Hon. Marjory LeBreton (Leader of the Government and Secretary of State
(Seniors)): Honourable senators, it is my pleasure to rise today and offer
my sincere congratulations, and those of my colleagues on this side of the
chamber, to the new Leader of the Opposition in the Senate, the Honourable
Earlier this month, Senator Hervieux-Payette was appointed to her new
position by the leader of the Liberal Party and the Leader of the Opposition in
the other place, the Honourable Stéphane Dion. As we are all aware, Senator
Hervieux-Payette has enjoyed a long and distinguished career in both the private
and public sector as a lawyer and a businesswoman, as a member of the House of
Commons, and as a Minister of State in Pierre Trudeau's cabinet. Since her
appointment to the Senate by Prime Minister Chrétien in 1995, Senator
Hervieux-Payette has vigorously participated in many debates on issues of
particular concern to people in this chamber, to herself and to the public.
As senators, we have an obligation to Parliament and to the Canadian public
to be mindful of our responsibilities and respectful of what is expected of us.
I sincerely look forward to working with Senator Hervieux-Payette in our
respective roles because there is so much to be done. I am sure there will be a
great deal of cooperation and mutual support.
I also want to congratulate Senator Tardif and Senator Cowan as they assume
their roles as opposition deputy leader and opposition whip. I want to say a
special word to Senator Cowan. Having once held the position of opposition whip
myself, his responsibilities will be onerous, to say the least.
I also take this opportunity to thank Senator Daniel Hays for his work as
Leader of the Opposition. Over the past year I have had the opportunity to work
closely with Senator Hays. We have had many vigorous discussions and debates, in
private and in this place, and I hope Senator Hays will agree with me that those
exchanges have been, for the most part, not only substantive but respectful as
well. He will certainly continue to be a valuable member of the Senate of Canada
for many years to come.
In closing, once again, I congratulate Senator Hervieux-Payette on this
appointment and I look forward to working with her closely as the days progress.
Hon. Céline Hervieux-Payette (Leader of the Opposition): Honourable
senators, I would like to thank my honourable colleague for her laudatory words.
This is the first time in our Parliament's history that two women have held the
positions of Leader of the Government and Leader of the Opposition
simultaneously. I am sure that my colleague opposite is just as proud of this
memorable milestone as I am.
Although it is often our job on this side to disagree with her and her
government on political and strategic issues and approaches, we nevertheless
admire the devotion and conviction she brings to fulfilling her responsibilities
as a public office holder.
As I take on my duties as Leader of the Opposition, I must also congratulate
the former leader, my colleague the Honourable Senator Hays, on his invaluable
contribution to the work of this House, particularly during a difficult time of
transition from government to opposition. A former Speaker of the Senate, he
fulfilled his heavy responsibilities with the talent and wisdom of a great
parliamentarian well-versed in the traditions and procedures of this House and
with the dignity and aplomb of a seasoned diplomat. I think mastery of the
political arts is in his genes.
I hope that we can continue to count on his sage advice during the weeks and
months to come.
I also wish to highlight the important contributions made by Senator Fraser
and Senator Cook, who assisted Senator Hays most ably as deputy leader and whip
of the opposition throughout the last year. We are grateful to them and to their
dedicated staff and commend their good work.
Honourable senators, I am deeply touched by the trust that the new leader of
the Liberal Party, the Honourable Stéphane Dion, has placed in me by appointing
me Leader of the Opposition. I will work hard to prove myself worthy of that
trust by helping him to ensure a
strong and vigilant opposition to the government and to promote the values,
ideals and philosophy of the Liberal Party. I will stand with him as we express,
loud and clear, from sea to sea, how proud we are to be Canadian.
We are indeed very proud to be part of a country that, in its 140 years,
created on this continent a model civilized society where tolerance, justice and
equality are not just dreams, but reality for our fellow citizens. In this
country, this nation, citizenship does not depend on language, borders, or
blood, but on shared values and ideals that arise from a single basic principle:
respect for the dignity of every human being.
From that principle have come concrete and progressive measures that make up
the social fabric of our nation, from medicare to old age pensions, to the
Charter of Rights and Freedoms and countless others.
Although we take great pride in our country and in our accomplishments while
in government, we fully realize that our immediate task is to provide a diligent
and effective opposition to the government. We must do so by submitting
government policies and programs to careful analysis and thoughtful criticism:
in short, engage in a continuous sequence of questions and answers with the
government, demand transparency, denounce injustice and protect minorities.
That is our challenge and responsibility, honourable senators, and the
commitment to which we are resolved.
Hon. Hugh Segal: Honourable senators, I rise today to pay tribute to
Gerald Turner, who passed away last week in his eighty-second year. The
accomplishments and service to Canada that defined Mr. Turner also define an
entire generation of Canadians who we are beginning to lose to the passage of
This generation lived through the Depression, fought for our freedom and that
of the world, built this country and sustained her values and traditions, and
did so in a quite unassuming way as they built families, neighbourhoods and
Gerald Turner was born in Saltford, England, in 1924, joined the Royal Air
Force in the Second World War, serving in India, Africa and Burma. After the
war, he helped to start the Indian Air Force. Moving to Canada, he continued to
fly, assisting our country in the Commonwealth plan to bring agricultural staff
to India and Pakistan.
Upon his return home, he became a leading force in the important geological
and cartography surveys of the Western Arctic on which we still depend. His
support of the cause of freedom continued when he flew supplies to the DEW Line
and the Pinetree Line, defensive perimeters guarding our continent's North
against Soviet bomber and missile threats.
Mr. Turner served as a pilot with Search and Rescue in Newfoundland and
Labrador and completed his flying career flying helicopters for Ontario Hydro,
helping to build the very electrical infrastructure that made Ontario grow and
prosper, and ensuring the integrity of our lines and towers in this great
Through all of this, he married, and he and his wife, Lois, built a home and
raised a family that reaches right across Canada. This intellectual,
mild-mannered, athletic and always humorous raconteur was part of a generation
that understood duty, that built Canada, that made this world a safer place and
this country simply the best in that world.
His grandchildren, Jesse, Lauren, Rowan and Joshua, and great-grandson Gavin,
will in the years ahead be able to reflect on the grandfather they loved, and
all those like him of his generation, who built the very country and way of life
we cherish for all our children; and they will understand not only how powerful
that inheritance is, but how much we owe Gerald Turner and those of his
generation for what they quietly did for us all. May God bless them all.
Hon. Art Eggleton: I rise today to speak about a systemic social issue
that affects millions of Canadians. It is an issue that angers many of us, and
it is one that we have not done enough to combat. It affects Canadians of every
age, from the very youngest to the eldest. I am speaking about Canadians living
The numbers and statistics are staggering. Over 4.8 million Canadians are
living in poverty; 1.2 million of these are children. In Toronto, the city that
I come from, 67,000 households are waiting for affordable housing. That means
that if the family is looking for a small bachelor unit, the wait time is one to
five years. If they need a one-bedroom unit, the wait can be from 7 to 10 years.
A two-bedroom unit takes 5 to 10 years; and if they have a large family, it can
take anywhere from 10 to 12 years. This is a completely unacceptable situation.
Calgary has a homeless population of 3,400. What is more shocking is that the
number of homeless has increased by more than 30 per cent in over two years.
In Ontario, at least 330,000 people are forced to use food banks each month.
This number has grown by almost 20 per cent in the last five years, twice the
rate of the population growth.
Some 6.7 million Canadians eke out an existence that is less than $20,000 a
year. That figure is one half of the average income.
This is just a small sampling of the numbers. This is a problem, honourable
senators, that needs to be dealt with; it needs all our leadership.
We need to help in the development of a strategy to combat poverty in Canada.
We need to see what options will help break the cycle of poverty. How important
is an increase in the minimum wage? How do we address the waiting lists for
affordable housing? Are we doing enough to help single parents work? Are we
offering parents a choice in child care? Is education accessible to all? What do
we do to help those who are homeless? What programs are needed for children
going to school hungry?
We have had success in the past. A number of years ago we made a concentrated
effort to reduce poverty in our senior population. In 1980, the poverty rate
among seniors was 28.4 per cent, but with programs such as Old Age Security, the
Canada Pension Plan and the Guaranteed Income Supplement, poverty amongst
seniors has dropped to 13.1 per cent. There is still room for improvement, but
let us extend the successes here to others who live in poverty in Canada.
The report under the name of Senator Croll in 1971 gave us an opportunity to
act on poverty, to make a difference. The Senate did good work with that report
and it is still referred to today. However, we need to update that work, and I
hope that between the studies undertaken by the Standing Senate Committee on
Agriculture and Forestry and the Standing Senate Committee on Social Affairs,
Science and Technology we will be able to do that. The Agriculture Committee is
currently studying rural poverty. The Social Affairs Committee, which I chair,
will launch a study on Canadian cities shortly and will start by examining
poverty, housing and homelessness.
We need to capture the energy of these reports and develop a national
strategy to combat poverty.
Hon. Donald H. Oliver: Honourable senators, I rise today to call
attention to the importance of February as Black History Month in Canada. We
celebrate Black History Month each year to honour the legacy of Black Canadians,
past and present, for their contributions and sacrifices that form an indelible
part of Canada. More important, honourable senators, I am here to tell you that
there is still much work to be done. Prejudice, discrimination and racism are
still words that define the everyday lives of too many Black Canadians. Black
History Month should be a history of reflection because, regrettably, Black
people still face systemic barriers in both the private and public sectors. The
month provides all of us with an opportunity to think, listen, read, hear and
sense what Black Canadians have encountered in order to seek equality with the
White majority. It is an opportunity for all of us to contemplate the vital role
that Blacks have played throughout our shared history.
This year, I will be actively engaged in a variety of activities during this
special month. Beginning on February 1, I will be the keynote speaker in Toronto
to launch the month-long series of activities of the Bank of Montreal. Later, I
will be privileged to participate in a variety of cultural activities with Her
Excellency Michaëlle Jean, Governor General of Canada, during her three-day
visit to the province of Nova Scotia. Later in February, I will be the keynote
speaker at the main auditorium of the Ottawa headquarters of the Canadian
Security Intelligence Service to deliver an address on diversity and pluralism.
I have been asked to speak at a number of schools throughout the country during
the month. It is important that all of us continue to echo words of hope as we
celebrate our diversity in Canada. Honourable senators, I cannot stress how
important it is to celebrate all cultures that have contributed to our mosaic
and to the values that make us Canadian. This celebration must embrace all
Canadians, including Black communities from coast to coast, because they, too,
are part of our history.
This year is also a year of celebration for Black Canadians in honour of the
four hundredth anniversary of our presence in Canada. Mathieu Da Costa, a Black
Portuguese navigator and explorer, came to the New World with Samuel de
Champlain in 1605. His contribution has been largely left out of the Canadian
history books but, in the 400 years since Da Costa's arrival, there have been
profound changes in the Black community. Slavery existed in Canada from 1628 to
1834. Black History records in the Halifax Gazette show an ad that said,
"to be sold at public auction on the 3rd of November, two slaves — a boy and
girl — about 11 . . . ." When the United Empire Loyalists migrated to what
would become British North America, 10 per cent of them were Black. In 1793, the
Abolition Act passed in Upper Canada making it law that no new slaves could be
brought into Upper Canada.
In 1958, William O'Ree broke the colour barrier and became the first Black
hockey player to join the NHL. It was not until the 1960s that Ontario's last
segregated school closed its doors. In Nova Scotia, it was after 1968 when the
law clarified that Black Canadians could be buried in White cemeteries. Only
then did it become apparent to Black Canadians that segregation was
Honourable senators, the Honourable Lincoln Alexander was the first Black
Canadian member of Parliament and was elected to the House of Commons in 1968.
He was later appointed Lieutenant-Governor of Ontario in 1985, and he was the
first Black person to serve in a viceregal position in Canada.
Black History Month is to remind Canadians that, even though slavery has been
abolished and segregation has become a thing of the past, the fight against
systemic racism still continues. It must be exterminated from our society.
Celebrating Black History Month and culture is a way to bring about the
awareness of equality for all so that Martin Luther King's dream can be
Honourable senators, that is the Canada I want and that is the Canada we must
Hon. Mobina S.B. Jaffer: Honourable senators, I rise today to
recognize the work of three senators who have worked extremely hard on our
behalf in the last year. In 2006, there has been a real transition on our side
after 13 years in government. That transition on its own would have been
difficult, but adding to this work have been debates on Senate reform, along
with the increased scrutiny that has been brought to this chamber. The
leadership on our side has faced not only challenges of managing a large caucus
in opposition, but has also seen us through the turmoil that has naturally
accompanied a period of change for our party.
Honourable senators, I would like to take this opportunity to acknowledge the
work of Senator Hays as Leader of the Opposition in the Senate. We have all had
the opportunity to work with Senator Hays. My own relationship with him started
in 1994, when he was President of the Liberal Party of Canada and I was serving
as vice-president. We worked very hard, including travelling abroad to present
the party. We also pushed hard at home to promote a number of important issues,
including policies to promote the equality of women. I was honoured to have the
chance to travel with him as part of the Speaker's delegation to India. To
travel to my country of origin with such a great friend, and see him treated
with such respect as we met with important officials and visited historic sites,
was a source of great pride for me.
As the Leader of the Opposition, Senator Hays also took the time to work with
us on issues we have raised and was responsive to our concerns. Senator Hays has
worked in an extremely difficult and demanding job and I know that all
honourable senators will want to thank him for his efforts on our behalf.
Senator Fraser has also worked in an extremely demanding job as Deputy Leader
of the Opposition. I have had the pleasure of working closely with Senator
Fraser since being appointed in 2001, on the Special Committee on the
Anti-terrorism Act and again on the Public Safety Act as she chaired the
Transport and Communications Committee. While we have not always agreed on every
issue, I have always had the greatest respect for her ability to put forward her
point of view clearly while still remaining open to other arguments. She is
someone who always decides the best course of action based on the merits and
facts available. Senator Fraser has faced a demanding task as the deputy leader
with the same poise and panache I have come to respect in her. I want to thank
her for those efforts and I look forward to continuing to work with her.
Senator Cook and I first met when I ran for President of the Women's Liberal
Commission. She not only campaigned for me but has taught me many things that
have helped me work better in my role as senator. Senator Cook has worked with
all of us under very difficult health circumstances. She has soldiered on
without so much as a complaint despite the enormous challenges she faced as the
whip of a large Senate caucus. Her style has shown us that you can indeed catch
more flies with honey than with vinegar.
Honourable senators, I know you will all want to join me in thanking Senators
Hays, Fraser and Cook for their hard work on our behalf.
Honourable senators, I would also like to welcome to this side and
congratulate Senator Hervieux-Payette, Senator Cowan and Senator Tardif, who
have risen to take on these challenges which, I know, they will take on with
The Hon. the Speaker: Honourable senators, I would like to call your
attention to the presence in the gallery of a delegation from the Northwest
Territories, including Chief Charlie Neyelle and Lucy Jackson. They are the
guests of Senator Sibbeston.
Hon. Céline Hervieux-Payette (Leader of the Opposition): Honourable
senators, I am pleased to rise today in this illustrious chamber as Leader of
the Opposition, and in particular as a representative of those Canadians who
live in the regions and who self-identify as belonging to a minority, whichever
minority that may be.
I would also like to commend the Leader of the Government. I am delighted to
have the opportunity to debate with you, honourable senators, these topics that
concern Canadians, thereby helping our citizens, at the appropriate time, to
make clear choices among the values that we all defend and that lead us to
aspire to such different societies.
My question today is for the Minister of Public Works and Government
Services, Senator Fortier. I would remind the honourable senators that the
Minister of Public Works and Government Services was appointed to his position
primarily to allow the greater Montreal area to have a voice within the cabinet.
Montreal, as we know, is the hub of the Quebec aeronautics industry. This
industry is, understandably, one of the jewels of the Quebec manufacturing
sector. Quebec is home to nearly 60 per cent of the Canadian aeronautics
industry, which represents approximately 40,000 jobs. Thus, one might compare
the importance of the aeronautics sector in Quebec to that of the automotive
sector in Ontario. In both cases, they are the driving forces of the economy and
translate into hundreds of millions of dollars in investments and tens of
thousands of specialized, well-paid jobs. These industries are integral to the
economies of their respective provinces.
However, their government decided to go ahead with the purchase of C-17
military aircraft — which, I would like to point out, did not go to tender —
from Boeing, an American company. One of the conditions for the purchase, valued
at several billion dollars, is the economic benefit tied to the manufacture and
maintenance of these aircraft. It would seem logical, since the aeronautical
industry in Quebec is mainly concentrated in the Montreal area, for the majority
of the benefits to go to that region. In any case, that was the reasoning of
Quebec's minister of economic development, Raymond Bachand, who told the
Canadian press on January 20, and I quote:
Quebec should have a large part of that because it also makes economic
sense. Quebec is not being overly nationalistic, no more than when it is a
matter of other industries concentrated in other provinces.
He seemed to be in complete agreement with the Minister of Public Works and
Government Services. That same day, the latter stated in La Presse, and I
quote my honourable colleague:
What we want is for the benefits to go to those areas where there is
already a strong presence. Given that this presence is very significant in the
Montreal area, there will be significant benefits.
Last week, Radio Canada reported that Minister Fortier was attempting to
guarantee at least 40 per cent of the economic benefits for the Province of
First of all, could the Minister of Public Works and Government Services
perhaps tell us if he gave the Minister of National Defence what he wanted and
if he signed the contract for the Boeing aircraft without, apparently, a clause
specifying the economic benefits? Second, what are the economic benefits for
each Canadian region?
Hon. Marjory LeBreton (Leader of the Government and Secretary of State
(Seniors)): I thank the honourable senator for her question.
Some Hon. Senators: Oh, oh!
Senator LeBreton: The question concerns regional development and
Minister Fortier is the Minister of Public Works.
Senator Fox: He is signing the contract.
Senator LeBreton: That is correct, but this is a different issue.
As I have said to Senator Hervieux-Payette's predecessor, you must not always
believe everything you read in the newspapers.
Negotiations with companies are confidential, and therefore we are not in a
position to comment on them. When we have an announcement to make on this
purchase, we will make it.
This government and its ministers have no intention of interfering in the
regional distribution of the contracts. Canada's industrial and regional
benefits policy encourages the involvement of our regions but it does not tell
contractors which Canadian companies to work with. Contractors will undertake
business activities that make good business sense to them.
Our government's objective is to get the best industrial benefits package,
one that is high quality, high technology, and has long-lasting economic
consequences. The minimum benefits required in some regions are safeguards to
ensure that contractors in single-supplier situations consider business
activities in all regions of Canada.
The real story here is how our government is addressing the military's need
for new equipment after being starved by the Liberal government for 13 years.
Senator Hervieux-Payette: Honourable senators, I have a supplementary
question. I should mention that I totatlly disagree with the use of the word
When a government makes a commitment to sign a $3.4-billion contract on
behalf of Canadians to purchase the latest military equipment, it seems to me
that such a contract should include provisions defined by the client and binding
on the company selling that equipment.
The industry minister, Mr. Bernier, stated that he was not interfering
because this was a private matter.
Can the Leader of the Government in the Senate, on behalf of her government,
define what is meant by a private matter? And if she does not have the
definition at present, could she send it to me in writing?
Senator LeBreton: Honourable senators, this is a case of a particular
purchase that is required for the military. When the contracts are signed, they
will be made public. As the Minister of Industry and the Prime Minister have
stated, once the contracts are signed it will be up to the companies to make the
necessary arrangements with regional suppliers.
Hon. Grant Mitchell: Honourable senators, along with many others,
thousands of Canadian seniors were fundamentally betrayed when they took the
Conservative Party at its word and invested in income trusts based on the solemn
promise that if they became the government, the Conservatives would not change
the structure of income trusts.
The sting of this betrayal was exacerbated when the Leader of the Government
in the Senate said: ". . . I have not seen any evidence that individuals have
lost large sums of money."
Now that the honourable senator is the newly minted advocate for seniors,
will she at least admit that this broken promise has had a devastating impact on
many Canadian seniors who have to live on limited and often fixed incomes?
Hon. Marjory LeBreton (Leader of the Government and Secretary of State
(Seniors)): Honourable senators, I thank the honourable senator for that
I said in follow-up several days after that initial question that I did not
know of anyone personally. I indicated that was my personal knowledge of the
situation. I do regret that some seniors were affected by this measure.
Senator Mitchell: Some?
Senator LeBreton: Those of you who had an opportunity this morning to
watch the Minister of Finance before the committee in the other place will know
the importance of the decision. It was not an easy decision for him to make, but
it was a necessary decision to take swift action on the whole issue of income
trusts. The minister explained this morning, as he did when he made the
announcement initially, that there would have been a serious impact on the tax
base of the country. It has been supported by many provinces.
With regard to seniors specifically, I am pleased that the Prime Minister has
given me the additional responsibility of Secretary of State for Seniors. It is
a position that we promised in the campaign. I have met with seniors' groups and
many seniors since I was handed this portfolio.
While some have written to me and discussed the income trust issue,
overwhelmingly, the seniors that I have encountered are extremely pleased that
the government embarked on pension income splitting and increasing the age
credit at the same time.
We are looking at many things in terms of seniors. The seniors portfolio is
interesting because seniors have varying interests and concerns. I will work
hard to represent issues with regard to seniors at the cabinet table and in the
government. I can only promise to seniors that I will do what I have always
done, namely, work hard at it and do the best I can.
Senator Mitchell: The minister's hard work may not pay seniors' bills.
The Minister of Finance has defended his income trust betrayal based on this
tax leakage argument, but he is not clear, despite the magnitude of this
decision, about exactly what the tax leakage might be. It ranges anywhere from
$500 million, escalating as the heat on this issue has escalated, up to $1.3
billion, while Canadians have lost $30 billion.
Is the Leader of the Government and the Secretary of State for Seniors aware
that it will take somewhere between 25 and 60 years to leak in tax what
investors lost in two or three days because of the betrayal of this government?
Senator LeBreton: The Minister of Finance explained this morning that
the estimated annual tax loss that he initially talked about on October 31 was
based on conservative assumptions. If anything, the $500 million figure
mentioned last fall understates the federal revenue loss in 2006. As a matter of
fact, this revenue loss is substantial.
With regard to seniors who were pleased by the decision of the government to
allow pension splitting and raising the age credit amount, the Canadian
Association of Retired Persons, now called Canada's Association for the
Fifty-Plus, applauded the government and the minister and said the following:
CARP commends Minister Jim Flaherty for adopting a prudent approach to his
new policy regarding Income Trusts.
With respect to the honourable senator's reference to the figures on the
income trust side, I ran into some seniors the other day who had money invested
in income trusts but also in other stocks. They pointed out to me that the
monies they lost in the income trusts they more than made up in other stocks.
Senator Oliver: That is exactly the case. That is correct.
Senator LeBreton: It depends on the person who was handling the trust
accounts. In addition, the seniors were pleased to know that they would be able
to participate in pension income splitting.
I am becoming more involved in this file. As we proceed with Minister
Flaherty's tax fairness plan, I do believe that this government will certainly
hear seniors, and action will be taken to make the lives of our seniors much
easier, because they certainly have earned it. After all, they were the ones who
paid their bills, raised their children and tried to make this country a better
Hon. Marilyn Trenholme Counsell: Honourable senators, my question is
for the Leader of the Government in the Senate. We all know that there is a huge
paper shredder in the Conservative government offices, a shredder that has
chewed up Kelowna, Kyoto and our child care agreements. Yet, 77 per cent of
Canadians say there is a serious lack of child care spaces in Canada. Yes, 10
agreements were shredded or will be at the end of March.
Prime Minister Harper looked first to the business community to bail him out
or to cut deals, but businesses in general said "no." Yesterday, I visited
some wonderful daycare facilities in Montreal and the workers and parents there
are anxious, just like all parents and child care workers across this land. I
should probably say most parents are anxious. On December 4, 2006, Diane Finley
declared in the House of Commons, " . . . we are right on schedule to introduce
our incentives to encourage new child care spaces, as we promised, on April 1 of
Will your government fulfil its promise of 25,000 new spaces in 2007-08 and
each year thereafter for five years? Will your government fulfil its promise and
not just encourage and offer tax credits?
Hon. Marjory LeBreton (Leader of the Government and Secretary of State
(Seniors)): Honourable senators, I thank Senator Trenholme Counsell for her
We now have a new minister, Minister Solberg. Our commitment to create new
child care spaces is set to follow the expiration, as the senator pointed out,
of the previous government's funding agreements, which, I hasten to remind
honourable senators, was referred to as a "death bed repentance" by the
previous government. Who said that, honourable senators? None other than Tom
Axworthy made that statement. Last fall, we created a ministerial advisory
committee to provide advice on how to proceed with the design of the child care
spaces initiative. We will be looking forward to the committee's
As Senator Trenholme Counsell knows, child care needs differ from one part of
the country to the other. Child care needs also vary depending on the size and
location of the centre.
The government is committed to our child care initiative, and we are awaiting
the results of the review. Minister Solberg has stated that he is eager to make
progress in this area, and now that I am a junior minister in his department,
perhaps I will be involved in some of these discussions. I would be happy to
provide Senator Trenholme Counsell with any updates on this very important
Senator Trenholme Counsell: Last June 13, when I spoke on this subject
and introduced an inquiry, I clarified this "death bed repentance." I do not
think Mr. Axworthy had done his research perhaps as well as some of us who have
been working in the field. Actually, the Liberal Party of Canada began this
program under the Right Honourable Jean Chrétien in the early 1990s, when
ministers of family and community services across this land met in Victoria with
the leadership of none other than the Honourable Stockwell Day, who was very
enthusiastic. The stumbling point was that some of the provinces were not
prepared to sign the 50-50 agreement and we had to wait. Under the Right
Honourable Paul Martin and the Honourable Ken Dryden, we brought in a plan where
the federal government would provide money based on certain criteria, especially
quality and inclusiveness.
Talking about "deathbed repentance," this government's seeking advice from
experts is something new. I guess it is another example of being born again. We
have heard "born again" on the environment and now "born again" on seeking
advice from experts. I never heard the likes of that until lately. That change
is good news.
I want to ask a supplementary question: Why have we heard nothing about this
report, which I believe has been in the hands of the government at least six
weeks and maybe two months? Why is it in hiding?
My second question is, does this rebirth include non-profit organizations,
which in so many cases offer excellent, quality early childhood development
programs? However, these non-profit groups are in no position to benefit from
How does the government intend to help non-profit child care organizations
create new spaces?
SenatorLeBreton: I wish to thank the Honourable Senator
Trenholme Counsell for the question.
As I have pointed out on many occasions, last January 23, the Canadian public
voted for the Conservative government. They did not vote for a continuation of
the Liberal government. We made it clear in the election campaign that we had a
specific plan for child care. It is not a case of being "born again." I would
not know anything about being born again. I was born once and I think that is
enough for most people.
In any event, the honourable senator asks where the report is. She must
understand that we have a new Minister of Human Resources and Social
Development. In proper and good time, he will address this issue. He is a
conscientious individual. I am certain that he will come forward with the
Conservative government's plan in this area as quickly as possible.
I am amazed that the Honourable Senator Trenholme Counsell thinks it is not
proper to consult experts. We had the honour a few days ago in that same
Department of Human Resources and Social Development to name an expert panel on
older workers. We named a retired senator as the chair of that expert panel,
Senator Erminie Cohen from Senator Trenholme Counsell's province, and I would
like to think she will not be frowned upon, because she is considered an expert
in the area.
As a matter of fact, when Senator Eggleton was talking about poverty and this
issue being around for such a long time, and he referred to the work done by
Senator Croll, but he forgot to mention an equally important and just as widely
publicized report on poverty by one Senator Erminie Cohen.
Hon. Catherine S. Callbeck: Honourable senators, my question is for
the Leader of the Government and Secretary of State for Seniors.
Passport Canada, as we all know, is overwhelmed with applications and the
delays are getting longer and longer. What used to take roughly 20 business days
now takes approximately twice that amount of time.
The Conservative government knew for some time that this United States
passport requirement was coming into effect this month. Why did this government
not do more to prepare for the expected increase of passport applications that
everyone could see was coming?
Hon. Marjory LeBreton (Leader of the Government and Secretary of State
(Seniors)): I wish to thank the honourable senator for her good question.
The Conservative government did see this coming. A great deal of preparation and
effort was put into this requirement. Even though many people were aware,
unfortunately a great number of our own fellow citizens felt that this
requirement would not happen or that there would be no delay. There was a great
deal of activity in the last month or so. The January 23 deadline has now
passed. I have been told that Passport Canada is still processing thousands of
applications. I think they are printing up to 20,000 a day. Members of
Parliament on all sides of the house have had passport clinics in their
constituency offices. The government applauds the people who have worked long
hours processing these applications. It will now be up to all of us in
government and who deal with the public to ensure that our fellow citizens know
that the next step will be the requirement of passports for people crossing the
border by car.
I think it is incumbent on all of us to tell our fellow citizens that rather
than putting this off or thinking the date may change — and the government will
certainly do its part in informing the public — if they want to cross the border
they must have their passports. If they start now, by next year they will
already have the proper document to cross the border by car.
Senator Callbeck: I applaud the people working in the passport offices
too, but what this government has done is simply not acceptable. People are
lining up in the middle of the night at passport offices. I hear now that anyone
who wants a passport by the end of March is advised to go to a passport office.
One problem is that in Prince Edward Island we do not have a passport office.
Islanders must go to Fredericton or Halifax. They must take two days off work,
and pay for their lodging, the bridge toll and transportation costs plus extra
fees for the passport. These costs all add up to high expenses which, of course,
are difficult for low-and medium-income families.
I want to know what this government will do to clear up the delays and ensure
that Canadians can get their passports in a timely manner.
Senator LeBreton: Thank you, Senator Callbeck, for that question. As I
have already explained, the passport offices have increased their staff. They
are working extremely long hours. Individual members of Parliament across the
country have held special passport days in their constituency offices where
people go and fill out their passport applications, and their member of
Parliament ensures that the applications arrive at the passport offices. A lot
of people have helped to deal with this situation. People, even some in my own
family, stood in the lineup, then called me to solve it for them. I said, "You
have known about this for a year. Why are you calling me now?"
The government has worked extremely hard to inform the public. Members on all
sides have worked hard for their constituents to help them fill out their
passport applications properly.
Apparently the backlog that surrounded the January 23 date is now starting to
subside. It is incumbent upon the government in particular and also members of
Parliament in both Houses, when people inquire about this requirement, to inform
them that there is little likelihood the Government of the United States will
completely change their laws and rules about crossing the border by car. People
would be well advised to apply now for their passports.
Hon. Claudette Tardif (Deputy Leader of the Opposition): Honourable
senators, my question is for the Leader of the Government in the Senate.
We all know that the Conservatives' so-called green revolution is nothing but
smoke and mirrors. What other explanation could there be for the fact that, less
than nine months ago, the Prime Minister stated that he did not recognize the
alleged existence of greenhouse gases? Why are the Conservatives saying that the
Liberals did nothing, when they are recycling several of our energy programs?
The government has the means to act immediately. Why, then, does it not use the
Canadian Environmental Protection Act to set limits immediately on major
Hon. Marjory LeBreton (Leader of the Government and Secretary of State
(Seniors)): Honourable senators, the Prime Minister said no such thing. We
are part of a party that had a Prime Minister who was recently given the award
as the greenest Prime Minister in history.
As the Prime Minister said when he was doing his year-end interviews, clearly
the Canadian public wanted more attention paid to how environmental issues are
handled. He has taken action.
The government had been working on several plans throughout the summer and
fall. It is pretty well acknowledged that this time last year — and it was not
just the case of our government, but all political parties, and the polls show
it — environment was not an issue that was at the top of the minds of the
Canadian public. It has since become so, which is good.
This government is committed to taking action. All of us want clean air to
breathe and clean water to drink; and we want to know that when we buy products
to clean our homes or to eat, that they are as free of toxins as possible. It is
not a partisan issue; it is something we do for all Canadians, no matter what
their political stripe.
I am happy with the initiatives that the Prime Minister, Minister Baird and
Minister Lund have taken thus far. As was pointed out as recently as today in an
editorial in The Toronto Star, the previous government talked about it
but did nothing.
Hon. Gerald J. Comeau (Deputy Leader of the Government): Honourable
senators, I have the honour of presenting delayed answers to two oral questions
raised in the Senate. The first response is to a question raised by Senator Hays
on December 14, 2006, in regard to Senate appointments — nominees in a
consultation — Constitution credentials. The second is in response to a question
raised on December 7, 2006, by Senator Fox in regard to intergovernmental
affairs — limitations on the exercise of the federal spending power.
(Response to question raised by Hon. Daniel Hays on December 14, 2006)
Bill C-43, the Senate Appointment Consultations Act, does not propose any
changes to the Constitutional qualifications or disqualifications of Senators,
which will continue to apply unchanged to persons summoned to the Senate by
the Governor General. The qualifications for Senators are set out in section
23 of the Constitution Act, 1867, including the age, citizenship, property,
and residence requirements. Disqualifications are set out in s. 31 of the
Constitution Act, 1867, including bankruptcy and ceasing to be qualified by
property or residence.
To be eligible as a nominee in the consultation process, persons will have
to meet two of the existing Constitutional qualifications at the time of
nomination: they will have to be thirty years of age, and be Canadian
citizens. The remaining qualifications, including the Quebec real property
qualification in section 23(6), will apply to selected nominees at the time of
appointment, as is the case for Senators appointed now.
This approach facilitates at-large Senate consultations, including in
Quebec. It also allows time between the consultation process and appointment
for selected nominees to comply with the other requirements, over which they
presumably have a greater degree of control than over age and citizenship. The
approach thereby seeks to make the process as accessible as possible to
nominees, while respecting the constitutional qualifications.
The power to determine whether a Senator meets the constitutional
qualifications, vested in the Senate itself by section 33 of the Constitution
Act, 1867, also remains unchanged.
(Response to question raised by Hon. Francis Fox on December 7, 2006)
The Government of Canada values an approach to federalism that fully
respects provincial jurisdictions. A key element of such an approach involves
the exercise of the federal spending power. Concerns have been raised in the
past that federal initiatives have often imposed new conditions and cost
pressures on provincial and territorial governments. Increased federal
spending in areas of primarily provincial responsibility often:
resulted in strains between the federal government and the provinces and
territories in cases where expenditures were undertaken without adequate
consultation or consensus on priorities;
created new cost pressures on provincial and territorial governments,
potentially distorting their spending priorities, particularly where
initiatives required matching funds; and
increased uncertainty where initiatives were introduced without
long-term, stable federal funding.
The combined effect of increased federal spending in areas of provincial
responsibility and a lack of focus on areas of clear federal responsibility,
has been to raise concerns over increasingly blurred lines of accountability
that make it more difficult for Canadians to determine which order of
government should be held accountable for specific policies and initiatives.
Given these concerns, the Government of Canada believes the use of the
federal spending power should be based on clarity of roles and
responsibilities. This is essential to ensuring that Canadians can hold their
governments accountable. It also requires respect for provincial areas of
responsibility, a focus of federal efforts on reform and funding in core
federal areas of responsibility, as well as the appropriate matching of
revenues to expenditure responsibilities.
Consequently, the Government has made clear commitments with regard to the
federal spending power. In Budget 2006, the Government tabled a paper entitled
Restoring Fiscal Balance in Canada which states that, "In keeping with
the Social Union Framework Agreement (SUFA) signed by the federal government
and all provinces other than Quebec in 1999, the Government of Canada will
limit the use of the federal spending power in areas of provincial
responsibility to ensure that:
new shared-cost programs in areas of provincial responsibility have the
consent of the majority of provinces to proceed; and
provinces and territories have the right to opt out of shared-cost
federal programs with compensation if they offer similar programs with
comparable accountability structures."
These commitments were subsequently reiterated in Advantage Canada.
The Government is committed to making federal spending more transparent,
accountable and disciplined, while creating greater opportunity for Canadians
in all parts of the country.
The Hon. the Speaker informed the Senate that a message had been
received from the House of Commons returning Bill C-3, respecting international
bridges and tunnels and making a consequential amendment to another Act, to
acquaint the Senate that the House of Commons has agreed to the amendments made
by the Senate to this bill, without amendment.
Resuming debate on the motion of the Honourable Senator LeBreton, P.C.,
seconded by the Honourable Senator Comeau, for the second reading of Bill S-4,
to amend the Constitution Act, 1867 (Senate tenure).
Hon. Hugh Segal: Honourable senators, I rise in my place today to
support the motion for second reading made by my leader in this place some time
ago. I do so in the hope that in view of the relatively short nature of Bill
S-4, the bill which calls for the limitation of Senate tenure, and in view of
the fact that should it be given second reading in the proximate future, there
will be ample opportunity in committee for members of the house on all sides who
have legitimate and specific concerns to address them at that time.
The committee so ably chaired by Senator Hays did rather extensive work on
the subject matter of the bill. May I say parenthetically, as one of the class
of 2005, how delighted I was to see the elevation of Senator Hays to Her
Majesty's Privy Council for Canada. It will be a great honour for the council to
have him as part of that distinguished group of Her Majesty's Canadian advisers.
I make the case for the advancement of this legislation now through this
place because I believe we would be serving the quality of constitutional debate
if we let this matter move forward to committee for further thoughtful
consideration. I point out as a matter of public record for senators on all
sides that the committee which studied the subject matter did very extensive and
thoughtful work. It was my privilege to be a member of that committee. Some 26
witnesses appeared before that committee with differing and constructive views.
The staff of the committee did outstanding work. Many of the people who have
strong views in this house had the chance as well to participate in the
deliberations before that committee.
We now have legislation before us that deals with one minimal aspect
regarding the Senate; namely, the length of tenure. I do take note of the
concerns expressed by all sides about how this bill fits in the larger plan. We
now have a bill in the other place that deals with the way in which Canadians
might be consulted relative to a list of potential appointees to the Senate
within the context of the present Constitution. I accept that there are
differing views as to the constitutionality of that particular provision.
However, no movement in this place to advance Bill S-4 will limit the debate in
the other place or limit the capacity of our own committee, the Standing Senate
Committee on Legal and Constitutional Affairs, to give due consideration to that
In this respect, I am inspired by the new Leader of the Liberal Party of
Canada, Stéphane Dion, who I think showed compelling perspicacity and judgment
when he reflected on the need to proceed, if possible, to a measure of Senate
reform without getting bogged down in the Constitution itself. On May 8, he said
that in his view the best way to deal with Senate reform was to do it without
tinkering with the Constitution. As an example, he mentioned that requiring
senators perhaps to agree to sign an agreement promising to step down after six
years would not require the agreement of the provinces. He was contributing as a
distinguished scholar of public administration to opening up some channels by
which we can make progress without getting bogged down in the constitutional
agenda, which we all know is difficult and problematic by definition.
Honourable senators, it was my great privilege to serve on the group of 21
with the new Leader of the Opposition in the Senate, Senator Hervieux-Payette.
This group of Canadians was put together after the failure of Meech Lake in the
legislatures of Newfoundland and Labrador and Manitoba for the purpose of
finding non-constitutional ways of moving the agenda of fairness, decency and
democratic reform further along without getting bogged down in the
constitutional conundrum. It was very much the unanimous view of that committee
that on issues around fairness, representation, we could make progress in non-constitutional ways and did not have to hold up the evolution of the country and
its institutions to a constitutional solution where other options were
Honourable senators, I want to suggest as respectfully as I can and in the
broadly non-partisan spirit of today, with the arrival of new leadership on the
other side, that we would be sending a powerful message to the other place and
to Canadians about our common will not to acquiesce in matters with which we do
not agree, but rather to put forward to study in a thoughtful way, in the
appropriate place, legislation that has been before us now for some many months.
I know where my good friend Senator Murray is coming from on this bill. He
will want to know where I stand on the issue of a retroactive amendment so that
people now in this institution are not grandfathered. He may put that question,
and I would not be surprised if he did. I am sure I reflect the view of everyone
in this chamber. We all had and continue to have active lives outside this
place. We are here to serve the public, and if reform of our democratic
institutions can be achieved and we are called upon to make various sacrifices
as we have in the past, we would rise to that cause.
On the basis of discussions we have had in this place, over 25 senators have
asked questions or raised issues with respect to Bill S-4. I think we are at the
point, without in any way giving up what might divide this side of the chamber
from that side, where we must be respectful of the broad breadth of opinion
within the official opposition. In reviewing the Debates of the Senate, I
notice that one cannot typify the official opposition's position on this matter
as in any way monolithic. If we had the same breadth of division on our side, it
would be called hopeless division, but I will not use that terminology because
it would be unparliamentary. The broad breadth and diversity of opinion on the
other side speaks eloquently to the great work a committee could do if we were
allowed to liberate this legislation and move it to the committee where great
minds, thoughtful witnesses and distinguished parliamentarians could study the
various few paragraphs of this bill in great detail. I commend Bill S-4 to the
most serious consideration of this house.
Hon. Terry M. Mercer: Would the honourable senator permit a question?
Senator Segal: Of course.
Senator Mercer: Perhaps Senator Segal can explain to us what he meant
when he mentioned the retroactivity question. Does he have the blessing of his
caucus and of his party to put this argument forward at this time?
Senator Segal: I want to be clear about what I was and was not doing.
I was trying to inoculate my humble comments against the question that Senator
Murray asked Senator St. Germain earlier on in this debate; namely, if one is in
favour of Bill S-4, would one be in favour of Bill S-4 were it to be made
retroactive? In that context, I defer to the will of this chamber. If the
committee were to be given the chance to consider this bill and were to
recommend that the matter be retroactive, I would be more than delighted to look
at that recommendation on its merits. We would, as a chamber, deal with that in
a parliamentary and thoughtful way, and I would be completely in the hands of
this chamber on this issue.
Hon. James S. Cowan: I move the adjournment of the debate.
The Hon. the Speaker: It is moved by the Honourable Senator Cowan,
seconded by the Honourable Senator Milne, that further debate be continued at
the next sitting of the Senate. Is it your pleasure, honourable senators, to
adopt the motion?
Some Hon. Senators: Agreed.
Some Hon. Senators: No.
The Hon. the Speaker: Those in favour of the motion will signify by
Some Hon. Senators: Yea.
The Hon. the Speaker: Those opposed to the motion will signify by
The Hon. the Speaker: In my opinion, the "yeas" have it.
And two honourable senators having risen:
The Hon. the Speaker: Is there an agreement between the whips as to
the length of the bell?
Senator Stratton: Thirty minutes.
Senator Cowan: Thirty minutes.
The Hon. the Speaker: Call in the senators. It now being 10 minutes
after three o'clock, the bells will sound for a vote 30 minutes hence.
Motion agreed to and debate adjourned on the following division:
Hon. Consiglio Di Nino moved second reading of Bill C-28, a second Act
to implement certain provisions of the budget tabled in Parliament on May 2,
He said: Honourable senators, before I comment on Bill C-28, I extend my
congratulations to the new leadership team, Senator Hervieux-Payette, Senator
Tardif and Senator Cowan. I extend these good wishes and cooperation as long as
cooperation is received on this side as well.
Honourable senators, Bill C-28 proposes to legislate certain measures that
Canada's new government announced in Budget 2006 that were not part of the
Budget Implementation Bill. That bill, which received Royal Assent last June,
was the first step of many down the road of this new government's long-term plan
for a more competitive, productive Canada that every Canadian can be proud of. I
will tell honourable senators a bit about that plan and then I will illustrate
how Bill C-28 fits into the big picture.
As honourable senators know, along with this fall's economic and fiscal
update, the Minister of Finance introduced Advantage Canada on November 23,
2006. This is a long-term plan to put Canada on a firm track toward the future.
Advantage Canada will build a strong Canadian economy, making us a world leader
with a quality of life second to none, and it will do this through competitive
economic advantages. These advantages include tax advantages that will reduce
taxes for all Canadians and improve Canada's business tax competitiveness with a
target of establishing the lowest tax rate on new business investments in the
G7. Fiscal advantages will eliminate Canada's total government net debt in less
than a generation. Entrepreneurial advantages will reduce unnecessary regulation
and red tape and increase competition in the Canadian marketplace. There will be
a knowledge advantage that will — create the best educated, most skilled and
most flexible workforce in the world. Infrastructure advantages will build the
modern infrastructure that Canada needs. By committing to principles and
policies that will deliver these advantages, Canada's new government will set
the stage for economic growth, opportunity and choices for people.
Working together with Canadians, our goals are to build a prosperous economy
that provides Canadians with what they deserve: good, well-paying jobs; the
ability to save more for retirement; the chance to start a new business; the
opportunity to help children and grandchildren, and most of us in this place
know what that is all about; and the chance to improve their overall quality of
life. These are things that Canadians have entrusted the Conservative Party to
support and we are delivering. As promised, we cut the GST and we will cut it
again. Again, as promised, we cut personal and corporate income taxes.
Honourable senators, the measures in Bill C-28 build on this action. Indeed,
this bill reflects the goals of Canada's new government to create new
opportunities and choices for Canadians. In outlining the principal measures of
Bill C-28, I will illustrate how this proposed legislation supports the
government's plan for the future of Canada.
Honourable senators, I said that the government reduced corporate taxes. This
shows that Canadian companies are an important component of our economy.
The government wants to provide companies with a framework that will allow
them to prosper and face international competition boldly.
In the budget bill passed last June, the government set out to reduce the
general corporate tax rate from 21 per cent to 19 per cent by 2010. The recently
tabled Tax Fairness Plan proposes to reduce this rate even further to 18.5 per
cent by 2011.
Last June's budget bill also eliminated the corporate surtax for all
corporations effective 2008 as well as the federal capital tax as of January 1,
2006, two years earlier than originally planned.
Today, Bill C-28 takes further action by helping small businesses. They will
benefit from a proposed reduction of the current 12 per cent small business tax
rate to 11.5 per cent for 2008 and 11 per cent in 2009. In addition, effective
January 1, 2007, the amount of income that a small business can have taxed at
the small business tax rate will be increased from the current $300,000 to
$400,000. Small businesses are the engines of our economic growth. In supporting
them with these two measures we will be helping hard-working entrepreneurs,
their families and their employees in cities, towns and regions across Canada.
Honourable senators, an important consideration for this government when
shaping Budget 2006 was improving equity and fairness in our tax system. Bill
C-28 reflects that goal by providing capital gains tax relief to fishers. This
includes an extension of the $500,000 lifetime capital gains exemption and an
intergenerational rollover for fishing businesses. This proposal provides
fairness for this important industry by affording it the same tax treatment of
capital gains as that of farmers.
Canada's new government did not stop at these measures in its efforts to help
Canadian companies become more competitive.
This bill proposes to amend the minimum tax on financial institutions, which
will help reflect the growth of this sector since the tax was introduced.
Bill C-28 also proposes to eliminate the double federal taxation of dividends
from large corporations at the federal level. The tax reduction will encourage
savings and investment and will also help stimulate economic growth.
Furthermore, this bill will make the total personal and corporate income tax
on earnings distributed as dividends more comparable to the income tax paid on
interest payments and income trust distributions.
Honourable senators, Bill C-28 is about ensuring that Canadians have the
incentives, opportunities and choices they need to unlock the door to a better
quality of life. To do that, education and training provide the key.
Post-secondary students will be given a helping hand. They will benefit from a
new, non-refundable tax credit to provide better tax recognition for the cost
of textbooks. This credit will be put in place effective for 2006 and for
subsequent taxation years. This measure, for which eligibility rules will be the
same as those for the education tax credit, will provide benefits to almost 2
million post-secondary students in both full- and part-time studies.
Honourable senators, helping out with the cost of textbooks is only one way
Canada's new government can help post-secondary students. These hard-working
students also need to be supported in their academic pursuits. The first $3,000
in scholarship, fellowship and bursary income received by post-secondary
students is not taxed. Bill C-28 proposes to fully exempt these sources of
income tax. This is a significant measure that will help foster academic
excellence by providing tax relief to more than 100,000 post-secondary students.
Many students today hold down part-time jobs to make ends meet. The tax
measures outlined above, when combined with the existing tuition and education
tax credits, will allow a typical full-time student to earn almost $19,000
without having to pay any federal income tax in 2007.
As honourable senators can see, Canada's new government is committed to
helping Canadians reach their full potential, but what happens once they get
into the workforce? Our work is not over. We need to help employers — that is,
Canadian businesses — find the skilled workers they need. To that end, some of
the highlights of this bill are the proposals it contains to help Canadians
either in or trying to get into the workforce when they are often in financial
Look, for example, at the new Canada employment credit. This new government
recognizes that for some low-income Canadians certain costs associated with
working, such as uniforms and safety gear which are required for the job, could
be a barrier to joining the workforce. The Canada employment credit provides a
tax credit of up to $250 for 2006 and up to $1,000 for 2007 and beyond for
employees' work expenses. This credit will significantly increase the amount of
income that employed Canadians can earn without paying federal income tax. In
fact, when combined with the increases to the basic personal amount, tax-free
earnings will be almost $10,000 by 2007. It will put employees on a more equal
footing with other Canadians who are self-employed, in terms of the tax
recognition they receive for the expenses they incur to earn income.
Honourable senators, many employed tradespeople must provide their own tools
as a condition of employment. Many of us have heard how expensive this can be,
particularly for those just starting off their careers.
Bill C-28 proposes a new deduction of up to $500 to those tradespeople for
the cost of tools in excess of $1,000 that they must acquire as a condition of
employment. This proposed tax deduction, together with the Canada employment
credit, will provide tax relief to about 700,000 employed tradespeople.
These are not the only measures in Bill C-28 that will help Canadians enter
the workforce. Under a new apprenticeship job creation tax credit proposed in
this bill, effective May 2, 2006, budget day, eligible employers will receive a
tax credit equal to 10 per cent of the wages paid to qualifying apprentices in
the first two years of their apprenticeship contract. The maximum credit
employers can receive is $2,000 per apprentice per year. This measure will
encourage employers to hire new apprentices learning a trade.
So far, I have addressed personal and corporate income tax deductions. I have
also addressed measures designed to help Canadians launch a career. But what
about retirement? The new government has proposed measures to help Canadians
with pension income. As senators know, at present, there is a tax credit on the
first $1,000 of qualified pension income. This amount had not changed in 30
years. That is why, in its first budget, Canada's new government recognized the
situation of Canadians who have worked hard all their lives and set money aside
to fully enjoy a well-deserved retirement.
Bill C-28 proposes to double the maximum amount of qualified pension income
on which the pension income credit is calculated, increasing it to $2,000 for
tax year 2006 and subsequent years. This measure will benefit nearly three
million taxpayers who receive a qualified pension income. It will remove
approximately 85,000 pensioners from the tax rolls altogether.
Honourable senators, I mentioned at the outset that Canada's new government
is committed to improving the quality of life for Canadians. I believe my
remarks thus far support that commitment, but we can do more. In working towards
its goal of a cleaner, healthier environment, this government wants to encourage
individuals to use public transit. For those of us who have been stuck in
rush-hour traffic on the Queensway in Toronto or in similar roads across our
great country, we can appreciate that increasing public transit use will only
ease traffic congestion. It will not only ease traffic congestion, but it will
also improve the environment.
As part of this government's environmental plan, Bill C-28 proposes a tax
credit on the purchase cost of monthly public transit passes or on passes of a
longer duration. This measure, effective July 1, 2006, will encourage public
transit use by making it more affordable to approximately 2 million Canadians
who use this environmentally friendly mode of transportation.
Honourable senators, improving the quality of life of Canadians can encompass
many things: tax relief, educational assistance and environmental measures.
However, when it comes down to it, where would we be without our health? The
government wants to help here as well. What better place to start than with our
children? Studies show that regular physical activity has many positive effects
on children, including healthier growth and development and improved physical
fitness. Studies also indicate that healthy habits learned young are carried
with us into adulthood.
To promote physical fitness among children and to help parents with the
expenses of fitness programs, Bill C-28 proposes to introduce a children's
fitness tax credit. This credit is intended to come into force on January 1,
2007. The credit will be provided on up to $500 of eligible fees for programs of
physical activity for each child under the age of 16. The credit will extend to
activities such as hockey, soccer, folk dancing, hiking and any number of other
programs that involve significant physical activity and that the Canada Revenue
Agency deems eligible.
The last group of provisions in this bill will help our small brewers and
producers of 100-per-cent Canadian wine. Vintners who use Canadian-grown
agricultural products will be exempt from excise duty. This exemption will
result in a savings of over $10 million in the first full year for an industry
that contributes to our economy through job creation, tourism and exports. Small
brewers will benefit from reduced duties on the first 75,000 hectolitres of beer
they produce. On the first 2,000 hectolitres, savings of 90 per cent will be
To conclude, this bill is helping the new government achieve its goal of
contributing to the well-being of Canadians. There is no longer any doubt that
Canada has enormous potential. In Canada, people can fulfil their dreams,
families can enjoy unparalleled quality of life, and businesses and other
organizations can achieve excellence on the international scene.
The measures contained in Bill C-28 can help us reach that potential. I
therefore encourage all my colleagues to fully support this bill.
Hon. Mac Harb: Honourable senators, I wish to ask my colleague a
In the honourable senator's speech he talked about the initiatives of the new
government, but as part of those initiatives he mentioned the elimination of the
net debt. We all know about the debt that is in excess of $400 billion. Perhaps
my colleague can explain to this house what he means by the net debt and how the
government plans to achieve the elimination of that net debt in the stated time
Senator Di Nino: I thank the honourable senator for his question.
First, it is important to recognize that the single biggest debt reduction took
place this past year when the Minister of Finance applied, I believe, $13.6
billion against the debt. That reduction is something that has been unheard of
for many years.
The plan is a commitment by this government to accelerate that debt reduction
over the period of time stated. The details have not been stated, as that is
impossible to do, but the honourable senator will agree that by example, by the
reduction of the $13.6 billion a few months ago, this government intends to keep
Senator Harb: It is obvious that when a government makes a statement,
the statement is based on a forecast. Has the government put in a forecast for
the economic growth they are talking about in terms of how much revenue they
will generate and in terms of a schedule over, let us say, the next five years?
Perhaps my colleague could tell us what the forecast of the government is in
terms of an action plan to reduce the net debt? I am at a loss here in terms of
the difference between the net debt and the actual debt. We are all accustomed
to the term, actual debt. Can my colleague explain what he means by the "net
Senator Di Nino: I wish to remind the honourable senator that the
statement I made dealt with the economic and fiscal statement made by the
Minister of Finance on November 23, if my memory serves me correctly, which was
called "Advantage Canada." That statement was about a commitment of the
government. It did not contain specifics. As the minister stated at that time,
as time goes by all of these commitments will be fleshed out and will be given
meat, so to speak, and additional details. The statement was not part of this
bill and it was not part of the budget. It was the statement made by the
Minister of Finance when he made his economic statement.
Hon. Marjory LeBreton (Leader of the Government and Secretary of State
(Seniors)): That is right. We will provide him with a copy.
Hon. Sharon Carstairs: My question to the honourable senator concerns
the tax credit for those families whose children take part in a vigorous
physical activity which raises their cardiovascular rate. He used examples of
hockey and soccer.
My understanding of the program is that the $500 paid by parents results in
an amazing savings of $75 on their tax bill. However, it is interesting to me
that there are very few welfare and poor working parents who can afford a $500
enrolment fee in a hockey or a soccer program.
Does this government not believe that children living in families of the
working poor and welfare recipients should not also receive encouragement to
take part in physical activity?
Senator Di Nino: I wish to thank the honourable senator for her
It is important to understand that this is only one of a number of things
accomplished in the past year. One must also acknowledge the fact that in the
last 12 months — this government has only been in power for 12 months — a number
of measures have been taken: reduction of the GST, reduction of personal income
taxes and reduction of corporate taxes. All kinds of other measures have been
In this bill, the government is saying that if parents encourage their
children under the age of 16 to undertake a structured program, either through a
league, an organization or a club — I am trying to fit the Boy Scouts in there,
as some honourable senators are aware of my interest there — the fees they pay,
up to $500, will have a tax credit attached to them.
The tax credit will benefit people at different levels, depending on their
marginal tax rate. It may be as little as $75, and it may be more in some cases.
However, I am sure my colleague will agree that even $75 is a lot of money to a
young family. It may not be a lot of money to the world, but whatever the
amount, it is a lot more than they were previously receiving.
To take this as a "one-off" measure is incorrect. This bill talks about
apprenticeship programs, tax credits for the purchase of tools for working
parents and a number of other issues. When they are all put together, I think
the honourable senator would agree that it is a great step forward from what was
in place previously.
Senator Carstairs: With the greatest of respect to the honourable
senator, if everything is put together, it benefits the upper middle class and
the wealthy. It does not benefit the working poor and those who are on welfare.
Senator LeBreton: Yes, it does.
Senator Carstairs: Is this government systematically opposed to
helping those who make little or no money in this country?
Senator Di Nino: I am tempted to get involved in a political debate
here, but I do not want to do that.
If we look at public transit passes, it is not wealthy people who will
benefit from them; every Canadian will benefit. Look at the number of seniors
who will be taken off the tax rolls as a result of the measures of this bill
alone, let alone some of the other things it has accomplished. The provisions
contained in this bill will also take poor people off the tax rolls, so they too
will obtain a benefit from this bill.
It is unfair to suggest that this government does not care about the poor. In
one year, I believe we have accomplished much more than the previous government
did in 13 years.
An Hon. Senator: Come on.
Senator Di Nino: I do not want to get political. If honourable
senators want to get political, we can do that.
I am suggesting that we must look at this issue in a fair way and say that
this government in a slim 12 months has accomplished so much. How much more is
there to come? That is the question we should be asking.
Senator Cowan: That is what we need to know.
Senator Fraser: Yes, that is what we are afraid of.
Senator Carstairs: Again, with the greatest of respect to the
honourable senator, all I can say is that those people most in need of child
care will not receive child care. Those parents most in need of assistance to
help their children be physically active will not receive assistance.
With the greatest respect to the bus pass program, the honourable senator
should wake up and smell the coffee. The working poor in this country cannot
afford public transit because of a lack of support for transit.
Senator Di Nino: I am tempted to sit down and not say any more, but I
drink espresso; I smell the coffee all the time. It is a great smell and it is
If honourable senators look at the substance of this bill, they will see it
includes such benefits as the Canada employment credit, the textbook tax credit,
public transit passes, tool deductions for tradespeople, the children's fitness
tax credit, scholarship and bursary income, pension income credits for seniors,
the apprenticeship job creation tax credit, the small business tax credits —
Senator Comeau: More.
Senator Di Nino: — and fiscal capital gains. My honourable friend may
want us all to reduce our salaries by 10 per cent and donate it to our favourite
charities. If we pass that measure here, I will be the first one to subscribe.
Hon. Marilyn Trenholme Counsell: Honourable senators, I should like to
ask a question about the $500 credit towards sports. However, first, I would
like to comment on the use of the term "Boy Scouts." It is not the Boy Scouts
anymore. It is Scouts Canada and includes both boys and girls. They are equal.
Some Hon. Senators: Shame.
Senator Di Nino: Shame is right.
Senator Trenholme Counsell: Did the honourable senator mention hiking
as one of the sports?
Senator Di Nino: First, let me congratulate the honourable senator;
she got me on that one. We have just finished working hard together to pass a
bill in this place to change the name to Scouts Canada, and it is now in the
other place. I totally agree with the honourable senator and thank her for
pointing that out. We both have the same passion for the same organization.
Hiking is one of the examples provided in the briefing papers, which also
include sports such as sailing, golf, karate, soccer and folk dancing.
Senator Trenholme Counsell: It is my understanding that it is not at
all easy to obtain this credit. One must have proof of registration and perhaps
It would be quite wonderful if what the honourable senator is saying is a
reflection of what the government is offering, but I would like to know more
details. I am sure that the honourable senator is privy to more inside
information than I, but I have heard a lot of parents talking about this.
Indeed, this credit is for those sports where one must buy expensive equipment
and pay registration fees. As the honourable senator was saying, it is for those
of means and not those who can walk along a hiking trail.
I do not know whether dancing is included on the honourable senator's list of
sports, but I think it should be. My daughter was a highland dancer, and that
activity is strenuous and costly.
Can the honourable senator explain how hiking could possibly be included in
these notes? It is good news if it is.
Senator Di Nino: Yes.
Folk dancing is one of the activities included on the list.
Senator Trenholme Counsell: Hiking is included?
Senator Di Nino: Yes, hiking is included. I have said that a number of
We have here a provision to allow young Canadians to participate in physical
activities that will improve their health, make them stronger and better
citizens, and improve their ability to complete their school work and live more
active lives, which I think we would all agree is good.
Honourable senators, there must be rules. The rules are basically designed by
the Canada Revenue Agency. I do not have them here, but I will do my best to
provide them to honourable senators. One cannot say, "Last Sunday I went for a
walk around the park, so I would like to receive a tax credit associated with
the shoes I bought." Rules must be created so that public spending is done in
an appropriate and responsible manner.
I know that the list I provided is not all-inclusive. It is intended to
include physical activity that can be described as relatively strenuous.
Certainly soccer is included in that category. Soccer is not an expensive sport;
it is not played by people with lots of money. Hiking is not an expensive sport.
Hon. Grant Mitchell: So you get $15 back?
Senator Di Nino: It may be $75 or $120. The honourable senator cannot
look at one extreme. He is well aware of the fact that if he gets a $500 tax
credit, depending on his marginal tax rate, he can get as much as 50 per cent of
Senator Mitchell: It is limited to 15.5 per cent.
Senator Di Nino: I hope I answered the honourable senator's question.
I will attempt to provide a full list with details attached.
Senator Mitchell: I would like to clarify one point before I adjourn
the debate. Senator Di Nino said that depending on how high your marginal tax
rate is, the $500 tax write-off will give you more or less. However, that is not
the case. The fact is that it is limited to 15.5 per cent, or the lowest
possible tax bracket, which represents an increase in tax from 15 per cent to
15.5 per cent. The fact is that it is limited to 15.5 per cent, to $77.50. If
you are paying $35 for soccer shoes and $15 for soccer fees, you will receive
about 10 per cent of that.
He can say he is doing something for families, but it could amount to only
$8.50 or $10. It is not worth the time it would take to get it.
Senator Di Nino: Perhaps not for the honourable senator, but others
might want to take advantage of it.
Hon. Hugh Segal: Senator Di Nino made a statement about Advantage
Canada and referenced the Minister of Finance with regard to the working income
tax benefit or WITB program, a program aimed at dealing with the particular
problem of the working poor through a working tax benefit incentive. This
program deals with those many Canadians who work very hard, some holding down
two or more jobs, but do not make enough to live properly. I understand that
this program would top up, through the tax system, their capacity to get out of
the "working poor" category and have the income they need.
In view of the potential for this tax credit to affect, in a less than
constructive way, people who earn less than $30,000, could Senator Di Nino
undertake to make representations to the Minister of Finance in this pre-budget
period to have this matter addressed when the WITB program is considered for
introduction, perhaps in the upcoming budget?
Senator Di Nino: I will certainly undertake to do that.
Resuming debate on the motion of the Honourable Senator Harb, seconded by
the Honourable Senator Keon, for the second reading of Bill S-221, to
establish and maintain a national registry of medical devices.
Hon. Gerald J. Comeau (Deputy Leader of the Government): Honourable
senators, I would like to make a few comments on Bill S-221, but first I want to
take this opportunity to welcome the new opposition leadership, namely Senator
Hervieux-Payette, Senator Tardif and Senator Cowan. I would also like to thank
Senator Hays, Senator Fraser and Senator Cook for their cooperation and for the
collegiality that prevailed during the last session. It has been a great
pleasure for me to work with them, and I hope that we will have the opportunity
to do so again in the future.
Honourable senators, I want to raise a point of order regarding Bill S-221,
to establish and maintain a national registry of medical devices. I believe that
this legislative document involves an appropriation of public funds and,
therefore, it cannot originate in the Senate.
Rule 81 of the Rules of the Senate reads:
The Senate shall not proceed upon a bill appropriating public money that
has not within the knowledge of the Senate been recommended by the Queen's
This rule is based on sections 53 and 54 of the Constitution Act, 1867, which
provide that appropriation bills shall originate in the other place and require
a Royal Recommendation, which can only be asked by the Crown. Sections 53 and 54
read as follows:
Bills for appropriating any Part of the Public Revenue, or for imposing any
Tax or Impost, shall originate in the House of Commons.
It shall not be lawful for the House of Commons to adopt or pass any Vote,
Resolution, Address, or Bill for the Appropriation of any Part of the Public
Revenue, or of any Tax or Impost, to any Purpose that has not been first
recommended to that House by Message of the Governor General in the Session in
which such Vote, Resolution, Address, or Bill is proposed.
Allow me to explain why Bill S-221 is in fact a money bill. First, clause 3
states that the Minister of Health shall designate a person as the Registrar of
Medical Devices. Clause 4 states that the Registrar shall develop and maintain a
registry to be called the Medical Devices Registry and it lists the information
to be included in the registry. Clauses 6, 8, 9, 10, 11 and 12 set out how the
registry will work and the Registrar's duties.
It seems to me that clause 3 was written to avoid additional costs because it
states that the Registrar shall be designated from among persons employed in the
Department of Health. Yet, under clause 4, the registry to be created would be
distinct from the department's regular activities and would require a separate
operating budget, which implies additional expenses.
Legal precedent and commentary on this subject are clear. Establishing new
goals and new program requirements will have financial repercussions and
therefore require a Royal Recommendation. I would like to draw your attention to
page 886 of Erskine May, 23rd edition, and I quote:
When a bill contains a provision extending the purposes of expenditure
already authorized by statute (for example, by adding to the functions of an
existing government agency or publicly funded body, extending the classes of
persons entitled to a statutory grant or allowance, or extending the range of
circumstances in which such grants or allowances are payable), that provision
will normally require authorization by Money resolution.
The Speaker of the Senate ruled on June 14, 2005 concerning Bill S-33,
stating that it was out of order because it was a money bill. He noted that a
bill could be ruled out of order in the other place because it involved
legislation with financial implications and came from the Senate.
I draw the attention of the Senate to the fact that the Speaker of the other
place has consistently ruled that bills that propose new expenditures require a
Royal Recommendation. On May 9, 2005, he said:
. . . bills which involve new or additional spending for a distinct purpose
must be recommended by the Crown. The royal recommendation is also required
where a bill alters the appropriation of public revenue "under the
circumstances, in the manner and for the purposes set out" in the bill. What
this means is that a royal recommendation is required not only in the case
where more money is being appropriated, but also in the case where the
authorization to spend for a specific purpose is being significantly altered.
On February 8, 2005, the Speaker of the other place said:
Where it is clear that the legislative objective of a bill cannot be
accomplished without the dedication of public funds to that objective, the
bill must be seen as the equivalent of a bill effecting an appropriation.
Honourable senators, establishing a new registry of medical devices is a new
measure requiring the dedication of new funds. That is why I feel that Bill
S-221 requires a Royal Recommendation.
Therefore, it cannot be introduced in the Senate, according to the rules, and
we cannot carry on with its consideration. The objectives proposed by the bill
are highly commendable. Unfortunately, in light of what it contains, and
according to my research on the matter of a bill requiring new funds, I must
conclude that the Senate cannot receive it.
The Hon. the Speaker: Honourable senators, we have before us a point
of order, namely: Is a Royal Recommendation necessary?
Hon. Sharon Carstairs: Honourable senators, we have had over the years
in my time in this place and many years before that a discussion of the concept
of Royal Recommendation. We have had rulings to the effect that even if a bill
requires a Royal Recommendation, it can get that Royal Recommendation at any
stage of the bill, whether at first reading, second reading or third reading in
this place or in the other place. It is a specious argument that because the
bill does not have a Royal Recommendation it is therefore not validly received.
As to the other argument that suggests it is a money bill, if you took the
argument of the Honourable Deputy Leader of the Government, you could not
introduce anything in this place because everything would have a money
attachment to it. It is not the purpose of this bill to spend money, and
therefore, it is not, by definition, a money bill.
Hon. Joan Fraser: Honourable senators, it is rather unusual to deliver
a speech on a point of order. Nevertheless, that is the procedure we are using
First, I would like to thank Senator Comeau for his kind words about me. It
was my great pleasure to work in the same Senate process. I am sure that our new
leadership team will enjoy it as much as I did.
I believe Senator Carstairs put her finger on the core element that this is
not a money bill. Its purpose is not to spend money. It is true that almost
anything we ever do in this place in the way of legislation may have some
monetary implications, but this is not a money bill. It does not set out to
change the budgetary situation or the budgetary policy of the Government of
Canada. It does not affect taxes. It is a bill designed to achieve a laudable
goal of public policy. An ancillary effect would be that some money might be
spent. The director would have to be paid, for example.
As Senator Carstairs said, we could do nothing here but pass empty
resolutions calling upon the people of Canada to think fine thoughts or whatever
empty resolutions seemed appropriate if nothing we ever did here could have any
financial implication at all.
I have not been here as long as many others, but I seem to recall endless
discussions on this precise point, in particular, with Senator Kenny's bills
concerning tobacco products. It is my recollection that our Speaker ruled more
than once that since the purpose of those bills was not that they should be
money bills, they were therefore admissible in this chamber. I believe there
have been other occasions.
The bill presented by Senator Harb, which has received bipartisan support in
this chamber, is by no stretch of the imagination a money bill, and I would
suggest, Your Honour, that it would be appropriate to say there is no point of
Hon. Mac Harb: Honourable senators, I agree with the intervention of
both my colleagues, and I want to thank Senator Comeau for raising the point. It
is important to put those points on the table, and as Senator Carstairs clearly
stated, if we were to follow those points and those suggestions, we may as well
shut down operations and go home. In the end, this Parliament has a role. It has
a role of oversight and has the ability to initiate legislation that is in the
The Auditor General's Report states the need for this particular legislation.
If my honourable colleague submits that this is a money bill, I submit to
honourable senators that if we appoint a registrar, the registrar will have the
authority through regulation to impose some sort of a fee on those who use the
register. Therefore, it could be revenue neutral, or, for that matter, it could
even generate revenues to the Crown, should the Crown so choose.
The Auditor General clearly states in her report that Health Canada has an
inspection strategy that identifies the importance of inspection activities.
However, the report also states the following:
However, we found that Health Canada does not engage in any inspection
activity at the post-market phase and does not know the extent to which the
Regulations are being respected. More specifically, we found that Health
Canada does not know the extent to which manufacturers, importers, and
operating surveillance systems that are adequate to allow them to
identify adverse events after the product is on the market;
taking appropriate action in response to adverse events or complaints
that come to their attention;
reporting to Health Canada all serious adverse events that come to their
maintaining adequate distribution records to ensure successful recalls;
selling only licensed devices.
I submit to you, honourable senators, that there are already activities
within Health Canada to that effect. While the Auditor General states that
perhaps we have to have a little more vigilance, my bill will not impose any
financial burden on the Crown; it is the opposite. If that bill were to save one
single life, I submit to Your Honour that that is a great saving.
There are many case studies that I can bring to the attention of this house
to show that there is a need for a bill like this one. Should there be changes
to it, Your Honour, I submit that once we send it to the committee we will bring
in the officials, experts and constitutional experts, and should the committee
find at that time that it is not acceptable, then I will be at the mercy of the
The Hon. the Speaker: Honourable senators, I thank all who have spoken
to the point of order. I will take it under advisement, move expeditiously and
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 LeBreton,
Hon.Lillian Eva Dyck: Honourable senators, today I join the
debate on the state of literacy in Canada. Let me begin with a quote from the
Canadian Council on Learning report entitled State of Learning in Canada — No
Time for Complacency that was released on January 26.
Literacy really matters in every country for social, cultural, political
and economic reasons. Countries that ignore the imperatives of developing
literacy skills to the highest possible levels do so at their peril.
Literacy is a critically important issue for the Aboriginal population in
Canada, and today I will focus my remarks on Saskatchewan.
Literacy proficiency is the daily ability to understand and to use printed
material at home, at work and in the community. Level 3, of the five levels, is
considered to be the minimum requirement for a given individual to function
adequately in our current modern, knowledge-based economy.
A given population should have at least an average literacy score of level 3
in the domains assessed: prose, numeracy, document and problem solving. If the
average national score is less than level 3, the skill level of the population
is not sufficient for satisfactory job performance and everyday functioning.
According to the International Adult Literacy and Skills Survey, IALSS,
conducted in 2003, the Western provinces, B.C., Alberta and Saskatchewan, scored
higher than the overall Canadian average in prose, numeracy, document and
problem solving literacy. This survey was for ages 16 to 65. In Canada as a
whole, 41 per cent scored below level 3 in prose literacy, while in Saskatchewan
a smaller percentage, 33 per cent, scored below level 3. The picture for
numeracy literacy is worse than for prose literacy. In Saskatchewan, about 42
per cent scored below level 3.
In real terms, these numbers mean that approximately 200,000 Saskatchewanites
between the ages of 16 to 65 years were below the level of prose literacy
required to function adequately on a day-to-day basis. Similarly, about 250,000
Saskatchewanites had inadequate numeracy proficiency. These numbers, honourable
senators, are shocking.
The IALSS showed that literacy proficiency was generally better in younger
individuals. In most provinces, including Saskatchewan, and the territories,
about 60 per cent of youth between the ages of 16 and 25 performed at level 3 or
higher, compared to only 20 per cent of those over the age of 65. For the youth,
these results may sound pretty good, but when you consider that about 40 per
cent of Canadian youth are below level 3, which you will recall is the minimum
requirement to perform adequately in today's knowledge-based economy, then I
think you will agree with me that we as a nation have a problem — a big problem.
In Saskatchewan, close to 40 per cent of the 140,000 youth, that is, 56,000
young adults, also had less than level 3 prose proficiency. These 56,000 young
adults would not be able to perform adequately in everyday life, let alone do
well on the job or in school.
Honourable senators, I draw your attention now to the Aboriginal population
in Saskatchewan. In 2001, 14 per cent of the population in Saskatchewan
identified themselves as Aboriginal. There were 78,655 Aboriginals over the age
of 15 in Saskatchewan in 2001. The Aboriginal population in Saskatchewan is
comprised mostly of Indians, 64 per cent. The majority, 65 per cent, of
Aboriginals in Saskatchewan live off-reserve, and about half, 47 per cent, live
in urban areas of the province.
The 2003 IALSS assessed the prose literacy performance of urban Aboriginals
and found that it was considerably lower than that of non-Aboriginals. About 60
per cent of urban Aboriginals and 40 per cent of urban non-Aboriginals had less
than level 3 prose proficiency. There were about 37,000 urban Aboriginals in
Saskatchewan in 2001, so one can estimate that about 22,000 Aboriginals in
cities in Saskatchewan had less than adequate prose literacy. At the same time,
about 180,000 non-Aboriginals living in urban centres had less than level 3
proficiency in prose literacy. Let me repeat that: An estimated 180,000 non-Aboriginals and 22,000 Aboriginals living in cities in Saskatchewan had less
than adequate prose literacy. These numbers are shockingly large.
It is important to note that the Aboriginal population in Saskatchewan, as is
the case elsewhere in Canada, is a younger and faster-growing segment of the
population than the non-Aboriginal component. In Saskatchewan, about 60 per
cent of Aboriginals living off-reserve were under the age of 25, compared to
about 30 per cent for the non-Aboriginal population. In other words, the
proportion of people under 25 years of age was two times higher in the
off-reserve Aboriginal population than the non-Aboriginal sector.
I believe it is particularly important to pay attention to the 16-to-25-year-old age group and the 26-to-45-year-old age group, as these groups
are the major component of the Aboriginal population above age 15. They comprise
31 per cent and 45 per cent of the population, respectively. Moreover, these age
groups are becoming increasingly important to fill labour shortages in our
province. In Saskatchewan, it is particularly important to ensure that our
Aboriginal population, which has proportionally more younger people and which is
growing at a more rapid rate, has the requisite literacy skills to succeed in
life in general, and in the job and in school in particular.
The IALSS found that the prose proficiency scores of urban Aboriginals were
less than those of urban non-Aboriginals in Saskatchewan. The average scores for
the three Aboriginal age groups, 16 to 25, 26 to 45, 46 and over, were all below
level 3, while the average scores for the non-Aboriginal groups were above or
close to level 3. It would be most interesting to find out whether, as might be
expected, the percentage of Aboriginals with less than level 3 literacy
proficiency is greater for the younger Aboriginal age groups than for the
At all levels of education in Saskatchewan, Aboriginals lagged behind
non-Aboriginals. For example, in the 25-to-44-year-old group of urban
Aboriginals, 32 per cent had less than a high school education, compared to 18
per cent of non-Aboriginals. Similarly, only 6 per cent of Aboriginals had
earned a bachelor's degree, compared to 14 per cent of non-Aboriginals. It is
tempting to conclude that the lower educational attainment of urban Aboriginals
was due to lower literacy proficiency. Any person who has insufficient literacy
proficiency will likely have less success in their schooling or educational
upgrading, and may not be able to achieve competency in their job.
I will conclude my presentation with a discussion on one final aspect of the
IALS survey results. Much ado has been made about the fact that the average
overall national literacy score for Canadians in 2003 was not significantly
different from that found in 1994. The finding that there was no change in the
average national literacy score can be interpreted in three ways. One
interpretation, which Senator Tkachuk articulated, was that the literacy
programs were not doing their job because if they had been the literacy scores
should have gone up.
However, a second interpretation of the lack of change in the prose literacy
scores is that the literacy programs had done their job because in the absence
of such programs the literary scores would have gone down.
Moreover, a third interpretation is that not enough resources or programs
were available to make any difference in the average literacy of Canada as a
whole. In other words, not enough funding was made available to provide enough
literacy programs to help large enough numbers improve their literacy. Not
enough adult learners were put through literacy programs to make a significant
increase in the literacy score of the population as a whole. There may have been
too few learners who had been helped by literacy programs to make a significant
difference to the huge number of people who have below-average literacy. I would
argue that that is the case for Saskatchewan.
How many adult learners are being helped by literacy programs in
Saskatchewan? Using the IALS survey, one can estimate that 200,000 to 250,000
Saskatchewanites fall below level 3 in prose and numeracy proficiency. However,
based on information that I received from the Saskatchewan Literacy Commission,
a mere 2,000 adult learners are participating in federally funded literacy
programs in Saskatchewan. These 2,000 learners will no longer be able to access
current literacy programming as a result of the funding cuts announced by the
minority Conservative government in September.
In addition to the 2,000 learners participating in federally funded literacy
programs, about 5,000 are accessing provincially funded programs. However, it is
clear that the total number of learners is still only a tiny fraction — about 3
per cent — of the huge number of people — 200,000 to 250,000 — with low literacy
in our province.
In addition, I would like to point out that the IALS survey did find
significant increases in the prose literacy scores between 1994 and 2003 in
Quebec, and in the document literacy scores in the Atlantic region. One could
argue that these two literacy programs at least are working, and one could try
to figure out why significant differences occurred in Quebec and in the Atlantic
region, but not in other regions of Canada.
Honourable senators, other countries, such as England and Australia, have
launched multi-year, well-resourced national strategies aimed at improving
literacy skills. Let me conclude by saying that more, not less, federal funding
should be directed to improving the literacy proficiency of the people in
Saskatchewan. Furthermore, close attention should be paid to the Aboriginal
population in Saskatchewan. It has been predicted that 10 years from now, 21 per
cent of the population in Saskatchewan will be Aboriginal, and by 2045, as much
as 50 per cent will be Aboriginal. It is imperative, therefore, that programs
that increase the literacy proficiency of Aboriginals are, if anything, expanded
rather than cut back.
Honourable senators, it is my hope that the minority Conservative government
will increase the level of investment in literacy programs. Such an investment
will pay significant dividends in the future, as more people become able to
participate fully in everyday life, perform better in their jobs, and contribute
to our economy.
Hon. Serge Joyal, pursuant to notice of June 22, 2006, moved:
That the Senate congratulates the Honourable Noël Kinsella on his
appointment as Speaker and expresses its confidence in him while acknowledging
that a Speaker, to be successful and effective in the exercise of the duties
of that office, requires the trust and support of a majority of the Senators.
He said: Honourable senators, I should like to extend to the Honourable
Speaker the usual wishes of congratulation and say to him personally how much I
have appreciated, in the almost 10 years I have been in the Senate, joining with
him in all the works we have been called upon to study and debate in committees
and in this chamber.
Today, I would like to direct the attention of honourable senators to the
status of the Speaker. The fact that we have a Speaker who is appointed by the
Governor General raises a special issue in relation to the capacity of the
Speaker and his role in our chamber.
I remind honourable senators that the Speaker is appointed according to
section 34 of the Constitution, which states:
The Governor General may from Time to Time, by Instrument under the Great
Seal of Canada, appoint a Senator to be Speaker of the Senate and may remove
him and appoint another in his Stead.
The Governor General appoints the Speaker, not the
Governor-General-in-Council. In a previous debate in 2003, the Honourable
Senator Oliver introduced a bill to elect the Speaker. Many of us took part in
that debate and reflected upon the scope of section 34 of the Constitution. If
the Governor General appoints the Speaker, then who advises the Governor General
when he or she must select, from time to time, a senator to fill the position of
Speaker of the Senate?
In 2003, Senator Austin, who happened to be the dean of this chamber in terms
of length of time served in the Senate, informed us that following an executive
Order-in-Council of 1935 introduced by the late William Lyon Mackenzie King, the
Prime Minister reserved a certain number of recommendations to the Governor
General for appointments. Among these appointments, of course, are senators and
the position of Speaker. In other words, the Prime Minister does not have to
consult the cabinet. It is not the Governor-in-Council; it is the Prime
Minister. The Prime Minister can take counsel from whomever he or she chooses.
Senator Prud'homme: Like the senators.
Senator Joyal: The Prime Minister does that before making a
recommendation to the Governor General. The Prime Minister of the day may decide
to consult the President of his party, the Leader of the Opposition in the
House, the leaders of the other opposition that happen to be present in the
House or anyone else. It is the same, for instance, when he or she recommends
the appointment of judges to the Governor General. The Prime Minister can
establish a system of consultation through the bar, through a group of select,
high-profile citizens, and so on, but the last recommendation is with the Prime
Minister according to that executive order of 1935.
Where does that leave us? When we debated the bill introduced by Senator
Oliver, I remember Senator Cools made a very important contribution, as did
Senator Prud'homme. I read the important points in those contributions. For
instance, Senator Cools stated that the Senate is a very special place in
Parliament because it is the only chamber where the three components of
Parliament meet: Her Majesty, the Senate and the House of Commons at the bar. If
we were to change that we would have to address changing that appointment
principal. I think Senator Cools was rightly concerned with that issue.
It came to mind that when we are changing the status of such an important
position in the order of public responsibility within the Constitution, we must
follow strictly the letter of the Constitution. I was listening this afternoon
to an intervention made in this chamber calling upon us to forget about the
Constitution and move on with the issue of the Senate. I happen to have a
different view. I will express at another time what we can do to respect the
letter and spirit of the Constitution and move on.
This is an important moment to reflect upon the general idea of whether or
not we should elect the Speaker of the Senate. We have arrived at a time in the
history of our institutions, after 140 years, as the Leader of the Opposition
mentioned, that we should think about this proposal, as did Senator Oliver's
bill three years ago. That bill died on the Order Paper and the issue was not
The motion of Senator Hays also invites us to reflect upon the status of the
Speaker of the Senate. We are, at this point in time, in a privileged position
because the House of Lords changed its procedure last July and elected its first
Lord Speaker. They did not do that overnight or on a whim. It started in 2003
when the Lords struck a select committee on the speakership of the House. They
sat for a number days and heard from a number of witnesses and they produced a
report dated November 18, 2003. There is a report from the Lords concluding that
they should proceed with the election of the Lord Speaker.
Those of us who have had the privilege, including His Honour and the previous
Speaker, Senator Hays, of going to Westminster and studying the status of the
Speaker, understand that there were a certain number of considerations that they
expressed in their report, which I think is very accurate in terms of our own
For instance, they concluded in the course of their study that the office of
the Speaker is of prime importance because he is to be the guardian of the ethos
of this place. I repeat: the guardian of the ethos of this place. In other
words, the Speaker retains the ethos, the ethics, the high level of
professionalism that we must maintain to perform our constitutional duty in the
study and debates of legislation and public issues. In that capacity, Speakers
should have a special function to perform. He or she should abide by a certain
number of written or unwritten rules to ensure that the role is performed with
the confidence of the majority of the members of the Senate.
It is in that context that, having recommended in 2003 that the Lord Speaker
be elected, the House of Lords voted on a motion in July 2005 to adopt the
system and then struck a special committee to establish a procedure of election.
That committee reported to the Lords on December 19, 2005. In other words, they
did a full study. As you will see, honourable senators, this is rather thick.
They studied the various methods of election and selection. They came to the
conclusion through a simple system that the candidate should be elected for five
years with one renewable term — in other words, a maximum of 10 years — and it
only makes sense that if the person is elected for five years, the person will
sit in the chair for a continuous term of five years. That would be different
than our letter of the Constitution would provide, namely, that the Speaker is
changed from time to time. There is it no term limit. The Speaker may be Speaker
for 6 months, 1.5 years, 5 years, the whole length of Parliament and reappointed
and so on. We must go through the list of all the Speakers to find out the range
of terms that they have had in our chamber.
The House of Lords concluded that the result of the election would be
presented to Her Majesty for official appointment. In other words, the system of
election of the Lord Speaker did not change the power of Her Majesty to appoint
As stated clearly in recommendation No. 51 of the report of 2003:
The name of the successful candidate should then be submitted to Her
Majesty the Queen, who would be invited to make the formal appointment.
Her Majesty still retained her capacity, and that is what she did last summer
when she appointed as Lord Speaker the candidate that was successful in July
2006. Therefore, at Westminster they have been able to address the issue
respecting the letter and the spirit of the Constitution, which is to retain for
Her Majesty the power to appoint.
What happened in fact? The power of the Prime Minister to make a
recommendation to Her Majesty was changed for an electoral system within the
House of Lords through which the candidate recommended to Her Majesty was
accepted. The Lord selected occupies the chair for five years, and then the term
is over and there is another election. The same person may be inducted for
another five-year term and then they must leave the chair for another candidate.
This means that if we want to change or abolish section 34 of the
Constitution, which provides for the Governor General to appoint a Speaker, we
must say that we will proceed with the election of the Speaker on the basis only
of our rules, as they did in the other place. The election of the Speaker in the
other place is provided only through the rules, the standing order of the
chamber. Nothing in the Constitution provides for that for the other place.
What, then, should we do? A question that arises immediately if we are to
abolish section 34 is the following: Do we have the capacity, as Parliament, to
abolish section 34 under section 44 of the Constitution?
Hon. Gerald J. Comeau (Deputy Leader of the Government): Five minutes?
The Hon. the Speaker: Is it agreed, honourable senators?
Hon. Senators: Agreed.
Senator Joyal: I will conclude in five minutes.
Senator Corbin: You have one minute, plus five.
Senator Joyal: If we want to abolish section 34, which provides for
the appointment of the honourable Speaker by the Governor General, we must
resort to section 44 of the Constitution. The government alleged that same
section to introduce Bill S-4: that the Parliament has the authority to change
the term of senators. That is essentially the argument of the government to
introduce Bill S-4. Following the vote that took place this afternoon, I will
speak on that issue when I have an opportunity either this week or next week to
speak on Bill S-4 because I think that question is the paramount one to discuss
first. We can then debate sections 8, 9, 10, 12, 20 and 25, but we must first
debate the question of whether we have that power. That will be my contribution
to that debate.
Let me continue on the Speaker. Do we have the power under section 44 to
abolish section 34? If we say yes to that question, we have another problem that
was raised by Senator Cools. Since the office of the Governor General is
protected by section 41 of the Constitution that seeks unanimity, we are
changing the power of the office of the Governor General. We are removing a
power from the Governor General.
On that basis, one can argue that we need to go through the formal
constitutional route. If we conclude that, I do not think that we will waste
time debating the issue of the status of the Speaker. We must go through the
conventional route, the one that the late Right Honourable Mackenzie King took
with the Order-in-Council.
I think that Senator Austin made a useful contribution. Nothing prevents us,
for instance, from adopting a motion to conduct an election with an electoral
system within this chamber that provides candidates to come forward to be
nominated, and then have the successful candidate referred to the Prime Minister
for consideration. The Prime Minister would then decide what to do with the
recommendation. He could follow or not follow the recommendation, but the order
of the Governor General would remain intact, as much as in Westminster the power
of the Queen remained intact following the result of the election that took
place to elect their Speaker last July.
I conclude, honourable senators, that we should look into this issue. I think
that Senator Oliver was right. We want to be sure that the power, the
responsibility and the function that is vested in the Speaker is occupied by a
person who has the majority trust of this chamber, whatever the political
allegiance or the government of the day.
I think it is fair, if the mother of Parliament has been able to come to a
conclusion on this issue, that it needs to be revisited. With all the
information that is piled in the two reports that have been quoted, which are
very recent reports, together with the fact that they conducted an election in
Westminster that was fruitful, we can look into that matter on a non-partisan
basis. They concluded in their own report, in terms of political activity of the
Speaker, and I quote:
The Lord Speaker will be expected to lay aside any party or group
affiliation on appointment, and to refrain from political activity, including
voting in the House.
They are sensitive to the political activity of the Speaker once the Speaker
has been elected. It is an issue that we need to reflect upon and we can have
the benefit of those reports. It would be to the benefit of those who want to
reflect upon this issue to have a model. I do not think the model can be
transferred totally because we have a Constitution that we must abide by.
However, at least we have a precedent that would be helpful for us if we want to
move forward in that regard.
Hon. Gerald J. Comeau (Deputy Leader of the Government): On a point of
order, honourable senators, much as I think we all agree with the intent of
Senator Joyal's motion that we hold confidence in the incumbent of the office of
the Speaker of the Senate, probably the motion would pass unanimously. Much as
we would like to reach that point, the motion being pursued by Senator Joyal is
outside the constitutional responsibilities of the Senate. Senator Joyal's
motion is, in effect, a motion of confidence in the Speaker of the Senate.
Senators are well aware of our constitutional responsibilities and rights,
which include regional and provincial representation, representation of
minorities and to act as a check on the House of Commons, to name just a few.
Nowhere does it mention that the Senate has the responsibility or the right to
call into question its confidence in the Speaker. It is quite the opposite.
Section 34 of the Constitution Act of 1867 states:
The Governor General may from Time to Time, by Instrument under the Great
Seal of Canada, appoint a Senator to be Speaker of the Senate, and may remove
him and appoint another in his Stead.
At that time, it should have said "her" as well. Thereby, it would grant
the power of appointment and removal of the Speaker of the Senate to the
Governor General as part of the Crown's Royal Prerogative, and not to the
As much as I think we would all like to rejoice in expressing our full
confidence in the incumbent, Senator Kinsella, the Senate does not have the
right to do it at this point because of section 34. Therefore, we will have to
seek another vehicle or instrument if we wish to pursue Senator Joyal's proposal
and not pursue this through the question of a motion.
Hon. Lowell Murray: Honourable senators, I have two comments on the
point of order. First, the easy way out of Senator Comeau's objection would be
to amend the motion so that everything after the word "Speaker" is deleted. We
would then have a motion in which the Senate congratulates the Honourable Noël
Kinsella on his appointment as Speaker, period.
Second, to the extent that Senator Comeau's point of order will have to be
adjudicated by someone, we had a rather shameful debate in this place circa
Senator Cools: It was in 1990.
Senator Prud'homme: It was a shameful debate.
Senator Murray: This occurred when a motion was put not to express its
confidence in the then Speaker of the Senate but to express the non-confidence
of the then opposition in the Speaker of the day.
Senator Prud'homme: That is right. He was a good Speaker.
Senator Murray: I cannot recall any point of order being raised much
less any intent by the Speaker to prevent the debate happening, and it dragged
on for a very long time. Your Honour might want to take that precedent, if it is
a precedent, into account.
I had two other matters to raise, but they are not appropriate to the point
Hon. Daniel Hays: Honourable senators, I have a brief intervention on
the point of order. I listened to Senator Comeau carefully. He makes a valid
point that this is not a motion that leads one to conclude by its content that
it will lead to something that will bring about the election of the Speaker.
However, my memory of this place and of the latitude given in debate on motions,
inquiries or other orders on the Order Paper and Notice Paper is such
that a great deal of leeway has been given.
I listened carefully as well to Senator Joyal. Most of his comments seemed to
be more in keeping with an inquiry than with the strict wording of his motion,
although he did touch on that at the beginning of his remarks. I only wish we
had more time so that we could explore some of the issues that he has raised.
I would remind honourable senators that this matter has been referred to the
Standing Committee on Rules, Procedures and the Rights of Parliament with a
request that it bring forward something, if deemed appropriate, to deal with the
matters raised by Senator Joyal in his comments, which are more in the nature of
a inquiry than of a motion to do something to cause the Speaker to be elected.
I would ask Your Honour to take those comments into account in terms of what
I understand to be the leeway given to presenters when making comments on
motions, inquiries or other orders that appear on the Order Paper and Notice
Hon. Joan Fraser: Honourable senators, I understand Senator Comeau's
point of order to suggest that Senator Joyal's motion is out of order because,
in his view, it would be unconstitutional for senators to change the method of
appointment of the Speaker of the Senate.
I see two difficulties. First, the motion, which would be voted on, states
nothing about electing a Speaker; rather, it congratulates the Speaker on his
appointment as Speaker and expresses confidence in him, which I am sure all
senators share. The motion observes that a Speaker "to be successful and
effective . . . requires the trust and support of a majority of the Senators."
That is true. If a Speaker does not have the trust and respect of the majority
of senators, we have only to vote to overturn his rulings and he will not be
successful or effective in the exercise of his duties. On the face of this
motion, it contains nothing that is out of order or unconstitutional. Senator
Joyal's presentation, which was most interesting, learned and informative in
respect of the move to examine, at least, the possibilities of electing a
Speaker, does not affect the plain words of his motion.
Second, even if the motion called for the election of the Speaker of the
Senate, it would not be out of order either. I recall that Senator Oliver had
two bills, I believe, before the Senate calling for the election of the Speaker.
Senator Comeau: What happened to the bills?
Senator Fraser: They were not ruled out of order, although I might be
wrong because my recollection of the better of the two bills is a bit sketchy
given that I was not expecting to enter this debate today.
Surely there is no limit to what senators may choose to say in this chamber
about what they believe is the appropriate fate of this chamber, as long as
senators observe the laws of libel and obscenity. Simply and plainly, the words
of this motion, in both official languages, are so clearly in order that I would
urge Your Honour to find that there is no point of order.
Hon. Eymard G. Corbin: I would refer honourable senators to
Beauchesne's Parliamentary Rules & Forms, 6th Edition, by Fraser, Dawson
and Holtby. The heading preceding citation 167 at page 48 refers to the Speaker
as "Presiding Officer of the House of Commons." This has generally applied to
the conduct of the Speaker of the Senate in most cases. There have been rulings
pertaining to paragraph 5 of citation 168, which states:
The Speaker will not give a decision upon a constitutional question nor
decide a question of law, though the same may be raised on a point of order or
That is exactly what Senator Comeau has done.
The same consideration as to the powers of the Speaker can be found under
"Points of Order" at page 97 of the same edition of Beauchesne's. Citation 324
The Speaker will not give a decision upon a constitutional question nor
decide a question of law, though the same may be raised on a point of order or
Following that is a reference to the Journals of July 8, 1969. I
remember well but I cannot quote the name of the Speaker in the Senate, the
incident or the date when the Speaker refused to engage in debate because the
matter raised was a constitutional question.
That is where the matter rests and debate ought to continue.
Hon. Anne C. Cools: Honourable senators, I wish to join this debate
briefly. I thank Senator Joyal for bringing forward an important issue. As well,
I support Senator Murray's comments and Senator Comeau's objection.
There is a problem with Senator Joyal's motion and I would appeal to him
because his motion has two distinct propositions. The first proposition is that
all senators should congratulate the Speaker on his elevation. The second is
that the senators should acknowledge that a Speaker, to be successful, should be
of a certain type. I think it is desirable, honourable senators, that when any
motion moves forward on the grounds that it seeks to congratulate one of our
members who has been elevated to a particular position, that motion should go
forward on a very positive basis. The first part of Senator Joyal's motion about
the congratulation, I am sure will seek unanimity in this place.
The second part of the motion, on the question of confidence and
acknowledging and making certain acknowledgements, is a debatable question. For
those reasons, I would like to ask Senator Joyal to consider dividing his motion
so that the positive note that all senators wish the Speaker well and Godspeed
is one that should move forward without qualification. It is not fair to place
any senator, particularly the Senate Speaker, in a position of being a judge in
his own cause, in his own case.
Right now Senator Comeau has asked the Speaker, and every one of us
intervening in this debate is asking the Speaker to be a judge in his own cause.
I do not think that is Senator Joyal's intention. I think his intention is to
have all of us express good wishes to the incumbent. I will not mention names
for the moment. His intention is not possible without a debate on the other set
of issues in his same motion, whether Senator Joyal intended it or not, and I
understand what Senator Comeau is saying. Senator Joyal's motion uses words like
"confidence." The term "confidence" in our system of governance has a
peculiar and particular constitutional meaning and its use in this motion tends
to cloud Senator Joyal's good and well-founded intentions. I believe it
diminishes what he is trying to say.
This debate is really two debates. I said that there are two distinct
propositions. There is the first proposition, as I said before, of
congratulating His Honour, but then there is the other proposition that Senator
Joyal is bringing forth, that the Speaker should have the confidence of the
members of this place and, in addition to that, this place and its senators must
acknowledge certain facts about the Speaker. He must admit this. There are many
senators who would be prepared to debate the proposition in the second part of
his motion. I am of the sincere feeling that since I believe it is the will of
most senators in this chamber that if we wish to congratulate the Speaker, the
motion should extend congratulations. However, if we wish to discuss the
functions and the roles and the process of selection of a Speaker, then that is
a different debate and it should be conducted outside of a debate on the
individual occupant, the incumbent Speaker at this point in time.
What I am trying to do here, honourable senators, is to see if we can reach a
situation where we are not asking His Honour to be a judge in his own cause in
this instance. It would be very easy to make such an amendment.
I would just like to continue on a substantive point. Senator Joyal is right;
I do pay deep attention to some of these matters.
We must remember that we call the Speaker of the Senate the Speaker, but the
Speaker of the Senate is no mere Speaker as, say, the House of Commons Speaker
is the Speaker. I often wish we did not use the term "Speaker" here, and that
we should do as in the U.S. and perhaps use the term "President" or something
else, because in actual fact there is always great confusion because there
should be one Mr. Speaker between the two Houses. There should be one Mr.
Speaker in a Parliament, and he should be Speaker of the House of Commons.
My point is the following: The Speaker of the Senate is more in the nature of
a viceregal. This fact seems to have been lost in recent years constitutionally,
because the Speaker in this place was modeled after the Lord Chancellor, who was
no mere Speaker. He was the alter ego of Her Majesty or His Majesty. I wish we
would start to resurrect our real constitutional history so we could understand
this. The Speaker of the Senate is in point of fact a viceregal.
The American Constitution is interesting in many ways. Back in 1787, they
created many innovations but alongside those innovations they maintained the
basic British system. It is an interesting creation in the U.S. In the United
States of America, they maintain the President of the Senate as that viceregal,
because in the United States of America the Vice-president of the United States
of America is the President of the Senate.
What I am trying to get at here is that this is not a simple, straightforward
matter. I know in the U.K. and in Westminster they are doing all manner of
things around the question of the Lord Chancellor and so on. The phenomenon that
we have is that our BNA Act as passed is an ancient system and we are not free
to just change it at whim.
I understand the intention of Senator Joyal, which is that when a prime
minister — and I am very well-informed of the Orders-in-Council — makes a
selection for that position of senate Speaker, that prime minister should choose
a person who not only has the respect of all senators, but who also enjoys the
affection, because that person should be treated in a very special way. We
should hold the Speaker in great esteem.
I believe that what Senator Joyal is saying is that we should encourage
future prime ministers to take note of the sentiments and thoughts of senators
when making their choices. I think that is what the honourable senator is trying
to get at, because the situation he has described in the practice of the U.K.,
frankly, is no big thing to my mind. I do not know how they do it procedurally.
I am not as informed on that subject as is Senator Joyal. I do not know if that
situation is applicable here in Canada. I have not done enough work on what has
actually happened in the U.K. However, even with all of that we must understand
that this house — and I would like to impress this upon the Prime Minister and
the members of the cabinet — is the upper house. This house is Her Majesty's
royal house, which is the house of Her Majesty's Parliament. That is what a
The BNA Act says "the Parliament of Canada," but if you read the old
literature it was the King who would say, "I will call a Parliament. I will
summon a Parliament." Many Parliaments were summoned all the time. There was
not a notion of one Parliament functioning all the time, but the important point
is that this is the house of Parliament. This is the house of the assembling of
Parliament. If Her Majesty were to arrive at the front door of this building,
our Black Rod is supposed to be there. That is why the Black Rod is appointed —
I think by Order-in-Council — by her. Our clerk is the clerk of the Parliament.
It is a different system.
I sincerely believe that we can honour the spirit of what Senator Joyal is
trying to do, and we can sever the motion and congratulate His Honour, ensuring
no feelings are hurt and no offence is offered. At the same time, we can have a
debate on not only the future but the role of the Speaker of the Senate. I have
copious materials on this subject.
I want to move on to one other point that Senator Joyal made, which may be
substantive. I thought I heard him say that the Speaker of the House of Commons
was not elected in the Constitution. Did he say that?
In any event, just for clarification, I want to call the attention of the
house to section 44 of the BNA Act, which states:
The House of Commons on its first assembling after a General Election shall
proceed with all practicable Speed to select One of its Members to be Speaker.
There is a lot of confusion around that particular section because many
Canadians believe that the Speaker has been elected only for the last ten years
or so. In point of fact, the Commons Speaker has been elected for the last 140
years, or whatever it is. It used to be done by motion. A motion would be moved,
and all the other members of the House of Commons would simply vote for it. Some
years back, it was decided to do it by direct secret ballot, which is good and
sound. However, they are both still elections, so the constitutional
underpinning is the same.
Having said all of that, I do not know where we are. Your Honour, if this
item goes ahead as a point of order, unless Senator Comeau wants to withdraw it
and allow some of us to move a motion, I do not think you should act as a judge
in your own cause. It would be unclear as to what you are ruling on. Are you
ruling on the fact that we should not congratulate you, we should not trust you,
or we should not love you? What are you ruling on?
I think the Honourable Senator Kinsella, whom I want to join in
congratulating, should graciously bow out.
The Hon. the Speaker: Is there anything further on the point of order?
Honourable senators, I wish to thank all for their contribution to the
discussion on the point of order, which the chair will take under advisement and
report back as expeditiously as possible.
Hon. Hugh Segal, pursuant to notice of November 29, 2006, moved:
That the Standing Senate Committee on Foreign Affairs and International
Trade be authorized to examine and report on the effectiveness of Canada's
promotion of democratic development abroad; the role of the Parliament of
Canada in this context; and
That the Committee shall present its final report no later than December
31, 2007, and that the Committee shall retain all powers necessary to
publicize the findings of the Committee as set forth in its final report until
March 31, 2008.
Hon. David Tkachuk: Honourable senators, I have been given permission
by Senator Segal to move this motion in his name.
The Hon. the Speaker: Are honourable senators ready for the question?
Hon. Senators: Question!
Hon. Eymard G. Corbin: It would have been preferable for Senator Segal
to present his motion and to explain the objectives sought by this study.
As a member of the steering committee of the Standing Senate Committee on
Foreign Affairs and International Trade, I am privy to what he is attempting to
accomplish, but I doubt if anyone in this chamber could explain it. Can the
honourable senator explain?
Senator Tkachuk: Yes.
Senator Corbin: The honourable senator moved the motion on Senator
I do not intend to stop this motion. I do not intend to speak to it, but I am
talking about the process. It is most unusual, especially on motions, to zip
them through like that. I invite the honourable senator to make a few comments.
Senator Tkachuk: I do not think Senator Segal meant any disrespect. He
thought he would be moving this motion, thought it important, and I was the
closest body around. Therefore, he asked if I could move it in his name.
He wanted me to tell honourable senators that this study is not to duplicate
the study going on in the House of Commons. There will be no travel and no
expense. The committee will study the issue of the role of Parliament and
parliamentarians in advancing democracy and democratic development, which he
considers, and members of the committee consider, of vital importance.
For example, the Westminster Foundation for Democracy in the United Kingdom
and the National Endowment for Democracy in Washington each respond to
Parliament and Congress respectively when they promote the issue of democracy;
rather than, for example, external affairs or the executive. This is to study
how Parliament will promote democracy throughout the world.
I hope that explains the study a little bit. If the honourable senator wishes
to add to that explanation as a member of the steering committee, perhaps we can
Hon. Percy Downe: Can the mover of the motion advise if the promotion
of democratic development includes a review of the situation in Afghanistan and
what the Canadian government is presently doing there?
Senator Tkachuk: I cannot answer that particular question. It would be
better answered by the members of the committee.
My guess is, they will study how Parliament is to promote democracy
throughout the world, and I consider Afghanistan part of the world. Therefore,
there may be some discussion about that issue.
Senator Downe: I appreciate the mover is in a difficult position
because he has been asked to do this at the last moment, but I share the view
expressed by Senator Corbin. I am a member of the committee, but I am not a
member of the steering committee. I am not absolutely clear as to what the
committee is doing. I assume Senator Segal will be here tomorrow and he can
answer our question.
On motion of Senator Downe, debate adjourned.
The Senate adjourned until Wednesday, January 31, 2007, at 1:30 p.m.