Hon. Serge Joyal: Honourable senators, with the consent of this house
and in our tradition, I should like to deliver a message that Senator Pitfield
wishes to bring to your attention today.
I would take this opportunity to draw to your attention that April is
National Parkinson's Disease Awareness Month in Canada and around the world.
Today marks the fortieth anniversary of Parkinson Society Canada.
To date, 100,000 Canadians have been diagnosed with Parkinson's disease
and, without a cure or treatment, experts predict that this figure will double
over the next decade. In addition, Canadians living with Parkinson's have
trouble getting the specialized care they need because there are considerably
Please join me in offering support to Parkinson Society Canada as they work
to fund research to find a cure and to deliver support programs that are
essential to those battling Parkinson's disease today.
Hon. Serge Joyal: Honourable senators, I should draw your attention to
the fact that Senator Pitfield has been appointed the Honorary Chair of
Parkinson Society Canada.
Hon. Senators: Hear, hear!
Senator Joyal: I am sure you will join me in expressing our support
and admiration for the dedication that Senator Pitfield has brought to his work
in this chamber and for the effort he has demonstrated on behalf of all
Canadians. He is a model for all those who fight this difficult disease, as well
as a great contributor to the building of our country.
Hon. Consiglio Di Nino: Honourable senators, last year on this day, we
had the pleasure of welcoming His Holiness the Dalai Lama to Ottawa. His visit
to Canada reminded us that in today's world, filled as it is with violence and
age-old hatreds, there is another world, and that is the commitment to achieve
peace through dialogue rather than conflict. His visit also reminded us of the
grim situation in Tibet, a homeland he has not seen in almost five decades.
Honourable senators, I once again urge our government to do all it can to
support the efforts of His Holiness to reach an accommodation with the Chinese
that respects the fundamental rights of Tibetans. I believe we have both an
opportunity and an obligation to speak in support of the Dalai Lama's quest for
a just and lasting solution to this long-standing issue.
Hon. Catherine S. Callbeck: Honourable senators, I rise in the Senate
today in recognition of National Organ and Tissue Donor Awareness Week. Organ
and tissue donation is indeed the gift of life. Organ recipients are given a
chance to be healthy again, to be with their families, and to enjoy their lives
to the fullest.
Over the years, the number of people who can benefit from organ donation has
grown because we have made great strides in the field of medicine. What is
possible today is indeed remarkable. However, despite these medical advances,
still not nearly enough viable organs are available for transplant. As a result,
more than 4,000 Canadians desperately waited for organ transplants in 2004.
Sadly, 242 of them lost their lives while waiting.
Honourable senators, you may be surprised to learn that Canada ranks in the
bottom half of industrialized nations regarding organ donations. The Canadian
rate of organ donations transplanted from deceased individuals was only about 13
per million of population last year.
To make matters worse, almost one third of all organs appropriate for
transplant were wasted because people did not share their wishes regarding organ
and tissue donation with their family members. In most parts of Canada, families
make the final decision on organ donation, even if their loved ones left a
signed consent or registered their intention with the province.
Honourable senators, I should like to take this opportunity to thank those
Canadians who have already made such arrangements and to ask them to make
certain that their families are fully aware of their wishes. In addition, I
strongly urge all those who would consider being a donor to learn more about the
requirements in their own province and to take the steps necessary to become an
organ donor. In doing so, we can all help to give so many other Canadians the
precious gift of life.
Hon. Anne C. Cools: Honourable senators, I rise today to join most of
the world in wishing Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II a happy and joyous
Honourable senators, this extraordinary woman was the child of extraordinary
parents, King George VI and Queen Elizabeth, the Queen Mother, both of whom
endeared themselves very deeply to Canadians in the royal visit of 1939. En
passant, that visit was conceived by Winston Churchill and our own Prime
Minister William Lyon Mackenzie King as a means of organizing a meeting between
President Franklin D. Roosevelt of the United States of America and King George
VI, because of the looming danger of Hitler's Nazi Germany.
Her Majesty, as you know, has lived a life that has been dedicated to the
notion of the leader as servant and, to my mind, a life of enormous civic duty
and public responsibility. About Her Majesty, I would like to say that she
herself is deeply endeared to Canadians. Last summer, at the sixtieth
anniversary celebrations of D-Day, it became clear to every single person there
— I was not there of course — that she was the most significant individual
present. She meant the world to Canadian veterans. We should understand that
these young men — they are old men now, those who are left — went out to fight
many years ago. They went out to fight for God, Queen and country.
Honourable senators, this is a concept that means a lot to me, and it means a
lot to those old veterans. It is a concept that I would like to see renewed and
reaffirmed, because if you do not stand up for God, Queen and country, then you
stand for your own ambition and vanity, I believe. I always remember the great
words of Lord Acton, that power tends to corrupt and absolute power corrupts
absolutely. I was raised to believe that the question of the sovereign should be
a question that is settled. My school mistress used to say one should never
trust anyone who wants to be king or queen.
In closing, Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth, this marvellous woman, this lover of
horses, this breeder of horses and thoroughbreds, is a great friend of Canada. I
would like to say once again that she has lived to the best of her ability the
high concept of public service in Christ the King. She is a great woman, a great
queen, a great parent and a great servant. God bless the Queen and may she have
many, many more happy birthdays.
Hon. Shirley Maheu: Honourable senators, this week we celebrate the
twentieth anniversary of the proclamation of section 15, the equality provisions
of our Charter of Rights and Freedoms. Section 15 is an integral part of our
living, breathing and growing Charter tree. It enshrines women's rights, our
multicultural identity and all our deeply held values of equality. It defines
how to treat each other and it is our fundamental acknowledgement of our shared
belief in each other's dignity.
Our Charter is the culmination of the Magna Carta of 1215, the great English
Bill of Rights of 1689, our own Quebec Act of 1774 and our Constitution Acts of
1791 and 1867. The latest of our important Canadian constitutional documents is
the Civil Marriage Act that currently makes its way through the other place. As
we await its passage here, let us remember that our last great human rights
battle was also fought right here on Parliament Hill. In 1917, some women were
given the right to vote in Canada in the Wartime Elections Act, but reactionary
Canadians were strongly opposed to the vote for women during peacetime, let
alone universal suffrage for women. These reactionary elements claimed that
women were feeble-minded and only suitable for domestic and reproductive
The leader of this point of view in Quebec was none other than Cardinal
Villeneuve, who stated, before he won his red hat, that women do not hold the
natural right to participate in the government of civil society. His approach to
civil rights sounds a lot like the anti-gay rhetoric of today. The campaign
against civil rights for women was so strongly promoted by reactionary elements
that it was not until 1944 that women got the right to vote in Quebec.
Honourable senators, these reactionary elements always lose. Unfortunately,
before they lose, they leave a trail of prejudice, bitterness, misinformation
and plain, old-fashioned bigotry. Their tactics to diminish the dignity of some
Canadians tend to be disingenuous. The reactionary rhetoric of the 1920s, 1930s
and 1940s of the last century to relegate some Canadians to the back of the bus
resembles the reactionary rhetoric of today against our gay community.
Some members of the House of Commons have been using the same kind of
vocabulary to diminish gay rights that was used against women's rights. In fact,
honourable senators, by changing a few words in the current debate, we could
have easily imagined them speaking against women's rights 75 years ago — the
same sentiments, the same tone and the same intolerance. The passage of the
Civil Marriage Act will honour the 20 years of positive growth of some human
rights achieved by way of section 15 of our Charter.
Hon. Donald H. Oliver: Honourable senators, more than 186 million
people live in Brazil. Fifty-four per cent are Black. The country has a vast
array of natural resources and has a thriving agricultural sector. Brazil's GDP
in Canadian dollars was estimated to be $691 billion in 2003. It is by far the
largest and most populous country in South America, and is a leading economic
power and a regional leader.
Honourable senators, Brazil is also in a racial crisis. Blacks hold 83 per
cent of the manual jobs. Blacks also earn on average 45 per cent less than their
White counterparts. Of the discriminated groups, Black women are especially
oppressed because they are subject to double and triple discrimination — gender
and race, as well as social origin, which is associated with the first two types
of discrimination. The division of labour in Brazilian society remains largely
unchanged from when it became an independent nation in 1822. As with colonial
rule, racial discrimination is the basis for inequality and social exclusion.
Honourable senators, with that background, I was asked to speak at the
landmark international conference held last week in Brasilia, Brazil, called
Advancing Racial Equity: A Dialogue in Politics. I was asked by Brazilian
officials to speak about how Canada's multicultural framework has functioned as
an institutional model for integrating racial and ethnic minorities. Conference
organizers hoped that a Canadian presence would shed some light on potential
building blocks to assist Latin American policy makers in their struggle for a
less unequal society.
My speech focused on how Canada is a country of immigrants whose economic
success is predicated on our ability to attract ethnic minorities from around
the world. In Canada, racial integration is an economic necessity. However, I
also explained the historical background of Canada's cultural duality, and how
biculturalism provided the basic condition for accommodating diversity in that
the accommodation of two cultures raised the possibility of accommodating
Honourable senators, Latin America's legacy of systemic discrimination has
been avoided in the public debate for over a century. Hopefully this conference
will help to give a public voice to the nearly 100 million Blacks who are
victims of Latin America's ongoing racial crisis.
Hon. Jerahmiel S. Grafstein: Honourable senators, I rise to pay
respects to His Holiness Pope Benedict XVI. As a student of the church, always
rich in symbolism, to take the mantle of St. Benedict, the patron saint of
Europe, offers interesting insight into the Pope's stewardship in the future
direction of the church.
I had the opportunity to meet the Pope when, as Cardinal Ratzinger, he
visited Toronto in 1985. He was there to speak at a mass public meeting at
Varsity Arena entitled, An Evening with Cardinal Ratzinger. I was delighted to
attend and join 8,000 enthusiastic members of the audience in this moving event
organized by our great and good friend Dennis Mills and made possible by the
generous support of Frank Stronach.
Earlier, the late Cardinal Carter invited me to a small, private dinner to
meet this eminent cardinal. I knew of his participation as an advisor to the
Cardinal Archbishop of Cologne in the sessions of Vatican II. I was surprised to
find myself as the only non-Catholic in this small, select company that included
my friend and one of Canada's and the world's greatest outstanding scholars,
Father Jim McConica, then President of St. Michael's College. I learned more of
Cardinal Ratzinger's participation as a key adviser in the formulation of
Vatican II. I was told by Cardinal Carter and my friend Dennis Mills and Father
Jim McConica that we would share a common interest in the changing attitude of
the church as manifested by Vatican II.
During the dinner, I was allowed ample time to enter into a direct discourse
with the new Pope. I came away deeply impressed by being in the presence of a
superior, brilliant mind, deeply engaged in the momentous issues of Vatican II
and, above all, his humble and very gentle demeanour.
As Pope John Paul II did, I believe Pope Benedict XVI will surprise all as he
forges a different path for the church, assaying, as his predecessors have, to
fill the capacious footprints of the first fishermen.
The name "Benedict" comes from the Latin word for "blessing." May we hope
that the new Pope's work brings blessings to his followers and the entire world.
Hon. Daniel Hays: Honourable senators, I have the honour of tabling
the report of an official visit to the Republic of Trinidad and Tobago made
February 21 and 22, 2005; a report covering an official visit to Uruguay for the
inauguration of President Vasquez, February 29 to March 5; and a report of an
official visit to the Republic of Indonesia from March 14 to 17, 2005.
Hon. Donald H. Oliver, Chair of the Standing Senate Committee on
National Finance, presented the following report:
Thursday, April 21, 2005
The Standing Senate Committee on National Finance has the honour to present
Your Committee, to which was referred Bill C-30, An Act to amend the
Parliament of Canada Act and the Salaries Act and to make consequential
amendments to other Acts, has in obedience to the Order of Reference of
Thursday, April 14, 2005, examined the said Bill and now reports the same
DONALD H. OLIVER
The Hon. the Speaker: Honourable senators, when shall this bill be
read the third time?
Hon. Jack Austin (Leader of the Government): Honourable senators, with
The Hon. the Speaker: Is leave granted, honourable senators?
Some Hon. Senators: Agreed.
Hon. Anne C. Cools: I do not understand. Why are we not proceeding in
the usual and proper way?
Senator Austin: Honourable senators, if there is a senator who wishes
to again return to debate on Bill C-30, of course we should not give leave now.
I had not heard that there was a senator who wanted to participate in the
debate. Parliament is about to go into a break. It would be convenient, quite
frankly, for the government to have this legislation receive Royal Assent so
that it can be implemented by the public service.
Senator Cools: Honourable senators, I believe it is customary, when
unanimous consent like this is requested, to provide the chamber with an
explanation. When such consent is sought, it is usually to do the reading later
this day. I wonder why the double urgency. It is one urgency to do everything
today; it is a second urgency to try to give third reading right now. Once an
explanation is given, it all begins to makes some sense. There will be third
reading debate right now; is that correct?
Senator Austin: Honourable senators, if Senator Cools wishes to
participate in the debate, I would be happy to move that the bill be read again
at the next sitting.
If Senator Cools is simply asking for an explanation, I have given the
explanation. Royal Assent is scheduled for this afternoon. My request is meant
simply for the convenience of the chamber, not for any other reason. It would be
convenient to the government for the bill to receive Royal Assent so that it can
be implemented. It is retroactive to April 1, 2004. There is no urgency to it.
It is simply a polite request on my part to honourable senators if there is no
need to occupy the agenda with this bill at a later time.
Senator Cools: Honourable senators, I did not refuse consent. I was
asking for clarification as to whether there would be some debate today at third
reading, which is now. I do not know who the sponsor of the bill is, but perhaps
the sponsor can begin third reading debate.
Senator Austin: I would be happy, honourable senators, to ask for
leave for later this day.
Senator Cools: That would be better.
The Hon. the Speaker: Is leave granted, honourable senators?
Hon. Senators: Agreed.
On motion of Senator Austin, with leave of the Senate and notwithstanding
rule 58(1)(b), bill placed on the Orders of the Day for third reading later this
Hon. Eymard G. Corbin, Chair of the Standing Senate Committee on
Official Languages, presented the following report:
Thursday, April 21, 2005
The Standing Senate Committee on Official Languages has the honour to
Your Committee, which was authorized by the Senate on November 3, 2004 to
study and to report on the application of the Official Languages Act,
respectfully requests the permission to adjourn from place to place within
Canada and to travel inside Canada for the purpose of such study, and requests
the approval of funds for fiscal year 2005-2006.
Pursuant to Chapter 3:06, section 2(1)(c) of the Senate Administrative
Rules, the budget submitted to the Standing Committee on Internal Economy,
Budgets and Administration and the report thereon of that Committee are
appended to this report.
EYMARD G. CORBIN
(For text of budget, see today's Journals of the Senate, p. 816.)
The Hon. the Speaker: Honourable senators, when shall this report be
taken into consideration?
On motion of Senator Corbin, report placed on the Orders of the Day for
consideration at the next sitting of the Senate.
Hon. Bill Rompkey (Deputy Leader of the Government): Honourable
senators, with leave of the Senate and notwithstanding rule 58(1)(i), I give
notice that later this day I will move:
That, in accordance with rule 95(3), the Standing Senate Committee on
National Finance be empowered to meet on Monday, May 2, 2005, even though the
Senate may then be adjourned for a period exceeding one week.
Hon. Rose-Marie Losier-Cool: Honourable senators, pursuant to rule 56
and rule 57(2), and following my attendance last week in Paris at a women's
rights conference organized by the French Senate and the Mouvement français pour
le planning familial, I give notice that on Tuesday, May 3:
I will call the attention of the Senate to the Millennium Development
Goals, more particularly to Goal number 3, seeking to promote gender equality
and to empower women.
Hon. A. Raynell Andreychuk: Honourable senators, I give notice that on
Tuesday, May 3, 2005:
I shall call the attention of the Senate to the failure of the government
to address the issue of climate change in a meaningful, effective and timely
way and, in particular, to the lack of early government action to attempt to
reach the targets set in the Kyoto Protocol.
Hon. Terry Stratton (Deputy Leader of the Opposition): Honourable
senators, my question is addressed to the Leader of the Government in the
Senate. Yesterday in the chamber, Senator Austin stated: "...the government's
Kyoto plan has been widely accepted by both the business and environmental
Unfortunately, that is not what I heard. An article in the Calgary Herald
Mr. Tom Adams, Executive Director of Energy Probe, a national energy and
environmental watchdog, said a coast-to-coast transmission grid poses risks
to Canadians in terms of delivering reliable service. Moreover, it is "grossly unfair" because it would cost taxpayers tens of billions in tax
dollars to benefit mostly Ontario.
Mr. Thomas d'Aquino, President of the Canadian Council of Chief Executives,
which represents 150 leading Canadian enterprises from all sectors of the
economy, said in the National Post that the Kyoto plan will impose "huge
costs on taxpayers and will fail to meet its goals."
Mr. Matthew Bramley of the Pembina Institute, an environmental policy
research organization, told the CBC that "taxpayers are going to take a stiff
burden of costs to find emission reductions for Kyoto, while industry is really
going to be asked to make overall what represents an economically insignificant
I have next a press release from the David Suzuki Foundation, which reads:
Canada's climate change plan lets big polluters off the hook and doesn't
send a strong message to industry that our economy must become cleaner and
more efficient to compete in the global marketplace.
Greenpeace criticized the plan when it stated that it is:
...inadequate to achieve Canada's Kyoto mission reduction target within the
time frame required by the Protocol.
These criticisms do not have wide acceptance, as the leader had stated. Will
the Leader of the Government in the Senate tell us why Canadians are being asked
to spend $10 billion of taxpayers' money on a plan that many environmental and
business groups, and even a Liberal minister, thinks will not work?
Hon. Jack Austin (Leader of the Government): Honourable senators, it
is most interesting to have this question from Senator Stratton and to listen to
his quotations from various advocates coming from 180 degrees of difference in
terms of approach and policy. Hearing the Pembina Institute comments next to the
Suzuki Foundation comments is quite a straddle. However, the best way to pursue
the government's Kyoto plan in this chamber is in response to Senator
Andreychuk's inquiry, of which she gave notice. This side welcomes the inquiry
because it will provide an opportunity to provide more detail for clarification
of government policies in respect of its Kyoto plan and the Green Project. This
side looks forward to participating in such an inquiry.
Senator Stratton: I am delighted to have the opportunity to enter that
debate as well, and I thank Senator Andreychuk for putting forward her inquiry,
if for no other reason than to find an answer to why it took so extraordinarily
long for the government to come up with a plan of action on the Kyoto Protocol.
Does the Leader of the Government have an answer to that extraordinary delay of
seven or eight years? It is costing Canadian taxpayers far more now than it
would have cost had this plan been instituted a while ago.
Senator Austin: Honourable senators, the house will be able to
discuss, debate and, perhaps, disagree on the plan during the course of the
inquiry. I have said in this chamber more than once in response to the same
question from Senator Stratton that whereas in 1997 certain targets were
accepted by Canada for its Kyoto obligations, those targets must be developed in
terms of methodology and a sharing of costs with the various levels of
government and the private sector. The government would not act simply to issue
a ukase to the Canadian people on how this plan should be developed and
implemented. This government is one that achieves consensus through a process of
discussion, and we have achieved consensus amongst governments and the major
players in the economy with respect to the Kyoto plan.
I have also said, honourable senators, in this chamber that the plan is not
one that has specific programs with unalterable targets. The plan is dynamic. We
will live with our experiences as the Kyoto application unfolds, and we will
make the changes that need to be made.
Hon. Leonard J. Gustafson: Honourable senators, my question relates to
an application for intervenor status in the Montana courts in regard to opening
up the border to Canadian cattle. Today, honourable members of the Conservative
Party, Belinda Stronach, International Trade Critic of the Official Opposition
and Diane Finley, Official Opposition Agriculture Critic, announced that a group
of concerned Conservative members will apply for intervenor status in the
Why has the government not applied for this status? Why would the Government
of Canada leave it to the opposition to do the government's work? Is this a
tactic that the Prime Minister is using to negate his obligations to Canadian
farmers? This is a serious situation which warrants a response.
Hon. Jack Austin (Leader of the Government): Honourable senators, the
situation is that the United States Department of Agriculture has intervened,
seeking to set aside the interim decision of Federal Court Judge Cebull in the
Montana case brought on by R-CALF. The position of the United States Department
of Agriculture is in exact conformity with that of the Government of Canada.
Nothing can be improved in the way of representation before that court by the
Canadian government being an additional party. We stand on the public record as
being entirely in support of the United States Department of Agriculture and its
position in that litigation.
I do not know whether the application of certain politicians in this country,
as outlined by the honourable senator, for intervenor status in that case will
improve the opportunity for the Canadian cattle producers to win that case. I do
not know whether it will be seen by the Americans as pure political opportunism,
something having to do with nothing more than the current political environment
in Canada. I hope it does no damage to the position, and I hope that the action
was taken on competent legal advice.
Senator Gustafson: Honourable senators, the fact is that a lawyer who
appeared at the press conference today, and who represents a firm that acts both
in Toronto and Washington, indicated in the release that there was a good chance
that they would get a hearing in Montana and be able to put forward the case for
Canadian farmers regarding the border. He is obviously well educated and well
versed in the situation, and the firm is taking it upon itself to represent the
members of the opposition.
Again, my question is: Why has the government not stepped up to the plate and
done its job in this regard?
Senator Austin: Let me repeat my response to Senator Gustafson. The
best intervenor is the United States Department of Agriculture, which is
intervening in exactly the way the Government of Canada would intervene, and we
support that intervention by the United States Department of Agriculture.
Our position cannot be improved beyond the position the United States
Department of Agriculture is taking, which is seeking to set aside the decision
of Judge Cebull. I certainly hope that the actions that the honourable senator
has announced here, of which I was not previously aware, are helpful.
Senator Gustafson: The Minister of Agriculture and members of both
sides of this house were present when, in the opening remarks of his speech, the
President of the United States indicated that he was in support of the opening
of the border. Many Americans, in both Congress and the Senate, support the
opening of the border. It is a matter of now dealing with the court in Billings,
Montana, and that means dealing with R-CALF and one local judge.
Therefore, the intervention of the Canadians I mentioned, with proper legal
advice, would be most helpful.
Senator Austin: As I said, honourable senators, I am not at all
convinced of that, but I hope it is true.
Hon. David Tkachuk: Honourable senators, yesterday, Maurice Strong
stepped aside as UN adviser to North Korea. The reason for his action is the
close and ongoing business relationship he had with Mr. Tongsun Park, who is now
under indictment by U.S. federal authorities investigating the UN oil-for-food
scandal. One aspect of that relationship is that Mr. Park allegedly invested
more than $1 million of the money he received in the oil-for-food scandal in a
company run by Mr. Strong's son.
You will be interested to know, honourable senators, that another investor in
that company that Mr. Strong's son was running was Paul Martin's CSL Group. Mr.
Strong has long been associated with the Martin family and, indeed, was first
brought to Ottawa in 1966 by Paul Martin, Sr. He was described in The Globe
and Mail today as an influential mentor, close friend and unofficial adviser
to the Prime Minister.
My question for the Leader of the Government in the Senate is: Does Mr.
Strong remain an unofficial adviser to the Prime Minister?
Hon. Jack Austin (Leader of the Government): Honourable senators, Mr.
Strong is not an official of the Government of Canada and I can answer only on
behalf of the Government of Canada, not private individuals.
Senator Tkachuk: Can the Leader of the Government in the Senate reveal
to us how much Mr. Strong is paid to serve as the unofficial adviser to the
Senator Austin: Mr. Strong receives no payment from the Government of
Hon. Ethel Cochrane: Honourable senators, my question for the Leader
of the Government in the Senate concerns the Atlantic accord, which was signed
by the Prime Minister and the premiers of Nova Scotia and Newfoundland and
Labrador in February.
Instead of bringing forward stand-alone legislation to implement the Atlantic
accord, the federal government has tied this historic agreement to 23 other
budget provisions in Bill C-43, an omnibus bill of over 100 pages. When the
previous Conservative government agreed to an accord in 1985, it took the form
of stand-alone legislation.
My question to the Leader of the Government in the Senate is: Will the
federal government honour its agreement with these provinces as quickly as
possible and split the accord from the budget implementation bill?
Hon. Jack Austin (Leader of the Government): Honourable senators, I
thank Senator Cochrane for the opportunity to make the government policy in this
It is a convention that budget bills encompass various issues and items, as
does the budget address when it is presented in the other place.
Bill C-43 is designed to implement the government's budget announcement of
last February. I am very much aware of the desire by the provinces of
Newfoundland and Labrador and Nova Scotia to see passed into law the agreement,
to which the honourable senator refers as the Atlantic accord, which is a part
of Bill C-43.
The government would like to see this bill passed. Of course, the matter is
now in the process of being dealt with in the other place. I am advised it is
not the government's policy to split Bill C-43 in any way, shape or form. It is
a comprehensive government budget bill, and is presented as such.
I am also advised that there would be no consent from one of the opposition
parties to permit the bill to be split, and consent is required under the rules
of the other place.
Senator Cochrane: Honourable senators, since the budget considerations
in this implementation bill respecting the Kyoto plan were removed from the
bill, I did hope that it would be possible for the government to follow this
same procedure with respect to the Atlantic accord. I recognize that Bill C-43
is huge and its contents would be the subject of many questions and answers.
However, if the Atlantic accord were dealt with separately, it could be passed
I am pleased to hear the leader say that it is the government's wish to deal
with this matter quickly because it is estimated that my province will lose
between $1 million and $3 million every week the matter is delayed. That is a
lot of money to Newfoundlanders and Labradorians. Ours is a small province, with
a population of less than half a million people.
As a result of the political reality in which we now operate, people in both
provinces are concerned about what will happen to the accord if it is not soon
passed. If the federal government were truly committed to expedite the passage
of the accord, it would support any method to do so now. How can Newfoundlanders
and Labradorians and Nova Scotians believe that the federal government truly
supports swift implementation of the accord when its words have not matched its
Senator Austin: I disagree with the honourable senator's last
sentence. The government has presented its budget. The budget bill has been
presented. It is at the disposal of the other place. The government members are
prepared to vote for it as quickly as the procedures of the other place permit
it to be brought forward for a vote.
However, as I have said to the honourable senator, a party in the other place
does not support the Atlantic accord and will not give consent to anything but
the most standard way of proceeding in the other chamber. The government can do
nothing about that.
Senator Cochrane: Honourable senators, did the party to which the
leader alludes agree to removing the provisions respecting the Kyoto plan from
Senator Austin: I am not sure of the accuracy of the honourable
senator's statement with respect to Kyoto, but I will look into that question.
Hon. Wilbert J. Keon: My question is for the Leader of the Government
in the Senate regarding the A/H2N2, the deadly strain of influenza mistakenly
sent to laboratories all over the world, including 20 in Canada. As we all know,
we owe a debt of gratitude to our new director of the Public Health Agency for
alerting the world of this error.
The World Health Organization has told us that all the samples have been
located and almost all have been destroyed. However, many people in the
scientific and health care communities, as well as in the general public, are
wondering how such a deadly virus was disseminated in the first place. No public
explanation has been given.
Could the Leader of the Government tell us what Health Canada has learned
over the last several days about how this virus entered our country and was
circulated around the world?
Hon. Jack Austin (Leader of the Government): Honourable senators, I
answered a question regarding that particular issue last week. I am delighted to
hear from Senator Keon that all the samples have been located because, a few
days ago, I heard that three samples had not been located, one in Lebanon, one
in Mexico and another in one other country. If they have all been located, that
is an enormous relief.
We do know that they were unintentionally sent out by a private, non-profit
organization in the United States. Somehow, an error was made.
I understand that U.S. authorities are conducting an investigation and will
advise Health Canada shortly.
Hon. Wilbert J. Keon: Honourable senators, this incident and other
recent occurrences raise serious questions about the movement and handling of
deadly viruses, and about related public safety issues and security concerns.
Last month, a FedEx van carrying anthrax and other biological agents to the
National Microbiology Laboratory in Winnipeg was involved in a traffic accident.
Fortunately, no one was hurt and the viruses were not compromised.
Could the Leader of the Government in the Senate tell us if the Transport
Canada ongoing review of the Transportation of Dangerous Goods Act will look
into both these incidents; and when does the department expect to complete its
Hon. Jack Austin (Leader of the Government): I will have to obtain
information from those departments. I will seek that information as quickly as I
Hon. Bill Rompkey (Deputy Leader of the Government): Honourable
senators, I have the honour to present a response to a question raised in the
Senate on February 23, 2005, by Senator Meighen regarding the pension of Clifton
Hon. Jack Austin (Leader of the Government) moved third reading of
Bill C-30, to amend the Parliament of Canada Act and the Salaries Act and to
make consequential amendments to other Acts.
He said: Honourable senators, I do not plan to say very much about this bill
since senators are familiar with its contents. It relates to compensation for
senators and members of the other place. With passage of the bill, compensation
provisions will be severed from existing legislation which links
parliamentarians' compensation to that of judges.
As honourable senators know, the quadrennial commission, which reviews
judicial salaries, reported a rather aggressive number for judges, and therefore
by linkage with legislation, for parliamentarians. The number applicable to
judges was based on a new formula adopted by the quadrennial commission. It
referenced upper-tier income on the part of the legal profession and sought to
make that upper-tier income and judicial compensation more or less parallel,
which may well be justified. That is for another legislative day, I believe.
However, it is not justified to link parliamentarians' income to the income
of upper-tier income lawyers in Toronto and Montreal. I wish I could add
Vancouver to that, but I do not think Vancouver lawyers make the same kind of
money. I could, however, probably add Calgary to that list.
The result is we have now provided in this legislation linkage to an index
that encompasses nearly a million Canadian employees but does not include public
The reason for choosing that particular index is so there would be no
accusation that Parliament could effect its own income by legislating with
respect to the income of a group that included public servants.
Honourable senators, this appears to be a policy widely accepted by the
Canadian public. The committee, as reported by Senator Oliver, saw no exception
to be taken to this policy and I commend it to the chamber.
Hon. Anne C. Cools: Honourable senators, I rise to take part in third
reading debate on Bill C-30. I was listening with some care to the Leader of the
Government's intervention. I am always struck by the fact that aggressive
numbers — I think those are his words — in terms of salaries or compensation,
because they are not salaries, are okay for judges but not for members of
Parliament. I find the whole matter distressing in many respects. I would like
to make it clear, honourable senators, that members' salaries are not a question
that I get involved in very often. I have always left it to other people to
determine what we should be paid.
I would like to say for the record that contrary to this notion that judges'
salaries have to be so high because it is hard to attract good candidates, the
fact of the matter is that on becoming a judge, most lawyers experience a very
significant increase in income. As a matter of fact, the data shows that judges
are among the highest paid individuals in the country.
Barely a few years ago, in June 2001, I believe, this house passed Bill C-28.
Honourable senators will recall that was the bill at the time that linked
members of Parliament's salaries to judges. Honourable senators, I would like to
remind this house that I objected to that process strenuously at the time on the
grounds that it was unconstitutional, unparliamentary and improper.
Talking about aggression, I would like to remind honourable senators that the
government of the day, the Liberal government, was aggressive with members here
who disagreed with the position that the government had adopted.
Senator Murray: Surely not.
Senator Cools: The government would accept no amendments or changes to
Bill C-28. As a matter of fact, I have my Senate remarks of June 13, 2001 right
before me. If we were to go to the end of the debate, right at the vote, you
would see where His Honour asked for third reading debate and asked if it was
the pleasure of honourable senators to adopt the motion. It says that honourable
senators agreed. The record shows Senator Cools saying, "On division." I would
like to say, if you think it was easy, believe you me, I left that side of the
Senate for good reasons.
Honourable senators, perhaps I can refer back to that debate. On June 13,
2001, I said the following:
Honourable senators, about Bill C-28 and the salaries of senators and
members, I will say the same thing. Again, I take no issue with the quantum of
the increase in parliamentarians' salaries as proposed in this bill. However,
as with the Judges Act, I do take the very same exceptions with the process
used to arrive at the quantum for the salaries. In addition, I strongly object
to the tying of parliamentarians' salaries to the salaries of the judges,
being the salary of the Chief Justice of the Supreme Court of Canada. Bill
C-28's clause 1 makes this tie. It establishes a valuation point as the basis
for the salaries of members of both Houses of Parliament. It names that
valuation point a remuneration reference. That remuneration reference is the
Chief Justice's salary. I take strong exception to the statutory inclusion of
even a mention of the Chief Justice in the Parliament of Canada Act.
Honourable senators will remember that I felt very strongly and I opposed
that strenuously at the time:
Honourable senators, the phenomenon of using the Chief Justice's salary as
the valuation base for parliamentary salaries is not an appropriate or a
desirable parliamentary action, and is unknown and even unhealthy to
Parliament, the high court of Parliament. Bill C-28's technique of enshrining
in statute with the link between the salary of the Supreme Court's Chief
Justice with the salaries of parliamentarians is not properly respectful of
the coordinate constitutional roles of Parliament, the judiciary and the
cabinet. Bill C-28 is not respectful and does not honour our constitutional
principles and practices around constitutional comity between Parliament, the
judges and the cabinet. Furthermore, it undermines those principles.
In any event, that bill passed over the strong objections of some senators.
I would also like to make clear that I had another objection. I objected to
the then new phenomenon of paying extra remuneration to members of Parliament
and senators to act as chairmen and deputy chairmen of committees. I had
problems when that was created. Honourable senators will remember that retired
Senator John Stewart, many years ago, had strongly objected to that sort of
thing on the grounds that it was unparliamentary. There is a difference between
salaries of back-bench members and the salaries of ministers because ministers
of the Crown enjoy Her Majesty's preferment. That difference in salary was based
on that fact. There is no constitutional reason, however, that can be given for
differentiating the remuneration for back-bench members of Parliament. Members
of Parliament are equal; their remuneration should be equal.
I contend that if, by an act of Parliament, we can increase salaries for some
members, then we can also decrease salaries for some members. It is an important
constitutional principle that has been tampered with. I look forward to the day
when some of us here will look at the performance of committee deputy chairmen
and committee chairmen and do an evaluation on the grounds that they are now
being paid to do the job.
Senator Prud'homme: Hear, hear!
Senator Cools: Quite frankly, some are doing lousy jobs. It is the
most terrible form of patronage with no proper constitutional basis. I just wish
to remind honourable senators of my concerns at the time.
My concerns in 2001 about that bill remain unchanged. It seems that this
government is the first to change its mind. Perhaps that is my next point, but
the principal objections that I had raised then are as valid now as they were
I do not understand why Bill C-30 has been placed on such a fast track.
Neither do I understand the lack of interest that members of the Senate have in
speaking to it. I would like to record my objections to this government's
reversal of a position adopted very recently, just a few years ago, a position
adopted with what I would describe as heavy duty force, heavy duty party
discipline, many threats and a fair amount of coercion.
I would like to record here again that this government seems to believe that
Parliament, this chamber in particular, is a personal fiefdom of the Prime
Minister and his office and that this chamber, this house, should change its
mind every time the Prime Minister nods. It is an improper thing to ask a house
to reverse its position and to adopt a contrary position to what it adopted
previously. Perhaps it does not bother some members. However, it bothers me
greatly. In my mind, it is the continuation of what I would describe as the
consistent and persistent diminution of Parliament and members of Parliament. If
the government decided that it did not like the formula it created with
Parliament's agreement, it had a few options. It could have lowered the judges'
salaries, but it did not do that.
I have deep concerns with the about-faces of this government. This Parliament
votes in one direction one day and goes in the opposite direction the next day.
I saw that on the question of marriage. The Attorney General of Canada argued on
one side of the issue one day and on the other side the next. Obviously, the law
had two positions. The law must have two positions if the Attorney General could
do that. I argued during the reference that it was an improper and
unconstitutional exercise of the powers of the Attorney General, Her Majesty's
main law officer.
I do not think this manner of proceeding and operating is conducive to good
legislation, good governance or a good result. As a matter of fact, I would say
this manner of proceeding and operating is objectionable to the law of
I understand that we will be receiving another bill soon on the judges'
salaries. There is much background on this matter that I will bring forth at
that time. It would be nice if we could find a proper, good and reasonable way
to deal with the matter of compensation for members of Parliament. Minister
Valeri insisted that this was the right way and so on. I have no doubt it will
be a very short time before the government will change its mind yet again. This
troubles me deeply.
Honourable senators, perhaps at some time we could have a debate on these
underlying principles. When our remuneration, which we used to call indemnities,
was linked to judges' salaries, I questioned, and had been questioning for some
years, the very legitimacy of the judicial compensation commissions and their
processes. In my speeches, I raised the point that the Constitution Act, 1867,
section 100, informs that the Parliament of Canada shall fix and provide the
salaries of the judges, that is, the section 96 judges. We created the odd
process where in fact the judges were fixing their own salaries and Parliament
provided them. In addition to fixing their own salaries, the judges were also
fixing our salaries as members of Parliament.
As a member of Parliament and a senator who takes her work and oath of
allegiance very seriously, I was shocked when I read in the newspaper one
morning that Bill C-28 would be repealed and a new regime would be placed before
us. That information was announced not by the Prime Minister himself but by
certain persons on the Prime Minister's staff. I have great concern about that,
and perhaps one day we can have a debate on it.
The staff of the Prime Minister are not credentialed to make these remarks.
There are certain fellows over there in the PMO who say a lot. There was always
a deep understanding that the staff of the Prime Minister should be very
circumspect and guarded in statements they make about members of Parliament,
particularly on questions as delicate and sensitive as remuneration. However,
that is a question for another day.
Could the Leader of the Government in the Senate use his influence to ensure
that his government — a government I supported at one time — seeks more
stability, certainty and longevity in the positions it adopts, rather than
having two positions, the out-going and the incoming, being held simultaneously
on many issues? It is troubling and it is destabilizing to the country and to
the Parliament of Canada.
Hon. Lowell Murray: Honourable senators, I understand that there is a
taxi with its motor running parked outside the building waiting to whisk this
bill off to Rideau Hall for Royal Assent, therefore, for environmental reasons,
if for no other, I will not hold up the bill.
Unlike Senator Cools, I supported the initiative taken a scant few years ago
by the previous government to link the salaries of parliamentarians to those of
judges. I did so because, having observed it from outside Parliament, and having
been in the Senate for 20-odd years at that time, I was vastly relieved to have
some formula apply, rather than putting parliamentarians through the demeaning
exercise of having to consider and debate their own salaries.
At the committee, I reflected on the procedures 40 years ago under the
Pearson and Diefenbaker governments and some of the posturing by members of
Parliament who had given their private agreement to support an increase, and
then made a public display of sending the increase back to the Crown, and all
the rest of it. I thought the initiative taken by the government and passed by
Parliament a few years ago was a good one, because it linked the process to a
As Senator Austin has pointed out, the judicial commission recommended an
increase that appeared to some to be excessive. The government had a panic
attack and decided immediately, without further reflection, and certainly
without consultation, to delink the salaries of parliamentarians and judges. I
hope it is not being presented, as I think it may be in some quarters, as an act
of great self-abnegation on our part.
The increase suggested by the judicial committee was in the vicinity of 10
per cent. In our own case, if I recall the figures correctly from the briefing
book we received, the basic salary of senators as of January 1, 2001 was
$101,000 and change. Little more than four years later, our basic salary, as of
April 1, was $119,000 and change. We are really not doing too badly, I think.
If this basic wage index, or whatever it is called, to which we are now
linked increases by something approaching the recent average, the increase would
be in the vicinity of 2 per cent. If that happens, the calculation is of 2 per
cent of the salary of a member of the House of Commons with a $25,000
discrepancy maintained between our salaries and those of members of the House of
Commons. If that happened, by this time next year we could be making a basic
salary in the vicinity of $121,000 or $122,000. We should not put on sack cloth
and ashes and give the impression that we are badly done by. We are not.
I agree with Senator Cools about extra pay for committee chairs. For a long
time I was the chairman of various committees. I was glad to do it without extra
pay. I considered it an honour and an opportunity to serve and to learn
something about those fields. When committee chairs began being paid, I confess
that I did not send the money back; I banked it. However, I do believe there is
a problem with paying committee chairs, as has already been alluded to by
Senator Cools. It is perhaps more pronounced in the other place because it puts
under the Prime Minister's direct patronage an even larger number of people, in
addition to ministers, parliamentary secretaries and the like.
The one point I did want to make, however, is that I think we have lost
something in this process; that is, the appointment of a commission after every
election to look into not just the salaries and benefits of parliamentarians,
but also into their other needs, including research needs. It would be good to
go back to that system if only to have those matters discussed in a more public
forum and contribute perhaps to our own as well as to public education on those
matters. Unless that happens, these decisions will be taken privately in the
respective internal economy committees of the House of Commons and the Senate. I
think public perception of what we are doing here and why we are doing it will
suffer as a result.
I urge the government to consider this point. While the salary issue is taken
care of by the new formula, it is still a good idea to have a commission every
so often to look at the operation of parliamentarians, their offices here and,
in the case of MPs, their offices in their constituencies. Therefore, I would
urge the government to take that into consideration.
Senator Cools: Would the honourable senator take a question?
The Honourable Senator Murray has had great and extensive experience in
government. I do not know that I support the idea, but there are many learned
individuals who proposed the idea followed in some jurisdictions whereby
commissions study the salaries of high positions, whether it be senior public
servants, Order-in-Council appointments, judges, MPs or ministers. The
recommendations are part of a total process of looking at all those salaries.
Has the honourable senator given such a system any thought or does he have
any knowledge of this? Would it be worthwhile to consider such a system?
Senator Murray: I have not really given that subject any thought at
all, honourable senators. My immediate reaction would be that each of the groups
to which the honourable senator refers is sui generis, and I think it
probably makes more sense to have them dealt with separately.
Senator Day: Question!
Hon. Marcel Prud'homme: Honourable senators, I am totally opposed to
this bill. I wonder why the debate has suddenly become so urgent on a bill we
have just received.
This bill was introduced at first reading in the House of Commons on December
3, 2004. Debate at second reading was on December 8, 2004. It was referred to
the Procedure and House Affairs Committee, and they sat from February 17 to 22,
2005, tabling their report on February 23, 2005. The debate at report stage was
on March 23, 2005. Debate at second reading was on April 6, 2005 and third
reading on April 12, 2005.
In the Senate, first reading was on April 13 and debate at second reading on
April 14. The bill was sent to the National Finance Committee, where it was
studied on April 19 and 20. Now we are faced with a significant bill and just
about have a knife held to our throats as we are urged to "Hurry up, hurry
up," as Senator Murray has said. I have great admiration for Senator Murray for
his fine work as committee chair.
I wonder if honourable senators have read the bill. There are even annual
salaries in this bill for jobs that do not yet exist. I am still trying to find
out who is the deputy to our extremely competent government whip in the Senate.
There is even an annual allowance for this position. These are all details we
should take a close look at.
I have listened carefully to the debate. I am a veteran parliamentarian and I
know that talk of MPs' or senators' salaries always results in a national
crisis. Demagoguery takes hold of the newspapers and correspondents, and
ultimately fear takes hold of parliamentarians, who are incapable of defending
their jobs in the public arena and who capitulate. In the 41 years that I have
been a member and a senator, we have tried any number of formulas, as farfetched
as some of the reports that we have to table after each election in accordance
with the law and that always showed us as receiving astronomical salaries, which
we never agreed to. None of the recommendations of any of these committees has
ever been implemented.
Then, in 2001, there was a formula that seemed acceptable. I do not have a
research office; however, I did research, I listened and I learned that Mr.
Martin had voted to increase salaries at that time. Then Mr. Valeri — I am not
making this up — introduced a bill, saying that the Prime Minister had committed
to returning to the status quo, to going back to the way it was, no more and no
I think Mr. Valeri must have been in deep trouble to be obliged to quote the
National Post. I did not know that suddenly the National Post has
become the bible of the Liberals when they get stuck in a corner. I suppose Mr.
Valeri was quite stuck to quote and praise the National Post, a paper
that is not supposed to be the bible. I personally am a fan of The Globe and
Mail, but certainly not of the National Post. Absolutely, without a
shadow of a doubt, I read The Globe and Mail faithfully because it is a
good newspaper and I have no shares in it. I recommend all honourable senators
to read at least that newspaper, and Le Devoir and La Presse for
I have read all the speeches from the House of Commons. Do you realize,
honourable senators, since we are having this bill dumped on us — no other word
will do — as if it were just about a national emergency, that it was debated in
the House of Commons? The only ones who voted against it, and that took some
courage, were the Bloc — I feel obliged to identify with the courage of a party
that is not, at least not yet, my own — and they fought against the hypocrisy of
the process of absolute demagoguery that we witnessed in the House of Commons.
Not only did they vote against the bill, but they also gave some speeches I
would like Senator Murray and others to read. These are speeches that are worth
reading because some of the Bloc's arguments are similar to those just used by
I would have liked our colleagues to take a little more time to read what
went on in the other place and to see that the division was eventually held; the
only strong opposition to this bill came from the Bloc Québécois and a few other
Two hundred and thirty-one MPs decided it was not reasonable to have a
formula based on judges' salaries. There will never be a perfect formula. There
was one that struck me as intelligent, adequate, acceptable and defendable, but,
for a small political gain, with the usual cowardly demagoguery, they bowed to
public opinion. The public could not care less about MPs' and senators'
salaries, since they will always feel they are too high anyway, particularly for
senators. Whatever you do, you will never win this debate. You must believe in
your role and your right to be paid for it. It is not about personalities; it is
about principles. René Lévesque said, "Don't talk to me about Prud'homme, that
one would run even if there was no pay."
A formula was found, perhaps not the best one, but one that all the political
parties could agree on. I am going back a few years. The whips all agreed. Mr.
Blaikie, a person of faith, was the whip on the committee responsible for this
decision and he was not one to spend public money for no reason. Mr. Reynolds, a
gentleman, who was a Conservative MP, also sat on the committee, as did Mr.
Boudria and members of the Bloc. Everyone agreed to this formula to put an end,
once and for all, to the debate every five, six, or seven years on the
controversial salaries of members of Parliament and senators, as though we had
to apologize for getting paid to work.
I do not understand the urgency. I very respectfully told the leader that I
would not oppose the bill. I like to negotiate privately and report back
intelligently what we can publicly. Certainly, any one of us could have said no
today to the government and that would be the end of it. I am talking now to the
nine new senators. You have more rights than you think.
Talking now to the new New Democratic Party and Progressive Conservative
senators, we have more authority than they do in the House of Commons. Once in a
while, we should exercise it. Any one of us could have said "no" today, and
that would be the end of the desire of the government to send the bill right
away to the Governor General, who must be impatiently waiting. If I knew that
she was impatiently waiting, I would talk as long as I could and encourage
members to talk longer, and I want to be on record as having said that. I do not
like the way it is being put to us and the urgency with which it is being put to
the Senate. I do not see the urgency, and I do not like the process. For the
principle, if someone got up when we are asked to accept third reading, if there
was another senator who, for the principle, wanted to force the government to
reflect a little, I would certainly ask for a registered vote. I asked about
someone else, and I should tell the new senators that we only need two senators
to rise, to force a vote. Sometimes members talk a lot, but they try to escape
being counted. If there is no vote, I want to be registered as saying that if
there were a vote, I would vote against it. As well, when you call for a vote,
make absolutely sure that it will be carried on division, and I want the words "on division" to appear in the record tomorrow.
An Hon. Senator: Question!
Senator Cools: I would like to direct a question to Senator Austin.
The Hon. the Speaker pro tempore: He is not the last
speaker. I am sorry.
Senator Cools: He could be the last speaker if he closed debate.
Senator Austin: I do not close debate on third reading.
The Hon. the Speaker pro tempore: Are honourable
senators ready for the question?
Hon. Senators: Question!
The Hon. the Speaker pro tempore: It was moved by the
Honourable Senator Austin, seconded by the Honourable Senator Rompkey, that this
bill be read the third time. Is it your pleasure, honourable senators, to adopt
Some Hon. Senators: Agreed.
Senator Prud'homme: No.
Senator Cools: On division.
The Hon. the Speaker pro tempore: Those in favour of the
motion will please say "yea."
Some Hon. Senators: Yea.
The Hon. the Speaker pro tempore: Those opposed to the
motion will please say "nay."
Senator Prud'homme: Nay.
The Hon. the Speaker pro tempore: In my view, the
"yeas" have it.
Senator Cools: On division.
Motion agreed to, on division, and bill read third time and passed.
Hon. Bill Rompkey (Deputy Leader of the Government) moved:
That, pursuant to rule 95(3), the Standing Senate Committee on National
Finance be empowered to meet on Monday, May 2, 2005, even though the Senate
may then be adjourned for a period exceeding one week.
Resuming debate on the motion of the Honourable Senator Harb, seconded by
the Honourable Senator Mercer, for the second reading of Bill S-22, to amend
the Canada Elections Act (mandatory voting).—(Honourable Senator Austin,
Hon. Catherine S. Callbeck: Honourable senators, this bill stands in
the name of Senator Austin, but I have agreement to speak today.
I am pleased to take part in the debate on Bill S-22, to amend the Canada
Elections Act. This bill will make voting in Canada compulsory for every
citizen. It means that voting would be mandatory for all eligible Canadian
I commend our colleague Senator Harb for introducing this measure. As he has
correctly stated, our democracy depends upon the active participation of our
citizens, and voting is the foundation of our democratic institutions. I
strongly believe that all citizens have a responsibility to exercise their
rights, one of which is the right to vote.
I also agree with Senator Harb that the decline in voting turnout rates is a
concern. In the last federal election, barely six out of ten eligible voters
cast their ballots. That means that the views and interests of a significant
number of Canadians are not fully reflected in the choice of the people who
represent them in Parliament.
There are a number of reasons for the decline in voter turnout: voter apathy
and disinterest; a growing cynicism about the political process; the failure to
engage people, especially young people in public affairs; and a sense of
alienation felt by many Canadians who are not full participants in the economic,
social and cultural fabric of this country.
These are matters of concern to all those who care about the health of our
democracy and the well-being of our democratic institutions. Democracy means
people in action. If people do not act, then our democratic system is weakened.
In short, I share the concerns expressed by Senator Harb and others about the
decline in voter turnout in Canada and elsewhere. According to the
Stockholm-based International Institute for Democracy and Electoral Assistance,
voter participation worldwide has steadily declined since the end of the Second
World War. During the same period of time, however, the number of countries
where democratic elections are taking place has increased.
Having said that, I do not support Bill S-22. While I recognize the
importance of the right to vote and the need to increase the participation of
people in the electoral system, I do not believe that voting should be made
compulsory or mandatory. Compulsory voting is contrary to the most fundamental
principles of a free society that represents individual rights and freedoms.
In fact, as has already been pointed out in this debate, the Charter of
Rights and Freedoms, which makes provision for the right to vote, can also be
interpreted as the right not to vote. One of the fundamental principles of
democratic societies is the right of people to vote as well as the right of
people not to vote. Every individual should have the freedom to choose, for
whatever reason, whether to express a protest, dissent from the process, or
express the simple lack of interest in politics as we know it.
I strongly believe that people should exercise their right to vote, but I do
not believe that, in a democratic society, they should be forced to vote.
Compelling people to vote against their will does nothing to enhance our
democratic institutions. The concept of free elections encompasses the freedom
to abstain from voting in much the same way that the concept of free speech
encompasses the right to remain silent. True democracy means that people can
choose to vote or to not vote. It is as simple as that, and that is the main
reason I am opposed to this bill.
Aside from this objection in principle, there are a number of practical
reasons for not supporting Bill S-22. In a number of jurisdictions where
compulsory voting has been implemented, the term is actually a misnomer. On
entering the voting booth, a voter does not have to make a choice at all. The
ballot can be left blank or it can be spoiled. The idea of compulsory voting in
this case is little more than the obligation to turn up at the polls on election
A strong case can also be made not only for the right of voter participation
but also for the quality of that participation. I agree that it is important
that we have an involved electorate, and I would also affirm that it is equally
important that we have an informed electorate.
Numerous studies of voting behaviour have consistently identified one common
factor: There is a strong correlation between voter participation and the degree
of interest and involvement in the political process. That suggests to me that
we should be devoting more time and effort to involving and informing voters.
That would not only increase the level of voter turnout but would also result in
a more informed, involved electorate.
As I said earlier, I do not believe that forcing people to vote or to turn
out at the polls is the most effective way of ensuring that all people are being
effectively engaged and involved.
It has always been clear that politics is about gaining support for ideas and
actions. It is about informing people, getting them involved and securing their
support and confidence. It is about getting them out to vote. That is one of the
fundamental roles of political parties and of other groups and organizations
that have a stake in electoral outcomes.
Democracy has been described as a free market of ideas. That means, if
political parties are to succeed, they must compete for the hearts and minds of
the people. It is the responsibility of political parties and others active in
the electoral process to reach out and earn the support and confidence of voters
and to strengthen their participation.
I believe that if political parties worked harder at communicating their
messages, mobilizing their supporters and engaging people across the broad
spectrum of society, we would see an increase in voter participation, and that
would lead to a healthier, stronger political system.
As a Prince Edward Islander, I take some pride in the fact that the province
has the highest voter turnout rate in all of Canada. In provincial elections
there has been a consistent voter turnout rate of 80-90 per cent. Although that
number is somewhat lower in federal elections, Prince Edward Island continually
ranks among the highest in Canada in voter participation.
Some of that is due to its relative size, close relationships between people
and their representatives, and a political culture that puts a strong value on
voting. At the same time, it also reflects the efforts of political candidates
to reach out to voters, to involve them and to actively seek their support. I
recognize that the scale of politics in Prince Edward Island makes it easier to
engage people than in larger ridings elsewhere across Canada, but that means
that political parties must find new ways of connecting with people.
Voters need to be motivated. Political parties have an important challenge,
opportunity and responsibility to actively encourage greater participation among
citizens. They must utilize all the organizational skills and technologies at
their disposal to reach out to voters and convince them that the act of voting
Many other measures need to be taken to encourage greater interest and
awareness in the political system. The education system can play an important
role in introducing young people to the importance of participation in the
political, economic, social and cultural life of their country. The media could
do a better job in presenting a more balanced view of the issues that affect
people's everyday lives. Our political institutions could do a better job of
informing citizens about the roles and responsibilities of legislatures, the
Senate and the House of Commons. Canadians from all walks of life must be
challenged to consider the rights and responsibilities in helping to strengthen
the spirit of participation in our democratic society.
Honourable senators, if we are truly serious about increasing the level of
voter turnout in this country, then we should devote greater attention to
resolving the underlying causes of voter apathy. We need to support and
encourage the active participation and involvement of people in decisions that
affect them. Only then will we have the full and free participation of people in
the public affairs of their country.
Again, I commend Senator Harb for raising this issue. I fully agree with his
goal to increase the level of voter participation. However, I cannot agree that
making voting compulsory is the most effective means of achieving that goal.
Only when people, of their own free will, consciously decide to exercise their
fundamental rights and freedoms, will our political institutions thrive and
flourish. Consent, not coercion, is the basis of our democratic society.
Hon. Jack Austin (Leader of the Government): Honourable senators,
before I ask that the motion for second reading be adjourned in my name, I
should like to ask Senator Callbeck a question.
I listened with great care to the comments of Senator Callbeck, and I find
myself largely in agreement with them. However, I would like to see those
comments in writing, so that I may give them further consideration, before I
contribute to the debate.
The honourable senator has raised a number of points that indicate concern
about the underlying reasons for lower voter participation. One way the Senate
could engage in an analysis of that situation would be to refer the principle of
this bill to committee for further discussion and analysis. Would the honourable
senator agree to referring, at a minimum, the principle of this bill to
committee so that the Senate could consider the aspect of voter participation?
Senator Callbeck: I thank the honourable senator for his question.
Certainly, I would agree to that. This area requires an in-depth discussion to
determine the underlying reasons for lack of voter participation.
Senator Austin: Honourable senators, I will pay close attention to the
arguments that Senator Callbeck has made, with which I am mainly in agreement.
I give notice to honourable senators that when I address the Senate, I will
propose that this motion be sent to committee so that the principle of this
motion can be studied.
Hon. Anne C. Cools: May I ask the honourable senator a question?
Senator Callbeck: Certainly.
Senator Cools: If Parliament can pass a law to force people to vote,
it would seem to me that Parliament can pass a law to force people not to vote.
Wherever a positive action can be proposed, so can the negative. Also,
Parliament could pass a law saying who to vote for. Has the honourable senator
thought about this? That is the first question.
My second question is in regard to voter participation, a rather large and
important issue. It has a lot to do with failure of leadership because we are
now in an era where leadership simply refers to people in certain high
positions, quite often with no leadership ability.
Could the honourable senator respond to those two queries concerning voting
and the scope of passing laws, as well as the phenomenon of failed, insufficient
or inadequate leadership?
Senator Callbeck: As to what a legislature can pass, I guess it can
pass anything, but here we are dealing with legislation to make voting mandatory
or compulsory. I am saying that I do not agree with that.
There are many reasons why people are not voting. Certainly, there is voter
apathy and discontent. There is growing cynicism about the political process.
There are all kinds of reasons.
I agree with Senator Austin that it would be a good idea to send this matter
to committee because I think it is an area that requires serious study and
Senator Cools: I am interested in this discussion because I am very
concerned about voter attitude. My analysis of the social condition is that
voter apathy is caused and justified by what Canadians see daily on television
The Hon. the Speaker pro tempore: I am sorry to
interrupt, honourable senators, but Senator Callbeck's time has expired. Perhaps
she would care to hear this question, answer it and then debate can be
Senator Cools: I will move the adjournment.
Senator Stratton: We have always allowed for an extension of time, but
we put a fence around it. I suggest one last question from Senator Cools, and
then I believe we go back to Senator Austin.
Senator Austin: I wanted to move the adjournment of the debate. I have
no problem if there are further questions.
Senator Cools: I thought the honourable senator was yielding the
I have concerns about coercion. I have spent my life working in the field of
human behaviour and have seen the negative consequences of coercion. This
government has passed a law for everything. Much of that has concerned me. I
have a natural resistance to social engineering.
My question to the honourable senator was in respect to the current social
and political climate, to the psychosocial dynamics in citizens' minds as they
look at their representatives and at their government today. Does she not
believe that their attitudes are justified based on what they see and hear? I am
not saying their attitudes are correct or desirable. Does my honourable friend
not believe or not agree that people are justified in the judgment that they
have come to based on what they see daily?
Hundreds of thousands of Canadians are being forced daily into what the
Americans call the "underclasses." Most of these people no longer have the
wherewithal or the skill to even comprehend what government is doing most of the
time. We have created a monster. Does the honourable senator not believe that
people's attitudes are a result of that, and that we should do the kind and
quality of work that is required to overcome those problems? I say this as a
political person who has never had much difficulty engaging the public or
building public support.
Senator Callbeck: The decline in voter turnout is not just in Canada
but all over. As I mentioned in my speech, the Stockholm-based International
Institute for Democracy and Electoral Assistance has said that voter
participation worldwide has declined since the end of the Second World War.
The Senate proceeded to consideration of the second report of the Standing
Senate Committee on Fisheries and Oceans (budget—study on managing Canada's
fisheries and oceans—power to hire staff and travel), presented in the Senate on
April 19, 2005.—(Honourable Senator Comeau)
Hon. Gerald J. Comeau moved the adoption of the report.
The Senate proceeded to consideration of the fifth report of the Standing
Senate Committee on Agriculture and Forestry (budget—study on the present state
and the future of agriculture and forestry in Canada), presented in the Senate
on April 19, 2005.—(Honourable Senator Fairbairn, P.C.)
Hon. Catherine S. Callbeck, for Senator Fairbairn, moved the adoption
of the report.
The Senate proceeded to consideration of the ninth report of the Standing
Senate Committee on Banking, Trade and Commerce (budget—study on consumer issues
arising in the financial services sector), presented in the Senate on April 20,
2005.—(Honourable Senator Grafstein)
Hon. Jerahmiel S. Grafstein moved the adoption of the report.
The Senate proceeded to consideration of the tenth report of the Standing
Senate Committee on Banking, Trade and Commerce (budget—study on
demographics—power to hire staff), presented in the Senate on April 20, 2005.—(Honourable
Hon. Jerahmiel S. Grafstein moved the adoption of the report.
The Senate proceeded to consideration of the eleventh report of the Standing
Senate Committee on Banking, Trade and Commerce (budget—study on the present
state of the domestic and international financial system—power to travel),
presented in the Senate on April 20, 2005.—(Honourable Senator Grafstein)
Hon. Jerahmiel S. Grafstein moved the adoption of the report.
The Senate proceeded to consideration of the twelfth report of the Standing
Senate Committee on Banking, Trade and Commerce (budget—study on interprovincial
barriers to trade—power to hire staff), presented in the Senate on April 20,
2005.—(Honourable Senator Grafstein)
Hon. Jerahmiel S. Grafstein moved the adoption of the report.
The Senate proceeded to consideration of the thirteenth report of the
Standing Senate Committee on Banking, Trade and Commerce (budget—study on
productivity—power to hire staff), presented in the Senate on April 20, 2005.—(Honourable
Hon. Jerahmiel S. Grafstein moved the adoption of the report.
Resuming debate on the motion of the Honourable Senator Lavigne, seconded
by the Honourable Senator Robichaud, P.C.:
That the Rules of the Senate be amended by adding after rule 135 the
135.1 Every Senator shall, after taking his or her Seat, take and
subscribe an oath of allegiance to Canada, in the following form, before the
Speaker or a person authorized to take the oath:
I, (full name of the Senator), do swear (or solemnly affirm)
that I will be faithful and bear true allegiance to Canada.—(Honourable
Senator Rompkey, P.C.)
Hon. Joseph A. Day: Honourable senators, first, I want to thank
Senator Lavigne, the sponsor of this bill, and congratulate him on this motion.
It has resulted in an interesting discussion in the Senate.
I had the pleasure, honourable senators, of listening to all those who
participated in debate on this motion. I have found the remarks interesting and
educational. I do not propose to analyze each of the remarks. I did take the
opportunity to review each again, and a considerable number of honourable
senators agree with the motion. Many agree with the sentiments of the motion
that have been expressed, and some reservations were expressed as to being
required to take this oath of allegiance to Canada. Others remarked on whether
it is correct to require two oaths of allegiance.
Honourable senators, the motion has helped us to focus on the changing
character and the changing nature of Canada, and I thank our Honourable Senator
Lavigne for helping to point that out. It also helped to focus on the issue of
swearing an oath of allegiance to Her Majesty the Queen of Canada, what it
means, and whether that is well understood by many, particularly new Canadians.
We are bringing in 250,000 new Canadians a year. Are they able to understand the
nuances of our Constitution of Canada and heritage? Honourable senators will
want to continue to explain that, but we also want to be sensitive to those many
new Canadians who might not understand fully our heritage.
That evolution of the mosaic that is Canada, its pluralism and changing
nature, can be reflected in the judicial process. We often see someone swearing
on a Bible. At one time in Canada, it was swearing on the New Testament. Then we
became more sensitive, and we had swearing on the Bible as a whole, the Holy
Bible for Christians and Jews. Then we recognized that there were others in
Canada to whose religions we were not sensitive, so we expanded to allow for the
holy book of different organized religions to be used in swearing. Finally, we
evolved into allowing for an affirmation, or a statutory declaration, for those
who do not follow an organized religion. I believe that is the evolution that
Senator Lavigne was trying to get at with respect to swearing an oath of
allegiance to Her Majesty the Queen of Canada whether there is not some way that
we could be sensitive to others who may not fully understand the wonderful and
rich heritage encased in this expression, without taking away from that.
Senator Lavigne's motion was not to change our Constitution. He made that
clear from the beginning. He indicated that he was looking for an opportunity of
expression within our rules here in the Senate for those who wanted to express
their deep love and affection for our country.
If one reads the motion, honourable senators, Senator Lavigne is proposing to
add a section after 135 to our own Senate rules, as follows:
135.1 Every Senator shall, after taking his or her Seat, take and
subscribe an oath of allegiance to Canada, in the following form, before the
Speaker or a person authorized to take the oath ...
Some honourable senators raised a concern about being required, and the word
"shall" rang out.
Hon. Joseph A. Day: I have had some discussions with Senator Lavigne,
and I have an amendment that I will propose to honourable senators. I will have
that circulated to each honourable senator. This amendment to the motion that I
propose is as follows:
That the motion be amended by replacing, in the proposed rule 135.1, the
word "shall," with the word "may."
Honourable senators, with that amendment, I believe we would have something
reflective of the spirit of the motion of Senator Lavigne that also touches on
the sensitivity that he is asking honourable senators to recognize.
The Hon. the Speaker pro tempore: Is it your pleasure,
honourable senators, to adopt the motion in amendment?
Hon. Eymard G. Corbin: I would like this opportunity to put a question
to the mover of the motion, if he agrees.
Senator Day: I would be pleased to attempt to answer the honourable
Senator Corbin: Thank you, my New Brunswick colleague.
In the opinion of the honourable senator, since the amendment is aimed at
amending an existing rule of the Senate that imposes an obligatory oath on all
of us, is it his opinion that the proposition is still a rule if it does not
carry an obligation?
Senator Day: Part of the motivation for amending this motion was
Senator Corbin's strong recommendation that we not create an obligation on
As to whether it is my opinion that replacing the word "shall" with "may"
means that taking the oath would not be an obligation, I see no reason why that
rule could not be added to the Rules of the Senate to authorize
honourable senators to take the oath if they wish to do so.
Senator Corbin: The honourable senator is providing an opportunity for
those honourable senators who wish to impose this oath on themselves. That is
fine. That is a reasonable explanation, I suppose.
Hon. Anne C. Cools: Would the honourable senator take another
Senator Day: Certainly.
Senator Cools: I listened with interest to his expression of concern
for new Canadians who may not understand the constitutional system. If I may
relate this back to Senator Callbeck's statement, maybe it is our duty to help
them understand and to give them some tools.
My understanding of the proposal before us is that it is not of general
application to the public at large or to new Canadians at large. My
understanding is that this proposition only has application to senators.
Would the honourable senator explain his reasoning in terms of being
sensitive to new Canadians and tell us how that applies to the few new senators
who come through the Senate door each year?
Senator Day: By setting an example in our rules.
Senator Cools: What does "setting an example" mean?
Senator Day: Adding proposed rule 135.1 to the Rules of the Senate
would show the outside world what the Senate believes it would be appropriate to
allow senators to take an oath if they wish to do so.
Senator Cools: I am bewildered, if not baffled. If the new Canadians
of which the honourable senator speaks do not know anything of the Constitution
of Canada, how on earth will they know of the Rules of the Senate?
Senator Day: Through the educational process that the honourable
senator just spoke about.
Senator Cools: What educational process is that?
Senator Day: The one reflected on by Senator Callbeck.
Senator Cools: I engage with the public daily and answer many of these
My understanding of the Rules of the Senate is that they are intended
to guide proceedings in the Senate, that they are not intended to be tools
available to the general public. My understanding is that this place is
exclusive of "strangers."
Senator Day: I share the understanding of the honourable senator.
Senator Cools: My understanding, then, is that the rules of this place
are not accessible to strangers in a parliamentary sense. I do not mean
"strangers" in a colloquial sense but in a parliamentary sense.
Senator Day: The Honourable Senator Cools has been in the Senate for
an extended period of time.
Senator Cools: Since 1984.
Senator Day: She has seen many new senators arriving and the many
hundreds of people who are here at the time new senators arrive. Certain of
those people, when they are here to see a new senator who elects to exercise the
oath as outlined in this proposed rule, if the amendment is passed, will have an
opportunity to see what goes on in the Senate.
Senator Cools: I am curious. I have been a member of this place for 21
years, and I do not see any new Canadians here. I see senators who were not born
in this country, like myself, but I would not describe myself or them as new
Canadians. I do not understand who the new Canadians are who will be coming
through these doors as senators. It is such a rare thing for anyone to become a
senator. To the extent that any Canadian not born in Canada will be appointed to
the Senate, I would say they will come well acquainted with this place.
I was not born in Canada, but I would be most disingenuous if I were to
describe myself as a new Canadian. I could describe myself as an immigrant, but
not as a new Canadian.
The Hon. the Speaker pro tempore: I am sorry, honourable
senators, but Senator Day's time has expired.
Senator Cools: I am trying to get Senator Day to explain his premise.
So often we hear appeals to all these poor new Canadians. New Canadians quite
often are most vigorous —
The Hon. the Speaker pro tempore: Senator Day, did you
wish to ask for extended time?
Senator Day: Honourable senators, I think we have dealt with this
issue. I have taken the last five minutes of Senator Cools' comments as her
speaking on the motion.
Senator Cools: No, Senator Day cannot do that. The rules do not permit
him to do this, thank God.
Hon. Jack Austin (Leader of the Government): Honourable senators, I
wish to speak on this amendment.
Senator Cools: So do I.
Senator Austin: I support the amendment. I believe it is appropriate
that the word "shall" should be removed and the word "may" included, because
the Constitution specifically provides for an oath of allegiance. Therefore, it
is not available to us in this chamber to substitute or add to the prescribed
oath of allegiance. Replacing the word "shall" with the word "may" permits
senators who wish to take an oath of allegiance to Canada to do so, but it does
not require them to do so.
On the issue of senators taking an oath of allegiance to Canada in the form
of the amendment proposed, I do not read that as being limited to senators who
come to this chamber after this rule comes into force. Once the rule comes into
force, it would apply to all senators. I, or any senator, regardless of how long
that senator has been here — and I have been here the longest — could take this
oath, should we choose to do so.
I believe that many Canadians would like to affirm their allegiance to
Canada, and that derogates not one bit from the oath of allegiance to Her
I do want to associate myself with the earlier statement of Senator Cools
regarding Her Majesty's seventy-ninth birthday; and to wish her long life and
Honourable senators, I would move that this motion be sent to the Standing
Committee on Rules, Procedures and the Rights of Parliament so that the
committee can consider the drafting and other issues. I would advise the chamber
that Senator Joyal would like to participate at the Rules Committee, of which he
is a member, in a discussion not as to the principle of this oath, but on some
other issues, one of which relates to the use of the word "allegiance." He
takes no particular negative position at the moment; he merely wants to examine
the constitutional use of that word.
I do not want to cut off further debate. I recognize that the amendment must
be put to a vote. However, I give notice that I will move to refer the motion to
the Rules Committee at the appropriate time.
Senator Cools: Honourable senators, I wanted to speak to the amendment
to the main motion.
The Hon. the Speaker pro tempore: Senator Cools, rule 59
provides that notice is not required for an amendment, or an amendment to an
amendment, to the question.
Senator Cools: What are you talking about?
The Hon. the Speaker pro tempore: In order to refer the
question to the committee, no notice is required.
Senator Cools: What is she talking about?
The Hon. the Speaker pro tempore: I understand from the
clerk that —
Senator Cools: I was not asking —
The Hon. the Speaker pro tempore: May I finish what I am
saying, Senator Cools?
Senator Cools: I did not ask you for a ruling.
The Hon. the Speaker pro tempore: Rule 59 permits
Senator Austin —
Senator Cools: That was not questioned.
The Hon. the Speaker pro tempore: — to refer his motion
to the committee.
Senator Cools: That is not in doubt, Your Honour. I just wanted to be
able to speak to the issue here. I wanted to move the adjournment because I
wanted to speak to it before it went to committee so that my remarks could
constitute part of the reference to the committee, just like everyone else's
Senator Corbin: Honourable senators, before I pose my question, I
would thank the leader for moving that the matter be referred to committee. I
will view it as a duty to attend the deliberations of the committee.
The difficulty I would have, and always have had with taking this oath, is
that I am already bound by the constitutional oath. I do not think that by
piling oath upon oath one will be more loyal. I believe that the proper road to
have followed in this instance is that, instead of calling it an oath, it should
have been called a declaration of allegiance. That is wherein my fundamental
Does the Honourable Senator Austin have a view on that? I would be the first
to make a declaration of loyalty to my country, even though I was born here and,
over the years, my people fought for this country.
Senator Austin: Honourable senators, I, too, was born here and my
people have fought for this country as well.
I recognize the point made by Senator Corbin. I believe the best way to
proceed, if I may make this suggestion to the chamber, is to vote on the
proposed amendment and then, if Senator Cools wishes to adjourn the debate, I
personally would have no objection to hearing her in the next few days. I would
then move that all the questions raised be dealt with, as is most proper, at the
The Hon. the Speaker pro tempore: Honourable Senator
Austin, you have put a question before this chamber. Do you wish to withdraw
your question so that we may vote on the amendment?
Senator Austin: Yes, Your Honour, I do.
The Hon. the Speaker pro tempore: Is leave granted that
the question of the Honourable Senator Austin be withdrawn?
Hon. Senators: Agreed.
Senator Cools: I wish to move the adjournment so that I may speak to
the amendment before it is voted on; otherwise, I would not be speaking to the
The Hon. the Speaker pro tempore: Senator Cools.
Senator Cools: I said that I would like to move the adjournment. I
moved it a little while ago.
Senator Stratton: Just move the adjournment.
Senator Cools: I would like to speak on the proposal put forth by
Resuming debate on the inquiry of the Honourable Senator Callbeck calling
the attention of the Senate to the present inequities of the Veterans
Independence Program.—(Honourable Senator Day)
Hon. Joseph A. Day: Honourable senators, time is running out in this
matter. I would begin by asking that we keep this inquiry on the Order Paper,
because I believe that it is worthy of discussion.
I am pleased to participate in the debate on this inquiry concerning the
inequities of the Veterans Independence Program of the Department of Veterans
Affairs. This inquiry was set down by the Honourable Senator Callbeck and I
would commend her for bringing this matter to our attention. I have had the
opportunity to review many of the discussions on this matter, so perhaps I could
remind honourable senators of some of the issues that have been raised.
The Veterans Independence Program, VIP, was designed to assist World War II
veterans to remain in the healthy and independent environment of their own homes
in their own communities rather than being confined to institutions. Each
service that a veteran receives under the Veteran Independence Program is based
on his or her particular circumstances and health needs.
On December 7, 2004, the Honourable Albina Guarnieri, Minister of Veterans
Affairs, announced plans to extend the Veterans Independence Program to
housekeeping and ground maintenance services for life for approximately 4,000
additional primary caregivers of veterans. That is not the veterans themselves,
but those who give care and assistance to veterans.
This announcement benefits primary caregivers, including eligible spouses and
common-law partners and, indeed, it could be friends who are living with the
veteran, of all veterans who are in receipt of the Veterans Independence Program
services in every year since the program began in 1981. The program was
retroactive — a word we hear quite often these days — to assist all of the
dependent caregivers of veterans. This was urged upon the minister and the
Department of Veterans Affairs by our committee. We are pleased that the
minister saw fit to do this and was, in fact, able to make the announcement.
On previous occasions, my honourable colleague Senator Meighen, Chair of our
Committee on Veterans Affairs, has expressed his approval of these changes.
However, he raised an issue which had been brought to the attention of our
committee, that there were spouses and caregivers who did not qualify for the
program. Those people, as Senator Meighen outlined, were the spouses or
caregivers of veterans who had not, for whatever reason, asked to be included in
the program and were not in the program at the time of the death of the veteran
for whom they were caring.
Honourable senators can imagine that some of those individuals did not ask
because the caregiver was in good health and was able to provide care without
any assistance. Perhaps the veteran was too proud to ask for assistance.
We called upon the minister to consider the inclusion of those individuals in
this program. I applaud my colleagues' enthusiasm for supporting the initial
expansion of the program.
I have given considerable thought to the suggestion Senator Meighen made here
a few weeks ago when speaking to this inquiry. The conclusion I have reached is
that programs such as the Veterans Independence Program were created to assist
our returning veterans from the Second World War. As time went on, the
government extended a number of these benefits to wives and spouses of those
veterans who were in need, and I applaud that. We are now discussing the
extension of benefits to people who have no direct connection with an existing
program, people who were not veterans themselves and who were not dependent on
the program because their spouses were receiving assistance under the program.
If a veteran who was being cared for by a spouse or caregiver, did not apply
for these benefits, we have to ask ourselves whether it is logical for the
person who cared for the veteran to apply for benefits in their names after the
veteran is deceased. Alternatively, are we asking Veterans Affairs to enter into
another policy area that is the domain of another government department? The
question is one of either balancing a need or deciding which department should
provide that support. We are not suggesting that these individuals do not need
help, the question is whether that help should come from a program of Veterans
Affairs. This is the central question of the debate in this discussion and in
many debates concerning the continuing role of Veterans Affairs Canada.
We must recognize that a line must be drawn somewhere and decide where that
should be. If we support non-veterans, then some veterans may not receive the
type of support that we would like to be able to give them because Veterans
Affairs has created programs to support non-veterans.
It is my belief that individuals who require further assistance in situations
that I have just described should explore their available options with other
government departments and agencies. I remind honourable senators that Veterans
Affairs Canada has a variety of programs designed to assist veterans and that
the department fulfills its obligations with a limited budget.
I have been advised by the Royal Canadian Legion that they are currently
advocating for a national program of the type that we have just described for
VIP that would address the concerns raised by our subcommittee and Senator
Meighen. However, the Royal Canadian Legion understands that this program would
have to be developed under another portfolio, in combination with various
provincial government departments, as opposed to coming out of the limited
budget of Veterans Affairs.
To conclude, honourable senators, I believe that the Veterans Independence
Program is a good program and that it has been substantially improved with the
announcement of the expansion which was made by the Minister of Veterans
Affairs, at our urging and the urging of others. The changes announced by the
minister will remedy a valid concern over the criterion for dependent
caregivers' eligibility. I invite all honourable senators to join with me in
applauding the minister's efforts in that regard. Her commitment to those who
have served our country is commendable.
I would also take this opportunity to congratulate the minister for
introducing Bill C-45, which will, undoubtedly, commonly be referred to as the
"new veterans charter." Honourable senators, this was just introduced. I have
not had an opportunity to study it fully, although we have had some briefings
from the minister, but my understanding is that it will deal with the broader
definition of veterans, not only Second World War veterans but also retired RCMP
and retired military personnel.
As honourable senators know, members of the Canadian Forces are frequently
placed in harm's way during the course of their careers. As a result of career
demands, they often experience exceptional stress within their families. As
their careers with the Canadian Forces come to an end, many face considerable
transition issues when returning to civilian life and find themselves unemployed
as a result of an injury or disability.
The comprehensive legislation package from Veterans Affairs Canada will
address many issues facing the new generation of Canadian Forces veterans,
including, for example, physical and psychological rehabilitation services;
earnings support for veterans undergoing rehabilitation, as well as longer-term
support for veterans who can no longer work because of service-related illness
or injury; and more extensive health benefits to meet the needs of veterans and
Honourable senators, I understand that our new senator, Senator Roméo
Dallaire, in his work before being appointed to the Senate, had an opportunity
to work on this veterans charter extensively and had a great deal of input. I
applaud the Leader of the Government in the Senate for inviting Senator Dallaire
to be the sponsor of this bill in the Senate. We look forward to a more fulsome
discussion of the bill when it is introduced.
I look forward to reviewing, in detail, the vision proposed by Veterans
Affairs, and I hope we will have the opportunity to support this initiative when
it comes to this place for discussion.
The Hon. the Speaker pro tempore informed the Senate that the
following communication had been received:
April 21, 2005
I have the honour to inform you that the Honourable Marie Deschamps, Puisne
Judge of the Supreme Court of Canada, in her capacity as Deputy of the
Governor General, signified Royal Assent by written declaration to the bills
listed in the Schedule to this letter on the 21st day of April, 2005 at 3:33
Deputy Secretary, Policy, Program and Protocol
The Honourable The Speaker of the Senate Ottawa
Bills Assented to Thursday, April 21, 2005:
An Act to amend the Financial Administration Act, the Canada School of
Public Service Act and the Official Languages Act (Bill C-8, Chapter 15,
An Act to amend the Parliament of Canada Act and the Salaries Act and to
make consequential amendments to other Acts (Bill C-30, Chapter 16, 2005)