Debates of the Senate (Hansard)
1st Session, 39th Parliament,
Volume 143, Issue 37
Wednesday, October 18, 2006
The Honourable Noël A. Kinsella, Speaker
Wednesday, October 18, 2006
The Senate met at 1:30 p.m., the Speaker in the chair.
Hon. Nancy Ruth: Honourable senators, today is the seventy-seventh
anniversary of a decision that allowed me and my female colleagues to enter this
chamber. In his appeal decision in the Supreme Court, Lord Sankey wrote, in
part, as follows:
The British North America Act planted in Canada a living tree capable of
growth and expansion...
The government of the day would not appoint women to the Senate, would not
accept women as full players. Hence, five women took action. It is interesting
is that Mackenzie King agreed that the government would pay the costs of the
petition to the Supreme Court and the appeal.
It is interesting that, since 1929, from time to time, other governments have
agreed — at the moment, we are in a phase where the government will not do this
— to pay for women and other equality seekers to test their equality rights in
the Supreme Court of Canada. Make no mistake: As women, we do continue to work
to end the inequality, the violence and the poverty that keep women unequal in
Canada today. As Nellie McClung said:
Never retreat, never explain, never apologize — get the thing done and let
Hey guys, we need your help: You have to move over, share power and more
resources, and stop the talk and walk the walk.
Hon. Marie-P. Poulin: Honourable senators, as my colleague Senator
Nancy Ruth stated so well, every year, on the same date, we commemorate the
Persons Case, which led to acknowledgement in law that women truly are persons
under section 24 of the British North America Act.
The case took place 77 years ago, which is not as long ago as some might
think. Many of our mothers were young women at the time.
Nevertheless, at the time, it took five women from Alberta to take a stand.
They fought for the right of women to be treated as equals.
As parliamentarians sitting in the Senate, the success of these five militant
Alberta women holds special significance for us. Thanks to their action, now
more than 30 per cent of the members of this chamber are women. Thanks to them,
this chamber has a better balance between men and women, so it can now — wisely
and soberly, to be sure — address all bills that affect the lives of all
Canadians, both men and women.
Hon. Serge Joyal: Honourable senators, last Thursday, October 12,
Justice T. Matlow of the Superior Court of Ontario declared null and void, as a
contravention to sections 3 and 15 of the Charter of Rights and Freedoms, two
sections of the Canada Elections Act — sections 435.01(1)(a) and (b).
Those sections prohibit small political parties that have not met the 2 per cent
threshold of the national vote, or 5 per cent of the vote at the riding level,
from having access to the quarterly allowance of $1.75 per vote given to a
registered political party, according to Bill C-24.
When Bill C-24 was debated and studied in the Senate in June 2003, I drew the
attention of honourable senators to the decision of the Supreme Court of Canada
in the Figueroa case that struck down the obligation to run a minimum of
50 candidates to be considered a political party and to benefit from income tax
receipts for donations. The Supreme Court interpreted section 3 of the Charter,
the one entitled "Democratic Rights," as having a wider scope than the mere
right "to enter a voting booth and mark a ballot."
The court concluded that section 3 of the Charter also included "the right
of each citizen to play a meaningful role in the electoral process," as well as
the "right to vote in a manner that accurately reflects his or her preferences."
When Bill C-24 was introduced by Senator Robichaud, I stated, on June 12:
Small parties are not represented in Parliament, but they represent the
views of Canadians who are entitled, under our Constitution, to freedom of
speech, freedom of thought, freedom of association and to express their views
"at the ballot box."
When the then Leader of the Government in the House of Commons, the
Honourable Don Boudria, testified at the committee hearing on June 17, I
contended that small parties were protected by sections 3 and 15 of the Charter
and that the bill was contrary to the Charter. Senator Grafstein asked if the
bill was certified by the Department of Justice as complying with the Charter,
and the minister confirmed that it was.
Honourable senators, the Superior Court of Ontario has declared that those
sections contravene the Charter and are therefore null and void. Justice Matlow
even ordered that small parties be given back access to public financing from
the day Bill C-24 was enacted.
This court decision is of importance because we have before us Bill C-2,
which is being studied by the Legal Committee. It also affects the status of
small parties and raises a similar doubt based on the same sections of the
Charter. Again, I have raised at the committee the constitutionality of the
limits imposed on the donations to political parties and their particular impact
on small parties.
We cannot legislate without paying close attention to the impact of those
sections of Bill C-2 on the conditions of small parties and their right to be
treated fairly. Those are Charter issues, and it is here in the Senate that they
can be best debated. At least three times in the recent past, bills to amend the
Canada Elections Act have been found by Canadian courts to be in violation of
I draw the attention of honourable senators to this issue today so that, when
we address Bill C-2, we take a leadership role in righting a wrong suffered by
minorities in the electoral process in Canada.
Hon. Terry M. Mercer: Honourable senators, with the installation of
our new Governor General this past year, we witnessed an historic passing of the
torch from one talented and independent woman to another. Nova Scotians have
recently witnessed an equally historic event with the installation of our new
First, I would like to congratulate the Honourable Myra Freeman for her
steadfast work on behalf of our province since her appointment in 2000 by former
Prime Minister Jean Chrétien. In her six years as Lieutenant-Governor, Madam
Freeman's passion and experience in philanthropy and as an educator has
encouraged young Nova Scotians to involve themselves more in their culture,
government, volunteerism and their future. On behalf of all of us here, I offer
her my sincere congratulations on a job well done.
Honourable senators, Nova Scotia's new Lieutenant-Governor, Her Honour the
Honourable Mayann Francis, will build upon these themes and more. She is the
first Black Canadian to serve as Lieutenant-Governor of Nova Scotia and only the
second woman in 400 years.
Born and raised in Whitney Pier, Cape Breton, Madam Francis has already shown
leadership by dedicating her career to fostering tolerance and diversity through
her work within government and philanthropic organizations, and most recently as
Director and CEO of the Nova Scotia Human Rights Commission. She is a graduate
of St. Mary's University, along with Senator Moore and I, and I look forward to
witnessing more accomplishments from her in the years ahead.
Honourable senators, with the change in Lieutenant-Governor comes another
change some may not be aware of. Ethel and Walter Garnier have worked and lived
at Government House in Halifax for over 100 years combined. In 1947, the year I
was born, Walter started by tending fireplaces, then moved on to become
chauffeur and later custodian. He met Ethel in 1958 when she started her
employment at Government House, which culminated in her current position as
executive housekeeper. The married couple continue working to this day, but will
be retiring in November.
Walter's sincere greeting at the door, as well as Ethel's apparent care and
pride as she walks visitors through the viceregal home, will be missed.
Honourable senators, please join me and all Nova Scotians in offering our
sincere congratulations to this couple, not only for their length of service,
but also for the quality and respect with which they served. We can only hope to
honour their service with our own.
Hon. Elizabeth Hubley: Honourable senators, Canada is a great
kaleidoscope of people and this diverse personality is reflected in this
chamber. Indeed, I believe that one of the most distinguishing qualities of the
Senate is its ability to represent not only regional and political interests,
but also the very face of Canada by bringing to Parliament individuals from so
many communities, backgrounds and professions.
Another office that affords the opportunity to embody our diversity is that
of provincial viceregal representative. Prince Edward Island has been graced
with several outstanding Lieutenant-Governors in recent years, including the
Honourable Marion Reid, the Honourable Gilbert Clements, and our outgoing
Lieutenant-Governor, that wonderful Acadian gentleman, the Honourable J. Léonce
Honourable senators, I am pleased to say that Islanders have yet another
exemplary citizen to serve as Her Majesty's representative in the person of our
new Lieutenant-Governor, the Honourable Barbara Hagerman. I want to congratulate
her and the federal government on what I believe is an excellent appointment.
As most honourable senators know, I have a great interest in the arts, and I
believe that creative expression is at the heart of our society. Born in
Hartland, New Brunswick, Barbara Hagerman, a talented music teacher and
performer, is only the second woman to hold the position of Lieutenant-Governor
in my province. After graduating from the legendary music program at Mount
Allison University, specializing in voice and organ, Barbara began what has been
a distinguished career as a vocal soloist with the PEI Symphony Orchestra. She
also conducted the Summerside Community Choir for 17 years, during which time
the choir performed throughout the Maritime region and even at Carnegie Hall.
Honourable senators, Lieutenant-Governor Hagerman also comes to Government
House in Charlottetown as a dedicated community volunteer. I want to take this
opportunity to congratulate her and wish her well as she and Mr. Hagerman begin
what I know will be a distinguished and successful term in office.
Hon. Jerahmiel S. Grafstein: Honourable senators, it grieved me to
read in the press today that the Government of Ontario, a region that I proudly
represent, has taken a position that I believe is inimical to the best interests
of the people of the province of Ontario, that being their objection to raise
the minimum wage to $10. The argument made by the Minister of Finance, according
to newspaper reports, is that such an increase would be uncompetitive or
While people at the top of the wealth sphere are increasing their wealth, the
number of people at the bottom is increasing as well. The working poor rely on a
It strikes me, honourable senators, that those who are concerned with women's
rights and poverty in this country would make a concerted effort in this house
to persuade not only the Province of Ontario, but also other provinces to
increase the minimum wage.
While the minimum wage is a small measure, it is not uneconomic and can be
productive in increasing the living wage for all working Canadians.
Hon. Jerahmiel S. Grafstein: Honourable senators, I give notice that
at the next sitting of the Senate I will move:
That, notwithstanding the Order of the Senate adopted on Tuesday, May 2,
2006, the Standing Senate Committee on Banking, Trade and Commerce, which was
authorized to examine and report on issues dealing with interprovincial
barriers to trade, be empowered to extend the date of presenting its final
report from October 31, 2006 to June 29, 2007; and
That the Committee retain until July 31, 2007 all powers necessary to
publicize its findings.
Hon. Roméo Antonius Dallaire: Honourable senators, in accordance with
rules 56 and 57(2), I give notice that, on Wednesday next, October 25, 2006:
I will call the attention of the Senate to the final phase of the
restoration of the Canadian National Vimy Memorial begun in 2001 under the
auspices of the Canadian Battlefield Memorials Restoration Project.
Hon. Robert W. Peterson: Honourable senators, my question is directed
to the Leader of the Government in the Senate. We are living in troubling times
where opinions contrary to those of the Prime Minister are dealt with harshly.
One of the leader's colleagues was expelled from caucus today for presenting
views contrary to those of the Prime Minister. The democratic process appears to
be in jeopardy and democracy is being crushed.
The Canadian Wheat Board was created by the federal government in 1943. The
government now wants to make changes to the board without properly consulting
the producers it serves. The changes the government wants to make to the Wheat
Board will effectively privatize it. This will take away any leverage that the
Wheat Board has in marketing wheat and barley. When will the government take
responsibility, start governing, and put the question to a vote by farmers?
Hon. Marjory LeBreton (Leader of the Government): I thank Senator
Peterson for that question, but I must respond to his preamble about the actions
taken today by the Conservative caucus of Ontario. I am part of that caucus and
took part in the decision.
This was not a situation of the member of Parliament in question attacking
the Prime Minister. This was a decision of the Ontario caucus. Members of the
caucus did not feel they had the ability to speak openly and confidentially in
the confines of caucus. It was akin to having a person in the caucus who was a
member of the national media. The decision was made by the Ontario caucus and
simply ratified by the national caucus. It had nothing to do with Garth Turner's
views of any particular person in our party.
With regard to the Wheat Board, as honourable senators know, our position in
the last election campaign was for a dual marketing process. As honourable
senators also know, wheat producers are preparing now for a vote on the Wheat
Board directors. The process concerning the taking of that vote is about to be
Hon. Grant Mitchell: Honourable senators, despite much rhetoric by
this Conservative government about restructuring relations with the U.S., their
legacy of failure is as follows: no progress on BSE; complete capitulation on
the softwood lumber issue; border controls that will hurt Canadian trade and
commerce with the U.S.; an attack on sugar beet farmers in southern Alberta and
elsewhere in this country; and now a capitulation to U.S. interests in gutting
the Canadian Wheat Board.
In the interests of trying to find some silver lining in that cloud, could
the Leader of the Government tell us whether her government has secured any
trade concessions from the U.S. in return for this initiative to gut the
Canadian Wheat Board?
Senator LeBreton: The honourable senators must get over this
anti-Americanism that is permeating the Liberal Party on all fronts.
The fact is we are dealing with the United States on a professional basis.
The honourable senator talks about the border. Nothing had been done about the
border. Thanks to the efforts of our government, the Prime Minister, Minister
Day and our ambassador in Washington, we were able to successfully convince our
American trading partners that it was not in their interest, or in our interest,
to cause difficulty at the border. That resulted in the vote that postponed the
issue until 2009. Yesterday, there was some progress made on the type of
identification that eventually will be used.
With regard to the Wheat Board, the plans for a marketing choice system were
well known by the electorate. We campaigned on that issue in the last election.
The Minister of Agriculture is in the process of addressing that matter.
With regard to the sugar beet industry, at the moment, as far as I know,
there are no tariffs or restrictions on our sugar beet thick juice.
I simply do not accept that somehow or other we are not acting in the
interests of Canadian producers in all sectors.
Senator Mitchell: Honourable senators, we are by no means opposed to
or anti-American. We were thinking that, perhaps, this government could actually
walk and chew gum at the same time. I am talking about dealing with the United
States and thinking about creating relationships with other countries as well,
countries such as China.
Once the government is finished with the Canadian Wheat Board, how long
before they kill the livelihood of thousands of farmers across this country by
sacrificing supply management, which, believe it or not, the Prime Minister once
described as "a government sponsored price-fixing cartel"?
Senator LeBreton: I do not know where the honourable senator gets some
of this stuff. It is actually quite amusing.
I do not accept the premise of the honourable senator's question, as I said
earlier. This government is working on several fronts to improve our trade
relationships, not only with our neighbours to the south. Minister Emerson is
working diligently on the Asia-Pacific region, and we are working with the
European Union and our potential markets. I can stand here proudly and say that
I have every confidence that this government is working very hard in all sectors
in the interests of the Canadian public.
Hon. Daniel Hays (Leader of the Opposition): Honourable senators, I
have a supplementary question in regard to the Wheat Board. I believe this is
the first time I have heard a confirmation that the government's decision is
that it will respect the provisions of the existing legislation, that is, to
proceed with an organized vote of wheat and barley producers in the region
affected to determine the question of whether the single-desk selling function
of the Wheat Board should be continued in respect of those commodities.
However, there is another matter we should raise in the context of the Wheat
Board, and that is the ability for those producers to be informed about what
they are voting on and the Order-in-Council requested by of the Minister of
Agriculture, to prevent the Wheat Board from disseminating information on what
it thinks are the advantages of the single-desk selling system.
By way of further preamble, which I will attribute to Ray Martin, an Alberta
MLA, the Government of Alberta has spent something like $3 million over a fairly
recent period of time in promoting a "no" vote to the single-desk selling
Can the minister assure us that there will be a process to take the gag off
of the Wheat Board and to ensure that there is a way for information about the
pros and cons of single-desk selling to be disseminated so that producers can
make an informed decision?
Senator LeBreton: As the honourable senator knows, being from Western
Canada, the producers are either on one side or the other of this issue. There
is no gag order on directors of the Wheat Board. They may speak as individuals
in defence of what they believe is the better system, in their case the
single-desk system. There has never been any intention for directors not to be
able to speak freely and openly.
However, I do not believe that in any situation it would be fair to both
sides if the Wheat Board were to use its resources to make the point for its
side of the story. Certainly, the intention was for the directors to be free to
speak their minds — they would in any event — but the resources of the Wheat
Board should not be used to cause an unfair imbalance in the debate.
Senator Hays: Honourable senators, the question still stands because,
as I mentioned, there are heavy spenders in this area — such as the Government
of Alberta at some $3 million. The directors can speak, but in order to
communicate effectively, resources are required. One way or another, I think we
would all want an informed vote by the producers.
The Leader of the Government may not have an answer right now, but what are
the government's plans, or what is its position on ensuring that adequate
resources are available to both sides of the question so that the voters, who
will decide the fate of the single-desk selling function, are informed?
Senator LeBreton: I was raised on a farm. The farmers that I know —
and I am sure it is the case with wheat producers — are fully informed on both
sides of the issue, and I do not believe that resources should be provided for
either side. It is like any contest. One side should not have an unfair
advantage over the other. I have great faith that when the wheat producers vote
it will be from a position of being fully informed. I cannot imagine that anyone
who has been involved in the wheat-producing industry over the last several
years would not already have an opinion on one side or the other.
I want to reiterate that the individual members of the Canadian Wheat Board
can certainly use their own personal resources or their ability to get the media
to sell their side of the story. That is the way democracy works.
Senator Hays: Honourable senators, there is a vocal group that is in
favour of the measures and another that is against them. That does not mean that
everyone in between is well-informed and in a position to make a good judgment.
The board has played differing roles over a long period of time. I submit that
it is a complex question, not one that can be answered easily, unless one takes
a hard ideological position one way or the other. I believe most of the
producers fall between the two ends.
I will leave the question with the minister and request that she take back to
the government the position that there be some means or policy to ensure that
the producers who will vote on this will have an opportunity to be informed.
Senator LeBreton: Honourable senators, our party campaigned on giving
Western farmers marketing choices in terms of their product. I do not accept the
argument that Canadian citizens, and particularly people as well informed as
farmers and wheat growers, expect us to provide government funding — taxpayers'
dollars — for one side or the other to be able to present its position. I do not
accept that premise.
Hon. Leonard J. Gustafson: Honourable senators, my question is for the
Leader of the Government and is in relation to the Canadian Wheat Board. It is
my understanding that the government's intention was to give the choice of
either marketing or selling through the Wheat Board. There is an opportunity
here for us to explore. The comment I hear coming from the other side is that it
is all or nothing, which is not the case. My understanding, unless I am not
hearing properly, is that it is a matter of choice — every farmer will be given
a choice. Will he sell and market his own grain, or will he market his grain
through the Canadian Wheat Board? Am I right in my assumption or am I wrong?
Senator LeBreton: The Honourable Senator Gustafson is absolutely
right. As I mentioned to Senator Hays, we on this side have had the benefit of
Senator Gustafson's particular expertise in this area. That is why I can say
with great certainty that the members of the farming community, especially the
wheat growers, know where they stand on these issues. They do not need a
government-funded program on one side or the other to tell them how to think.
We campaigned on this subject. People in the Western region voted for their
MPs and were fully cognizant of the platform of the Conservative Party in the
last election, which included the right to choose in this regard.
Hon. Joyce Fairbairn: Honourable senators, my question is for the
Leader of the Government. Yesterday, I spoke of the future of our sugar beet
industry, considering the trade challenges that are coming from across the
border in the United States.
Last week, during our break, an issue that was equally compelling in
Lethbridge and across the country was the reality of the government's recent
cutback of $17.7 million from the literacy movement in Canada.
Does the government intend to continue annual funding for the associations
that have guided this issue, specifically, the Movement for Canadian Literacy,
Laubach Literacy of Canada, Frontier College, ABC CANADA, La Fédération
canadienne pour l'alphabétisation français, the National Adult Literacy Database
and, finally, our newest one, the National Indigenous Literacy Association?
Some financing has popped up here and there, but these groups have been the
heart and soul of the literacy movement. Those who need their help most are
fearful that they will lose their base. I agree that $81 million is a lot of
money, and the Leader of the Government keeps saying that. I should like to know
whether part of that $81 million is finding its way into preserving these
foundations and, if not, where this money will be spent. Could the government
release a detailed breakdown on how this financing will be distributed? Nobody
knows. Doors are closing; people are frightened.
Hon. Marjory LeBreton (Leader of the Government): Honourable senators,
I was prepared yesterday for a literacy question. In any event I will outline —
and you will pardon me for reading — where some of our spending is intended to
The government is proud to support literacy, which enables Canadian citizens
to improve their skills and prepare for better futures. In that regard, $28
million will be spent this year for the Enhanced Language Training Initiative,
which includes the new Canada-Ontario immigration agreement; $900,000 for the
Essential Skills and Workplace Literacy Initiative from the Department of Human
Resources and Social Development; and $73 million over two years for the
Workplace Skills Initiative. As well, $2.6 billion will be allocated over two
years for the Aboriginal elementary and secondary education program; $4.6
million for Industry Canada's Computers for Schools programs; $1.5 million for
the adult education skills development in Prince Edward Island; and $63 million
a year for the Sector Council Program, which supports workplace skills and
literacy programs in key economic sectors.
Senator Fairbairn: I appreciate the honourable senator's answer and
will certainly look at those figures with great interest. I will have to look at
the figures in Hansard, because I am trying to connect them with the amounts
that were in the 2005 February budget that we had put forward. I am curious as
to where they have gone. The figure was $5 billion over five years to build a
framework for early learning and child care initiatives in collaboration with
provinces and territories. We know that is gone. However, there was an
additional $120 million over five years to improve the special education program
for First Nations children living on reserves; $398 million over the next five
years to enhance immigrant settlement and integration programs and improve
client services for newcomers to Canada; $125 million over three years for the
next step in the Workplace Skills Strategy; and there was $30 million for the
National Literacy Secretariat, which of course no longer exists.
There are gaps. Some of the literacy groups across the country have been in
place for a long time, such as the Movement for Canadian Literacy, and some of
them are quite new, such as the National Indigenous Literacy Association. The
people who have produced the programs on the ground have done a great job in
connecting and helping people. Will they continue to be funded by some part of
the program that the honourable senator has outlined?
Senator LeBreton: We could get into a debate about one election
platform versus another. The fact is that we were elected as the government on
January 23 and have made it clear how we intend to govern. Some may agree and
some may disagree, but we cannot respond to a platform that the honourable
senator has just read from, the budget of last year, which was rejected by the
As I have said to the honourable senator in response to many of her
questions, some of the people who are concerned about or interested in the issue
of literacy will not lose their interest simply because there has been a change
in the way this government will fund literacy programs. I cannot stand here and
make commitments that this group or that group will continue to be funded. I am
simply outlining what we are planning to do.
As I said the other day, I believe that in six months many of these
assumptions will have been proven to be incorrect. Rather than worrying about
things that have not happened or may not happen, let us give our initiatives a
chance, and if, in six months, what I say has not turned out to be true, then
the honourable senator can come back and question me about it again.
Senator Fairbairn: As the Leader of the Government in the Senate
noted, this was a budget, not an election program, because we already had a
foundation for literacy.
Will these groups that have been formed over the years, going back in time to
Mr. Mulroney's period, and rightly so, still have support from her government?
They are not overnight creations, nor were they part of a government platform.
They were created by the movement with the help of government over the years.
People trust them; they have been great leaders. They are helpful to any
government, but they are not government creatures; they know the issue. We do
not know the issue the way they do. Will they be able to continue their
assistance to the government? I know they would treat such an endeavour with the
same enthusiasm as they did when helping our government.
Senator LeBreton: Honourable senators, the idea that somehow our
government is not sympathetic to issues such as this is beyond the pale. Over
the years, organizations have been developed to assist one group or another. It
is impossible to commit to them forever. Some go on in perpetuity and some have
sunset clauses attached to them.
My honourable friend asks if our government will support these groups without
being able to identify exactly what the groups do and what they deliver in terms
of direct services to people who require this help. That is something that I
cannot answer. All I can say is that we have committed a significant sum of
money to skills training and literacy programs. That is the program of our
government, which I have confidence will have great success and will reach great
numbers of people.
I know that right now in Canada there is a shortage of skilled trades people.
A specific part of our program targets these people. That will help our economy
as well as our citizens.
I cannot make a blanket statement that we will offer support, because the
word "support" connotes spending money. I will not do that. I will say that I
have full confidence in the programs I have mentioned and in the amount of money
that we have set aside for literacy programs and to train workers in new skills.
Hon. Lorna Milne: My question is to the Honourable Leader of the
Government in the Senate. As Senator Nancy Ruth and Senator Poulin eloquently
pointed out, today marks 77 years since the Privy Council made its historic
ruling in the Persons case.
This date has particular importance in the Senate as it serves as a milestone
victory for all Canadian women in the struggle for equal rights. It is also a
day for reflection, and I join the honourable senators in asking whether women's
rights in Canada have eroded during the past year.
With this in mind, I want to ask the Leader of the Government as a woman, to
a woman who serves in cabinet, the following question: How can the recent
announcement to slash the operating budget of Status of Women by almost 40 per
cent and to remove the word "equality" from the mandate of the women's program
be helpful to Canadian women who are trying to make a difference in Canadian
Hon. Marjory LeBreton (Leader of the Government): Honourable senators,
I am very proud of the recognition of Persons Day. As a matter of fact, it was
under a Conservative government that the Persons Day awards were started, as
Senator Murray will recall. It was under the Right Honourable Joe Clark, in
1979, that Persons Day came into being.
The Famous Five monument, located just outside this building, came about as a
result of a motion brought in this place by Senator Fairbairn, a motion that I
seconded. I have very good feelings about the whole issue.
In terms of the administrative cuts or savings in the Status of Women, there
were no cuts to the programs. There was simply an administrative reallocation of
funds that was duplicated between the Status of Woman and other areas in the
department. I do not feel that, as a woman, I am any less equal than any other
Senator Milne: I thank the honourable senator opposite for her answer,
but she did not really say why the word "equality" has been dropped. I am
interested in what the Leader of the Government would say to organizations such
as Equal Voice, Groupe Femmes Politique et Démocracie, the Canadian Health
Coalition, the Canadian Federation of University Women, Egale Canada and Justice
for Girls when they are told they can no longer count on Status of Women Canada
for funding assistance as a result of these changes. Are the goals subscribed to
by these organizations no longer worthy of pursuing? Is the Leader of the
Government telling us that she and Canada's present government do not share the
interests of these organizations? Is it not time to walk the walk?
Senator LeBreton: This government supports equality in all areas, so I
do not actually understand the premise of the question. We as a government, we
as a population, and I as a person fully recognize all equality issues,
regardless of who we are talking about. Equality rights are entrenched in our
Constitution and are part of us all. I do not understand why the honourable
senator would question whether we support equality rights.
Senator Milne: In that case, could the honourable leader indicate how
she would explain to these organizations what will happen to their funding?
Senator LeBreton: Honourable senators, the government has made some
decisions on saving taxpayers' dollars. I was part of the cabinet committee that
searched for ways to save, and, in every single case, there was adequate
funding. We did not cut programs. We simply found savings across a wide range of
government programs. This is the decision of the government in the interests of
the taxpayer. The government should continue to support worthy initiatives while
bearing in mind that it is spending taxpayers' dollars. When looking for
savings, government should be cognizant of duplication and of areas that no
longer require funding. In some cases, the cabinet committee found savings where
the funding had not been spent. The government did not cut funding; rather, it
put the amount back on the books because the money had not been spent.
The Hon. the Speaker: I regret to inform honourable senators that the
time for Question Period has expired.
Hon. Gerald J. Comeau (Deputy Leader of the Government) tabled the
answer to Question No. 11 on the Order Paper—by Senator Chaput.
Hon. Gerald J. Comeau (Deputy Leader of the Government) tabled the
answer to Question No. 13 on the Order Paper—by Senator Spivak.
Hon. Gerald J. Comeau (Deputy Leader of the Government): Honourable
senators, I move:
That the Standing Senate Committee on Legal and Constitutional Affairs have
the power to sit on Thursday, October 19, 2006, Tuesday, October 24, 2006, and
Wednesday, October 25, 2006, even though the Senate may then be sitting, and
that rule 95(4) be suspended in relation thereto.
Hon. Joan Fraser (Deputy Leader of the Opposition): Could the Deputy
Leader of the Government in the Senate please explain why he is moving this
Senator Comeau: Honourable senators, the committee still has a
considerable amount of testimony to hear, and the usual number of committee
hours will not be enough to meet with all the witnesses. I consulted the Deputy
Leader of the Opposition and the committee members, and everyone agreed to meet
even though the Senate may be sitting.
The Hon. the Speaker: Is it your pleasure, honourable senators, to
adopt the motion?
Motion agreed to.
On the order:
Resuming debate on the motion of the Honourable Senator Segal, seconded by
the Honourable Senator Meighen, for the second reading of Bill S-217, An Act
to amend the Financial Administration Act and the Bank of Canada Act
(quarterly financial reports).—(Honourable Senator Comeau)
Hon. Gerald J. Comeau (Deputy Leader of the Government): Honourable
senators, I want to thank the sponsor of Bill S-217, Senator Segal.
If passed, this bill would require Crown corporations and government
departments and agencies to submit to Parliament quarterly financial reports
prepared in accordance with generally accepted accounting principles.
We would be provided every three months with very comprehensive information,
including a balance sheet, comparative financial information, a cash flow
statement, a statement of revenues and expenditures and a management discussion
and analysis on material changes in operations.
This would mean that, instead of submitting their financial results several
months after the end of the fiscal year, the departments and agencies concerned
would be providing Parliament with real-time financial information, something
the private sector has been doing for quite some time.
Our colleague, Senator Segal, has extensive professional experience in the
area of public policy and financial administration. Until just recently, he was
the President of the Institute for Research on Public Policy and taught public
policy at Queen's University, in Kingston.
He also sat on numerous boards of directors in the private sector, where
shareholders usually receive quarterly reports.
He knows that no director of a publicly traded company would want to make
decisions based on financial data issued the previous year.
Without current information, it would be impossible for the directors to make
sound management decisions in a timely manner. Fortunately, such information
usually reaches shareholders and boards of directors in short order.
For example, on May 26, the largest bank in Canada, the Royal Bank, issued a
report on the three-month period ended April 30. In doing so, the bank provided
its shareholders and board of directors with data on its operating profit and
its assets, as well as detailed information on changes in its operating
environment for the quarter.
The bank prepared the report in less than a month, in accordance with
generally accepted accounting principles, despite the challenge of running a
network of over 1,100 branches across Canada, some 273 banking centres in the
United States and 42 offices in other countries.
Once they had the information showing that the bank could afford to pay
quarterly dividends, the directors announced the payment. No director would want
to have to approve the payment of dividends totalling half a billion dollars
without knowing whether the company could afford the payments.
No director of a charitable organization would want to be asked to approve
funding decisions based on information as vague as revenue projections prepared
If a company's performance declines, its board has information allowing it to
put off certain capital projects. If it is unhappy with the management team's
action plan, the board can hire new managers quickly enough to enable them to
remedy the situation in time, instead of being forced to wait for six months
after the end of the company's fiscal year before asking for accounts.
Using quarterly data, current and potential shareholders can make informed
decisions about buying, selling and keeping shares.
In short, honourable senators, shareholders and boards of directors can ask
management for reports at any time and demand that corrective measures be taken
when problems arise, because they get relevant information in a timely manner.
In the July edition of Report on Business Magazine, two federal
government Crown corporations, namely, Canada Post and the Canada Mortgage and
Housing Corporation, were named among the top 50 corporations in Canada in terms
However, no corporation comes near the $200 billion the federal government
spends annually. Senator Segal noted in his speech at second reading stage that
taxpayers deserve at least the same level of assurance and information regarding
federal expenditures as is offered to the shareholders of public companies. He
said that regular financial reporting would provide the much-needed alarms
identifying problems and allow Parliament to step in and correct a financially
difficult circumstance. He said that quarterly reports would prevent departments
from attempting to manage financial information in the fashion recently
criticized in the Auditor General's report on the gun registry. Senator Segal
also presented convincing arguments in favour of a firm financial disclosure
policy providing for frequent disclosure to Parliament, which would ensure
greater openness and accountability.
He justified passing his bill by the fact that, these days, most expenditures
are approved beforehand and initiated long before we receive up-to-date
information on revenue and expenditure plans from the various departments. The
public accounts are usually submitted six months after fiscal year end. Annual
reports from Crown corporations trickle in slowly in the fall.
Senator Segal expressed his concerns in an article he wrote in the
National Post on June 20, 2006. He said:
When you combine this huge reporting deficiency with the absence of
detailed pre-consideration by Parliament of the spending estimates, it becomes
clear just how far Canada's Parliament has drifted from the Magna Carta
principle of prior approval and control of how the King spends your tax
The current practice of retroactive annual reporting — looking back on
government departments' and Crown corporations' accountings — means that
parliamentary governance no longer takes place in "real time."
Rather, this method of financial reporting only succeeds in highlighting
department inadequacies and failures long after remedial action is possible.
It works well if the goal is to finger-point and lay blame, but it does
nothing for actual parliamentary control. Enforced quarterly reporting would
be a real time contribution to awareness of public finance before the horse
has left the barn.
Honourable senators, the billion dollar gun registry scandal might not have
occurred if Parliament had been informed of the changes that the department was
making to its spending plans when these changes were being made.
We might have known a little sooner that the anticipated revenues from the
registry existed only on paper. Alternatively, we would have found out sooner
than we did that the air traveller security charge was generating revenues far
in excess of what was needed to administer Canada's airport security system.
Honourable senators, the Conservative government is committed to improving
accountability. If we can demonstrate that this is feasible, this bill will
complement the provisions of the Federal Accountability Act, which is already
before Parliament, and also other initiatives undertaken by the new Government
The Hon. the Speaker: Order! Pursuant not only to a house order but
also to our rules, I remind honourable senators that BlackBerries are out of
order in this place. I call upon all honourable senators to respect the rules
and maintain order.
Senator Comeau: For example, to bring greater transparency to the
government's planning framework, and to enable Parliament to hold the government
accountable for its actions, the Federal Accountability Act provides for the
establishment within the Library of Parliament of a position to be known as the
Parliamentary Budget Officer. The officer will provide objective analyses to
Parliament concerning the country's finances and economy, thereby giving us the
objective information we need to assess the government's financial proposals. In
addition, the government is committing to providing quarterly updates on its
overall financial situation. Bill S-217 goes even further by requiring the
departments to submit similar reports.
As I mentioned at the beginning of my speech, Senator Segal's proposal
provides that the reports shall be prepared in accordance with generally
accepted accounting principles using the accrual accounting method. This would
give us a more accurate picture of the costs associated with government
expenditures and revenue producing measures.
I know that, for people who have no training in accounting, the mere mention
of terms such as "generally accepted accounting principles" and "accrual
accounting" is likely to provoke extreme boredom. In short, they mean that
expenses are accounted for at the time they are incurred, regardless of when
they are paid, and that income is recorded when it is earned, regardless of when
it is received. Furthermore, if you buy something that you expect to last five
years, you write off the expense over five years, rather than all at once,
because you have exchanged one type of asset — cash — for another — a car or a
That is how the private sector keeps its books. A few years ago, the
government began to keep annual public accounts according to the accrual
accounting method and has since presented its federal budget estimates that way.
Henceforth, the government will also present the Departmental Performance
Reports based on accrual accounting. In order to implement several elements of
the accountability plan, the departments will have to significantly change how
they operate. This will also be the case for the preparation of the quarterly
reports mentioned in Bill S-217. Additionally, the departments will have to
ensure that they factor in their quarterly expenditures and revenues based on
the accrual accounting system.
Honourable senators, I believe that Bill S-217 represents a positive step.
Amendments may be needed to improve it. If so, official representatives and
other witnesses will report to us in committee. Nevertheless, since this bill is
likely to enhance accountability, I believe it warrants a more detailed review.
I support this bill at second reading.
The Hon. the Speaker: Is it your pleasure, honourable senators, to
adopt the motion?
Hon. Lowell Murray: Your Honour, the honourable senator's speech was
on Bill S-217. This was Senator Segal's motion, was it not?
Senator Comeau: Yes.
Senator Murray: He is not in his place at the moment, but might he
like to close the debate?
Senator Comeau: Without referring to the presence or otherwise of any
senator, but given that the honourable senator is not in the chamber at this
moment, I do know that Senator Segal has indicated that if I made this speech
and no other senator wished to make comments, he would like the bill to be
referred to committee.
Senator Murray: Fair enough. I wanted to be sure that his rights were
not being abridged.
The Hon. the Speaker: Are honourable senators ready for the question?
Hon. Senators: Question!
The Hon. the Speaker: Is it your pleasure, honourable senators, to
adopt the motion?
Hon. Senators: Agreed.
Motion agreed to and bill read second time.
The Hon. the Speaker: Honourable senators, when shall this bill be
read the third time?
On motion of Senator Comeau, for Senator Segal, bill referred to the Standing
Senate Committee on National Finance.
On the Order:
Resuming debate on the motion of the Honourable Senator Grafstein, seconded
by the Honourable Senator Banks, for the second reading of Bill S-206, to
amend the Criminal Code (suicide bombings).—(Honourable Senator Comeau)
Hon. Gerald J. Comeau (Deputy Leader of the Government): Honourable
senators, I ask that the debate be adjourned in my name so that the item may be
rolled over. The government spokesperson was hoping to attend yesterday, but was
prevented by circumstances beyond his control.
The Hon. the Speaker: Is it agreed, honourable senators, that the
adjournment of the debate remain in the name of Senator Comeau?
Hon. Senators: Agreed.
On motion of Senator Comeau, debate adjourned.
On the Order:
Resuming debate on the consideration of the fourth report, as amended, of
the Standing Senate Committee on National Security and Defence, entitled:
Managing Turmoil, The Need to Upgrade Canadian Foreign Aid and Military
Strength to Deal with Massive Change, tabled in the Senate on October 4,
2006.—(Honourable Senator Fraser)
Hon. Colin Kenny: Honourable senators, in light of yesterday's debate
and the vote that took place in the chamber on the motion that passed, I should
like to move, seconded by Senator Moore:
That the order for the consideration of the fourth report of the Standing
Senate Committee on National Security and Defence, as amended, be removed from
the Order Paper and that the report be referred back to the Committee with an
instruction to implement the amendment in form and substance approved by the
Senate on October 17, 2006; and
That the amended fourth report be tabled in the Senate no later than
November 21, 2006.
Hon. Joan Fraser (Deputy Leader of the Opposition): Honourable
senators, I have a question for the chair of the committee.
Would he explain what amending in "form and substance" would involve? I
assume, but I should like Senator Kenny to confirm for me, that he is not just
talking about a pure mechanical deletion of the words "Goose Bay" wherever
they appear in the report, but that he is talking about a rewriting of the
report in those sections where it would be necessary in order to reflect the
spirit of the vote in this place yesterday. Is that a correct assumption?
Senator Kenny: Honourable senators, the honourable senator's
assumption is correct. That is why the word "form" appears in my motion. The
motion passed yesterday calls for the words "Goose Bay" to be deleted.
The reason I made the comments I did in my preamble is that I was conscious
of Senator Rompkey's concern, reflected in his remarks, about some of the
adjectives that were used, and words of that nature. It was intended to provide
for a complete rewriting of that section of the report relating to footprint,
without a specific reference to any particular location, taking into account
Senator Rompkey's comments about language.
Hon. David Tkachuk: I, too, have a question for the honourable
senator. Can he inform the Senate of the number of copies of this report that
have been printed and distributed?
Senator Kenny: I shall have to take that question as notice and advise
the honourable senator at a later time. I do not have a precise count. I shall
endeavour to get that information to Senator Tkachuk.
Senator Tkachuk: With regard to the copies that were printed, was the
machinery of distribution already in place and were some copies of the report
Senator Kenny: I would have to take that question as notice,
honourable senators. I can assure the honourable senator, however, that some
copies were mailed out. As to whether the mailing was complete, I have no idea.
I can tell honourable senators that none were mailed out since yesterday.
Senator Tkachuk: Will the copies that were mailed out have to be
Senator Kenny: No, Senator Tkachuk.
Hon. Lowell Murray: Honourable senators, I am at a disadvantage
because I do not have a copy of the motion that the honourable senator has just
made. However, I should like to make one or two observations.
I let it go by initially because I thought my friend was bringing in a
vehicle so that he could do today what, unfortunately, was denied to him
yesterday, that is, take the opportunity to adjourn the debate and make a
speech. I do not get the impression that the honourable senator intends to speak
to the motion he has just presented. That raises a question as to the purpose of
the motion and, indeed, whether it is necessary.
The motion that was passed yesterday does not, contrary to what the
honourable senator has said, simply say that "the words Goose Bay be removed".
It states, "That all references to CFB Goose Bay (Labrador) be removed..."
That could be read as deleting most of pages 53, 54, 55 and 56, and not that
just the words "Goose Bay" be deleted.
Why do we need to pass a motion instructing the committee to do something in
form and substance that I believe we did yesterday by motion? My friend suggests
that, after they do whatever it is they will do, the committee will bring the
amended report back, but the report has been amended. It is before us as
amended. Therefore, the purpose of this motion is not clear to me.
That being said, I want to be clear that I thought yesterday, and continue to
think, that my friend, the chairman of the committee, should have had the
opportunity and should still have the opportunity to speak to his report, at
which point others may or may not want to take part in the debate.
I guess I am standing on a point of order. Is the motion that the chairman of
the committee brought forward called a work of supererogatino? I do not know. It
is instructing the committee to do something that the Senate has already done by
motion yesterday. That would be my view, without having seen the text of the
motion that my friend has presented.
The Hon. the Speaker: Honourable senators, if the house was to accept
the motion of Senator Stratton, that would also afford time for all honourable
senators to obtain a copy of the motion, which would solve many questions.
Hon. Terry Stratton: It is precisely for that reason that I adjourned
Hon. Fernand Robichaud: Honourable senators, Senator Murray rose on a
point of order. Should we not deal with that before addressing the motion that
Senator Stratton will be putting forward?
The Hon. the Speaker: The chair understood that Senator Murray said,
"Maybe I am raising a point of order," and I was seizing on that "maybe."
Knowing that all honourable senators are at a disadvantage in that we do not
have a copy of the given motion, and given that Senator Stratton had already
indicated to us and has kindly held back his motion of adjournment so that some
exchange could take place, perhaps the house would be best served by recognizing
Senator Stratton and hearing his motion to adjourn the debate.
On motion of Senator Stratton, debate adjourned.
Hon. Joan Fraser (Deputy Leader of the Opposition): I rise on a point
of order. I use that phrase, Your Honour, because if Senator Murray resumes a
discussion on a point of order, I would not like to think that we had sacrificed
our right to speak to that point of order when we resume debate on this matter.
If he chooses not to turn it into a point of order, we shall proceed.
On the Order:
Resuming debate on the inquiry of the Honourable Senator Fairbairn, P.C.,
calling the attention of the Senate to the State of Literacy in Canada, which
will give every Senator in this Chamber the opportunity to speak out on an
issue in our country that is often forgotten.—(Honourable Senator Jaffer)
Hon. Catherine S. Callbeck: Honourable senators, this inquiry is
presently adjourned in the name of Senator Jaffer, so I would like to speak and
have it adjourned in her name, unless Senator Chaput wishes to speak after me.
It is a great pleasure to rise and take part in this discussion on the issue
of literacy. I first want to congratulate and commend our colleague Senator
Fairbairn for raising this inquiry. She has provided outstanding leadership on
this vital issue over the past number of years and has been among the foremost
advocates for improving literacy programs across Canada. As she has said, we
need to accelerate our efforts and heighten our resolve to improve the levels of
literacy in this country. For a country such as Canada, far too many people do
not have the opportunity to become fuller members of our society because they
lack the requisite skills so essential to their well-being and their quality of
It is somewhat ironic that at the same time as Senator Fairbairn was raising
this issue and emphasizing the need for more support and resources for literacy
initiatives, the Conservative government was in the process of cutting funds for
literacy and adult learning programs. It is shocking that at a time when our
economy is demanding more skilled workers and a greater investment in the
development of human resources, the Conservative government is in fact
dismantling programs that help promote and encourage higher participation in the
work force. It is all the more shocking that these funding cuts are taking place
while Canada is showing a $13.2 billion surplus.
It is also disheartening because, just as many of these programs across the
country were raising the level of literacy, those efforts are now being
undermined by a government that should be increasing, not reducing, its support
for those programs. In my home province, the lost federal literacy funding, by
which I mean the $17.7 million that the Conservative government has just cut,
provided for numerous family literacy projects and community literacy programs
across Prince Edward Island.
I believe very strongly that support for literacy and learning is an
investment, not a cost. I believe that, as a society, we have a responsibility
to help all citizens achieve their full potential. We must help ensure that all
Canadians can gain the skills and knowledge they need to improve their standard
of living and their quality of life.
It is a national tragedy that fully more than four in ten Canadians lack the
skills they need to become full and productive members of our society, that many
older people are at risk in dealing with some of the day-to-day tasks they face,
such as following directions on a medicine bottle, and that too many people of
all ages and ethnic backgrounds lack the literacy, problem solving and
communication skills they need to enjoy a better quality of life.
Not only will Canadians enjoy a better quality of life, but the country's
entire economy will benefit from their improved skills. A study completed by the
C.D. Howe Institute in October of last year came to the conclusion that
improving the overall levels of literacy skills has a significant impact on
economic performance. Increasing literacy skills by one level, that is, taking
those with a lower literacy skill and improving them to a higher level, has a
direct impact on productivity and economic growth.
According to the C.D. Howe Institute, increasing the literacy skills by one
level would increase Canada's productivity by 2.5 per cent and would increase
the gross domestic product by a full 1 per cent. Those gains would translate
into an additional $18 billion annually to our economy.
There is yet another dimension to the fundamental need for higher levels of
skills in this country. As everyone recognizes, our country is being
transformed. We are in a knowledge-based economy, which puts a premium on
know-how. The number of jobs requiring post-secondary education is expanding,
while the number of jobs requiring less than high school is declining. What is
to become of those workers who are being displaced by technological and other
changes? How will they be retrained so they can continue to be productive
members of their communities? Unless and until they have the skills to undertake
retraining or upgrade their qualifications, they will continue to fall behind.
That is what makes basic literacy skills so critical.
In light of the increased economic and social benefits of improved literacy
and learning, it is unbelievable that the Conservative government has cut $17.7
million from literacy and essential skills training, especially when the country
has a surplus of $13.2 billion. In so doing, the government is rendering a gross
disservice to those who need such training the most. This program cut will
affect some of the most vulnerable people, further perpetuating the differences
and the disparities between those who are disadvantaged and those who are not.
This funding cut is also short-sighted. This government refuses to recognize
that expenditures for literacy and learning are an investment, not a cost.
This view is shared by many Canadians across this country, Canadians who
recognize and appreciate the need to improve the levels of literacy and who see
the value and importance of literacy, not just to individuals or to families,
but to society as a whole. I commend and congratulate the many groups and
organizations that have worked hard in this field to bring about change in
Make no mistake about it, improving literacy has real benefits to individuals
and to society. Existing programs are working; success is being achieved.
In my home province of Prince Edward Island, a number of successful programs
never would have happened without the federal support that has just been cut.
The annual federal-provincial grants of $325,000 have allowed the provincial
government, through its Literacy Initiative Secretariat, to develop and
implement the following: Workplace Education PEI, a partnership of business,
labour and government which aims to ensure the availability of workplace
literacy programs; the StorySacks Program, a hands-on family literacy activity
to give parents with low literacy skills the confidence to enjoy books and
reading with their children; Project L.O.V.E., a project in which older
volunteers help struggling young readers in schools; and, the Literacy and Adult
Basic Education Program at Holland College, which sees about 1,000 Islanders a
year improve their literacy or finish grade 12, all at no cost.
In addition, the Prince Edward Island Literacy Alliance, with a limited
budget but a great deal of commitment, has been accomplishing great things by
bringing people and organizations together, creating partnerships to improve
literacy and learning in the province.
For example, the PEI Literacy Alliance offers bursaries and scholarships to
adult learners so that they can further their education. The alliance also
operates the LEARN line, a telephone number that Islanders can call for
assistance and direction to literacy services. As well, the PEI Literary
Alliance sponsors a summer tutoring program for youths, a free tutoring program
for students who need help maintaining or improving their literacy skills over
Without the reinstatement of that $17.7 million that the Conservative
government has just cut, the Literacy Alliance of Prince Edward Island has
announced that it will close March 31, 2007.
It has been said that the Conservative government's decision to make these
funding cuts is the biggest setback to literacy in the last 20 years. Since the
cutting of these valuable and much needed programs, a great deal of concern has
been expressed all across this country. Canadians know that by improving
literacy levels we have a great opportunity to contribute to the Canadian
economy and to improve everyone's quality of life. They know that improving
literacy is not something that schools or governments can do alone, but only
when all partners, including the federal government, work together.
Honourable senators, once again I commend and congratulate Senator Fairbairn
for raising this issue, particularly at this time. The honourable senator has
called for action to bring down this barrier that causes 42 per cent of adult
Canadians to be at risk every day from lack of basic reading, writing and
communication skills. This means that they cannot be full and productive members
of our society. As the honourable senator has said, this is an issue that
crosses all party lines.
I encourage all senators to join in supporting this initiative.
Hon. Maria Chaput: Honourable senators, a few days ago, I condemned
the current government's untoward decision to abolish the Court Challenges
Program. Today, I rise again to ask the government and its representatives in
the upper chamber what credible explanation they can provide to justify slashing
the budget for literacy programs.
Once again, the ones being penalized by these cuts are the less fortunate,
citizens who rely on us to learn to read, write and count, skills required of
every citizen in order to be able to lead a happy and productive life.
What does this Conservative government do? It cuts funding for the
disadvantaged, the very people we should be assisting to minimize negative
impacts in the long run.
The francophone and Acadian minority communities felt this announcement from
the government hit like an atomic bomb on the organizations and services that
promote literacy across the country.
Budget cutbacks to the tune of nearly $18 million hurt these agencies that
already have to do so much with so little.
The Fédération canadienne pour l'alphabétisation en français felt this
decision would cause untold harm to Canadian society. The government's decision
will shut down several programs, centres and organizations that offer literacy
services to thousands of adult learners in Canada.
The disappearance of these provincial and territorial organizations will
leave a void that cannot be filled by anyone else.
Until September 25, 2006, Canada had a National Literacy Secretariat that
provided $42 million a year to adult learning programs. The secretariat was set
up by former Prime Minister Brian Mulroney in 1986. It worked with the
provinces, the private sector and hundreds of voluntary organizations.
Until two weeks ago, Canada had a network of non-profit literacy
organizations extending into every corner of the country. Now there is nothing
to connect the pieces of the network; the infrastructure is gone.
The real victims are the 9 million Canadian adults whose inability to read is
holding them back. Approximately 5.8 million cannot cope with the demands of a
typical workplace; the remaining 3.2 million cannot read a medicine bottle, a
job application, an election ballot or their child's report card. Some are
immigrants, some were born here, some made bad choices, some had no choice but
to quit school.
It is too early to say which, if any, of the provinces will take over the
literacy programs Ottawa is shedding. The outlook seems to be best in Ontario
and Quebec, worst in Newfoundland, Manitoba, Saskatchewan and the North.
It is not clear how national organizations such as the ABC CANADA Literacy
Foundation will serve their clients. These national organizations depended on
their provincial partners to deliver programs, provide training for volunteers,
support local groups and reach out to people who need help.
When you take away the provincial coalitions, the organizations that use them
no longer have a backbone. That means the learners do not receive the same
quality of help, said Margaret Eaton, President of ABC CANADA Literacy
Foundation. It is hard to understand why the federal government is leaving so
many groups in the lurch.
In my home province of Manitoba, the impact is negative. In our province, the
organization called Pluri-elles (Manitoba) Inc. helps adults and families
improve their literacy skills and their knowledge of French. According to
Pluri-elles' director general, Mona Audet, "This is setting us ten years back.
All the efforts made by the staff and learners are going to be lost." Indeed,
over the past 16 years, this organization has set up 13 small literacy centres
across the province to accommodate people living in urban, rural and remote
Following the Harper government's decision, Pluri-elles' board of directors
made the tough decision to close nine of its centres. These closures will impact
on the following communities: Laurier, Lorette, Notre-Dame-de-Lourdes,
Saint-Jean-Baptiste, Saint-Laurent, Saint-Lazare, Saint-Malo, Sainte-Anne and
Sainte-Rose-du-Lac. These communities are the farthest ones from Winnipeg.
The situation is no better elsewhere in the country. In New Brunswick, the
Harper government's decision will put an end to the activities of the Fédération
d'alphabétisation du Nouveau-Brunswick, which has called the decision "immoral." This is happening at a time when many studies show that the
situation is alarming and worrisome in New Brunswick, where 66 per cent of
francophone Acadians have serious difficulties in reading, writing and
At the other end of the country, in Alberta, the organization promoting
literacy for adult francophones, Eduk, was also shocked by the federal
government's announcement. As we know, a recent study was conducted by the
Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development. The OECD is based in
Paris and has 30 member states, including Canada, cooperating with 70 other
countries around the world to promote adult literacy and life skills. Its study
revealed that 42 per cent of all adults in Canada do not have the basic skills
required to fully participate in our economic or social life.
An article in the September 28 edition of the Regina Leader-Post,
under Kerry Benjoe's byline, began with the following sentence:
Thanks in part to cuts in literacy funding by the federal government, the
Saskatchewan Literacy Network is to close its doors after 17 years of service.
Honourable senators, the disappointment, deception and anger is nationwide.
Last week's email wave of protest is a strong indication and a clear message of
At this point, I wish to read to honourable senators excerpts from an open
letter written by Literacy Partners of Manitoba.
On September 25th the new Government of Canada announced a cut $17.7
million to adult literacy.
In Manitoba, the amount cut is $780,000. This money was used to support
pilot projects, produce innovative materials and research, and provide
training opportunities for learners and tutors....
Literacy coalitions were started by the Mulroney government to provide
service to literacy programs — services not supported by provincial funding.
They were to leverage resources and develop partnerships to support adult and
Literacy Partners puts our energies and the dollars from federal,
provincial and foundation grants, and from fundraising and donations, into
projects that deliver real results and services for the 290,000 working aged
low literate Manitobans. It works!
Over the past 18 months Literacy Partners has:
...partnered with CanWest's Raise-a-Reader program and distributed
$17,000 to family literacy programs;
worked with CanWest Raise-a-Reader and public libraries to collect and
distribute books to local and regional literacy programs during I Love to
partnered with the Thompson Regional Library and Perimeter Airlines to
distribute books at no cost to Aboriginal communities; (over 12,000 books
from these two initiatives);
initiated an internationally recognized family literacy project for the
immigrant population in Winnipeg;
recruited more than 100 volunteers to work in literacy programs;
provided access to over 5,000 resources, from our literacy library, with
free delivery anywhere in the province.
Honourable senators, this cannot continue. Cuts to essential programs have
created an atmosphere of uncertainty, I would say even alarm, as everyone is
wondering who will be the next victim. In conclusion, I would like to quote a
passage from a press release dated October 15, 2006:
The Fédération acadienne de la Nouvelle-Écosse is reluctant to criticize
the recent budget cuts made by the Harper government, for fear of jeopardizing
long-term funding for Acadian organizations. Those who attended the annual
general meeting of the Fédération acadienne de la Nouvelle-Écosse hesitated to
denounce the budget cuts announced by the Harper government, cuts to more than
12 programs considered essential to their survival. They feared that any steps
taken against the government would hamper negotiations underway with Ottawa
concerning long-term funding for Acadian organizations.
Honourable senators, it is shameful to treat minorities in this manner.
The failure of this cabinet to fully comprehend the consequences of this
decision and other cutbacks is very upsetting, and the government should be
ashamed of itself.
Hon. David Tkachuk: I may not have heard properly, but I understood
the honourable senator to have said that there were 9 million people who were
not literate in Canada.
Senator Chaput: Nine million Canadian adults whose inability to read
is holding them back.
Senator Tkachuk: Does that include people who are not able to read
English because they are recent immigrants, or are those in addition to the 9
million people — which, to me, is about half the adult population of Canada?
Senator Chaput: I am sorry, I cannot answer that question because I do
Senator Tkachuk: Are the 9 million people fairly evenly distributed
across the country? It seems to me, as a former school teacher, a terrible
indictment of our school system, more than anything else. I am just asking, are
these people evenly distributed across the country?
Senator Chaput: Honourable senators, I am not sure whether my
information is correct, so I will get back to you once I have checked it.
Senator Tkachuk: I would adjourn the debate.
Senator Chaput: Honourable senators, Senator Jaffer asked that the
motion to adjourn the debate be in her name.
The Hon. the Speaker pro tempore: Honourable senators,
is it agreed that debate be adjourned in the name of Senator Jaffer?
Some Hon. Senators: Agreed.
Senator Tkachuk: I moved the adjournment of the debate.
The Hon. the Speaker pro tempore: It is moved by the
Honourable Senator Tkachuk, seconded by the Honourable Senator Champagne, that
debate be adjourned to the next sitting of the Senate. Is it your pleasure,
honourable senators, to adopt the motion?
On motion of Senator Tkachuk, debate adjourned.
On the Order:
Resuming debate on the motion of the Honourable Senator Corbin, seconded by
the Honourable Senator Bryden:
That the Senate should recognize the inalienable right of the first
inhabitants of the land now known as Canada to use their ancestral language to
communicate for any purpose; and
That, to facilitate the expression of this right, the Senate should
immediately take the necessary administrative and technical measures so that
senators wishing to use their ancestral language in this House may do so.—(Honourable
Hon. Eymard G. Corbin: Honourable senators, I am not taking part in
the debate, because I have already spoken, but if I may, I would like to put a
question to Senator Comeau. In response to a question I asked him on June 28,
2006, Senator Comeau told the Senate, and I quote:
Honourable senators, the repercussions of adopting this motion could be
very significant, which is why I intend to indicate where I stand on this
issue in the fall.
Fall arrived more than 20 days ago, and everyone knows that it will end on
December 20 or 21. In Canada, we generally consider that winter starts when the
ground freezes and the first heavy snowfall comes. I would like to know whether
Senator Comeau whether he intends to speak soon.
Hon. Gerald J. Comeau (Deputy Leader of the Government): Honourable
senators, to my knowledge, the maples are still red and it is still fall. Of
course, I will make my comments before the first heavy snowfall comes to Nova
Senator Corbin: Honourable senators, I have lived in Nova Scotia and I
can remember when the first heavy snowfall did not arrive until January 15.
Senator Comeau: Honourable senators, seriously, I intend to make my
comments very soon.
The Senate adjourned until Thursday, October 19, 2006 at 1:30 p.m.