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Debates of the Senate (Hansard)

1st Session, 39th Parliament,
Volume 143, Issue 77

Thursday, March 1, 2007
The Honourable Rose-Marie Losier-Cool Speaker pro tempore


 

THE SENATE

Thursday, March 1, 2007

The Senate met at 1:30 p.m., the Hon. the Speaker pro tempore in the chair.

Prayers.

SENATORS' STATEMENTS

Kyoto Protocol

Hon. Gerry St. Germain: Honourable senators, I will speak very plainly about an issue that has become a bit of a lightning rod for those who wish to make political hay on the back of the economic well-being and the health of all Canadians. I am speaking of the issue of global warming and, specifically, the politicization of the Kyoto agreement that Canada signed.

In 2002, when Kyoto was ratified by Canada, I spoke in this place about the potential direct effects Kyoto would have on the British Columbia economy. My position was fully supported at the time by the provincial government.

Last Thursday, Eddie Goldenberg said to the Canadian Club of London, Ontario, and I will borrow from a couple of quotes of the news article by Joan Bryden on that date:

The previous Liberal government ratified the Kyoto Protocol knowing Canada wasn't ready to take the tough measures needed to address climate change and would likely miss the deadlines for reducing emissions . . .

The quotation continues:

Goldenberg said Canadians are now ready for action that would have been "unacceptable" a few years ago, warning that it will entail "big costs in dollars for business, the consumer and for the taxpayer."

Honourable senators, are Canadians really ready today to absorb the effects of meeting the targets set in 1998, targets that were set before Canada had any idea as to how meeting these quotas would affect individual Canadians and taxpayers? If greenhouse gas, specifically carbon dioxide, is an issue — and I am not a professional who could debate that — and if man is truly exacerbating the creation of carbon dioxide, then let us acknowledge that it is not just a Canadian issue.

Canada and all other countries must collectively provide the leadership to tackle the problem. All mankind must work together, yes — but at what cost and to what degree on the global stage? Are we as Canadians prepared to reduce or even halt the amount of coal, oil and natural gas extraction? Are we prepared to demonstrate our will to the rest of the world by boycotting or even by not buying various imported goods from those countries that purchase our natural resources, which are used to manufacture these products?

Honourable senators, we cannot ask terrorists to stop shooting people if we continue to sell them the bullets.

In the same breath, if global warming is the ominous threat that people say it is, perhaps we should be prepared to make the ultimate sacrifice of not selling and buying goods that are responsible for causing global warming.

It is time for national debate on this weighty issue, a debate that elevates the realities facing ordinary Canadians in the world above knee-jerk headline-making.

Together, let Canadians resolve to tackle the very future of the planet, not in isolation as a trivial response to a trendy issue, but as leaders convincing a world that long-term, realistic solutions are required.

The Late Mavis Gores

Hon. Sandra Lovelace Nicholas: Honourable senators, next week we celebrate International Women's Day. In light of that, I would like to pay tribute to all women, in particular Mavis Gores, an Aboriginal woman who, along with several other women, first brought to the attention of Canada the unfair treatment of First Nations women in our communities caused by the lack of concern from the Canadian government.

Last week I attended Mavis Gores' funeral. It was a very sad occasion because Mavis was a close friend and colleague.

Mavis played an important role in lobbying with the Native Women's Association, the Status of Women's organizations across Canada and other members of Parliament who attended the first ministers' conference to push for equality for women in our communities.

Mavis was a strong presence in providing the much-needed support for younger, inexperienced women. In her contribution to the spoken histories, "Enough is Enough," she provides a firsthand account of what living was like on Tobique First Nation. Her story, along with those of other women, gave a detailed account of the effects that discriminatory section 12(1)(b) of the Indian Act had on First Nations women in general.

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Honourable senators, the discriminatory section of the Indian Act publicly disgraced and shamed the Canadian government because of their treatment of First Nations women who were denied basic needs such as adequate housing, access to jobs and education. Because of women like Mavis, who decided that enough was enough and worked tirelessly for 10 years to help improve the living situations for her First Nations sisters, this unfair treatment was brought to the attention of Canada. This intense and diligent pressure for change, jump-started by women like Mavis, eventually led to a broader scope of concern that needed to be addressed: the status Indian and the Indian Act, of which she was very much a part.

Mavis Gores was my translator for one of the presentations that I made to the first ministers' conference. I am proud to say that this was the first time ever, honourable senators, that the Maliseet language was heard all across Canada. Mavis stood up and proudly translated my entire presentation.

Honourable senators, if it had not been for the strength of First Nations women in our communities, and women's groups across Canada, we would not have been able to accomplish what was once considered impossible: The changing of federal legislation by women who thought they did not have a voice. Thank you, Mavis.

(The honourable senator spoke in her native language)

International Women's Day

Hon. Rod A.A. Zimmer: Honourable senators, as we have heard from several of our female colleagues, Thursday, March 8 is International Women's Day. It is a day on which we all can celebrate the women of past and present who worked hard to establish and assert their rights. However, as a United Nations member that has committed itself to honouring the spirit and the letter of the UN Convention on Discrimination against Women, we must also remember the tasks that lay before us in setting an example in all areas of women's rights. I would like to reflect on the importance of the meaningful participation of women in political and public life.

My hometown of Winnipeg is a cultural mecca on the Prairies. There has long been a history of pivotal moments for women in politics. The Walker Theatre in Winnipeg, which celebrated its one hundredth anniversary on February 17, was the site of a groundbreaking play starring Nellie McClung called, How the Vote Was Won — A Women's Parliament.

The 1914 performance so brilliantly ridiculed the government that, two years later, the government of Rodman Roblin relented and Manitoba women were the first in the country to win the vote. We all know what started to play out on the national stage following that historical event.

Since that time, women have played an integral role in political process. The contributions of women have shaped the policy and direction in which our country is headed. Many social policies that define Canadian society have been introduced, refined or implemented by female politicians, volunteers and staff. Women have long been the driving force behind health care, child care, social support systems, and many other policy initiatives.

Honourable senators, in Canada this year's theme for International Women's Day is Ending Violence Against Women: Action for Real Results. By engaging actively in the political process, women become part of the solution to problems such as violence. Historically, political movements such as the waves of feminism, the suffragist movement and industrialization have brought forward the issues facing women in the present era. Women have been instrumental in defending their own rights, as well as those of vulnerable members of our society, such as children.

On a personal level, I am committed to supporting female candidates in the next federal election. I have supported women in politics at all levels of government and community involvement, and I am proud of every last one of them. Some have won their seats and others have not, but they all share a common desire to serve their communities and their country. I would like to celebrate and acknowledge all women who are active in politics, many of whom have shaped my political path and career.

(1345)

The contributions of women to Canadian society pepper the history books of this great adventure we call Canada, and will continue to for years to come. I would like to commend the work of Status of Women Canada in celebrating the thirtieth anniversary of International Women's Day.

The Senate

Allegations of Liberal Slush Fund

Hon. Serge Joyal: Honourable senators, last night a CTV broadcast reported that there was "a slush fund" in the Senate established "beyond the knowledge of the public" that operated to the benefit of Liberal senators. This allegation was supported by the statement made by the Leader of the Government in the Senate, Senator LeBreton. I was personally mentioned in the report as a senator whose book project had received the support of this fund.

Let me set the record straight: There is no such fund that is beyond the knowledge of the public or of Senator LeBreton herself. The annual budget of the Senate is part of the documents tabled each year in the chamber and voted on by all senators on both sides. A fund was specifically mentioned as item number one in the fourth report of the Committee on Internal Economy, tabled in the chamber on February 24, 2005.

Senator LeBreton is a member of the Internal Economy Committee that approves the Senate budget. She cannot plead ignorance about a budget that she herself recommends to other senators for approval. Once this budget is on the floor of the Senate, it is then up to any senator who has a question to raise it at that time. Senator LeBreton asked no question and raised no objection to that item of the Senate budget.

When the fund was established, a memorandum was sent to each and every senator on all sides of the house, inviting them to apply to the fund. The memorandum, dated June 20, 2005, reminded all senators that they had to obtain an application form, fill it out and send it to the chair of the Internal Economy Committee, after which the steering committee, which is comprised of senators from both the government and the opposition, would study the request and make a decision.

The decision to grant support to the book project I submitted was concurred with by the members of the opposite party, as it appeared in the letter from the committee dated June 2005. When the book project I submitted received financial support, it was with the written commitment that all the copyright returns would be given to a government agency, as was done six years ago when I edited a book on the Senate with the contribution of Senator Murray, Progressive Conservative, and Senator Pitfield, an independent.

Honourable senators, like all of you I bear the title "honourable" and try to live up to the standards and ethics that that title entails. I try to contribute to the work of the Senate in two ways: First, in taking a direct part in the study of bills and issues on the floor of the chamber and in committees in a dedicated way, giving to the work of this chamber my utmost attention; second, in contributing articles for publication in specialized magazines, reviews and books on issues of public policy that have interest when they are raised from time to time in the chamber. I always do it with a concern for a balanced point of view, seeking to avoid or minimize partisan tones that might restrict the use of these writings. I deplore that Senator LeBreton, through her comments, should cast doubt and suspicion upon my activities, and infer that I have benefited unduly from the fund of the Senate.

The deliberative function of the Senate and the ethics we should all practice demand that we all respect one another as honourable senators. Ethics cannot be legislated; it is a moral ground, and it is a way for us to nurture the high standard of respect that we should pay to other senators. In this way we value the contribution of every senator in the debate and study of the affairs of the nation.

When one's reputation is improperly questioned, the first thing to do is to ask the one who made the allegation to retract it. In this way the honour of everyone can be maintained. Accordingly, I am asking the Leader of the Government to do the honourable thing: to withdraw her comments and apologize.

(1350)

[Translation]

International Women's Day

Hon. Lucie Pépin: Honourable senators, as several of my colleagues have already pointed out, next week is women's week. Naturally, as Canadian women, we would like the entire year to be ours, but that will not happen until there is true equality for women in all aspects of life. That is not yet the case, but we must recognize that we are moving in the right direction.

With courage and self-confidence, Canadian women are breaking down barriers one by one and making their contributions in areas that would have been unthinkable just a quarter century ago. The Canadian Forces are an excellent example of this.

Despite its reputation for being a man's world, our military has gradually been adapting to women. Women can and do enter any trade or occupational group. As soldiers, mariners, submariners, fighter pilots, helicopter pilots, engineers and doctors, they dedicate their talents and skills to serving and protecting Canada. I would like to take a moment to remember Captain Nichola Goddard, who was killed last May on the battlefields of Afghanistan.

The fact that female soldiers occupy command positions says a lot about the progress they have made.

As we try to assess to what extent the status of women has improved in this country, the Canadian Forces give us a perfect reason to celebrate. That said, an honest look at where we are now reveals elements that are less worthy of celebration. This year's theme reminds us that Canadian women everywhere still experience violence. There is violence in every community and it has serious social and economic repercussions. All sectors of society, including governments, businesses and volunteer organizations, must work side by side to change attitudes and behaviours. We must also work together to close the wage gap between men and women and correct the under-representation of women in politics.

As we all know, significant, lasting change is the result of hard work, good will and specialized programs. In Quebec today, half of all fathers take parental leave. That is unusual, but it is not a miracle. It is happening because of Quebec's new parental insurance plan. I have no doubt that with appropriate public policy, the last vestiges of gender inequality will disappear.

Naturally, I cannot talk about women without mentioning the wives and partners of our soldiers. On the eve of International Women's Day, I would like to reiterate my respect and admiration for these devoted heroines whose contribution is underestimated.

Honourable senators, I urge you to show your support for these women again and again, at every opportunity.

Alliance Française of Calgary

Sixtieth Anniversary

Hon. Claudette Tardif (Deputy Leader of the Opposition): Honourable senators, I am delighted to rise here today to commend the Alliance Française of Calgary, which will celebrate its 60th anniversary on March 3, 2007.

His Excellency, Daniel Jouanneau, France's Ambassador to Canada, will attend the gala to celebrate this important milestone.

It was on February 22, 1947, the same year that oil was discovered in Leduc, Alberta, that the Alliance Française of Calgary was founded. At the time, a small group of francophones met once a month in a hotel, often joined by a speaker, a singer or other prominent individual to enliven the meetings.

The Alliance Française of Calgary now boasts five classrooms, a resource centre and an exhibit gallery. At present, there are 850 adult students, and cultural activities continue to thrive thanks to several partners, including Calgary's francophone community.

I can assure you that, over the years, the Alliance Française of Calgary has made a significant contribution to the promotion of the French language and culture, as well as to intercultural exchanges in the Calgary area.

I wish the Alliance Française of Calgary continued success in its excellent work and its partnership with the local francophone community, as well as other local and provincial francophone organizations.


[English]

ROUTINE PROCEEDINGS

Aging

Interim Report of Special Committee Tabled

Hon. Sharon Carstairs: Honourable senators, I have the honour to table the second report of the Special Senate Committee on Aging, an interim report entitled "Embracing the Challenge of Aging," which, for the interest of senators, has been printed for the very first time for a Senate report in an enhanced font, so that seniors and those who have some vision impairment will have an easier time in reading it.

The Hon. the Speaker pro tempore: Honourable senators, when shall this report be taken into consideration?

On motion of Senator Carstairs, report placed on the Orders of the Day for consideration two days hence.

(1355)

[Translation]

Study on Operation of Official Languages Act and Relevant Regulations, Directives and Reports

Interim Report of Official Languages Committee Tabled

Hon. Maria Chaput: Honourable senators, I have the honour to table, in both official languages, the fifth report of the Standing Senate Committee on Official Languages entitled: Reflecting Canada's Linguistic Duality at the 2010 Olympic and Paralympic Winter Games: A Golden Opportunity.

The Hon. the Speaker pro tempore: Honourable senators, when shall this report be taken into consideration?

On motion of Senator Chaput, report placed on the Orders of the Day for consideration at the next sitting of the Senate.

[English]

Social Affairs, Science and Technology

Budget and Authority to Engage Services—Study on Impact and Effects of Social Determinants of Health—Report of Committee Presented

Hon. Art Eggleton, Chair of the Standing Senate Committee on Social Affairs, Science and Technology, presented the following report:

Thursday, March 1, 2007

The Standing Senate Committee on Social Affairs, Science and Technology has the honour to present its

TENTH REPORT

Your Committee, which was authorized by the Senate on Tuesday, November 28, 2006 to examine and report on the impact of the multiple factors and conditions that contribute to the health of Canada's population — known collectively as the social determinants of health, respectfully requests that it be empowered to engage the services of such counsel, technical, clerical and other personnel as may be necessary for the purpose of such study.

Pursuant to Chapter 3:06, section 2(1)(c) of the Senate Administrative Rules, the budget submitted to the Standing Committee on Internal Economy, Budgets and Administration and the report thereon of that Committee are appended to this report.

Respectfully submitted,

ART EGGLETON
Chair

(For text of budget, see today's Journals of the Senate, Appendix A, p. 1144.)

The Hon. the Speaker pro tempore: Honourable senators, when shall this report be taken into consideration?

Senator Eggleton: Honourable senators, with leave of the Senate and notwithstanding rule 58(1)(g), I move that the report be placed on the Orders of the Day for consideration later this day.

The Hon. the Speaker pro tempore: Is leave granted, honourable senators?

Hon. Senators: Agreed.

On motion of Senator Eggleton, report placed on the Orders of the Day for consideration later this day.

Budget and Authority to Engage Services—Study on Current Social Issues of Large Cities—Report of Committee Presented

Hon. Art Eggleton, Chair of the Standing Senate Committee on Social Affairs, Science and Technology, presented the following report:

Thursday, March 1, 2007

The Standing Senate Committee on Social Affairs, Science and Technology has the honour to present its

ELEVENTH REPORT

Your Committee, which was authorized by the Senate on Wednesday, June 28, 2006 to examine and report on current social issues pertaining to Canada's largest cities, respectfully requests that it be empowered to engage the services of such counsel, technical, clerical and other personnel as may be necessary for the purpose of such study.

Pursuant to Chapter 3:06, section 2(1)(c) of the Senate Administrative Rules, the budget submitted to the Standing Committee on Internal Economy, Budgets and Administration and the report thereon of that Committee are appended to this report.

Respectfully submitted,

ART EGGLETON
Chair

(For text of budget, see today's Journals of the Senate, Appendix B, p. 1150.)

The Hon. the Speaker pro tempore: Honourable senators, when shall this report be taken into consideration?

Senator Eggleton: Honourable senators, with leave of the Senate and notwithstanding rule 58(1)(g), I move that the report be placed on the Orders of the Day for consideration later this day.

The Hon. the Speaker pro tempore: Is leave granted, honourable senators?

Hon. Senators: Agreed.

On motion of Senator Eggleton, report placed on the Orders of the Day for consideration later this day.

[Translation]

Canada Transportation Act
Railway Safety Act

Bill to Amend—First Reading

The Hon. the Speaker pro tempore informed the Senate that a message had been received from the House of Commons with Bill C-11, to amend the Canada Transportation Act and the Railway Safety Act and to make consequential amendments to other Acts.

Bill read first time.

The Hon. the Speaker pro tempore: Honourable senators, when shall this bill be read the second time?

On motion of Senator Stratton, bill placed on the Orders of the Day for second reading two days hence.

(1400)

The Senate

Notice of Motion to Urge Government to Promulgate its Endorsement of the Paris Commitment on Child Soldiers

Hon. Roméo Antonius Dallaire: Honourable senators, I give notice that, at the next sitting of the Senate, I will move:

That the Senate call on the Government of Canada to widely disseminate its endorsement of the Paris Commitments to Protect Children from Unlawful Recruitment or Use by Armed Forces or Armed Groups, known as the Paris Principles and adopted by 58 countries in Paris, France, on February 6, 2007; and

That the Senate urge the Government of Canada to take a global leadership role in the campaign of eradicating child soldiers as enunciated in the Optional Protocol to the Convention on the Rights of the Child on the involvement of children in armed conflict (2000) as well as Security Council resolutions 1539 (2004) on Children in Armed Conflict, and 1612 (2005) on Monitoring and Reporting on Violations Against Children in War.

[English]

Legal and Constitutional Affairs

Notice of Motion to Refer Papers and Evidence of Special Senate Committee on Senate Reform

Hon. Donald H. Oliver: Honourable senators, with leave of the Senate and notwithstanding rule 58(1), I give notice that, later this day, I will move:

That the papers and evidence received and taken and the work accomplished by the Special Senate Committee on Senate Reform for the study of the subject matter of Bill S-4, An Act to amend the Constitution Act, 1867, during the First Session of the Thirty-ninth Parliament, be referred to the Standing Senate Committee on Legal and Constitutional Affairs for its study on Bill S-4, An Act to amend the Constitution Act, 1867.

The Hon. the Speaker pro tempore: Is leave granted, honourable senators?

Hon. Senators: Agreed.


[Translation]

QUESTION PERIOD

Public Works and Government Services

Purchase of Military Aircraft from Boeing Company—Economic Spinoffs—Tracking Procedures

Hon. Francis Fox: Honourable senators, my question is for the Minister of Public Works and Government Services, as the minister responsible for signing all procurement contracts for the Government of Canada, whether it is to buy pencils, handguns or military equipment such as the C-17. I know that the minister is familiar with all the details of this military aircraft procurement contract between the Government of Canada and Boeing.

My question is: Can the minister put an end to the ambiguity that surrounds this contract's terms and content, by providing a clear, accurate and unequivocal question on the negotiation of that contract's economic spinoffs?

(1405)

The ambiguity arises from the fact that this is, by all appearances, a $3.4 billion contract. However, a maintenance contract worth $1.6 billion awarded to the USAF, which reduces the total value of the contract to $1.8 billion. Also, apparently, engines will be bought outside Canada, thereby reducing the total value of the contract to $800 million.

The minister, Senator Fortier, has often talked about these economic spinoffs, especially in response to some of my questions this February, which he promised to give us information within a reasonable period of time. Will these economic benefits be based on the $3.4 billion for the Canadian industry as a whole? Or was he talking about economic benefits from the lesser amount, $800 million?

Hon. Michael Fortier (Minister of Public Works and Government Services): Honourable senators, I have always said in this chamber, and I will say it again today, with respect to the contract signed with Boeing or the signing of contracts with foreign companies and non-Canadian equipment manufacturers, such manufacturers are required to reinvest in Canada, dollar for dollar, the money they receive from the contracts.

Senator Fox: If I may, the honourable minister's answer was not as clear as I would have hoped.

Are the economic spinoffs based on the $3.4 billion contract amount or on the $800 million contract amount? It has to be one or the other. Which of these two amounts was the subject of negotiations about economic spinoffs for Canada?

Senator Fortier: Honourable senators, the acquisition costs of this contract were announced the day Minister Bernier, Minister O'Connor and I made the announcement. None of this should be confusing to the Canadian public. It is clearly laid out in a press release. In fact, I would invite the honourable senator to visit our departmental websites, where the aircraft acquisition costs and the maintenance costs are broken down.

With respect to foreign equipment manufacturers, any money going to the foreign equipment manufacturer — in this case, Boeing — must be reinvested in Canada dollar for dollar.

Senator Fox: Honourable senators, I would like to ask a supplementary question. The minister is being extraordinarily ambiguous even though he is here to answer our questions as precisely as possible. Personally, I find that having him refer me to departmental websites is a very strange way to answer a question in this chamber.

I would have liked to have some indication from the minister as to whether the economic spinoffs in Canada would be based on the amount of $3.4 billion or $800 million, but I shall have to ask him another question. Will the $1.6 billion from the contract awarded to the USAF generate economic spinoffs in Canada?

I seem to remember a previous Conservative government, under the leadership of the Right Honourable Brian Mulroney, that showed tremendous political courage and that, despite the negative political fallout from the maintenance contract for the F-18s, decided that the maintenance would be done in Canada. It was a courageous gesture and, in the end, it was in the best interest of Canada.

Can the minister tell us why the maintenance will be done in the United States? Perhaps it is an easy way to avoid the problem of choosing where in Canada it would be done. However, I would like to know whether the economic benefits for Canada will come from the $1.6 billion contract signed with the USAF, dollar for dollar, as the minister suggested?

The answer to the question will be yes or no.

Senator Fortier: Honourable senators, I would like to inform Senator Fox that this government has shown political courage in insisting, when it comes to current and future procurement, that foreign manufacturers must reinvest in Canada. This is a new policy and a new philosophy.

Previously, as I am sure honorables senators know, investments were made in Canada by foreign manufacturers for military procurement that had absolutely nothing to do with the aerospace industry.

The honourable senator asked us why the maintenance will not be done here in Canada. In response, I can say very simply that it is not advantageous for the taxpayers. We negotiated the best acquisition contract for those planes. Of all the countries to purchase the C-17 Globemaster III, as far as we know, this government negotiated the best price per plane ever negotiated for that aircraft.

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I am thinking about the taxpayers. I am sure the honourable senator agrees with me.

As for the last part of his question, about the maintenance that will be performed by a foreign manufacturer, in this case Boeing, the company will reinvest one dollar in Canada for every dollar it receives from Canada to maintain its aircraft.

[English]

Industry

Purchase of Military Aircraft from Boeing Company—Economic Offsets—Tracking Procedure

Hon. Sharon Carstairs: Honourable senators, I have a supplementary question to the Minister of Public Works. We hear from the honourable minister it is dollar for dollar and the same amount of money must be spent in Canada. I would like to know what tracking procedures he has put into place within the Department of Public Works to ensure that "dollar for dollar" is spent.

Hon. Michael Fortier (Minister of Public Works and Government Services): Honourable senators, I respectfully submit that this question should be asked of my colleague, as it deals with the Department of Industry. It is a good question and there is an answer, but the Leader of the Government will provide that answer. It does not involve the Department of Public Works and Government Services.

Senator Carstairs: With respect to the honourable minister, it does involve Public Works. Public Works is responsible for every single contract signed in this country and for ensuring that those contracts are appropriately carried out. Part of this contract is the provision of "dollar for dollar." I want to know what Public Works has put into place, not the Department of Industry, to track this "dollar for dollar" to ensure that Canada is indeed getting the value that they say we are getting.

Senator Fortier: Honourable senators, I guess the rules have changed since the honourable senator was Leader of the Government in the Senate. I can tell her that this is not a Public Works issue, so she can scream as loud as she wants. It is a Department of Industry issue. They monitor the situation; it is their responsibility. There is a policy within that department, and I invite the honourable senator to ask the question to the Leader of the Government in the Senate.

Senator Carstairs: Honourable senators, I would like to ask the honourable senator to apologize. Why is that when women ask questions we are somehow screaming?

Public Works and Government Services

Border Services Agency—Cost to Department of Arming Guards

Hon. Daniel Hays: Honourable senators, I would like to follow up on a question I was discussing — more so than getting an answer — with the Leader of the Government in the Senate involving the Canada Border Services Agency and the arming of border guards. It seems to me that part of this matter falls under the responsibility of the Minister of Public Works and his department.

Just to remind the minister, there are 5,000 border guards. I quoted from two Ottawa Sun articles indicating the cost of arming them and providing additional people to be with the guards on occasions when it is important to do so. Over a short period of time — not just one year, but I think two or three — the total amount is about $1 billion. In terms of the armament, the 9 millimetre pistol, some 2,400 are to be delivered by next March, 4,000 more later on and additional numbers as time passes, for a total of 6,400.

Can the minister provide an answer as to the actual cost of the component of this project that will come under the jurisdiction of the Department of Public Works? That way we will know what the rest of it is for.

Hon. Michael Fortier (Minister of Public Works and Government Services): Honourable senators, I will have to take that question as notice. We will find out what these costs are.

[Translation]

Contracts Issued Without Tender—Appointment of Procurement Ombudsman

Hon. Céline Hervieux-Payette (Leader of the Opposition): Honourable senators, I would like to express my deepest sympathies and send my love to the family of Senator Comeau, who lost his brother yesterday. I understand that Senator Comeau is with his family, and I hope that all my colleagues will join with me in offering our sympathies to him.

My question is for the Minister of Public Works and Government Services. What rules will apply when a contract is awarded without tender?

(1415)

This government worked very hard to introduce Bill C-2, which was supposed to regulate government procurement, promote competition and get the best prices.

This week, the newspapers talked about contracts awarded to firms without tender. I would like to ask the minister what rules will apply for contracts worth several million dollars that are awarded without tender.

Hon. Michael Fortier (Minister of Public Works and Government Services): Honourable senators, the good news is that very few contracts are awarded without tender. As minister, I have found that, especially in the technology sector, such contracts are generally awarded when a company that was initially under contract has a unique technology or licence. When the contract expires and a department decides to continue using this technology for the purposes of the program for which it was required, we do not have any choice. Rather, we could choose to issue another call for tenders, but I think that, for the sake of the taxpayers, it is wise to renew the contract when the technology is unique to the supplier. This exception is the reason most often given for awarding a contract without tender.

Senator Hervieux-Payette: The honourable senator's answer does not give me the criteria. I worked for five years in an engineering firm where I was responsible for the development of new technologies and I can say that taking this piecemeal, case-by-case approach is a good excuse for eliminating the competition. I have seen this happen many times.

My question was very specific. I want to know what objective criteria are being applied — I do not want to know about the subjective criteria used by the departments. When does the honourable senator intend to appoint the person responsible for procurement in his department? When will this person begin work? Is there a competition? Is this competition still in progress? When can we expect this person to start work?

We spent a lot of time considering Bill C-2 and made many recommendations. I realize today, some one hundred days later, that many of the positions described in the bill and many of the measures intended to ensure the integrity of the system have not been implemented.

We have often been accused of holding up that bill, but today, several months later, many of the sections of the bill are not being applied.

I want to know when this person will be appointed and what the objective criteria are for awarding contracts without a call for tenders.

Senator Fortier: As far as the question on the procurement ombudsman is concerned, in reponse to Senator Mitchell's question last week, I stated that we are in the process of establishing criteria for defining the profile of the person we would like to recruit. A public competition will be launched very soon. Within a few months, someone will be appointed.

As far as the criteria are concerned, I apologize for not responding to your specific question. Essentially, non-competitive contracts are prohibited. There are no criteria to allow them; they are prohibited. The few times contracts have been awarded without a call for tenders have been in cases like this one; the minister has to be convinced that circumstances require a contract to be awarded without a call for tenders.

I want to reassure the honourable senator. She must be concerned or she would not have asked the question. Since I have been minister, very few contracts have been awarded without a call for tenders. I can assure the honourable senator that, except in the very rare cases I mentioned earlier, there will not be any.

[English]

Human Resources and Social Development

Future of Action Plan for Children

Hon. Marilyn Trenholme Counsell: I have a question for the Honourable Leader of the Government in the Senate that I wish to have taken as notice.

There have been rumours that add to my fear for children in this country, to the effect that the program known as CAPC, Canadian Action Plan for Children, is possibly threatened.

(1420)

I would like to know if there is any substance to perhaps what is only a rumour, which I hope it is. I wonder if we could have information on the ongoing support and funding of this important program across the land for Canada's children.

Hon. Michael Fortier (Minister of Public Works and Government Services): I thank the honourable senator for the question. On behalf of the Leader of the Government in the Senate, I will take this question as notice.

National Revenue

Reinstatement of Visitors' Rebate Program

Hon. Catherine S. Callbeck: Honourable senators, in the absence of the Leader of the Government in the Senate, would the Deputy Leader take this question as notice?

Last September, this Conservative government cancelled the Visitors' Rebate Program. That cancellation will discourage people from choosing Canada as a travel destination and it impairs our competitiveness on an international level. In fact, we are the only OECD country with a government-added tax that does not have a Visitors' Rebate Program.

A report that was endorsed by Tourism Industry Association of Canada shows that this cancellation means a loss of $238 million to the GDP and a loss of 5,700 jobs in the tourism industry. The bottom line is that cancellation of this program is having a very negative effect, or will have, on our tourism industry. The federal government should be implementing, and not eliminating, programs to help the struggling tourism industry.

Will the government listen to the Canadian tourism industry and reinstate the Visitors' Rebate Program?

Hon. Terry Stratton (Acting Deputy Leader of the Government): I will take the honourable senator's question as notice and address it to the Leader of the Government in the Senate.

[Translation]

Official Languages

2010 Winter Olympics—Reflection of Linguistic Duality

Hon. Eymard G. Corbin: Honourable senators, my question is for Senator Chaput, in her capacity as Chair of the Standing Senate Committee on Official Languages.

This morning I read the article, "Senators push Olympic bilingualism. Committee wants to ensure 2010 Winter Games reflect Canada's linguistic duality," published in today's Vancouver Sun.

I find it hard to understand how the media were able to become familiar with the contents of the report tabled just this afternoon in the Senate in both of Canada's official languages. I do not find this to be in accordance with the rules and privileges of the Senate. Reports and draft reports are confidential until they are presented in the Senate.

Is the Chair aware of this matter?

Hon. Maria Chaput: Honourable senators, I agree that such leaks should never happen. I was informed of the matter this morning. I reviewed the process that we established and which is the same for all other committee reports. The drafts were numbered and marked confidential.

I have no idea how this leak occurred. I can assure honourable senators that I will raise this matter at the next meeting of the committee and that an investigation will be conducted.

[English]

Atlantic Canada Opportunities Agency

Main Estimates—Budgetary Reduction

Hon. James S. Cowan: Honourable senators, again I would ask the Deputy Leader to take this question as notice on behalf of the Leader of the Government in the Senate.

The 2007-08 government expense plan and Main Estimates, which were tabled in both Houses two days ago, show $15 million in cuts to the Atlantic Canada Opportunities Agency, including over $11 million slashed from grants and contributions to Atlantic businesses and communities. On May 18, 2006, one of our colleagues rose in this house to say the following:

The ACOA operation is expertly organized and professionally executed. In one word, it was impressive. The activities of ACOA have helped enlarge the markets for dozens and dozens of small and medium-sized Atlantic Canadian businesses.

Honourable senators, I was once a strong critic of ACOA, but now that I have seen first-hand the invaluable work they are doing for the business sectors of all of our Atlantic provinces, they are only to be encouraged in these significant endeavours.

I am sure Senator Oliver will recognize his words.

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Will the Leader of the Government in the Senate urge the Prime Minister to follow the wise advice of his own senators and restore the $15 million slashed from ACOA's funding by this government?

Hon. Terry Stratton (Acting Deputy Leader of the Government): Honourable senators, I will take that question as notice.

Finance

Upcoming Budget—Request for Information

Hon. Jim Munson: Honourable senators, will the government take this question as notice as well?

My question is for the Minister of Public Works and Government Services, if he wants to make news. The reporters do not cover this place except for sensational stories, and he could perhaps give us a few hints from his own perspective of what might be in the budget. Could he give us just a couple of hints? We could get a lot of attention here from reporters who are at the other place. I know that he answered questions well earlier today, and I thought perhaps he might want to enlighten us on what might be in the budget.

[Translation]

The Hon. the Speaker pro tempore: I would like to remind honourable senators that the minister is free to response or not to questions.

[English]

Senator Munson: Honourable senators, my question is as notice to the government. We set the financial table for the government; they know that. They arrived in office to a multi-billion dollar surplus. At the time, the economy was booming, personal income taxes were being cut, but the government still has a fixation on cut, cut and cut. Who are facing these cuts? We know who they are: the adult literacy programs, support for women, Aboriginal health, real child care options, Court Challenges Programs, savings programs for the retired and so on.

The government is always talking about value for money. How can we talk about value for money when we look at what is happening in our cities? Statistics show the average poverty rate among city residents is 24.5 per cent. Nearly one in four city dwellers is poor. Aboriginal people, recent immigrants, visible minorities and persons with disabilities are over-represented among the poor. The government has the money. We know they have it, because we gave it to them to try to manage well; it is there.

I am asking, before the budget is handed down in two weeks, why not spend it in the right places? Why not spend it on people?

Hon. Terry Stratton (Acting Deputy Leader of the Government): I will take that question as notice.

Justice

Law Reform Commission—Funding Cuts

Hon. Jerahmiel S. Grafstein: Honourable senators, regarding the Law Reform Commission, many of us are members of the bar, many are concerned about law reform and many are concerned with social justice. Among all the things the government wants to dismantle, why has the government chosen to cut funding to the Law Reform Commission of Canada?

Hon. Terry Stratton (Acting Deputy Leader of the Government): Does the honourable senator want me to take that question as notice?

Senator Grafstein: The honourable senator can do with that question as he will.

Delayed Answers to Oral Questions

Hon. Terry Stratton (Acting Deputy Leader of the Government): Honourable senators, I have the honour of tabling the answers to two oral questions, the first asked by the Honourable Senator Banks on February 13, 2007, regarding the commercial building incentive program; and the second by Senator Hays on February 21, 2007, regarding the Canadian Wheat Board plebiscite for barley producers.

Natural Resources

Commercial Building Incentive Program—Cancellation

(Response to question raised by Hon. Tommy Banks on February 13, 2007)

The Commercial Building Incentive Program (CBIP) has been in place since 1998. The Program contributed $43 million in incentives to more than 900 new building projects, successfully improving the knowledge and competencies of more than 3000 architects, designers and builders over the last eight years. These projects have demonstrated the technical and financial feasibility of designing energy-efficient, new commercial and institutional buildings throughout Canada.

While the CBIP will wind down by March 31, 2007, there will be new and ongoing activities related to the energy efficiency of new buildings starting April 1, 2007. These activities are part of the $60 million ecoENERGY for Buildings and Houses program announced January 21, 2007, by Minister Lunn. This program will encourage the construction, operation and retrofit of more energy-efficient buildings and houses through the implementation of complementary activities such as rating, labelling and training.

For homeowners and smaller businesses, institutions and industrial organizations, Minister Lunn announced the $220 million ecoENERGY Retrofit program, which will offer financial support and information to encourage the retrofit of homes, small buildings, and industry.

Added to this is $60 million for ecoENERGY programs for industry and transportation. Combined, these programs make up the $340 million ecoENERGY Efficiency Initiative, an investment spanning four years to promote smarter energy use and reduce the amount of harmful emissions affecting the health of Canadians.

Agriculture and Agri-Food

Canadian Wheat Board—Plebiscite for Barley Producers

(Response to question raised by Hon. Daniel Hays on February 21, 2007)

There is no reason to question the integrity of KPMG, the internationally recognized professional services firm that was selected to run the barley plebiscite after winning an open competition.

KPMG addresses the question of voter confidentiality clearly and explicitly on the 2007 official plebiscite information centre website at www.2007barleyvote.ca. It says:

'In accordance with the applicable privacy laws, all records will be confidential and used only for purposes of the vote. Your declaration and ballots have unique identifier numbers for the tabulation of the results. Each mailing package has separate envelopes for the ballot and declaration.

The 'secrecy' ballot envelopes will not be opened until after the March 13th postmark deadline and the corresponding self-declaration has been processed.

KPMG LLP staff responsible for the opening of the secrecy ballot envelopes, count and tabulation of the voter preference will not have access to the declaration or registered voter names. Confidentiality was a primary concern when KPMG designed the declaration and tabulation process.'

The Government encourages all eligible barley producers to participate in this plebiscite by taking the time to fill out their declaration form and ballot and make their voices heard.

To be eligible, the producer must have produced grain in 2006 and must have produced barley in at least one of the years between 2002 and 2006. This plebiscite is open to all barley producers in the Canadian Wheat Board designated area, including those who have grown barley for use on their own farm as feed or seed.

Persons who believe they are eligible to vote and have not yet received a voter package, are encouraged to contact the election co-ordinator before March 2 at 1-888-3BARLEY (1-888-322-7539) or at www.2007barleyvote.ca to make arrangements to have a package mailed to them.

Ballots, as well as a completed declaration form, must be returned to the election co-ordinator postmarked no later than March 13.


[Translation]

ORDERS OF THE DAY

Canada Elections Act
Public Service Employment Act

Bill to Amend—Second Reading—Debate Adjourned

Hon. Pierre Claude Nolin moved second reading of Bill C-31, to amend the Canada Elections Act and the Public Service Employment Act.

He said: Honourable senators, we are undertaking debate at the second reading stage, of Bill C-31, which seeks to improve the integrity of the Canadian electoral process. This bill makes several technical and operational improvements to the electoral process as well as to the Canada Elections Act.

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These measures are designed to modernize our electoral system, ensure that elections are held properly and ensure that Canadians continue to have confidence in our democratic process.

Today, I would like to give you an idea of the bill and of its objectives, but first I want to provide a bit of background on this bill.

I followed with great interest the process regarding this bill in the other place. I believe that this process should have a bearing on how we understand this legislation. The most distinctive feature of Bill C-31 is that it is the legislative response to a report of the House of Commons Standing Committee on Procedure and House Affairs. This bill implements most of the measures recommended by the committee in its report.

You will agree with me that, these days, with a minority government, such a degree of cooperation between the parties is uncommon. In my opinion, this reflects the tremendous respect that parliamentary committees should enjoy when they make consensual decisions.

The review conducted by that committee was based on the report of the Chief Electoral Officer on the thirty-eighth general election. Soon after Parliament resumed sitting, last spring, the House of Commons Standing Committee on Procedure and House Affairs began its review of the report submitted by the Chief Electoral Officer and of the recommendations included in it. The committee had received the report in September 2005, but because the 39th general election was called, it postponed its review until this Parliament. In his report, the Chief Eelectoral Officer made a broad range of recommendations to improve the electoral process, and the committee reviewed them one by one. Committee members were all the more motivated, because they themselves had just gone through two general elections in less than two years. They worked on drafting concrete recommendations to amend the act so as to improve the integrity of our electoral process.

The committee tabled its thirteenth report in the other place, on June 22, 2006. No dissenting opinion was appended to the report. Even though Bloc Québécois members sitting on the committee added a supplementary opinion, all the parties supported the legislative measure designed to increase the integrity of the electoral process.

The committee requested a response from the government when it tabled its thirteenth report, and 120 days later, the government submitted its response, endorsing nearly all of the committee's recommendations.

However, the government did not stop with one report. Recognizing just how important the integrity of the electoral system is, the government hastened to table Bill C-31 to implement the committee's recommendations for amending the act.

Therefore, we have before us today a bill based on the expertise and opinions of the Chief Electoral Officer and the Privacy Commissioner of Canada, as well as on the experience of MPs who are, it goes without saying, major users of the Elections Act.

This bill also takes into account the views expressed by large and small political parties during the committee's study of the bill, not to mention the views of groups that help citizens who have difficulty exercising their right to vote. Bill C-31 is a very good example of the importance of transcending political party lines to create public policy that benefits Canadians. Our honourable colleagues in the official opposition know that on October 26, 2006, their party published a press release praising the introduction of Bill C-31.

I am quite sure that, once I have reviewed the measures it contains, you will agree that it brings about concrete improvements to the electoral system that is the very foundation of our democratic process.

As I have said, the bill is designed to improve the integrity of the electoral process by introducing operational and technical improvements to the Canada Elections Act. There are many improvements, and some may seem very small, but taken together, they will give Elections Canada the tools to administer elections; they will give political parties and candidates the tools to run their campaigns; and they will enable Canadian voters to voice their democratic opinions.

Let us begin by looking at some of the changes in the bill to improve the accuracy of the National Register, also known as the permanent list of electors, which replaced door-to-door enumeration in 1997.

The lists of electors used by political candidates and Elections Canada staff are based on this register. These lists are also used to send registered voters the cards that remind them where and when to exercise their right to vote. It is therefore crucial that these lists be as accurate as possible. This is particularly true because, under the current system, the mere fact of being registered on the list automatically gives the individual the right to vote.

This is problematic for a number of reasons, but above all because of the risk of fraud and error, which compromise the very integrity of the voting process. For instance, members of the Standing Committee on Procedure and House Affairs found names showing twice on the list, names of deceased voters and work addresses rather than home addresses.

Elections Canada is striving to ensure the accuracy of the lists and the National Register by cross-checking the data with the registers of provincial elections authorities, vehicle registration offices and vital statistics centres, as well as by contacting Canadians directly.

The bill before us here today aims to ensure that the legislative framework will facilitate the maintenance of an updated, reliable and accurate list.

Accordingly, the bill authorizes the government to reformulate the questions on the first page of the income tax return, where Canadians can indicate their consent to having their name, address and date of birth communicated to Elections Canada for inclusion in the register.

The Chief Electoral Officer has pointed out, however, that individuals who do not have citizenship and therefore do not have the right to vote sometimes check this box, which makes the information less reliable.

Bill C-31 authorizes the Canada Revenue Agency to reformulate the question on the tax return in order to make it clear that the question applies only to Canadian citizens who are eligible voters. This measure will improve the reliability of the information received, thereby increasing the accuracy of the National Register and the lists of electors.

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Bill C-31 also gives the Canada Revenue Agency the power to inform Elections Canada of deceased voters, so that those names can be removed from the register more quickly.

Other changes which will improve the accuracy of the register and the voters' lists provide for clearer statutory authorities to allow returning officers to update the register and the voters' lists, to specify that the Chief Electoral Officer has the ability to share information with the provincial electoral authorities and to allow the Chief Electoral Officer to use stable identifiers for easier cross-referencing of information on electors. These practical measures will, in a tangible way, help improve the integrity of the National Register.

A second set of measures in the bill make it easier for eligible Canadians to exercise their right to vote. Together with Bill C-16, which provides for fixed-date elections, these measures will help increase voter turnout for federal elections. Bill C-31 will allow more advance polls when circumstances warrant, especially in very large or rural districts, where some voters have to travel great distances to use advance polls.

Bill C-31 also makes it easier to obtain transfer certificates to vote at another polling station where warranted. Consequently, voters with a functional limitation will no longer have to request a transfer to an accessible polling station three days in advance. In addition, voters whose polling station has been changed by Elections Canada will still be able to vote if they go to the polling station shown on their notice. This measure will avoid discouraging voters from exercising their right to vote.

These reforms will complement another series of changes made by the bill, which are designed to improve communications between candidates, parties, election officials and the electorate. Better information on the election and the candidates will encourage people to become involved in the political process.

In this regard, improving the availability of up-to-date lists of electors for parties and candidates, so they can contact voters and "get out the vote", is essential. Under Bill C-31, preliminary lists of electors will be distributed 19 days before the election to ensure that candidates have access to more accurate lists earlier in the campaign. Furthermore, the current lists provided to the parties and members of Parliament will be more accurate. These lists will be distributed on November 15 rather than October 15, to reflect moves that may have taken place during the summer.

The bill will grant election officials, such as returning officers, the right to access multiple-residence buildings and gated communities in order to carry out their duties. This provision will make it easier to conduct targeted revisions of the list of electors, particularly in areas where there is high mobility and, unfortunately, low registration.

It will be easier for candidates to meet voters, as they will have greater access to gated communities and premises open to the public, such as shopping centres, for the purpose of campaigning.

With more information, voters will be able to make an informed decision on election day. That is the objective of the election campaign period and Bill C-31 helps to achieve this objective.

The bill also makes other technical and operational improvements. I would like to address one of the most significant one: the amendment regarding the identification of voters. This recommendation was at the heart of the thirteenth report of the Standing Committee on Procedure and House Affairs.

Many committee members were definitely of the opinion that a voter identification system is indispensable in order to maintain the integrity of the electoral process.

First of all, on a practical level, if you were a candidate in a very close election, you would want to know that all votes cast were legitimate. We can all remember examples of very close elections where we wish we could to say this was the case.

And if you were a voter in such a riding, you would want the assurance that the democratic will of the people was respected and that the impact of your vote was not diminished by fraudulent votes.

Second, with every instance of electoral fraud the public loses confidence in our democratic system. This is not a purely symbolic matter; it truly weakens the democratic fabric of this country.

Bill C-31 actively reduces the possibilities for electoral fraud through a simple measure. It amends the Canada Elections Act to make it mandatory for all Canadians to present a piece of identification before voting.

Currently, electors whose name appears on the voters list simply have to state their name and address to receive a ballot.

Under the terms of Bill C-31, registered voters will have to provide proof of their identity and residence before being allowed to vote. I must point out that people who are not registered already have to show a piece of identification to be able to register at the polling stations.

Unfortunately, the definition of what constitutes a suitable piece of identification is left to the discretion of the Chief Electoral Officer, who is not required to make it public.

Likewise, any registered voter may be asked for proof of identity, but again, the definition of what constitutes suitable proof of identity is left to the discretion of the Chief Electoral Officer.

Thanks to Bill C-31, the guidelines on suitable pieces of identity will be clear and the voting and registration procedure more uniform. The bill provides for three entirely reasonable options for proving identity and residence. First, registered voters can present one piece of government-issued identification that includes their name, photo and address. Most people will use their driver's licence to prove their identification and address.

Second, voters can present two pieces of identification and a proof of residence. These pieces of identification have to be authorized by the Chief Electoral Officer. The Chief Electoral Officer has indicated his intention to work with the Standing Committee on Procedure and House Affairs on preparing a list of pieces of identification that will ensure fair access.

I want to point out one thing, however. The bill clearly states that the First Nations "status card" constitutes an acceptable piece of identification for this purpose. I would also add that in the past, voters without a fixed address wanting to register on voting day have used their health card as proof of identification and an official letter from a shelter as proof of address.

I would hope that a similar system could be used for voting under the new rules in Bill C-31.

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However, even if a person did not have any piece of identification, he or she could still vote by taking an oath or making a statutory declaration, and by asking another voter to vouch for him.

In order to improve the reliability of this measure, from now on no voter shall vouch for more than one other voter, and no voter without identification shall vouch for another voter. I am sure you understand why.

The House of Commons Standing Committee on Procedure and House Affairs wanted to meet with spokespersons representing the homeless, students and Aboriginal groups, to ensure that the voter identification procedure would not deprive any eligible voter of his or her right to vote.

In fact, the voter identification process will be modelled on similar procedures in Canada and in other countries, such as those in my home province, Quebec, and a growing number of municipalities across the country. This reform and the other measures that I mentioned will improve the integrity of our system but, more importantly, they will increase the confidence of Canadians in that system.

In conclusion, I am very pleased to launch the debate on Bill C-31, because this legislation will bring concrete improvements to our electoral system. The integrity of that system and the well-being of our democracy go hand in hand. By improving the operation of our electoral process, we help make our democracy stronger.

It is important to point out that this bill is based on the direct experience of the members of the other place, and on the administrative skills of the Chief Electoral Officer, in order to provide Canadians with a more effective electoral system. Moreover, it is a reflection of the government's will to listen to the recommendations of parliamentarians and to take action to solve problems that affect all parties.

I feel this is a good piece of legislation, and I hope that all honourable senators will join me in supporting it.

On motion of Senator Tardif, debate adjourned.

Emergency Management Bill

Second Reading—Debate Adjourned

Hon. Michael A. Meighen moved second reading of Bill C-12, to provide for emergency management and to amend and repeal certain acts.

He said: Honourable senators, I am pleased to take part in the debate on Bill C-12, the proposed emergency management act. This act would give the Government of Canada a renewed legislative foundation to adopt a comprehensive approach to managing 21st century emergencies.

The bill is designed to give the Government of Canada the powers it needs to deal with modern emergency situations. Honourable senators, this is about meeting the need for coordinated federal intervention to complement provincial, territorial and other interventions.

Let me explain how this bill will benefit all Canadians and put the federal government in a better position to protect them.

[English]

As it now stands, honourable senators, Bill C-12, the proposed emergency management act, was referred to the Standing Committee on Public Safety and National Security in the other place, where it was considered in detail. Witnesses from the public and private sectors were generally supportive of the bill, and the committee in the other place did not suggest or adopt any modifications.

The threats we face today are many and varied. We are faced with natural threats — floods, hurricanes, tornadoes, ice storms and blizzards, to name only a few — and with accidental or international threats such as chemical spills or terrorist acts. These threats to Canadians are real and the government needs to be prepared. In fact, as far as natural threats are concerned, scientists warn that they could become more frequent and severe in the future, increasing the risk to public safety and further threatening critical infrastructure in our country.

To illustrate the effect that emergencies can have on our society, I will share a startling statistic with you. The Conference Board of Canada estimates that the outbreak of severe acute respiratory syndrome, SARS, in 2003 cost the Province of Ontario and, in particular, the City of Toronto, $1 billion, including millions in lost tourism revenue. As the fallout of SARS on Canadians subsided, Ontario and the northeastern states experienced the August 2003 power outages.

Canada's assistance to the United States during Hurricane Katrina in 2005 highlighted our need to respond beyond our borders. Added to all these challenges, of course, is the terrorist threat. The tragic London bombings last summer, an attack on an important ally of our country, put into sharp focus the need to guard against terrorist attacks within our own borders, and to be able to respond in the aftermath.

So what are the benefits, honourable senators, of the proposed emergency management act to Canadians? Canadians can expect better leadership and coordination at the federal level, and with our provincial and territorial counterparts. The federal government recognizes that the protection of critical infrastructure — for example, telecommunications, transit systems, water systems and hydro lines — is absolutely vital to the smooth running of our country and our economy, and the continuation of business.

The need for business continuity planning is essential in the face of emergencies to provide for the continued delivery of critical services such as hospitals, banking and safe water. Business continuity planning would also contribute to minimum disruption to the economy, including trade, commerce and jobs.

Canadians, it seems to me, want to be assured that the impact of emergencies will be minimized through proper preparedness and mitigation; that assistance — financial and otherwise — will be available when and where it is needed most; and that disruptive effects can be limited and short-lived through coordinated and efficient response and recovery efforts. These expectations and needs will be met through enhanced collaboration with the provincial and territorial partners and other stakeholders.

Public Safety and Emergency Preparedness Canada works with other federal departments and the provinces to support disaster prevention and mitigation measures. As many honourable senators will know, programs exist at the federal level, in the form of financial assistance for provinces and territories that are preparing for emergencies, such as the Joint Emergency Preparedness Program, JEPP; and for provinces that are recovering from an emergency, such as under the Disaster Financial Assistance arrangements. These programs were established under the Emergency Preparedness Act, the predecessor of the proposed emergency management act, which will continue.

The proposed emergency management act would set out more clearly the Public Safety Minister's leadership role and his responsibility to coordinate emergency management activities across the federal government. It recognizes that effective emergency management requires the collective efforts of all levels of government, non-governmental organizations and the private sector.

The federal government also recognizes in this proposed act the need for an improved warning system for Canadians. Providing for this need is one of the goals of information sharing for better emergency management planning and alerting. Currently, we have the capacity to alert the public through the use of websites, through provincial and territorial governments and, of course, the media. This enhanced leadership, coordination and information sharing will ensure rapid and efficient federal response to emerging national threats or emergencies, whether they are intentional or not.

It is important, honourable senators, to note that Bill C-12 does not intrude on provincial jurisdiction, and does not impose any obligations on provinces or territories. All provisions contained in the bill fall within the federal mandate.

[Translation]

Honourable senators, everything I have just said supports the bill before us and emphasizes the importance of adopting it. I can assure you that the safety of Canadians is a top priority for the new federal government.

[English]

Honourable senators, the Government of Canada, of whatever political stripe, has, as its primary obligation — job number one, if you will — the protection of its citizens. Although it is only natural that we all hope for the best, the government is duty-bound to be proactive, so that it is prepared for the unthinkable.

I therefore encourage all honourable senators to support the proposed emergency management act to ensure the safety and security of all Canadians — particularly since this bill is identical to that of the previous government. In that spirit of goodwill, I will refrain from urging honourable colleagues opposite not to flip-flop and follow the example of their counterparts in the other place, but to support this bill, which is their bill.

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[Translation]

Hon. Eymard G. Corbin: Honourable senators, I have a question for Senator Meighen. Last year, we all witnessed an emergency situation during the evacuation of Canadian citizens from Lebanon because of an armed conflict and its consequences.

My understanding is that the act applies to Canadian territory; I did see the words "in Canada" in the bill. However, we do have a connection to our neighbour, the United States.

In light of the magnitude of the emergency situation that happened in Lebanon — it was unprecedented — and given the number of officials and departments involved in evacuating Canadian citizens holding Canadian passports, comments by our Minister of Foreign Affairs, Mr. MacKay, led us to believe that we may not have been quite as prepared as we should have been to face the situation in that part of the Mediterranean region.

I understand that the bill does not aim to resolve emergency situations outside of Canada. However, I would like to be assured that the government, this new government, which is bringing forward new measures to help Canadian citizens, is in the process of developing, or perhaps has already completed, an emergency plan to deal with crises affecting Canadian citizens abroad.

Senator Meighen: As Senator Corbin pointed out, this bill addresses situations in Canada, not abroad. The bill identifies the minister as the quarterback, if you will, in the event of a situation arising in the United States. If, for example, an earthquake struck Seattle, the minister would be responsible for cooperating with his American counterpart.

As for the situation that arose last year in Lebanon, that was the responsibility of the Department of Foreign Affairs. With respect to any preparations or changes they have made to their system to deal with the situation, I must admit, I have no information on the matter. As a member of Canada's new government, I am certain that Mr. MacKay is tackling the issue. If you like, I would be happy to find out whether measures have been implemented to better respond to such situations.

As a final point, I would like to add that, if my information is correct, the provinces that hosted those people from Lebanon and spent money to help them are currently being reimbursed by the federal government for those expenses.

[English]

Hon. Roméo Antonius Dallaire: Honourable senators, it is interesting that for national emergencies or crises we have a minister who will run the show or coordinate the efforts of so many others. As the honourable senator described, when an event occurs in the United States, Canada has someone at the helm to participate in bringing all that together. Does the honourable senator not find it ironic that the coordination of billions of dollars and the deployment of thousands of troops under significant risk is run by an assistant deputy minister and not by a minister who is the specifically designated coordinator of such a grand overseas effort?

Senator Meighen: Honourable senators, I am not sure that I understand the Honourable Senator Dallaire's comment. It is my understanding that the Minister of National Defence, the Honourable Gordon O'Connor, is coordinating the effort overseas.

Senator Dallaire: Knowing Mr. O'Connor personally, I am sure that he would love to run the show, but he has no authority over CIDA and no authority over the Department of Foreign Affairs. The government appointed Mr. David Mulroney to the position of Associate Deputy Minister of Foreign Affairs, which is the equivalent of a two-star general, to run a $1-billion operation in which Canadian lives are at risk. We should use that same principle to create an entity to run the show overseas with all these ministers fiddling in the pie.

Senator Meighen: I am sure that many two-star generals are up to the challenge. Perhaps I could raise the matter with the Minister of Foreign Affairs and International Trade in the context of the query that Senator Corbin put forward a moment ago.

[Translation]

Hon. Pierre De Bané: Honourable senators, I would like to continue in the same vein as Senator Corbin. A few minutes ago, we were talking about Lebanon. There are approximately 300,000 Canadians in Hong Kong and tens of thousands in Greece and many European countries. One of the defining features of the modern world is that we have truly become a global village.

Today, nearly two billion people around the world can afford to purchase a plane ticket. Not only are we living in a global village, but people are travelling more and more. It seems to me that this specialized agency for handling emergencies in Canada should also have a window on what could happen elsewhere in the world.

The study by the Standing Senate Committee on Foreign Affairs and International Trade revealed that, until the Department of National Defence had a presence in Cyprus and Lebanon, it was difficult for our diplomats and the small group of people who were in Beirut to mount an operation that saw 15,000 people repatriated. It was quite an undertaking.

I wonder whether the government could look at how the agency specializing in natural disasters in Canada might have a presence, a group of people in charge of putting the necessary measures in place in case another emergency should occur abroad and Canadians should again need help from their government.

Senator Meighen: I thank my colleague and old friend, the Honourable Senator De Bané, for his question. I accept his comments and will take them into consideration, as I said previously.

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With the exception of the United States, what happens outside this country falls within the purview of the Department of Foreign Affairs and International Trade or the Department of National Defence.

That being said, I would like to draw the attention of my colleague to the fact that new procurement announced by the Department of National Defence — I am referring to aircraft carriers and so forth — would enable us to deal more effectively with these types of situations.

The means may exist, but is there an organization in place? I shall find out.

On motion of Senator Moore, debate adjourned.

[English]

Access to Information Act

Bill to Amend—Second Reading—Debate Adjourned

Hon. Lorna Milne moved second reading of Bill S-223, to amend the Access to Information Act.—(Honourable Senator Milne)

She said: Honourable senators, on December 13, 2006, I advised honourable senators that I would be introducing a Senate public bill amending the Access to Information Act, and now that bill, Bill S-223, is before you.

The intent is to provide sensible changes to Canada's new and badly flawed access to information regime. Bill S-223 has three clauses which provide the greater transparency and access for Canadians that Bill C-2, the much ballyhooed Federal Accountability Act, fails to provide.

The first element of this bill, clause 1, is designed to remove the blanket of perpetual secrecy which the Federal Accountability Act has thrown over audit working papers. Instead, clause 1 of this bill will permit audit working papers to be disclosed under the same circumstances as draft audit reports; in other words, after the final audit reports are published, or within two years after the audit commenced, whichever is earlier.

Clause 1 does not prevent government institutions from relying on all the other exemption provisions of the Access to Information Act, to maintain the confidentiality of any portion of final audit reports, draft reports or audit working papers, if disclosure would be injurious to one or more of the interests protected by the act. For example, confidentiality could be maintained to protect personal privacy, section 19; national security, section 15; trade secrets or commercial confidentiality, section 20; and audit plans, strategies and techniques, section 22.

Essentially, clause 1 of this bill means that requests for access to audit working papers will continue to be treated in the manner in which they have been treated during the almost 24 years since the Access to Information Act came into force on July 1, 1983.

Clause 1 will ensure that audit working papers are not kept secret automatically, possibly forever, regardless of their sensitivity. Rather, it will require government institutions to demonstrate that one or more of the interests protected by the Access to Information Act's existing 13 exemptions would be injured by disclosure.

As a result, clause 1 will enable the Information Commissioner, on receiving a complaint, to investigate the reasons for secrecy and to independently determine whether an injury to a protected interest would result from disclosure. This system, which had been working well for over two decades, was altered with the package of Bill C-2. Under Bill C-2, audit working papers, no matter how old or innocuous, must be kept secret. This is a change that has been publicly questioned by the Office of the Information Commissioner.

The Office of the Information Commissioner feels that the pre-Bill C-2 procedure already provided all the protection necessary for these documents, while ensuring a meaningful measure of transparency for the internal audit process in government. Now we have two decades of history to prove the case.

When we see what Bill C-2 has done here, making audit working papers of government institutions secret for at least 15 years through the use of a blanket exemption, it reminds me of the commitments made by this government during the late 2005 election campaign. In what is quickly becoming my favourite fictional document, entitled Stand up for Canada, this government made a number of commitments to changing the access to information regime in this country, if elected. It can be argued that the decision to make audit working papers of government institutions secret for at least 15 years violates the following claims made on pages 12 and 13 in Stand up for Canada.

The Conservative Party vowed to:

Give the Information Commissioner the power to order the release of information.

Bill C-2 did not do that.

The Conservative Party outlined their plan to:

Expand the coverage of the act to all Crown corporations, Officers of Parliament, foundations, and organizations that spend taxpayers' money or perform public functions.

Bill C-2 did not do that.

The Conservative Party further set out their promise to:

Ensure that all exemptions from the disclosure of government information are justified only on the basis of the harm or injury that would result from disclosure, not blanket exemption rules.

Bill C-2 did not do that.

The Conservative Party planned to:

Ensure that the disclosure requirements of the Access to Information Act cannot be circumvented by secrecy provisions in other federal acts, while respecting the confidentiality of national security and the privacy of personal information.

Bill C-2 provides secrecy provisions so Access to Information Act requests can be circumvented.

How exactly is the Information Commissioner supposed to use his or her powers to order the release of information in the case of an audit working paper if these documents are out of reach for at least 15 years through the use of a blanket exemption? In its election platform, this government promised Canadians that it would not use blanket exemptions.

What particular benefit does expanding the coverage of the Access to Information Act to Crown corporations and officers of Parliament provide when you are actually reducing the power of the Information Commissioner that existed before the passage of Bill C-2 to review access to information requests regarding audit working papers?

To recap, this government, by taking this decision and keeping audit working papers of government institutions secret for at least 15 years through the use of a blanket exemption, violated four separate commitments that they made to Canadians during the last election. The Conservatives explicitly stated that they would "ensure that the disclosure requirements of the Access to Information Act cannot be circumvented by secrecy provisions in other federal acts," then they passed the Federal Accountability Act containing secrecy provisions circumventing the existing Access to Information Act.

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The second clause in Bill S-223 would amend the Access to Information Act by adding a public interest override. This would authorize the head of a government institution to disclose information where it is clearly in the public interest to do so. During the review of Bill C-2 in the Standing Senate Committee on Legal and Constitutional Affairs, honourable senators studied the policies underlying the individual exemptions and disclosure restrictions set out in this new act. It was decided that a clause allowing disclosure of information, notwithstanding other sections where the disclosure is clearly in the public interest, would be an important statement of principle and a critical addition to the Access to Information Act. The amendment was carefully drafted and, indeed, further amended during third reading debate in this place to reflect comments received from the Office of the Information Commissioner.

This clause is particularly important given the numerous new blanket secrecy exemptions that the Federal Accountability Act provides for officers of Parliament and government institutions: blanket exemptions which, as I said before, this government promised Canadians they would not use. What does Canada's new government have to hide that it feels the need to mislead Canadians in this manner?

In any event, the Canadian Bar Association, the British Columbia Freedom of Information and Privacy Association and the Canadian Newspaper Association, among others, all urged your committee to amend the Access to Information Act sections of Bill C-2 to include a public interest override. This is nothing new. Similar clauses are found in provincial access to information laws, such as those found in British Columbia, Alberta, Saskatchewan, Manitoba, Ontario and Prince Edward Island.

When the government rejected this amendment it said:

Amendment 119 would reverse the policy on which the Access to Information Act was based, which policy was not changed in the Bill as passed by this House.

The amendment would undermine the balance between discretionary and mandatory exemptions in the Access to Information Act by giving the heads of government institutions the discretion to override existing and proposed mandatory exemptions.

In addition, the amendment would give de facto order powers to the Information Commissioner, who, as a head of a proposed government institution to be brought under the Access to Information Act by this Bill, would be able to disclose records obtained from other government institutions.

How awful.

This position is far different from the one taken by this government when they were seeking a mandate to govern. In Stand Up for Canada, it notes a Conservative government will give the Information Commissioner the power to order the release of information and provide a general public interest override for all exemptions, so that the public interest is placed before the secrecy of the government.

So much for promises.

This document states, in black and white, that this government will provide a general public interest override for all exemptions, so that the public interest is put before the secrecy of the government. I am on my feet here today only because Bill C-2 has proven that this government has no intention of honouring this commitment. The government could have easily written this clause into Bill C-2 but it chose not to. This government could have easily accepted the amendment suggested by your committee to include a public interest override in the Federal Accountability Act, but chose not to. It is time that this government was accountable to its supporters, to fulfil some of the promises it so painstakingly laid out in Stand Up for Canada. In a small but important way, I believe that Bill S-223 will do that.

After passing only three housekeeping bills and a budget, this government, by passing Bill C-2 as written, and by deciding not to accept our amendments, and not to include a public interest override to the Access to Information Act, managed to violate six of its own election platform commitments. I suggest to this government its follow-up document to Stand Up for Canada be written in pencil so that Canadians at home will be able to write in all the flip-flops that Senator Meighen spoke about. Perhaps the government should come with an eraser and some whiteout just to be safe.

Honourable senators, the third and final clause to Bill S-223 is also simple. Under Bill C-2, the power was given to the Auditor General and the Commissioner of Official Languages to refuse to disclose any information that was obtained or collected during the course of an investigation, examination or audit conducted by them or under their authority. This power is permanent and the exemption has no time limit whatsoever. They can keep it secret forever.

There is no legitimate basis for giving these two officers of Parliament a broader zone of secrecy than other government institutions and officers of Parliament that also have investigative and audit functions. Why, for example, should the investigative role of the Auditor General or the Commissioner of Official Languages be immune for all time from accountability through transparency when the RCMP remains subject to the Access to Information Act? Surely, this government is not of the opinion that the Commissioner of Official Languages deserves a greater zone of secrecy than even the RCMP.

It is my belief, honourable senators, that these officers of Parliament preside over investigative agencies that require some secrecy, but even these investigations at some point merit an inquiry and some transparency, as circumstances warrant. I do not think it prudent simply to allow the Commissioner of Official Languages and the Auditor General to conceal forever how their investigations are conducted. What could we possibly learn from those investigations if they are always kept secret?

I am not alone in that view. On September 20, 2006, the Information Commissioner's office testified before the Standing Senate Committee on Legal and Constitutional Affairs that officers of Parliament do not need a blanket of secrecy over their work when there are already injury test-based exemptions in the statute. If officers can show a disclosure would be injurious to the conduct of their investigations and work, it is exempt from that disclosure.

The Canadian Bar Association has noted that:

. . . while the underlying concerns about providing access are understandable, the choice of language pertaining to an "investigation, examination or audit" in a number of instances does not seem justifiable, especially in light of the lack of time limits on the exemption. One can understand the need to protect sources in an investigation to encourage full disclosure of information, but it will be in the public interest to obtain information as to how an audit or investigation was conducted, aspects unrelated to the impetus behind such exemptions.

Dr. Keyserlingk, the Public Service Integrity Officer, described the protection of information provided by this section as "excessive" when he appeared before your committee on September 25, 2006. He also contended that Bill C-2 "does not provide the Commissioner with any discretion to decide for reasons of transparency or public interest, to disclose information to the public after an investigation is completed."

His concerns were shared by the Registrar of Lobbyists. On October 4, 2006, Michael Nelson argued that information he created during a review could be used for education purposes. He commented that "If I do all these investigations and cannot tell anyone about them, then that defeats the purpose of the enforcement part" of his mandate.

The Supreme Court of Canada has also rendered an opinion on the applicability of injury tests. In 2002, the Supreme Court decision of Lavigne v. Canada involving the Commissioner of Official Languages said there must be a demonstration of injury to claim exemption from disclosure successfully through a Privacy Act request. Since the Privacy Act and the Access to Information Act are meant to complement each other, many observers believe the same judgment applies to Access to Information Act requests.

The Gomery Commission also supported the stance that records must be disclosed unless disclosure would be injurious to some other important and competing interest. Providing a blanket exemption to the Commissioner of Official Languages and the Auditor General is not in keeping with the spirit of Justice Gomery's recommendation.

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If we look to the recommendations listed in Stand Up for Canada, we see that a Conservative government made a number of commitments that are violated by the passage of this clause found in Bill C-2. For instance, until the Information Commissioner is given the power to order the release of information, this will truly be a blanket exemption for the Auditor General and the Commissioner of Official Languages.

In addition, Stand Up for Canada commits this government to expand the coverage of the Access to Information Act to all Crown corporations, officers of Parliament, foundations and organizations that spend taxpayers' money or perform public functions.

Honourable senators, what good is this expansion in the face of a blanket exemption — a blanket exemption this government committed itself to not using when the Conservatives were on the campaign trail in December of 2005 and January of 2006?

Honourable senators, I think the need for me to introduce Bill S-223 speaks volumes about this government's commitments. Blanket exemption rules occur throughout Bill C-2, and Bill S-223 will only be removing one of them. The Canadian Newspaper Association said it best during their appearance before the Standing Senate Committee on Legal and Constitutional Affairs on September 21, 2006. They noted:

The issue is whether we should have a balance and oversight. Should we have a balance of one set of rights against another? The role of the Information Commissioner is to determine whether an exemption meets an injury test to justify secrecy. We are saying that secrecy must be justified. There must be a balance. There is no balance when you have blanket exemptions and exclusions.

Honourable senators, Bill S-223 is a small bill. It is five pages long and contains only three clauses. However, what each of these clauses represents is a commitment or a set of commitments that was made by this government to the Canadian people that was not honoured in Bill C-2. This bill, if passed as I have outlined it here today, will commit this government to implement more of its election platform regarding the Access to Information Act than the Federal Accountability Act. I encourage honourable senators to take a long look at what I am proposing here today.

Rewriting the Access to Information Act so that audit working papers of government institutions will be subject to access to information requests as they were before Bill C-2 came into effect will be undoing the damage caused by Bill C-2. There was no reasonable justification provided during the debate on Bill C-2 to support making audit working papers of government institutions secret for at least 15 years. Bill S-223 will allow Canadians to regain the right to review audit working papers that was lost with the passage of Bill C-2.

Adding a public interest override to the Access to Information Act, which would authorize the head of a government institution to disclose information where it is in the clear public interest to do so, is a commitment that this government clearly made to Canadians but has failed to act upon during its first 13 months in government. It is no longer Canada's "new government" but maybe Canada's "over-aged government."

Bill C-2 provided this government with the perfect opportunity to increase government transparency and it chose not to. In fact, it made information from some corners of our federal government harder to access through this use of blanket secrecy exemptions. Will we ever know what the Auditor General discovers when she investigates the response of the Passport Office to the new rules being set out by the United States? Not if the rules of Bill C-2 apply.

Honourable senators, we must ask ourselves why this government has decided that only two of its officers of Parliament are deserving of treatment that is totally unique from the rest of government. Why should these officers be afforded special conditions in the Access to Information Act when so many respected and experienced experts claim it is unnecessary?

As you can tell, honourable senators, I am more upset by the rights that Bill C-2 took away from Canadians than by the few positive things it did. In the interest of accountability and transparency and in the interest of all Canadians, I ask you to review and to support Bill S-223.

Hon. Terry Stratton (Acting Deputy Leader of the Government): I move adjournment of the debate.

The Hon. the Speaker pro tempore: Before I put the question on the adjournment of debate, does Senator Hays have a question?

Hon. Daniel Hays: Honourable senators, I congratulate Senator Milne on the bill to address matters that should have been addressed when Bill C-2 was before Parliament.

We have a new Information Commissioner, and of course he will appear before the committee when this bill receives approval in principle. Does my honourable friend have any preliminary comment based on things that he might have said in terms of his position on this particular legislation?

Senator Milne: Unfortunately, I do not. I have not heard anything that our new Information Commissioner has said so far. I assume he is learning the ropes in his department. I do know that the report of the past Information Commissioner was the one around which the Conservative Party built its election platform. That is where all these original recommendations came from that were in their platform and that were not in Bill C-2.

[Translation]

Hon. Maria Chaput: Honourable senators, first I would like to congratulate Senator Milne for her remarks which, as usual, were well thought out and well presented.

I have a concern pertaining to the Commissioner of Official Languages, which I have already discussed with the honourable senator. I would like to make two comments. To a certain extent, I believe in transparency, I believe that we are all accountable and that we must answer to Canadians. However, I recall that the former Commissioner of Official Languages, Ms. Dyane Adam, was concerned about it. This week I spoke very briefly on the phone with the new commissioner, Mr. Graham Fraser, who also expressed some concerns.

I would like to ask the honourable senator to ensure that, when this bill is referred to committee, Mr. Graham Fraser has the opportunity to fully explain his concerns about this bill.

[English]

Senator Milne: Senator Chaput can be absolutely sure that the committee will be delighted to invite Mr. Fraser, our new Commissioner of Official Languages, because of course he has an integral role to play in all of this.

I must assure all senators that every single witness we had before the committee the last time around said that adequate protections were already in the act and that information that would cause personal injury of any sort would never be released.

Hon. Pierre Claude Nolin: Do I understand that those three clauses were part of amendments introduced in respect of Bill C-2 and that they were defeated in the House of Commons?

Senator Milne: The honourable senator is entirely correct.

(1540)

Senator Nolin: I thought there is a rule that a bill dealt with by Parliament cannot be reintroduced during the same session. I may be totally wrong, but has the honourable senator checked that?

Senator Milne: We have checked that, and this bill is worded in a different manner. However, it may well be worth looking into further. I had our Law Clerk draw this up for me, and I am quite certain that that aspect was taken very clearly into consideration.

Hon. Joan Fraser: In the honourable senator's remarks about the public interest override, I thought I heard her say that heads of departments, or some such phrase, would be able to disclose information if it were deemed to be in the public interest, even if otherwise it might not be disclosable.

In the Transport Committee's inquiry into the news media, we were also recommending that the public interest be a defence for other persons — journalists or whoever — who disclosed information; in other words, if the public interest in the disclosure of that information were to outweigh the public interest in keeping it secret. This arose, obviously, out of, among other things, the Juliet O'Neil case.

Perhaps the honourable senator can tell us whether her public interest disclosure requirements would apply to persons other than heads of departments, or did I misunderstand her?

Senator Milne: The override would apply, of course, only to heads of departments who were then in charge of everything that happened in that department. It would be within the department itself.

These public interest overrides are always subject to an injury test so that no one's personal information should ever be released. The Access to Information Act, as it was passed, though, removed that discretion — in some cases forever — that there will never be a public interest override in some instances.

On motion of Senator Stratton, debate adjourned.

[Translation]

Kyoto Protocol Implementation Bill

Second Reading—Debate Continued

On the Order:

Resuming debate on the motion of the Honourable Senator Mitchell, seconded by the Honourable Senator Trenholme Counsell, for the second reading of Bill C-288, to ensure Canada meets its global climate change obligations under the Kyoto Protocol.—(Honourable Senator Tkachuk)

Hon. Claudette Tardif (Deputy Leader of the Opposition): Honourable senators, as was the case with Senator Spivak yesterday, Senator Chaput would like to speak to Bill C-288 and we agree that for today, Senator Chaput will not be considered the second speaker pursuant to rule 37(3) and that she will speak for a period of 15 minutes.

Hon. Maria Chaput: Honourable senators, I believe that all of us as human beings have a responsibility to rigorously defend the environment and encourage thought and action on this matter. It is based on this personal conviction that I am speaking today at second reading stage of Bill C-288, to ensure that Canada meets its global climate change obligations under the Kyoto Protocol.

Last week, the House of Commons passed a Liberal Party motion to ensure that Canada meets its Kyoto Protocol obligations. This motion, introduced by Liberal MP Pablo Rodriguez, was passed in the House of Commons by a vote of 161 to 113. Parliament has voted and expressed its will.

This enactment is before us in the Senate, sponsored by our honourable colleague, Senator Grant Mitchell. I have decided to participate in the debate as a human being doing her part for the planet, as a Canadian, because we have to protect our country, and as a grandmother, because I want to leave my granddaughters a healthy environment and a promising future. To do so, we must have a comprehensive plan, and we need it now.

This is a blueprint for a society without borders that we need to consider, and it is important that Canada be a leader, that it adopt the best possible practices in terms of environmental protection and sustainable developments and that it encourage other countries to do likewise.

Based on the premise that the big picture is the Kyoto Protocol, I have tried to identify the steps taken by the previous Liberal government, resulting in its support of Kyoto. I had to first understand the process, before I could explain it.

Honourable senators will surely agree that, for any initiative of that magnitude, it is critical that there be a political will from the outset. The previous Liberal government had that political will and, over the years, it took very significant measures to protect the environment. Here are a few examples.

In its 2006 annual report, the David Suzuki Foundation states:

The most comprehensive initiative in sustainability planning in Canada is the passage of amendments to the Auditor General Act in 1995 to create the Commissioner of the Environment and Sustainable Develoment...

That amendment to the act forced federal departments to develop a plan for sustainable development, and to table before Parliament a triennial report on their strategies in that regard.

That amendment also mandated the Commissioner of the Environment to monitor the plans of the various federal departments and submit an annual report to the House of Commons.

Also, during those years, cabinet directives were issued to order federal departments to take environmental issues into consideration when developing their strategies and programs.

As a result, from 1997 to 2006, plans were prepared and tabled by the departments.

Environment Canada then developed a national series of environmental indicators to measure perennial progress regarding the environment. There were 13 categories of indicators, and each one included several sub-indexes. It should be noted that these indicators were updated on a regular basis and could be consulted online. I hope it is still the case.

At that point, Canada had the political will, a number of plans from federal departments and an initial series of performance indicators. I can tell you, honourable senators, that the previous Liberal government was on the right track. It is not fair to say it did nothing.

All good planning culminates in a series of laws. In Canada, a good part of the planning for environmental sustainability resulted in various laws on the environment.

All these environmental laws were very important because they provided the basis for establishing objectives, planning, monitoring and accountability with respect to sustainable development.

To complete its plan for sustainable development, the government then considered specific measures for priority sectors such as climate change, acid rain and smog, to name but a few. Canada adopted a number of measures, including the establishment of sectoral objectives under existing legislation.

Thus, Canada was working on an integrated strategy — with the federal and provincial governments and other partners — and this plan was going to put Canada on the right track.

Every federal department adopted its own strategy for sustainable development by establishing a list of measures. However, work related to achieving the objectives could not be completed without first establishing measurable targets under a master plan.

There was a measurable target — that provided by Kyoto. In 2002, the Liberal government decided to adopt the Kyoto Protocol. In 2005, the government had an initial comprehensive plan that included concrete measures to fight climate change. On February 16, 2005, it became an international leader in this area.

All efforts count for something, but both successes and failures have consequences. As indicated by the Commissioner of the Environment and Sustainable Development in her 2006 report:

Lastly, the federal government does not act alone. It has faced — and still faces — considerable challenges in bringing various players onside and in mobilizing concerted action.

The previous Liberal government laid a foundation on which the government in power can build and it is important that it do so.

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There are positive programs and practices already in place, which promise to produce good results. However, they must be recognized.

For example, some federal research projects and support to research networks have helped to gather knowledge on Canada's vulnerability to climate change in areas such as health, fisheries, forests, water resources, agriculture and coastal zones.

Important partnerships have also been established. Canada was at a historic juncture in its climate change file.

In her 2006 report, the Commissioner of the Environment indicated that a massive scale-up of efforts is needed. According to the commissioner, "Each area is important but the call for leadership applies to them all." Leadership must be bold and decisive, with clear direction to ensure that it is fully implemented.

Honourable senators, Canada has made commitments under the Kyoto Protocol. The federal government is ultimately responsible for entering into and respecting international agreements on climate change. Canadians must be able to rely on a government that will stay on course until lasting solutions can be found. The response will speak volumes of its commitment.

[English]

The previous Liberal government's plan laid the foundation for positive action to fight climate change in Canada, and we were on the path to meet our Kyoto commitments.

[Translation]

We were prepared to use our commitments under the Kyoto Protocol to encourage businesses and governments to be more innovative. The plan was not perfect, but the foundation was laid.

[English]

Upon coming into office, the Conservatives dismantled the plan. By any measure, a year has been wasted. The private member's bill gives the Conservative government 60 days to come up with their plan. We need to move quickly.

[Translation]

According to Mr. Suzuki:

... the same approach that was used so successfully to achieve fiscal sustainability [can be applied] to the environment. Successful implementation... simply requires government to place the same commitment on the environment that they place on finance.

[English]

The Kyoto Accord was ratified in Canada in December of 2002. The agreement became an international agreement on February 16, 2005. That means the worldwide strategy for tackling climate change was in effect for just one year while the Liberals were in power. In truth, the Liberals have championed the cause of global environmental action, and many positive steps were taken in that regard.

[Translation]

It is hard for some to admit that the Liberal government had a good plan. It is easier to say that its plan was unrealistic and that Canada cannot meet its commitments. That is unfair and untrue.

Honourable senators, you all know that plans change constantly. The secret to successful planning is to want to achieve the targets, consult one's partners on a regular basis and constantly adjust the targets. This holds true for the Kyoto Protocol as well. Every plan has unknown elements that call for flexibility and an effort by all those involved. This is especially true of Kyoto. To succeed, we have to set ambitious targets. That is my philosophy, and that is what Kyoto is about.

Lastly, government leadership is crucial to success. Obviously, I am not an expert in the field, but I believe that any program that can help us achieve the Kyoto targets is valuable and deserves to be studied, considered and included in the overall plan.

I would not want us to spend too much time playing politics when our planet's future and my grandchildren's future are at stake. We should not underestimate Canadians. I believe that they are ready for the measures the government will adopt to achieve the Kyoto targets.

[English]

The Hon. the Speaker pro tempore: Do honourable senators agree that this motion remains under the name of Senator Tkachuk?

Hon. Senators: Agreed.

Internal Economy, Budgets and Administration

Thirteenth Report of Committee Adopted

The Senate proceeded to consideration of the thirteenth report of the Standing Committee on Internal Economy, Budgets and Administration (Senate Estimates 2007-2008) presented in the Senate on February 28, 2007.—(Honourable Senator Furey)

Hon. Pierre Claude Nolin: Honourable senators, the committee has prepared a budget for 2007 and 2008 that amounts to $87,030,000. This represents an increase of $2,754,250, or 3.27 per cent over the 2006 and 2007 Main Estimates of $84,275,750.

The budget before honourable senators includes, in the committee's opinion, a realistic funding level needed to allow the Senate to meet its operational requirements for the coming year. The amount was arrived at after careful consideration of several funding proposals. A large portion of the total increase is for non-discretionary items such as annual increases in indemnities and salaries.

The budget also includes moderate increases in research and office expense budgets and in administration budgets to provide sufficient resources to meet workload increases.

Further details are available in the executive summary which honourable senators received yesterday. In order to allow us to pursue our valuable work, I ask honourable senators to support the adoption of this report. I am ready for any questions that honourable senators may have.

The Hon. the Speaker pro tempore: Is it your pleasure, honourable senators, to adopt the motion?

Motion agreed to and report adopted.

Social Affairs, Science and Technology

Budget and Authority to Engage Services—Study on Impact and Effects of Social Determinants of Health—Report of Committee Adopted

The Senate proceeded to consideration of the tenth report of the Standing Committee on Social Affairs, Science and Technology (budget—study on population health—power to hire staff), presented in the Senate earlier this day.—(Honourable Senator Eggleton)

Hon. Jim Munson: I move the adoption of the report.

The Hon. the Speaker pro tempore: Is it your pleasure, honourable senators, to adopt the motion?

Motion agreed to and report adopted.

Budget and Authority to Engage Services—Study on Current Social Issues of Large Cities—Report of Committee Adopted

The Senate proceeded to consideration of the eleventh report of the Standing Committee on Social Affairs, Science and Technology (budget—study on cities—power to hire staff), presented in the Senate earlier this day.—(Honourable Senator Eggleton)

Hon. Jim Munson: I move the adoption of the report.

The Hon. the Speaker pro tempore: Is it your pleasure, honourable senators, to adopt the motion?

Motion agreed to and report adopted.

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Legal and Constitutional Affairs

Papers and Evidence of Special Senate Committee on Senate Reform Referred to Committee

Hon. Donald H. Oliver, pursuant to notice earlier this day, moved:

That the papers and evidence received and taken and the work accomplished by the Special Senate Committee on Senate Reform for the study of the subject matter of Bill S-4, An Act to amend the Constitution Act, 1867, during the First Session of the Thirty-ninth Parliament, be referred to the Standing Committee on Legal and Constitutional Affairs for its study on Bill S-4, An Act to amend the Constitution Act, 1867.

Motion agreed to.

[Translation]

Transport and Communications

Committee Authorized to Meet During Adjournment of the Senate

Hon. Lise Bacon, pursuant to notice of February 28, 2007, moved:

That, pursuant to rule 95(3)(a), the Standing Senate Committee on Transport and Communications be authorized to sit on Tuesday, March 13, 2007, and Wednesday, March 14, 2007, even though the Senate may then be adjourned for a period exceeding one week.

Motion agreed to.

[English]

Adjournment

Leave having been given to revert to Government Notices of Motions:

Hon. David Tkachuk: Honourable senators, with leave of the Senate and notwithstanding rule 58(1)(h), I move:

That when the Senate adjourn today, it do stand adjourned until Tuesday, March 20, 2007, at 2 p.m.

The Hon. the Speaker pro tempore: Is leave granted, honourable senators?

Hon. Senators: Agreed.

Motion agreed to.

[Translation]

Budget Speech

Accommodation for Senators in Commons Gallery

The Hon. the Speaker pro tempore: Honourable senators, I want to remind the Senate that the budget speech will be given in the other place on Monday, March 19, 2007, at 4:00 p.m.

As in the past, senators must take their seats in the section of the gallery reserved for the Senate in the House of Commons. Seating will be first come, first served. As space is limited, this is the only way we can ensure that those senators who wish to attend can do so. Unfortunately, guests of senators cannot be accommodated.

The Senate adjourned until Tuesday, March 20, 2007, at 2 p.m.