in our bicameral system. What,
exactly, is that role? We must go back to the origins of our institution
settlement to understand the core of the principles involved. It was obvious
from the start of the discussion leading to Confederation that the Canadian
Parliament would be bicameral like that of the United Kingdom, which is made up
of two chambers or houses acting under the constitutional authority of the
sovereign. This fact is evident among other sources in the preamble to our
Constitution, which stipulates a Constitution similar in principle to that of
the United Kingdom. King, lords and Commons — these are the three distinct
components combined that embody the country's sovereignty with each being
essential to the full expression of the people. All three are essential parties
to any legislation.
Section 91 of the Constitution provides for this:
It shall be lawful for the Queen, by and with the Advice and Consent of the
Senate and House of Commons, to make Laws for the Peace, Order and Good
Government of Canada...
It follows that the agreement and consent of both Houses are equally
required. This is the law, and neither House can avoid, omit or delegate to the
other the exercise of its duties. The Canadian courts have confirmed this on a
number of occasions, most notably when they were required to rule on the scope
of referendums on legislatures in 1919. Moreover, former Supreme Court Justice
Mr. Willard Estey, testifying before the Standing Senate Committee on Aboriginal
Peoples, on March 23, 2000, explained it forcefully:
You have a duty. The Senate has a senior duty to perform. It has to perfect
the process of legislation. That duty must clearly entail, on occasion, an
amendment or a refusal or an automatic approval. All three are within your
power. Not only are they within your power, they are within your duty. You have
to scrutinize this thing and see what is good and bad and purify it. That is why
you are here. The second house invariably, around the world, is set up as a
brake on the first level of legislation, while the executive branch tags along
all the way up the ladder.
There we have the heart of the question: Is it proper for the Senate to pass
legislation that will allow it to evade its role of reviewing laws passed by the
Commons and to avoid acting as the chamber that reviews executive decisions in
the system of responsible government equivalent to that of the United Kingdom in
1867? I do not think so. The Senate has a fundamental, compelling part to play
in the governmental process, and it has a constitutional duty to do so. It
cannot escape its responsibility. If legislation were to be passed without
Senate consent and approval, the actions under the bill would be found
constitutionally unenforceable, that is, illegal, by the courts.
There is intrinsic reason that obliges the Senate to live up to that
responsibility. The sovereignty and will of the Canadian people are expressed
through the nation's Parliament. It is essential that both Houses of Parliament
give their consent before legislation can be properly sanctioned by the Crown.
This requirement is fundamental. It is woven into our country's very nature as a
When the founders of Confederation had to decide on the type of union they
were going to form, they opted for a federal union contrary to Sir John A.
Macdonald's initial proposal for a unitary government. Canada's linguistic,
religious, economic and regional diversity were too rooted for any realistic
prospect of submerging them in a single assembly where Ontario would dominate. A
federal structure was the only approach to any enduring union.
There is more. In that federal union, it was unthinkable to leave a simple
elected House where Ontario would have effective control as the sole expression
of the will of all the provinces. "Rep by pop'' automatically gave the last
word to the majority represented by the province with the largest population.
That was why the founders opted for a second house representing the regions
and giving it equal weight to counterbalance the electoral rule that inevitably
meant the dictatorship of the majority. Without a Senate, where the regions'
linguistic and religious minorities were protected, there simply would not have
been one dominion.
What conclusion should we draw from this essential characteristic of our
The Senate, by its very vocation, is the expression and guardian of the
interests and voice of regions and minorities. The Supreme Court has recognized
this on three separate occasions in the past 20 years. It is a truth that is
crucial to our country's constitutional reality. So it is the will of both
Houses in our parliamentary system that guarantees democracy for all citizens.
When both majorities, that in the Commons and that in the Senate, join
together, they voice our federation's democratic consent. This is how the
sovereignty and the will of the Canadian people are expressed through our
What does this mean in practise when it comes to drawing up legislation and
to the democratic supervision which Parliament must exercise over the
government? The conclusion is almost self- evident. The Senate's contribution is
essential to the expression of the weighted will of all Canadians, whether they
live in the most populous provinces or the most sparsely populated regions or
Consequently, when a minister of the Crown makes a commitment to seek only
the opinion of the House of Commons, for instance, on a report, as is often the
case in the acts covered by omnibus Bill S-8, consideration of its conclusions
will be determined by the elected majority concentrated in the provinces with
the most people. The minister thus violates the federal principle enshrined in
our Parliament. We have a duty to review on an equal footing the same laws and
submissions that are submitted to the House of Commons. This is vital if
Canadians living in the regions or belonging to minorities are to preserve a
voice in the decisions to be made and the directions Canada is to take.
We cannot abdicate this role. It is our duty to carry it out by approving,
amending or rejecting any submission placed before this Senate. That is the
objective of this omnibus bill. It re- establishes our role in 27 specific cases
where the voice of the Senate, that is, the voice of regions and minorities, has
The bill has another objective as well — to make the government aware that it
cannot ignore the Senate with impunity. The point is not that a few
self-important senators want a chance to sound off about everything. The point
is that the very nature of our country is based on respect and equality for all,
even in the most remote regions.
Our regime is weighted, balanced and fair. The dictatorship of the majority
or the will of a single house has never been our way. We have always sought to
protect minorities and those whom geography or history has made less
influential. Is this not in fact a conception of freedom that sets a very high
standard of equality and respect for all? Is this not at the heart of what makes
up our Canadian identity and infuses our approach to the institutions of
If we allow this habit of excluding the Senate to persist and these
precedents to proliferate, we are endorsing the view that the Senate has no
useful role. We are allowing to hang over us a fog of futility that a number of
people would like to invoke as justification for imputing the power of this
institution or simply abolishing it.
Honourable senators, experience teaches us that sometimes we must be put to
the test. That is, we must find ourselves deprived of some physical or material
advantage to realize what really matters in the choices we make.
Perhaps the repeated clauses excluding the Senate will make us more aware of
our duties and responsibilities and, I hope, convince all honourable senators to
support this bill, which has no other aim than to ensure that all Canadians have
an equal voice in the government of their country as stipulated by our
Hon. Jerahmiel S. Grafstein moved the second reading of Bill S- 10, to
amend the Parliament of Canada Act (Parliamentary Poet Laureate).—(Honourable
He said: Honourable senators, this is the second time this millennium I have
introduced the second reading of a bill to establish a parliamentary poet
laureate. I first introduced this bill on November 2, 1999, as a modest
millennium project. You will recall that the bill finally passed third reading
on June 28, 2000, after a thorough review by the Social Affairs Committee. It
was unanimously reported by the committee and subsequently approved at third
The bill was then sent to the other place in the dying days of the last
Parliament where it languished on the Order Paper for lack of time. It is to be
hoped that the bill will receive speedy passage in the Senate and will then be
able to wend its way through the obstacles of the other place.
Honourable senators, let me remark upon the simple contours of this proposed
legislation. Biannually, the heads of five of Canada's major cultural
institutions — the Canada Council, the National Library, the National Archives,
the Library of Parliament and the Official Languages Commission — will nominate
three poets for consideration by the two Speakers of Parliament. The two
Speakers will then select a parliamentary poet laureate who will hold office for
a two-year term.
The duties of the parliamentary poet laureate will be minimalist. The
two-year term will allow a wide variety of poets to be selected from every
social segment, every artistic form, every literary school and every region of
the country. The minimal objective is to attract the public, Parliament and
parliamentarians themselves, to poetry and the nature and need of it — the need
for both the written and spoken word — in our society.
In her recent collection of essays Quarrel and Quandary, the brilliant writer
Cynthia Ozick addressed the question "What is poetry about?'' She parsed and
dissected the question carefully. She said that each poem is unique, resisting
categorization. A poem may consent to a particular form — a haiku, a sonnet or a
villanelle. Most often the form would be free. It is possible to say what a
single poem is about, yet what can be said about "poetry''? Is it collective?
Is it plural? Is it a universe? Is it an emanation? Is it endemic? Does it
belong to a song, or is it the child or perhaps the parent of philosophy? Is it
only utilitarian? Is it symbolic? Is it religious? It is representative of the
divine when the second commandment suppresses physical expression of divine
Ozick recalls that when the Greek Syrians conquered Jerusalem, invaded the
first temple and found no statutes of a god, they supposed that the "people in
the book'' were atheistic; yet, as Ozick suggests, "freeing the metaphysical
from limits of literalism...also freed art.''
Poetry, one therefore can conclude, is the absolute freest of all artistic
forms. For poetry, for the word, there can be no second commandment. Creation
and the creator cannot be separated from the word.
In the beginning was "the word,'' so Ozick concludes that poetry is not
often prophesy and poets are not often prophets; but, it is inescapable that all
true prophets are poets.
Honourable senators, all can agree that freedom of thought is best
encapsulated in poetry and that poets often became prophetic. Therefore, what a
cost-effective offer to expand choice and freedom of thought through the sparse
office of this minimalist proposal for a parliamentary poet laureate.
Ozick concludes her essay with these thoughts: "And poetry, because it is
timeless, takes time.'' She selected W.H. Auden, a great poet, to have the last
word on the things both infinite and infinitesimal that poetry is about:
Were all stars to disappear or die
I should learn to look at an empty sky
And feel its total darkness sublime,
Though this might take me a little time.
Honourable senators, for just a little of your time, we could give birth to a
parliamentary poet laureate. We can be godfathers and godmothers to a simple
literate counter-revolution. All great ideas start with a majority of one. This
bill would be a slender counterweight to those who insist that poetry is
irrelevant, that individuals do not count in this collectivist age, that choice
is not necessary, or that the word is withering or, worse, is irrelevant in the
Honourable senators, I commend yet once again this bill for your quick and
positive affirmation without reference to committee.
The Hon. the Speaker: Honourable senators, we have now completed
Orders of the Day and, pursuant to Senator St. Germain's intervention under
Senators' Statements, we now return to the question of privilege that he raised.
As this is my first experience with a question of privilege or a point of
order, I will indicate that the rules pertaining to questions of privilege are
set out in rule 43 of the Rules of the Senate of Canada. Rule 18(3) deals with
the hearing of interventions on a question of privilege or a point of order.
That rule essentially indicates that interventions are appropriate and that the
Speaker will designate when he or she has heard sufficient to make a ruling or
I say that, honourable senators, only to indicate what is guiding me. I now
call on Senator St. Germain to raise his question of privilege.
Hon. Gerry St. Germain: Honourable senators, I rise on a question of
privilege on a matter of importance to all senators as it impacts upon the way
in which we govern ourselves as senators.
A situation has arisen in this place that is so new and unusual that it begs
for resolution. The fact that there is no resolution of this matter is, I
believe, a breach of my privileges as a member of the Senate of Canada. I
understand that questions of privilege are rarely recognized as being prima
facie, but I believe that this is such a unique situation that it cries out for
According to Bourinot's Parliamentary Procedure at page 56:
It has been frequently decided that the following matters fall within the
category of breaches of privileges:
1. Disobedience to, or evasion of, any of the orders or rules which are
made for the convenience or efficiency of the proceedings of house.
The first rule of the Senate states that where we have no procedures, we must
rely on precedent. It is also clear that we are bound by tradition in this
chamber. The failure to adhere to our rules and procedures in this matter
constitutes an evasion and, therefore, a breach of privilege.
Joseph Maingot states that to constitute privilege, generally there must be
some improper obstruction to the member performing his parliamentary work in
either a direct or constructive way.
I submit to all senators that over the past several months some discussion
has taken place between the officers of this place and the leaders of the other
parties. I was advised that I would be treated as an independent senator. These
discussions, I believe, have resulted in my being denied my privileges according
to the traditions of this place. This constitutes an improper obstruction. Based
on existing tradition and precedent, I believe my right to claim the office of
the Leader of the Official Opposition in the Senate has been denied me. To
reiterate Bourinot, this is an "evasion of...the orders or rules...''
Precedent for this question of privilege does exist. As stated in House of
Commons Procedure and Practice, edited by Marleau and Monpetit, at page 87:
On December 6, 1978, in finding that a prima facie contempt of the House
existed, Speaker Jerome ruled that a government official, by deliberately
misleading a Minister, had impeded a Member in the performance of his duties
and consequently obstructed the House itself.
Honourable senators, I do not presume to state that someone has deliberately
misled me — on the contrary. Nonetheless, the lack of inclusion of myself in
discussions concerning the status of party leadership in this chamber must be
construed as an inadvertent impediment of my ability to carry out my duties. The
deliberate nature of the aforementioned ruling is of less significance than the
fact that the member was impeded. The impediment of a third party constituted
Also in 1993, the Speaker of the other place ruled on matters relating to the
orders of that place and agreed that they were indeed questions of privilege.
The particular situation dealt with the late tabling of a government response to
a committee of the other place. In the Speaker's ruling, reported in the House
of Commons Debates of April 19, 1993, at page 18106: "Members cannot function
if they do not have access to the material they need for work and if our rules
are being ignored...''
Most members of either chamber would agree with this Speaker's rulings. Of
particular importance is the recognition by the Speaker that ignoring the rules
of that place constituted a breach of privilege.
We must respect precedent and tradition, honourable senators. We must respect
the purpose for which the Senate was created. Finally, we must respect the
changing nature of Canada's political landscape, which I believe is most
Honourable senators, let me first address the matter of our precedent and
traditions. In situations where we have no clear procedures, our rules are
clear. The very first rule of our Senate is the following:
1. (1) In all cases not provided for in these rules, the customs, usages,
forms and proceedings of either House of the Parliament of Canada shall,
mutatis mutandis, be followed in the Senate or in any committee thereof.
Our very first rule demands that we look to precedent for answers to
questions not governed by our rules and procedures.
Honourable senators, precedent does exist. First, let us look at our mother
Parliament, Westminster. What does precedent from the United Kingdom have to say
on this matter?
According to Erskine May at page 214, an authority we often refer to in
Canada, the following is the practice:
The Official Opposition party (by reference to the House of Commons) and
the opposition party with the largest number of members in the Lords, other
than the Official Opposition, are given financial assistance from public funds
in respect of their parliamentary duties.
More specifically, the British Ministerial and Other Salaries Act passed in
2. (1) In this Act "Leader of the Opposition'' means, in relation to
either House of Parliament, that a Member of that House who is for the time
being the Leader of that House of the party in opposition to Her Majesty's
Government having the greatest numerical strength in the House of Commons; and
"Chief Opposition Whip'' means, in relation to either House of Parliament,
the person for the time being nominated as such by the Leader of the
Opposition in that House; and "Assistant Opposition Whip'', in relation to
the House of Commons, means a person for the time being nominated as such, and
to be paid as such, by the Leader of the Opposition in the House of Commons.
Finally, on the matter of British precedent, let me quote from a letter
written by the past Earl of Listowel recalling his days in the House of Lords:
The House of Lords when I took my seat shortly after my father's untimely
death of pneumonia in 1931 — which took place a few years before the discovery
of penicillin and other antibiotics — was a very different place from what it
has become over 60 years later.
I have now become the longest active member, having served continuously in
Government or Opposition or as Chairman of Committees, apart from a short
break during the war years, and my three years in Ghana as Governor- General.
It was at this time an entirely hereditary chamber, apart of course from a
handful of Bishops and Law Lords. The Labour Party, as the Official
Opposition, could only man two Benches, including the front Bench, and in 1938
could still muster no more than 15 peers. They were greatly outnumbered by the
80 Liberals, also of course on the Opposition side of the House. In fact, I
remember a protracted argument between my Leader, Lord Ponsonby, and the
Leader of Liberal Party, the Marquis of Crewe, about which party was entitled
to occupy the Opposition Benches immediately facing the Ministers sitting on
the Government Front Bench. It was decided in favour of Lord Ponsonby, because
the Labour Party was the official Opposition and occupied this position on the
Opposition Front Bench in the House of Commons. The Conservative Party had
even then a permanent majority of between 300 and 400 peers in the Upper
This letter was supplied by Mr. J.M. Davies, Clerk of the House of Lords, and
a copy is now in the possession of our own Clerk of the Senate.
Clearly, honourable senators, strong precedent from Britain exists, but what
about other Commonwealth nations?
Australia also has a Senate and has enjoyed a multitude of political parties.
An inquiry to the Office of the Clerk of the Australian Senate produced the
following response from Dr. Rosemary Laing, Clerk Assistant, Procedure:
Since 1901, the Opposition in the Senate has always been the same political
party as the Opposition in the House of Representatives.
No precedent exists in the Australian parliament for the Official Opposition
in the Senate to be chosen on the basis of the party numbers in the Senate
rather than with reference to the party serving in Opposition in the House of
Following the election of 1903, the Protectionists held the largest number of
seats in the House of Representatives (26), the Freetrade Party being the next
largest group (25), and forming the Opposition. The Labor Party held the largest
number of seats in the Senate, but the Opposition continued to be the Freetrade
Party. This situation was repeated during the first Deakin (Protectionist)
government from 1905-1908, when the Freetrade Party formed the Opposition in
both the House of Representatives and the Senate, but the Labour Party held the
largest number of seats in the Senate.
Finally, let us look to our own traditions and precedents. Since
Confederation the leaders of this place have been appointed by their
counterparts in the other place.
Honourable senators, the common practice is clear: Leaders in the House of
Commons choose leaders in the Senate. There is only one example in Canadian
history of a variation of this practice.
In 1994, an exception of sorts did occur when the leader of the Progressive
Conservative Party, the Honourable Jean Charest, allowed Progressive
Conservative senators to select their own leader in the Senate.
This cannot be considered precedent for a number of reasons. First, only two
parties enjoyed representation in the upper chamber. The opposition at the time,
the Bloc Québécois, had no Senate representation. Second, the Progressive
Conservative Party, which had made the decision at the time, did not enjoy party
status in the lower chamber.
The only other possible instance where precedent could have been set in
Canada was in 1921 when the Progressives formed the second largest party in the
House of Commons, but the Progressives, under Thomas Crerar, refused to serve as
the opposition and allowed the Conservatives to retain the role.
The tradition of selecting Senate opposition political leadership is clearly
a method of appointment with reference to the Leader of the Opposition in the
House of Commons. This precedent has not been undermined by the circumstances of
recent years, as Her Majesty's Loyal Opposition in the House of Commons has not
enjoyed representation in the Senate since 1993 and therefore could not name a
leader in the upper chamber until now.
The Senate's own traditions speak to the abuse of procedure in matters of
this kind. Traditionally, the Speaker takes judicial notice of who is the Leader
of the Official Opposition in the other place, and this reality is reflected in
the Senate by the recognition of the government and opposition leaders appointed
in this place. Historically and traditionally, the members of that party form
the opposition in the Senate.
Honourable senators, members of the Senate are subject to procedure. Where no
defined procedure exists in the Senate's own rules, tradition and precedent must
The tradition of the Leader of the Opposition in the House of Commons
appointing the Leader of the Opposition in the Senate is common practice in
Canada. As well, precedent from the British Parliament is clear. Thus, the
Senate is breaching its own rules and procedures and, in doing so, is harming
the ability of some senators to do the work for which they have been appointed.
Second, the Senate must respect the reasons for the creation of this chamber
by the Fathers of Confederation.
According to the Senate's own self-description as posted on our Web site, the
Fathers of Confederation gave the Senate the important role of protecting
regional, provincial and minority interests. This is, indeed, an important role,
one that this chamber may be in danger of forgetting.
The lack of representation in the Senate for the almost 50 per cent of
Canadians who did not vote for the two parties dominating the upper chamber
should be of some considerable concern to all senators. The recognition of the
Canadian Alliance, a legitimate opposition party, would address the lack of
representation of some 25 per cent of Canadians who supported the Canadian
Alliance in the most recent federal election. In particular, this would address
the lack of representation for over 212,000 Quebecers and over 114,000 Atlantic
Canadians who voted for the Canadian Alliance. These voters have no
representation in either chamber.
As well, Western Canada elected 64 Canadian Alliance members of Parliament
out of a total of 88 seats in the four Western provinces. Approximately 50 per
cent of Western Canada's 3,772,814 voters voted for the Canadian Alliance in the
last election. These voters have no representation in the Canadian Senate.
Canada's Senate has been the object of attack and derision for some time,
very unfairly I must say. I do not think anyone is served well by this
denigration. On the other hand, the inability of institutions to adapt to
changing circumstances, particularly those within our own control, should be of
concern to any organization.
The Senate would both diminish its critics and further legitimize its
operations in the eyes of the general public should it consider the arguments
outlined here. One of the primary purposes of this chamber is to protect
"minority, sectional and provincial interests.'' I put it to honourable
senators that much work needs to be done to live up to this intended purpose.
Finally, we must respect the changing nature of Canada's political landscape.
The days of two party dominance in this country are at an end, if indeed such a
system ever truly existed. The Liberals and the Progressive Conservatives are
heirs to proud political traditions, but there are many other proud traditions
in this country — the Liberal-Conservatives, the Conservatives, the United
Farmers, the Social Credit Party, the Progressives, the CCF, the Union
Nationale, the Créditistes, the Reform Party and, unfortunately, some
independence movements. All have a place in our democracy. To deny this reality
is to deny Canada and to deny how Canada has grown and changed.
The time will come when another political party will form the government, as
the time eventually came for new parties to serve as the official opposition.
The Senate must prepare itself for these eventualities by creating the necessary
rules and procedures to respect these changes. The denial of a place in the
Senate for the Canadian Alliance is not simply an irritant that might one day go
away. It is my hope that out of this question of privilege the Senate will make
a historic attempt to adapt to change instead of ignoring it.
Honourable senators, when this chamber chose, whether willingly or not, to
ignore its traditions and precedent and deny me my rightful place, a serious
breach of privilege occurred. This breach of privilege not only denies my party
its place but causes the Senate to deny its very own rules. This breach can be
addressed through a thoughtful, forward-thinking approach to the rules of this
place with regard to the status of parliamentary political parties.
Honourable senators, let us respect our own traditions. Let us respect the
purpose for which the Fathers of Confederation created this chamber. Let us
respect the changing nature of this great country.
Honourable senators, a ruling on this matter is of the utmost importance to
this chamber, to Parliament and to Canadians. I therefore request that the
Senate take the time to provide direction on this matter at hand. There is
considerable precedent for the Speaker to do so.
In this regard, I refer to page 125 of House of Commons Procedure and
Practice, edited by Marleau and Montpetit, where it is stated:
In informing the House...the Chair customarily explains (often in some
detail) the factors which resulted in this finding. However, in such cases,
the Chair will often acknowledge the existence of a genuine grievance and may
recommend avenues of redress.
Regardless of the outcome, I would ask that the Speaker give some strong
direction regarding the resolution of this matter. The greatest expertise
available for an equitable resolution lies in the offices of the clerks of this
Parliament. I beseech the Speaker to provide direction in this matter.
Honourable senators, I made reference to the Commons in the United Kingdom
where the Speaker has the statutory authority to determine who shall be
designated as Leader of the Opposition in the lower chamber. I refer here to the
Ministerial and Other Salaries Act, 1975, in that regard.
In light of the lack of existing rules and procedures in this place, the
intervention of the Speaker in this matter, as per the United Kingdom, would be
The intervention is not without precedent in Canada. In the House of Commons
in late 1995, the Reform Party achieved the same number of seats as the Bloc
Québécois, which was the Official Opposition prior to the general election. The
Speaker ruled on the matter in 1996, and the Bloc Québécois would remain as the
Official Opposition on the basis of incumbency.
This is a serious and potentially historic matter. A decision of the Speaker
and this chamber — of each and every honourable senator — beyond the basic
ruling of prima facie is of the utmost importance. I submit that my privilege as
a senator in this place has been breached by the fact that the rules, precedents
and traditions of this place are themselves being breached. Having been
designated the Leader of the Official Opposition in the Senate by the Leader of
the Official Opposition in the other place, I humbly submit that I have a right
to claim the role of Leader of the Opposition in the Senate.
In conclusion, I have tabled today a document that I hope will be scrutinized
fully, and I am sure it will. I look forward to my colleagues' learned
assistance on this very historic matter.
I ask His Honour to give this matter due consideration. I thank him for his
Hon. Fernand Robichaud (Deputy Leader of the Government): Honourable
senators, Senator St. Germain is raising a very serious matter. Of course,
questions of privilege should never be treated lightly. Let me try to understand
the arguments as raised by our colleague and address each of his points in turn.
Senator St. Germain has changed his political allegiance and now chooses to
sit in this chamber as a member of the Canadian Alliance. Because the Canadian
Alliance is recognized as the Official Opposition by the other House of
Parliament, the Honourable Senator St. Germain seems to be suggesting that he,
as the lone member of that party sitting in this chamber, should be the Leader
of the Opposition. Furthermore, his contention is that the failure of the Senate
to recognize him as Leader of the Opposition in the Senate impairs his ability
to function as a senator and is, therefore, a breach of his parliamentary
In other words, the honourable senator seems to advance the position that a
decision in the other place determines the internal organization of the Senate
and that the Senate has no say in this matter. That is a position we do not
share. In any case, this is a matter of substantive disagreement and not a
question of privilege.
The Honourable Senator St. Germain seems to be contending that rule 1 of the
Senate has been broken. I do not agree that it has; however, if that were the
case, he should be rising on a point of order and not on a question of
Let me deal with the senator's point that the situation impairs his ability
to function as a senator.
The Honourable Senator St. Germain has access to the same rights and
privileges as every other senator, namely, the right to attend the Senate and
its committees, to vote in the Senate, to propose motions and amendments, to
participate in Question Period, to participate in Senators' Statements and to
propose inquiries. The honourable senator also has full access to office space,
a global budget for staff and supplies, telecommunication services, a travel
allowance, access to parliamentary documents, and the Senate has allocated him a
research fund. Those research funds are afforded equally to each senator.
Therefore, I fail to see how his ability to function as a senator has changed in
any way, let alone been impaired.
Honourable senators, rule 4(d)(ii) defines the Leader of the Opposition as
...the Senator occupying the recognized position of Leader of the
Opposition in the Senate or a Senator acting for that Senator.
The question, honourable senators, is this: Who does the recognizing?
It would seem from the intervention of the Honourable Senator St. Germain
that he believes the House of Commons performs the act of recognizing the Leader
of the Opposition under a rule of the Senate. I would submit that it is the
Senate that determines the meaning of its own rules.
The longstanding practice of the Senate is to recognize as the opposition in
the Senate the largest party represented in the Senate that is not the
government. That party has always determined its own leadership, including the
Leader of the Opposition. The Liberal Party has formed the government. The next
largest party represented in this house is the Progressive Conservatives. They
have duly chosen Senator Lynch-Staunton to be the Leader of the Opposition.
The Honourable Senator St. Germain refers to the Speaker's ruling in the
House of Commons in 1996. Honourable senators will remember that the reason the
Speaker was called upon to rule on the status of the official opposition in that
instance was that the election had resulted in a tie between two parties for the
designation of official opposition. Faced with equal numbers, the Speaker ruled
that incumbency should prevail. Obviously, the first consideration was numbers;
otherwise, the largest party would have been the official opposition without
question. That situation does not apply in this instance.
Honourable senators, it may be that we are entering a new era — and we
certainly are — where the Senate may wish to review its internal organization
and the manner in which parties are recognized. That is a matter for the Senate
to decide, perhaps through debate in the Standing Committee on Privileges,
Standing Rules and Orders. We do not feel that this is a prima facie case of
Hon. Marcel Prud'homme: Honourable senators, I was waiting to hear
what the official opposition, at least the one I see here today, had to say.
However, nothing was said. Do the Rules of the Senate allow us to ask that the
debate on this issue be adjourned until tomorrow so we are better prepared to
respond to Senator St. Germain's arguments and to those so ably put forward by
Senator Robichaud, the Deputy Leader of the Government? Otherwise, I will have
to make a few remarks, but they will be very brief.
The Hon. the Speaker: Honourable senators, I would rather not have to
deal with the issue of postponing interventions for another day. Matters of
privilege and order are usually matters of some urgency, and, if not, they are
matters that should be dealt with expeditiously. Senator St. Germain may wish to
comment on this, but if at all possible I would like to hear interventions
today. Once I have heard them, I can make a decision on whether to take the
matter under consideration or to rule from the Chair. My inclination is to take
the matter under consideration, but I will have a brief consultation and give
some thought to it during the course of any further intervention.
Senator Prud'homme, if I could have the benefit of your views now, that would
be my preference.
Senator Prud'homme: Honourable senators, this is the first time I have
had occasion to rise in this new Parliament, I should like to say how happy I am
to see His Honour in the Chair and how sad I am seeing the one who preceded him
not continue. Both are good friends, and both honour the Chair. It was decided
who would be Chair, and I know that our long-time friendship will most likely
I will not prolong the debate today; however, I would suggest that His Honour
not render a decision from the Chair today. Once the interventions have been
completed, I would suggest that His Honour might wish to reflect and come back
tomorrow with a decision as to whether or not Senator St. Germain has a prima
facie question of privilege. In my opinion, the honourable senator may have a
I will now go back in history, to 1993, when the Bloc was elected as the
Official Opposition. I know for certain that a meeting took place between the
then Deputy Prime Minister and Mr. Bouchard as to the implications of that with
respect to Mr. Bouchard's position as Leader of Her Majesty's Loyal Opposition.
In that discussion, I am sure the question arose as to Mr. Bouchard's rights.
His rights included the availability of a certain office, membership on
particular committees, et cetera, plus the potential right to appoint the Leader
of the Opposition in the Senate.
I will probably be contradicted on what I am about to say, but honorable
senators may recall that, at that time, some people thought that I may have had
an indication from Mr. Bouchard with respect to assuming the Leader of the
Opposition for the Bloc. Such was not the case, but I never denied it because I
refuse to comment on what is written in the newspapers. Those of you who may be
curious and who are good researchers can look back at those records. I never
denied that, but I never encouraged it. I just smiled and laughed. I thought it
was quite interesting to read.
I, a federalist, yes, a nationalist, a Canadien français du Québec, yes, but
a federalist, could hardly be the Leader of the Opposition representing a party
that did not believe in my beliefs.
Having said that, I know that the Conservative Party of the day in the Senate
went through much soul searching as to the possibility that such a thing could
indeed take place. If they went through such agony in deciding whether such a
thing could take place, that meant that the question had never been raised
before. I would like to know who recommended the Leader of Opposition in the
Senate in 1979 when Mr. Trudeau became the Leader of the Opposition in the House
of Commons. Who did Mr. Trudeau recommend? I would like to know, when the
Conservatives were in opposition in the House of Commons, if the leader of the
party of that day recommended, yes or no -
Senator LeBreton: No.
Senator Prud'homme: I must be very careful if Senator LeBreton says no
so categorically. She has much more knowledge than I on that, but I think it was
suggested. In any case, Senator St. Germain is raising a good question.
I know what happened next. There was an election to choose a Leader of the
Opposition among the party members. That no one would deny. I am very pleased
that we sit now with Senator Lynch-Staunton as Leader of the Opposition here. He
is an excellent gentleman, an excellent travelling companion, very
knowledgeable. There is no negative reflection on his personality; it is only a
question of process raised by Senator St. Germain.
Perhaps His Honour would require a little longer reflection with his able
staff or perhaps he may be ready to rule immediately, today. My preference, as a
friend of the court, as we say, would be for His Honour to take whatever time is
necessary. Senator St. Germain is not demanding an immediate reply.
We can wait for His Honour to render a clear decision on the record as it has
never been recorded before. I did not enter the debate in 1993. I was a new
senator at that time, the first time the question was raised.
His Honour may wish to reflect on the matter and render his decision
tomorrow. Like my friend, I am convinced that he will abide by his own decision
tomorrow or whenever he sees fit to render his decision.
The Hon. the Speaker: I see no other honourable senators wishing to
intervene on this issue. I have listened. I thank Senators St. Germain,
Robichaud and Prud'homme for their interventions. I will take the matter under
consideration and render a decision on whether a prima facie case has been
successfully argued or whether it is a matter of order, or neither.
Hon. Pierre Claude Nolin, pursuant to notice of January 31, 2001,
That a Special Committee of the Senate be appointed for a period of three
years to thoroughly examine Canada's anti-drug legislation and policies, to
carry out a broad consultation of the Canadian public, and finally, to make
recommendations for a national strategy on illegal drugs developed by and for
That the Committee, in pursuing this mandate, give particular importance to
issues relating to cannabis and prepare an interim report on cannabis:
That without being limited in its mandate by the following, the committee
be authorized to:
- review the federal government's policy on illegal drugs in Canada, its
effectiveness, and the ways in which it is implemented and enforced;
- study public policy approaches adopted by other countries and determine
if there are applications to Canada's needs;
- examine Canada's international role and obligations under United Nations
conventions on narcotics and the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and
other related treaties in order to determine whether these treaties authorise
it to take action other than laying criminal charges and imposing sentences at
the international level;
- examine the social and health effects of illegal drugs and explore the
potential consequences and impacts of alternative policies;
- examine any other issue respecting Canada's anti-drug policy that the
Committee considers appropriate to the completion of its mandate.
That the Special Committee be composed of five Senators and that three
members constitute a quorum;
That the Honourable Senators Kenny, Molgat, Nolin, Rossiter and a fifth
senator to be named by the Chief Government Whip be named to the Committee;
That the Committee have the power to send for persons, papers and records,
to examine witnesses, to report from time to time and to print such papers,
briefs and evidence from day to day as may be ordered by the Committee;
That the briefs received and testimony heard during consideration of Bill
C-8, An Act respecting the control of certain drugs, their precursors and
other substances, by the Standing Senate Committee on Legal and Constitutional
Affairs during the Second Session of the Thirty-fifth Parliament be referred
to the Committee;
That the papers and evidence received and taken on the subject and the work
accomplished by the Special Committee on Illegal Drugs during the Second
Session of the Thirty-sixth Parliament be referred to the Committee;
That the Committee have the power to authorize television, radio and
electronic broadcasting, as it deems appropriate, or any or all of its
That the Committee be granted leave to sit when the Senate has been
adjourned pursuant to subsection 95(2) of the Rules of the Senate; and
That the Committee submit its final report not later than three years from
the date of its being constituted.
He said: Honourable senators, as the water has gone under the bridge, you
will permit me a small digression. In 1996, we had before us Bill C-8,
respecting the control of certain drugs and other substances. After more than
three months' study, the Senate Standing Committee on Legal and Constitutional
Affairs, then chaired by Senator Sharon Carstairs, reached the clear conclusion
that the bill required a number of amendments, which we managed to draft, and
especially that it was vital to do a thorough study in order to provide the
technical, moral or sociological information on the control of illegal drugs,
which was lacking. Many of the experts we heard said that the legal framework
incorporated in the law was not only inappropriate to the body of accumulated
knowledge but was ineffective and produced human and social consequences often
much more serious than the drugs themselves.
As the result of a motion I put to this house in June 1999, the Senate struck
a special committee to study illegal drugs in Canada, in April 2000. This
special committee, which had a mandate to thoroughly examine all policies on
illegal drugs in the light of scientific knowledge and Canadian public opinion,
sat until the election call in October. I am pleased to table a brief report
describing the main work begun by the committee. I am asking you today,
honourable senators, to renew the mandate of this special committee. Copies of
the report will be distributed to you, and I would remind you that this document
was e-mailed to you several days before the Speech from the Throne.
Honourable senators, it is essential that we conduct a rigorous review of all
the problems relating to illegal drugs in Canada, because the challenges that
illegal drugs continue to pose to Canadian society are huge and very serious.
They are, first, of a legal nature, because some landmark decisions by higher
courts have questioned the provisions of the current legislation regarding the
use of cannabis for therapeutic purposes. Moreover, a number of legal experts
feel that current policies regarding the implementation of the legislation
contribute to undermining individual rights and even Canadian sovereignty.
The challenges are also of an economic nature, since drug abuse and all the
measures relating to illegal drugs generate major costs for Canadian society.
Some specialized bodies estimate the total direct costs at about $1.5 billion
annually. Considering the enormous amounts of money at stake, we have to ask
whether our policies are the most effective and cost-effective ones.
The challenges are also of a social nature, since illegal drugs are a major
cause of crime, particularly in the case of organized crime. Regardless of what
one may think about tougher anti-drug legislation, we all know that such a
measure will target the symptoms rather than the root cause of the problem. And
what about the effect of drugs on certain risk groups in Canadian society,
particularly aboriginal communities?
The challenges are also of an individual nature. Indeed, we must take into
account the lives that are broken either by the drugs themselves, by the public
policies that we have implemented or by those that we did not.
Finally, illegal drug policies pose challenges in international relations,
including with our neighbour, the United States.
For all these reasons, the mandate of the special Senate committee on illegal
drugs is even more critical. Close to 15 years after Canada's Drug Strategy was
first adopted, the time has come to step back and take an in-depth look at
public policies on illegal drugs. Far from contradicting any measures the
various levels of government might take immediately concerning illegal drugs,
this exercise will support them in several ways. The special committee will
foster and support essential research. As well, the committee's proceedings will
be public, thus passing on firsthand and rigorous information to the Canadian
public. Finally, in view of their importance, issues regarding cannabis will be
given particular attention during the first year of the committee's work and
will lead to the drafting of an interim report on every aspect of policies
relating to this drug.
You know as I do, honourable senators, that in the Senate we have the
advantage of being able to conduct rigorous reviews without concern for party
politics. Issues relating to illegal drugs and public policies in this matter
require just this kind of review. In addition to being able to conduct studies
and hear expert witnesses, we can also hear citizens of this country and, at the
same time, pass on to them complete and objective information. These are
advantages the special committee will certainly want to make full use of.
Allow me, honourable senators, to highlight some aspects of the problem of
illegal drugs in Canada.
I shall start with the extent of the phenomenon. The first national study on
drug abuse dates back to 1994. It revealed, among other things, that close to 24
per cent of Canadians had used illegal drugs at one time or another; close to 23
per cent of Canadians had used cannabis; some 4 per cent had used cocaine and
less than 1 per cent had used other drugs.
A number of more recent studies carried out in some of the provinces,
including Quebec, show a change in the consumption patterns, especially among
the young people. For instance, the 1998 Health and Social Survey released a few
weeks ago and a study presented to the special committee during its public
hearing on October 16, 2000, by Professor Zoccolillo, of McGill University,
indicate among other things an increase in the use of cannabis, especially among
young people; an increase in so- called problem use among high school students;
a possible increase of some forms of addiction, including to cannabis; a
possible increase in the use of hard drugs among young people, especially
heroin; and last, more frequent use of multiple drugs, or what is called drug
Studies in other countries such as France, Switzerland, Belgium, England,
Australia and the United States also tend to confirm these patterns.
We are also aware that abuse of various substances is causing major problems
in several native communities, where the use rate seems to be higher, multiple
drug use more frequent and the impacts of substance abuse, namely a higher rate
of family violence and deaths, are more serious. We recently had a very tragic
example of this problem with native youths from Labrador sniffing gasoline. An
in-depth review of the problems caused by illegal drugs cannot ignore the unique
plight of the First Nations and cannot, obviously, deal only with cannabis.
Other groups of the population are at high risk. Studies indicate that
injection drug users are now one of the groups at highest risk for transmitting
the HIV-AIDS virus. Users of the so-called hard drugs are also at risk, as
indicated by the stunning figure of 3,000 drug-related deaths for the city of
Vancouver alone since 1992 because of the lack of information and prevention and
treatment programs. Would the suppression of drugs result in the death of users?
Inmates of jails and penitentiaries are also a high-risk group. We know that a
considerable number of inmates use drugs during their incarceration, and yet
there are no mechanisms for treatment or even prevention. A number of inmates
become habitual users during incarceration. I am talking of injectable drugs,
leading to the transmission of AIDS and to death, not cannabis.
We know that there is a far from insignificant relationship between illegal
drugs and crime. I hardly need stress the problems connected to organized crime.
Too often we ignore the fact that a significant proportion of offences committed
are connected to drug use or drug seeking. According to some estimates, no less
than 50 per cent of all crime is related to substance abuse, drugs or alcohol.
If this were so — and the special committee will need to look into this matter
carefully — the social and economic costs to Canadian society are enormous. Let
us keep in mind that the National Crime Prevention Centre has estimated the
direct and indirect costs of crime at $35 billion yearly, or $1,200 per person.
Even half that figure is a huge amount, particularly when one knows that there
are effective and cost-effective ways of preventing substance abuse and the
crime-generating effects of drug use. Certain estimates — which also merit
careful consideration by the committee — estimate the annual costs of
suppressing drugs at over $400 million, or nearly $13 per person. This figure
does not include the indirect costs relating to those who are sentenced and
imprisoned: court time, prison time, the resultant greater difficulty in getting
into the job market, finishing schooling, maintaining emotional relationships.
The impacts of judicial control policies need to be examined as well. In fact, a
number of analysts are of the opinion that police repression is one of the major
factors in drug-related crime.
In fact, a relatively disturbing trend in the application of the legislation
on drugs may be seen in Canada. Despite the expressed desire for a policy
balancing the four pillars of prevention, education, repression and treatment,
there is a significant increase in charges for possession of drugs, including
cannabis. This increase has occurred as overall crime reported to the police has
been on the decrease for the past seven years. In 1997, over 40,000 people were
charged with offences relating to cannabis alone — 65,000 in the case of all
drugs — and over 18,000 were sentenced; 26 per cent of those charged with
cannabis related offences were under 18, and 60 per cent were under 25.
Furthermore, and despite all too commonly held beliefs, during this same period
of decreased delinquency, the rate of incarceration and the overall severity of
sentences in Canada increased rather than decreased.
Another subject of concern is the infringement of the basic rights of
individuals and certain questionable police practices. A disturbing documentary
broadcast on the CBC's program the fifth estate in January raised questions
about practices of police cooperation between the RCMP and the American DEA.
Experts in international law contend that certain aspects of Canada's very
sovereignty are at stake.
According to a number of experts, Canada is to a large extent following a
drug war policy borrowed in part from our American neighbours. According to
others, Canada's policy is balanced among various approaches. In both cases,
caution is necessary, and we would be mistaken to prejudice Canadian policy on
the basis of information provided essentially by the media. Everything would
indicate that the policy followed in the field is complex and varies from
province to province and even from city to city within the same province. In
addition, experts are far from agreeing on the current direction of Canadian
policy. The distribution of funding and resources among each of the four pillars
much be examined in depth along with the type of action taken under each of
them. In view of the growing number of so- called prevention programs, in the
schools for example, it is time we asked whether the programs are effective and
if the best prevention and education programs are being supported.
One can assume that even in the area of education and prevention a whole
series of myths on the physiological and psychological effects of illegal drugs
are still very much alive. Several studies on the therapeutic effects of
cannabis were conducted over the past few years and were reflected in several
recent decisions by the Supreme Courts in Ontario and Alberta. We realize that
our beliefs and the results of research on drugs are not necessarily in
agreement. A case in point is the "Gateway Drug'' theory that cannabis leads to
use of harder drugs. And what about these infamous hard drugs when we now know
that tobacco addiction is worse than addiction to cocaine or heroin. We will
have to revisit the myths and realities surrounding the concept of addiction and
habituation to various drugs and their interconnection.
I want to raise one last point, honourable senators. Canada is a signatory of
international conventions and treaties on narcotics, but also of more
encompassing instruments such as the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and
other related political and social conventions. We must respect our
international commitments. On the other hand, we cannot take refuge behind the
strict interpretation of treaties and conventions on narcotics. It is true that
Canada, like others, has some leeway. The Netherlands are often given as an
example, but several other countries have adopted policies better suited to
their situation: Belgium very recently, Switzerland over the last two years,
Australia, Italy, and to a certain extent England are some examples. These
policies deal with cannabis as well as other drugs. The time has come to take
the time to look at what is being done elsewhere to contribute to an earnest
reflection on what we want for ourselves here.
Allow me a few more minutes, honourable senators.
The Hon. the Speaker: Honourable senators, I wish to point out that
the time allotted to Senator Nolin has expired.
Honourable senators, is leave granted to extend the time?
Hon. Senators: Agreed.
Hon. Anne C. Cools: He has not asked for an extension.
Senator Nolin: For Senator Cools, I request consent to speak for
another six pages.
Following my presentation on some of the problems posed by illegal drugs,
three basic requirements come to mind.
First, a rigorous and comprehensive review of our policies on illegal drugs
is necessary. If we must give particular attention to cannabis, that drug should
not be singled out, nor the policies relating to it. Drugs are linked to one
another. They are linked to crime, family violence, AIDS and to the social
exclusion that hits many young people or aboriginal communities so hard. The
drug phenomenon must be examined as a whole. Drugs cannot be separated.
Similarly, the public policies that deal with them are supposed to form a
consistent package. Should our review show that such is not the case and that
ours is a piecemeal approach, then it would be high time to propose benchmarks
for a more consistent system.
Second, the scientific community, experts in national and provincial
anti-drug organizations and officials from the departments responsible for
anti-drug policies are unanimous in pointing out and even condemning the
weakness of our research effort on drugs in Canada, one of the worst among OECD
As I said earlier, the most recent Canada-wide study on drug use dates back
to 1994, yet there is every indication that drug use and the means employed have
changed significantly since. We do not have data on the rulings issued by the
courts, yet we fund major projects to create special tribunals on drugs. We do
not have reliable data on the effectiveness of public policies, yet the
crackdown alone costs hundreds of millions of dollars to the Canadian Treasury.
Something must be done.
And third, the Canadian public expects and is demanding that we develop a
public policy on drugs, one which is consistent, generous, and based on the
values that underlie and characterize our country. The Canadian public expects
rigorous and impartial information on illegal drugs and wants to take part in
redefining the direction that a made in Canada and for Canada policy on illegal
drugs should take. Public policy is ultimately up to citizens. Not only is it
made for them but it must, to the extent possible, be made with them. For this
to happen, information must be shared and disseminated and there must be also be
education. This is the whole reason for the public hearings the committee is
proposing to resume.
A public policy on illegal drugs cannot and must not be based on a collection
of myths and beliefs, the preservation of individual fiefdoms and corporate
interests. Similarly, a public policy will not reflect point for point the
opinions gathered in a survey. Governing is about choice, and these choices must
promote balance and strengthen the values on which our Canadian society is
built. If a special Senate committee on illegal drugs succeeds in promoting
research and summarizing the knowledge acquired, transmits objective information
to Canadians encourages public debate and makes it possible to define a certain
number of guidelines for a national public policy on drugs, such a committee,
honourable senators, will have been visionary and will have fulfilled the role
of this chamber in the eyes of Canadian society as a whole.
Honourable senators, the initial work of the special committee on illegal
drugs, and other recent events and testimony, has convinced me even more of the
need to take a rigorous and open- minded look at public policy in this area in
order to propose to Canadian society the criteria for a regime worthy of the
collective vision of Canadians in the next century. I therefore urge you to
actively support the work of the special committee on illegal drugs.
Senator Cools: I wish to put a question to Senator Nolin. He has done
a lot of work on this issue, work that will benefit us all.
The second paragraph of the reference states:
That the Committee, in pursuing this mandate, give particular importance to
issues relating to cannabis....
Perhaps Senator Nolin could tell us what those issues are.
Senator Nolin: The issues relating to cannabis are the same as those
relating to other drugs. However, we must take into account the popularity of
cannabis, to which I alluded in my speech, and the use of drug cocktails by
It is proper to look at cannabis first, for two reasons. First, two major
tribunal decisions are pending upon this Parliament.
The government must deal with the medical use of marijuana before the end of
July or introduce an amendment to the drug law, Bill C-8. From what I
understand, the government intends to move toward a rule or regulation under the
law. Nevertheless, at the end of July, it must adopt a position in that respect.
Second, marijuana is a popular drug. The rate of criminality is going down
for every crime save one — drugs. We owe it to Canadians to look at that drug
first, to table an interim report, and then to follow through with a study of