Debates of the Senate (Hansard)
Debates of the Senate (Hansard)
1st Session, 38th Parliament,
Volume 142, Issue 59
Thursday, May 12, 2005
The Honourable Daniel Hays, Speaker
- SENATORS' STATEMENTS
- ROUTINE PROCEEDINGS
- Criminal Code
- Canadian Forces Members and Veterans Re-establishment and Compensation Bill
- Highway 30 Completion Bridges Bill
- Criminal Code
DNA Identification Act
National Defence Act
- Canada Grain Act
Canada Transportation Act
- Marriage (Prohibited Degrees) Act
- Inter-Parliamentary Forum of the Americas
- Energy, the Environment and Natural Resources
- QUESTION PERIOD
- National Revenue
- Foreign Affairs
- Foreign Affairs
- Delayed Answer to Oral Question
- Pages Exchange Program with House of Commons
- Foreign Affairs
- ORDERS OF THE DAY
- Canadian Forces Members and Veterans Re-establishment and Compensation Bill
- Bankruptcy and Insolvency Act
- National Blood Donor Week Bill
- Rules, Procedures and the Rights of Parliament
- Criminal Code
- State of Post-Secondary Education
- International Development Assistance
- Commission of Inquiry on the Sponsorship Program
- World Health Organization
- Legal and Constitutional Affairs
- Business of the Senate
- Royal Assent
Thursday, May 12, 2005
The Senate met at 1:30 p.m., the Speaker in the chair.
Hon. Noël A. Kinsella (Leader of the Opposition): Honourable senators, Parliament is now in a situation where there is great political uncertainty. In these extraordinary times, I want to assure Canadians that the Conservative opposition in the Senate is fully prepared to operate to expedite business where it is clearly in the public interest. That includes such bills as the Veterans Charter, Bill C-45, which we received on Tuesday of this week. We agreed to give the bill second reading immediately, waiving the usual notice provisions.
Honourable senators, this does not mean that we will stop doing our work. Due diligence is critical. Due diligence will continue, as it did, for example, last night when the Standing Senate Committee on National Finance heard testimony and completed its study of Bill C-45.
The opposition has demonstrated its willingness to take expedited action and will continue to do so where appropriate. In this regard, I am referring specifically to Bill C-13, dealing with amendments relating to DNA samples from criminals, and Bill C-40, which is a time-sensitive amendment to the Canada Grain Act and the Canada Transportation Act in order to implement World Trade Organization requirements. These two bills were passed earlier today by the other place. We will no doubt be receiving a message concerning them.
The critical element that I want to make perfectly clear is that Conservative senators in the opposition are here to do the work of the Senate. I have been in consultation with the Leader of the Government. I know that he wants to prosecute the government's agenda as well. Bill C-45 is a good example of the two sides working together, but it is equally important that the process of due diligence be underscored. We share that view.
I would place on the record that my colleagues and I are committed to seeing that the work gets done. We are prepared to sit tomorrow. We are prepared to sit Monday. We are prepared to sit every day, recognizing the extraordinary circumstances in which we find ourselves.
Hon. Joseph A. Day: Honourable senators, I would like to talk about two different items. On my way to the office this morning, I passed, as I normally do, two monuments with which honourable senators are familiar. One is the work of art at the National Arts Centre called "Balancing" that features human figures on a board. The second is the bronze Terry Fox statue that appears just across the road from the Parliament Buildings. Both were rendered by artist John Hooper.
The second item, honourable senators, is that April 30 would have been the one-hundredth birthday of John Peters Humphrey. As honourable senators will know, Mr. Humphrey is credited with drafting the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.
Honourable senators, what brings these two items together? The answer is the Town of Hampton, New Brunswick.
John Hooper, the artist who produced these two works of art, moved from South Africa during the apartheid regime because he was not prepared to accept the violations of human rights that existed there. He moved to Hampton and became a world renowned artist.
John Peters Humphrey was born in Hampton, New Brunswick, and is buried in that community. He studied at McGill University and became a professor of law there before he was appointed as the first director of the human rights division at the United Nations.
Let me provide honourable senators with two quotes about John Humphrey. The first is from Eleanor Roosevelt, who said, "The Universal Declaration of Human Rights is the Magna Carta of mankind." The second comes from Nelson Mandela, who stated, "John Humphrey is the father of the modern human rights system."
Honourable senators, on April 30, the John Peters Humphrey Foundation had a sod-turning ceremony to commemorate John Peters Humphrey in Hampton. A work of art will be done by John Hooper and Hooper Studios. They are hoping that work of art will be unveiled on December 10 of this year, which is the International Day of Human Rights. I invite all honourable senators to attend, who I am sure will want to join with me in congratulating the Hampton John Peters Humphrey Foundation for this wonderful initiative in recognizing two well-known Canadians and great Hamptonians.
Hon. Marjory LeBreton: Honourable senators, today marks the National Awareness Day of Fibromyalgia and Chronic Fatigue Syndrome.
Fibromyalgia is a chronic disorder characterized by widespread musculoskeletal pain, fatigue and multiple tender points. People with this syndrome may also experience sleep disturbances, morning stiffness, irritable bowel syndrome, anxiety, cognitive problems — a foggy mind — and other symptoms.
There is no known cause and no cure, but more than 1 million Canadians battle FM and/or CFS.
The chronic and widespread pain of fibromyalgia and the neurological or immunological dysfunctions of chronic fatigue syndrome, if left untreated, often lead individuals to a state of disability and declining health. Depression and stress, with all their peripheral consequences, challenge these patients.
The cost to the federal and provincial governments is already in the billions of dollars per year, in addition to all the other related costs incurred by these sufferers. In fact, for 500,000 patients, only a half to a third of the approximate 1 million to 1.5 million sufferers, it is estimated that it has cost a staggering $9.3 billion when disability insurance or lost income tax, sales tax and volunteer contributions are factored in.
Honourable senators, if the situation is to improve for these Canadians, there exists an urgent need to: educate all citizens, medical and support practitioners, as well as patients and their families in the recognition of these chronic illnesses; expand research into these still present and relatively unknown diseases; and continue to support FM-CFS Canada and others working together on behalf of the people affected.
Hon. Joan Cook: Honourable senators, in honour of National Nursing Week, I would like to pay tribute to a group of women and men whose work is integral to our nation's health care system.
Nurses, including registered nurses, licensed practical nurses and registered psychiatric nurses, represent one third of all health care professionals in Canada. In hospitals, public health settings, patients' homes and community centres, the priority of the nursing profession can be described as "patients first, safety always." This motto is the theme of this year's National Nursing Week.
Patient safety is a shared responsibility, and as the principal health care providers, 24 hours a day, seven days a week, nurses are ideally positioned to strengthen the safety net for patient care. Adequate staffing, both in terms of numbers and competencies, is key to ensuring better patient safety outcomes. Research indicates that hospitals with more nurses per client or a higher registered nurse skill mix have decreased mortality rates, lower rates of hospital readmission in the 30 days after discharge and shorter lengths of stay.
However, according to the Canadian Nurses Association, the escalating shortage of nurses, the use of inappropriate staffing practices, and the understaffing and "under-skilling" of health care services threaten patient safety. Such stressful work environments also contribute to the underutilization of continuing education and the mentoring of new graduates, both of which are critical to knowledge and skill development.
On Monday, May 9, Canadian nursing stakeholders released a report called Building the Future: An integrated strategy for nursing human resources in Canada. The report's recommendations include monitoring and planning the nursing workforce, and implementing effective and efficient mechanisms to address workload issues and improve patient, nurse and systems outcomes.
Honourable senators, as we tip our hats to nurses who provide care to us and our loved ones, we must remember that tackling the challenges in the nursing sector is essential to fulfilling our mandate to build and advance a safer health system for Canadians.
Hon. Mac Harb: Honourable senators, April marked World Health Day and the launch of World Health Report 2005, which this year focuses on maternal and child health. The tragic reality is that every year 529,000 women around the world die from pregnancy or childbirth, and 10.6 million children die each year. Newborn babies less than one month old are at the greatest risk. Most of these deaths take place among the poorest of the poor in low-and middle-income countries. Sadly, 80 per cent of deaths in childbirth could have been treated with existing and inexpensive medical interventions if they had been available.
Canada has not ignored this problem. Over the last decade, CIDA has committed to work toward the improvement of the reproductive health and rights for all, especially poor women. Indeed, Canada has signed on to several important international conventions to promote maternal and child health, including the pivotal Millennium Development Goals.
However, as progressive and supportive as Canada has been, we need to do more. It is recognized that the Millennium Development Goals relating to child and maternal health will not be met unless there is a strong international commitment to take action and to invest the necessary resources to ensure that these mothers and their babies have access to emergency health care. Universal access to basic health care, including essential obstetric care, must be a goal of all strategies aimed at reducing child death and improving maternal health. Canada can lead the way by increasing our financial Official Development Program contributions to reach the United Nations' goal of 0.7 per cent of GNP by 2015, and further, by earmarking specific funds that would save motherhood and newborn care programs. We have made progress here at home. It is time to extend our effort and our resources on the international front.
Hon. Francis William Mahovlich: Honourable senators, I would like to speak today on the opening of the new Canadian War Museum. Every day that we sit in the Senate, the beautiful paintings that surround us depict and remind us of the times that Canada participated in the wars. Both Canadians and visitors alike can now get an in-depth study of Canada's place in history.
Raymond Moriyama's spectacular design for the War Museum is a gem and will be a major attraction for the city of Ottawa. Prime Minister Paul Martin said at the opening:
If you want to know what Canada is all about, enter the Canadian War Museum.
Famous Canadian artists such as Alex Colville, A.J. Casson and E.J. Hughes were commissioned to capture the experiences and circumstances that Canadian soldiers had to face on a daily basis. They have done just that. Their works are on display at the Lieutenant-Colonel John McCrae Gallery, along with wartime artists who recorded the war artistically as it was happening.
On display in the LeBreton Gallery is heavy equipment that the Royal Canadian Artillery has used over the past 150 years. There are also text panels explaining the role in history of each piece.
Honourable senators, both my wife and I spent a memorable afternoon touring the museum, and we were filled with awe and respect for our veterans. May the Canadian War Museum continue to serve as a daily homage to our Canadian veterans.
Vive le Canadiana!
Hon. Lise Bacon, Chair of the Standing Senate Committee on Legal and Constitutional Affairs, presented the following report:
Thursday, May 12, 2005
The Standing Senate Committee on Legal and Constitutional Affairs has the honour to present its
Your Committee, to which was referred Bill C-10, An Act to amend the Criminal Code (mental disorder) and to make consequential amendments to other Acts, has, in obedience to the order of reference of Tuesday, February 22, 2005, examined the said bill and now reports the same without amendment but with observations, which are appended to this report.
(For text of observations, see today's Journals of the Senate, p. 895.)
The Hon. the Speaker: Honourable senators, when shall this bill be read the third time?
On motion of Senator Callbeck, bill placed on the Orders of the Day for third reading at the next sitting of the Senate.
Hon. Donald H. Oliver, Chair of the Standing Senate Committee on National Finance, presented the following report:
Thursday, May 12, 2005
The Standing Senate Committee on National Finance has the honour to present its
Your Committee, which was referred Bill C-45, An Act to provide services, assistance and compensation to or in respect of Canadian Forces members and veterans and to make amendments to certain Acts, has in obedience to the Order of Reference of Tuesday, May 10, 2005, examined the said Bill and now reports the same without amendment.
DONALD H. OLIVER
The Hon. the Speaker: Honourable senators, when shall this bill be read the third time?
On motion of Senator Dallaire, with leave of the Senate and notwithstanding rule 58(1)(b), bill placed on the Orders of the Day for third reading later this day.
Hon. Fernand Robichaud (Acting Deputy Leader of the Government) presented Bill S-31, to authorize the construction and maintenance of a bridge over the St. Lawrence River and a bridge over the Beauharnois Canal for the purpose of completing Highway 30.
Bill read first time.
The Hon. the Speaker: Honourable senators, when shall this bill be read the second time?
On motion of Senator Robichaud, bill placed on the Orders of the Day for second reading two days hence.
The Hon. the Speaker informed the Senate that a message had been received from the House of Commons with Bill C-13, to amend the Criminal Code, the DNA Identification Act and the National Defence Act, to which they desire the concurrence of the Senate.
Bill read first time.
The Hon. the Speaker: When shall this bill be read the second time?
On motion of Senator Pearson, bill placed on the Orders of the Day for second reading two days hence.
The Hon. the Speaker informed the Senate that a message had been received from the House of Commons with Bill C-40, to amend the Canada Grain Act and the Canada Transportation Act.
Bill read first time.
The Hon. the Speaker: Honourable senators, when shall this bill be read the second time?
On motion of Senator Mitchell, bill placed on the Orders of the Day for second reading two days hence.
Hon. Anne C. Cools presented Bill S-32, to amend the Marriage (Prohibited Degrees) Act and the Interpretation Act in order to affirm the meaning of marriage.
Bill read first time.
The Hon. the Speaker: When shall this bill be read the second time?
On motion of Senator Cools, bill placed on the Orders of the Day for second reading two days hence.
Hon. Céline Hervieux-Payette: Honourable senators, pursuant to rule 23(6), I have the honour to table, in both official languages, the report of the meeting of the Executive Committee of the Inter-Parliamentary Forum of the Americas held in San José, Costa Rica, February 11 and 12, 2005.
Hon. Tommy Banks: Honourable senators, I give notice that at the next sitting of the Senate I will move:
That the Standing Senate Committee on Energy, the Environment and Natural Resources be instructed and empowered to meet at 9 a.m. on Tuesday, May 17, 2005, for the purpose of clause-by-clause study of Bill C-15.
Hon. Donald H. Oliver: Honourable senators, my question is for the Leader of the Government in the Senate. Last week, it was disclosed that several universities may not be properly applying the GST to meal plans for students that include meals consumed off campus. The students could potentially owe the Canada Revenue Agency millions of dollars in taxes that the government says should have been collected but were not.
Given that this primarily results in problems for the students and concerns finances of post-secondary institutions, is the Government of Canada prepared to waive any potential liability for taxes that were not collected as a result of confusion over the rules?
Hon. Jack Austin (Leader of the Government): Honourable senators, this is the type of question of which I would appreciate notice. I do not have any information with respect to this issue, and I have not seen the report in question.
Hon. Terry Stratton (Deputy Leader of the Opposition): My question is addressed to the Leader of the Government in the Senate. Honourable senators, this Liberal government has subjected Canadians to far too many years of poor judgment and scandal after scandal. The APEC inquiry into allegations that the RCMP pepper-sprayed protesters at the November 1997 conference in Vancouver found that the Prime Minister's office played an improper role in giving instructions to the RCMP to clear the motorcade route quickly, using force if necessary. Jean Chrétien's comment was, and I quote:
For me, pepper, I put it on my plate.
There was also the following: a Red Book promise to cancel the privatization of Pearson airport that cost hundreds of millions of dollars in damages and legal costs, not to mention economic loss due to slowed air traffic at the airport; the GST flip-flop, which Senator Austin may be willing to flip on once more, judging from his comments yesterday in this chamber; and the spending of $1.24 billion a day in taxpayers' money since Paul Martin's televised speech to Canadians not to put him out of a job. This abuse of Canadians' money might be the most scandalous of all, and could lead Canada into deep deficit positions.
Rather than ignoring my questions and grandstanding on how this Liberal government can spend money faster than any that has gone before, will the Leader of the Government tell us when these scandals will stop? Will the end come only when Canadians choose to replace this government?
Hon. Jack Austin (Leader of the Government): Honourable senators, it is always of some interest to listen to Senator Stratton's political rhetoric. Senator Stratton, of course, has only one eye and one ear with respect to what goes on in public life in Canada. He has no idea of the valuable programs which the Government of Canada has placed before the Canadian people in the budget and otherwise. He obviously cares nothing for child care. He cares nothing for the funding of cities. He has no interest in health services to Canadians. He cares very little for Darfur and the issues Canada is bringing to bear in this very important crisis in Africa. I could go on with a very long list of things that do not preoccupy Senator Stratton.
He wants to raise a set of issues from the past and misrepresent their conclusions and their standing in Canadian public life. That is his privilege. This chamber permits political rhetoric. I do not dispute his entitlement to do that.
I want to add, however, that this government has profoundly changed the direction of our society by enhancing the values of Canadians, their care, and concern for one another through the social programs we have placed. The opposition and their leader do not want to support a budget with any of these values.
My honourable friend hungers for political power, play-acts when showing his emotions, tries to bring down a government that he cannot possibly replace in any successful way, wants to ally himself with the Bloc in order to destroy Canadian national unity, and worries about a list of issues from the Canadian past. I expect he will be back in Mackenzie King's era before too long with comments about the conduct of Liberal governments.
Senator LeBreton: You are the ones who are so sensitive to that issue.
Senator Stratton: If I may, that was a wonderfully substantial list of rhetoric, if I ever heard one. We will get back to your supplementary response yesterday on the GST. I say that I will never forget kazoos.
Do not worry about the dignity of this place, and do not worry about what the government has done with all that wonderful money it is spending at the rate of $1.24 billion a day. What about before the crisis of survival as a government? You never thought of any of this. The government did not have it in the budget. You only conveniently remembered, and put it in afterwards. For the most part, it came afterwards.
Senator Austin: What are you talking about?
Senator Stratton: Read the stack of paper, the props that your deputy whip brought forward yesterday. Some set of props.
Honourable senators, I will ask a question. Today Roy MacGregor quoted the Liberal Party strategist, Keith Davey, as saying:
Remember, a leader is never cooked until people start to laugh at him.
Mr. MacGregor then wrote:
It is a sound heard previously by the likes of Joe Clark, John Turner and Kim Campbell... And if you listen closely in Ottawa these days, beyond all the shouting, there is a growing sound in the distance.
Canadians are laughing at this Prime Minister and his government. Can the Leader of the Government hear it?
Once more, will the Leader of the Government tell us, with regard to this continuing corruption and this never-ending scandal, when it will stop? When will you say, "We are responsible, we will resign and call an election," as you should?
Senator Austin: Honourable senators, first of all, to take up Senator Stratton's last point, I think he must have been out of the country when the Prime Minister spoke to Canadians on television. At that time he explained the position of this government, said that he took responsibility, as Prime Minister, for dealing with the issue, which he has done completely.
The reason we are getting evidence under the auspices of the Gomery commission is that we put the Gomery commission in place. We gave it a mandate. We said, "Get to the bottom of this matter." This is the kind of political culture that we do not want in Canada. The government did that; the Prime Minister did that, and of course the opposition does not want to know anything about it. You do not want to know anything about the evidence or the balance. You have made up your mind already. You have written the judgment, as I said yesterday. You want to hang the accused before the judge has brought down a judgment.
With respect to the rest of the question by Senator Stratton, if I can dignify it as a question, or at least in response to the political rhetoric, first of all I want to tell you that I was here during the GST debate. There are not many in this chamber who can say that today. There were no kazoos in this chamber. I was here. There were whistles, there were triangles, but there were no kazoos.
Senator Stratton: Forgive me. Whistles and triangles, but no kazoos. That is dignity?
Senator Austin: Your facts are wrong. It is not the same thing.
Everyone in Canada knows that Mr. Harper and his caucus are trying to bring the government down. It is their right to try. We have a procedure with respect to a confidence vote in the other place, and this government has stepped up to its responsibility and picked a date, May 19, 2005, for the holding of a formal vote of non-confidence at second reading of the government's budget.
Honourable senators, that is taking responsibility. That is saying to the Canadian people, "This Parliament either works or we go to the country."
Senator LeBreton: Why did you not put the budget before Parliament today?
Hon. Gerry St. Germain: I hear what the Leader of the Government in the Senate is saying. I am at the point where I have just given up on his party.
The point is that the leader will not recognize the corruption that has infiltrated his party. The government has gone out on a spending spree that has been described as totally ridiculous. The leader talks about child care. This is a backroom deal in Toronto with Buzz Hargrove and the NDP. You have been defeated in the House on a motion that is debatable as to whether or not it is a motion of confidence.
The question I must ask the leader is this: If the government was really intent on getting to the bottom of the corruption in the Liberal Party, why would you not have established a judicial inquiry? My understanding is that there is a reference in the Gomery commission, section k, that inhibits the criminal process from going forward. Can the leader explain that?
Senator Austin, you are from British Columbia. Traditionally, up to now, you have always done things in a very honest and straightforward way, and I hope you will answer that question in the same manner.
Senator Austin: Honourable senators, first of all, I absolutely reject my good friend Senator St. Germain's comment to the effect, "You have been honest up to now, but I really have doubts as to whether you will be honest, going forward."
Senator St. Germain: I just asked that you continue so. Do not mince words.
Senator Austin: Of course I will continue, but the honourable senator put the matter into question, and you have no right to do that. If you find me below your standards of political behaviour, let me know.
Senator St. Germain: You are a Liberal.
Senator Austin: Now as to the question, the government put a judge in charge of a commission of inquiry under the Inquiries Act, and the government also disclosed all the facts it had to the RCMP. As all of us know, the RCMP is responsible for criminal investigations and for bringing criminal charges to the Attorney General of the province in question. That is the process, and there is no question with respect to the facts.
Honourable senators, with respect to the suggestion that this government is on a spending spree, let me first of all tell you that this government has a commitment not to go into deficit, and this government has no intention of doing so. The Minister of Finance will be making clear the total budget changes that have been made.
Hon. David Tkachuk: To which minister does the honourable senator refer?
Senator Austin: The minister is the honourable senator's colleague from Saskatchewan, the Honourable Ralph Goodale, who is a superb Minister of Finance whom Canadians respect.
Honourable senators, I understand why the Conservative members cannot agree with us; they are Conservatives, and we are Liberals. Liberals have a social conscience; and Conservatives do not have a social conscience, they are simply politically hungry. They see the opportunity to defeat this government eroding day by day as the Canadian people understand how shallow their policy framework is. Conservatives have nothing to tell the Canadian people but negativity, negativity, negativity, or they will do what the Liberals are doing because the Liberals are the only party thinking about social policy. The Liberals are the only ones thinking about Canadians and what Canadians need. The Liberals have delivered enormous support to the farm community, as Senator Fairbairn has said, and to many other sectors of Canadian society.
Honourable senators, the two sides could continue to quarrel but I thank Senator Prud'homme for reminding the house that this is Question Period. I also want it to be answer period, which is what I am trying to do, to answer questions that are red herrings running in every possible direction — or is it rabbits; I cannot remember the metaphor.
Hon. Gerry St. Germain: Honourable senators, I have posed questions before to the Leader of the Government in the Senate about the situation in Darfur. When the Prime Minister travelled there, I was concerned that other countries of the world would do nothing and the UN would do nothing, as happened in Rwanda. Now, nothing will happen until Member of Parliament David Kilgour's alleged deal with the Prime Minister with respect to sending troops into Darfur is fulfilled. The leader talks about integrity, and yet it takes a crisis situation in the House of Commons on a question of confidence to trigger some activity.
Why did this activity not occur before? Senator Dallaire sits in this house and is well aware of what happened in Rwanda. I have cited the same possibility for Sudan. What has been done: only a trip to Darfur that amounted to a photo op for the Prime Minister. Nothing happened until, all of a sudden, the Honourable David Kilgour, Member of Parliament for Edmonton—Mill Woods—Beaumont, decided that perhaps he should make a deal in respect of his vote on a confidence issue in the House of Commons.
Honourable senators, is this the way that business is done in Canada? I do not believe so. This is not the way a Conservative government would do business. It has never done things like that and never would do such things. I would like the Honourable Leader of the Government in the Senate to reply.
Hon. Jack Austin (Leader of the Government): I am sure.
Senator St. Germain: I would like him to comment without rhetoric, please.
Senator Austin: I welcome the part of the statement that invites my comment. Senator St. Germain is spinning things and that is not the case.
Senator St. Germain: It is the truth.
Senator Austin: The government has been involved in the Darfur file for a long time.
Senator St. Germain: It has done nothing.
Senator Austin: The government was involved in the Darfur file long before any of the events of the last week or two. There is no question that the Honourable David Kilgour, a member in the other place, has concern for Sudan and Darfur. We welcome his expressions of concern but the government's actions with respect to Darfur are not based on political pressure from any one member of Parliament. Rather, they are based on a realistic assessment of the situation in that part of the world and on what Canada is able to do.
Honourable senators, Canada is a leader in the world community in dealing with the situation in Darfur. No other country is ahead of us in respect of concern for, or financial commitment to, Darfur and Sudan.
Senator St. Germain: What has the government done?
Senator Austin: The government has done a great deal, such as supply helicopters to the African Union to help make its missions possible.
Senator St. Germain: They do not fly.
Senator Austin: The government has pledged today $198 million in new humanitarian support for the African Union mission in Sudan. Of this, $170 million is in military and technical assistance to the African Union, and $28 million of the $90 million announced at the Oslo Donors' Conference on Sudan 2005 in April will help to support internally displaced persons and refugees in Darfur.
Senator St. Germain: When will the money be given?
Senator Austin: Honourable senators, I wish that there could be no heckling on a subject of such significance. Please allow me to tell the house where Canada stands in this highly important policy area. The United Nations and countries involved in trying to deal with Darfur have agreed that the African Union — the organization of African states that takes responsibility for security in Africa — will act in a physical way to try to bring about a stable situation in Darfur without the cost of lives. The African Union has made it clear to the world community that it does not welcome troops from any part of the world, except Africa. Canada cannot put military troops on the ground because there is no agreement and because there is an expressed position by the African Union against any country doing so.
Senator St. Germain: With all due respect, I am sure the honourable leader realizes that this is a replay of Rwanda.
Senator Austin: Canada has placed technical and policing personnel in that area, as well as advisers to the African Union. The government is making every effort toward stabilizing the situation in Darfur. Canada has undertaken a high level of diplomatic initiative to try to persuade other UN countries to put people on the ground to help the African Union.
Honourable senators, I could continue and provide considerable information about what the government has accomplished since the UN Security Council resolution on March 24, 2005. No other country in the world has been quicker to produce financial and human resources for Darfur, and no other country has matched Canada's budget for the Darfur effort. The Prime Minister announced today a strategic advisory group to be headed by Ambassador Fowler and to include Senator Dallaire and Senator Jaffer. They will work in a highly committed way through the balance of this year as the Canadian government's representatives in respect of issues in Darfur.
Hon. David Tkachuk: Honourable senators, for a party that has continued to pooh-pooh the Gomery commission and claims to have done nothing, here is the Liberal logic: No true problems have been exposed by the Gomery commission but they will set up a trust fund so they can pay back money, just in case. Today, The Globe and Mail reported that the Liberal Party of Canada is considering setting up a trust fund to reimburse sponsorship money that ended up in party coffers. Could the government leader confirm the accuracy of this report?
Hon. Jack Austin (Leader of the Government): My answer to the honourable senator's question is: If funds were improperly paid for which the Liberal Party is liable, then the Liberal Party is good for the debt.
Senator Tkachuk: More than a year has now passed since the Prime Minister was reported in the Winnipeg Free Press of March 6, 2004 as saying, "We need to make it very clear that in fact we will put the money into trust."
The same article also reports that Jean Lapierre said that the $650,000 given to the party by the eight advertising agencies — honourable senators will remember that was at the time of March 6, 2004 — that benefited from the sponsorship program would be put into a special account until the head of the judicial inquiry — which we do not have, but we have the Gomery inquiry — determines how much, if any, of the money was linked to the scandal.
Were Jean Lapierre and the Prime Minister referring to the same account, or are they two different ones?
Senator Austin: I will just repeat my answer, honourable senators.
Senator Tkachuk: I have one more question. Has the Liberal Party of Canada, since it suspects that it may have received illegal funds, called in the RCMP to its headquarters to investigate the money that they have received, and have they started an internal investigation in the Liberal Party of Canada to see if the money they have received — and they obviously suspect that they may have received it — is all legal money, or does it belong to the taxpayers of Canada?
Senator Austin: Honourable senators, I have gone as far as I can in answering the question. I do not speak for the Liberal Party of Canada. I speak for the Government of Canada.
Senator Tkachuk: Who does?
Hon. Marcel Prud'homme: Keeping in mind that it is Question Period and not just a debate, I will go directly to the question.
We talk a lot about respect for Parliament and this institution, and especially reform of the House of Commons. We all know that Bill C-32, to amend the Department of Foreign Affairs and International Trade Act and to make consequential amendments to other acts, has been defeated in the House of Commons.
This morning, I attended a three-hour meeting of the Foreign Affairs Committee of the House of Commons. The very distinguished Mr. Jocelyn Coulon — who was at the Pearson Peacekeeping Centre — is an ex-member of Le Devoir and is very well known in Quebec, though perhaps not in Canada. He appeared along with Mr. Derek Burney, Senior Distinguished Fellow at Carleton University. The two men vigorously asked questions about the decision to continue the organization of a new trade department, even though the House of Commons had voted the bill down.
In the Department of Foreign Affairs work is still continuing on this new trade department because they feel they have to, even though everyone there disagrees. As Mr. Burney said this morning, the only raison d'être of this new department we can find is for the glory of International Trade Minister Jim Peterson. I regret to be personal, but it is not me who said it, and everyone at the Department of Foreign Affairs has said it. They are still continuing, regardless of the fact that the bill was defeated in the House of Commons, and now everything is jeopardized at Foreign Affairs.
I came into this institution, both the House and the Senate, because I had international preoccupations. I am proud of our Department of Foreign Affairs. I am proud of our people who work in foreign affairs, including the people who work in trade and the people who represent us everywhere — 16 departments, I believe, are related to world affairs. Why has this split of the department not been stopped?
Hon. Jack Austin (Leader of the Government): Honourable senators, first of all, I join with Senator Prud'homme in pride and support for the people who work in Foreign Affairs and International Trade. We have one of the finest foreign affairs and trade services in the world.
As to the balance of Senator Prud'homme's question, we have had this exchange in this chamber before. As you are well aware, because you understand the difference between legislative advice and executive responsibility, the government has passed the Orders-in-Council, as it is entitled to do under the Statutes of Canada, to divide those two departments; and for the time being, it is continuing with its policy of so doing.
I understand very well the controversy that people who are interested in machinery-of-government questions have raised with respect to the division. I have no doubt that this discussion will go on a while longer, and the government is listening. However, for the time being, the government is continuing with the decision it has taken and appraising the ongoing situation.
Senator Prud'homme: The government has the authority, yes, but what was the reason for making a joke out of the House of Commons by referring Bill C-32 for discussion and disposition and not following the outcome when it was defeated? How can we reconcile exactly what Senator Austin just said? How can he reconcile for us the fact that what was decided by Order-in-Council was turned down by Parliament when it was consulted? What is the use of laughing at the House of Commons' decision when they decided to say no? I still try, and I am not the only one. Hundreds and thousands of people involved in foreign affairs are asking themselves the same question. We have not found one person who agrees.
Imagine that Allan Gotlieb and I are on the same side of an issue. There must be some trouble somewhere.
Hon. Senators: Hear, hear!
Senator Austin: I will not reflect on the relationship of Senator Prud'homme and Allan Gotlieb, both distinguished Canadians. I do want to answer Senator Prud'homme's question quite directly.
The long-standing practice in machinery of government is to have departments organized by statute, and the government prefers a statute that discretely sets out the mandate of a department and the authority of the minister and the deputy minister.
However, there is a statute in place, as well, that gives the Government of Canada the ability to organize the machinery of government as it wishes. That is the statute and the authority under which the government has acted in this particular case.
The view expressed by the House of Commons is one that has to be taken seriously, but as Senator Prud'homme knows, the current government is in a minority position in the other place. The government supporters supported the legislation, Bill C-31 and Bill C-32; opposition members did not. We have the views of the opposition with respect to this situation, but again, the long-standing constitutional and legal practice is that machinery of government is the prerogative of the Prime Minister and of the executive.
Hon. Fernand Robichaud (Acting Deputy Leader of the Government): Honourable senators, I have the honour to present a delayed answer in response to an oral question raised in the Senate by Senator Keon on March 21, 2005, regarding the visit of Prime Minister Martin to the United States of America.
(Response to question raised by Hon. Wilbert J. Keon on March 21, 2005)
While cross-border drug sales was not formally included on the agenda, it could have been raised in an informal discussion. If this issue was raised, the Government of Canada would have made its position clear: All appropriate action will be taken to protect Canadians' access to safe and affordable medicine.
We have also made it clear that our drug price regime is not on the table. Canada's drug prices are in line with the median of prices in European countries. Finally, we have reiterated our willingness to have drug regulatory authorities in both Canada and the U.S. collaborate on issues of common interest.
During his March 17, 2005 meeting in Washington with Health and Human Services Secretary Michael Leavitt, Minister Dosanjh spoke generally about the options he is considering to address Internet pharmacies and repeated his public comments on supply and ethics. These concerns were shared by Secretary Leavitt.
The Hon. the Speaker: Honourable senators, we have with us today pages visiting from the House of Commons. I would like to introduce Cameron Jelinski of Prince Albert, Saskatchewan. He is enrolled at the faculty of social sciences at the University of Ottawa, and he is majoring in political science.
As well, Hollie McLean from Bathurst, New Brunswick, is with us. She is enrolled in the faculty of social sciences at the University of Ottawa, majoring in international development and globalization.
Hon. Roméo Antonius Dallaire: I was listening earlier to comments in regard to Canadian participation in or concern for the Darfur catastrophe.
The Honourable Senator St. Germain raised the Rwandan genocide of 1994 as an example of the failure of the international community, and he asked what was being done about Darfur today. I am very pleased that the Rwandan genocide is still being raised as a point of discussion.
The Hon. the Speaker: Senator Dallaire, there are some who are wondering whether you will get to your point of order. It sounds more like a correction of the record at this point. We need a point of order.
Senator Dallaire: The point of order is that this catastrophic failure of humanity has become an exercise in political intrigue for this government and the people of Canada, when in fact hundreds of thousands of people lost their lives.
The Hon. the Speaker: Honourable senators, I have allowed Senator Dallaire a certain leeway. He has not been in this house long and does not come with a history of parliamentary experience.
Senator Dallaire, I think your comment is just that and not a point of order.
Hon. Roméo Antonius Dallaire moved third reading of Bill C-45, to provide services, assistance and compensation to or in respect of Canadian Forces members and veterans and to make amendments to certain Acts.
Hon. Fernand Robichaud (Acting Deputy Leader of the Government): Honourable senators, it was understood that the Honourable Senator Dallaire would be moving third reading of the bill and that the Honourable Senator Oliver would be speaking. I wanted to make sure that, as the sponsor of the bill, the Honourable Senator Dallaire would not lose his right to speak, since he simply moved third reading.
The Hon. the Speaker: I recognized Senator Dallaire because he was the mover of the motion.
Is it understood, honourable senators, that Senator Oliver will speak first?
Hon. Senators: Agreed.
Hon. Donald H. Oliver: Honourable senators, I appreciate this opportunity to present for third reading Bill C-45, the proposed Canadian Forces Members and Veterans Re-establishment and Compensation Act. As honourable senators know, Bill C-45 creates the blueprint for a new veterans charter for past and presently serving members of the Canadian Forces. New programs that will be implemented by Veterans Affairs Canada will ensure that our veterans receive the programs and services they deserve.
With the added importance of 2005 being the Year of the Veteran, and given that in the last few days Canadians and others have celebrated the sixtieth anniversary of VE-Day, it is only fitting that we pass this bill as soon as possible so that our veterans and serving Canadian Forces members can partake in these beneficial programs.
As honourable senators are aware, this bill received unanimous consent in the other place. In recognition of the importance of this legislation to the lives of thousands of Canadian Forces members and veterans, the Honourable Leader of the Opposition, Senator Noël Kinsella, moved that the Senate seek unanimous consent to proceed to second reading.
The Subcommittee on Veterans Affairs would have been the more suitable committee to study this legislation. However, members were travelling with the main committee, the Standing Senate Committee on National Security and Defence. That being the situation, I hasten to assure honourable senators that the Standing Senate Committee on National Finance did a very thorough job of examining this bill.
In spite of the short notice given, as a result of the hard work of the clerk and staff of the Standing Senate Committee on National Finance, last night committee members studied this bill with the help of invaluable testimony from a long list of witnesses. The Minister of Veterans Affairs, the Honourable Albina Guarnieri, appeared before the committee, along with officials from her department. The minister expressed her enthusiasm for this bill, saying:
It invests in opportunity rather than dependency. In Canada's Year of the Veteran, Canada is investing in years of potential and years of promise for every Canadian veteran.
In several instances, the minister was able to anticipate questions from the committee members. She indicated that she had read and studied the debate on second reading in this chamber.
This is true with respect to clause 9(2) of the bill, which gives a veteran 120 days from the date of release to make an application for rehabilitation services or vocational assistance. The reason for this cut-off was explained by the minister as necessary in order to get veterans into programs as quickly as possible after the end of their military service.
Also, the committee was told that this particular number was chosen because an existing rehabilitation program under the authority of the Chief of the Defence Staff has a 120-day limit and the department did not want to create two standards.
The National Finance Committee also heard from a number of representatives of veterans organizations across Canada. We heard, for example, from Mary-Ann Burdett, President of the Royal Canadian Legion; Ken Henderson, Dominion President of the Army, Navy and Air Force Veterans in Canada Association; and Cliff Chadderton in his role as President of the National Council of Veteran Associations. Also appearing before the committee was David Munroe, President of the Canadian Peacekeeping Veterans Association; Dr. Peter Neary, Chair of the Canadian Forces Advisory Council of Veterans Affairs Canada; and Colonel (Retired) Don Ethell, Honorary President of the Gulf War Veterans Association of Canada.
I am sure all honourable senators will agree that these individuals are eminently qualified to speak on general issues pertaining to veterans and on Bill C-45 in particular. They informed committee members that each of their organizations had been intimately involved in the consultations leading up to the drafting of this legislation. They gave the bill their wholehearted support.
Although Colonel Ethell of the Gulf War Veterans Association stated in evidence that he had some outstanding concerns surrounding the issue of lump sum payments, on the whole, the testimony from these witnesses was quite positive and encouraged the swift adoption of this bill.
The committee also heard from Harold Leduc, immediate past national President of the Canadian Peacekeeping Veterans Association, and Captain Sean Bruyea, a retired intelligence officer. These witnesses raised some deep reservations surrounding the bill. Captain Bruyea, in particular, brought forward his fears that the new veterans charter will not do enough to help disabled veterans who suffer from complex mental trauma such as post-traumatic stress disorder. Although Mr. Leduc expressed several worries about the bill, including his belief that it should have established a Veterans Affairs ombudsman, he gave the bill his support in principle.
During their opportunity to question witnesses, honourable senators also raised important issues. For example, the Honourable Leader of the Opposition raised concerns about clause 2(5) of the bill, which states:
This Act does not apply in respect of a member's or a veteran's physical or mental health problem, disability or death if it is caused by a wilful self-inflicted injury or improper conduct...
This would indicate that the families of veterans who commit suicide will not be able to claim benefits provided under this legislation.
When Senator Kinsella asked the minister about this, she responded that the intent of the clause was to deny compensation to those who would intentionally harm themselves in the absence of causative disability for such purposes as avoiding service.
The minister then said that the bill contained a provision that would allow the minister to override the provisions where warranted. However, the departmental officials were not able to point to which sections of the bill would allow such interventions on the part of the minister.
Honourable senators, while recognizing that this bill is a step forward, we cannot ignore these issues. No piece of legislation is ever perfect, and this bill is no exception. However, I am confident that these and other concerns can be addressed and resolved in the future. Although the consultation process leading up to this new veterans charter has taken place over the course of several years, in many ways the bill before us today is just the beginning. It was described last night by Minister Guarnieri as "a living charter" which will be malleable and open to improvements in the future. I know I speak for all National Finance Committee members when I say that I very much hope that this will be the case.
I can think of no group better qualified to investigate any outstanding concerns than our own Senate Subcommittee on Veterans Affairs, ably chaired by Senator Meighen. Several senators who attended our meeting last night, namely Senator Atkins and the deputy chair of the committee, Senator Day, are members of that committee, and Senator Kinsella serves as an ex officio member. The Subcommittee on Veterans Affairs has a long-standing reputation for addressing veterans' issues, and it has a very knowledgeable chair, members and staff who will follow up with the minister in the years to come and ensure that veterans are being treated in a proper manner.
As the programs and services outlined in this new veterans charter evolve, the Subcommittee on Veterans Affairs will be able to address any deficiencies in this piece of legislation as they surface. Senator Meighen, Chair of the Subcommittee on Veterans Affairs, shares my view that there are areas that need improvement. However, it is important that we pass this legislation as soon as possible so that veterans can start to receive our support now.
Honourable senators, this charter is long overdue, and it is important that this bill not be lost in the current state of uncertainty in the other place.
Senator Dallaire: Honourable senators, this is an important and a historic day for veterans. Bill C-45, which pertains to the new veterans charter, will revolutionize the way we assist and pay tribute to the men and women who wear their country's uniform and engage in an act of extraordinary patriotism and selflessness. It is my fondest wish that the Senate will recognize all of its benefits and join our colleagues in the House of Commons in moving it along to the final stage of Royal Assent.
Bill C-45 arrives at just the right moment, not only because 2005 is the Year of the Veteran, but also because a new social contract was needed between Canada and its veterans. They need new programs and services to meet their realities in today's world. The changes proposed in the bill are just as relevant and important as those included in the Veterans Charter of some 60 years ago in order to meet veterans' needs after the Second World War and the Korean War.
As a veteran, it gives me particular peace of mind that many of my fellow veterans, as well as serving members of the Canadian Forces, their families, veterans organizations, experts and stakeholders, will continue to be consulted as the charter makes its journey through regulations over the next year, as well as during its implementation and beyond. It is a living document, and those who have been involved over these years in providing advice, consultation and, in fact, even reform orientations will continue to have an active part in ensuring that the implementation of this charter meets the spirit for which it was initially created.
I am also reassured that plans for communications to Canadian Forces members, their families and veterans will not end with these focus groups nor consultations. A comprehensive plan is in place to ensure that Canadian Forces members, Canadian Forces veterans and their families can take full advantage of the substantial wellness benefits of this charter and that that information will be provided to them on a continuing basis through the different processes of mailing and information systems.
Veterans will get a comprehensive suite of programs and services to support themselves and their families in their times of need. They will have assurance that when they don the uniform of their country in the selfless manner in which they do, they will not be abandoned should they find themselves no longer able to carry out their work in their normal routine. They will know that they can continue to provide support for their loved ones. They will have programs that encourage wellness and help them be the productive members of society that they both want and, in fact, deserve to be.
What will you be supporting with this bill? You will be supporting a rehabilitation program to help disabled veterans participate, to the best of their ability, at home, at work and in the community by offering physical, vocational and psychosocial rehabilitation.
You will be supporting medical benefits supplementing those provided by the Department of National Defence and providing additional protection to eligible veterans experiencing difficulty re-entering civilian life and their families. This will ensure they do not fall through the cracks, as was the case with former procedures, for which there was no inter-departmental overlap.
You will be supporting job search and transition training to provide all releasing Canadian Forces members with the independence and financial security that they deserve as veterans so qualified as having been released honourably and having a minimum of one year of trained service.
You will be supporting assistance with earnings loss for those who face loss of income because they need to make use of rehabilitation services at the end of their service, be it short-term assistance for those using the services or long-term assistance for those who can no longer work.
Finally, you will be supporting a disability award program that offers a tax-free, lump sum payment of up to $250,000, depending on the extent of the disability, to compensate Canadian Forces veterans for non-economic losses such as pain and suffering, a demand that has been in existence since the Second World War.
Honourable senators, last night, as so ably reported by Senator Oliver, was an experience in itself. Although the length of the sitting of nearly four and a half hours was, for some, a little long, the majority found it constantly interesting and, in fact, factual. We had World War II and Korean War veterans wearing their medals and speaking out, not for themselves and the old charter and what it provides them — and will continue to provide them — but rather for the new generation of veterans who now make up their organizations. They were speaking in favour, with substantial support of the new, innovative approaches that this bill and this charter will provide.
We also saw members of other veterans organizations, the Legion and individuals who make up the new generation of veterans who are in dire need of these substantive changes and reforms to the support that Veterans Affairs Canada can provide them and their families. In particular, we saw three of the new generation of injured veterans who are still suffering extensively from their injuries, those injuries being the most common injuries of our era due to these very complex and traumatic experiences in the field, namely, post-traumatic stress disorder. The impact of that injury is overwhelming and debilitating.
The money and the new programs were brought in specifically to meet these new challenges of this new generation of injury and also the demands of their families who also suffer from the impact of these missions as they, unlike in the past, live these missions through the media and suffer the stresses and see the impact of those stresses on their loved ones.
Honourable senators, we owe so much to our Canadian Forces veterans. We ask a lot of them and their families. They are no longer in the Canadian Forces, training and waiting for a conflict, as was the case so much during the Cold War. They are committed, deployed and at times even overcommitted into conflict areas where humanitarian catastrophes boggle the mind and the ability to manage and to master.
Do senators not agree that when veterans return to civilian life, sick in body, mind or spirit, we owe them a complete response that speaks to their needs and their family's needs in the most holistic way possible?
I believe the proposed veterans charter recognizes the contributions of these veterans to Canada and the global community, to global peace and serenity for humanity. It will enable them to continue making contributions to their country long after their military service ends, and that is to the advantage of this nation and future generations.
We have the opportunity here and now to create a new legacy and history for those who serve and defend our country today, but specifically for those who will be coming in future years as this country continues to demand of its service personnel the utmost dedication and altruism in these most complex scenarios around the world.
Those who repeatedly place themselves in harm's way in a world that is increasingly strained by terrorism and conflict will feel supported and not abandoned. They will not fall through the cracks with this new bill.
In this, the Year of the Veteran, it is the right and just thing to do. This is the right time to do it. Let us not let them down; lest we forget.
Hon. Jack Austin (Leader of the Government): Honourable senators, I do not propose to speak to the substance of the legislation before us. I rise simply to thank Senator Oliver and the members of the Standing Senate Committee on National Finance for the work they did last night over more than four hours and for their dedication in organizing the report of the committee to the Senate today.
I wish to thank Senator Kinsella for his agreement to the rapid presentation and debate of this legislation in this chamber.
I also wish to thank Senator Dallaire for acting as sponsor of the bill and to say one thing to him: It is very rare for a person to come to the Senate and so quickly achieve one of their major legislative objectives. I do not want him to think it is this easy all the time.
Some Hon. Senators: Question!
Hon. Marcel Prud'homme: Some of my colleagues are calling for the question to be put. I understand there is an agreement among senators to pass this bill immediately. It was dealt with last night in committee. I see some senators smiling, saying, "Here goes Marcel, getting himself in trouble."
Honourable senators, the Senate is a house of reflection. I know the House of Commons adjourned yesterday and today and will most likely adjourn tomorrow and Monday and will come back Tuesday. There is to be a vote on the budget next Thursday.
Neither Senator Plamondon nor I were consulted in the agreement that was described earlier. I do not mean to say that we disagree with the speedy passage of Bill C-45. However, I would urge honourable senators to be careful, otherwise I will say no. I do not mean to say that we wanted to speak on this bill or to say no, but I wish to remind honourable senators that there are five members of the Progressive Conservative Party in the Senate, one member of the New Democratic Party and five independent senators. When I hear about agreements or sweet deals, including calls by the minister to me just a moment ago saying, "I hope you let it go," and everything else that goes with it, I am too old to accept that kind of urgency. That is my first point.
Second, I regret that we passed this bill so rapidly while the National Security and Defence Committee is travelling because its Subcommittee on Veterans Affairs is so involved in this subject.
I want Senator Dallaire to understand that I will not boycott this important legislation. I understand the nature of the urgency, given the political situation. However, it is our duty as senators to be calm and to reflect. We should not rush just because we are dealing with veterans or because we feel that the damage done to the veterans last week by the political parties is such that we should make amends and apologize by saying, "Okay, let us hurry up and get back to normality."
Certain honourable senators on the Standing Senate Committee on National Security and Defence have devoted their lives to these causes. They are overseas at the moment. I would have been interested in hearing from Senator Meighen, a fine gentleman from a great political family, who is very involved with veterans. Senator Kenny, the able chairman of that very expensive committee, is not here today, nor are the other members of that influential committee. When they return from their trip, they will of course be pleased to learn that the bill passed. However, I am positive that if they were here, they would have prolonged the debate at least until tonight.
I share the words of Senator Austin to Senator Dallaire. It is rare for new senators to have this much success. I look at Senator Dyck of the New Democratic Party, who will come forward with some of her major concerns, and I hope that we will act as urgently for the people whom I call "the forgotten people of Manitoba and Saskatchewan." Anyone who visits Saskatchewan and Manitoba, as I have done over 100 times, will witness the disastrous situation of the First Nations people and the Metis. What are we doing? We are talking and we are chatting, but we are not doing much.
Do people realize that 13 per cent of the population in Saskatchewan and Manitoba are First Nations people? First Nations people occupy close to 49 per cent of the prison population in both of those provinces. Are we not sensitive enough to conclude that this problem needs to be addressed?
When Honourable Senator Dyck comes to this chamber with her special bill to address these questions, I hope that we will act as urgently as we have today for veterans.
My brother is a veteran. He abandoned his studies, much to the chagrin of my mother. He was not conscripted but rather was a volunteer who fought in Europe from 1939 until 1945. He was not killed. Maybe it would be more dramatic if he had died so I could get up and make a different kind of speech. I am happy to say, however, that he survived and married a European lady.
Honourable senators, I am sensitive to the issues of veterans. I am myself, to a certain degree, a veteran since I trained as a cadet officer of the Provost Corps from Shilo, Manitoba. That is where my discipline comes from, although it looks as if I am at times undisciplined.
I am very happy to join in this effort, but I do not like the urgency that is put to us and the pressure placed upon us to act and act now. That is not the role of the Senate. However, in the case of this bill, of course we will all join together.
I know that I can talk to the veterans. After all, I came out of the hospital to help save the War Museum on Sussex Drive that was about to be stampeded by a Canadian group. I am the one who helped former Senator Orville Phillips save the War Museum on Sussex Street, in Ottawa, from being taken over by a group of individuals. I give no lesson, but I also take no lesson from anyone.
It is a great pleasure to congratulate Senator Dallaire. Our feelings about him are well known. We want to congratulate him on convincing the government. I hope other initiatives will go through the democratic process as quickly, especially through the Senate, the chamber of sober second thought.
The Hon. the Acting Speaker: It was moved by the Honourable Senator Dallaire, seconded by Senator Day, that this bill be now read the third time. Is it your pleasure, honourable senators, to adopt the motion?
Hon. Senators: Agreed.
Motion agreed to and bill read third time and passed.
Hon. Michel Biron moved second reading of Bill S-30, to amend the Bankruptcy and Insolvency Act (RRSP and RESP).
He said: Honourable senators, this bill excludes property held by a bankrupt in a registered retirement savings plan or a registered education savings plan from the property of the bankrupt that is divisible among the bankrupt's creditors, other than any amount contributed to the plan in the year preceding the bankruptcy.
In November 2003, after extensive hearings, the Standing Senate Committee on Banking, Trade and Commerce issued a report entitled Debtors and Creditors Sharing the Burden: A Review of the Bankruptcy and Insolvency Act and Companies' Creditors Arrangement Act. Within this report there is a review of the current situation facing the owners of registered retirement savings plans and registered education savings plans.
According to the committee, federal, provincial and territorial pension and insurance laws make registered pension plan and insurance policy proceeds exempt from execution and seizure. Therefore, the same exemption should be made available to the large number of individuals who own RRSPs. This would be of particular benefit to employees of small businesses who may lack a registered pension plan, or self-employed individuals with a modest income. The committee found the testimony of those witnesses who urge uniformity of treatment of retirement savings quite compelling.
The Personal Insolvency Task Force stressed that the federal government has made a policy choice by providing incentives encouraging Canadians to plan for their retirement.
The federal government is encouraging Canadians to save for their retirement by providing tax incentives for RRSP contributions. Consequently, it is logical to protect RRSPs and all forms of retirement savings from creditors' claims in the event of a bankruptcy.
This protection is particularly important for non-pensioned employees and self-employed individuals. According to the Alberta Law Reform Institute, there is an unfairness in the exposure of non-insurance RRSP compared to the virtually complete protection of insurance RRSPs and annuities and most pensions.
Essentially, the institute believes that both insurance and non-insurance RRSPs and deferred profit-sharing plans, and obligations to pay money out of such plans, should be totally exempt from all judgment creditors' remedies. No distinction should be drawn among remedies nor should the exemption be different between insurance and non-insurance products.
Finally, noting that many, and perhaps most, debtors have no RRSP or have already collapsed it, the institute argued that the practical impact of a total exemption is likely to be minimal in most situations.
The committee found the arguments made by those witnesses who urged uniformity of treatment of retirement savings quite compelling. In its view, the public interest is served when Canadians save for their retirement.
While some Canadians are able to do so through a registered pension plan available as deferred compensation from their employer, perhaps augmented by private savings and registered retirement savings plans, those who do not have access to a registered pension plan and those who are self-employed must rely on RRSPs.
Fairness to creditors requires that contributions in the year prior to bankruptcy, when the funds could reasonably have been used to pay debts, be paid to the trustee for distribution to debtors.
RESPs should be exempt from seizure in bankruptcy, since the potential loss to the government and to students is greater than the potential loss to creditors. This was shown by the federal government which, recognizing the benefits of educating its citizens, created the Canada Education Savings Grant in 1998, and by the testimony of RESP dealers, who calculated that the maximum that would be shielded from creditors over an average plan duration of 15 years would be $19,640 in principal, interest and Canada Education Savings Grants contributions.
The committee is also in favour of a highly educated workforce and believes that there is a federal role in this. Accordingly, the committee felt that the Bankruptcy and Insolvency Act should be amended to exempt funds in a Registered Education Savings Plan from seizure in bankruptcy. The committee felt that fairness for creditors suggested that the monies available for distribution to them should be as great as is reasonably possible and that, as in the case of RRSPs, contributions made in the year prior to bankruptcy should be available to satisfy creditors' claims, since those contributions could reasonably have been available to pay off debts.
This proposed bill would have a positive impact on the owners of registered retirement savings plans by assuring them that the funds they have put aside for their future would be protected in the event of a bankruptcy. The parents of children owning a registered education savings plan would also be confident that their children's future is protected.
Honourable senators, your support for this bill will illustrate your determination to resolve the concerns of Canadians and demonstrate your commitment to your social responsibilities. For these reasons, I am asking you, honourable senators, to support this bill.
On motion of Senator Stratton, debate adjourned.
On the Order:
Resuming debate on the motion of the Honourable Senator Milne, seconded by the Honourable Senator Christensen, for the second reading of Bill S-29, respecting a National Blood Donor Week.—(Honourable Senator Stratton)
Hon. Ethel Cochrane: Honourable senators, it is a pleasure to rise today to echo the comments made by the Honourable Senator Milne, who spoke last week on behalf of Senator Mercer concerning Bill S-29, respecting a National Blood Donor Week. In supporting a National Blood Donor Week in Canada, we will join citizens around the world in celebrating donations of blood, plasma, platelets and bone marrow, which are true acts of kindness. We will be raising awareness of the ongoing need for all of these blood products, not just in June but on every single day of the year.
Canada has a long history of supporting blood donation dating back to World War II. Between 1940 and 1945, the Blood for the Wounded program collected over 2.4 million units of blood from a population of just 11.5 million people. That was a per capita rate three to four times higher than the United States or Great Britain. Canadians made a contribution then, and they continue to contribute to this worthy cause today.
Honourable senators, I would like to take a moment to give you an idea of the scope of the blood system in Canada. Donations are gathered at a total of 45 permanent collection sites and more than 17,000 special mobile clinics that are held annually across the country. These are operated by almost 6,000 employees and in excess of 40,000 volunteers. The end result in yearly blood collection is nearly 1.1 million units of blood from over half a million donors. That is our blood system.
Senator Milne mentioned two examples of why it is so important to donate blood. Another example is with respect to a firefighter called "Gary," who gave blood over five times in 25 years. Then the tables turned. He was told that he had a type of bone marrow cancer known as MDS. In addition to transfusions of blood products, Gary was able to be matched with a blood marrow donor through the International Bone Marrow Registry. That gift of bone marrow, which he received in 1998 from someone he had never met, has allowed him to continue to fight the disease and live to tell his story. This is just another example from among thousands of how the blood system has a potential to make such a huge difference in someone's life.
With success, of course, also come challenges. The two blood operators collect their annual 1.1 million units of blood from less than 4 per cent of the eligible population. Just 4 per cent of those who can donate actually give blood on a regular basis. This percentage must increase. With the help of this bill, Canadians will realize that they can no longer wait for their neighbour to donate blood. They will know that by giving just an hour or so of their time two or three times a year they can make a difference in someone's life; a difference that can last forever.
Honourable senators, this bill will provide us with the opportunity to celebrate the donors and the volunteers of the blood systems in Canada and to encourage other Canadians to join the movement of everyday heroes. What better gift to give than the gift of your health? What better gift than the most precious gift of all, the gift of life?
On motion of Senator Stratton, debate adjourned.
The Senate proceeded to consideration of the third report of the Standing Committee on Rules, Procedures and the Rights of Parliament (conflict of interest code for senators), tabled in the Senate on May 11, 2005.—(Honourable Senator Smith, P.C.)
Hon. David P. Smith moved the adoption of the report.
He said: The package out of which the code flowed was released in the fall of 2002. These comments are just by way of background.
Bill C-4 was assented to in March of 2004, and the House of Commons put their code in place prior to the last election. We have taken longer, but I think the end product is better, and fairer.
Senator Robichaud: I agree to that.
Senator Smith: I might refer to the purposes, which are spelled out on the first page of the code as follows:
1. The purposes of this Code are to
(a) maintain and enhance public confidence and trust in the integrity of Senators and the Senate;
(b) provide for greater certainty and guidance for Senators when dealing with issues that may present foreseeable real or apparent conflicts of interest; and
(c) establish clear standards and a transparent system by which questions relating to proper conduct may be addressed by an independent, non-partisan adviser.
Several principles are involved here. I will not refer to all of them, but some of the principles that we very much kept in mind are that senators are expected to remain members of their communities and serve the public interest there; to fulfill their public duties while upholding the highest standards so as to avoid conflicts of interest; and to arrange their private affairs so that foreseeable real or apparent conflicts of interest may be prevented from arising.
(1) The Senate further declares that this Code shall be interpreted and administered so that Senators and their families shall be afforded a reasonable expectation of privacy.
A number of quite significant things have been changed on the original draft. First, we had consensus at the outset that we should have our own Senate Ethics Officer and that we did not want to share one with the House of Commons. We thought there was a concept of conflict there. As well, we did not want to share one with the Order-in-Council appointments. The ethics officer who ministers to the Commons also does the same for the Order-in-Council appointments. We wanted an ethics officer for the Senate; we made that point, and we were successful and had it changed.
We had an extensive consultation process. We had several all-senators meetings. Some of them were extremely lively, to put it mildly, and we established a drafting committee that was ably chaired by Senator Fraser. I served on the drafting committee, together with Senator Di Nino, and we worked all last summer on an ad hoc basis through the next draft. As a result, we developed quite a number of changes because we came back with our draft and then worked through it with the whole committee, clause by clause.
Honourable senators, I will now refer to a few of the issues that were very important to a good many senators. First, family member disclosures have been significantly modified. The original draft was more or less the same as the one for the House of Commons, which was such that family members defined as spouses, common-law partners, and dependent children disclosed private interests, both confidentially and publicly, on the same basis as did senators. The fact is that there is no law that can impose such a duty on a spouse; therefore, what is the benefit? Is that an invasion of privacy?
We had a number of senators make the point that they were not aware of many of their spouses' holdings. I feel that what we wound up with was a fair approach, which is that spouses who wish to consult with the Senate Ethics Officer and wish to make whatever disclosures they choose will be received by the Senate Ethics Officer, who will give them advice and consult with them. However, if they choose not to do so, they are not obliged to do so.
This does not let the senator off the hook, though, because if a senator knows that his or her spouse has an asset from which they would greatly benefit if certain matters were being dealt with, they still have an obligation to make a declaration. It is just that we are not requiring spouses to fill out all of these forms, but if they seek advice they can get it.
Another issue is that disclosure for senators was restructured and simplified. By and large, values need to be confidentially disclosed. No values really need to be confidentially disclosed with the exception of contracts with the government. Contracts with the government are a special category, but apart from that we do not need to get into values. Something can be identified, but there is no need to get into values.
With regard to the sources of income, that applies only for amounts of over $2,000 with regard to income and over $10,000 with regard to assets. In the House of Commons, of course, it is literally everything.
We also came up with a list of excluded assets, which is quite reasonable. On the list of assets that do not have to be disclosed, or are excluded, are properties used by the senator or family members as residences, the mortgages or hypothèque on such residences, household goods, personal effects, deposits with a financial institution, guaranteed investment certificates, financial instruments issued by any Canadian government or agency, and obligations incurred for living expenses that will be discharged in the ordinary course of the senator's affairs.
Another area is the role of the committee. A committee will be struck, and that is provided for in the legislation, Bill C-4, and that committee will be made up of five members, three of whom shall constitute a quorum. There will be no ex officio election of members.
We had quite a discussion on this point. Everyone was basically agreed that members should be elected. There was some discussion as to whether that was obligatory, but we agreed that they should be elected.
Two of the committee members shall be elected by secret ballot in the caucus of government senators at the opening of the session. Two of the committee members shall be elected by secret ballot in the caucus of opposition senators at the opening of the session. The fifth member shall be elected by the majority of the other four members, after the election of the last of the other four members.
That certainly provides, if there is a consensus, that the fifth member could be an independent. It is in there.
Senator Prud'homme: You believe in something else for sure.
Senator Smith: The Leader of the Government in the Senate, seconded by the Leader of the Opposition in the Senate, shall present a motion — in other words, it is done by consensus — on the full membership of the committee to the Senate, which motion shall be deemed adopted without any debate or vote, and the chair of the committee shall be elected by four or more members.
The whole gist of that is that if it is four, a senator needs support from both sides of the house or they will not get four. We did not make it five because we do not want people having a veto. There is no veto, but there must be a reasonably clear consensus.
The committee must approve all inquiries that the SEO feels are warranted and any referral to the authorities. It must go to them. Of course, senators are entitled to an inquiry as of right, but there is a preliminary investigation and if there is nothing to it, then a formal inquiry does not really need to proceed. There are improved procedural protections for senators, better screening before an inquiry starts, better notice to a senator of potential problems, reports and more committee oversight.
Concerning the privacy issue, I have already referred to the spousal disclosure. For gifts and benefits, the amount was originally $250. We raised that to $500, which is the same as in the House of Commons.
In relation to sponsored travel, we want to keep it simple so that when a senator goes on sponsored travel, it is disclosed, but the disclosure is basically that a senator went on the trip and had airfare, hotels, meals, local travel paid for. There is no requirement to get into minuscule accounting procedures because the point is either that you accept sponsored travel or you do not. If it is acknowledged, reported and transparent, we feel that is all that would be required.
The right for senators to contract with the government, if it is in the public interest, was expanded. The analogy that was frequently given was that if some senator owned the only snowplough in the town, there is a need to be practical.
Senator Stratton: Sell the snowplough.
Senator Smith: There is disclosure, but there is a degree of discretion where the public interest is in no way negatively affected.
Another important issue is with regard to the forms. Some of you have seen the forms that have been drafted by the House of Commons. I think they are 18 or 19 pages in length. Ours will be less than half that size.
Senator Prud'homme: What is half?
Senator Smith: It is about eight pages. It was agreed that the actual forms would be finalized and must be approved by the committee of senators. There was no consultation in the House of Commons on the forms. We think that is a good and reasonable way of approaching the matter. Those are the main points.
Honourable senators, the committee and its staff have worked on the code for two and a half years. I cannot get into all the names, but a great deal of time was spent. The end product is fair. It is practical, not unnecessarily intrusive, and emphasizes transparency in key areas. To put it bluntly, it passes the smell test.
Honourable senators, I hope that we can see this code adopted before melancholy events in the near future occur in this place and we will no longer be able to vote on its adoption for a while, if you know what I mean.
The Hon. the Speaker: I regret to inform that Senator Smith's time has expired.
Hon. Marcel Prud'homme: May I have permission to ask Senator Smith a short question?
The Hon. the Speaker: You can speak, but I will see Senator Di Nino first.
Senator Prud'homme: Then my question will be my speech. I only have a question on one point Senator Smith did not touch upon.
The Hon. the Speaker: It appears as if the senator is asking for more time.
Senator Smith: I am content to accept a question from my old friend.
The Hon. the Speaker: I gather leave is granted for an additional five minutes for Senator Smith.
Senator Prud'homme: Once the code is approved, if approved, is there a fixed time for disclosure? In the other chamber, I believe the time is 120 days.
Senator Smith: Ours will be 120 days as well.
Hon. Consiglio Di Nino: Honourable senators, I am pleased to rise to add a few comments on the conflict of interest code for senators. Senator Smith has recapped the committee's deliberations well. I will not add to his excellent report. It speaks for itself.
Honourable senators, the final report of the code tabled yesterday is the result of a long and arduous effort by many senators and Senate staff. I will not single out anyone, but I wish to acknowledge the contribution of all who participated; in particular, our colleagues whose thoughtful and well-articulated points are reflected in the code, and to all I extend my thanks.
The development of this document has not been an easy task. A wide variety of opinions existed, and, indeed, still exist, on how to effectively balance the public's right to know with the right of senators and their families to an appropriate level of privacy.
Throughout this lengthy process — and I speak for myself — in my fiduciary role as your representative on the drafting committee, I was guided by certain basic principles and beliefs: first, that senators have little or no power to inappropriately influence legislation or those in power; second, that over the years the incidence of conflicts or potential conflicts have been few and far between; third, the need for a fair balance between our responsibility to protect the public's interest and our and our families' right to appropriate privacy; and, finally, my strong belief that we as parliamentarians must be subjected to standards higher than those of the average citizen.
The final product will, we hope, be judged as fairly representing the necessary compromises needed to be made and yet will be a document that will effectively guide the Senate Ethics Officer and the Senate committee charged with the responsibility of implementing and administering the code.
Finally, honourable senators, I acknowledge that not all will be in full agreement with this document, but I sincerely hope that we as a committee have achieved the objectives set for us by the honourable senators in this chamber.
On motion of Senator Robichaud, debate adjourned.
On the Order:
Resuming debate on the motion of the Honourable Senator Bacon, seconded by the Honourable Senator Dallaire, for adoption of the sixth report of the Standing Senate Committee on Legal and Constitutional Affairs (Bill S-11, to amend the Criminal Code (lottery schemes), with amendments and observations) presented in the Senate on April 12, 2005.—(Honourable Senator Eyton)
Hon. J. Trevor Eyton: Honourable senators, on April 13, the Honourable Senator Bacon, Chair of the Standing Senate Committee on Legal and Constitutional Affairs, tabled the sixth report of that committee recommending various amendments to Bill S-11. This bill amends provisions of the Criminal Code relating to the use of video lottery terminals. The bill also seeks to limit the locations in which VLTs can be installed to racetracks and casinos. This report had the support of the majority of the members of the Standing Senate Committee on Legal and Constitutional Affairs, from which I dissented, and I am now prepared and wish to table my dissenting observations.
Senate rule 96(2) provides that:
A report of any select committee shall contain the conclusions agreed to by the majority.
That is, I am advised, a different situation from the one in the House of Commons where their Standing Orders give committees explicit permission to append dissenting observations to reports, which happens fairly regularly.
Notwithstanding the apparent limitation implicit in rule 96(2), there have been certain instances where dissenting observations have made their way into the reports of the Senate. Given the circumstance of this particular bill, I would propose to proceed in this manner, as was done, for example, in the First Session of the Thirty-sixth Parliament concerning Bill C-9, the Canada Marine Act.
In that instance, on May 26, 1998, during debate at third reading on Bill C-9, the Honourable Senator Forrestall tabled, with leave of the Senate, a document entitled, "Minority Report Prepared by Progressive Conservative Senators serving on the Standing Senate Committee on Transport and Communications." This minority report was appended to that day's Journals of the Senate.
The seventh report of the Standing Senate Committee on Transport and Communications presented to the Senate on May 13, 1998, dealing with this bill then included "Observations and Recommendations" without specifying that these were either from the majority or the minority.
Following that example, I request permission of the Senate to table my dissenting observations and to have them appended to today's Journals of the Senate. I do not propose to read my dissenting observations, which run to a number of pages and which will hopefully be available for your perusal.
In addition, honourable senators should know that I will vote against Bill S-11 in its present form.
Accordingly, honourable senators, may I have your permission to append my dissenting observations to today's Journals of the Senate?
The Hon. the Speaker: Is leave granted, honourable senators?
Hon. Senators: Agreed.
Senator Eyton: Thank you. I tender my observations.
The Hon. the Speaker: The request of Senator Eyton to have his observations tabled has been granted.
I see no other senators rising to speak. Are honourable senators ready for the question?
An Hon. Senator: Question!
The Hon. the Speaker: It was moved by the Honourable Senator Bacon, seconded by the Honourable Senator Dallaire, that the sixth report of the Standing Senate Committee —
An Hon. Senator: Dispense!
The Hon. the Speaker: Shall I dispense? Is it your pleasure, honourable senators, to adopt the motion on division, Senator Eyton dissenting?
Senator Tkachuk: On division.
The Hon. the Speaker: Senator Tkachuk. On division, then, with those names noted.
Just to clarify, honourable senators, we have a bill which has been amended by a report. The report has now been adopted, which means that the bill, as amended, is at third reading stage.
When shall this bill be read the third time?
On motion of Senator Robichaud, bill placed on the Orders of the Day for third reading at the next sitting of the Senate.
On the Order:
Resuming debate on the inquiry of the Honourable Senator Callbeck calling the attention of the Senate to the state of post-secondary education in Canada.—(Honourable Senator Rompkey, P.C.)
Hon. Wilfred P. Moore: Honourable senators, I rise with great pleasure today to speak to Senator Callbeck's inquiry into the state of post-secondary education in Canada.
I wish to commend the honourable senator for her initiative in monitoring the state of our post-secondary system, and also to thank Senator Kinsella for his thoughtful comments on March 10 of this year.
This chamber has been keen to study the subject of post-secondary education in Canada and has contributed much to the debate during my time as a member of the Senate. It is my belief that we have made a difference in this regard and that it is incumbent upon us to continue to take the lead in providing solutions to the problems that exist in our system of post-secondary education. Senators Callbeck and Kinsella pointed out the reality of the situation that exists regarding post-secondary education in this country.
There needs to be a sea change in the manner in which we perceive the benefits of a post-secondary education. The trend lately has been to isolate the student as the major recipient of these benefits and, as the policies of the 1990s demonstrated, to shift the rate of the financial burden to these students as well. This is a dangerous precedent, and we are reaping the negative results of this policy today. Leaving the funding up to students will result in annual tuition rate increases and inevitably a lower participation rate as these fees become unmanageable debts upon graduation. The result of this situation will be that a post-secondary education will be accessible only to the rich rather than to those who are academically qualified. Honourable senators, that is not the system that Canadians want and deserve.
According to the Canadian Association of University Teachers, between 1972 and 1981, tuition costs in Canada actually declined. The 1980s saw tuition rates remain stable, and in 1990 the average tuition was actually 22 per cent lower than in 1972. By the year 2003, however, tuition fees were 107 per cent higher than in 1990.
Any economist will tell you that education and the economy are inextricably linked. As Senator Callbeck mentioned, it is estimated that by 2011 two thirds of all jobs will require higher education. In order for us to compete with other countries, especially emerging economies such as India and China, we must realize that an increase in funding to our post-secondary system is essential.
Yet, our government's spending on post-secondary education per student has declined from the year 1980 through to today. In 1980, we were spending about $100 per student. Today that number is $80. By comparison, the United States of America was spending about the same as us, $100 in 1980, but it has increased its yearly spending to $130 currently.
As an example of the problems that exist today for students, let me draw your attention to a report released in 2004 by the Canadian Association of Food Banks and the Canadian Alliance of Student Associations. The report is entitled Campus Hunger Count 2004. It surveys the use of student food banks on Canadian campuses. According to the report, there are 51 campus-based food banks in Canada. Forty-six of these food banks took part in that survey. The survey isolated one month in the year 2004, March, and discovered that 3,121 students used food banks at that time.
For us, on the one hand, to speak of the necessity of educating our population and competing internationally and, on the other hand, to not provide the necessary funding to ensure the reality of an educated, competitive society, seems to be a case of just so much talk and so little action. Tuition fees have risen; students are taking on growing debt; education is becoming less universal, and we continue to pay lip service to the problem.
I believe we are all aware of what occurred between 1990 and 2003 to cause this staggering increase. Canada, like many nations at that time, faced a growing deficit and debt situation. The response was — and we hear this over and over again — to put our fiscal house in order. In 1996, across-the-board cuts were made by the federal government in the form of the creation of the Canadian Health and Social Transfer. The reason for the creation of this new block transfer was not only cost cutting at the federal level but it was also the decision of the federal government to allow the provinces to deal exclusively in their constitutional powers.
The shift from cost-shared funding to block funding should be reconsidered. The Canada Assistance Plan, implemented in 1996, was based on a cost-shared agreement with the provinces wherein the federal government would share with the provinces on a 50-50 basis the cost of social assistance programs.
There exist no conditions associated with federal cash transfer to the provinces in the realm of post-secondary education. Witness the Government of Nova Scotia shamelessly cutting its financial support of post-secondary funding upon receiving federal Millennium Scholarship Funds.
This is a problem that exists to this day. We have no means of accounting for our federal dollars when they are sent to the provinces via block funding. This is precisely the time for the federal government to take the lead in this area. While all honourable senators know education is a provincial responsibility, the federal government has been involved in it since the 19th century. It has been proven in the past that, when it is to the benefit of each individual province and the nation as a whole, agreements have been entered into between the two levels of government for programs such as the Canada Assistance Plan and our health care system.
In past speeches, I have pointed out the need for national standards. Honourable senators, only the federal government has the ability to establish and protect national standards, which can be established for education. At the recent biannual meeting of the Liberal Party of Canada, it was resolved that the federal government consider the manner in which it disperses funds to the provinces for post-secondary education. It is my belief that these policy proposals represent a framework that, as with the health care agreement, will set out a guideline for a new agreement between the two levels of government that will protect funding for post-secondary education.
The concept of a dedicated transfer at the federal level would ensure a stable and predictable level of funding for post-secondary education for the provinces from the federal government and would include agreements with the provinces to ensure stable levels of funding at the provincial level as well. These policies represent a beginning to a new manner of funding between the federal and provincial governments — a new paradigm, as called for by Senator Kinsella. This kind of agreement would enable both federal and provincial governments to protect stable funding levels for post-secondary education.
Honourable senators, it is my opinion that we need a dedicated ministry and minister to achieve these agreements between the federal and provincial governments. A federal minister of post-secondary education and research would provide a watchdog over our federal monies, which are aimed at bolstering our post-secondary system, as well as providing some national standard in post-secondary education.
Currently, the federal government spends approximately $9 billion per year on our post-secondary system. As I have mentioned in the past, the budgets of such ministries as the Atlantic Canada Opportunities Agency, at about $400 million, and the Western Diversification Fund, at about $300 million, warrant the attention of a separate minister. It would seem that, given the number of dollars the government is dealing with in post-secondary funding combined with the very high level of national importance that we attach to post-secondary education, the government should consider giving this area more focus by establishing a separate ministry.
Senators, there have been some very positive changes to our system of post-secondary education. The government has taken steps to reverse the trend and move it in the right direction. A permanent fund of $230 million per year for the indirect costs of research has been instituted. The Standing Senate Committee on National Finance and its chair, the Honourable Senator Murray, are owed much in the creation of this fund, having studied and reported on the state of post-secondary education research facilities in Canada.
The Canadian Millennium Scholarship Foundation program was created by the Liberal government to provide funding for students from less wealthy backgrounds. Over 90,000 students have received support from these scholarships. The program has an annual budget of $250 million. Bill C-5, the Canada Education Savings Act, was passed earlier this year. This act will assist lower- and middle-income families to save money so their children may attend university. The creation of research foundations, such as the Canada Foundation for Innovation, has also added to the amount of funding invested in post-secondary education research, although changes must be made to the formulas used in determining how that funding is distributed to universities across Canada.
Nearly two years ago in this place, I spoke to the pressing need for changes in distributing national wealth on a more equitable basis in the funding of post-secondary education and research at our universities. One of the funding agencies I mentioned was the Canada Foundation for Innovation. As honourable senators may know, researchers who are awarded funding support from CFI will receive 40 per cent of a total amount of their research project, but only if the other 60 per cent is in place. That 60 per cent must come from the university or from the private sector. Atlantic Canada's universities do not have significant endowments, and there is a relatively small corporate community. Due to these uncontrollable factors, researchers in Atlantic Canada find themselves in the situation of having much less opportunity to participate in this national wealth. I can report to this chamber that from the creation of CFI in 1997 until April 22, 2005, it has approved 4,072 projects and has distributed $2,399,754,742. I can also report that during that period the universities of Atlantic Canada had 343 projects approved and have received $93,285,033 — a very bleak 3.8 per cent of that total funding. The total is down 0.1 per cent since I first spoke to this matter in June 2003, despite the pleadings of senators on both sides of this house.
Honourable senators, Atlantic Canada has been educating the youth of our country for centuries, and we are very good at it. Atlantic Canada is home to 16 per cent of Canada's universities, wherein 9.5 per cent of Canada's full-time students are enrolled and 12 per cent of Canada's teaching faculty are employed. Atlantic Canada is home to 7.6 per cent of the population and yet it receives a meagre 3.8 per cent of the total CFI funding. By any measure or standard of merit and sense of equity, Atlantic Canada's post-secondary institutions are not receiving their fair share of the national research wealth.
Honourable senators, I again urge that a new, innovative national strategy be implemented that includes an equitable solution to the funding situation, such as the CFI situation that I have just spoken about. Consideration must be given to these glaring regional imbalances.
I recently introduced Bill S-28, to amend the Bankruptcy and Insolvency Act, based on the studies conducted by the Standing Senate Committee on Banking, Trade and Commerce. If passed, this bill will allow bankrupt students to apply for the discharge of their student loans five years after graduation, as opposed to the current 10 years. All stakeholders involved concurred with this action and it is an incremental step in easing the plight of our students.
Senators, Canada's post-secondary education is in need of a federal vision with innovative solutions that will be arrived at only through a collective effort involving both levels of government, the private sector and our post-secondary institutions. A national strategy originating at the federal level is required to arrive at national funding standards in Canada's post-secondary education system. I firmly believe that the past has shown that cooperation is possible between the provincial and federal governments. The time for that cooperation in post-secondary education is now. If we are to remain competitive and produce skilled university graduates to expand our knowledge-based economy, we must act now.
On motion of Senator Tardif, debate adjourned.
On the Order:
Resuming debate on the motion of the Honourable Senator Andreychuk, seconded by the Honourable Senator Johnson:
That the Senate of Canada calls upon the Government of Canada to establish a specific timetable that will enable Canada to meet its longstanding commitment to provide 0.7 per cent of its Gross National Income as official international development assistance; and
That the Senate of Canada calls upon the Government of Canada to provide funds, within the budgetary process, to achieve this objective at latest by the year 2015, beginning, with an immediate 100 per cent increase in official development assistance in the next fiscal year.—(Honourable Senator Corbin)
Hon. Consiglio Di Nino: Honourable senators, I rise to speak in support of the honourable Senator Andreychuk's motion in respect of CIDA's commitment to the world's most needy. In 1969 Canada reinforced its position as a compassionate leader among nations.
Former Prime Minister Lester B. Pearson played a pivotal role in the international community by helping to set the global standard to end the unnecessary suffering of the world's poorest citizens. As a Canadian, he was one of the forefathers of international development aid.
The Pearson commission determined in its report called Partners in Development that developed nations ought to distribute 0.7 per cent of gross national income, or GNI, to international development aid in order to close the gap between rich and poor countries. The report was embraced by the World Bank, the OECD and the UN General Assembly. This target was again confirmed in 2000 by the UN, whose members pledged to enact the Millennium Development Goals in order to reach the 0.7 per cent objective by 2015.
Now, 35 years after a Liberal government first committed to the principles of foreign development aid, the Martin government, following Jean Chrétien's precedent, has disgraced Canada and contributed to the increasingly exponential poverty of many of the world's most vulnerable inhabitants by refusing to implement the standard that Mr. Pearson championed.
This is not just a matter of our country being unable to meet a scheduled time frame. We are regressing. We are going backwards. In fact, in the 1980s we were quickly approaching the 0.7 per cent target under the government of former Prime Minister Mulroney. At that time, Canada routinely dedicated approximately 0.5 per cent of our GNI to development aid. Today, under Paul Martin's leadership, the Canadian government spends a paltry 0.23 per cent. This represents a decrease of almost 50 per cent in these 20 years. Canada has gone from serving as an example of generosity and compassion and leading other nations as one of the highest donors to abysmally failing to meet even its basic international obligations.
Honourable senators, it is frankly inexplicable that during a time when Canada's economy was not growing at the rate it has for the last 10 years, we were nevertheless leading the vanguard of international assistance. Now, during these times of economic stability, with a $9-billion budget surplus, we are shirking our moral responsibility to help those less fortunate. The only explanation is that international development is simply not the priority of this government. I guess it does not get many votes.
This government has passively reiterated its commitment to reaching the 0.7 per cent goal, yet it refuses to implement a timeline to do so. The Prime Minister has stated publicly that we, as a nation, must fulfill our obligation, yet we have no plan to actually do so that would be accomplished in under 30 years; and that is assuming that this government does not continue the Liberal trend of slashing funding.
UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan appeared before the House of Commons this year and implored Canada to return to the time when our nation was a pioneer in bridge building among international constituencies.
Honourable senators, given our shameful inability to meet our most fundamental obligations, I fear we may not deserve even a seat at the table amongst the dozens of other nations that have embraced their commitments head on. We have abdicated our role as pioneers in the international field. I ask the government to rectify the situation immediately before the generations of goodwill that have seen Canada at the forefront of humanitarianism evaporate completely.
I ask this government to reference the will of its own citizenry and to remember its own words. There is no political justification for refusing to develop a timeline to implement the Millennium Development Goal.
CIDA itself boasts that 78 per cent of Canadians support aid programs. As long ago as 1984 — and let me remind honourable senators that at that time Prime Minister Mulroney was authorizing the largest percentage payout of development aid in Canadian history — Paul Martin himself, our Prime Minister, stated:
Spending on foreign aid programs must increase. We're spending the equivalent of 0.46 per cent of our gross national product on foreign assistance; that has to be raised to 0.7 per cent. This is a moral problem: we're not talking about discomfort among Third World citizens, but starvation and death.
What has changed for our Prime Minister?
I will take this opportunity to escort members of this chamber through changes of the last 20 years, the 20 years since the Prime Minister uttered those words.
First, the country has successfully weathered the economic downturn it was suffering under at that time. Canadians earn approximately 20 per cent more than they did then, and Canada has had massive consecutive budget surpluses.
Sweden, Denmark, Norway, the Netherlands and Luxembourg have all reached or surpassed the 0.7 per cent goal. Ireland, Belgium, France, Finland, Spain and the U.K. all have plans in place to reach the goal by 2015. The only thing that has not changed is that Third World citizens are still starving to death.
Under the current policy, it will take Canada 30 years to reach the 0.7 per cent goal. I do not hesitate to remark that I seriously doubt Lester B. Pearson intended it to take 65 years for Canada to reach its goal and to only do so decades after the aforementioned developed nations. There is absolutely no justification for why it ought to take Canada decades longer than other nations to meet its international aid obligations. This is yet another case of an opportunity missed and another promise broken by this government.
This is not a question of simply taking up the rear. Many nations have already achieved the 0.7 per cent target. In 30 years, the world will have lost generations of children to malnutrition, starvation, disease and poverty. This represents more than just lives lost. Nations will have been lost.
These are struggling states that will have lost future leaders, educators and doctors for generations to come. The consequences of Canada not having the political will to contribute as other nations have is not merely the quantifiable loss of life; it is the exponential and unquantifiable impact on the ability of developing nations to institute real change from within and to fundamentally alter the fate of their citizens.
The government has been very clear in its priorities. The numbers speak for themselves. As Minister of Finance, Paul Martin cut the aid budget of the Department of Foreign Affairs by 17.3 per cent between 1994 and 1998. Foreign aid was slashed by one third. In 1993, 9 billion real cumulative dollars were cut from the foreign aid budget. These amounts represent the single largest series of foreign aid cuts in Canadian history. Canada's ranking among the OECD donor nations fell from sixth in 1992 to sixteenth today.
The recently released foreign policy review focuses only on 25 countries as targets for the majority of aid funding. This plan relegates Haiti, Sudan, Iraq and Afghanistan to second-tier nations that must compete for the table scraps of Canadian foreign aid.
Canada's international reputation has been so depleted that former celebrity pals of the Prime Minister, such as U2's Bono, have denounced our inability to make good on our commitments. Bono singled out Canada's poor performance when he stated:
We are looking for Canada to lead rather than be a laggard.
If Canada is to regain its credibility on the global stage, the government must introduce a specific timetable to achieve our 0.7 per cent goal. We must introduce legislation that will empower Parliament to define a legal framework for Canada's official development assistance spending. We must establish a clear mandate for development assistance and mechanisms for policy coherence, monitoring accountability through reporting to Parliament and public transparency.
Honourable senators, the time has come and gone for Canada to keep pace with like-position nations. We are lagging behind and setting a very dangerous example. The effectiveness of international bodies such as the UN lies in communal effort, mutual agreement and the power of numbers. It is a drastic departure from our proud history for Canada to be a delinquent player on the international stage. Above and beyond the sheer embarrassment of this government's record on this issue, we are at risk of losing far more. We chance our reputation as dedicated humanitarians who are willing to pull our weight and more on matters of international importance.
I implore all honourable senators to support Senator Andreychuk's motion. Too many have suffered irreparable harm as a result of Canada reneging on its international commitment. While consecutive Liberal governments have ignored their international obligations and reduced foreign aid, too many children in the Third World are suffering; indeed, they are dying of hunger.
During times of economic prosperity and budgetary surpluses there is simply no need for people to starve to death. It is time that, as a country, we insist that we make good on the promise made 35 years ago by Lester B. Pearson.
On motion of Senator Robichaud, for Senator Corbin, debate adjourned.
On the Order:
Resuming debate on the motion of the Honourable Senator Nolin, seconded by the Honourable Senator LeBreton:
That the Senate of Canada hereby calls upon the government to maintain the Commission of Inquiry into the Sponsorship Program and Advertising Activities for as long as necessary to establish the facts and discern the truth, and the Senate of Canada further urges the government to defend the Commission rigorously and reject attempts to impugn the integrity of the Commissioner, Mr. Justice John Howard Gomery.—(Honourable Senator Losier-Cool)
Hon. Terry Stratton (Deputy Leader of the Opposition): Honourable senators, I would like to take this opportunity to rewind the clock, as this is an ongoing situation. For example, in today's National Post we see, "Gomery 'atom bomb"' saying a rogue group ran Quebec's Liberal fundraising. In La Presse we see, "Joe Morselli, le vrai boss."
I will adjourn the debate in my name, to be continued.
On motion of Senator Stratton, debate adjourned.
Hon. Consiglio Di Nino, pursuant to notice of May 5, 2005, moved:
That the Senate call on the Government of Canada to support the request of the Government of Taiwan to obtain observer status at the World Health Organization.
He said: Honourable senators, I would like to take a couple of minutes of your time to make a plea, as I did last year, on the issue of the Government of Taiwan's admission as an observer to the World Health Organization. I am once again pleased to speak on this motion in support of the request of the Government of Taiwan to obtain observer status at the WHO.
The World Health Organization, an agency of the UN, has had as its goal the improvement of dialogue between countries on issues relating to health. The preamble to the WHO states:
...the enjoyment of the highest attainable standard of health is one of the fundamental rights of every human being without distinction of race, religion, political belief, economic or social conditions.
Granting Taiwan observer status at the WHO would recognize the contribution that Taiwan can make to the health of all humanity. Taiwan has one of the highest standards of health care in the world and has made significant contributions to the global community, including US$50 million to the victims of the recent tsunami disaster.
Conversely, the people of Taiwan should benefit from the improvements and advancements that are available through the WHO. I would like to remind honourable senators that the WHO has granted observer status to non-state entities such as the Order of Malta, the International Committee of the Red Cross, the International Federation of the Red Cross, the Red Crescent Society, and, yes, the PLO.
The argument has been made that if Canada were to support Taiwan's request, it would affect our business with China. That is, at best, caving in to the pettiness of the Chinese government's position on this issue and, at worst, prostituting ourselves at the economic altar at the expense of human lives, something to which the world has too often succumbed. This decision is not about politics; it is about the health of all citizens of the world.
It was very disappointing to all of us, including the vast majority of parliamentarians from both Houses, that the World Health Organization once again did not see fit to grant Taiwan observer status at the WHO last year. We have been hearing scientists express concern about a world pandemic. We should take their warnings seriously. Why, then, are we denying 23 million citizens of Taiwan access to the best available health care information and remedies? It has been suggested that during the SARS outbreak, when Taiwan was refused assistance by the WHO because it was not a member of the organization, lives were likely unnecessarily lost. Disease respects no borders.
Honourable senators, Canada and Taiwan have a long-standing and strong relationship, including a profitable trade and investment partnership, a large and successful Chinese Canadian community, and the economic and social contributions made by approximately 150,000 Taiwanese tourists who visit Canada each year. These activities benefit Canada and Canadians. Canada has a vested interest in supporting Taiwan's bid for observer status and, frankly, it is the right thing to do.
Therefore, honourable senators, I urge you to support this motion, which is an important step towards making access to medical information and assistance truly universal.
On motion of Senator Robichaud, for Senator Downe, debate adjourned.
Hon. Lise Bacon: Honourable senators, I move, with leave of the Senate and notwithstanding rule 58(1)(j):
That the document entitled "Report of the Judicial Compensation and Benefits Commission for the fiscal year ended March 31, 2004" tabled in the Senate on October 19, 2004, be referred to the Standing Senate Committee on Legal and Constitutional Affairs pursuant to the Judges Act, subsection 26(6.1).
The Hon. the Speaker: Is it your pleasure, honourable senators, to adopt the motion?
Hon. Senators: Agreed.
Motion agreed to.
Hon. Tommy Banks: Honourable senators, I am sorry to rise, but I refer you to Motion No. 96, which got past us. I do not know the wish of either Senator Corbin or the deputy chair of his committee, but do we wish to revert to Motions in order to consider the allowance of the committee to meet Monday morning, which I presume was intended by members of the committee? I am not a member of the committee, and I have no knowledge of this, but this motion intends that the committee would be allowed to meet on Monday morning prior to the Monday evening sitting of the Senate. I am asking members and the leaderships whether we want to revert to this motion and pass it. I have no knowledge of it.
Hon. Claudette Tardif: Honourable senators, I am part of the committee. The committee members have postponed this meeting until May 30.
Hon. Fernand Robichaud (Acting Deputy Leader of the Government): Honourable senators, as there is no business before the Senate and a procedure to signify Royal Assent by written declaration is under way, I move that the Senate adjourn during pleasure.
The Hon. the Speaker pro tempore: Is it your pleasure, honourable senators, to now adjourn?
Senator Robichaud: I move that the Senate do now adjourn during pleasure, to reassemble at the call of the chair, with the bells to call in the senators to ring for five minutes.
The Hon. the Speaker pro tempore: Is it your pleasure, honourable senators, to adopt the motion?
Senator Di Nino: Will it be nine o'clock tonight?
Senator Robichaud: No. If I may, the process was to take place at four o'clock, so we have to give them time to drive back.
Senator Di Nino: Half an hour?
Senator Robichaud: I would hope so.
The Senate adjourned during pleasure.
The sitting of the Senate was resumed.
The Hon. the Speaker pro tempore informed the Senate that the following communication had been received:
May 12, 2005
I have the honour to inform you that the Right Honourable Adrienne Clarkson, Governor General of Canada, signified royal assent by written declaration to the bills listed in the Schedule to this letter on the 12th day of May, 2005, at 4:10 p.m.
Secretary to the Governor General
The Honourable The Speaker of the Senate Ottawa
Bills assented to Thursday, May 12, 2005:
A second Act to implement certain provisions of the budget tabled in Parliament on March 23, 2004 (Bill C-33)
An Act to prevent the introduction and spread of communicable diseases (Bill C-12)
An Act to provide services, assistance and compensation to or in respect of Canadian Forces members and veterans and to make amendments to certain Acts (Bill C-45)
Leave having been given to revert to Government Notices of Motions:
Hon. Fernand Robichaud (Acting Deputy Leader of the Government): Honourable senators, with leave of the Senate and notwithstanding rule 58(1)(h), I move:
That when the Senate adjourns today, it do stand adjourned until Monday, May 16, 2005, at 6 p.m. and that the provisions of rule 13(1) be suspended in this relation thereto.
The Hon. the Speaker pro tempore: Honourable senators, is leave granted?
Hon. Senators: Agreed.
Motion agreed to.
The Senate adjourned until Monday, May 16, 2005, at 6 p.m.