Debates of the Senate (Hansard)
1st Session, 39th Parliament,
Volume 143, Issue 17
Tuesday, May 30, 2006
The Honourable Noël A. Kinsella, Speaker
Tuesday, May 30, 2006
The Senate met at 2 p.m., the Speaker in the chair.
The Hon. the Speaker: Honourable senators, I should like to draw your
attention to the presence in the gallery of His Excellency Dr. Abdul Aziz Abdul
Ghani, Speaker of the Shoora Council of the Republic of Yemen.
On behalf of honourable senators I welcome you to the Senate of Canada.
Hon. Dennis Dawson: Honourable senators, Canada's communications and
advertising community is in mourning. The father of French-language advertising
in Canada, Jacques Bouchard, died a few days ago at the age of 75. Author of
Les 36 cordes sensibles des Québécois and father of modern Canadian
advertising, Mr. Bouchard has passed on.
In addition to creating countless memorable ad campaigns, he gave the
francophone communications sector in Quebec and in Canada the foundation upon
which to build our strength in communications worldwide.
Frustrated by the attitude of agencies that merely translated ads written in
English, he and his partners founded BCP, which, in time, became one of the
largest agencies in Canada and one of the most innovative in the world. He
recognized Quebec's distinct character long before it became fashionable to do
so and produced the first political ads targeting Quebec audiences.
Today, I would like to pay tribute to him with one of his best-known sayings:
"Lui, y connaît ça!" Thank you, Jacques Bouchard, you really did know your
Hon. Leonard J. Gustafson: Honourable senators, I wish to bring to the
attention of the Senate that the Estevan Comprehensive School Symphonic Wind and
Jazz Ensemble from Estevan, Saskatchewan and under the direction of Colin
Grunet, won gold in the instrumental jazz division and silver in the concert
band/orchestra division of the MusicFest Canada 2006 competitions held here in
The band travelled here from Estevan by bus. I wish to add that many teachers
and others put in a lot of time in arranging and working with these young
people. We should appreciate their efforts.
I also want to say that my grandson played the solo in the jazz band.
Hon. Senators: Hear, hear!
Hon. Lucie Pépin: Honourable senators, this year the Quebec Black
Medical Association celebrates its 15th anniversary. Through its scholarships,
this association has, since 1991, enabled nearly 300 Black students to pursue
higher education in the medical sciences. These talented young people, who come
from disadvantaged economic and cultural backgrounds, are today doing medical
research or working in the medical field. They are thus contributing to the
vitality of our health care system and enriching Quebec and Canadian society at
the same time.
The efforts of this foundation have produced excellent results not only
through the generosity of many private and public partners, but also thanks to
the energy of Dr. Elrie C. Tucker. Dr. Tucker, aged 74, established this
association to ensure that other Black students did not face the difficulties he
had to overcome. As the first Black student in the faculty of medicine at McGill
University, through his desire to succeed and his perseverance, he became a
"star gynecologist", as he humorously describes himself. We must remember that
when, as a medical student, he told his professors he wanted to be an
obstetrician and gynecologist, they told him that unfortunately no man in
Westmount would ever refer his wife to him, a Black doctor.
Prejudice and financial obstacles did not prevent him from becoming a leader
in the field of obstetrics and gynecology and a physician respected and
appreciated by his patients and medical colleagues. Life smiles on him today,
but he has not forgotten the road he travelled since his arrival in Quebec in
the 1950s. The difficulties he experienced made him generous and ever ready to
help. This altruism towards those close to him and all of Quebec society earned
him the title of personality of the week in April from the paper La Presse
and Société Radio-Canada.
I offer my congratulations and sincere thanks to Dr. Tucker and to all
persons of goodwill who have supported the Quebec Black Medical Association
these past 15 years.
Hon. J. Trevor Eyton: Honourable senators, I rise today to pay tribute
to a man known by many as "The Honest Grocer." Steve Stavro, a member of the
Order of Canada, passed away on April 24, 2006. Known for his love of sport,
Steve made a mark for himself in both the business and sporting worlds.
Born in Gabresh, Macedonia, Steve and his family immigrated to Toronto when
Steve was only seven years of age. In his early years, he worked in his father's
grocery store and eventually moved on to open his own business. He developed
such a talent for running his grocery store that he opened another, then
another, then another and so on. These stores eventually expanded into a chain
of grocery stores known as Knob Hill Farms.
While creating Knob Hill Farms, Steve never forgot his love of sport. For
example, Steve was involved in the management of the Continental Soccer League,
the International Soccer League, the Eastern Canada Professional Soccer League,
the United Soccer Association and the North American Soccer League. As a result
of this support and contribution to soccer in Canada, Steve was honoured as a
life member of the Canadian Soccer Association.
Steve's passion for sport did not end there. He had another passion, a
passion for horses. Steve once told me that he got into thoroughbred racing
because he needed to find something that would fill in the hours between 4:30
a.m., when he was at the market pricing fresh goods for his stores, and 9 a.m.
when his stores opened. What better way than to attend at Woodbine for the early
morning workouts of his horses. Here, too, he had success because Steve bred and
raced such champion horses as Benburb and Thornfield. Steve took pride in
breeding and shaping his thoroughbreds as opposed to simply buying a winner.
Although soccer and horses were Steve's passions, it is difficult for a
sports fan living in Toronto not to be a fan of the game of hockey. Steve's
involvement with the Toronto Maple Leafs and, eventually, with the Toronto
Raptors was solidified when, in 1991, he became Chairman of the Board of Maple
Leaf Sports and Entertainment. He also became a governor of the National Hockey
League and Chairman of the Board of the Air Canada Centre.
Honourable senators, Steve's list of accomplishments is long and admirable.
Steve was a director of the Liquor Control Board of Ontario, a member of the
Executive Committee of the Economic Council of Canada, a trustee of the Ontario
Jockey Club, a founding member of the Canadian Federation of Independent Grocers
and importantly, at least to me, a founding sponsor of Canada's Sports Hall of
Fame; and the list goes on.
Steve Stavro's contributions to business and sport in Canada will not be
forgotten. He was a man that followed his passions and a man of self-made
success coming from hard work and determination. I invite all honourable
senators to join me in honouring the life of Steve Stavro and in extending our
condolences to his wife, Sally, who was such a great part of Steve's life
adventures, and to his four daughters, nine grandchildren and two
Hon. Yoine Goldstein: Honourable senators, it is always a pleasure and
an honour to this chamber when one of our members receives a special honour. I
am privileged to report today that the Honourable Senator Marcel Prud'homme, a
veteran of this chamber and of the other place in his time, has received the
highest honour that the Federation Council of the Federal Assembly of the
Russian Federation, the upper house of the Russian Duma, can bestow on a
foreigner. He was awarded an honorary diploma from that council. The citation
reads that the award is for long-standing, conscientious work and great
contributions to the development of parliamentarianism.
About two weeks ago, the Speakers of both Houses of Parliament joined with
Ambassador Georgy Mamedov of the Russian Federation to honour Senator Prud'homme
for fostering a partnership between Canada and the Russian Federation.
Honourable senators will know that Senator Prud'homme and I do not see eye to
eye about certain matters, and we will continue to have our differences in this
respect, I hasten to add, because we are responding to our respective principles
in this regard, which differ. Nevertheless, our very active discourse continues
to be marked by civility and by politeness, as it should be.
Honourable senators, Senator Prud'homme's outstanding contribution to
fostering both interpersonal and interparliamentary relationships with former
parliamentarians does honour to him and to this institution. Please join me in
congratulating our colleague Senator Marcel Prud'homme.
Hon. Senators: Hear, hear!
Hon. Jean-Claude Rivest: Honourable senators, the Memorial Cup is back
As we speak, Quebec City is welcoming the players of the Quebec Remparts, who
won the Memorial Cup last Sunday. Of course, on the road to victory, it was
relatively easy for the Quebec team to eliminate teams from Ontario and Western
Canada. However, in the final game, we had to contend with an Eastern team, the
Moncton Wildcats. As much as we appreciate and recognize the incredibly dynamic
nature of our Acadian friends, we must not lose sight of the fact that this
Acadian vigour and creativity was no match for the Quebec team.
I therefore ask all honourable senators, from the East and the West, as well
as those from Ontario, to congratulate and recognize the undisputed superiority
of these young hockey players from Quebec.
Hon. Larry W. Campbell: Honourable senators, I rise to draw your
attention to a worthwhile cause working its way across Canada — the Cycle for
Spirit. Three staff members from The Keg Steakhouse & Bar are in the midst of
cycling across Canada raising money for children's charities through The Keg
Steve Fidler from Vancouver, Adrian Pusiak from Toronto and Jeremy Cummings
from St. John's began their Cycle for Spirit in Vancouver on April 24 and will
finish in St. John's in early August. They have already crossed three provinces
and are currently in Winnipeg. I personally drove my vehicle from Regina to
Ottawa and I am still tired. I cannot imagine what it would be like to ride a
bicycle all the way from Vancouver.
These riders are not avid cyclists. They are ordinary Canadians who wanted to
do something extraordinary. At the start of the ride, they set a fundraising
goal of $150,000, and after five weeks they have already raised $75,000. One
hundred per cent of the money raised through the Cycle for Spirit will go
directly to charities through The Keg Spirit Foundation, a foundation that has
donated more than $2 million to local charities since its inception in 2001.
For more information, you can visit www.cycleforspirit.com.
Honourable senators, I hope that you will join me in supporting the Cycle for
Spirit. Please keep an eye out for the riders and welcome them to your provinces
and your home towns wherever possible.
I personally commend Jeremy, Steve and Adrian for what they are doing and The
Keg Steakhouse & Bar locations from coast to coast for their support of the many
children's charities that will benefit from this incredible adventure.
Hon. Daniel Hays (Leader of the Opposition): Honourable senators, it
is important that Senators' Statements not pass today without noting the tragic
circumstances that occurred near Yogyakarta on the island of Java in Indonesia.
We are told that between 5,000 and 6,000 people have lost their lives to the
tragic earthquake and that some 200,000 are homeless. Canada has announced $2
million in aid. When the tragic events occurred in Aceh as a result of the
tsunami, the number of dead and homeless continued to rise for some time.
Canada's response to that tragedy was to increase the amount of support as their
Canada will be present in non-governmental organizations, and if specific
assistance is requested of our government, I know that it will be provided.
I know that all senators join together in telling our Indonesian friends that
we are deeply touched by their tragedy and that we will be there to assist them.
The Hon. the Speaker: Honourable senators, I have the honour to table,
in both official languages, the 2005 annual report of the Privacy Commissioner
for the period from January 1 to December 31, 2005, pursuant to the Personal
Information Protection and Electronic Documents Act.
Hon. Gerald J. Comeau (Deputy Leader of the Government) presented Bill
S-4, to amend the Constitution Act, 1867 (Senate tenure).
Bill read first time.
The Hon. the Speaker: Honourable senators, when shall this bill be
read the second time?
On motion of Senator Comeau, bill placed on the Orders of the Day for second
reading two days hence.
Hon. Gerry St. Germain presented Bill S-216, providing for the Crown's
recognition of self-governing First Nations of Canada.
Bill read first time.
The Hon. the Speaker: Honourable senators, when shall this bill be
read the second time?
On motion of Senator St. Germain, bill placed on the Orders of the Day for
second reading two days hence.
Hon. Hugh Segal presented Bill S-217, to amend the Financial
Administration Act and the Bank of Canada Act (quarterly financial reports).
Bill read first time.
The Hon. the Speaker: Honourable senators, when shall this bill be
read the second time?
On motion of Senator Segal, bill placed on the Orders of the Day for second
reading two days hence.
Hon. Jerahmiel S. Grafstein: Honourable senators, I give notice that
at the next sitting of the Senate, I will move:
That the Standing Senate Committee on Banking, Trade and Commerce, which
was authorized by the Senate on May 2, 2006 to examine and report on issues
dealing with the demographic change that will occur in Canada within the next
two decades, be authorized to retain until July 31, 2006 all powers necessary
to publicize its findings.
Hon. Joyce Fairbairn: Honourable senators, with leave of the Senate
and notwithstanding rule 58(1)(a), I move:
That the Standing Senate Committee on Agriculture and Forestry have the
power to sit at 5:00 p.m. today, Tuesday, May 30, 2006, even though the Senate
may then be sitting, and that rule 95(4) be suspended in relation thereto.
Honourable senators, I am prepared to explain the reasons for this
The Hon. the Speaker: Honourable senators, is leave granted?
Hon. Senators: Agreed.
Senator Fairbairn: If it would comfort honourable senators, the reason
for making this motion is that our committee has invited the National Farmers
Union to appear, and witnesses have come from various parts of Canada. In
addition, due to the technical requirements for broadcasting the meeting, we
must be finished no later than 6:30 p.m., since the Fisheries Committee will be
holding a meeting in the same room with the Minister of Fisheries at 7 p.m.
With that in mind, I am seeking the adoption of this motion and would move
that the Standing Senate Committee on Agriculture and Forestry have the power to
sit at 5 p.m. today, even though the Senate may then be sitting.
The Hon. the Speaker: It has been moved by Senator Fairbairn, seconded
by Senator Joyal, that the Standing Senate Committee on Agriculture and Forestry
have the power to sit at 5 p.m. today, Tuesday, May 30, 2006, even though the
Senate may then be sitting, and that rule 95(4) be suspended in relation
thereto. That is the motion before us.
Hon. Terry Stratton: Honourable senators, I can appreciate the concern
offered by the chair of the Agriculture Committee. For quite some time now in
this chamber, no exceptions were allowed to the rule that no Senate committee
could sit while the Senate is sitting. However, the unofficial rule that we have
followed is that there would be an exception only if a minister was appearing
before that committee, and for no other reason. As has been said before, if the
Agriculture committee wants to meet today, then my committee also wants to meet
today, and then it spins out of control. Tuesday, in particular, is always a
difficult day because senators never know when the Senate will end. The sitting
could go on until quite late.
Committees have the additional burden of trying to line up witnesses, to no
avail when the Senate sits late. When Senator Stollery was chairman of the
Foreign Affairs committee, he would be pacing up and down eternally on Tuesday
afternoons, waiting for the Senate to adjourn.
I am against this exception. The only way I would agree to such an
arrangement is if a minister is appearing as a witness before the committee.
Hon. Joan Fraser (Deputy Leader of the Opposition): With respect,
honourable senators, I do believe I recall occasions when exceptional permission
was given for committees to sit while the Senate was sitting, even when it was
not for the convenience of a minister.
The chair of the Agriculture Committee has explained that the committee is
faced with two problems: First, it bumps up against timing for another committee
if we want to broadcast this important hearing. Second, the hearing is indeed
important. The National Farmers Union, given the state of agriculture in this
country today, is an important witness, indeed. I do not think granting this
permission would do violence to the principle, which I share, that in general
committees should sit at their regular time of sitting, and not when the Senate
is sitting. We do make exceptions in this chamber when we believe those
exceptions are justified, and I would argue in this case that it is justified.
Hon. David Tkachuk: Is there a problem with the National Farmers Union
not being able to stay until 5:30 or 6:00 o'clock, in the event that the Senate
runs over time?
The Hon. the Speaker: Honourable senators, just so that we maintain
order, typically that question would be addressed to the last speaker, who was
Senator Fraser. However, if it is the will of the house, we will waive that
because the chair of the committee has special knowledge.
Hon. Senators: Agreed.
Senator Fairbairn: Honourable senators, the problem we have today is
that our committee is here and witnesses are present. It is not a difficulty in
having them stay; the problem is that there is another committee following us
that has a cabinet minister attending, the Minister of Fisheries and Oceans, and
both committees will be in that room where the broadcasting takes place. We
would like to start at 5 p.m. so that we could complete our work and permit the
committee following us to proceed.
Hon. Larry W. Campbell: Honourable senators, with all due respect, an
unwritten rule is nothing. If we wish to make a rule, we should make it. Given
that it is unwritten, there is nothing that means that we are setting a
precedent. What we are saying in this particular instance is that the committee
is backing up onto another committee where there is a minister, and there is a
reason for doing this.
I agree with honourable senators that this should not be the norm. I believe
this is an instance where we could allow leave to be granted. If we want a rule,
let us make it. If we do not, do not drag out the old unwritten rule concept.
Hon. Hugh Segal: Honourable senators, I am in the unamiable position
of wishing to seek leave, notwithstanding rule 58(1)(a), for a similar matter
with respect to the Foreign Affairs Committee. It might be helpful if we
considered both of them at the same time.
The Hon. the Speaker: Honourable senators, the matter before us is the
motion of Senator Fairbairn. Are there further speakers on this motion?
Hon. Marcel Prud'homme: Honourable senators, for the last 13 years I
have objected to that practice.
First, I would like very much to thank the highly civilized Senator Goldstein
for his congratulations. I was chairing the new election of Canada-Morocco, when
Senator Dawson was elected co-chair and Senator Losier-Cool was elected
vice-chair. Senator Comeau was elected vice-chair and secretary-treasurer.
Senator Nolin was elected director, and Senator Cordy was elected director. That
is for the Senate. I protect the Senate.
I thank Senator Segal for helping me in my reflection. Even though that is
not the subject matter at this minute, he is about to ask for the same
privilege. How do we choose? Look at how many people we have here from the
government. If we start with this request, how can we say no to Senator
Fairbairn, for whom I have the greatest admiration? Regardless of what she asks
for, I would be inclined to say yes, as I have known her since the Trudeau days.
Therefore, I think the principle that committees should not sit should be
The Hon. the Speaker: The honourable senator has spoken on this
motion. Does he have something else?
Senator Stratton: This is on another topic. It is a supplementary
question to Senator Fairbairn. I do not agree. However, I would appreciate it if
the honourable senator would respect the numbers on our side, should this
The Hon. the Speaker: Honourable senators, if there is no further
debate, are you ready for the question?
Hon. Senators: Question!
The Hon. the Speaker: Is it your pleasure, honourable senators, to
adopt the motion?
An Hon. Senator: On division.
Motion agreed to, on division.
Hon. Hugh Segal: Honourable senators, with leave of the Senate and
notwithstanding rule 58(1)(a), I move:
That the Standing Senate Committee on Foreign Affairs have power to sit at
5 p.m. today, Tuesday, May 30, 2006, even though the Senate may then be
sitting, and that rule 95(4) be suspended in relation thereto.
The Hon. the Speaker: Is leave granted?
Hon. Senators: Agreed.
The Hon. the Speaker: Leave is granted. Are you ready for the
question, honourable senators?
Hon. Senators: Question!
The Hon. the Speaker: Is it your pleasure, honourable senators, to
adopt the motion?
An Hon. Senator: On division.
Motion agreed to, on division.
Hon. Pierrette Ringuette: Honourable senators, after making many
requests and not receiving any answers, I give notice that at the next sitting
of the Senate, I will move:
That the Standing Senate Committee on Banking, Trade and Commerce study and
report on the Canada-United States agreement on softwood lumber;
That the Committee analyze, among other things, the impact on Canada's
resource management on sovereignty, the impact on the interpretation of NAFTA
chapters 11 and 19, and provisions contained in the agreement with regard to
financial support for the industry and its workers.
Hon. Grant Mitchell: Honourable senators, I give notice that on
I will call the attention of the Senate to the stated intention of the
Canadian Government to weaken the Kyoto Protocol and to dismantle 15 climate
change programs, including the One-Tonne Challenge and the EnerGuide program.
Hon. Grant Mitchell: Honourable senators, I give notice that on
I will call the attention of the Senate to issues of importance to the
regions in Alberta, with particular emphasis on Grande Prairie.
Hon. Art Eggleton: Honourable senators, my question is for the Leader
of the Government in the Senate. Yesterday, the Minister of Human Resources and
Social Development met with her provincial counterparts, and from press reports
I understand that the provincial counterparts are quite unhappy. Minister
Higgins from Saskatchewan said, "We are not sure where they're going."
Minister Chambers from Ontario said, "I am disappointed — very disappointed."
The Child Care Advocacy Association of Canada summed up what they meant when
they said that this government does not understand the benefits of early
learning and child care or how to develop it; an allowance to parents is not an
early learning program for children.
Does the government not understand that this is not just about giving money
to parents at $1,200 per year, it is about accessibility to quality child care
spaces. Fourteen thousand spaces were created in Ontario thanks to the
agreements that the previous government signed with the provinces. However, now,
because the current government is reneging on those agreements, 11,000 more new
planned child care spaces have been scrapped in Ontario.
These are actual spaces for children that parents can have confidence in.
Does the government not see that the spaces were already being created, the
money would give people a choice, and that we are now taking a step backwards?
Hon. Marjory LeBreton (Leader of the Government): I thank the
honourable senator for the question. A simple answer would be that the Canadian
electorate did not elect a new Conservative government to implement the failed
plans of the previous government, or a child care plan that had actually
delivered no child care spaces. There is an old saying: Nothing from nothing is
After 13 years of Liberal promises for child care and not delivering it, our
government has taken action by introducing a universal child care plan. We are
providing $3.7 billion over two years for the universal child care benefit which
will provide all families with $100 per month for each child under the age of
six, and we are also setting aside $250 million to actually create new child
care spaces. The goal is to create 25,000 additional child care spaces each
Senator Eggleton: I beg to differ on the interpretation of the
honourable senator in regard to what the Canadian population was voting for.
More than 60 per cent of Canadians did not vote for the Conservative child care
program. That is the no mandate. The introduction of the taxable $100 payment is
also followed by a plan that sets out $250 million in incentives to help create
new spaces. That smells like a plan that Mike Harris tried in Ontario. That
program did not create a single space.
They then talk about a new consultation process, but the consultation has
already taken place. There have been discussions with parents in recent years,
stakeholders, provinces and territories. Those same provinces signed the
agreement with the federal government for early learning and child care
My question is: Why is the government moving backwards once again; cancelling
a program that was moving forward and returning to a consultation program — that
is my emphasis here — on child care when there has already been consultation?
Senator LeBreton: The honourable senator addressed this subject in a
previous question when he spoke about the percentage of the Canadian electorate
that did not support the Conservative party in the last election, as if that is
a benchmark for legitimacy. If we were to follow that process, on the basis of
the percentage of people that supported them, every election that Jean Chrétien
and Paul Martin won would not have put them in a position to carry out any of
There is no question that some people have not supported our child care plan.
I only need to make reference to the former minister Carolyn Bennett, who made
the assumption on Mike Duffy's program, that it was a good job that we were
putting more money into prisons because of our lack of support in early
childhood care. That was a really insulting comment to make, since parents in
this country are trying to make proper choices for child care.
Minister Finley has been forthright and definitive about our plan. She is
consulting with the provinces. There has been widespread support for the
initiative in the budget of $100 per month per child under the age of six. I
believe most observers would acknowledge — child care advocates aside — that it
is much better to put money directly into the hands of parents and not into the
hands of advocates and bureaucracies or other governments. As has been said many
times, parents are the best child care experts in the country.
Hon. Pierrette Ringuette: My question is to the Leader of the
Government in the Senate. Yesterday, the House of Commons Committee on
International Trade started hearings on the proposed softwood lumber agreement.
Industry representatives from across Canada say the proposed deal is worse than
the current situation. They all agree that if the deal goes ahead as planned,
Canada will lose at least 20 per cent of the current jobs within the next 12
Can the leader not understand that this is a dreadful political deal, and
that we will lose jobs, mainly in rural Canada?
Hon. Marjory LeBreton (Leader of the Government): I thank the
honourable senator for the question. I believe that, as these negotiations go
forward, there will be people who will have cogent comments and recommendations
to make. However, it is clear that as the details are worked out with the
stakeholders and the provinces, the view is that this softwood lumber agreement
is far superior to anything we could have expected, and in particular, rather
than having this issue drag on for another eight, nine or ten years with no
resolution. We should let the process work its way through. In the end, the
concerns of those involved in this issue will present themselves very well. I
think the best possible solution will be the result.
Hon. Pierrette Ringuette: Honourable colleagues, the House of Commons
and its Committee on International Trade is already hearing the concerns of the
industry, thus reflecting on how futile this government renders the Senate under
its secretive leadership. This is the fifth time I have asked: Will the Leader
of the Government in the Senate table in this house the potential softwood
agreement, put a dent in this culture of secrecy and refer the document for full
study to the Standing Senate Committee on Banking, Trade, and Commerce?
Hon. Marjory LeBreton (Leader of the Government): I responded a couple
of weeks ago to the question of the honourable senator about this document being
tabled in the Agriculture and Forestry Committee. I will endeavour to obtain a
copy and forward it to Senator Ringuette. Of course, I see that she has given
notice of her own motion on the matter earlier today.
All this to say that there is nothing secretive or hidden about this
agreement. Any documents that I am able to obtain, I will certainly table them
here in the Senate.
Senator Ringuette: Does that mean that during the last three weeks
since I have been asking the Leader of the Government to table this document,
she has not made such a request?
Senator LeBreton: No, it does not mean that at all.
Hon. Pat Carney: Honourable senators, we have been led to believe in
various statements that any future export charges collected in the future would
be returned to Canada, unlike the present agreement, where it goes to the
American producers, and unlike the agreement I negotiated, where the money was
returned to the provinces. The agreement that was tabled in the Senate committee
is silent on this issue. I would ask the house leader, in order to contribute to
the debate in this chamber, that she clarify where the funds will reside when
they are collected in the future.
Hon. Marjory LeBreton (Leader of the Government): I thank the
honourable senator for her question. I will take that question as notice and I
will specifically point out her direct request for knowledge of where the funds
are going. I will be happy to provide that.
Hon. Daniel Hays (Leader of the Opposition): Honourable senators, my
question is on the issue of the environment. As we know from the minister's
responses earlier, this is an area where the government has not yet developed
policy, except for targeting ethanol levels in alternative fuels and in terms of
transit with respect to the reduction of the cost of transit fares.
One of the articles in the news over the weekend dealt with something that
seems to be right down the government's alley, and that is the creation of
ethanol from biofuels. Iogen Corporation is a company in the Ottawa area that
has been very successful and it is looking for loan guarantees to proceed with
the construction of a $260 million plant to create ethanol from biofuels; that
is non-grains, but rather woodchips, straw and so on.
Would the minister tell us how Iogen Corporation is doing in terms of its
request from the Government of Canada for loan guarantee assistance to build
this very important plant?
Hon. Marjory LeBreton (Leader of the Government): The honourable
senator is quite correct that Iogen Corporation is located in Ottawa. I drive by
it every day; it is on Hunt Club Road in the south end of the city. Iogen is a
great Canadian success story. The success of Iogen was confirmed when it was
featured on an energy program on CNN. On that show they looked north and
featured the oil sands in Fort McMurray and Iogen in terms of future energy
With regard to the question of loan guarantees, I do not know the status of
the request from Iogen, but I will certainly take the question as notice and
respond as quickly as possible.
Senator Hays: As I said in my preamble, Iogen is readymade for the
government's made-in-Canada initiative. It is another matter in terms of whether
that initiative is adequate or not; we do not believe it is.
In terms of developing the technology in Canada as opposed to somewhere else,
in particular the United States, I draw the attention of the minister to the
U.S. Energy Policy Act of 2005, which is a formal way for that country to offer
incentives for the commercialization of cellulose ethanol technology. That is
specifically what Iogen proposes to proceed with, and if they do proceed, Iogen
will be the only cellulose-based ethanol producer in the country.
Would the minister bring this matter to the Minister of the Environment to
point out that this is a competitive environment and it is important for us to
succeed? The government's policy in this area should move quickly if we are to
be competitive with our neighbour.
Senator LeBreton: I will do what the honourable senator has requested.
As we move forward in dealing with the global problem of climate change and our
plans for a made-in-Canada solution, the case he makes is a valid one.
While we are dealing with the issue of climate change, I think Environment
Minister Ambrose and Agriculture Minister Strahl have a unique opportunity, in
terms of diversification and biofuels and ethanol to work together to find a
solution to the problem of our future fuel reserves.
Hon. Claudette Tardif: Honourable senators, the government recently
released its Budget 2006 with a document entitled Restoring Fiscal Balance in
Canada, which addresses post-secondary education. The budget mentions that,
in today's knowledge-based economy, a more educated and skilled labour force is
key to Canada's competitiveness in the world. Government investments in
education and training are therefore critical to productivity and economic
Given the intensive support that other countries provide for research and
development as well as commercialization, and given Canada's current
productivity gap, why is the government not allocating more funding to this
priority and showing more leadership on this issue?
Hon. Marjory LeBreton (Leader of the Government): I wish to thank the
honourable senator for that question. It is a little premature, I believe, to be
saying to a new young government that we are not showing leadership, especially
if the honourable senator has been following the statements and the actions of
Finance Minister Flaherty, when he is dealing specifically with the whole issue
I hasten to add that the delivery of education is a provincial matter.
However, as late as yesterday in a speech to the Board of Trade in Toronto,
Minister Flaherty talked about fiscal balance and areas where the federal
government and the provinces can sort out their various responsibilities. He is
focusing his attention and efforts on the issue of productivity and on
technology and education.
Senator Tardif: Honourable senators, many countries invest heavily in
research and development. The United Kingdom, for example, invested 10 per cent
in research and development in the past year. Korea has promised to double
investment in research over the next four years, and countries like China, India
and Brazil support research very aggressively.
In Canada, why are our three research councils — the Canadian Institutes of
Health Research, the Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council of Canada
and the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada — entitled to
an overall budget increase of only 2.5 per cent to 3 per cent?
Senator LeBreton: Thank you for the statement but I think that Canada,
through several governments of different political stripes, has been a world
leader in research and development. I must say I wholeheartedly agree with the
honourable senator's statement.
Senator Tardif: It was not a statement, it was a question. If we
support productivity so much, why have we increased the budget for research by
only 2.5 per cent? Support for indirect research costs has been reduced from 40
per cent to 27 per cent.
Senator LeBreton: I do not know what the honourable senator is relying
on for her information, but I will take that question as notice and ascertain
Hon. Catherine S. Callbeck: Honourable senators, my question is to the
Leader of the Government in the Senate. Three weeks ago, the Standing Senate
Committee on Social Affairs, Science and Technology tabled its report on mental
health and mental illness and addiction. One of the report's major
recommendations was to set up a Canadian mental health commission. A national
organization would do a number of things, but mainly it would work with
stakeholders to create a national mental health strategy, and Canada is the only
G8 country that does not have one. It would be a knowledge exchange centre to
share information on best practices. In addition, it would be responsible for an
Senators Keon and Kirby presented the committee's proposal for the commission
to the provincial ministers of health last October and were well received. In
November, the federal Minister of Health of the previous government announced
that the federal government would establish a commission identical to the
committee's recommendation. Is the current federal government committed to a
mental health commission as outlined by the committee's report?
Hon. Marjory LeBreton (Leader of the Government): Honourable senators,
I could not agree more that this report was yet another outstanding study of the
Standing Senate Committee on Social Affairs, Science and Technology on mental
health, chaired by Senator Kirby, with Senator Keon as deputy chair.
I am well aware of the former Minister of Health's commitment during the
election campaign. This issue was raised with the then health critic for the
Conservative Party, Steven Fletcher. During the election campaign, we did commit
to a mental health commissioner. I understand that the Minister of Health, Tony
Clement, will meet with Senator Kirby and Senator Keon to work out the
government's response to this timely report of the Senate Social Affairs
Senator Callbeck: Thank you for that answer. I am glad to hear that
the federal government is committed to a commission. Did the leader say a
"commission" or a "commissioner"?
Senator LeBreton: I said a "commissioner."
Senator Callbeck: I hope that it will be identical to the committee's
The honourable leader mentioned that the Minister of Health will meet with
Senator Keon and Senator Kirby. Could she give the chamber a time frame as to
when that meeting might take place? When might some action on this report be
Senator LeBreton: Far be it from me to organize ministers' schedules
because I can hardly organize my own. There is no doubt that this serious issue
has widespread, non-partisan support. Each one of us knows someone — family,
friend or acquaintance — who suffers from the stigma of mental illness.
I will commit to pressing my colleague Minister Clement to clear his calendar
quickly so that he can meet with Senators Kirby and Keon in respect of the
committee's recommendations. Committees make many recommendations and I do not
know whether, at the end of the day, each one of these specific recommendations
will be implemented. However, I know that Minister Clement and the government
are sympathetic and supportive of the overall thrust of the Senate study.
Hon. Jack Austin: Honourable senators, my question is for the
Honourable Michael Fortier, Minister of Public Works and Government Services.
The previous Minister of Public Works was advised by officials of his
department and of the Treasury Board to consider the possibility of the federal
government recapturing capital by putting public buildings on the market and
then leasing them back. There appears to be substantial liquidity in the capital
markets today and a number of possible investors would take positions.
Is the minister considering this particular policy?
Hon. Michael Fortier (Minister of Public Works and Government Services):
Honourable senators, I wish to thank the honourable senator for his question. As
the honourable senator may know, this matter has indeed been studied by the
department. I reviewed the RFP that went out last year and saw that it was
trying to do a lot, which is why it failed. As the honourable senator knows, no
one was able to qualify. Hence, the initiative unfortunately died.
I have been looking at this issue for a few weeks. It is clear that this is
not only driven by what the markets can or cannot tolerate. It should also be
driven by how much capital the government and the country is willing to put back
into these assets. One of the big issues with these assets is that they are
undercapitalized and they have been neglected for, I dare say, decades. We must
address this issue, and we will be addressing it. We are studying various
alternatives and will be making announcements when we are ready.
Senator Austin: Honourable senators, it is clear that the capital for
repair and updating of federal property assets will come either from the
Consolidated Revenue Fund or from the private sector as part of a package of
offering these properties and requiring that, if acquired, they be brought up to
certain necessary standards. However, liquidity may currently be easier to
obtain than at other times. As the minister knows, these things move in cycles.
May I understand that the minister is giving active consideration to the
possibility of at least some properties being placed on the capital markets?
Senator Fortier: Honourable senators, everything is on the table. I
would not want to mislead the Senate by stating that we will be doing one thing
rather than another. I will say that when considering the entire portfolio one
must also take into consideration the issue that has been raised many times in
this house by Senator Fox, which is the equilibrium in the National Capital
Region in terms of where the real estate is situated. As honourable senators
know, there is a disequilibrium vis-à-vis the Quebec side of the river. We are
also in need of more space in the National Capital Region.
In addition to considering the buildings themselves and the ability of
private capital to assist, I must keep in mind issues such as the need for extra
space and the need to address this real estate imbalance that disfavours the
Quebec side of the river.
Hon. Gerald J. Comeau (Deputy Leader of the Government): Honourable
senators, I have the honour of presenting delayed answers to the question raised
by the Honourable Senator Dallaire on May 4, 2006, regarding the location of new
recruits that the Canadian Forces plan to enlist, and to the question raised by
Senator Ringuette on May 9, 2006, regarding the impact on the Atlantic provinces
and Quebec of free trade with Korea in the shipbuilding industry.
(Response to question raised by Hon. Roméo Antonius Dallaire on May 4,
At the present time, there are no plans to create a new brigade group in
A DND/CF team is currently developing options for accommodating the
additional personnel that will come with the expansion of the Canadian Forces.
As promised during the election campaign, the government is committed to
recruiting, training and equipping additional regular force personnel at CFB
Gagetown. The new personnel will serve to fill out existing units at CFB
Gagetown that have been left understaffed by previous government defence cuts.
As we move ahead with expansion, one of our key aims is to ensure that
equipment, infrastructure, personnel and training are synchronized.
It is important to keep in mind that the expansion of the Canadian Forces
will be a gradual process.
(Response to question raised by Hon. Pierrette Ringuette on May 9, 2006)
Canada launched negotiations for a free trade agreement (FTA) with Korea in
FTAs help ensure Canadian companies are competitive in key markets
vis-à-vis their foreign competitors. Other countries, including the United
States, are aggressively negotiating FTAs, including with Korea. Canada has a
similar interest in actively negotiating improved access to foreign markets.
The primary purpose of FTAs is to enhance economic prosperity through more
open competition that results from reduced barriers to trade and investment.
However, this also inevitably creates certain areas of sensitivity for both
The challenges facing the shipbuilding sector arise from a range of
factors, and even with the 25 per cent most-favoured nation (MFN) tariff in
place, employment in the sector has declined over the past decade.
In respect of a potential Canada-Korea FTA, however, while Korea's
shipbuilding industry does produce across a full spectrum of the market, and
tariff reduction could increase Korea's ability to compete with Canadian
shipbuilders, there are a number of factors that are expected to mitigate the
impacts resulting from tariff elimination.
First, Korean and Canadian shipbuilding industries primarily focus on
different market segments. Korea's major yards focus production on building
larger, higher value-added vessels while Canadian yards are oriented towards
the building of smaller vessels.
Second, Canadian sensitivities in the shipbuilding sector will be addressed
through FTA provisions specific to the industry. These may include longer
phase-out periods for the most sensitive types of vessels and product-specific
rules of origin. Such provisions will be developed in close consultation with
domestic stakeholders, including the Canadian shipbuilding industry, provinces
Third, Canada will not open up its procurement market in shipbuilding in
the context of a Canada-Korea FTA. Consequently, federal and provincial
departments and agencies will continue to have the option of restricting their
tenders to Canadian yards for the purchase or lease of vessels. Government
procurement has generally represented a major share of the new-build business
for Canadian industry.
It should be noted that the government consulted extensively with Canadians
across all sectors of the economy, as well as provincial and territorial
governments, prior to launching negotiations with Korea. The vast majority of
responses have been positive, including from agricultural and other natural
resources sectors, as well as some manufacturing and services areas. We
continue to actively engage stakeholders to ensure that their interests and
concerns are taken into consideration in our negotiating positions.
Korea is an important trade and investment partner for Canada. Our two
countries traded $8.2 billion in 2005, while bilateral investment was over $1
billion in 2004. Building on this strong relationship, an FTA with Korea has
the potential to deliver significant commercial benefits across a wide range
of the Canadian economy, including: fisheries, agriculture, machinery and
equipment, and financial and professional services.
In addition, an FTA with Korea would create a secure and more predictable
investment climate in Korea for Canadian business and would help attract Korea
investment in Canada. It could also open doors for Canadian businesses in
other key markets in the region such as China and Japan. Intra-regional trade
has been growing exponentially, and Korea could be used as an entry point to
this vibrant economic region. Further information is available on the "Trade
Negotiations and Agreements" website of the Department of Foreign Affairs and
The Hon. the Speaker: Honourable senators, I have a ruling regarding
the question of privilege raised by Senator Ringuette.
On Wednesday, May 10, Senator Ringuette gave notice of a question of
privilege under Senators' Statements. The adjournment of the sitting at 4 p.m.
that day kept the senator from presenting her question of privilege at the
conclusion of Orders of the Day. As a consequence, the senator was not able to
present her case until the following day. Senator Ringuette claimed that the
Leader of the Government misled the Senate in explaining her absence from
Question Period, May 2. It is Senator Ringuette's contention that this account
is contrary to certain evidence she had since collected. This assertion was
denied by the Leader of the Government, who stated that her absence during part
of the sitting that day, including Question Period, was because of a cabinet
After hearing different views on this matter, I agreed to take it under
advisement. I am prepared to declare my ruling.
Let me begin by stating that there is no prima facie basis to support a
question of privilege. In my opinion, this case is the result of a
misunderstanding or miscommunication. I heard nothing to persuade me that what
happened breached privilege or involved contempt since the misunderstanding was
neither intentional nor deliberate.
In making her case, which she was careful to identify as a contempt, Senator
Ringuette assumed that the cabinet meeting took place at the same time as
Question Period in the Senate which, as it happened, overlapped Question Period
in the other place, making a cabinet meeting at that time unlikely. For her
part, the Leader of the Government in the Senate explained that Question Period
in the House of Commons is held at a fixed time, from 2:15 p.m. until 3:00 p.m.
She also advised that the meeting of the cabinet committee started shortly after
There is no rule that prohibits the government leader from leaving the
chamber to attend to government business. The statement made by Senator LeBreton
concerning her activities does not affect the authority or dignity of the
Senate, nor did it impede the Senate or senators in the performance of their
duties. As well, the senator's explanation did not purposely mislead or deceive,
which is a necessary condition to establish a charge of contempt as noted in
Beauchesne's, 6th edition, citation 62 at page 19. In the end, it seems obvious
that there was a misunderstanding as to certain facts. It seems to involve
nothing more than that.
Questions of privilege and contempts are intended to deal with genuinely
serious matters. The privileges of Parliament are not a sword to assault the
rights of others, but a shield to protect Parliament and its members in the
fulfillment of their duties and responsibilities. Rule 43 states, in part:
The preservation of the privileges of the Senate is the duty of every
A violation of the privileges of any one Senator affects those of all
Senators and the ability of the Senate to carry out its functions outlined in
the Constitution Act, 1867.
Among the privileges that we must be vigilant in preserving are freedom of
speech and control over our proceedings and deliberations. Similarly, contempts
allow the House, the Senate or the House of Commons, to vindicate its authority
and dignity when challenged.
Procedures have been incorporated into the Rules of the Senate to
"fast track" the consideration of possible questions of privilege and
contempts. Criteria have been established that I, as Speaker, must use in
evaluating the prima facie merits of any question of privilege or contempt.
These rules and procedures are also meant to provide guidance to senators when
they consider whether an issue should be treated as a possible breach of
privilege or a contempt.
I do not believe that rule 43 should be used to address a simple complaint or
grievance, especially when it is the result of a misunderstanding. It does not
meet the threshold required for a question of privilege or contempt. Such
disputes do not "directly concern the privileges of the Senate or its
committees" nor are they "raised to correct a grave and serious breach".
Hon. Wilbert J. Keon moved third reading of Bill S-2, to amend the
Hazardous Materials Information Review Act.
The Hon. the Speaker: Is it your pleasure, honourable senators, to
adopt the motion?
Motion agreed to and bill read third time and passed.
Hon. Jack Austin moved second reading of Bill S-215, to amend the
Income Tax Act in order to provide tax relief.—(Honourable Senator Austin,
He said: Honourable senators, Bill S-215, which I introduced at first reading
on Wednesday, May 17, is a private member's bill to amend the Income Tax Act. As
honourable senators know, this is the second private member's bill I have
introduced in this chamber in recent weeks. The last one, Bill S-212, which was
identical to this bill but included two other clauses, was ruled out of order by
the Speaker on May 11. Happily, in his ruling the Speaker noted that had the
bill only contained the clauses now contained in Bill S-215, he would have ruled
it in order, so we can debate this bill without worry that it is in any way
beyond our constitutional jurisdiction.
I am content to drop the contentious clauses. They would have helped families
with children who have disabilities by increasing the maximum annual child
disability benefit to $2,300, starting in July 2006, and they would have helped
low income working Canadians with high medical- and disability-related expenses
by increasing the maximum amount of the refundable medical expense supplement
from $750 to $1,000 for the 2006 taxation year.
As honourable senators will recall, I introduced Bill S-212 on April 26. On
May 2, the Minister of Finance in the Conservative government presented his
government's budget to Parliament. I am happy to say that both of these clauses
were reflected in the budget. It is with a light heart that I set those aside,
knowing that my objective has been achieved. However, I cannot say the same for
the other two issues and, therefore, I have tabled this bill before.
Last November, in the economic and fiscal update, the then Liberal
government, of which I was a proud member, reduced Canada's personal income
taxes, tax cuts that all Canadians recently saw concretely as they filed their
tax returns — tax cuts that let all working Canadians keep more of their
hard-earned cash. The new Conservative government of Stephen Harper announced —
and this was confirmed in the budget — that it will raise income taxes, rolling
back the tax cuts we introduced in order to pay for the proposed GST reduction.
These changes to Canadian payroll deductions will become effective July 1, 2006,
the time when many Canadians normally see their paycheques get a little fatter
because of the end of the EI and CPP contributions.
Honourable senators, these tax cuts are helping all Canadians, especially
those Canadians in the lowest income bracket. We cannot sit idly by as the
Conservatives raise income taxes, hitting hardest at those who most need the tax
breaks. My bill would enshrine in the legislation the following tax cuts from
last November: first, a permanent cut in the tax rate for the lowest tax
bracket, that is, for income under $35,595, from 16 per cent to 15 per cent;
second, a $500 increase for the personal exemption that is defined as the
"basic personal amount" for 2005 and a further $200 increase in 2006.
During the election campaign, the Conservative Party said they wanted to cut
taxes in such a way that would help families, seniors and young people just
getting started in life. They said that they wanted to "help everyone deal with
the rising cost of living, put money in peoples' pockets and spur the economy
immediately." If this is their objective, honourable senators, then the
Conservative government should now joyfully embrace my private member's bill.
The economics are clear: The best way to achieve these laudable goals is to cut
personal income taxes.
I will elaborate. The issue, as we all know, is that the Conservative
government of Stephen Harper is committed to cutting the GST by 1 per cent
immediately and then by a further 1 per cent over the next five years. They have
estimated that the federal tax revenues lost by cutting the GST would be $32.3
billion over five years. However, to be able to afford this GST cut, the
government has said it needs to raise personal income taxes for Canadians, to
roll back the tax cuts introduced in November.
In the May 2 budget, we saw how the government planned to do this. I am happy
to tell honourable senators that the government backed off its original
statements and did not completely cancel the Liberal tax cuts. Evidently, we in
the opposition, economists across this country and the Canadian people generally
were successful in persuading the government that the plan was terrible
economics for the country and would impose great hardships on many Canadians,
especially lower income working Canadians. Instead of raising the tax rate for
the lowest income bracket to 16 per cent, as the Prime Minister had suggested
would happen, the Conservatives have raised it to 15.5 per cent and made it
effective as of July 1, 2006. In other words, not being mean-spirited in a way
that would claw back tax savings already in the hands of Canadians, they have
provided that relief. A newspaper had earlier reported that the Canada Revenue
Agency was ready to doubly increase the payroll deductions for July through
December 2006 if required to implement the Conservative plan and to claw back
the savings enjoyed from January through June. Happily, it appears now that will
not be necessary.
The Harper government was quite upfront about raising this tax rate to 15.5
per cent. They were not quite so straightforward about their plans for the basic
personal amount or basic personal exemption, as many of us think of it. As
honourable senators know, the Liberal government had a plan in place to raise
the basic personal amount to $10,000 by 2010. In the November economic and
fiscal update, we announced that we were going to accelerate the increases to
reach that goal. In particular, we put in effect a raise for 2005 of $500 and a
further raise for 2006 of $200. These increases helped all Canadians, but
especially low-income Canadians.
What did the Harper government do with these tax cuts to help them afford the
GST cut for the high spenders? They were rather disingenuous about this one,
honourable senators. In the budget speech and the pamphlet entitled — in my
view, misleadingly — Helping Individuals and Families, the Harper
government claimed that they were:
... increasing the basic personal amount — the amount that an individual
can earn without paying federal income tax — so that it grows each year and
remains above currently legislated levels for 2005, 2006, and 2007.
Buried deep in the budget documents, at page 218 of Annex 3, is the real
Harper plan. It is not worded — surprise, surprise — in quite the same clear
language as the pamphlet, and tells a different story as follows:
The basic personal amount — the amount that an individual can earn without
paying federal personal income tax — will be increased by $500 to $8,648 for
the 2005 taxation year. For the first half of 2006 it will then be increased
by indexation plus a further $200, for a total of $9,039. The basic personal
amount will be reduced by $400 to $8,639 on July 1, 2006 at the same time as
the GST rate is reduced.
When you read on, you learn that their plan does reach the Liberal goal of a
$10,000 exemption by 2010, but by loading most of the increase way off in 2009
when the basic personal amount "will be increased by indexation plus the greater
of $600 and the amount required to raise the basic personal amount to $10,000."
While it is literally true that the "currently legislated levels" of the
basic personal amount will be raised by this budget, that is only because the
Conservatives brought down the Liberal government before we could introduce
legislation making permanent the increases we put in place last November through
a ways and means motion. The facts are clear: The Conservative government of
Stephen Harper is reducing the basic exemption, thereby raising taxes and
forcing more low-income Canadians to pay tax who are now exempted because they
earn too little. This is bad public policy and wrong, honourable senators.
I am not alone in noticing the sleight of hand by the Harper government. Dale
Orr, described by Maclean's as "the top Canadian economist with the
international forecasting firm Global Insight" on May 23 last, published a
report on Budget 2006, which he entitled "Budget 2006, Real Tax Relief Much Less
Honourable senators may remember the name Dale Orr. The Conservatives relied
on him during the election as endorsing their platform, even though that
endorsement was tepid at best. He was quoted in news reports during the federal
election as saying that the Conservative platform added up, although he
cautioned that the promises had not been fleshed out, the wording in the
platform was too vague to allow a reasonable costing, and a lot more detail was
required. We have that detail now. I am sure my Conservative colleagues opposite
will be equally quick to accept Mr. Orr's views today as they were during the
campaign. In his report last week on Budget 2006, Mr. Orr said the following:
The changes to the lowest marginal rate and to the basic personal amount
indeed provided tax relief from currently legislated rates — but they
were actually tax increases relative to the rates currently in effect.
More pointedly, the impact of Budget 2006 was to make the lowest marginal rate
higher than it otherwise would have been as well as to make the basic personal
"taxfree" amount less generous than it otherwise would have been for the
entire period covered by Budget 2006. By carefully referring to changes from
currently legislated levels, (generally those of Budget 2005, February
2005) as opposed to the tax levels currently in place — and those which
would have remained in place in the absence of Budget 2006, Budget 2006 was
able to claim "tax relief" when it was actually raising taxes!
Mr. Orr looked at the impact of the budget's proposed changes to the lowest
marginal tax rate. He concluded as follows:
(I)n the case of the lowest marginal rate, Budget 2006 reported "tax
relief" of $1.670 billion, when more appropriately they should have reported
a tax increase valued at $1.030 billion. For 2007-08, they more
appropriately should have reported a tax increase valued at $1.370 billion
instead of "tax relief" of $1.370 billion.
Honourable senators, this is the government that was elected on a promise of
transparency and accountability, but perhaps the meaning of those words is
evolving under Prime Minister Harper's leadership.
With respect to the changes to the basic personal amount, Mr. Orr noted the
Budget 2006 claimed "about 665,000 low-income Canadians will be removed
from the tax rolls altogether." About 350,000 of those 665,000 were estimated
to be removed because of the "tax relief" on the Basic Personal Amount
provided by Budget 2006. (The Canadian Employment Credit and Pension Income
Credit remove about 300,000 people from the tax rolls.)
As noted above, Budget 2006 didn't really provide tax relief on the BPA.
Budget 2006 actually caused the BPA to be only $8,839 for 2006 when it
otherwise would have been $9,039. Rather than the change in the BPA of Budget
2006 removing about 350,000 Canadians from the tax rolls altogether, the
change in BPA of Budget 2006 will actually cause about 200,000 Canadians, who
thought they wouldn't be on the tax rolls in 2006 (at a BPA of $9,039) to be
pushed back onto the tax rolls. What the Finance Minister did not say in
presenting Budget 2006 was, "Mr. Speaker, with this reduction in the
tax free amount from current levels, I have today pushed about 200,000 of the
lowest income Canadians back on to the tax rolls." That wouldn't have had a
very nice ring to it!
That is the end of my quotation from Mr. Orr. I find his arguments
Honourable senators, the budget tries to link these tax increases to the
implementation of their famous GST cut. I will address the merits of that
trade-off, but first I want to briefly anticipate one argument that may be made
by honourable senators opposite on this issue, namely, that the Conservatives
have cut back on the basic personal amount but included a new $500 Canada
Employment Credit — which is really $250, since it is being introduced in July
2006 — and which will be raised to $1,000 in 2007.
Recognizing work-related expenses of employees is a laudable idea but is no
substitute for the basic personal exemption. The Conservative Party of Prime
Minister Harper said, as I quoted earlier, that they would cut taxes in a way to
help "families, seniors and young people just getting started in life."
However, honourable senators, it is far from clear that the traditional 1950s
company employment model is accurate today, or a realistic model of the Canadian
labour force of the 21st century. According to a 2005 Statistics Canada report,
temporary employment, including contract workers, seasonal workers and casual
employees, increased almost twice as rapidly as permanent employment in recent
years, despite economic growth and good economic conditions.
I was particularly interested to note that 40 per cent of temporary employees
were between the ages of 15 and 24, and nine per cent were workers 55 and older.
Neither statistic is or should be surprising. Temporary work is a good
transition, whether into retirement for older workers or into the labour force
for younger people.
However, it is far from clear to me the extent to which these new young
workers and senior citizens will be able to take advantage of the new employment
credit. I do know they would benefit 100 per cent from an increase to the basic
I include that only in anticipation of what honourable senators opposite may
have argued with respect to the Harper cut in the basic personal amount. We
know, because it is explicit in the budget, that this government is linking the
cut to its GST promise.
Honourable senators, I am not against cutting the GST, although it is not the
direction I believe tax policy should take. I am proud to say that the Liberal
governments of the past decade have left the finances of this country in better
shape than they have ever been, with eight successive surpluses. I believe we
can afford both the GST cut and all the Liberal income tax cuts; but if indeed,
as Stephen Harper has suggested, a choice is required, then to me and most
Canadian economists, the personal income tax cuts are the better way to go.
During the election, CBC News reported the views of a number of
economists. Several economists with institutes that usually line up right behind
the Conservative Party on this issue — at least at that time — were prepared to
go on the record disagreeing with the Harper plan. Bill Robson, Senior
Vice-President of the C.D. Howe Institute, told CBC Newsworld:
From an economic point of view, it [the GST cut] wouldn't be my first
If you want tax cuts that are going to promote work, going to promote
saving, help us invest more and raise living standards in the future, the GST
is not the tax you would go after.
According to the CBC, Robson said it would be better to cut personal income
taxes. After the election, with the Conservative government taking office, the
C.D. Howe Institute issued qualified reports finding some justification for the
GST policy of the Conservative government.
Jason Clemens, an economist with the Fraser Institute, said he opposed
cutting the GST. Jim Davies, who teaches economics at the University of Western
Ontario, also said he would prefer income tax cuts. On the Conservative
proposal, he said, "Stupid, stupid, stupid, stupid."
David Douglas Robertson, a tax specialist with a Toronto law firm, wrote an
extensive article on "Why Cutting the GST is the Wrong Choice for Canadians."
Herb Grubel is a well-known economist and former member of Parliament for the
Reform Party. His views on fiscal matters were held in such high esteem by that
party that he served as their finance critic. Mr. Grubel said:
Cutting the GST rather than business or personal income taxes may be good
politics but it is definitely very bad economics.
Honourable senators, I would add that it will be "good politics" only until
Canadians realize that it is bad policy.
This theme was picked up in an editorial of April 25, 2006, in The Globe
and Mail and further developed in a column on April 26 by Jeffrey Simpson,
under the title, "Great politics, lousy policy, but who gives a hoot?" I
recommend honourable senators read these two short items for a good summary of
As my colleague Senator Bryden reminded us in his speech in reply to the
Speech from the Throne, the current Finance Minister, the Honourable Jim
Flaherty, certainly used to share Mr. Grubel's view. In November 2001, when he
was Minister of Finance in the Ontario government, he said it would be a mistake
to cut the GST because:
...all you get is a short-term hit, quite frankly... It has no long term
positive gain for the economy.
He also said that he was not interested in such "short term, knee-jerk
I appreciate the views of these economists and commentators, honourable
senators, but I must tell you that my biggest concern is for low and lower
middle-income working Canadians. Prime Minister Harper was reported in the press
recently as boasting that the GST cut is a good measure because it benefits
everyone, "including those who have modest or low incomes." The facts,
however, are quite different.
I referred to David Douglas Robertson, a partner with Fasken Martineau, a
prominent national law firm, who practises tax law and tax litigation, and is a
specialist in sales tax, including the GST. He analyzed the choices and crunched
the numbers. His findings, which he set out in his paper dated March 24, 2006,
were revealing, stark and, for me, frightening.
After seeing the budget, I called Mr. Robertson and asked about the impact of
the 0.5 per cent increase in the lowest marginal personal income tax rate. He
kindly ran the numbers and sent me the results.
Honourable senators, most necessities of life are not subject to the GST.
That was something many of us in this chamber remember fighting very hard for
some years back to achieve. Rent and mortgage payments are not subject to the
GST. Groceries are not subject to the GST. Prescription drugs, health care
services, tuition, child care, insurance, loan payments — none of these are
subject to the GST.
Robertson found that a person with a taxable income between $22,000 and
$50,000 would have to spend more than half of his or her disposable income
exclusively on goods and services that are subject to the GST — in other words,
on things other than rent, groceries and health care services — to derive the
same benefit from the GST cut that they would from the personal income tax cuts
provided in the November 2005 fiscal and economic update.
Let me quote some concrete examples from Mr. Robertson's paper. Let us take a
married couple with no children whose annual family income is under $12,500. The
C.D. Howe Institute apparently wrote that such a family would save $141 annually
through Mr. Harper's 1 per cent GST cut. However, as Mr. Robertson points out,
to save that kind of money the family would have to spend $14,100 every year on
GST-taxable goods and services. That is $1,600 more than their annual family
income. That would be over and above their spending on food, rent and other
Honourable senators, it is all fine and well for Prime Minister Harper to say
that the GST tax cut would apply to everyone, but that is an abstract truth only
true in a rarefied academic consideration of the issue at best. In the real
world, people worry first about putting food on the table for their families.
They worry about paying to have a roof over their heads; they worry about paying
for medicine for themselves and their children; and they worry about putting
their kids through college so they can get a better start in life. These are the
Robertson's numbers are very clear: These families will not see much benefit
from the Harper government's 1 per cent GST cut. They are, however, benefiting
from the personal income tax cuts introduced in the November 2005 update, and
that this bill would make permanent.
A person with a taxable income of $10,000 would have paid $80.29 in federal
income taxes in 2007 under the Liberal November tax cuts. Under Harper's budget,
the same person will have to pay $113.96 in federal income taxes. By the way, I
am using 2007 because of the intricate changes the budget would make to the
basic personal amount in 2006, raising the amount in January and then lowering
it even more in July; 2007 seems simpler.
Honourable senators, that is a significant tax increase, yet how much will a
person realistically benefit from the 1 per cent GST cut? How many new cars does
one expect a low income working Canadian with a taxable income of $10,000 to
Jack Mintz and Finn Poschmann of the C.D. Howe Institute recently wrote an
article in the Financial Post in which they tried to attack Mr.
Robertson's numbers and conclusions. In essence, they argued Mr. Robertson is
wrong because he ignores statistics from Statistics Canada that suggest many
low-income Canadians actually spend more than their income in a given year. They
go into debt. As a result, the C.D. Howe Institute concludes these people will
benefit from Harper's GST cut.
Honourable senators, we must apply some common sense to this debate. Should
Canadian public policy encourage our lowest earning citizens to pile up more
debt? Once again, please remember that the items that carry the GST are the non-necessities of life. Many economists have condemned the Conservative policies
for not encouraging Canadians to save. This policy will do the opposite; it will
encourage the least able to afford luxury goods to buy them, even going into
debt to do so.
The real truth of the Harper government's GST tax cut is that it will benefit
the wealthy. It will help them to buy luxury goods that most Canadians cannot
afford. Remember, honourable senators, to benefit each year from the GST cut,
one would have to buy an expensive item, not just once every few years, but
literally every year. One would have to buy a new Lexus or Porsche every year to
benefit from this cut.
Honourable senators, I may be one of those who, no doubt, can take advantage
of this windfall. I am very fortunate, and can afford the high ticket items that
will carry significant savings from a 1 per cent GST cut, but even I will have
trouble buying enough every year to truly make the tax cut translate into
significant tax savings for me. Note this point: The tax savings of people like
me will be at the expense of those low income Canadians who need the tax savings
An Hon. Senator: Shame.
Senator Austin: This policy upsets me. By raising personal income
taxes on the lowest tax bracket, even though it is now only a 0.5 per cent
increase rather than the full 1 per cent increase we all expected and feared,
the government is asking those working Canadians at the bottom of the earning
scale to subsidize those at the top end as they buy their expensive new cars,
build fancy new homes and purchase plasma TVs.
In his article, Robertson also pointed out that the Liberal cuts to personal
income taxes meant all the money — 100 per cent — went straight into the pockets
of individual Canadians. By contrast however, a GST cut must be shared by
individual Canadians and those industries that are so-called "exempt
suppliers" under the GST regime. According to Statistics Canada, only 83 per
cent of GST revenues are from individual Canadians. The rest are from banks,
insurance companies, and landlords, to name a few. Cutting the GST by $32.3
billion will put at most $26.81 billion in the hands of Canadians, $2.58 billion
would go to banks, insurance companies and other financial institutions. Almost
$1 billion would go to residential landlords.
My Conservative colleagues may argue that these wonderful, upstanding
corporate citizens will of course pass on their savings to consumers; the
trickle-down theory so popular with Conservative philosophy. Honourable
senators, do you think Canadians will truly expect bank service charges to drop
as a result, or is it more likely that tax savings will find their way into
increased profits to finance the banks' bottom line?
Mr. Robertson notes that only the savings from personal income tax cuts is
guaranteed to make it into the pockets of individual Canadians. With every
paycheque, the tax savings go directly into the individual's pocket, and he or
she has the additional cash, regardless whether the person chooses to save it,
invest it, pay down a mortgage or debt, or spend it on personal consumption.
With a reduction in GST, a person does not get extra money; they only benefit if
they spend their money on those products and services that are subject to the
The Harper budget has improved matters from what the Conservatives had
originally said. He is keeping some of the Liberal tax cuts, but still raising
income taxes on the lowest tax bracket. The tax cost to most individual
Canadians is $150. To get that back, as Robertson's numbers demonstrate clearly,
individual Canadians with taxable income — that is taxable income, not gross
income — up to $50,000 will have to spend more than half their after-tax income
on GST-taxable goods and services. The choice is $150 guaranteed in your pocket
— from the personal income tax cut set out in my bill — or pay an additional
$150 in federal tax and then see whether you spend enough to get the $150 back.
Honourable senators, Mr. Harper proclaimed loudly and frequently during the
election that his was the party of choice for Canadians. Unlike those evil
Liberals who seek to tell Canadians what to do, he would give Canadians their
money and let them choose.
When you look closely at his policies, however, the truth is different. His
choice in child care is in fact no choice, as the questions from Senator
Eggleton earlier today made clear. Here the tax policies are clearly skewed to
encourage spending on certain items at a time when economists agree that
stimulating consumer spending is the wrong way to go and can encourage inflation
with higher interest rates as a result.
Robertson is also highly suspicious that many businesses will not pass on the
1 per cent GST saving to their customers. Over time, he believes the cut will
simply be absorbed into a higher ticket price. Particularly for items that are
priced with the tax included, he believes many businesses will simply take the
money as increased profits, if not immediately then over time. He gives the
examples of movies, gasoline prices, tickets and taxi fares. Then he addresses
the big items, things that many of us would assumed would carry a savings. Let
me quote from his article:
Consider big-ticket items like motor vehicles and new houses. It has been
suggested by some commentators that reducing the GST by 1 per cent will save
Canadians on the price of a new car. For example, if the price of the car is
$40,000, then a 1 per cent reduction in the rate of GST will save the
purchaser $400! With respect to those commentators who have used such
examples, they have clearly never purchased a vehicle or a new home.
When the average Canadian purchases big-ticket items like a vehicle or a
new home, the question the vendor discusses with the purchaser is not "what
is the selling price before adding on the GST". The issue discussed is "how
much can you afford." The negotiations that take place aren't based on a "taxes not included" basis, but rather on a
"what's the total — all taxes
and surcharges included — price" or even more likely —"How much can you
afford to pay for a month". In that type of negotiation, a 1 per cent
reduction in the GST could be either a $400 savings to the customer or an
additional $400 in profit for the car dealer, depending, of course, on who has
the stronger negotiating power and who is the better negotiator.
Mr. Robertson is not alone in concluding that the Conservative GST cut is
disproportionately skewed to help the wealthy at the expense of low- and
middle-income Canadians. The Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives recently
published a study in which they concluded that 15.6 per cent of families with
the highest incomes — that is over $100,000 — will get over 37 per cent of the
tax relief, while 48.6 per cent of Canadian families with the lowest incomes —
that is under $40,000 — will receive only 23.3 per cent of the benefit.
Honourable senators, it is interesting to note that, as reported by The
Globe and Mail's Report on Business of Monday, April 24, 2006, officials of
the Department of Finance advised against the GST cut and in favour of their
advice to the Martin government that income tax cuts were preferable from an
economic policy point of view.
As the report states:
Canada raises more of its revenue as a share of GDP from personal and
corporate income taxes than any other G7 country. Correspondingly, Canada
raises relatively less tax revenue from consumption taxes, the tax that least
damages productivity and the standard of living.
The report of the finance officials continues:
While Canada's personal and corporate income tax burdens are the highest
among G7 countries, the broader trend favours consumption taxes. Of all OECD
countries with a value added tax, Canada has the second lowest rate.
Honourable senators, economists strongly favour consumption taxes over income
taxes or levies on business. As The Globe and Mail reports:
They consider consumption taxes such as the GST, the least evil among taxes
because they are the least damaging to economic growth. The consensus is that
other taxes on personal or business income or corporate assets, are far more
harmful in terms of dulling the incentive to work, save and invest.
Honourable senators, the Liberal government of Paul Martin followed the sound
advice of the finance department and cut income taxes and increased benefits to
low income Canadians. The Harper government has made a flashy political promise
to lower the GST instead and to cancel the Liberal income tax cuts and raise
personal income taxes.
Honourable senators, the Liberal governments of the past decade worked hard
to improve the economic position of low-income Canadians. I, like all of you, I
am sure, was delighted to see the recent Statistics Canada report that fewer
Canadians slipped into low income in 2004, while more were able to climb out. To
quote from the report:
Using new income data from 2004, the study showed that only 3.3 per cent of
Canadians who were not living below Statistics Canada's low-income cut-off in
2003 had slipped into low income in 2004. This was a much lower rate than a
Honourable senators, allow me to remind you that a decade earlier was shortly
after a decade of the Conservative government of this country. To continue:
About 5.5 per cent of Canadians who were not in low income in 1993 fell
into it by 1994. By 1998, the proportion of those entering low income dropped
below 4 per cent.
At the same time, one-third (34 per cent) of individuals living below the
LICO threshold in 2003 had climbed out of low income by 2004. A decade earlier
in 1994, the proportion of individuals who had exited low income was only
about 28 per cent.
Honourable senators, I fervently hope that this Conservative government does
not repeat the choices of the Mulroney Conservative government.
Senator LeBreton: Free trade, GST.
Senator Austin: This proposed tax policy does not bode well, but there
is still time for Prime Minister Harper to recognize his mistake and correct it
by keeping the Liberal personal income tax cuts.
Conservative senators will remember my quotation of former premier of British
Columbia, W.A.C. Bennett, who was in power for more than 20 years because, he
said, he ran a good-second-look government. Honourable senators, in the
interest of low-income Canadians, please take another look at the budget and
adopt Bill S-215.
All honourable senators are aware of the terrible income disparity gap south
of the border between the rich and the poor in American society. Perhaps the
Harper government is standing in envy of the economic policies of the Bush
administration in the U.S., or perhaps they actually believe in deficit
financing but are simply not explaining their policy to the Canadian people. I
must tell this chamber that I am not alone in remarking this irony. The
Conservatives try to present themselves as the party of fiscal prudence that
will lower taxes, be judicious with spending to avoid deficits and, in fact, pay
down the debt. They paint Liberals as evil spendthrifts who tax and spend and
drive deficits ever higher, but the facts are different. Time and again — not
only here, but also provincially; just ask any Ontarian who remembers the legacy
of hidden deficits from the Tory government of which Mr. Flaherty was a member —
Senator Angus: Ask Bob Rae.
Senator Gustafson: What about David Peterson?
Senator Austin: I am talking about the former government of Grant
Devine, which Senator Tkachuk served. Let us talk about deficits. That
government had to scurry to the government of Mr. Mulroney to save it from
Honourable senators, the Conservative government under Brian Mulroney left
the worst GDP-to-debt ratio in the history of this country, except during
wartime. Now, Prime Minister Harper has the audacity to berate the Liberal
government of the past decade for its success in turning around the fiscal mess
that the Conservatives had left us.
Senator LeBreton: Trudeau did.
Senator Austin: Honourable senators, I am reminded of an old story
referring to Prime Minister Louis St. Laurent. During his campaign speech in
1949 he said, "And my friends, I want to remind you that Liberal times have
been good times, and Tory times have been bad times for Canadians," whereupon
someone called out, "That is only a coincidence," to which Mr. St. Laurent
replied, "Yes, my friend, it may only be a coincidence, but tell me, which
coincidence would you rather have?"
Honourable senators, I invite you to support my private member's bill.
Personal income taxes should not be raised because it is bad economics and it is
bad social policy. Conservatives should pay attention to the substance of
policy, not just to cosmetic policy to try to persuade people to give them a
Senator Comeau: Support the GST.
Senator Austin: Low-income Canadians will pay the price of a cosmetic
approach. Honourable senators, Canadians deserve better from their government.
The Hon. the Speaker pro tempore: Would the honourable
senator take a question?
Senator Austin: Certainly.
Hon. Gerry St. Germain: My question is to the Honourable Senator
Austin. Can the honourable senator tell me exactly when this conversion to the
GST took place? If I recall correctly, it was the Liberal government that wanted
to scrap the GST. The horrific deficits that the honourable senator mentioned
accumulated under the Trudeau administration. How could the honourable senator
forget about these things in his delivery, because he is an honest man and I
have known him for some time. I do not know how he could stand up and make such
statements. The GST was brought in under former prime minister Brian Mulroney.
It is an excellent tax that has generated huge revenues over the last 10 years.
The only thing that the Liberals did was to cut the transfer payments to the
provinces and destroy our health care system.
My question is: When did the conversion take place such that, all of a
sudden, the GST is a great tax, which we always knew? I would like to know when
this conversion took place and what happened.
Senator Austin: Honourable senators, I will reply carefully to Senator
St. Germain's observations. The reality is different from his presentation. The
GST is a major, new intervention of tax reform that was not presented to
Canadians in the 1988 election.
Senator Comeau: Yes, it was.
Senator Austin: It came after.
Senator LeBreton: It was a recommendation from the Finance Committee.
Senator Comeau: I lost my election on that.
Senator Austin: The only theme on which the Mulroney government
campaigned in 1988 was the Free Trade Agreement, and it hid the GST and its
Senator LeBreton: It did not.
Senator Comeau: It did not.
Senator Austin: I remember well when the then leader of the
opposition, the Right Honourable John Turner, tried to start a debate on GST
during the 1988 election.
Senator LeBreton: It was on the table.
Senator Austin: The Mulroney government brushed it aside. Let us move
on and conclude that the Conservative government of Mr. Mulroney was not honest
with Canadians with respect to its intentions regarding the GST.
Senator LeBreton: Three years from 1987.
Senator Austin: This country fell into a rather serious depression in
1980-81, following the U.S. depression, which caused then chairman of the
federal reserve, Paul Volker, to raise interest rates way past double digit.
That brought serious economic consequences to both the U.S. and the Canadian
economy. The government of which I was a member had to make a decision: Should
it allow the capital losses to fall on the balance sheets of the private sector
and the public sector — hospitals, schools, provincial governments and major
corporations — causing, in all likelihood, the collapse of prominent
corporations and serious financial stress in public entities; or should the
federal government take those costs on to its own balance sheet. That gave rise
to the deficit when the Trudeau government took on that responsibility on the
national balance sheet.
The Trudeau government of 1980-84 followed the advice of officials of the
Department of Finance when they said that when the economy began to recover, the
government would have to introduce higher taxing budgets. Guess what? Former
Finance Minister Wilson did so in 1985, but the prime minister of the day,
scared by a woman of less than five feet in stature, backed off the budget of
1985, and thereby cascaded the deficit of the Mulroney era. That deficit
accumulated because the government was afraid that if it did not continue to
spend, it would be defeated in 1988. That is the answer to the question.
The Hon. the Speaker: The honourable senator's time has expired.
Hon. Consiglio Di Nino: Honourable senators, I wish to say that there
is a reality check in all of this.
Senator Austin: The honourable senator can only move an adjournment at
this point in the debate.
Senator Di Nino: In the moving of the adjournment, I would make a
little preceding statement about the fact that on January 23, the Canadian
public, in its wisdom, looked at your program and your plan, looked at our
program and our plan and, guess what, my honourable colleague? They chose our
Senator Austin: This is not in order.
On motion of Senator Di Nino, debate adjourned.
On the Order:
Resuming debate on the inquiry of the Honourable Senator Dallaire calling
the attention of the Senate to the situation in the Darfur region of Sudan and
the importance of Canada's commitment to the people of this war-torn
country.—(Honourable Senator Fraser)
Hon. Sharon Carstairs: Honourable senators, I rise today to speak to
the inquiry brought forward by my colleague, Senator Dallaire. First, I wish to
congratulate the government for its contribution and its announcement of $40
million for humanitarian aid and for peace support assistance to the people of
Darfur. It is a good first step, and I acknowledge it as a good first step.
However, I have serious doubts, as do I think most who have knowledge of the
situation, about whether it will be enough. Unfortunately, with deep respect, I
suspect it is not.
I want to begin with Senator Dallaire's opening remarks in his inquiry
entitled "Are all humans human, or are some more human than others?"
Honourable senators, we must look at what has been happening in terms of the
Sudan and more particularly with respect to Darfur. Millions of Darfurians have
been ethnically cleansed. They have been killed. They have been raped. They have
been forced to leave their homes. They are living in refugee camps where there
is inadequate food, inadequate potable water and inadequate living standards in
general. Other people in that poor country have been abducted, some to become
child soldiers and/ or sex slaves. Many are children. The question we have to
put before us in the chamber is the one so eloquently expressed by Senator
Dallaire: Are all humans human, or are some more human than others?
As we all know in this chamber, there was a ceasefire in April 2004, but it
has not worked. We know that there is another ceasefire, and one hopes that this
one will work, but all indications are that we should not place too much faith
in that ceasefire.
I begin this part of my address by congratulating my colleagues Senator
Jaffer and Senator Dallaire, former Senator Wilson and our ambassador to Italy,
Robert Fowler, for the very fine work they have done in this area. All of these
people spoke out on behalf of Darfurians. Their voices have been muted, and I
think that in itself is a tragedy. I believe they should still be encouraged by
representatives of this government to speak out on this particular issue.
We are all hopeful that there is some good news on the horizon with respect
to the peace agreement. However, we must acknowledge that we have been here
before and we have failed. The question we must address is this: Why have we
failed? I think it is clear that we have failed because there has been an
inadequacy of enforcement. Despite the efforts of the AMIS force, the force is
not large enough and has often experienced bureaucratic delay.
Canada may need to play a much higher role. We may need to step up to the
plate and provide more than money. We may need to send troops, and we know that
in this area we have some very limited options. We need some serious strategic
thinking about Canada's role in the world. We, as world citizens, stood by and
watched the Rwandan genocide. We did nothing. We did the same during the
Ethiopian famine until it was far too late. When will we get it right? When will
we and other Western nations step up? When will we take and retake a leadership
role in this area?
I want to put some very specific questions based on the theme of Senator
Dallaire before this body. Is the rape of a girl in Darfur any less a crime, any
less a personal tragedy, than the rape of a Canadian girl? Is a Darfurian child
less a human being than a Canadian child? Is a Darfurian child dying of
starvation any less a member of the human family? How would we as Canadians
react to a Canadian child dying of starvation? We know how we would react. One
only has to look at the excellent and fulsome coverage given to the death of
Jeffrey Baldwin who was starved to death by his grandparents. Canadians were
horrified. They were angered, and rightly so. Is a Canadian child's life worth
that much more than the life of a Darfurian?
Personally, I think Canada is wrong in accepting soldiers under the age of
18, even though they are kept out of combat. I do not believe we should allow
them in the Armed Forces at all until they reach the age of 18. However, we
certainly do not allow for child soldiers. However, Canada and other nations
turn a blind eye when children as young as six are made child soldiers in this
Kidnapping is considered a heinous crime in Canada, whether a child or an
adult is kidnapped. Just cast your mind back a few short months ago when
Canadian hostages held in Iraq were freed. There was, as there should have been,
great jubilation. Yet in Darfur whole families are kidnapped and we do little or
Honourable senators, are all human beings equal? Sad to say, in the world in
which we live, some humans seem to be more special. Some humans' lives seem to
have more value. As Canadians, we are a most fortunate people, for our lives
seem to have more value. Surely we can share that value and our value system
with the people of Darfur. We can step up to the plate. We can do more.
Hon. Gerry St. Germain: Honourable senators, I listened very carefully
to Senator Carstairs, and I agree with what she said. I have used this term
before, and it is not an original term. They are and have been "children of a
lesser god," unfortunately.
I have watched the situation in Rwanda and other acts of atrocities that have
taken place in various countries around the world. The honourable senator is
correct, there seems to be different values on different lives. Unfortunately,
that value appears to be based on the colour of one's skin.
Honourable senators, we should take a page out of the book of Stanley Burke.
I do not know if any of you remember him, but he was an anchor on CBC.
He read the news about Biafra night after night. He had the courage to step
down from his position as anchor. He took a giant step and volunteered to go to
Biafra. I suppose he was the equivalent of our Peter Mansbridge. It is easy for
those of us who sit in this place. However, until we step out from our
comfortable pews, wherever they may be — and I address these remarks not only to
all Canadians but to all the peoples of the world — we will continue to have
situations like the situation in Darfur.
When I am asked who my heroes are, I generally answer that Stanley Burke is
one of them. He had the courage of his convictions. He stood up. He saw what was
wrong and he made a difference. He sacrificed something in his life. He went out
and did something about Biafra. Mr. Burke will always stand out as one of my
heroes, just like Terry Fox and Mother Teresa stand out as my heroes.
These are people who have gone out and done something deliberate. They
sacrificed something in their lives. They did not just make eloquent speeches —
any one can do that. They paid the ultimate price and gave up something close to
their hearts for their fellow man.
I cannot believe that if there is a God that judges each and every one of us
that he will ever be able to forgive us for watching this and not doing
something deliberate. I ask the government and I ask each and every one of you,
honourable senators, especially those who hold the majority in this place, to
Senator Jaffer did great work. I used to ask what she was doing — I could
never get an answer. I hope that the government of the day will not operate in
the same manner. We all deserve an answer. All of us should consider doing more
and doing it better.
On motion of Senator Fraser, debate adjourned.
On the Order:
Resuming debate on the motion of the Honourable Senator Segal, seconded by
the Honourable Senator Keon:
That whenever the Senate is sitting, the proceedings of the upper chamber,
like those of the lower one, be televised, or otherwise audio-visually
recorded, so that those proceedings can be carried live or replayed on CPAC,
or any other television station, at times that are convenient for Canadians;
And on the motion of the Honourable Senator Munson, seconded by the
Honourable Senator Peterson, that the question be referred to the Standing
Committee on Rules, Procedure and the Rights of Parliament.—(Honourable
Hon. Consiglio Di Nino: Honourable senators, I should like to make a
short comment in particular on the motion of Senator Munson to refer this matter
to the Standing Committee on Rules, Procedure and the Rights of Parliament. When
he made his motion he was doing so simply "to get a proper understanding of
costs, logistics and benefits."
As chair of the Rules Committee, I question whether ours is the appropriate
committee to which this motion should be referred. Matters concerning logistics,
benefits, et cetera would normally be referred to the Standing Committee on
Internal Economy, Budgets and Administration as opposed to the Rules Committee.
As servants of the Senate, we will obviously do whatever the Senate wishes.
However, I would like to put on the record that we should reconsider whether the
Rules Committee is the appropriate committee to which this matter should be
On motion of Senator Tkachuk, debate adjourned.
On the Order:
Resuming debate on the motion of the Honourable Senator Dallaire, seconded
by the Honourable Senator Day:
That the Senate expresses its support of Canada's diplomatic, defence and
development contributions for the stabilization and reconstruction of
That the Senate commends Canadian Forces personnel, diplomats and
humanitarian assistance officials for their contribution in re-building a
stable and prosperous Afghanistan.—(Honourable Senator Di Nino)
Hon. Consiglio Di Nino: Honourable senators, I am pleased to join
Senator Dallaire in praising Canada's contribution to the difficult and daunting
stabilization efforts in Afghanistan. The greatest praise must go to the men and
women of the Canadian Forces who toil every day in a hostile land where danger
lurks around every corner and every hill. Since moving to the Kandahar region
earlier this year, the risks to our soldiers, the soldiers of the Afghan army,
as well as the men and women wearing the uniforms of our allies, have greatly
increased, as we have sadly seen.
We must also recognize the valiant effort of those who toil without uniforms,
the diplomats and the aid workers, whose contributions are nonetheless critical
to the stabilization program. They, too, are targets of the inhumane and cruel
As honourable senators will recall, in 2001, Afghanistan was a failed state,
one of the poorest in the world which suffered under the bureaucratic rule of
the medieval Taliban regime. This government not only systematically and
brutally abused the rights of its citizens, particularly women, and sought to
destroy the country's cultural heritage, but also supported and gave sanctuary
to Osama bin Laden and his terrorist al-Qaeda network.
The Taliban's support for al-Qaeda and for the attacks of September 11, 2001
put an end to all of this. The United States took the lead, working with Canada,
other allies and local Afghan forces, removed the Taliban regime that harboured
al-Qaeda and set Afghanistan on a path to democracy.
Five years later, Afghanistan has a newly elected parliament, led by an
elected president. For the first time in decades the economy is growing and
security has largely returned to many areas of the country, particularly the
major cities of the north and west, including the capital, Kabul. Children, both
boys and girls, are going to school again. The future, which for millions of
Afghans was once only a horizon of dark clouds, now looks brighter.
Five years is a very short time to accomplish much in any country, but in
Afghanistan, much has been accomplished nevertheless, with much left to do. The
Taliban and al-Qaeda insurgency, while quelled in most of the country, still
rages in the east and south, particularly around Kandahar where our Canadian
Forces are located. Local warlords who helped remove the Taliban regime are
becoming rich from the proceeds of opium poppy cultivation. The power and
autonomy this money buys them is already proving to be a major political
challenge for the new government in Kabul. Afghanistan remains a desperately
poor country with decades of development ahead before it reaches the level of
wealth of its neighbours, none of whom are particularly prosperous themselves.
Honourable senators, since the attacks of September 11, 2001, the question of
Canadians has always been: What can we do to help? On that fateful day, we moved
quickly to help our American friends in a number of ways, from welcoming airline
passengers diverted to our country, to helping with the emergency response in
In the months that followed, we participated in the U.S.-led military
coalition to oust the Taliban. Afterwards, we joined in and led the NATO
International Security Assistance Force, ISAF, which brought security to Kabul
and then the entire north of Afghanistan. Our military presence in Afghanistan
is also supported by diplomatic and development efforts in an approach which has
pointed toward a new kind of engagement for Canada abroad, which is designed to
help locals establish an acceptable level of freedom, democracy, rule of law and
basic human rights.
Canadian initiatives in Afghanistan include helping with demining and
destruction of ammunition stockpiles. Savings and micro-loan services have been
provided to more than 100,000 clients, some 90 per cent of them women. More than
8,000 villages will receive funding to access basic rural infrastructure.
Through a CIDA-funded program, more than 62,000 former combatants have been
disarmed, demobilized and reintegrated into civilian society. Assistance in
areas of education, policing, justice reform, provision of clean water and
reconstruction is also helping establish a sense of normality for Afghanis.
In his speech on May 17, 2006 in the other place, Foreign Affairs Minister
MacKay referred to the impressive statistics of the many accomplishments in
Afghanistan. He said:
These statistics do not adequately convey the profound human dimensions of
such striking progress. They do not capture the many individual triumphs that
Afghans have achieved since 2001: the little girl going to school for the
first time; the widow becoming self-sufficient; the voter being empowered by
choice; and the family of refugees finally coming home.
Earlier this year, the Canadian Forces took over command of the Kandahar
region campaign. Their mission and objective is to bring to this region the same
level of security and stability that they helped to establish in Kabul. Canadian
soldiers, whose training and experience in this sort of peace support operation
is the envy of our allies, including the Americans, did very well in Kabul and
made a real difference there. Security, after all, is the indispensable
foundation of development and democracy. This is clearly one example of how we
can add significant value in future peace support operations abroad. During my
visit to Kabul last August, the soldiers I met expressed confidence that they
would achieve the same results in Kandahar as they did in Kabul.
During his visit to Afghanistan in March of this year, his first trip abroad
since becoming Prime Minister, Mr. Harper hold the men and women of the Canadian
Forces serving there:
On behalf of all Canadians, I want to tell you how proud I am of the work
you are doing. You have put yourselves on the line to defend our national
interests, ensure Canadian leadership in world affairs, and help Afghanistan
rebuild into a free, democratic and peaceful country.
During the years that Canadian soldiers have been posted in Afghanistan, life
for the men and women of the Canadian Forces has not been easy. They are far
from friends and family. When not on patrol or on a mission, they are confined
to camp and must be alert for the ever-present threat of rocket attacks. Sadly
and tragically, they have suffered the loss of comrades, most recently the
tragic death of Captain Nichola Goddard, a brave officer. Despite all of this,
their determination has not wavered, and neither must ours.
Honourable senators, Afghanistan is a country which has been in a near
constant state of war for over 25 years. There is an entire generation of
Afghans who have known only two times when the spectre of war seemed to recede —
once under the Taliban and again now under the democratically-elected government
of President Karzai, supported by coalition and NATO troops. It is essential
that they are convinced that the democratic option is the only one that will
lead to lasting security and prosperity. This is the work of decades, but I am
confident success will be achieved, first because the Afghanis yearn for it, and
second because the world is answering their plea for help. When that happens, it
will in large part be thanks to the hard work, professionalism and bravery of
the members of the Canadian Forces and their allies.
Honourable senators, the Afghanistan mission is facing a cruel and heartless
enemy whose obsession borders on madness. On May 17, 2006, during the debate in
the other place on extending the Afghan mission, the Prime Minister said:
Al-Qaeda and the Taliban are not interested in peace. They target
civilians. They target women and children in a quest to impose once again
their will and their dark and backward vision of life on the Afghan people.
Honourable senators, the enemy does not lack courage and will not easily be
defeated, and it does have some support among the citizens of Afghanistan. The
soldiers serving in that faraway land are well aware of the risks and, as they
told me during my visit, they recognize that some of them will pay the ultimate
price. Yet, they are prepared to continue the mission because they have
experienced the warmth, gratitude and respect of the vast majority of the people
of Afghanistan, who see them as liberators and friends. They have not only seen
but felt the emotions of smiles on the faces of boys and girls as they wave to
our troops while going to and returning from school.
To experience the sensation of genuine and heartfelt gratitude is a powerful
and infectious tonic that makes the risk worth taking. It reinforces your
resolve — as a matter of fact, it steels it. When confronted with difficult
choices dealing with helping others in danger or in need, I believe that if you
can help, you must. Our soldiers believe they can help.
During his recent visit with Canadian troops in Afghanistan, Foreign Affairs
Minister Peter MacKay also assured the troops of the support of the Canadian
government for them and their mission and informed President Karzai that Canada
will not abandon the Afghan people and will be there to help finish the job. As
Minister MacKay said during debate in the other place on May 17, 2006:
An extended and enhanced Canadian commitment to Afghanistan will
demonstrate clearly, unequivocally and tangibly to ordinary Afghans that they
are right to hold out hope that tomorrow can be better than today.
I was therefore pleased that the debate in the other place reflected
overwhelming support for our troops and their mission in Afghanistan, and was
heartened by the approval of the extension of the mandate, although by a slim
majority, for a further two years.
Honourable senators, we as parliamentarians also have an important role to
play. First, we must be strong advocates of the brave men and women on the front
lines of this conflict, particularly by ensuring that they have all the
resources they need to perform the dangerous tasks ahead as safely as possible.
Second, we must act as their voices and appeal to Canadians not to weaken
their resolve in support of their mission to bring smiles to the faces of all
the children of Afghanistan.
Finally, as well as extending our warmest wishes to our soldiers for a safe
and successful conclusion to their mission, let us express our heartfelt
gratitude to the children, spouses, mothers and fathers, brothers and sisters,
family and friends of our soldiers, our diplomats and our aid workers. To all of
them we say: Thank you for your sacrifices, and God bless.
On motion of Senator Fraser, debate adjourned.
Hon. Gerry St. Germain, pursuant to notice of May 16, 2006, moved:
That the Standing Senate Committee on Aboriginal Peoples, in accordance
with rule 86(1)(q) of the Senate, be authorized to examine and report on the
general concerns of First Nations in Canada related to the federal Specific
Claims process, the nature and status of the Government of Canada's Specific
Claims policy, the present administration of the policy, the status of the
Indian Specific Claims Commission, and other relevant matters with a view to
making recommendations to contribute to the timely and satisfactory resolution
of First Nations' grievances arising out both their treaties with the federal
Crown and the Government of Canada's administration of their lands, monies,
and other affairs under the Indian Act.
That the Committee report to the Senate from time to time, but no later
than June 14, 2007 and that the Committee retain until September 1, 2007, all
powers necessary to publicize its findings.
He said: Honourable senators, on May 17, Senator Harb proposed a friendly
amendment that was out of order at that particular time because I had not moved
the motion as of yet.
I have had conversations and discussions with Senator Harb in regard to the
motion that I put forward, and he would like a certain amount of expansion on
this particular reference. I believe it is covered in other affairs in this
particular motion. I assure the Senate that we will focus on specific claims.
Specific claims, in a nutshell, are, first, the non-fulfillment of a treaty or
other agreement between First Nations and the Crown; second, the breach of an
Indian Act or the statutory responsibility; third, the breach of an obligation
arising out of government administration of First Nations funds or other assets;
and, fourth, illegal sale or other disposition of First Nations land by
We will most likely come forward with an interim report on the specific
claims aspect, not ignoring the concerns of Senator Harb on other affairs that
are affected by the Indian Act.
Hon. Mac Harb: Your honour, with your permission, if the chair of the
committee was to undertake that once he does the thing that the committee is
asking the Senate to allow them to do, that he will further look at the specific
motion that I have proposed that I would be moving today I am happy to proceed.
Senator St. Germain: Without question, honourable senators, we will
take this into serious consideration.
The Hon. the Speaker: Is it your pleasure, honourable senators, to
adopt the motion?
Motion agreed to.
The Senate adjourned until Wednesday, May 31, 2006, at 1:30 p.m.