Debates of the Senate (Hansard)
1st Session, 39th Parliament,
Volume 143, Issue 20
Tuesday, June 6, 2006
The Honourable Noël A. Kinsella, Speaker
Tuesday, June 6, 2006
The Senate met at 2 p.m., the Speaker in the chair.
The Hon. the Speaker: Honourable senators, before proceeding to
Senators' Statements, may I draw your attention to the presence in the gallery
of our former colleague, Senator Erminie Cohen.
Hon. Catherine S. Callbeck: Honourable senators, this past weekend I
had the privilege of being involved in two national conferences held in my home
province of Prince Edward Island.
In Summerside, I was honoured to address the national conference and annual
meeting delegates of the Imperial Order Daughters of the Empire, also known as
the IODE. The theme of their conference was "Catch the New Wave," and the
members learned through workshops, seminars and speakers new ways to continue
their 106-year tradition of helping children, youth and those in need. This
organization has accomplished many extraordinary things since it began.
The Canadian Hard of Hearing Association held its annual conference and trade
show in Charlottetown. Delegates saw the latest in technology for people with
hearing problems and listened to Sue Thomas, the inspiration for the television
series, Sue Thomas, F.B.Eye.
In addition, our former colleague Senator Gauthier was honoured in absentia
for his work on behalf of Canadians who are hard of hearing. We all know that
this is a well-deserved honour and know the tremendous work he has done and
continues to do.
The fact is that one in ten Canadians has some form of hearing loss. This
number is expected to rise to 17 per cent over the next seven years. Hearing
loss is the largest disability in the country.
These are just two of the many national conferences that are taking place in
my home province this year. Prince Edward Island has become a very popular
location for national organizations to hold their annual meetings and
conventions, with excellent facilities, challenging golf courses — some of which
are internationally recognized — beautiful scenery and, of course, our famous
Each conference last weekend was a great success. I wish to take the
opportunity to commend the volunteers of these two organizations. They are truly
committed, and they dedicate a great deal of time, effort and energy to helping
others. They can all be justifiably proud of everything they have accomplished.
Hon. Michael A. Meighen: Honourable senators, it is 62 years ago to
the day that the Third Canadian Infantry Division and the Second Armoured
Brigade took part in Operation Overlord, the invasion of mainland Europe. Their
goal on D-Day was to establish a bridgehead on a beach code-named "Juno" — a
beach where a Canadian museum now stands in recognition of our nation's
accomplishment and sacrifice.
Juno Beach was an eight-kilometre-long, heavily guarded open expanse.
Canadian soldiers fell in great numbers under enemy fire, but they persevered
and reached their goal. That was D-Day, when Canadian troops succeeded in
gaining more ground than all of the other Allied forces.
On that one day, 340 Canadians were injured and 574 killed. Most of the dead
now lie in two beautiful Canadian cemeteries nestled in the picturesque Normandy
It was neither the first nor the last time that Canadian men and women fought
bravely in a war to protect our freedoms and our way of life.
Although we pause to commemorate D-Day annually on June 6, we must never
forget the sacrifices and accomplishments of our Armed Forces subsequent to this
day. Besides playing a leading role in bringing the Second World War to an end,
Canadians have fought side by side with our allies for decades in campaigns such
as the Korean War, the first Gulf War, NATO operations and UN peacekeeping
operations around the world, defending those values we hold dear. Currently, our
men and women are engaged in a similar effort in Afghanistan.
Two days ago, another event took place to honour the men and women of our
Armed Forces. June 4 marked the fifth annual Canadian Forces Day. According to
the Chief of Defence Staff, General Rick Hillier:
Canadian Forces Day gives the public a chance to show their support for the
work of our soldiers, sailors, airmen and airwomen who wear the maple leaf on
their shoulder defending Canada and promoting Canadian values around the
As Canadians, we from time to time take for granted our current way of life —
our freedoms and our rights to participate in cultural and political events, and
our rights to live under a government of our choice. We owe the preservation of
these freedoms to the men and women who wear our uniform — those who wore it in
the past and those who wear it today.
I invite all senators to join me in recognizing all of those who served our
country in the past, as well as the men and women who so proudly wear the maple
The present-day accomplishments of our Armed Forces, both regular and
reserve, build on a proud tradition. Today, men and women of the Armed Forces
continue to make us proud and are a fitting tribute to the legacies and
sacrifices of the Canadians in uniform before them.
Hon. Marilyn Trenholme Counsell: Honourable senators, June 5, 2006,
was the first ever Diabetes Day on the Hill. Volunteers living with diabetes, in
communities across Canada, came to Ottawa to raise our awareness of the
seriousness of diabetes.
Diabetes is a disease which directly causes over 5,000 deaths per year and
contributes to about 25,000. In economic terms, diabetes costs Canadians more
than $9 billion annually, including both direct costs and those stemming from
premature death and lost productivity.
Over 2 million Canadians have diabetes today and more than 3 million will be
diagnosed by 2010. The incidence in diabetes among children under age 15 has
tripled since 1971. Type 2 diabetes, which was once considered something one
developed after the age of 45, is increasingly being diagnosed in those under
20. Data from the United States suggests a 10- to 30-fold increase in the number
of children with type 2 diabetes over the past 10 years. It is an epidemic among
Aboriginal peoples in Canada, with the national age-adjusted prevalence three to
five times higher than that of the general population. Type 2 diabetes is
beginning to emerge in Aboriginal children as young as five years of age.
Honourable senators, it is no surprise that one in three children born in
2000 will develop diabetes at some point during their lifetime. Two risk factors
for developing type 2 diabetes are being overweight and being physically
inactive. In 2004, 26 per cent of Canadian children and adolescents aged 2 to 17
were overweight or obese, and 8 per cent were obese. In adolescents aged 12 to
17, the overweight-obesity rate of this age group more than doubled and the
obesity rate tripled. For children aged 6 to 11 years and adolescents aged 12 to
17 years, the likelihood of being overweight or obese tends to rise as time
spent watching TV, playing video games and using the computer increases. Each
week 25 per cent of Canadian kids spend more time watching TV or playing video
games than they spend in school. Research shows that 50 per cent of Canadian
children are simply not active enough.
Honourable senators, to prevent type 2 diabetes, the most important thing we
can do for our children is to teach them that it is fun to live healthy and
Honourable senators, each one of us can do something to help Canadian
children and youth stay healthy, eat well and become more active.
Diabetes is a lifelong illness. Our children and youth must have a good
foundation for lifelong health. We must focus our actions on preventing diabetes
because this is a priority for Canada and the rest of the world.
Hon. Consiglio Di Nino: Honourable senators, the words "Tiananmen
Square" for me conjure up images of treachery, barbarism, cowardice, murder and
denial of the most basic human rights. The Chinese leaders who gave the military
orders on that fateful dark night of June 4, 1989 are guilty of all these
things. They ordered the butchering of hundreds if not thousands of men and
women. These young demonstrators were all Chinese citizens, the future of their
country. The evil men who committed these atrocities did so because these young
people were demonstrating for things that we take for granted every day, such as
basic rights and freedoms. The brutal crackdown of the Chinese leaders
reverberated throughout the world and sent a cold chill across all lands. That
was 17 long years ago, yet brave and courageous Chinese citizens still
demonstrate today against these tyrants, and are arrested and jailed by the
Chinese police. It is these valiant people I wish to salute today. They keep the
flame of hope alive and they honour the memory of those whose lives were so
brutally stomped out on June 4, 1989.
I urge all honourable senators, all Canadians and, indeed, the whole world to
demonstrate solidarity with these Chinese people who tirelessly toil eventually
to slay the dragon and bring democracy to China.
Hon. Lillian Eva Dyck: Honourable senators, on May 29 in Ottawa there
was a Walk the World for Schizophrenia. This event is a major fundraiser that
assists the Schizophrenia Society of Canada in its important work. In Saskatoon,
the Walk the World for Schizophrenia normally occurs in the fall, and this year
it will be held on September 24. I have participated in this walk along the
banks of the South Saskatchewan River many times in support of the Schizophrenia
Society of Saskatchewan.
This disease is one of the most serious mental health disorders. Its
incidence is about one in one hundred persons or about 300,000 Canadians. The
main symptoms of schizophrenia are delusions and hallucinations, thought
disorder, lack of motivation and social withdrawal. The onset of the disease is
usually in early childhood, which often disrupts the individual's education.
Adult schizophrenics often find it difficult to maintain employment for a
sustained period of time. Furthermore, the chronic nature of the disease
contributes to ongoing social problems. As a result, individuals with
schizophrenia are greatly overrepresented in prison and in homeless populations.
Antipsychotic drugs are the main vehicle used to treat schizophrenia. The
atypical antipsychotics have fewer side effects than the older typical
antipsychotics, but unfortunately, significant weight gain is often associated
with some of the newer drugs. Antipsychotic drugs effectively treat the positive
symptoms of schizophrenia, such as hallucinations and psychosis, but
improvements in the negative symptoms, such as social withdrawal and decreased
motivation, are more difficult to achieve. Thus, antipsychotic drug treatment is
usually combined with other elements, such as educational support, primary care
services, hospital-based services and community support, for example, proper
housing and employment.
According to the Schizophrenia Society of Saskatchewan, there is a critical
shortage of professional caregivers, doctors, psychiatrists and nurses that
needs to be dealt with in the near future. In addition, there is a need for safe
and decent housing for individuals being released from the hospital; there is an
immense need for community support for the individuals suffering from
schizophrenia; and most importantly, there is a great need to change the public
attitude toward individuals suffering from schizophrenia.
As honourable senators will know, the Standing Senate Committee on Social
Affairs, Science and Technology released its report, Out of the Shadows at
Last, on May 9. The Schizophrenia Society of Canada and the provincial
schizophrenia societies strongly support the recommendations contained in the
report and they are encouraging the government to move forward on its
Honourable senators, there is an urgent need for the federal government to
move quickly to establish and fund the Canadian Mental Health Commission.
The Hon. the Speaker: Honourable senators, I wish to draw to your
attention the presence in the gallery of His Excellency Foued Mebazaâ, President
of the Chamber of Deputies of the Republic of Tunisia. Also with him are His
Excellency the Ambassador of Tunisia and a delegation of deputies of the
Republic of Tunisia.
On behalf of all of the senators, I welcome you to the Senate of Canada.
The Hon. the Speaker: Honourable senators, pursuant to rule 135, I
have the honour to table the list of senators who have filed a renewed
Declaration of Property Qualification.
Hon. Jerahmiel S. Grafstein: Honourable senators, I have the honour to
table the second report of the Standing Senate Committee on Banking, Trade and
Commerce, entitled, Consumer Protection in the Financial Services Sector, the
On motion of Senator Grafstein, report placed on the Orders the Day for
consideration at the next sitting of the Senate.
The Hon. the Speaker: Honourable senators, a message has been received
from the House of Commons with a Bill C-15, to amend the Agricultural Marketing
Programs Act, to which they desire the concurrence of the Senate.
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.
The Hon. the Speaker informed the Senate that a message had been
received from the House of Commons with Bill C-13, to implement certain
provisions of the budget tabled in Parliament on May 2, 2006.
Bill read first time.
The Hon. the Speaker: Honourable senators, when shall this bill be
read the second time?
Hon. Gerald J. Comeau (Deputy Leader of the Government): Honourable
senators, with leave, I propose that this bill be read the second time tomorrow.
The Hon. the Speaker: Is it your pleasure, honourable senators, to
adopt the motion?
Hon. Senators: No.
Senator Comeau: I move that this bill be read a second time at the
next sitting of the Senate.
The Hon. the Speaker: Is it your pleasure, honourable senators, to
adopt the motion?
Hon. Joseph A. Day: Honourable senators, normally when we are asked to
abridge time, we are told why.
The Hon. the Speaker: Senator Comeau, do you wish to explain?
Senator Comeau: Honourable senators, I discussed the matter with the
Deputy Leader of the Opposition, and we agreed to proceed with second reading
tomorrow, given the time of year and the resulting workload for the committees.
The Hon. the Speaker: Is it your pleasure, honourable senators, to
adopt the motion?
Hon. Senators: Agreed.
On motion of Senator Comeau, notwithstanding rule 57(1)(f), Bill placed on
the Orders of the Day for second reading at the next sitting of the Senate.
Hon. Daniel Hays (Leader of the Opposition): Honourable senators, I
return to last week, when I asked the Leader of the Government in the Senate a
series of questions on the fiscal balance and how a Conservative campaign
promise to exclude non-renewable resources revenue from the equalization formula
had been transformed into a mere preference.
In response, the government leader said there were many views on the issue
and asked us to wait for the report of the expert panel. The expert panel made
its report yesterday. According to Al O'Brien, who chaired the panel, the report
does not take into account the accords reached by Prime Minister Martin with the
provinces of Newfoundland and Labrador and Nova Scotia.
Can the Leader of the Government in the Senate assure honourable senators and
the citizens of those provinces that the government will honour those accords?
Hon. Marjory LeBreton (Leader of the Government): Honourable senators,
I thank the honourable senator for that question.
The Prime Minister and the government do not intend to alter the offshore
agreements that were reached in 2005 with Nova Scotia and Newfoundland and
Senator Hays: Honourable senators, the expert panel proposes that one
half of natural resource revenue be included for purposes of the equalization
formula. Will the Leader of the Government in the Senate tell us whether her
party's election promise to exclude those revenues will still be honoured?
Senator LeBreton: As the honourable senator knows, this report, better
known as the O'Brien report, was commissioned by the then Minister of Finance in
March 2005. We just received the report yesterday, and in view of all the
headlines about the other issues that were happening, many of us have not had a
chance to read it until today. This report has now been received. The Minister
of Finance is looking carefully at the recommendations of this report, along
with many others that he has received. It is only prudent to wait until the
Minister of Finance and the government have had a proper opportunity to respond
to this and other reports before we deal with the question of equalization and
Senator Hays: I thank the minister for those answers. However, it now
becomes a question of what is the work plan. What is the plan in terms of the
decision-making process that will lead to our hearing from the government on
what it proposes to do on the questions that are now in play? Will this be
addressed soon or at a later time?
This is a subject, as the minister knows, that has concerned a number of
premiers. We would probably all agree that it would be well to settle those
anxieties as soon as possible. When are we likely to see steps being taken to do
Senator LeBreton: The government will carefully consider the
recommendations of the expert panel, and it will also consider and review the
Council of the Federation Report and the June 19 report of the Canadian
Federation of Municipalities before consulting with the provinces, territories
and other interested parties in order to come forward with a response and a
proposal in the early fall.
Hon. Francis Fox: Honourable senators, my question is for the Leader
of the Government in the Senate. When Quebec Premier Jean Charest gave the
opening address on Monday at the Economic Forum of the Americas, organized by
the Conference of Montreal under the ever-capable leadership of Gil Rémillard,
he criticized the fact that some people — meaning the Harper government — are
questioning the Kyoto Protocol.
Mr. Charest said that the Kyoto Protocol is our best weapon against global
warming. He went on to say that we have a huge moral obligation to future
generations, and that his gouvernment intends to meet that obligation.
Given that Canadians in general and Quebecers in particular attach a great
deal of importance to all environmental issues, can the honourable minister
assure this chamber that her government will have the courage to examine its
conscience and alter its position on the Kyoto Protocol, in keeping with what
Hon. Marjory LeBreton (Leader of the Government): Honourable senators,
I wish to thank Senator Fox for his question.
I do not believe that anyone questions the good intent of the Kyoto Protocol.
The government and Minister Rona Ambrose have clearly stated that the
commitments made in Kyoto cannot be achieved. When Minister Ambrose represented
the Government of Canada at the conference in Bonn, she simply told the truth
and stated the obvious. That was the case with most other industrialized
nations. The Kyoto Protocol goals, however laudable, are not realistic. As we
have stated, emissions in Canada have increased since signing on to Kyoto.
With regard to comments made by the Premier of Quebec, I do not believe there
is any disagreement that most people support the overall intent of the Kyoto
Protocol. The only difference is that the federal government is speaking openly
and honestly with respect to informing Canadians of something they should
already know, that there is no way the country can live up to the commitments
set out in the Kyoto Protocol.
Minister Ambrose is working on several fronts and will shortly be presenting
proposals with regard to the issue of greenhouse gas emissions and a
Senator Fox: Honourable senators, I would like to ask a supplementary
question. At the same conference, the Deputy Prime Minister of Great Britain —
also an industrial power — wanted to exceed the Kyoto objectives. He stated that
his government was undertaking to exceed the targets. It took a certain amount
of political courage to make that kind of commitment.
In addition, in Montreal this past weekend, at the annual meeting of the
Federation of Canadian Municipalities, which has over 1,400 representatives of
Canadian cities — large, small, and medium-sized — the members supported the
position of the previous government. They stated that they could even surpass
the Kyoto objectives. This is at odds with the response given by the honourable
Furthermore, Quebec Premier Charest, urged the Bloc Québécois to vote against
the budget in the House, given the government's position on Kyoto.
In light of what I have just said, if the government is serious about
promoting the interests of Quebec, could the minister tell us whether, given the
strong expression of support by municipal officials and the international
community, the government would be prepared to re-examine its position and to
show the necessary political courage to admit that it was wrong and to allow the
Minister of the Environment to address the federation in future without having
to duck out at the last minute?
Senator LeBreton: No one questions the good intentions of the previous
government in terms of the Kyoto Protocol and the desired outcome. The problem
is that they were not able to live up to these commitments and the situation
We can respond in this place to interesting comments made by premiers. I took
note of the particular comment the honourable senator attributes to Premier
I go back to what I have said many times: This government will approach this
issue seriously and realistically. It will deal with a made-in-Canada approach,
one I am sure which, when Minister Ambrose announces it, will be clear,
realistic and effective. It will be a plan that will set us on the road to
reaching our targets.
Hon. Maria Chaput: Honourable senators, I address my remarks to the
Leader of the Government in the Senate. On Wednesday, May 31, I asked a
supplementary question concerning the agreements in principle on early learning
and child care.
I have with me the documents, which include a copy of the agreement in
principle signed by the Government of Canada and the Government of Manitoba on
April 29, 2005. I know full well that similar agreements were signed across
Canada. I have an information sheet indicating the programs that will be
cancelled or will not be developed in French Manitoba if this agreement is not
I would like to point out to the Leader of the Government in the Senate that
the francophone community in Manitoba has its sights set on early childhood
services in French in each of the communities where a French school is located,
that is 19 of our communities in Manitoba.
For French Manitoba, the abolition of the bilateral agreement, the agreement
on early learning and child care, will mean no funding for new infrastructures,
thus precluding the building of the urban daycare centre in Saint-Vital; no new
places in five daycare centres or early childhood services in the rural areas,
La Broquerie, Saint-Vital, St-Jean-Baptiste, Lorette and Sainte-Agathe; no
scholarships for people aiming for careers in early childhood development,
although the scholarship was an incentive for people taking special courses, and
these people signed an agreement that they would work two years for us before
going elsewhere; and no more funding for the new early childhood leadership
course at the Collège Universitaire de Saint-Boniface.
Would the Leader of the Government in the Senate like me to table these
documents? Does her government still intend not to renew the agreements despite
the fact that this decision will have a negative impact on early childhood
development in francophone minority communities?
Hon. Marjory LeBreton (Leader of the Government): Honourable senators,
I wish to thank the Honourable Senator Chaput for her question.
The honourable senator asked a similar question last week, at which time I
asked specifically that her concerns with regard to the programs she mentioned
be set down and that I be able to respond to them properly. I would be happy to
have the documents to which the honourable senator refers.
In answer to whether we will undo what we said we would do in terms of the
agreements that the previous government signed, the answer to that of course is
no. We will bring in our own child care policies.
However, I appreciate the specific issues that the honourable senator has
raised. I would be happy to respond to each and every one of them. I have
mentioned previously, however, that there were many issues concerning things
that were to happen but they never happened. That is a different matter. As I
have said, nothing from nothing is nothing.
If these are specific plans and programs that the honourable senator says are
being affected directly, I would be happy to respond to each and every one of
Hon. Jim Munson: Honourable senators, my question is for the Leader of
the Government in the Senate.
There have been disturbing news stories in the last few days over the death
of Mark Bourque, a retired RCMP officer who was killed while serving with the
United Nations mission in Haiti. The reports allege that his was a death that
could have been prevented. In fact, as there are many troubling questions
surrounding his death, the UN has launched its own investigation.
Does the government support this investigation, or will the government launch
its own investigation?
Hon. Marjory LeBreton (Leader of the Government): Honourable senators,
I wish to thank Senator Munson for his question. I saw both reports on Mark
Bourque and found them very disturbing.
I am certain that the Minister of Foreign Affairs and the Minister of Public
Safety are well aware of this matter. I will take that question as notice and
will respond with a delayed answer.
Senator Munson: I thank the Leader of the Government for that answer
and will look forward to the delayed answer.
The stories also suggest that the family has been kept out of the loop. The
family has not heard from our government or the UN. I urge the honourable
senator to consider that as well.
Senator LeBreton: As I said, those reports were very disturbing,
especially when one realizes that the hospital was so close by and that there
were other UN soldiers there. I will certainly make every effort to answer that
Hon. Joan Fraser (Deputy Leader of the Opposition): Honourable
senators, my question is directed to the Leader of the Government in the Senate.
Like everyone in Quebec, I was fascinated to see news media reports yesterday
and today that a cabinet meeting is planned at the Citadel in Quebec City on
June 22-23, leading up to the Fête nationale. You can understand why this is
interesting to all of us from Quebec.
Can the Leader of the Government confirm that this meeting is planned? If so,
could the honourable senator explain why we know about the time and place of
cabinet meetings in Quebec City but not in Ottawa?
Hon. Marjory LeBreton (Leader of the Government): Honourable senators,
I have read the same news reports. I have not received confirmation that there
will be a cabinet meeting in Quebec City.
If we do go to Quebec City on the evening of June 22 and the day of June 23,
it will be a wonderful opportunity for us to profile our new young cabinet and
how many of the cabinet members are truly bilingual and able to communicate with
the people of Quebec, unlike most of the Liberal leadership candidates.
Senator Fraser: Honourable senators, I would like to congratulate the
Leader of the Government for her colleagues' bilingualism, youth and brilliance.
Who knows, the Senate may sit on Friday, June 23. Can she tell us whether she
or the Minister of Public Works and Government Services will be in the Senate
Senator LeBreton: Honourable senators, if the Senate is sitting, and
if there is a cabinet meeting, perhaps with two weeks' notice I can be forgiven
for being absent from Question Period.
Senator Fraser: That is why I thought it would be appropriate to put
the question early.
Hon. Gerald J. Comeau (Deputy Leader of the Government) tabled the
answer to Question No. 6 on the Order Paper—by Senator Downe.
Leave having been given to revert to Notices of Motions:
Hon. Tommy Banks: Honourable senators, I give notice that at the next
sitting of the Senate I will move:
That the papers and evidence received and taken on Bill S-5, An Act to
repeal legislation that has not come into force within ten years of receiving
royal assent, by the Standing Senate Committee on Legal and Constitutional
Affairs during the First Session of the Thirty-eighth Parliament be referred
to the Standing Senate Committee on Legal and Constitutional Affairs for its
study on Bill S-202, An Act to repeal legislation that has not come into force
within ten years of receiving royal assent.
On the Order:
Resuming debate on the motion of the Honourable Senator Nolin seconded by
the Honourable Senator Andreychuk, for the second reading of Bill S-3, to
amend the National Defence Act, the Criminal Code, the Sex Offender
Information Registration Act and the Criminal Records Act.
Hon. Mobina S. B. Jaffer: Honourable senators, I rise today to speak
to Bill S-3, to amend the National Defence Act to bring our military justice
system into accord with the civilian courts with respect to the registration of
Currently, there is no system during a court martial to require an individual
convicted of a sexual offence to register information as may be required by the
civilian courts. Bill S-3 seeks to correct this difference, while taking into
account the operational needs of our forces and the rights and obligations of
The bill will also make changes designed to enhance the current federal sex
As Senator Nolin mentioned in his speech introducing this bill, Bill S-3 is
substantially similar to a bill that was introduced by the previous government
in the last session of Parliament.
Other honourable senators have noted that the previous bill, S-39, passed
second reading and was the subject of six separate meetings in the Standing
Senate Committee on Legal and Constitutional Affairs. Some of the concerns
raised in these meetings have been addressed in the bill before us.
One thing that is of the utmost importance to many honourable senators is to
ensure that we never bring disrepute on our Canadian Forces. As we all know, our
forces are currently representing Canada abroad in Afghanistan and elsewhere,
and some have even made the supreme sacrifice on our behalf.
I feel it is important that every time we mention our Canadian forces over
there, we pay tribute to their efforts, heroism and bravery.
In my previous role as Canada's Special Envoy to Sudan, I had the opportunity
to work with some of the hundred or so Canadian troops stationed in Darfur. I
saw the bravery and commitment of our Canadian Forces first hand. They have left
behind comfortable homes here in Canada and have been deployed to a harsh
environment in an effort to help those who have nothing in this world.
The expertise and commitment to professionalism of our forces in the face of
difficult and unpredictable circumstances was astounding. Our Canadian Forces
represent us to the world, and Canadians are extremely well represented by those
men and women. We should recognize them not only for their sacrifices, but also
for the successes which all too often go unsung.
Even if we do not always agree with the policies that lead to a deployment of
troops, there can be little doubt that our forces will always conduct themselves
as shining examples of the values that have made our country so great.
It is therefore worth noting that the bill before us today deals with some
exceptionally rare circumstances. While it is our duty to give these new
measures careful consideration, weighing them on their individual merits, we
must also recognize that they will likely not be used with great frequency.
According to the previous Minister of National Defence, only 17 individuals
have been charged with offences that would be covered by the bill before us
since the sex offender registry came into effect. The number of persons
convicted by court martial each year of sexual offences is not large — about
three per year, on average. It is important, nonetheless, that military courts
be given the authority to order persons convicted of sexual offences to report
and provide the required information to the Sex Offender Information Registry.
The idea of requiring sex offenders to register their information with
authorities is not a new one in this chamber. Not only did we approve of the
original Sex Offender Information Registration legislation in 2004, but also in
principle during the last session of Parliament as Bill S-39. Honourable
senators have accepted that the sex offender registry is a legitimate and useful
tool to assist police in investigating certain crimes of a sexual nature.
Therefore, it is essential that we have a system to require those convicted
to register the information, and to ensure that it is kept confidential and
accessible only to those who use it for a legitimate purpose.
Senator Nolin has already told the chamber that this system was set up by the
original Sex Offender Information Registry legislation, but that legislation did
not apply to the military justice system. This has left Canada's military
justice system behind. This has left Canada's military justice system out of
step with Canada's civilian court system.
Bill S-3 seeks to bring the two systems into line while taking into account
the operational requirements of our Forces. It amends the National Defence Act
and makes some changes to the Criminal Code and the Sex Offender Information
Registry. Most aspects of this legislation have already been touched on in some
detail; however, there are some sections that should be mentioned again.
One of the key differences between the amendments in Bill S-3 and the
original Sex Offender Information Registry legislation are the authorities given
to the Chief of Defence Staff to suspend the application of certain obligations
for those who are subject to the Code of Service Discipline. In addition, the
Chief of Defence Staff would be given the authority to exempt individuals from
some reporting requirements if that information could jeopardize operational
security. Under Bill S-3, the Chief of Defence Staff would be required to report
the use of these powers to the Minister of National Defence.
These authorities given to the Chief of Defence Staff do not exempt Canadian
Forces members from their obligations under the Sex Offender Information
Registry Act. A member's obligations will continue and these authorities are
meant only to provide a measure of flexibility when conflicts between these two
legal regimes arise.
The Chief of Defence Staff would also be able to designate registration
centres inside or outside Canada to allow compliance with the Sex Offender
Information Registry by those subject to the Code of Service Discipline.
The existence of these powers raises a number of legitimate questions. What
sort of circumstances might require the use of these powers? How will it affect
the rights and obligations of those required to register under the act? Are
there adequate checks and balances placed on the Chief of Defence Staff when
exercising these powers? Of course, these powers also raise the question of
whether or not those convicted of sexual offences should be allowed to serve as
part of our Canadian Forces at all.
It is extremely important to me that our Forces not be brought into
disrepute. These men and women represent us to the world and, therefore, the
question of whether to retain an individual convicted of an offence of a sexual
nature is a serious one. We have to remember that this bill deals with the
question of whether or not individuals who are convicted of such offences under
the military justice system should be required to register and, if so, how they
should do so. Whether or not they should be retained in the Forces is not
directly covered in this bill and has traditionally been an internal decision
made on a case-by-case basis.
These types of convictions have been relatively rare and in most cases, the
convicted individual has been released from the Forces. In cases where they have
been retained, they have been subject to probation and counselling.
I am confident that our Forces exercise the same professionalism and
commitment to excellence that I have observed in the field, and I am convinced
that they will continue to do so. Nonetheless, there are aspects of the section
that we will want to look at in the committee.
Another issue is retroactivity. Under proposed section 203.7 of the National
Defence Act, the Canadian Forces Provost Marshal can compel any person serving a
sentence for an offence under this act, to register his or her information. This
is similar to a provision of the original Sex Offender Information Registry Act
which was debated at length at the time of its passage.
The Sex Offender Information Registry is intended as a tool for law
enforcement. The obligations it places on those convicted are intended to
enhance public safety; they are not intended as an additional form of
Despite the stated intention of the government to introduce full
retroactivity into the Sex Offender Information Registry, the requirement to
register in Bill S-3 only extends to those who are still within the justice
system at the time of the bill's passage. This is the same as in the original
legislation. This way it strikes an appropriate balance between the legal rights
of offenders and the public right to the greatest possible safety.
Overall, the policy directives of Bill S-3 are similar to those introduced in
Bill S-39 of the previous Parliament. Although the current government has made
some changes to that bill, to which our colleague Senator Nolin and others have
alluded, many are motivated by the fine work of our committee in the last
Last week I attended a conference in the United Kingdom dealing with the
effects of conflict on women and girls. One of the major preoccupations of the
participants was that military justice be every bit as aggressive as civilian
justice in cases of sexual abuse.
I know our soldiers act appropriately but it is nonetheless important that we
send a strong message. It is equally, if not more important, that authorities
have all the information they need to investigate and punish sexual offences
when they occur in our Canadian Forces.
Therefore, I am happy to support this bill in principle at second reading and
look forward to an opportunity to examine it in greater detail in the Standing
Senate Committee on Legal and Constitutional Affairs.
On motion of Senator Joyal, debate adjourned.
On the Order:
Resuming debate on the motion of the Honourable Senator Spivak, seconded by
the Honourable Senator Segal, for the second reading of Bill S-210, An Act to
amend the National Capital Act (establishment and protection of Gatineau
Park).—(Honourable Senator Cools)
Hon. Pierre Claude Nolin: Honourable senators, Gatineau Park is a gem
in the National Capital Region's crown. It is wholly located in Quebec and
spreads out between the Ottawa and Gatineau Rivers. It stretches over some 50
kilometres and covers more than 36,000 hectares of forests, mountains, rock,
streams and lakes that are characteristic of the Canadian Shield landscape.
Under the auspices of the National Capital Commission, the federal government
owns over 29,000 hectares, or some 80 per cent of the park. Quebec holds the
property titles on roughly 6,000 hectares, or 17 per cent, and individuals and
others own roughly 855 hectares, or nearly 2 per cent of the park. This includes
the roads that belong to the municipalities or the Province of Quebec.
The park has dozens of lakes and hundreds of ponds. It accommodates over 50
species of mammals including some that are considered endangered or at risk,
such as the Canadian lynx and wolves. It is home to nearly 230 species of birds.
The park is wholly within the boundaries of the regional county municipality of
Collines-de-l'Outaouais, of which three quarters of the neighbouring land is
farmland. Its southern most tip extends into the urban area of the City of
Gatineau. These aspects, however, deprive the park of connections with adjacent
This park offers the million and a half residents of the greater National
Capital Region direct and easy access to a natural region of incomparable
beauty. For over 100 years, the park has been the destination for outdoor
recreational activities such as hiking, biking, canoeing, downhill skiing,
cross-country skiing, birdwatching, camping, picnicking, riding, snowmobiling
and snowshoeing. The list goes on. There are over 1.7 million visitors to the
park each year.
Cultural attractions are also a vital part of the life and history of the
park. The Mackenzie King Estate is a tourist destination for over 60,000
visitors a year. The Wakefield Mill bears witness to Eastern Canada's past in
the lumber industry and the Gatineau Park visitors' centre located in Chelsea
offers a variety of services throughout the year. In addition, two official
residences, one on Lac Mousseau, or Harrington Lake, and one at The Farm, add to
the historical importance of park policy.
Its location, however, may also be seen as a curse in terms of the
preservation of the ecosystem. Human activity can have an impact on natural
regions. The constraints humans can impose on the environment in our mad rush to
enjoy it, to travel through it or to live beside or within it can disturb or
even destroy the natural habitat so dear to us. The sectors on the periphery of
the park are becoming increasingly urbanized.
A number of roads cut through the park. They serve local communities. They
also provide access to recreational and heritage sites in the park. However,
they can fragment borders, contribute to the erosion of natural habitats,
increase ecosystem fragility and take away some of the wildness of certain
sections of the park. In addition, they can complicate the control of public use
of the park.
Honourable Senator Spivak, speaking on May 2, at second reading, said the
following about the need for and importance of Bill S-210:
Gatineau Park is a federal park, not a national park like Banff or Riding
Mountain National Park. If Gatineau Park were a national park, an act of
Parliament would define its borders. To change them, officials would need to
tell us why they want the park to grow or to shrink. If Gatineau Park were a
national park, nothing could alter its size or shape without the consent of
We know that as a federal park, the borders of Gatineau Park are mutable.
They have changed a great deal in recent years. The advantage of Bill S-210 is
that it would give Gatineau Park the same kind of statutory protection and
parliamentary oversight that we have granted all other significant parks in this
country — parks not within sight of the Peace Tower.
Bill S-210 first requires cabinet, by Order-in-Council, to fix the boundaries
of Gatineau Park as they stand today. The order must be made within 60 days
after this bill receives Royal Assent and must be tabled in each House. That
requirement may seem onerous. In fact, it would be reasonable to expect that
there already is an Order-in-Council or some other document setting out what is
currently parkland and what is not. That reasonable assumption would
unfortunately be wrong. We must realize that there are very practical
consequences to the vagueness of the boundary. Hunters have very little way of
knowing when they are in the park or outside its borders — the same for local
residents who harvest firewood for their own use.
The location of the park distinguishes it from other natural parks in Eastern
Canada, which tend to be in far more remote areas. The park's location, its
close connection with the local community and its proximity to urban communities
mean that requests are constantly being received to allow public utilities,
roads, hydro towers and sports facilities, for example, in the park. All such
proposals undermine the park's mission and future and can have a devastating
impact on the ability of indigenous species to survive and thrive.
The NCC has been the steward of Gatineau Park since its creation in 1958. It
has made every possible effort to focus on preserving the park's natural and
It is constantly striving to strike a balance between encouraging Canadians
to enjoy the park's splendours and ministering to the desperate need to protect
the delicate balance of its natural ecosystems.
It has taken the NCC several years to develop a master plan specifically for
Gatineau Park, which underscores its determination to vigilantly plan for and
manage the park, and to take measures to ensure that it remains protected over
the long term.
The park is protected by the National Capital Act, the Kingsmere Park Act,
the Species at Risk Act and the National Capital Commission Regulations.
These acts and regulations ensure the protection of various aspects of the
park, but they do not protect its borders. Perhaps it is high time to focus on
fixing the park borders through legislation.
In 1960, an Order-in-Council authorized the National Capital Commission to
purchase land for the park and fixed its approximate borders.
No official boundaries were established; there was only a map with a thick
shaded line. The NCC considered this perimeter the official boundary until the
1990s, when it initiated a project to rationalize the boundaries of the park.
The rationalization of these boundaries was undertaken in the years following
approval of the original master plan for Gatineau Park.
The criteria used to determine park boundaries included ecological
characteristics, natural or artificial barriers, management needs and location
of private properties, among others.
The nature of these boundaries was influenced by other factors: construction
of large infrastructure projects such as Highway 5 and Chemin de la Montagne —
now known as Boulevard Saint-Raymond to those familiar with Gatineau; changes
resulting from planning studies such as the 1990 master plan for Gatineau Park;
and enclaves of private properties with development potential. That said, this
may be the opportune moment to establish definite boundaries for Gatineau Park.
It is appropriate for Parliament to have oversight over changes to the
boundaries of this national treasure.
The concept of the National Capital Commission purchasing real property in
the park is also worthy of consideration, when possible and doable. However,
this is an activity already carried out by the NCC, when in a position to do so,
given its financial constraints.
Bill S-210, if adopted, will ensure that committees of the House of Commons
and of the Senate could democratically review future proposals for its expansion
and clearly establish the value prior to signing any agreement.
The bill before us favours the principle of transparency in managing real
property in that it would prevent the sale of any portion of Gatineau Park
declared to be of national interest and held in perpetuity for all Canadians and
for future generations.
The NCC would have to submit all proposed amendments to the legislation to
Parliament, including the Senate, of course; such protection is no different
than the protection we already provide to all the other national parks.
Some aspects of the bill could be discussed further. Honourable senators, the
Committee on National Finance will consider aspects such as the degree to which
the Province of Quebec should have veto power over enlarging the park's
boundaries and over its activities and policies. As you can see, that measure
alone is worth discussing further. We will have to get informed expert opinions
and establish criteria to give the commission the right of first refusal on the
sale of the property within the park and what that entails. As I was saying,
there are private parcels of land within Gatineau Park. It would be advisable to
look at how to provide the National Capital Commission with the right of first
Another concern the committee will consider is the role of the minister in
providing opportunities for public participation, given the Crown corporation
status of the National Capital Commission.
Given the announcement by the Minister of Transport, Infrastructure and
Communities on reviewing the mandate of the National Capital Commission, which
includes managing Gatineau Park, it could be prudent to resolve the concerns
related to the park's boundaries within the context of this review.
In closing, honourable senators, I am convinced that, in general, the
proposals in this bill will be strongly endorsed by the residents of the
National Capital Region, who will be anxious to see the bill pass quickly,
notwithstanding some minor adjustments.
Honourable senators, I encourage all of you to support this important bill.
Hon. Tommy Banks: Would the honourable senator entertain a question?
Senator Nolin: Yes.
Senator Banks: I thank the honourable senator for speaking to Bill
S-210 because it is important not only to the residents of the National Capital
Region but also to all Canadians. Clearly Senator Nolin has looked into this
carefully for he has raised some interesting points that must be borne in mind,
including the fact that the creation of either a federal park, as in this case,
or a national park requires the agreement of the province where the park is
located. That is true of all national parks in Canada. Since the honourable
senator has studied the matter carefully, has he arrived at an opinion as to the
distinction that is made between national parks, which are across the country,
and a federal park, which is unique? I believe that Gatineau Park is the only
federal park in Canada. Does he have a personal opinion as to why the government
would not entertain making Gatineau Park a national park?
Senator Nolin: When I heard Senator Spivak's comments and read the
bill the fact that Gatineau Park is the only federal park in Canada caught my
attention. Its singularity is that it has no legal boundaries. The intent of
Bill S-210 is to establish and protect legal boundaries to ensure that, in the
future, no one could change the boundaries without prior consent of Parliament.
Basically, it is the legal physical description of the park that is contemplated
in Bill S-210.
The honourable senator's question is much broader than that and I understand
his interest in the response. Perhaps his question could be put to witnesses
appearing before the committee that will consider the bill. The purview of the
bill is focused on enacting the legal limits of Gatineau Park. That is my
understanding of the bill's intent.
Senator Banks: I agree. That is the intent of the bill and the
honourable senator is right in saying that my question about the simplest way to
establish legal boundaries of a park would be to make it a national park.
However, that matter would be studied by the committee.
I move adjournment of the debate.
The Hon. the Speaker: We have a motion from Senator Banks. Would
Senator Nolin take a question from Senator Joyal?
Senator Nolin: Yes.
Hon. Serge Joyal: Honourable senators, I would like to ask another
question of the honourable senator. The senator mentioned in his concluding
remarks that the committee should discuss other aspects, specifically the role
of the Government of Quebec in defining a national park. In I recall rightly, at
the time the Canadian government planned to extend the national parks system, it
took the trouble to get the approval of the provinces in which new national
parks were to be created. The honourable senator has a very good memory. He will
recall the whole discussion around the creation of Forillon Park in the Gaspé,
among others, and Mingan Park in a region the senator knows well.
Prior to this bill, did the Government of Quebec express any objection to the
bill's proceeding? In the event there were no discussions, would the honourable
senator consider an amendment that would permit the suspension of the bill's
application for a given period of time? That would give the provincial
government involved a formal opportunity to express its opinion on the bill.
Senator Nolin: That is a very interesting question. That is why I
mentioned certain aspects to be considered when we study the bill. I am not
aware of any specific discussions. Given that the Province of Quebec owns 17 or
18 per cent of the land in the park, I do believe that when the National Capital
Commission developed its master plan for Gatineau Park, it at the very least
began that kind of discussion with the Province of Quebec.
The Minister of Transport, as I mentioned at the very end of my remarks,
spoke publicly about the opportunity to do what we are planning to do. I think
we should talk to those who have specific responsibilities and can shed some
much-needed light on the issues you have raised. I think that Gatineau Park is
unique. We must protect its boundary. As I said in my speech, the boundary
includes property that is not exclusively federal. That is why we will have to
study it in detail and work with that reality. I think that those with executive
responsibilities should appear before the committee to provide answers to the
questions you raised.
Hon. Mira Spivak: Honourable senators, I would like to shed some light
on this subject.
The Hon. the Speaker: It would be in order if you ask Senator Nolin a
Senator Spivak: Is the honourable senator aware of the discussion that
Quebec would never agree to a national park but a minister in the Quebec
government said they have never been asked?
Senator Nolin: Yes, I heard that rumour. That is why I answered
Senator Joyal by saying: Let the proper speaking authorities give us their
answer to those important questions.
Hon. Jean Lapointe: Honourable senators, I have another question. In
the current context, should your bill drag out or if there is no improvement,
could a real estate developer purchase the land in order to build, up to a park
standard, and sell those lots and houses to private persons?
Senator Nolin: As I already mentioned in my comments, the park is
protected by various acts and the National Capital Commission Regulations. A
situation such as the one you describe is very unlikely. That said, there is
nothing to prevent existing owners, since the park already has some private
property, from developing land they already own, based on the acquired rights.
Here again, there are plenty of regulations to limit such expressions of freedom
of property owners. Situations such as the one you describe are all but
The purpose of the bill is to ensure control over the park's borders. Let us
be certain exactly what constitutes Gatineau Park, which does not yet exist. We
have a map that is part of an Order-in-Council. However, the drawback of that
map is that it is only a graphic representation with no written description.
Unfortunately, lawyers and notaries prefer texts, not pictures, and there are no
Hon. Maria Chaput: Honourable senators, here in Canada, we have a
network of national parks that was established in 1992. If everything goes as
planned with the Quebec government, will this park one day become part of that
Senator Nolin: That goes back to the question Senator Banks asked me
earlier. Certainly, the Government of Canada could, in future, consider making
Gatineau Park part of the Canadian parks network. As I said, the purpose of the
bill is to make Gatineau Park a federal park and to establish its physical
boundaries. When this precise, legal description is drawn up, a series of
mandatory agreements will have to be made between the various owners of the
current park. This is not an impossible task.
The park in Banff and other national parks contain private properties. This
is not an impossible task, but the technical description must be given a legal
framework and must not be modifiable. Parliament must have the final word on the
initial technical description of this park and any amendments to it proposed
Hon. Anne C. Cools: Honourable senators, I have been listening to the
honourable senator, and I am pleased about his support for this bill, which I
will support as well. I get the impression it is widely supported.
The honourable senator spoke of national parks; I would say the term
"national parks" is one that is well known and well understood. He has also
said that the Gatineau Park is a federal park and the only federal park. Can the
honourable senator tell us what a federal park is?
Senator Nolin: I thank the honourable senator for her question. It is
a small question that begs for a broad answer, and I do not have the answer. I
can say that Gatineau Park is a federal park, not a national park.
Senator Cools: That was my point. No one knows what a federal park is.
Senator Nolin: That is the heart of the problem. Because it is
federally owned property, it can be called a federal park. The problem is not
with the word "federal" but with the word "park."
Senator Cools: I am sure we will discover all of this in the
I believe senator Banks wanted to take the adjournment. It has been standing
in my name. I yield to Senator Banks.
On motion of Senator Banks, debated adjourned.
On the Order:
Resuming debate on the inquiry of the Honourable Senator Munson calling the
attention of the Senate to the issue of funding for the treatment of autism.—(Honourable
Senator Di Nino)
Hon. Norman K. Atkins: Honourable senators, I wish to thank Senator Di
Nino for yielding to me.
I rise today to add my voice to those who support Senator Munson's inquiry on
the urgent need for funding for the treatment of autism and to thank him for
taking the initiative on this important issue.
The Senate cannot look at this situation without understanding the facts
about autism. These facts are shocking and discouraging.
The Autism Society Canada defines autism and the spectrum disorders as
...a neurological disorder that causes development disability. It affects
the way the brain functions, resulting in serious difficulties with
communication and social interaction, as well as unusual patterns of
behaviour, activities and interests.
The Autism Society says that one in 166 children is affected by autism or
spectrum disorders. Honourable senators, this is truly a worrisome statistic,
one that forces us to listen and should force us to act.
However, the crisis in autism goes beyond simple statistics. I am sad to say
that it exposes some ugliness in our society. Autism reveals that there is
inequity in Canada — inequity in standards of treatment. The fact is that we
treat some people with autism better than others. A child diagnosed with autism
in Alberta has a much better chance of functioning normally than a child in
Ontario or New Brunswick. This is unacceptable for a country that prides itself
on equality and on its universal health care system.
In the province of Alberta, widely regarded as the best province for autism
treatment, parents of autistic children receive $40,000 a year per child through
the Department of Children's Services. As of March 2002, 654 children had
received this funding, of which 318 received the intensive behavioural
In contrast to Alberta, some provinces do not provide treatment at all, while
others, such as Ontario, provide some treatment but not enough to meet current
needs. In Ontario there are long waiting lists of children who desperately need
treatment. To add insult to injury, the treatment in Ontario, after a certain
age, is cut off. Children languishing on waiting lists may finally get to the
top of the list, only to be told they are too old to receive treatment. This is
outrageous. Is this any way to treat a child?
The question remains, honourable senators: What are we waiting for? It is
widely accepted that early diagnosis and treatment is necessary to help children
living with autism spectrum disorders. To deny treatment is to increase their
chances of spending their adult lives in the care of parents or state-run
institutions. We have a chance to help people achieve independence and to
prosper. Honourable senators, what are we waiting for?
Investments in health care, social services and education systems may seem
costly when we look at them in terms of dollars and cents, but when we compare
them to the cost of housing and caring for adults living with these disorders,
it is clear to see the benefit in early treatment. The Autism Society Canada now
estimates that approximately 200,000 Canadians are currently living with some
form of autism spectrum disorder. Add to this the one in 166 children born with
some form of autism spectrum disorder and you have a truly national crisis that
requires an immediate response.
Therefore, we must develop a strategy to deal with this worrisome trend.
Given that the diagnosis and treatment of autism would fall into many areas of
provincial jurisdiction, we must increase funding to provinces and territories
to provide treatment free of charge, as well as education and training for
health care professionals.
Furthermore, we must push Health Canada to begin surveillance on autism
diagnosis rates to see how widespread this crisis has become. With this new
information, we can develop benchmarks for treatment and provide wait-time
guarantees for the delivery of the treatment.
We also need to know more about this terrible disease. Research must be a
priority. The federal government must begin funding research into autism
spectrum disorders through the Canadian Institutes of Health Research.
Finally, honourable senators, it is essential that the federal government
begin to ease the financial burden carried by the families affected by autism.
Whether the government provides essential treatment free of charge or offers
these desperate families tax breaks, urgent action is required.
Honourable senators, this situation is not getting better. Every day that the
government delays taking action, another family goes deeper into debt; another
child is knocked off a waiting list because he or she is too old; another family
leaves their home to move to a more autistic-friendly province. This is not the
Canada of which we are so very proud, honourable senators.
What are we waiting for? Let us take action against autism and help thousands
of children and families across Canada. Let us let them know that they are not
On motion of Senator Di Nino, debate adjourned.
Hon. Daniel Hays (Leader of the Opposition) rose pursuant to notice of
May 4, 2006:
I will call the attention of the Senate to the budget presented by the
Minister of Finance in the House of Commons on May 2, 2006.
He said: Honourable senators, in preparing for this statement on the
Conservative government's first budget, I looked at what my friends opposite
said in 1993 when they found themselves in opposition after their long time in
the government of Prime Minister Brian Mulroney.
I thought that their remarks would help me determine the best approach as to
what attitude to take when one is a member of a party that has just been snubbed
by the voters.
Honourable senators, I would like to mention in passing that the rejection of
the Liberal government in 2006 was very different from the storm brought down on
the Progressive Conservatives in 1993.
I will begin by reviewing what was said by Conservative senators after the
first budget of the Chrétien government was tabled by Paul Martin on February
In examining the speeches given in the months following the tabling of the
budget, I was struck by the ambiguity of their remarks, even surprised by their
attempts to attribute to others the responsibility for the sizeable problems
encountered by the new government.
The speech by Senator Murray on March 16, 1994, reminded me that the
unemployment rate of 11.4 per cent had almost reached a new high and that the
true deficit was almost $40 billion. According to Senator Murray, quoting from a
newspaper article, it was at a "disastrous" level.
My friend Senator Stratton cautioned us that there was a "feeling of
uncertainty amongst those who invest in our country." In his speech he went on
to ask the following:
Why are we continuing to stagger from financial crisis to political crisis,
then back to financial crisis and again to political crisis, repeating the
downward spiral ever downward? Is our democracy failing?
Those words, as much as anything, provided an encapsulation of the problems
that existed and had to be addressed.
However, from Senator Oliver we were told, "There is no coherent plan for
the economy." From Senator Fernand Roberge we learned that the budget "attacked Canadians from all walks of life." Senator Brenda Robertson charged
that the budget was "a brutal slap to Atlantic Canada" and had "no moral
The invitation to the opposition in the Senate is to not hesitate to take a
firm and critical approach to a new government's first budget when it believes
the situation warrants it.
In that vein, let me make it clear that my first and, perhaps, overriding
concern is that the generous legacy that has been left to the Harper government
by Jean Chrétien and Paul Martin could be put at risk in pursuit of short-term
As I have noted earlier this session, the budget does not contain the
traditional provision for prudence. Its omission, I fear, reinforces the concern
that this government intends to pursue a majority government in priority to
prudent fiscal management. Canadians do not want a budget of short-term gain if
it is to be followed by long-term economic pain.
There is much to be concerned about in the budget. Let me begin with the
environment and, more specifically, the government's position on the Kyoto
accord. The government is being evasive and creating confusion instead of taking
a position for or against the accord — you cannot do both at the same time — and
implementing the policy that follows that decision in an open, transparent and
There is the greatest need for accountability when it comes to managing and
respecting Canada's international agreements and obligations. The Conservative
government has let down its fellow members of the Kyoto Protocol. Minister
Ambrose says that the government does not plan to abandon this multilateral
agreement altogether, yet her rhetoric and the uncertainty created by the budget
are giving Canadians and the international community every indication that the
government questions the most basic tenets of the accord and will do as little
as possible to respect the accord.
It is not a good sign that leading Canadian environmentalists from Greenpeace
Canada, the Climate Action Network, the Pembina Institute, the David Suzuki
Foundation, the Toxics Watch Society and the Canadian arm of the World Wildlife
Fund urged Minister Ambrose to resign her position as President of the
Conference of the Parties to the Climate Change Convention in Bonn last month.
Ironically, the government's indecision is in sharp contrast to the clear
position of the eastern premiers who are stepping in to fill the void, pledging
to meet their previously agreed environmental targets. Premier Bernard Lord
I want New Brunswick to have the largest reduction of air and water
pollution in Canada over the next five years.
Prince Edward Island's Premier Pat Binns said:
A lot of us are trying to take a leadership role there, and hope our
federal partners will come along.
Quebec's Premier Jean Charest said his province was very committed to Kyoto.
Indeed, as was observed by Senator Fox during Question Period, he urged the
leader of the Bloc Québécois to vote against the federal budget after Ottawa
refused to give Quebec the $328 million the Liberals had previously offered his
province for their emissions-reducing programs. "I invite him to do what people
have mandated him to do in respect of his responsibilities," Jean Charest said
last Friday of Gilles Duceppe.
Over the years, the Liberal Party has realized that the environment should be
one of our priorities. As such, the Liberal government put together a
comprehensive plan to tackle the issue. The plan was called Project Green, and
comprised approximately 166 environmental programs. It is not clear whether any
of these programs exist anymore, as many have had their funding cut or have
simply been abandoned.
By contrast, the Conservative government made commitments for just two
environmental programs in its recent budget. The first is a tax credit for
transit users, and the second a capital cost allowance for forestry bioenergy.
The Liberal government committed over $5 billion over five years to
environmental programs and other initiatives in its budget delivered last year
in April. This amount was followed by another $1 billion to increase the scope
of the popular EnerGuide program for residential and commercial retrofits.
By contrast, Minister Flaherty said in his speech on the budget that $2
billion would be devoted to a made-in-Canada climate change program over the
next five years. However, neither was this $2 billion mentioned in the budget
itself, other than the two programs referred to, nor were the Conservative
party's intentions revealed in the ensuing budget implementation bill.
The sum of $2 billion is a nice sum of money, but it is not $5 billion as was
committed by the previous Liberal government, and the money does nothing for
Canada's environment if there is no plan to go along with it.
One program the Conservatives axed was the popular EnerGuide program that we
talked about in this chamber. One would have thought that EnerGuide would have
fallen squarely within the government's made-in-Canada basket of solutions.
Environment Canada's own experts have concluded that this program was reducing
greenhouse gases at a cost of $20 per tonne, while Stephen Harper's tax credits
for transit riders will reduce emissions at an estimated cost of $2,000 per
What is the rationale for replacing a program that had households and
businesses all over Canada involved in combatting global warming with one that
will cost 100 times as much? A credit for bus passes is a good idea. It rewards
people for making good environmental choices, but it is not an environmental
The Conservative government has indicated that it is interested in joining
the Asia-Pacific Partnership on Clean Development and Climate, known as the AP6,
led by the United States and Japan. The AP6 has set no targets, no timelines and
no penalties. It is purely voluntary. It is multilateral, but with only six
members, it is not comparable to the 180 countries who have entered into the
Kyoto Protocol. Two of its members, Japan and Korea, are also strong supporters
of Kyoto and view this alignment as a supplement to the Kyoto commitments. The
member countries of AP6 have had only one meeting, and last week the United
States Congress scrapped the funding needed for this initiative. Is this
partnership the one Conservatives want to align themselves with?
The Conservative government is, I believe, in a difficult situation. It must
decide on a strategy to tackle a wide range of environmental issues, including
global warming, and it must explain to Canadians what it is doing. The budget
tells us that we have no plan before us. Will the government stay on as a member
of the Kyoto Protocol and provide the plans to follow through on its commitments
toward the environment, or will it continue to pursue a made-in-Canada global
warming solution while continuing to cancel existing made-in-Canada
environmental programs it inherited from its predecessor government?
Last year Canada had a plan and was leading the international community on
the only plan that exists in the global community. As it stands, we do not have
a plan and we do not appear to have the political will or leadership to develop
Honourable senators, others in this chamber — and I wish to turn now to my
favourite topic, the GST — have questioned the wisdom of the government's budget
providing for a 1 per cent cut in the GST rate in the coming fiscal year. We
question the wisdom of raising personal taxes in order to pay for that cut.
There have been many articles in the newspapers and statements by economists
across the country saying that it may be good politics, but it is bad policy. I
do not propose today to focus on that aspect of the debate because the ground
was well covered by Senator Austin last week in his speech on Bill S-215, but I
do want to raise a concern that I have about this government's approach to
reducing the GST rate.
One of the main arguments put forward by the government of Brian Mulroney,
when it sought to introduce the GST, was that the Manufacturers' Sales Tax was
too complex to administer. We were told that one of the critical founding
principles of the new proposed GST would be that it would minimize compliance
costs for business and administration costs for government.
Honourable senators, it has been very difficult to find figures or estimates
of the costs of compliance and administration. The CRA, Canada Revenue Agency,
is not very forthcoming, at least in written documents that I have been able to
find, and there is not much on compliance cost, although I did find an article
published by the Canadian Tax Foundation indicating that annual GST compliance
costs for businesses were estimated to be between $1 billion and $1.5 billion.
With respect to administrative costs for government, while they may be less,
they probably approach that number. I am not sure what they would be because, as
you know, one of the costs of the GST is fraud on the fund. While much progress
has been made in dealing with that fraud, it is difficult at any given point in
time to get the exact number. We could be talking about as much as $2 billion or
more on a tax that generates, I believe, $34 billion.
When the tax is reduced, the efficiency of that tax is severely compromised.
I believe, honourable senators, that is one of the reasons at the base of the
comments by economists and commentators that this may be good politics, but it
is very bad policy.
The other principal reason is that it does not address one of our biggest
needs and that is to reduce taxes at other levels. Of course, reducing taxes at
other levels would probably have a positive effect, at least on the
administrative costs of those taxes.
Honourable senators, this concern is reflected by the Canadian Federation of
Independent Business and the Canadian Retail Council of Canada. Two reductions
in the tax will add considerably to the cost of compliance. As the cost is
already high and as the tax is reduced, its efficiency is decreased: bad policy,
good politics. At some point, the tax becomes so inefficient that one would
wonder whether abolition might be something worth considering.
It is more likely that there will be a pick-up in the reduction of the rate.
In some articles, I am told, the Prime Minister has invited the province to
simply increase where they have a sales tax. This would preferably be a
harmonized sales tax, as they have in the Atlantic region or in Quebec, where it
is harmonized, which means there may be no reduction. So, not only is it bad
policy, it may be bad politics, but good policy for the provincial governments
who might pick up the tax. We do not know whether that will happen; we will
determine over time if that is the case.
What does the new Conservative government do, honourable senators? The new
government is reducing the GST, a change that will cost millions. It will reduce
the efficiency of the tax, which will be repeated in further reductions, and we
know not what in the next budget. Honourable senators, I think we must seriously
question whether this move is good policy.
I would like to touch finally on the fiscal balance.
Senator Murray: Imbalance. The Conservatives are not allowed to call
it imbalance. They call it balance. The Liberals have always denied that it
Senator Hays: Yes, and I have this rather fat document.
I will now mention a few words concerning the fiscal situation.
The fiscal balance warranted a 140-page companion document to the Budget, but
in attempting to understand what the government has in mind I am challenged by
the fact that its strategy and objectives are as clear as its strategy and
objectives on the environment.
The Constitution has, interestingly enough, detailed allocation of powers.
The only two that I am aware of that are concurrent or shared are agriculture
and immigration. The environment is not mentioned because it was not a
consideration in the mid-nineteenth century and has evolved as a shared power.
As the demand and expectations of society have changed, we have accommodated
successfully those demands in a pragmatic way. Leading up to the last election,
some provinces were expressing their dissatisfaction with some of the existing
fiscal issues, and Prime Minister Harper — then in-waiting — promised to address
them. What is the current situation? Benoit Pelletier, Quebec's minister of
Intergovernmental Affairs says:
Ottawa has more money than it needs to discharge the functions for which it
is responsible, while the provinces have insufficient resources to accomplish
the tasks for which they are constitutionally accountable.
I quote it simply to indicate an unhappy province.
Premier McGuinty of Ontario has expressed concern that Ontario could send an
even greater portion of its tax dollars to other provinces to fund a level of
service it cannot afford for its own citizens; another unhappy province.
Recently, my own premier, Ralph Klein, said he would fight "tooth and nail"
and seek a legal opinion to see if his province could withdraw from the
equalization regime if non-renewable resource revenue was included in the
formula. He got very carried away, obviously, as has been observed in some of
the editorials. It was an interesting stance for a number of reasons, not the
least of which is the fact that in its election platform on page 43, the
Conservative Party vowed to take measures:
...which would ensure that non-renewable natural resource revenue is
removed from the equalization formula to encourage economic growth.
It will be interesting to see if and how this election promise is kept.
Yesterday, the blue ribbon panel headed by Al O'Brien, a former Deputy
Minister of Finance for Alberta, presented its report to the federal government
on the fiscal balance. It recommended including one half of natural resource
revenue in the equalization formula and placing a cap on the plan's growth. In
the papers this morning we all read how a number of provinces reacted very
strongly against the recommendation, including, interestingly enough,
Newfoundland. This was also the subject matter of a question I put earlier today
to the Leader of the Government, and I think the answer will be somewhat
satisfying to Newfoundland.
The more one examines the way in which the fiscal imbalance question is being
politicized, the more it gives rise to serious concern. Norman Spector noted in
a recent newspaper column that on the fiscal balance issue Prime Minister
Stephen Harper "does not know where he is going, a very worrisome prospect in
light of the expectations he has created." He went on to write that Mr.
Harper's government "could end up putting the future of Canada at risk, and for
no reason other than electoral politics." This is a remarkable comment about
the Prime Minister from this particular writer.
Honourable senators, the progress we have made as a nation over the last few
years, particularly in fiscal management, is remarkable.
The situation in 1993 is described as a time of staggering from crisis to
crisis when compared to the generous inheritance bequeathed to the Conservative
government in 2006, which speaks for itself. Instead of building on that legacy,
however, the new government has decided to focus on a political objective with
scattered tax reduction measures, while ignoring fundamental challenges that
face our nation, such as the environment, the productivity of our economy, the
accessibility to post-secondary education and the demographic changes that an
aging population poses to our society.
The budget fails to address the big issues facing our country in the years
ahead and that is why our party does not support it. The government has not kept
its promises to the agricultural sector and it is failing our First Nations with
a weakened commitment to the Kelowna accord.
On this side of the chamber, we cannot find common cause with a government
that does not give priority to the difficult problems facing our country and
ignores the real needs of the people of Canada.
I wish to return to the point with which I began my remarks, namely, the 1994
budget. As I described, the members of the Conservative opposition in this
chamber were critical of Prime Minister Jean Chrétien's first budget and refused
to accept any responsibility for the difficulties the country was in after their
stewardship of the public purse. However, they did allow the budget
implementation bill of 1994 to pass in the Senate on division, notwithstanding
their strong majority and their strong opposition to the budget. For my part,
the precedent is a compelling one.
Honourable senators, I do not necessarily speak, however, for all of my
colleagues. That will await a study and disposition of the bill in this chamber.
On motion of Senator Tkachuk, debate adjourned.
Hon. Maria Chaput, pursuant to notice of May 31, 2006, moved:
That, pursuant to rule 131(2), the Senate request a complete and detailed
response from the government to the sixth report of the Standing Senate
Committee on Official Languages, entitled French-Language Education in a
Minority Setting: A Continuum from Early Childhood to the Postsecondary Level,
report tabled in the Senate on June 14, 2005, and adopted on July 18, 2005,
during the First Session of the Thirty-eighth Parliament; and that the
Minister of Canadian Heritage, the Minister of Social Development and the
minister of Official Languages be identified as ministers responsible for
responding to the report.
She said: Honourable senators, on June 14, 2005, my honourable colleague,
Senator Eymard Corbin, then Chair of the Standing Senate Committee on Official
Languages, tabled the sixth report of said committee, entitled
French-Language Education in a the Minority Setting: A Continuum from Early
Childhood to the Postsecondary Level. He also moved that this report be
added to the Order Paper of the next sitting of the Senate.
Two days later, Senator Corbin moved adoption, seconded by Senator Poulin,
and asked the government to provide a complete and detailed response. He took
the opportunity given to him as Chair of the Standing Senate Committee on
Official Languages to point out that this study had been launched under the
auspices of the Honourable Rose-Marie Losier-Cool when she was chair of the
In fall 2004, the committee had the opportunity to hold sessions in Western
Canada. It also heard a number of witnesses and experts in the area of
French-language education in a minority setting and received advice on the
requirements of article 23 of the Charter of Rights and Freedoms with respect to
the rights of parents to have their children receive primary and secondary
school instruction in their mother tongue.
Let us not forget that education in minority francophone communities affects
160,000 students in 665 schools across the country, excluding Quebec. We must
also remember that the Standing Committee on Official Languages believes that
the quality of education provided to francophones in this country must not be
inferior to that offered to linguistic majorities in Canada. This is required
under section 23 of the Charter.
Our former colleague, Senator John Buchanan, expressed the hope that this
study would not gather dust in offices, schools and libraries. He said that the
document should be an integral part of the curriculum in Canadian schools and
universities. He also hoped that the federal government would follow up on the
eight recommendations in the report speedily and effectively.
On June 23, 2005, Honourable Noel Kinsella, then the Leader of the Official
Opposition in the Senate, described the report as an excellent report and
vigorously recommended that the honourable senators read it. Senator Kinsella
also noted the following:
Section 23 of our Charter of Rights and Freedoms makes it perfectly clear
that children of both francophones and anglophones have an equal right to an
education in their first language. Consonant with that requirement of the
Charter, obviously there has to be a parallel requirement that they are
entitled to receive the same quality of instruction.
In his remarks, Senator Kinsella confirmed what we all know:
...francophones living in a minority community lack the tools and
instruments that would allow them to obtain an education equal in quality to
that of the linguistic majority. ... By addressing the shortages, we are on
track to kill the proverbial two birds with one stone. First, if the quality
of instructional programs is improved, enrolment will likely increase.
Among the measures advocated by Senator Kinsella in June 2005, we should note
the importance he gave to additional federal funds to ensure the vitality and
meet the particular development needs of the minority francophone communities.
Senator Kinsella concluded:
Education is underscored by this report. It must be considered as the
cornerstone of community development, starting from early childhood and going
up to the post-secondary level.
Finally, on July 18, 2005, Senator Lowell Murray, one of the members of the
Standing Senate Committee on Official Languages at the time, reminded honourable
senators that the committee drew on the provisions of rule 131(2) to call for an
official response from the government. The motion was adopted.
The dissolution of Parliament in November 2005 put an end to the period of
150 days the government had in which to respond. It is just as appropriate today
to call for such a response from the government.
I would like, in my capacity as Chair of the Standing Senate Committee on
Official Languages, to reiterate the call for a response from the government.
Motion agreed to.
The Senate adjourned until Wednesday, June 7, 2006, at 1:30 p.m.