Debates of the Senate (Hansard)
Debates of the Senate (Hansard)
1st Session, 38th Parliament,
Volume 142, Issue 76
Thursday, June 23, 2005
The Honourable Daniel Hays, Speaker
- SENATORS' STATEMENTS
- ROUTINE PROCEEDINGS
- QUESTION PERIOD
- Fisheries and Oceans
- Public Safety and Emergency Preparedness
- Agriculture and Agri-food
- Delayed Answers to Oral Questions
- Fisheries and Oceans
- ORDERS OF THE DAY
- Marriage (Prohibited Degrees) Act
- Excise Tax Act
- Study on Operation of Official Languages Act and Relevant Regulations, Directives and Reports
- Commission of Inquiry on the Sponsorship Program
- Business of the Senate
- Royal Assent
- Marriage (Prohibited Degrees) Act
Thursday, June 23, 2005
The Senate met at 1:30 p.m., the Speaker in the chair.
The Hon. the Speaker: Honourable senators, before we proceed with our business this afternoon, I would ask you to rise with me and observe one minute of silence on this, the twentieth anniversary of the Air India tragedy.
Honourable senators then stood in silent tribute.
Hon. Jack Austin (Leader of the Government): Honourable senators, today marks 20 years since the bombing of Air India flight 182, a tragedy that remains the worst terrorist incident in the history of our country. This attack resulted in over 300 lives lost, a large number of them Canadians, primarily from Toronto and Vancouver.
The Prime Minister heads a delegation to Ireland, which includes Premier Gordon Campbell of British Columbia and the leaders of the opposition parties in the House of Commons, to participate in the Air India memorial ceremony to honour the victims, as well as the families who live with the aftermath of this tragedy. The ceremony took place this morning at the Ahakista Monument, a memorial garden with a sundial donated by the people of Canada, India and Ireland.
Here in Canada, there are memorial plaques in Toronto and Ottawa to remember this historic loss, and the national flag of Canada will be flown at half mast on the Peace Tower and on federal government buildings across Canada.
There is nation-wide regret that the persons responsible for this enormous tragedy have not been identified and convicted in a court of law. After a trial lasting almost two years, which resulted in no convictions, the Government of Canada appointed the Honourable Bob Rae as Independent Advisor on the Air India tragedy to report on whether an inquiry should be held. For the benefit of the families involved and because it is in the greater public interest, every effort must be made to find resolution to any questions which remain.
Prior to 9/11, there was a tendency in North America to trust that our part of the world was insulated from violent civil unrest. The Air India bombing is a reminder to us all that Canada is not isolated from the global community. Although we consider ourselves a peaceable kingdom in terms of our own political system and national disputes, there exist rivalries and antagonisms in worlds outside our borders which have a great impact on nations such as ours, previously regarded as disinterested parties.
It is incumbent upon all levels of government and communities across this country to ensure that all our residents are genuine participants and supporters of our great Canadian polity. To this end, there has been increasing focus on the Canadian political system as illustrated by the Special Senate Committee on the Anti-terrorism Act, chaired by Senator Fairbairn, which has been holding hearings every week since December 2004.
Violence has never been the answer for Canadians, but it remains a solution for some and, therefore, a constant threat to the world community. In recognition of this regrettable global reality, and in honour of the loss of life in the Air India tragedy, the Prime Minister has recommended to the Governor General that a proclamation be issued designating June 23 as a national day of remembrance for victims of terrorism.
Hon. Noël A. Kinsella (Leader of the Opposition): Honourable senators, I rise to join with the Leader of the Government in the Senate in the observance of this sad anniversary. Twenty years have now passed since Air India flight 182 was lost over the Atlantic Ocean, just off the coast of Ireland.
When that aircraft exploded on June 23, 1985, it ended the lives of 329 men, women and children. In that moment, the lives of their family members and friends were changed forever.
Today, in the Irish city of Cork, many of them will join the Prime Minister and the Leader of the Opposition in an act of remembrance and reflection. Others will observe this day in cities across India and also across Canada, especially in Vancouver, British Columbia, where the flight originated.
The Air India bombing, honourable senators, was the worst terrorist attack ever directed at Canadians, as over 200 people on board that flight were our fellow citizens. Prior to the September 11 attacks on the United States, it was the world's worst case of aviation terrorism. It was, and remains for us as Canadians, a national tragedy, made all the more painful by an almost complete absence of accountability.
An old adage says that time heals all wounds. One wonders if the families of the Air India bombing have ever experienced healing as they continue to wait for justice to be served. We can be reminded of the words of a mother who lost her two young sons, aged 11 and 14, in the bombing when she recently said that, if no one is accountable, then she feels that she is accountable because she put them on the plane.
Honourable senators, I share the hope of many other Canadians that the victims' families will soon be granted a public inquiry into the investigation so that they might find the answers that have long eluded them. With those answers may come some semblance of peace.
So it is, honourable senators, that today we remember 329 people whose lives were cut short by a brutal act of terror. On behalf of my colleagues, I extend my condolences to the family members and loved ones, along with the hope that such a tragedy never again strikes our country and her citizens.
Hon. Terry M. Mercer: Honourable senators, I rise today on behalf of Senator Jaffer and all members of the South Asian community, to remember the men, women and children who lost their lives in the senseless terrorist attack that occurred 20 years ago. The South Asian community suffered a great tragedy. Thus far, it has mostly suffered on its own.
As our nation mourns these people, I should like to share with you the pain of these families. Twenty years ago they were so shocked by the loss of their loved ones that the families did not know how to carry on living, much less how to react. Soon enough, these families began looking for answers, and they found few. They found that no one was informing them of the details of the investigation, let alone seeking their input.
Although this atrocious act culminated in a deadly explosion 31,000 feet above the coast of Ireland, its effects have been felt here in Canada. It was here in Canada that those responsible for this premeditated slaughter plotted their attack. It was here in Canada that the bombs were planted. It was here in Canada that thousands of friends and family were left with nothing but their shock, grief and loss. Nothing can ever bring back the last 20 years. The parents of those children lost on that aircraft will never see their children grow and prosper, and nothing can bring back the years lost with a husband or a wife, or restore to young men and women the decades of love from a parent who cannot be here.
We have seen those who have lost their loved ones wait for answers. What these people have been waiting for is justice — something they may never see. They have been waiting for our great nation to take action so they can begin to heal.
Honourable senators, all Canadians are equal. The South Asian community has suffered a great tragedy. Their community is our community. Today, I urge all honourable senators to stand up for these families and ask that a further investigation take place so that the families can get answers and all Canadians can learn what happened. Most importantly, we must learn how to prevent such a tragedy from happening again in the future.
On this day we reach out to the families. We say a prayer for their loved ones, and we tell them that together we will insist on justice being served.
Hon. Senators: Hear, hear!
The Hon. the Speaker: I would draw the attention of honourable senators to the presence in the gallery of Dr. Pius Okong, President of the Association of Obstetrics and Gynaecologists of Uganda and Head of the Obstetrics-Gynaecology Department at St. Francis Nsambya Hospital in Kampala. He is accompanied by his wife, Mrs. Kanyiginya Euzbia Okong. He is a consultant to the Government of Uganda and a recognized expert on mother-to-child HIV/AIDS transmission, safe motherhood practices and newborn health. They are the guests of Senator Pépin.
On behalf of all honourable senators, welcome to the Senate of Canada.
Hon. Ethel Cochrane: Honourable senators, I rise today to offer heartfelt congratulations to my good friend and colleague Senator Finnerty, who will be retiring from this chamber on July 15. For those of us who know Isobel well, it is quite a task to list her accomplishments and achievements. Her public life has been marked by an intense commitment to serve her community and to promote the involvement of others. She has devoted herself to training and encouraging young people to become active in their communities and, of course, in the political process.
This work has taken her to every province in Canada, and it has even earned her national and international recognition. In fact, in 1994, Isobel was invited to Benin, Africa to work as an international trainer for the National Democratic Institute for International Affairs.
Here at home, Senator Finnerty has given countless hours of her time in an effort to influence the political landscape at the federal and provincial levels. Of course, we all know that Isobel's roots in the Liberal Party of Canada run deep. She has been a key organizer and a contributor for decades, and she has served her party well.
It is only since she was appointed to the Senate in 1999 that I have had the good fortune of knowing Isobel. We have served together as members of the Standing Senate Committee on Energy, the Environment and Natural Resources and have many fond memories of our work and our travels together, especially one particular trip to the GLOBE Conference in Vancouver, which stands out in my mind, and I am sure it does in hers.
Honourable senators, I can tell you that I have had many experiences with our honourable colleague. She has been a true friend to me, and I thank her dearly for that gift of friendship. Quite frankly, she is among the most considerate and dedicated people with whom I have ever had the privilege to work. Over the years, I have been awestruck by her many quiet acts of kindness and support to people both known and unknown to her. It continues to astound me how, at an age when jokes about memory loss are commonplace, Isobel can still remember the name of every person she meets. As we know, that number is great.
While sitting on the opposite side, I have witnessed her tireless work ethic, astute observations and tremendous sense of duty to the people she represents. Above all, I have observed with wonder the amazing rapport she has with people.
Isobel, I am one of the many people here today who will miss your loyal advice, your quiet but marvellous humour and your easy-going manner. You may be leaving this chamber too soon, but I know that friendships that you forged here will continue on for many years to come.
My friend, I wish you and Les many happy years in a well-deserved retirement.
Hon. Marilyn Trenholme Counsell: Honourable senators, it is the following headline in The Globe and Mail on June 22 that moves me to speak: "Private-health activist a 'super star"' The article reads:
Obviously enjoying his new international fame, Dr. Chaoulli issued an invitation to U.S. companies eager for a piece of an emerging two-tier health-care system in Canada.
Honourable senators, I ask you to join me in speaking positively and constructively about Canada's health care system, especially in the knowledge that Canada's first ministers have pledged their participation in specific initiatives to overcome the shortcomings in our health care system, including wait times.
The voices of Canada's senators are critically important in this debate. After all, a number of senators were quoted extensively in the Supreme Court decision Chaoulli v. Quebec (Attorney General) on June 9, 2005. It may well be that the influential voices of Canadian senators, represented by a renowned jurist, caught the attention of the Supreme Court justices more than any other individual or group heard in this landmark case.
Honourable senators, this is the beginning of a historical debate, one that will determine the future of health care in Canada. Canadians are perplexed. In an Ipsos-Reid poll last week, 70 per cent accept some combination of a public and private health care system. Yet, 57 per cent favour the use of the notwithstanding clause in the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms to block a two-tier system of health care in Canada.
As the voices of Canadians in the Parliament of Canada, all members of the House of Commons and the Senate have an opportunity to speak to this issue and to make a difference. I will stand firmly in favour of the five principles of the Canada Health Act. For me, medicare is a sacred trust. I will also support my fellow health care workers in their calls for a strengthening of all health care professions — more professionals, more sharing and more money. We must be creative and vigilant in making medicare work. I call upon my fellow citizens to value our health care system and to value their own health and that of their families.
Medicare was never meant to be an all-you-can eat buffet. Every health care professional and every Canadian must take responsibility and be prudent in his or her usage of our health care system, to the greater good of all Canadians. The first step for a healthy nation is to raise healthy children and, as adults, to make wellness a way of life.
Voices for health, voices for the Canada Health Act, voices for equality for every child and every man and woman in this great country — we can make a difference, and we must.
Hon. Senators: Hear, hear!
Hon. Fernand Robichaud (Acting Deputy Leader of the Government): Honourable senators, I have the honour to table, in both official languages, a copy of a document entitled First Annual Report on Democratic Reform.
Hon. Jerahmiel S. Grafstein, Chair of the Standing Senate Committee on Banking, Trade and Commerce, presented the following report:
Thursday, June 23, 2005
The Standing Senate Committee on Banking, Trade and Commerce has the honour to present its
Your Committee, to which was referred Bill S-19, An Act to amend the Criminal Code (criminal interest rate), has, in obedience to the Order of Reference of Tuesday, December 7, 2004, examined the said Bill and now reports the same with the following amendment:
Page 1, clause 1:
(a) Replace line 4 with the following:
"1. (1) The definitions "criminal rate" and"; and
(b) Add after line 32 the following:
"(2) Section 347 of the Act is amended by adding the following after subsection (8):
(9) This section does not apply to any agreement or arrangement under which the credit advanced exceeds one hundred thousand dollars.".
JERAHMIEL S. GRAFSTEIN
The Hon. the Speaker: Honourable senators, when shall this report be taken into consideration?
On motion of Senator Grafstein, report placed on the Orders of the Day for consideration at the next sitting of the Senate.
Hon. Joyce Fairbairn, Chair of the Standing Senate Committee on Agriculture and Forestry, presented the following report:
Thursday, June 23, 2005
The Standing Senate Committee on Agriculture and Forestry has the honour to present its
Your Committee, to which was referred Bill S-38, An Act respecting the implementation of international trade commitments by Canada regarding spirit drinks of foreign countries, has, in obedience to the Order of Reference of Wednesday, June 15, 2005, examined the said Bill and now reports the same with the following amendments:
1. Page 2, clause 3, replace lines 3 to 9 with the following:
"3. (1) No person shall use the name of a spirit drink referred to in sections 1 to 5 of the schedule to sell a product as a spirit drink except in accordance with those sections.
(2) Subsection (1) does not prevent the use of the name of a spirit drink to sell the spirit drink if it has been blended or modified in accordance with the laws of Canada.
(3) Subsection (1) does not prevent the use of any registered trademark that was applied for before January 1, 1996.".
2. Page 2, add after line 9, the following:
"3.1 (1) No person shall use the name of a spirit drink referred to in sections 6 to 14 of the schedule to sell a product as that spirit drink except in accordance with those sections.
(2) Subsection (1) does not prevent the use of the name of a spirit drink to sell the spirit drink if it has been blended or modified in accordance with the laws of Canada.".
3. Page 6, replace sections 1 to 7 of the schedule, with the following:
"1. (1) A spirit drink may be sold using the name Grappa if it has been produced exclusively in Italy.
(2) A spirit drink may be sold using the name Grappa di Ticino if it has been produced in the Ticino region of Switzerland.
2. A spirit drink may be sold using the name Jägertee, Jagertee or Jagatee if it has been produced exclusively in Austria.
3. A spirit drink may be sold using the name Korn or Kornbrand if it has been produced exclusively in Germany or Austria.
4. A spirit drink may be sold using the name Ouzo or Ouzo if it has been produced exclusively in Greece.
5. A spirit drink may be sold using the name Pacharán if it has been produced exclusively in Spain.
6. Scotch whisky may be sold under that name if it has been distilled in Scotland as Scotch whisky for domestic consumption in accordance with the laws of the United Kingdom.
7. Irish whisky may be sold under that name if it has been distilled in Northern Ireland or in the Republic of Ireland as Irish whisky for domestic consumption in accordance with the laws of Northern Ireland or the Republic of Ireland.".
The Hon. the Speaker: Honourable senators, when shall this report be taken into consideration?
On motion of Senator Mitchell, report placed on the Orders of the Day for consideration at the next sitting of the Senate
Hon. Noël A. Kinsella (Leader of the Opposition): Honourable senators, my question is directed to the Leader of the Government in the Senate. Last night at the Standing Senate Committee on National Finance meeting, the Minister of Finance testified to the effect that cheques for the payment of over $800 million to the Province of Nova Scotia and the prepayment of some $2 billion to the Province of Newfoundland and Labrador, which would be provided for by Bill C-43, would be cut within 48 hours of the coming into force of the bill. We were pleased to hear that the government would be moving quickly in that regard.
Having taken the decision not to accept the opposition's offer that would have expedited our treatment of Bill C-43 such that it could have received Royal Assent this afternoon at four o'clock at the same time as some other bills, is the Government of Canada prepared to compensate the Province of Newfoundland and Labrador and the Province of Nova Scotia? In Newfoundland's case, the lost interest, even at 2 per cent, would be some $170,000 a day. Will the Province of Newfoundland and Labrador and the Province of Nova Scotia be compensated for that loss of interest?
Hon. Jack Austin (Leader of the Government): Honourable senators, the question of Senator Kinsella is somewhat difficult to grasp. In the first instance, of course, the passage of legislation depends on so many decisions by the legislative participants. We have noted the very irregular pace of Bill C-43 in the other place, some of that delay being caused by the party represented in this chamber by Senator Kinsella.
Apart from that, it is understood in the arrangement with the Province of Nova Scotia and the Province of Newfoundland and Labrador that the liability to pay arrives with the coming into force of Bill C-43 upon Royal Assent.
The governments of those provinces also understand the importance to themselves, as well as to other Canadians, of Bill C-48. It has not been brought to my attention that we have received notice of any change from those two provinces in the understanding with regard to Bill C-43 and Bill C-48.
Senator Kinsella: Honourable senators, the only knowledge that this chamber has is of legislation that is before this chamber. What is before this chamber is Bill C-43, which was examined very carefully by all honourable members of this house. Part 12 of that bill contains the Atlantic accord. Section 5 in Part 12 provides for the payment of some $830 million to the Province of Nova Scotia upon the coming into force of that bill. We consented to the bill being given clause-by-clause treatment last night so that it could be reported today, and we could have consented to doing third reading such that this afternoon, when Royal Assent is already taking place, Bill C-43 could have been given Royal Assent at the same time. Based upon the testimony of the Minister of Finance, that meant that the cheque would have been cut within 48 hours. The government, in playing whatever game it is playing by trying to have linkage between Bill C-43 and Bill C-48, will have to answer for it. I cannot answer for that.
Honourable senators, what I can answer for is the fact that, in good faith, this side of the house has conducted itself in the best interests of both Newfoundland and Labrador and Nova Scotia — and I can quantify that based upon the minister's own words a few seconds ago: Once this Bill C-43 receives Royal Assent, things flow from it. What flows from it, as the Minister of Finance told us last night, will be a cheque for $2 billion for the Province of Newfoundland and Labrador. The fact that this money is not flowing as of today but, rather, some time next week, or who knows when, means that the people of Newfoundland and Labrador will be losing $170,000, minimum, per day.
My question to the government is quite simply this: Will the government take that into consideration and compensate the people of Newfoundland and Labrador, as well as the people of Nova Scotia, for that lost interest?
Senator Austin: Honourable senators, Senator Kinsella seems to have completely lost his memory of the last several weeks. He does not seem to remember May 19 and a vote in the other chamber, when his party tried to defeat the government.
Senator Kinsella: I sit in this house.
Senator Austin: That would have destroyed the Atlantic accord and any chance of those provinces receiving any money whatsoever.
Senator Kinsella: I sit in the Senate.
Senator Austin: Think of the interest that would have been lost then.
It is well understood, honourable senators, that this chamber has a way of dealing with legislation. We are a chamber of review. We are a chamber of deliberate consideration, and it is proper and appropriate that Bill C-43 goes to committee and that the Minister of Finance gives evidence before that committee.
Senator Kinsella: Shame, shame.
Senator Austin: It interests me greatly, honourable senators, to be told that there were nine requests for additional information.
Senator Mercer: Nine?
Senator Austin: Nine requests for additional information from the Minister of Finance: There was a request by Senator Mitchell for the provincial breakdown of infrastructure funding in Bills C-43 and C-48; there was a further request from Senator Mitchell for the provincial breakdown of the $100 billion tax reduction plan; there was a request from Senator Downe regarding the air travel security charge; there was a request from Senator Stratton regarding spending decisions since the 2005 Budget.
Senator LeBreton: That was your own bill.
Senator Austin: There was another request from Senator Stratton regarding the income supplement. He wanted the details of benefits and clawbacks. Senator Downe, again, asked about the Guaranteed Income Supplement, namely, what is being done to ensure that eligible recipients are aware of the benefits. Senator Stratton then asked questions, and they were important questions, about early learning and child care and what is being done for rural communities. Senator Tkachuk, also on the same subject, wanted to know what agreements had been signed to date.
Senator Tkachuk: I asked that of another witness.
Senator Austin: Senator Tardif, also on that subject, asked what provisions there were for official languages.
Senator Tkachuk: Please, please.
Senator Austin: Honourable senators, the Minister of Finance is allowed a day or so to provide the answers to those very important questions. It is the business of this chamber to hold the executive to account — how many times have we heard that from the other side — and to obtain answers from the government before legislation is passed by this chamber.
Senator Cochrane: The answers are not relevant.
Senator Austin: Honourable senators, we are proceeding as we should, and no compensation claim can be levied on the Government of Canada because the Senate is doing its work as it should do it.
Hon. Senators: Hear, hear!
Hon. Terry Stratton (Deputy Leader of the Opposition): Honourable senators, my question is addressed to the Leader of the Government in the Senate. It is funny that when we decide to do something, as we did yesterday with Bill C-56, the Inuit bill, it just sails right through because this was an important bill for the Inuit people. Yet, we take Bill C-43 and relegate it to the back lane because it is not appropriate. How do you think that makes Newfoundlanders and Nova Scotians feel? I would think it makes them feel pretty second-rate. If you can whip through Bill C-56, you can do the same for Bill C-43, and the leader knows it.
The questions we asked were legitimate questions. As a matter of fact, the question I asked the Minister of Finance could not be answered, because he did not have one. I asked how child care will be provided for rural Canadians. He admitted that they did not have an answer, and could not provide an answer.
Some Hon. Senators: Hear, hear!
Senator Stratton: Do not mislead this chamber by making that kind of a statement.
The next item — and I want the leader's rebuttal on this — is Bill C-22 and Bill C-23, which was to be before the Social Affairs Committee meeting scheduled for today. The meeting was cancelled on those two bills simply because there was a vote in the other place and the minister could not make it.
However, the agenda in each case, for Bill C-22 and Bill C-23, is that we hear from the minister and then we do clause-by-clause consideration of the bill. We then hear from the minister on Bill C-23, and then we do clause-by-clause on the bill. Wow! Is the leader saying that he was prepared to put those two bills through the process of hearing from the minister, clause-by-clause consideration and then presenting it this afternoon? Is he telling us that that is not hypocrisy? What is it, then?
Senator Kinsella: That is a different principle.
Senator Tkachuk: That is the third principle.
Senator Austin: Honourable senators, let us strip away all the verbiage and all the political claptrap here and take a look at the political reality of Canada today.
We have a minority government in the other place. We have very important legislation which, if defeated, will cause an election. The people of Canada do not want an election.
Senator Kinsella: How do you know that?
Senator Austin: If you do not know that the people of Canada do not want an election at this time then your party is about to make a huge political mistake.
Senator Stratton: In other words, you are telling Canadians what they need and do not need.
Senator Austin: Honourable senators, I read in the newspapers that Senator Kinsella opined that the reason Bill C-43 did not proceed in accordance with his generous offer of yesterday was that the government wanted the two bills to be associated together.
Senator LeBreton: You said it yourself two minutes ago.
Senator Austin: I want to make it clear that Senator Kinsella did not come to an inappropriate conclusion.
Senator LeBreton: That is nice to know.
Senator Kinsella: It is cynical.
Senator Austin: If the opposition party feels that it is in their interests to have an election, then it will seek to defeat the government on Bill C-48.
Senator Kinsella: That is right, and I encourage them to do so.
Senator Austin: If you want to be destructive of the public interest at a time when the public does not want an election, and asks your party not to precipitate an election; if you want to play into the hands of the Bloc and separatism in Quebec, then your course is set.
Senator Cochrane: That has nothing to do with the question.
Senator Austin: I said let us get rid of the claptrap. What this is all about is serving Canadian interests, serving the interests of the homeless, serving the interests of the Aboriginal community, serving the interests of the international community. That is what Bill C-48 is about, and this government wants that legislation. To be clear: This government wants Bill C-48.
Honourable senators, if this opposition party cannot understand the importance of Bill C-48, then we will have to do the things that make them understand it.
Some Hon. Senators: Hear, hear!
Senator Stratton: If I may address a remark to the Leader of the Government in the Senate in response to what he has just said: That is so paternalistic, it is unbelievable. Who does he think he is?
I would ask him to answer my questions. Why is the government making Newfoundlanders and Nova Scotians feel like second-class citizens by passing the Labrador Inuit bill just like that and not doing the same for Bill C-43?
Senator Austin: Senator Stratton is not speaking for the Premier of Newfoundland and Labrador. The Premier of Newfoundland and Labrador understands exactly the value of passing Bill C-48. When Senator Stratton can get up and quote the Premier of Labrador to a different effect than the position he is taking now, maybe that would register. However, until he does that, it is of no consequence.
Hon. Ethel Cochrane: Honourable senators, following the comments of my friend, I have a supplementary question for the Leader of the Government.
We gave Bill C-56 clause-by-clause consideration and then Royal Assent. The two bills today before the Social Affairs Committee — Bill C-22 and Bill C-23 — were to have received clause-by-clause consideration and then Royal Assent. Why could we not have followed the same procedure for Bill C-43? I would like an explanation, please.
Senator Austin: I am delighted to give an explanation, honourable senators. It is because Senator Cochrane and other Newfoundland senators wanted special treatment for Bill C-56 because the people affected, William Andersen and his people, were here. They were asking the Senate to proceed in a different way for them. There was no political division. There was no difference of vision. To accommodate Senator Cochrane and others from Newfoundland, we made an exception to our practice.
Some Hon. Senators: Hear, hear!
Senator Cochrane: That is exactly the point, honourable senators. I have asked the leader time and time again to have the Atlantic accord separated from Bill C-43. He has refused to do this. We want special treatment for this bill as well as Bill C-56. Why could we not have gotten it?
Senator Austin: Honourable senators, the Premier of Newfoundland and Labrador never asked for what Senator Cochrane is asking for. He was not so small-minded to think only of Newfoundland and Labrador. He knows what is in the budget for Canada in Bill C-43 and he knows what is in the budget for Canada in Bill C-48. Therefore, the position of separating the Atlantic accord out of the bill is simply a Conservative strategy to get rid of a problem politically, if that part of the bill were defeated, and then leave the rest of the country stranded.
Senator Cochrane: I must come back to that, honourable senators. I have to tell Senator Austin that I am not small-minded. I think of most of my people and the whole population in Newfoundland and Labrador. I do. I tell you that this is an important issue for my province and my people. The people of Newfoundland deserve more money. If it is there, why can we not get it? Why could we not have gotten it from this oil reserve?
Senator Austin: Honourable senators, the people of Newfoundland deserve the money that will be available to them in Bill C-48 as well. We are trying to give that money to Newfoundland as well.
Senator Cochrane: Why delay?
Senator Austin: Honourable senators, it has nothing to do with Newfoundland being deprived. Newfoundland will experience a great leap forward. It understands what the Government of Canada has put in Bill C-43 and Bill C-48. All you have to do on your side is pass Bill C-48 in the other chamber and Newfoundland will have its money.
Senator Cochrane: Honourable senators, I think I need an apology. I would like to raise a point of order. The senator did say that I am small-minded. I am not.
Senator Kinsella: He did not mean that.
Senator Austin: Honourable senators, I did not say that Senator Cochrane was small-minded. I said the people of Newfoundland are not small-minded. Take a look at the transcript.
Hon. David Tkachuk: Honourable senators, I would like to clarify something the leader said previous to his response to Senator Cochrane's question. I want to know whether the Premier of Newfoundland and Labrador, Mr. Williams, has agreed with the strategy of tying Bill C-43 and Bill C-48 together.
Senator Austin: Honourable senators, it is my understanding that the Premier of Newfoundland and Labrador is aware of the circumstance and is not making any representations that the government should change its course.
Senator Tkachuk: Has this circumstance been a discussion between the leadership of the Government of Canada and the leadership of the Government of Newfoundland and Labrador to tie Bill C-43 and Bill C-48 together, so that Mr. Williams knows exactly what is going on in the strategy of the Liberal Party?
Senator Austin: Honourable senators, the Premier of Newfoundland and Labrador is not a party to any agreement with respect to the way in which legislation is dealt with in this chamber. The Premier of Newfoundland and Labrador, as I have said repeatedly, is aware of the circumstance and is not making any separate representations.
Senator Tkachuk: Is the Leader of the Government saying that Mr. Williams, the Premier of Newfoundland and Labrador, supports Bill C-48 and therefore will agree to this particular version of these events where Bill C-48 has to pass before Bill C-43 is considered?
Senator Austin: I am saying, and I will repeat for the third time, that Premier Williams is aware of the current situation.
Senator Tkachuk: Honourable senators, that is not what the Leader of the Government said earlier. I will be looking forward to seeing the transcripts. I will give him another opportunity to clarify, but I do not think that is what he said before I started asking these questions.
Hon. Gerald J. Comeau: Honourable senators, my question is to the minister as well. The minister is no doubt aware, judging by his discussions with the Premier of Newfoundland and Labrador, that there is a Fisheries Products International bill currently being debated in the Newfoundland and Labrador legislature. I would like to refer to the June 9, 2004, debate whereby the Attorney General and the premier referred to FPI enterprise allocation quotas as property. In the legislation itself, in the case of a default, FPI would transfer the quotas to the Newfoundland and Labrador government, and the government could then lease back the quotas to FPI for a period of 10 years.
Given that the transfer of quotas to the provincial government requires federal undertakings, would the Leader of the Government in the Senate advise this house whether the federal Minister of Fisheries and the cabinet have agreed with these provisions of the FPI bill being debated in the Newfoundland and Labrador legislature at this time?
Hon. Jack Austin (Leader of the Government): Honourable senators, as this is the type of question for which notice should be given, and I have not received notice, I have no knowledge of the circumstances personally. I will have to take the question as notice.
Senator Comeau: Honourable senators, in this case, the honourable leader's response probably answers my question.
Under section 7(2) of the Fisheries Act, any lease agreements for fishing quotas or quota rights for a period beyond nine years must have cabinet approval. Given that the FPI bill in the Newfoundland legislature refers to a 10-year lease, one can assume that this matter has never been discussed at cabinet. It would appear as if the provisions of the FPI bill currently being debated in the Newfoundland and Labrador legislature have not been given cabinet approval. Would that be correct, given that the maximum provision for leases is nine years?
Senator Austin: Honourable senators, I have no knowledge whatsoever of the circumstances of which Senator Comeau is speaking. I would not encourage honourable senators to hypothesize as to what is taking place in cabinet.
Senator Comeau: Given the importance of the FPI bill in Newfoundland and Labrador and the impact it will have on that province, I would ask the minister to obtain, on an emergency basis, a response for me on this matter. It would be extremely important that no undertakings be given that are not applicable, if the minister has not given approval.
My final supplementary is with regard to the specific comment I made. In the legislature, the quotas were referred to as "property." Would the Leader of the Government in the Senate agree that the leases can be viewed by the Newfoundland government as property and, if not, would the minister get back to us and tell us what they are?
Senator Austin: Honourable senators, all I can do is refer the subject matter of the honourable senator's question to the Minister of Fisheries and Oceans and ask for as quick a reply as he is able to give.
Hon. Consiglio Di Nino: Honourable senators, over the weekend, a heavy rainfall, described as the kind that occurs only once in 200 years, fell on Southern Alberta causing widespread flooding.
Can the Leader of the Government in the Senate provide the Senate with information on the federal government's response to this tragedy?
Hon. Jack Austin (Leader of the Government): Honourable senators, my attention was distracted by a note informing me that, in one of the rare events that takes place in politics, the advice I gave this chamber with respect to Bill C-43 was the lead question in the House of Commons. That puts us on their agenda.
I would ask the honourable senator to repeat his question.
Senator Di Nino: It would be my pleasure.
I was describing the tragedy that has now befallen Southern Alberta with widespread flooding of the kind that happens only once every couple of hundred years.
Can the minister provide the Senate with some information on the federal government's response to this tragedy?
Senator Austin: Honourable senators, I would be happy to do so. I am not aware that the Province of Alberta has made any particular request to the federal government under emergency legislation, but I will ask the Deputy Prime Minister for a statement that I will table in the chamber.
Senator Di Nino: Honourable senators, in the past, the federal government has always responded to national disasters such as the floods that are now striking Southern Alberta, including the city of Calgary. The recent NDP budget and last month's rush of spending announcements have left the government with virtually no room to manoeuvre.
Could the Leader of the Government in the Senate please confirm that there are sufficient funds left in the government's budget to provide Albertans with full and appropriate assistance?
Senator Austin: Honourable senators, I am happy to say that, should an application be made that comes within the provisions of federal legislation for the provision of assistance or compensation, there certainly will be adequate funds available from the Government of Canada to deal with the situation.
Senator Di Nino: As a further supplementary, would the government leader assure the Senate that disaster relief will take precedence over the spending outlined in Bill C-48?
Senator Austin: Honourable senators, the question is not relevant to the previous questions asked by Senator Di Nino because I have assured him that the Government of Canada has adequate fiscal capacity to deal with the flood issues in Alberta, if they qualify for federal assistance.
Hon. Madeleine Plamondon: Honourable senators, today's papers are reporting that genetically modified corn, approved in Canada two years ago, could be harmful to human health. A study kept secret by Monsanto, owner of the seed, has just been made public by the German courts.
Can the Leader of the Government tell us whether GMO MON 863 is used here in Canada?
Hon. Jack Austin (Leader of the Government): Honourable senators, I have not heard such a report, but I will make inquiries of the Department of Agriculture.
Senator Plamondon: Could the leader tell us why, in Canada, we do not have access to Monsanto's secret study, a study that was handed over to the German courts? Europe has a policy on transparency and the right of the public to be informed.
I would like to know if we have such a transparency policy in Canada; if Canada's registration requirement is different from Europe's; and, if Health Canada has a precautionary principle, as is the case in environmental laws? According to this precautionary principle, should the government not be withdrawing the GMO in question, since it is a hazard to human and animal health?
Senator Austin: Honourable senators, I will make inquiries and seek to provide Senator Plamondon with an answer as soon as I receive the information.
Hon. Fernand Robichaud (Acting Deputy Leader of the Government): Honourable senators, I have the honour of presenting two delayed answers. The first is in response to an oral question raised by the Honourable Senator Comeau on June 16, 2005, concerning the disappearance of salmon species in the upper Bay of Fundy; the second is in response to an oral question raised by the Honourable Senator Stratton on June 9, 2005, concerning the chronic disease prevention initiative in Manitoba.
(Response to question raised by Hon. Gerald J. Comeau on June 16, 2005)
The DFO takes its responsibility for the conservation of all salmonids seriously, including those species that are especially distressed, such as the inner (or Upper) Bay of Fundy salmon.
Significant declines in inner Bay of Fundy iBoF salmon were first noted in the late 1980s. By 1991, for conservation reasons, the Department of Fisheries and Oceans (DFO) closed the recreational and Aboriginal food fisheries for salmon in 32 inner Bay of Fundy rivers. Commercial salmon fisheries throughout the Maritimes region were already closed since 1985. The precipitous decline continued with evidence suggesting the problem was related to marine survival, i.e. juvenile salmon would grow in fresh water, leave the rivers as smolt but not return as adults to spawn.
By 1998, the problem was so severe that DFO began a live gene bank program to protect the genetic integrity of several major components the iBoF salmon population and to hedge against extinction. Juvenile salmon were captured from several rivers, taken to DFO biodiversity centers in both Nova Scotia and New Brunswick, where they were reared to adults and then spawned in those facilities. Juveniles produced from these spawnings were then released back to the rivers from which they were taken. Since 2000, several million salmon of various life stages have been restocked by DFO to iBoF rivers using this technique. Results from the live gene bank program show evidence of good freshwater survival for released fish but no evidence of increased survival at sea.
Rivers in the iBoF remain closed to salmon fishing. Salmon stocks in this area were assessed as "endangered" by the Committee on the Status of Endangered Wildlife in Canada in 2001. They are now listed as "endangered" under Canada's Species at Risk Act. The Atlantic Salmon Federation and DFO collaborated on a project to study possible marine mortality causes, using radio tags to track smolt leaving the iBoF rivers in 2001/2002. No specific cause for poor marine survival has yet been identified. Significant investments in marine tracking, biodiversity facilities, and genetic pedigree and breeding programs have been made by DFO and, in some cases, the private sector. A recovery team is in place and a recovery strategy is now being finalized.
On the broader front of conservation of Atlantic salmon, Canada spends $3.7 million annually on research programs that study factors contributing to marine salmon mortality. This is a significant contribution that is used to study a wide range of causative factors that could influence the health of all Atlantic salmon stocks, including iBoF stocks.
Moreover, since Atlantic salmon are wide-ranging, Canada does not stand alone in needing to understand this species. The North Atlantic Salmon Conservation Organization (NASCO) is responsible for Atlantic salmon management among all member states. While NASCO has been in place for some time, the collaborative aspect of Atlantic salmon science has just been improved through the creation, at NASCO's June 2005 meeting, of a new initiative called SALSEA (Salmon at Sea). This multilateral activity will integrate and intensify scientific research to find the unknown factors that affect marine survival of Atlantic salmon.
At the domestic level, the federal government is investing $30 million this year in an Atlantic Salmon Endowment Fund (ASEF) to help achieve healthy and sustainable Atlantic salmon stocks. The ASEF is similar to the fund created on the Pacific Coast in 2001. This fund is expected to enhance cooperation between DFO and the many volunteer groups involved in maintaining, protecting and rebuilding salmon habitat, including that of the iBoF stocks.
Furthermore, DFO is in the process of developing a Wild Atlantic Salmon Policy. The policy will provide a focused approach and support for initiatives to restore and sustainably manage diverse salmon populations and their habitat for future generations of Canadians. This will also help safeguard the genetic diversity of the species, maintain habitat quality and ecosystem integrity, and manage Aboriginal and recreational fisheries for sustainable benefits.
A draft policy is being developed over the summer of 2005, based on input from a diverse group of stakeholders from a first round of consultations. In late fall 2005, a second round of consultations is planned. The policy is expected to be finalized and released to the public in spring 2006.
In summary, considerable attention is paid to the important issues of Atlantic salmon, including those in the iBoF area. A broadly-based approach such as this is required to maximize the opportunities available to ensure the continuance and recovery of this important species.
(Response to question raised by Hon. Terry Stratton on June 9, 2005)
The government is taking action.
Health Canada officials and Public Health Agency of Canada officials have met several times with Manitoba on the Manitoba Chronic Disease Prevention Initiative (CDPI) and have taken part in Manitoba's dialogue with regional health authorities and stakeholder partners. The Minister of Health has discussed this matter with his Manitoba counterparts.
Federal Budget 2005 will provide $300 million over five years for the Integrated Strategy on Healthy Living and Chronic Disease. This strategy will promote health and prevent chronic disease by encouraging healthy eating and physical activity in Manitoba and across Canada. It also includes complementary disease-specific activities for cancer, cardiovascular disease and diabetes. These programs will benefit all Canadians.
On May 20, 2005 the Chief Public Health Officer of Canada sent a letter to his counterpart, the Deputy Minister of Health and Healthy Living for Manitoba that serves as an agreement-in-principle that, should resources, a suitable mechanism and authority be put in place, the Public Health Agency of Canada would commit to a multi-year investment of $3 million over five years (2005-06 to 2009-10) for the demonstration project component of the CDPI.
Health Canada has been very supportive of the Chronic Disease Prevention Initiative (CDPI) being designated as a World Health Organization (WHO) Country-wide Integrated Non-communicable Disease Initiative (CINDI) demonstration site and will continue to do so.
Senator Murray: What about the judges?
Hon. Marjory LeBreton: Honourable senators, this is the fifteenth day, and this item is standing in the name of Senator Cools. She sent notice in a few moments ago that she is unable to speak to it today. That being the case, I would request that this bill have the clock rewound to allow her the opportunity to speak next week.
The Hon. the Speaker: Honourable senators, is it agreed that this matter return to day zero?
Hon. Senators: Agreed.
On motion of Senator LeBreton, for Senator Cools, debate adjourned.
Hon. Consiglio Di Nino moved second reading of Bill C-259, to amend the Excise Tax Act (elimination of excise tax on jewellery).—(Honourable Senator Di Nino)
He said: Honourable senators, I am pleased to rise to speak to Bill C-259, to amend the Excise Tax Act and eliminate excise tax on jewellery. This is a hidden tax of 10 per cent paid by manufacturers on the sale of jewellery manufactured in Canada, creating a competitive disadvantage for Canadian manufacturers. It was implemented in 1918 as part of a package of excises on items considered to be luxury goods. It is now the only remaining luxury tax in Canada.
Canada is the only industrialized nation and the only diamond-producing nation in the world that has maintained such a tax. Today, this tax is nothing more than a Liberal cash grab that discriminates against the jewellery industry, the mining industry, the northern territories and Canadian consumers.
Honourable senators, this bill has been passed in the other place by a large majority and has the support of the jewellery industry, the mining industry, the Northwest Territories, Nunavut, Yukon and the Aboriginal communities. In the name of fairness, competitiveness and equity, it is time for this tax to go.
The most important reason to eliminate this tariff is that it is killing jobs and hurting the Canadian economy. This tax is applied to items manufactured in Canada but not to identical items manufactured in the U.S. and other countries. As a result, the Canadian jewellery industry is losing business to Americans. The jewellery industry also suffers because of smuggling and underground markets that exist to avoid paying the 10 per cent levy.
Canada's jewellery industry is comprised of over 5,000 companies, mostly small businesses. The industry generates $1.2 billion a year and employs over 40,000 Canadians. This tax discriminates against Canadian-made products in favour of imports, encouraging Canadians to buy their jewellery abroad instead of supporting local companies.
The Martin government has promised to create jobs and boost the nation's economy. Honourable senators, eliminating this tax will do exactly that. The jewellery industry has high job creation potential. It creates 40 per cent more jobs per dollar than home electronics or auto parts. It has the potential to create cottage industry employment in rural and remote areas of Canada. Eliminating this tax will help the industry thrive, thus contributing to the government's goal of boosting the economy.
The mining industry of Canada also suffers because of this unfair tax. As a result of this tax, Canadian-mined diamonds cost more in Canada than they do anywhere else in the world. Canada is the third largest producer of diamonds in the world, exporting over $1.5 billion of rough diamonds each year. Eliminating this tax will result in a larger Canadian market for these mines, as well as give much-needed support to the burgeoning cutting and polishing industry.
As the Canadian Jewellers Association pointed out in their report to the Standing Committee on Finance in the other place, it would be wiser to promote the value of job-creating industries such as diamond cutting and jewellery manufacturing, than to have this tax, which is a policy that only encourages the export of raw materials.
The elimination of this tax was also a top priority for the National Diamond Strategy action plan representatives who stated that the removal of this tax "should allow the jewellery industry to be more competitive, offer a wider range of products to Canadian consumers and international markets, and create increased employment and wealth."
It makes more sense to eliminate this unfair tax and increase business activity, generating more revenue from GST and PST already applied to these products than continuing to impose a burdensome tax that penalizes a growing Canadian industry while yielding an average of $70 million annually in government revenues, which would likely be more than offset by increased economic activity.
Along with discriminating against the Canadian jewellery and diamond industries, this outdated luxury tax also discriminates against Canada's northern regions. Paul Martin's Liberal government has promised to focus on the North and create strategies to provide economic stability in this region.
In the Speech from the Throne, the government promised to:
...develop, in cooperation with territorial partners, Aboriginal people and other northern residents, the first-ever comprehensive strategy for the North. This northern strategy will foster sustainable economic and human development; protect the northern environment and Canada's sovereignty and security; and promote cooperation with the national circumpolar community.
Honourable senators, if the government wishes to foster sustainable economic and human development, why does it still insist on imposing a tax that inhibits job creation and resource development in the northern regions, the opposite of what it has promised to do?
Canada's diamond industry in the Northwest Territories employs about 2,200 people, many of whom are Aboriginal. Diavik Diamond Mines, for instance, employs some 700 people, at least 40 per cent of whom are Aboriginal men and women. Fully two-thirds of its employees are from the northern regions.
This luxury tax negatively impacts federal initiatives with respect to improving the economic opportunities and the human well-being of the Aboriginal peoples of Canada's North. Conversely, the removal of this tax would encourage investment in the diamond and jewellery manufacturing industries and increase the job-creating potential for the northern regions and Aboriginal peoples.
The Premier of the Northwest Territories, Joe Handley, is a vocal opponent of this tax because of its negative impact on its jewellery manufacturing. He said:
...the way it happens now, someone from outside Canada pays 10 per cent and residents coming from outside Canada get a rebate on that, but a Canadian cannot buy jewellery in Canada without incurring the tax. Canadians can buy jewellery in the United States and not have to pay the excise tax.
One of our colleagues in the other place also made the point that the Prime Minister has speculated on granting province status to the Yukon, Northwest Territories and Nunavut, without much discussion on how these new provinces would achieve economic success. Revenue from their natural resources would be a critical component, and reaching the maximum potential in developing these resources and expanding the associated industries would create more jobs and would be pivotal to achieving economic and social success.
If the government is serious about its plans to develop the North, it can start by eliminating this discriminatory tax. Doing so would help to expand the associated industries and, as a result, provide a wealth of opportunity to the Aboriginal communities. In particular, it would enhance the prospects for the exceptionally gifted Aboriginal artists who would greatly benefit from an enlarged jewellery industry.
Last but certainly not least, honourable senators, you can add the average Canadian consumer, especially women, to this list of people who are negatively affected by this excessive cash grab by the Liberal government. When Canadians are buying jewellery, not only are they paying GST and PST on the retail price, they are also paying the hidden 10 per cent levy that is imposed on the manufacturers.
Although introduced as a luxury tax on jewellery along with items such as yachts, perfume, fur coats and expensive cars, this tax now only applies to jewellery, which itself is no longer considered a luxury item. About four million households buy women's jewellery and watches each year in Canada, and over two million buy men's jewellery and watches. Lower- and middle-income households account for over 50 per cent of jewellery and watch expenditures. This is no longer a tax on the rich to fund a war effort, but an unfair and pointless tax on ordinary Canadians. While Canadians can buy an $80,000 car or a $5,000 fur coat without being charged a luxury tax, they must pay 10 per cent on a $3 ring bought at a corner store. Honourable colleagues, I do not think that is fair.
I have outlined for you, honourable senators, how this tax is affecting industries, small businesses and ordinary citizens of this country. Not only is this tax discriminatory but it is also a complicated tax to regulate, and does not even meet the requirements of what a tax should accomplish. The Auditor General has questioned this tariff, pointing out its failure to meet the qualities that are sought in a tax: equity, efficiency, ease of administration and transparency. The Finance Committee in the other place has twice called for the removal of this unfair tax.
The government has suggested a plan to phase out this tax over four years but Canadians deserve better. Therefore, I am asking you to help the Canadian jewellery industry, the Canadian mining industry, Canada's North, including its Aboriginal people, and the consumers of Canada, and to support Bill C-259. They have all waited long enough. They have unfairly contributed to the public coffers for far too long.
On motion of Senator Eggleton, debate adjourned.
On the Order:
Resuming debate on the motion of the Honourable Senator Corbin, seconded by the Honourable Senator Poulin, that the sixth report of the Standing Senate Committee on Official Languages, entitled French-Language Education in a Minority Setting: A Continuum from Early Childhood to the Postsecondary Level, tabled in the Senate on June 14, 2005, be adopted and that, pursuant to rule 131(2), the Senate request a complete and detailed response from the government, with the Minister of Canadian Heritage, the Minister of Social Development, the Minister of Justice and the Minister responsible for Official Languages being identified as Ministers responsible for responding to the report.—(Honourable Senator Kinsella)
Hon. Noël A. Kinsella (Leader of the Opposition): Honourable senators, I rise to participate in the debate on the excellent interim report of the Standing Senate Committee on Official Languages that our colleague Senator Corbin spoke to a short time ago. This report is entitled French-Language Education in a Minority Setting: A Continuum from Early Childhood to the Postsecondary Level. Honourable senators, if you have not yet had a chance to study this report, you will find it to be excellent, and I commend it to the attention of all honourable senators.
I must say at the outset that the members of the committee, the chair, Senator Corbin, and the deputy chair, Senator Buchanan, are to be congratulated for the work and the leadership that they provided in that study.
Senator Austin: Hear, hear!
Senator Kinsella: Clearly, honourable senators, we recognize that education is a key element in human development and has become virtually a prerequisite to success in today's world. It is noted in the report that education itself is a focal point for the transmission, maintenance and development of language, heritage and culture. It is for this reason that schools are a cornerstone in the maintenance and growth of minority language communities.
Honourable senators, there are some good examples of this in my own province of New Brunswick. École Sainte-Anne, in Fredericton, New Brunswick, serves a francophone population in a mostly anglophone area. The school's presence is a source of pride and hope for the French language and culture there.
Along with the École Sainte-Anne, there are services and facilities for the students and public alike, such as the Dr. Marguerite-Michaud library, a preschool sector — kindergarten, junior kindergarten and day care — a cafeteria, a playhouse and movie theatre, an art gallery, a gymnasium, conference rooms, administrative offices and a community radio. Over 200 children attend the Centre Sainte-Anne day care and they are a sign of what we can expect for our schools in the future.
This centre assures the survival, development and protection of the French language and culture in the region. There are other similar examples, in Saint John, New Brunswick, for instance, with its Centre Scolaire Samuel-de-Champlain.
Honourable senators, during the course of its hearings and examination of the issues, our Standing Senate Committee on Official Languages heard from numerous witnesses and experts in the field of education, particularly in a francophone milieu, who brought to the attention of the committee important issues, concerns and, indeed, some complaints.
Section 23 of our Charter of Rights and Freedoms makes it perfectly clear that children of both francophones and anglophones have an equal right to an education in their first language. Consonant with that requirement of the Charter, obviously there has to be a parallel requirement that they are entitled to receive the same quality of instruction. The report of our committee suggests that this is apparently far from being the case. The presence of significant discrepancies between the education systems available for the anglophone linguistic majority as compared to that available to the French language minority led to Recommendation No. 4, which is as follows:
That all levels of government coordinate their policies to guarantee that francophone communities in a minority setting have sufficient human, material, physical and financial resources, in order to recruit and retain students and achieve a quality of education that is equivalent to that of the linguistic majority.
This recommendation, honourable senators, also reflects a study done by the Council of Ministers of Education of Canada. That council is made up of all of the Ministers of Education from the provinces and territories. Quoting from that study done for the Council of Ministers of Education, they have concluded that:
In reading and science, students performed at lower levels in the francophone school systems outside Quebec than in the anglophone systems.
According to the various contributors to the study, francophones living in a minority community lack the tools and instruments that would allow them to obtain an education equal in quality to that of the linguistic majority. There is an apparent shortage of human, material, physical, financial and educational resources in French-language schools.
The report goes on to state that:
The challenge confronting minority-language school boards is twofold: enrolment must be increased while the quality of the instruction programs offered must be improved.
By addressing the shortages, we are on track to kill the proverbial two birds with one stone. First, if the quality of instructional programs is improved, enrolment will likely increase. Parents who view a system as being inferior are otherwise apt to send their children to schools with better programs, notwithstanding their linguistic preference. By offering equal educational programs in French language schools, francophone students are less likely to be diverted to the anglophone majority school system. Second, if enrolment increases, there is likely to be a corresponding improvement in the resources available, and hence in the quality of the programs.
A larger and more prominent commitment by the federal government, honourable senators, would go a long way to getting the two education systems on a parallel track.
In this context, it is disturbing to note that the Official Languages Education Program seems to be in a state of limbo. Honourable senators will recall that this program enables the federal government to transfer funds to provincial and territorial governments in order to support the delivery of minority-language education and second-language instruction programs. The previous protocols expired on March 31, 2003. As is pointed out in the report, although an agreement in principle was signed on April 12, 2005, the protocol itself has not been signed.
Honourable senators, it seems to me that this is a matter of some seriousness. Funding of the Official Languages Support Programs, and more particularly of the minority-language education component, remains a critical element in maintaining the viability of the system.
The current government's actions, in my opinion, have failed to follow in the footsteps of the expressed intentions. For example, in March 2003, the Action Plan for Official Languages was tabled by the Honourable Stéphane Dion, then the Minister responsible for La Francophonie. It was even called the Dion Plan, and it nominally provided for $751 million in spending over five years. The reality has proven to be quite different.
In her 2004-05 annual report, the Commissioner of Official Languages expressed concerns about the implementation of this action plan. With regard to minority language education and second language teaching, she said:
Notwithstanding this last-minute agreement, it is of concern to us that the funds destined for the Action Plan have not been put to use more quickly. This delay means that the objectives of the Action Plan may not be met. We had hoped that the federal government would pick up the pace; instead, its slowness to act threatens to demobilize all the actors who are responsible for progress in this area.
Honourable senators, at present, the Department of Canadian Heritage, in my opinion — indeed as a former deputy minister over there — seems to be incapable of reporting on the progress made in implementing this initiative.
Since 1993, the money provided by the government to the Official Languages Support Programs has declined significantly, dropping another $38 million in just the last two years. While the government was boasting about the size of the surplus, here we have a drop in the support for official languages by some $38 million.
Even today, honourable senators, many programs are well below the funding levels of the early 1990s. Looking back to the fiscal year ending in March of 1993, the level of funding provided by the former government for programs supporting official language communities was $314.9 million. Compare that to $264.5 million for the fiscal year ending March 2004 under the current federal government. The drop of $50 million does not even take into account such things as the rate of inflation and the rise in the cost of living over more than a decade. The numbers are there to be seen. There has been a significant reduction in the spending in this area by the federal government.
One component of the Official Languages Support Programs, namely the funding for the minority language education program, has borne the brunt of the reduction in support. For the fiscal year ending March 1993, minority language education program funding amounted to $162.9 million as compared with $132.5 million for the fiscal year ending March 2004. That is an extraordinary reduction of spending, a gross reduction of $30 million. Again, that does not even take into consideration a 10-year period with inflation. Since 1993, this federal government has a record of cutting back dramatically on the minority language education program, something that I think will come as a surprise to many people, including honourable members in this house.
In August 1999, the former Prime Minister told Le Devoir that the assimilation of francophones was "a fact of life." This comment was made a short time before the francophone summit opened in Moncton, and the former Prime Minister revealed his own and presumably his party's fatalistic assessment of the assimilation process that threatens French language minorities. The former Prime Minister did not hesitate to refer to this phenomenon as "inevitable." He went on to say:
There's the whole issue of use, mixed marriages, labour-force mobility, isolation. There are people leaving the language behind and at the same time there are people learning it. There are losses and gains. Certainly we would rather there not be any assimilation, but there always has been.
As examples, the former Prime Minister evoked the experiences of Quebecers who settled in New England and francophones in Louisiana.
In contrast, we can look at the actions taken by other leaders where it was deemed to be in the public interest to reinforce the Official Languages Act, as occurred in 1988. There was increased funding for the Official Languages Education Program and the Promotion of Official Languages Program by some $195 million. There was almost $1 billion invested to that end through 10-year agreements with the provinces to promote French language education and French language instruction in every Canadian province.
Even as late as May 1993, the former government granted the provinces an additional $112 million to ensure the implementation of school governance by members of the francophone community and guarantee the consolidation of the minority French language post-secondary education network.
Finally, there was the institution of the Canada-Community Agreements in order to promote the cultural and community development of francophones living outside of Quebec.
Additional funding, honourable senators, from the federal government is required. It is required to ensure the vitality and special development needs of the francophone communities in a minority setting.
Education is underscored by this report. It must be considered as the cornerstone of community development, starting from early childhood and going up to the post-secondary level. Ensuring continuity for minority language children who have the right to a continuous education clearly is critical. They must not be forced into majority language institutions.
In conclusion, French Language Education in a Minority Setting: A Continuum from Early Childhood to the Postsecondary Level is an excellent report with eight recommendations which merit consideration and implementation. There is clearly an urgent need for action to foster the social and cultural development of the francophone minority in Canada.
The federal government must put in place a clear and more comprehensive national policy on French language minority education in Canada. We need to strengthen government obligations for minority language education. We need to ensure that the obligations to the francophone minority as embodied in Part VII of the Official Languages Act, and the Charter and the constitutional principle of the protection of minorities are fully met by all levels of government.
The implementation of the recommendations in this report will help ensure that the quality of education available to minority language groups in Canada is equal to that available to the majority. I congratulate our colleagues on the Official Languages Committee.
Hon. Serge Joyal: Would the Honourable Leader of the Opposition entertain a question?
Senator Kinsella: Yes.
Senator Joyal: I listened carefully to my honourable friend's speech and to the speech of Senator Buchanan. I would like to commend the accuracy and appropriateness of his speech. As well, I wish to commend the chair of the committee, Senator Corbin. I know Senator Keon has been deputy chair in the past, and he also did a very good job in chairing the committee.
When I was listening to the honourable senator, I remembered Bill S-3, which we adopted earlier in the session, the bill that Senator Gauthier introduced in this chamber. Bill S-3 contained a proposal to amend section 41 of the Official Languages Act that would have given substance, if not bones or a spine, to the obligation of the federal government to support minority rights in very concrete ways and not with a statement of objectives with no real obligation enforceable in Parliament or in court.
I was happy that Bill S-3 was approved in this chamber. If I recall correctly, it was a unanimous vote and it was sent to the other place. I tried to keep track of what was going on in the other chamber with this bill. It has been sitting there for many months.
If we want the recommendations of this report to be implemented, I think we need Bill S-3. We must ensure that the government moves forward with its obligation to support post-secondary education and other services well-described in the report.
Would the honourable member use his influence, generally speaking, on the members of his party in the other place so that the bill can be adopted soon? This report would then be one of the first obligations the federal government would have to undertake under that new section of the Official Languages Act. That would ensure that the eighth recommendation of this report becomes a reality.
Senator Kinsella: Honourable senators, having also been an enthusiastic supporter of Senator Gauthier's bill when it was before the chamber, unfortunately, unlike my honourable colleague, I have not been as attentive to the progress of the bill in the other place. I have a hard enough time following the progress of bills in this place, but I am glad he has brought this to my attention. Now that he has reminded me, I will undertake to follow the progress of that bill.
I do not recall discussions about that item at the national caucus level, but I know many colleagues in the other place are very supportive of it. As the honourable senator knows, because he served for a period of time as the minister in the department that was responsible for second language promotion, there was a very robust budget. Indeed, I would go so far as to say that had it not been for the work of Senator Joyal and his predecessors and successors as ministers in what was then called the Department of the Secretary of State in promoting second language education and the official languages communities, we would not have made the tremendous progress we have made so far.
Looking at the situation in terms of the federal government's commitment as expressed in real dollars, there has been a major cut in funding for second language teaching and community promotion, et cetera. The numbers are significant. I thank the honourable senator for the opportunity to underscore that part of my intervention today.
We need to restore funding to the levels of the early 1990s, and also some infrastructure landscape mechanisms such as the one conceptualized by former Senator Gauthier. Indeed, there may be others. In the year 2005, we need an impetus from Parliament to ensure that we have a balanced system across the two official language communities.
On motion of Senator Robichaud, for Senator Murray, 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 Stratton)
Hon. Marjory LeBreton: Honourable senators, this motion has reached day 15. It is in the name of Senator Stratton, who was here earlier but had to leave due to a commitment. He would ask that the clock be rewound, and he intends to speak to this matter very shortly.
The Hon. the Speaker: Honourable senators, is it agreed that this matter return to day zero and continue to stand?
Hon. Senators: Agreed.
On motion of Senator LeBreton, for Senator Stratton, debate adjourned.
Hon. Fernand Robichaud (Acting Deputy Leader of the Government): Honourable senators, before turning to Government Notices of Motions or the adjournment motion, I move that the Senate adjourn during pleasure and resume sitting at about 4:45 p.m., at the call of the chair, preceded by a five-minute bell.
There will be Royal Assent this afternoon, and we will be called to receive letters from Rideau Hall. For this reason, I move adjournment during pleasure.
Hon. Noël A. Kinsella (Leader of the Opposition): Honourable senators, we have gone through the Order Paper. Typically, what occurs when there is nothing else ordered is that there would be a motion to adjourn.
However, I understand that Royal Assent dealing with Bill C-56 by the alternative format is to occur at four o'clock. From earlier discussions today, we have indicated that the opposition was hopeful that Bill C-43 would also have been on the list for Royal Assent.
Having completed the work of the day, the next item is the adjournment. The question I am left to ask is: Why would we wait to come back? I understand why. Under the process, after the Governor General gives Royal Assent to a bill, that does not take effect until it is read here in the Senate.
In effect, the opposition is being asked to agree to suspend the sitting, even though we have completed the Order Paper, in order to get this message back. Because it is for the Inuit, the people of Newfoundland and Labrador and the people of Canada, the opposition will agree. However, we would have hoped that the government might have agreed to extend the same consideration to the peoples of Nova Scotia and Newfoundland vis-à-vis the Atlantic accord.
Senator Comeau: They are being treated like second-class citizens.
Senator Cochrane: Hear, hear!
Senator Comeau: Let it be known.
The Hon. the Speaker: I have listened to the Acting Deputy Leader of the Government and the Leader of the Opposition. I would ask honourable senators if they are agreed to suspend the sitting until 4:45 p.m., with the bells to ring at 4:40 p.m., calling in the senators to proceed with the rest of our business at that time. The reason is obvious. We are awaiting letters from the Governor General or her designated representative to give Royal Assent by reading those letters in the chamber.
Is it agreed, honourable senators?
Hon. Senators: Agreed.
The Hon. the Speaker: It says approximately 4:45 p.m. Thus, the bells will ring for five minutes before we return.
Is it in order that I leave the chair until that point?
Hon. Senators: Agreed.
The Senate adjourned during pleasure.
The sitting was resumed.
The Hon. the Speaker informed the Senate that the following communication had been received:
June 23, 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 23rd day of June, 2005, at 4:10 p.m.
Policy, Program and Protocol
The Honourable The Speaker of the Senate Ottawa
Bills Assented to Thursday, June 23, 2005:
An Act to establish the Economic Development Agency of Canada for the Regions of Quebec (Bill C-9, Chapter 26, 2005)
An Act to give effect to the Labrador Inuit Land Claims Agreement and the Labrador Inuit Tax Treatment Agreement (Bill C-56, Chapter 27, 2005)
An Act for granting to Her Majesty certain sums of money for the federal public administration for the financial year ending March 31, 2006 (Bill C-58, Chapter 28, 2005)
An Act to amend the Canada Shipping Act, the Canada Shipping Act, 2001, the Canadian National Marine Conservation Areas Act and the Oceans Act (Bill C-3, Chapter 29, 2005)
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 Tuesday, June 28, 2005, at 2 p.m.
The Hon. the Speaker: Honourable senators, is leave granted?
Hon. Senators: Agreed.
Motion agreed to.
The Senate adjourned until Tuesday, June 28, 2005, at 2 p.m.