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Debates of the Senate (Hansard)

1st Session, 39th Parliament,
Volume 143, Issue 91

Tuesday, May 1, 2007
The Honourable Noël A. Kinsella, Speaker


 

THE SENATE

Tuesday, May 1, 2007

The Senate met at 2 p.m., the Speaker in the chair.

Prayers.

SENATORS' STATEMENTS

Heritage

War Museum—Plaque on World War II Allied Bombing Raids on Germany

Hon. Gerry St. Germain: Honourable senators, veterans associations across the country are insulted by the message conveyed on a plaque which is displayed at the Canadian War Museum. These associations include members of the Toronto and Vancouver chapters of the Air Crew Association, the Royal Canadian Legion and the Air Force Association.

The plaque in question hangs in Bomber Command Hall and is entitled "An Enduring Controversy." The plaque describes the Second World War Allied bombing raids on Germany in such a way that the message stops just short of classifying the mission's result as criminal, and questions the morality of the bombing offensive.

Honourable senators, the message that accompanies this particular display is insulting to the integrity of the brave personnel who, in the face of extreme danger, carried out their orders successfully. This mission is said to have been an important turn in the road to Allied victory over the aggression of Nazi Germany, and it should be remembered as such.

These associations, which are directly insulted by the message in question, wrote to the CEO of the Canadian War Museum, Mr. Joe Geurts, to request a meeting in hopes of bringing their issues to a compromise. Mr. Geurts told the veterans that the museum had no intention of correcting the display, and therefore there was no need for a meeting.

Honourable senators, the war museum exists in large part because of the efforts of Canada's veterans and military personnel. To deny such a meeting shows a complete lack of respect to the veterans organizations.

Honourable senators will recall the sincere testimony of the three veterans associations at the April 18 meeting of the Subcommittee on Veterans Affairs. I believe a strong case was made to compel Mr. Geurts to reconsider his decision, and to meet and allow both sides of the dispute to consider all the facts and reach an agreement to settle this matter. I call on the CEO of the Canadian War Museum to reach out to these veterans associations and fix the plaque in question.

Honourable senators, other theatres of action have been put in question but yet not inscribed on a plaque. Why this one?

[Translation]

Citizenship and Immigration

Backlog of Files

Hon. Grant Mitchell: Honourable senators, Canada is known around the world as a country that offers asylum to people fleeing persecution and seeking a better life. We can all be very proud of that.

However, I am worried about the application backlog. People who have applied for permanent residence in Canada for humanitarian reasons have to wait a very long time for an answer from Immigration. This is not just an administrative problem. It is affecting many people in a very real way.

As an example, I would like talk about a young woman who recently got in touch with my office. She came to Canada as a refugee from Burundi at the age of 12. Now an adult, she has applied for permanent residence. The Department of Citizenship and Immigration has informed her that she can expect to wait 19 to 20 months before her application is examined, because the immigration services are currently looking at applications filed in 2005. This young woman would like to study at the University of Alberta, but she would have to pay tuition as a foreign student, which she cannot afford. As a result, she cannot start university.

I know that there are many even more striking examples of people who have had to put their lives on hold for too long while they wait for their application to be considered. I also know that our officials are working hard and doing their best to process the applications as carefully and expeditiously as possible. However, this is April 2007 and officials are just now looking at applications filed two years ago.

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Applicants have to live with a foot in two worlds while waiting for an answer. Canadians also lose out when they are deprived for too long of the contributions that new residents make.

The Government of Canada should look at the average time it takes Canadian immigration services to examine an application, especially one that is made for humanitarian reasons. If necessary, the government should hire additional resources so that Canada can maintain the international reputation it has so richly deserved to date.

[English]

Health

Report of the Trans Fat Task Force

Hon. Wilbert J. Keon: Honourable senators, scientific evidence clearly shows that trans fats in our diet increase the incidence of atherosclerotic disease, such as heart attacks and strokes. Trans fats occur naturally at low levels in ruminant-based foods, such as dairy products and meat, but the far more widespread industrially produced trans fats are the problem.

Last June, the Final Report of the Trans Fat Task Force, co-chaired by the Heart and Stroke Foundation of Canada and Health Canada, was submitted to the Minister of Health. It is a very thorough document that will be helpful to the government.

Concern over the negative effects of trans fats in our diet is not new. Canadian scientists first raised the issue in the late 1970s. In 1990, they recommended that levels of trans fats in the Canadian diet not increase. By the mid-1990s, as the task force tells us, ". . . researchers estimated that Canadians had one of the highest intakes of trans fats in the world." However, the task force also pointed out, and I quote:

Today, the situation is much improved. Mandatory nutrition labelling and heightened consumer awareness have prompted food manufacturers to reduce or eliminate trans fats from many processed foods sold in grocery stores.

Honourable senators, Canada became the first country in the world to regulate mandatory labelling of trans fats on pre-packaged foods. This, of course, has led many companies to work toward reducing trans fat levels in their products. Education and increased awareness are also playing a key role. According to the task force, the percentage of Canadians who are aware of the dangers of trans fats has risen from 45 per cent in 1988 to 79 per cent in 2005.

The issue of trans fats was also raised in the other place during its recent study on childhood obesity. Health Canada has been working with other federal departments and agencies to determine how best to address the problem. Of course, more needs to be done. It might be helpful for us to look closely at the example of Denmark provided by the task force. The following represent some of the lessons learned: There was no change in the taste, price or availability of foods that once contained high amounts of industrially produced trans fats; it was only after regulations were imposed that the Danes virtually eliminated trans fats from their food supply; multi-national restaurant chains have continued to operate in Denmark under the new regime; and there were some indications that a slightly higher limit on trans fats could have been equally effective in eliminating industrially produced trans fats, while eliminating the need to distinguish them from naturally occurring trans fats. That is something for us to think about in Canada. Honourable senators, the universe is unfolding as it should, albeit somewhat slowly, but I see no need for Senator Segal to go on permanent intravenous at this point.

Hon. Senators: Hear, hear.

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Journalists Lost in the Line of Duty

Hon. Joan Fraser: Honourable senators, I rise again this year to draw to your attention the number of journalists who were killed in 2006. As I do each year, I shall read out their names, compiled by the Committee to Protect Journalists. These are only the journalists that we are absolutely certain died because of their work. Dozens of other journalists were also killed last year, but we cannot be absolutely certain that it was because of their work.

The ones who we do know were killed because of their work, some of them died because they were covering conflicts, particularly in Iraq, but far more of them, the majority, were murdered. They were shot, beaten to death, stabbed, strangled and beheaded because they were working in the service of the free flow of information and ideas upon which free societies everywhere depend.

They were, in Afghanistan, Abdul Qodus, Karen Fischer, Christian Struwe; in China, Wu Xianghu; in Colombia, Gustavo Rojas Gabalo, Atilano Segundo Perez Barrios; in India, Prahlad Goala; in Indonesia, Herliyanto; in Iraq, Mahmoud Za'al, Atwar Bahjat, Adnan Khairallah, Khaled Mahmoud al-Falahi, Munsuf Abdallah al-Khaldi, Amjad Hameed, Muhsin Khudhair, Kamal Manahi Anbar, So'oud Muzahim al-Shoumari, Laith al-Dulaimi, James Brolan, Paul Douglas, Ali Jaafar, Ibrahim Seneid, Adel Naji al-Mansouri, Riyad Muhammad Ali, Mohammad Abbas Mohammad, Ismail Amin Ali, Abdel Karim al-Rubai, Safa Isma'il Enad, Ahmed Riyadh al-Karbouli, Hussein Ali, Abdul-Rahim Nasrallah al-Shimari, Noufel al-Shimari, Thaker al-Shouwili, Ahmad Sha'ban, Saed Mahdi Shlash, Naqshin Hamma Rashid, Muhammad al-Ban, Luma al-Karkhi, Nabil Ibrahim al-Dulaimi and Aswan Ahmed Lutfallah. All of those, 32, died in Iraq.

In Lebanon, Layal Najib; in Mexico, Bradley Will, Roberto Marcos Garcia; in Pakistan, Munir Ahmed Sangi, Hayatullah Khan; in the Philippines, Fernando Batul, George Vigo, Maricel Vigo; in Russia, Vagif Kochetkov, Anna Politkovskaya, Maksim Maksimov; in Somalia, Martin Adler; in Sri Lanka, Subramaniyam Sugitharajah; in Sudan, Mohammed Taha Mohammed Ahmed; in Turkmenistan, Ogulsapar Muradova; and in Venezuela, Jorge Aguirre.

Join me, honourable senators, in paying homage to them.

Ms. Sophia Rabliauskas

Congratulations on Winning Goldman Environmental Prize

Hon. Mira Spivak: Honourable senators, I rise to congratulate a dedicated and brave Manitoban, Sophia Rabliauskas of the Poplar River First Nation, this year's North American winner of the Goldman Environmental Prize.

Ms. Rabliauskas was chosen for the prestigious award for the work that she and her community are doing to protect one of the last large, unspoiled tracts of boreal forest from logging to the south and hydroelectric development to the north.

In a statement announcing her reward and the US $125,000 prize, the Goldman Foundation said:

Canada's vast boreal forest, which includes the lands of Poplar River First Nation, plays a vital role in mitigating the impacts of climate change. A leader of her Poplar River First Nation in the boreal region of Manitoba, Sophia Rabliauskas has for the past eight years worked with her people to secure interim protection of their 2 million acres of undisturbed forest land, three times the size of Rhode Island.

(1420)

Sophia Rabliauskas is one of only a handful of Canadians to win the Goldman Environmental Prize. Others are former Assembly of First Nations Grand Chief Matthew Coon Come, who received his reward in 1994 for his efforts to protect Cree wilderness in Northern Quebec from hydro-electric development.

To Ms. Rabliauskas and the 900 people of Poplar River, I extend my sincere thanks for your efforts in preserving the forest and offer my congratulations on your award. I am sure that all members of the Senate would agree with me.

Finance

Canada Social Transfer—Allocation of Cash Portion

Hon. Catherine S. Callbeck: Honourable senators, in the Conservative government's recent budget, the method of allocation for the cash portion of the Canada Social Transfer, CST, was changed. This transfer funds post-secondary education and social programs in our provinces. This change means that my home province of Prince Edward Island will receive a $7 increase this year for each Islander under the new calculations, while richer provinces will see much greater increases, such as $40 more per person in Ontario, and $102 more per person in Alberta.

The Conservative government has indicated it made this change in the spirit of equality, but nothing could be further from the truth. In 1977, when the social transfer was first brought into being, it was made up of two portions: a tax point transfer and a cash transfer. At that time, the federal government gave up 13.5 per cent of personal income tax and 1 per cent of corporate tax to each province.

As we all know, because the average income differs between regions of the country, these tax points have different values in different provinces. For example, right now, a tax point in Alberta is worth $310 per capita, while in Prince Edward Island it is worth $129.

Because of these differences in tax point value, the federal government created a correcting formula in 1977 for the cash allocation of the transfer to help level the playing field. The Conservative government has abandoned that equality mechanism. While it claims that giving each province $219 per person through the cash allocation treats each province fairly, when tax point values are taken into account the reverse is true.

When population is counted for, this change represents a CST cash increase in wealthy Alberta of more than $330 million, compared to little more than $1 million this year for Prince Edward Island. Given that the tax point transfer remains the same, it is obvious that this government's "per capita" approach to federal transfers ignores the regional economic disparities that exist in this country. This approach disproportionately benefits the richer provinces because of their higher average income. In the long term, this approach will only increase the gap between the rich and the poor in Canada.

Honourable senators, this drastic policy change can hardly be called fair and equitable. I call on the Conservative government to correct this inequity and disburse the cash allocation of the Canada Social Transfer in a manner that takes into account the regional economic disparities across the country.


ROUTINE PROCEEDINGS

Foreign Affairs and International Trade

Budget and Authorization to Engage Services—Study on Effectiveness of Canada's Promotion of Democratic Development Abroad—Report of Committee Presented

Hon. Peter A. Stollery, Chair of the Standing Senate Committee on Foreign Affairs and International Trade, presented the following report:

Tuesday, May 1, 2007

The Standing Senate Committee on Foreign Affairs and International Trade has the honour to present its

EIGHTH REPORT

Your Committee, which was authorized by the Senate on Tuesday, February 13, 2007, to examine and report on the effectiveness of Canada's promotion of democratic development abroad; the role of the Parliament of Canada in this context, respectfully requests that it be empowered to engage the services of such counsel and technical, clerical and other personnel as may be necessary for the purpose of its study.

Pursuant to section 2(1)(c) of Chapter 3:06 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,

PETER A. STOLLERY
Chair

(For text of report, see today's Journals of the Senate, Appendix A, p. 1401.)

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

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

(1425)

Budget—Study on Evacuation of Canadian Citizens from Lebanon—Report of Committee Presented

Hon. Peter A. Stollery, Chair of the Standing Senate Committee on Foreign Affairs and International Trade, presented the following report:

Tuesday, May 1, 2007

The Standing Senate Committee on Foreign Affairs and International Trade has the honour to present its

NINTH REPORT

Your Committee, which was authorized by the Senate on Tuesday October 24, 2006, to examine and report on the evacuation of Canadian citizens from Lebanon in July 2006, respectfully requests funds for fiscal year ending March 31, 2008.

Pursuant to section 2(1)(c) of Chapter 3:06 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,

PETER A. STOLLERY
Chair

(For text of report, see today's Journals of the Senate, Appendix B, p. 1407.)

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

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

[Translation]

The Criminal Code

Bill to Amend—First Reading

The Hon. the Speaker informed the Senate that a message had been received from the House of Commons with Bill C-48, to amend the Criminal Code in order to implement the United Nations Convention against Corruption.

Bill read first time.

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

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


QUESTION PERIOD

Public Works and Government Services

Review of Government Polling—Appointment of Daniel Paillé

Hon. Céline Hervieux-Payette (Leader of the Opposition): Honourable senators, my question is for the Minister of Public Works and Government Services. Can the minister describe for us the tendering process he used to award a contract worth up to a million dollars to Mr. Paillé? This is an easy enough question, and I hope we will get an answer.

Hon. Michael Fortier (Minister of Public Works and Government Services): Mr. Paillé was appointed by the government to fulfill the mandate we have already discussed in this chamber. This was a government appointment like any other government appointment.

Senator Hervieux-Payette: Honourable senators, I know that the government appoints people and awards contracts, but it seems to me that the minister has always assured us that he follows the rules for awarding contracts. Can the minister tell us what made it possible to award a contract without a tendering process?

Senator Fortier: Honourable senators, the government has the right to appoint individuals to positions or for inquiries like the one in question. We have appointed Mr. Paillé and given him a budget that, as I explained the other day, will probably be much less than a million dollars.

(1430)

We therefore allocated this budget to him to conduct a full review of the contracts in question between 1990 and 2003.

Senator Hervieux-Payette: I would really like to believe that the best person for the job has been appointed. However, I would like to paraphrase from the Treasury Board regulations.

[English]

A sole-source contract can only be given if one of the following conditions applies, and I would like to know which one. The first is one of pressing emergency in which delay would be injurious to the public interest; the second is the estimated expenditure does not exceed $25,000; the third, the nature of the work is such that it would not be in the public's interest to solicit bids, for example, in a sensitive security matter; and fourth, only one person is capable of performing the contract.

Can the minister tell us which category Mr. Paillé falls under and why there was no competitive process in awarding him a contract worth possibly $1-million, which I have doubts will be respected?

[Translation]

Senator Fortier: Senator Hervieux-Payette knows very well that the criteria she just listed apply to special circumstances, when the government acquires goods and services that are used to conduct all its major functions. Not all that long ago, when the Liberals were in power, they appointed Bob Rae as the head of a commission to investigate the circumstances surrounding the Air India tragedy. The Liberals appointed Mr. Rae and gave him a budget. This government's appointment of Mr. Paillé is in no way different from that situation. We appointed an individual to perform duties that we have often discussed in this chamber, that is, to investigate and examine polling contracts awarded by previous governments between 1990 and 2003. We gave him a budget. I would urge the senator to be cautious about the figures she suggests. She might regret saying that a certain figure was over $1 million, when that figure is actually lower. I would also remind the minister that the entire sum of $1 million would not go directly to Mr. Paillé, because he will be working with other people, who will help review the contracts. I therefore urge caution about suggesting figures.

[English]

Hon. Terry M. Mercer: Honourable senators, if the minister is certain he did not violate Treasury Board policy in the awarding of this contract, he must have used condition number four — and I will refresh his memory — that only one person is capable of performing the contract.

Did the minister therefore specify that the person, first, must be a devout separatist; two, have served as a member of a separatist cabinet; three, have imposed a referendum upon the Quebec electorate; four, have drafted a question to trick Quebecers into abandoning Canada; or five, have then refused to clarify his allegiance to Canada on Parliament Hill with and in the presence of the Minister of Public Works and Government Services? That would be the only way the minister could explain Mr. Paillé's contract.

Senator Fortier: As a matter of fact, the honourable senator is wrong. There are circumstances where the government has provided contracts and has appointed individuals in special circumstances. The honourable senator knows that probably better than many of us here, certainly more than I. Mr. Paillé has been appointed to this position and he will be paid a per diem, which is in accordance with the rules that govern these types of situations. He will have a staff and will obviously need to have people helping him to look at these contracts; it is no more complicated than that.

The Environment

Climate Change and Clean Air Proposal—Cost of Plan—Reductions in Emissions Levels

Hon. Grant Mitchell: Honourable senators, there is a pattern here. When the neo-conservative government likes something, investing in it does not create any economic harm; but when the government does not like something, investing in it creates economic mayhem. Of course in reality they argue economics is a smokescreen for ideology.

My first question to the Leader of the Government in the Senate is why, when the government puts billions of dollars into new tanks, new helicopters, bullets, guns and war, there is not an inkling of any economic harm, but when the government is forced to put money into the environment somehow, it protests that that will create economic havoc?

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Hon. Marjory LeBreton (Leader of the Government and Secretary of State (Seniors)): I thank the honourable senator for the question. I believe Senator Mitchell is referring to the appearance of the Minister of the Environment before the Senate committee where he outlined the costs of implementing the Kyoto Protocol based on a third-party financial analysis. We now find out this includes similar financial analyses done by the previous government which never saw the light of day.

Senator Mitchell: I am not actually referring to that. I am referring to the $8 billion the minister said that he was planning to spend when he made the announcement the next day. He said explicitly, "That will hurt the economy." When this neo-conservative government put $8 billion into the environment, why was there nothing but economic doom and gloom, but it can squeeze $30 billion out of the value of income trusts overnight with a single policy initiative and there is no suggestion that might hurt the economy let alone many Canadians? How does the honourable senator square those two things?

Senator Mercer: They do not care about seniors.

Senator LeBreton: I am trying to figure out whether the question relates to the environment or income trusts. It is clear that there has been much debate on the matter of income trusts. I read a report yesterday that indicated that many of these trusts are back at or near the value they were when the government made its decision on October 31.

I heard a senator refer to seniors. In my capacity as Secretary of State for Seniors, the matter of income trusts has not been drawing a lot of attention, which is a surprise to me. There are seniors in the position of having investments, and there are many seniors who are not. Many seniors have told me that their investment dealers diversified their portfolio. Any small losses they took on the income trust side were more than made up on the other side and, in fact, they are ahead of the game.

Senator Mitchell: That response proves that if the Leader of the Government listens at all she listens selectively. Al Gore, the head of the climate change group at the United Nations, David Suzuki and every credible environmentalist in this country has described the climate change program of this government as, among other things, a fraud designed to mislead Canadians. Does the government have any scientific studies or proof that would defend the position that the weak emission level reductions will achieve what the Kyoto science of climate change dictates must be achieved? Clearly it will not.

Senator LeBreton: Honourable senators, I took note of Senator Mitchell's comments about David Suzuki and the former vice-president of the United States. Obviously, Senator Mitchell was very much influenced by David Suzuki because clearly he did not read the government's environmental plan. The fact is that had the Liberal government been in office and a former vice-president of a Republican stripe criticized the government in the way Al Gore has, the honourable senator would be up on his feet demanding that the Americans not interfere with Canadian policy, and there would be eight-column headlines in The Toronto Star and The Globe and Mail making the same demands.

With regard to the environment, in the other place, at the first opportunity that members of the opposition had an opportunity to question the government, they did not. In fact, they did not ask any questions on the environment until well into Question Period, which tells me that we have a fair and balanced plan. For the first time a government has introduced a plan that will cut air pollution by one half by 2015, reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 20 per cent by 2020 and impose mandatory emissions and air pollution reduction targets on industry.

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This is not an easy thing to accomplish, but this government has taken these initiatives. If this were an easy thing to accomplish, it would have been done in the past.

Senator Mitchell: I have no doubt that former Senator Al Gore read the program, and I am sure it did not take him very long. That begs the question: Did the Leader of the Government in the Senate read that policy program? If she had, I will tell honourable senators right now she would not be defending it as she is today.

An Hon. Senator: Read it! Read it!

Senator LeBreton: Not only did I read it, I lived and breathed it for about six months.

Finance

Contributions of Previous Governments

Hon. Yoine Goldstein: Honourable senators, is the previous government to which the Leader of the Government in the Senate referred in her initial answer to the question the same Liberal government that delivered eight consecutive balanced budgets in a row creating a surplus that this government is now busy squandering?

Hon. Marjory LeBreton (Leader of the Government and Secretary of State (Seniors)): Honourable senators, Senator Goldstein must really get over the concerns that he has in regard to my comments about the previous government.

I had indicated in answer to a similar question that the previous government, I will acknowledge, did a very good job implementing an economic agenda because of the policies of the previous government on free trade and GST. By the way, the government of the Right Honourable Brian Mulroney inherited the worst debt of any government in the country's history from the Right Honourable Pierre Elliott Trudeau in 1984.

Senator Goldstein: The Progressive Conservative government to which the leader refers as the previous, previous government, in 1987-88 left us the largest debt that Canada ever had, and the debt was eliminated by the Liberal government in 1997-98, making Canada deficit-free for the first time in three decades. Is that the government about which she is speaking?

Senator LeBreton: I am not an economist, but even I can say this: The debt and deficit comparisons are always calculated as a percentage of GDP. The fact is that the largest deficit in the history of the country was left to the government that came into office in 1984 following the government of Pierre Elliott Trudeau. That is a fact; it is on the record.

I believe the debt consisted of 8.9 per cent of the GDP. Our government decreased that figure to the range of 4 per cent. There was a recession in 1991-92, and it went back up to over 5 per cent, but it was still three full percentage points below what it was when we came into government. That is a fact.

It is also a fact that when the government the honourable senator referred to took office in 1993, the first budget of then Finance Minister Paul Martin, the honourable senator may wish to go back and check the record, was roundly condemned and it was only after his second budget, when he implemented the budget of Don Mazankowski, that the economy started to turn around.

Senator Goldstein: Deficit as a function of GDP is a function not accepted by any economist. It is in absolute dollar terms that one determines what the deficit is.

My question remains: Did we inherit the largest deficit that Canada had ever had, terminate it and pay it down?

Senator LeBreton: That is not a fact.

Some Hon. Senators: Oh, oh.

The Environment

Climate Change and Clean Air Proposal—Cost of Plan—Reductions in Emissions Levels

Hon. Tommy Banks: With respect to my question to the Leader of the Government in the Senate, I wish to revert to the issue about the environment. I am shocked that in her response to Senator Mitchell's question the government leader did not give the 13-years-of-Liberal-inaction speech.

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Senator Tkachuk: Right on. She should have.

Senator Banks: We have learned that that is the wind-up doll response.

The fact is that anyone who has paid the slightest attention to this issue — and some people should — knows that between the years 1990 and 2004 the greenhouse gas or GHG intensity of emissions in this country went down by 13.8 per cent — nearly 14 per cent — a figure that, if it is reached in the next little while, will be trumpeted by her as a triumph, and it would be.

During the time of that reduction in intensity of GHG, the Conservatives insisted that there was not a problem that had to be dealt with, that the science around the issue was uncertain. The Conservatives continually expressed vehement opposition, if not vitriolic opposition, to any such action being taken.

We continually hear the Leader of the Government in the Senate characterize the efforts that led to that 13.8 per cent reduction in greenhouse gas intensity as a failure to act. Since the leader characterizes those Liberal programs that led to intensity reductions of nearly 14 per cent during those times as a failure to act, how can she explain the present continued use of a criterion that she, in one moment, dismisses as inaction and, in the next moment, describes as innovative?

Hon. Marjory LeBreton (Leader of the Government and Secretary of State (Seniors)): I do not know how one answers a question like that. I am not sure what the honourable senator is basing his calculations and figures on.

At the beginning of the 1990s, when Prime Minister Mulroney was in office, a worldwide recession was under way. Nevertheless, Mr. Mulroney recently received the award, given by a group including Elizabeth May, no less, of all people, as being the greenest Prime Minister.

I hasten to mention Elizabeth May because I am wondering if the party opposite will distance themselves from her comments in London, Ontario, when she talked about our position on the environment representing a grievance worse than Neville Chamberlain's appeasement of the Nazis. I would hope the leadership of the Liberal Party would be distancing themselves from that kind of a remark.

With regard to the senator's question, our environmental plan is a balanced plan. We are very happy to note that the initial reaction and response of Canadians to the plan has been good. We are trying to involve Canadians in resolving the problem. One of the things Canadians are particularly pleased about is the fact that we are dealing not only with greenhouse gas reductions but also air pollution — something that was sorely missing in the never-implemented plans of the previous government.

Senator Banks: They were implemented. I happen to agree with the government leader's opinion of Ms. May's comparison of the Conservatives environmental plan with Neville Chamberlain. Ms. May's comments were a bit over the top, if not a lot over the top.

I want to answer the leader's question with respect to the source of my figures. My figures come from the National Inventory Report, an Environment Canada publication, to which I commend her attention. It showed that in terms of megatons expressed in billions of dollars of GDP, in the five years before 1995, the intensity reductions amounted to 0.3 per cent; between 1995 and 2000, the reductions amounted to 8.9 per cent; between 2000 and 2003, they amounted to 11.5 per cent; and in 2004 they amounted to 13.8 per cent.

(1450)

Those were real reductions in intensity. My question has to do with how it is possible that a program that the Conservatives criticized as having been inaction, using a criterion of intensity on which we now agree was not effective, is now regarded as being acceptable, and is a good idea. It is not a good idea and we need to do something different and we were hopeful the Conservative government might do that.

Senator LeBreton: All I can say, Senator Banks, is that the government and the Minister of the Environment have embarked on a plan to reduce greenhouse gases and pollution that is realistic, fair, and balanced. The plan takes into consideration the real needs to deal with climate change and pollution issues. It also is mindful of the impact on our economic growth. The first impressions and reports, and some of the commentary from people who are knowledgeable, is that this plan is a fair and balanced approach. Even Buzz Hargrove spoke of the importance of putting together a plan that deals with the issue, but does not endanger the jobs of hard-working Canadians.

With regard to the specific question on intensity, I will take it as notice.

Industry

Increase in Price of a Phone Call

Hon. Francis William Mahovlich: This question is to the Leader of the Government in the Senate. The leader talks of economic growth from the Conservative government. Does she mean to tell us that a 25-cent phone call goes up to 50 cents?

Hon. Marjory LeBreton (Leader of the Government and Secretary of State (Seniors)): I would ask the honourable senator to put that in relation to what hockey players of his calibre were paid when he played hockey versus what they are paid today.

Foreign Affairs and International Trade

Closure of Consulates

Hon. James S. Cowan: To date, this government's foreign policy has consisted almost exclusively of closing Canadian consulates in countries like Japan, Italy and Russia at the expense of Canadian businesses that rely on those consulates to build markets for their products and Canadian citizens that use their services on a daily basis.

The deputy minister of Foreign Affairs and International Trade Canada has said that his department is "at risk of death by a thousand cuts." To the Leader of the Government in the Senate, why is this government slashing Canadian representation abroad at the expense of Canadian businesses and our reputation in the world?

Hon. Marjory LeBreton (Leader of the Government and Secretary of State (Seniors)): I thank the honourable senator for the question. I think that question is a little alarmist. I do not believe that the actions of the government inhibit, in any way, the ability of our government and the various companies in Canada that are working and doing business abroad from continuing to do their good work.

I am not aware of the comments of the deputy minister of foreign affairs. I will find out the context or the intent of the remarks the honourable senator claims to have, and take that part of the question as notice. I want to clarify what was said.

(1455)

Senator Cowan: Just to ease the research burden on the Leader of the Government, it was a speech by former Deputy Minister Peter Harder, which he gave last fall to retired heads of missions. The report I saw was a Canadian Press report in the April 16 issue of the Regina Leader-Post.

The defence that is given is that there is a consolidation of missions. I suggest that consolidating our presence abroad assumes that Canadian interests in Osaka, for example, can be serviced from Tokyo. This is unacceptable. It is like saying to citizens and businesses in my home city of Halifax, or in Calgary, that all of their needs can be met out of Toronto.

The previous government recognized that more Canadians are travelling and living overseas, requiring more help internationally, and they added 12 new consulates over the course of their mandate. To quote former Deputy Prime Minister John Manley:

The time has come to reinvest in Foreign Affairs after nearly a decade of budget surpluses. This is clearly a federal role. This is not overlapping with the provinces. This is not overlapping with the municipalities. This is the role of the federal government, to give a voice to Canadian interests. International affairs is our job. Give more muscle to our diplomats so that we can play the role that the world needs us to play.

Why does this government continue to demonstrate that it simply does not care about the needs of Canadians living and doing business abroad?

Senator LeBreton: That is simply not true. The government cares greatly — the events of the last year have proven it — about Canadians who are travelling or living abroad.

With regard to the comments of the former Deputy Minister of Foreign Affairs, I am still not aware of the context in which he made them, so I would not want to prejudge the intent. I would have to see in what context they were made.

With regard to the comments of former Deputy Prime Minister Manley, I remember distinctly that he was very critical of his own government in terms of their commitment to our obligations to the world. I cannot quote him directly, but I will paraphrase; he used a comment such as Canada cannot expect to be at the table and have a full voice and then head to the washroom when the bill is delivered.

The Environment

Climate Change and Clean Air Proposal—Cost of Plan—Reductions in Emissions Levels

Hon. Anne C. Cools: A few moments ago in her responses, I understood very clearly that the honourable minister and the Government of Canada were in a state of dissatisfaction or unhappiness with what Mr. Al Gore had to say. I gathered that, but if I am wrong, I would be happy to be corrected.

I am wondering if the government has any intention of acting on this unhappiness, and whether the government, probably in the person of the minister, has any plans to call in the American ambassador for an explanation?

Hon. Marjory LeBreton (Leader of the Government and Secretary of State (Seniors)): Honourable senators, I did not express any unhappiness about what Mr. Gore said. I simply said that if he had said those words in another context, there would have been a completely different result.

I am neither unhappy nor happy about what Mr. Gore said; I have no emotions other than that I am not surprised.

[Translation]

Delayed Answers to Oral Questions

Hon. Gerald J. Comeau (Deputy Leader of the Government): Honourable senators, I have the honour to present in this chamber a delayed answer to an oral question raised by Senator Grafstein on March 21, 2007, on Budget 2007, support for centres of excellence, and an answer to an oral question raised by Senator Segal on March 21, 2007, on Zimbabwe and the breaking of diplomatic relations and recalling the ambassador.

Budget 2007

Support for Centres of Excellence

(Response to question raised by Hon. Jerahmiel S. Grafstein on March 21, 2007)

Canada's Conservative Government recognizes that research plays a vital role in improving the lives of Canadians.

Budget 2007 invests significant new resources to support basic research, cutting-edge research infrastructure, and advanced skills training at our universities, colleges, and research hospitals.

Budget 2007 provides funding to support leading Centres of Excellence that position Canada for global leadership with an investment of $350 million over this and the next two years. This includes immediate funding for several Centres of Excellence in health sciences, including:

  • The Brain Research Centre at the University of British Columbia;
     
  • The Li Ka Shing Knowledge Institute at St. Michael's Hospital in Toronto;
     
  • The Heart and Stroke Foundation Centre for Stroke Recovery:
     
  • The Montreal Neurological Institute at McGill University;
     
  • The National Optics Institute in Quebec City; and
     
  • The Life Science Research Institute in Halifax.

Budget 2007 provides funding for several other research initiatives, including:

  • $85 million per year through the granting councils for research targeted towards key priorities, including $35 million per year for the Canadian Institutes for Health Research (CIHR).
     
  • $35 million over two years and $27 million per year thereafter to support an additional 1000 graduate students through the Canada Graduate Scholarship program. Four hundred of these scholarships will be provided to students pursuing advanced degrees in the health and medical sciences.
     
  • $100 million in 2006-07 to Genome Canada to extend promising research projects and sustain funding for genome centres.
     
  • $30 million in The Rick Hansen Man in Motion Foundation in 2006-07, to help Canadians living with spinal cord injuries.
     
  • $510 million to the Canada Foundation for Innovation (CFI) to support the modernization of research infrastructure at Canadian universities, hospitals, and non-profit research organizations.

Reaction to these Budget 2007 measures has been overwhelmingly positive. The Association of Universities and Colleges of Canada lauded Budget 2007's research investments, noting "this kind of support for the next generation of Canadian researchers will help launch exciting new ideas and innovation across the country."

Bonnie Patterson, president of Trent University, added that Budget 2007 "takes important steps to invest in research excellence at Canadian universities." Queen's University also congratulated our Government for a Budget that "supports the critical role universities play in a knowledge-based economy."

Even more, Polytechnics Canada applauded Budget 2007's emphasis on creating more research opportunities: "we're pleased that the government recognizes the need to invest in applied research and training."

Finally, Canada's Research-Based Pharmaceutical Companies praised Budget 2007's "support for initiatives that will promote innovation in life sciences in Canada", further adding it would "help keep our best and brightest minds in Canada."

Clearly, Canada's Conservative Government understands the importance of promoting a knowledge and research-based economy, and is advancing tangible support in that respect in Budget 2007.

Foreign Affairs

Zimbabwe—Breaking of Diplomatic Relations and Recalling Ambassador

(Response to question raised by Hon. Hugh Segal on March 21, 2007)

Severing diplomatic relations with Zimbabwe at this time would not be an effective way to advance Canadian objectives. It would mean that Canada would not be in a position to maintain its support for the citizens and civil society of Zimbabwe, which need it more than ever. They want Canada to stay and work with them. Canada's withdrawal from Zimbabwe would prevent it from providing Canadians in the country with consular services. It would also deprive Canada of invaluable information on developments there which is essential in shaping Canadian policy and helping Canada to influence events. No country has broken diplomatic relations with Zimbabwe.

With regard to the suggestion that Canada call its Ambassador to Zimbabwe home for consultations, the Minister can assure you that Canada has conveyed clearly and regularly to Zimbabwe its great concerns about developments in that country, including the recent repression of opposition supporters and others. At this difficult time, Canada's Ambassador can be most effective by being on the ground in Zimbabwe, where she can monitor and advise the Government of Canada on the fast evolving developments in the country, and continue to meet with protagonists from the civil society and the government and convey Canadian messages. Her presence also allows her to work with other members of the international community, including countries of the Southern African Development Community, to help address the crisis of governance in Zimbabwe.

Answer to Order Paper Question Tabled

Natural Resources—Greenhouse Gas Emissions

Hon. Gerald J. Comeau (Deputy Leader of the Government) tabled the answer to Question No. 27 on the Order Paper—by Senator Spivak.


(1500)

[English]

ORDERS OF THE DAY

Canada Elections Act

Bill to Amend—Message from Commons—Disagreement with Senate Amendment—Motion for Non-Insistence Upon Senate Amendment Adopted

On the Order:

Resuming debate on the motion of the Honourable Senator LeBreton, P.C., seconded by the Honourable Senator Comeau:

That the Senate do not insist on its amendment to Bill C-16, to amend the Canada Elections Act; and

That a Message be sent to the House of Commons to acquaint that House accordingly.

Point of Order

Hon. Anne C. Cools: Honourable senators, I raise a point of order and it is on the nature of the question that is before the house. Last Thursday, April 26, I rose and asked for clarification. I will read from Debates of the Senate, April 26, 2007, at page 2204:

Perhaps His Honour could provide some clarification on this minor point. I was under the impression that bills are not returned to the Senate and that only messages moved back and forth between the Houses. I notice that the word "return" was used in the April 25, 2007, Journals of the Senate at page 1378. It says: "A message was received from the House of Commons to return Bill C-16, an Act to amend the Canada Elections Act." There is something very wrong with that because the bill is not back in this place.

I was then distracted by Mr. Robert.

Honourable senators, I found the message from the Commons to be awfully odd. Could honourable senators express an opinion on this? The message is from the Commons dated Tuesday, April 24, 2007. It reads:

ORDERED

That the Clerk do carry back this Bill to the Senate and acquaint their Honours that this House disagrees with their amendment.

It is signed by the Clerk of the House of Commons but I cannot read the handwriting. Further, the message does not mention which bill. The Speaker of the Senate, Senator Kinsella, received this message on April 25, 2007, and I quote him in the Debates of the Senate at page 2182:

Honourable senators, I have the honour to inform the Senate that a message has been received from the House of Commons to return Bill C-16, to amend the Canada Elections Act, and to acquaint the Senate that the House of Commons disagrees with the amendment made by the Senate to the bill.

Honourable senators, when shall this message be taken into consideration?

My point of order last Thursday, honourable senators, was that bills are not returned and they do not move back and forth between the two Houses. I noticed that when the Leader of the Government in the Senate was speaking on Thursday, she kept making statements to the effect that the bill had gone through twice.

Honourable senators, there is something very wrong with this message. There is nothing in it that indicates which bill the House is talking about. I do not know if there was additional supporting documentation. Based on this message and on the Senate records, we do not have the message before the house. Rather, the question before the house is a bill. Which bill? It does not say.

It has been my understanding all these years that messages move back and forth but bills do not. In other words, it is never open to senators or members of this House to amend such a bill because the bill is not before them. The whole bill is not open to the Senate for consideration. I do not know whether it is carelessness or an oversight but this message from the Commons is not in order. Do other honourable senators have an opinion to express on this?

When His Honour Senator Kinsella said that he had the honour to inform the Senate that a message had been received from the House of Commons returning Bill C-16, I do not know how he could have known that it was Bill C-16 because the message, as I have read it, does not mention Bill C-16. Was it accompanied by a copy of Bill C-16? I do not know. It does not say. However, I am clear that Bill C-16 is simply not there and that the matter before the Senate is the message that the House disagrees with the amendment of the Senate to some unidentified bill. I do not know how to resolve this. I am not meaning to put His Honour in a difficult position but, as I have said time and time again, it would be so easy to proceed properly. I do not understand why the government insists on putting itself at risk again and again by operating in such a sloppy fashion. Perhaps the first thing this place should do is ascertain that this message is about Bill C-16 and that we are "in the right ballpark," as they say in the vernacular. Perhaps the government should respond.

The Hon. the Speaker: Honourable senators, I have heard enough to satisfy that I am able to issue a ruling on the point of order that has been raised by the Honourable Senator Cools. I thank her for raising it because there must be clarity in these matters.

When a message like this is read by the Speaker, it is accompanied by the bill, and in this case, Bill C-16. The record of the journey of the bill is contained in the latter pages attached to it. As Senator Cools rightly pointed out, on April 24, 2007, the document signed by Ms. Audrey O'Brien, Clerk of the House of Commons, ordered that the Clerk do carry this bill to the Senate and acquaint their honours that the House disagrees with their amendment. The message, honourable senators, which I read, had Bill C-16 attached to it, thereby ensuring that this house is in full possession of the bill. The House disagreed with the amendment that this honourable house had made. The motion in reply was made by the Leader of the Government in the Senate and that motion is before the house. All of this is quite in order, and that is my ruling.

Hon. Gerald J. Comeau (Deputy Leader of the Government): Question!

[Translation]

Hon. Céline Hervieux-Payette (Leader of the Opposition): Honourable senators, before we vote, I would like to comment on this bill.

[English]

The motion before the house was introduced by the government leader last week. It is a motion that responds to the message received in the Senate from the other place on April 25, 2007, concerning the amendment on this side to Bill C-16. That message simply said:

[Translation]

The House of Commons disagrees with the amendment made by the Senate to this Bill.

Generally, when the House of Commons disagrees with amendments proposed by the Senate, it sends us a message about the rejection explaining the reasons. This was the case when we amended Bill C-2 on accountability. We received a message from the other place explaining that some of our amendments would be accepted while others would be rejected.

[English]

In the message on Bill C-2, reasons were provided for rejecting the Senate amendments. In this case with Bill C-16, the other place has provided no information whatsoever to explain why it finds the Senate amendment unacceptable. This is certainly not in keeping with past practice. I can only conclude that this so-called new Government of Canada is becoming so arrogant as it changes into the old Government of Canada that it does not feel the need to explain anything to anyone.

[Translation]

We are offended that the government, in its message sent from the other place, did not mention the reasons for its rejection of our amendment, which was supported by our Liberal Party colleagues.

[English]

Although I do not believe that we should hold up our final verdict on Bill C-16 any longer, I do believe that an important point needs to be made.

Motion in Amendment

Hon. Celine Hervieux-Payette (Leader of the Opposition): Consequently, I move:

That the motion be amended by adding after the word "accordingly," the following:

[Translation]

However, the Senate expresses its regret that the House of Commons provided no sound reasons to refuse the Senate amendment to Bill C-16, which was clearly in line with the objective of the Bill.

This objective was what led my colleagues to support the bill, provided these amendments were made.

I ask that we add this motion in amendment to the government motion in order to show that we do not wish to be treated in such a cavalier way.

(1510)

[English]

The Hon. the Speaker: Honourable senators, is it your pleasure to adopt the motion in amendment?

Hon. Lowell Murray: Honourable senators, I certainly hope this amendment does not represent a widespread failure of nerve on the part of my friends opposite. We shall see. I, for one — and I hope one or two of my colleagues in this corner, for others — will give them the opportunity to vote on this.

As honourable senators know, I expressed my opposition to the original amendment, made by Senator Joyal, which has been sent back to us by the House of Commons. I shall vote against the amendment proposed by the Leader of the Opposition, and if I had the opportunity, I would vote against the bill, purely and simply.

I regret that I had to leave early last Thursday to attend a conference at the University of Waterloo and was therefore not here for much of the debate on Senator LeBreton's motion. However, I associate myself entirely with the speech delivered on that occasion by Senator Atkins.

There is no need for this bill, and my honourable friends opposite know there is no need for this bill. They also know that it constrains unnecessarily the freedom of a Prime Minister to advise dissolution and to advise the issuance of a writ for elections on a particular day. I am as opposed to this as I am to other bits and pieces of the American congressional system being imported into Canada where they serve no useful purpose.

I was thinking about this issue this morning, and I keep asking myself the following questions: What is the evil that this bill is intended to correct? When, in living memory, has the prerogative of the Prime Minister with regard to dissolution been abused?

Hon. Hugh Segal: Mackenzie King.

Senator Murray: Senator Segal answers, "Mackenzie King." I let my mind wander over a period of more than 70 years, which is roughly the number of years that I have been on this earth.

Senator Segal: Before my time.

Senator Murray: While my political memory does not begin on the day of my birth, I recall that on four occasions a Prime Minister has waited for almost five years before calling an election: Prime Minister Bennett, in the middle of a recession; Prime Minister King, in the middle of a war; Prime Minister Trudeau, in 1978-1979, because of an apprehended fiscal crisis; and Prime Minister Mulroney, in 1993, because of the Charlottetown referendum in 1992.

No fair person could say that the prerogative had been abused.

Senator Segal: What about a precipitous fall of the government?

Senator Murray: My friend brings up the King-Byng crisis. Mr. King was attempting to avoid a motion of confidence he was facing in the House of Commons. The Governor General refused dissolution and called upon Mr. Meighen. The problem was that Mr. Meighen could not maintain the confidence of the House and Parliament was dissolved for a general election.

Senator Segal: The statute prevented King from even trying to precipitously end that House of Commons.

Senator Murray: No. My friend is absolutely wrong about that. Prime Minister King was facing a motion of confidence that he was about to lose. If he had not been able to go to the Governor General and seek dissolution, he would have been defeated anyway, and there would have been an election. There is no parallel there at all.

On what occasions has a Prime Minister abused the prerogative by calling an election too soon? I have looked at all the cases, going back to 1953. I shall not take honourable senators through them, but in virtually every case, certainly in those cases where there was a majority government, the elections were held within either a month or two before the fourth anniversary of the previous election or within a month or two afterwards. I think it was three months in the case of the 2000 election.

Aside from minority situations where a government was defeated, or in the case of Mr. Pearson who decided, after a heavy legislative history to that session and a heavy agenda before him, that it was appropriate to call an election and seek a new mandate, elections have been held at four- or five-year intervals, and there is no cause, in my view, for complaint. In most cases, in my living memory, there has not been any complaint about a premature election having been called.

I do not see the evil that Bill C-16 is intended to correct, and I do not see the good that will come of a fixed election date in this country. I would vote against it, and would have voted against it had there been a standing vote on the bill at third reading.

I intend to vote. Without taking honourable senators more extensively through the historical record, which I could do, I simply say that I shall vote against the amendment, because I was against the original amendment of Senator Joyal. I shall vote against the amendment in order to express my opposition to the entire bill.

Some Hon. Senators: Hear, hear.

Hon. Anne C. Cools: Honourable senators, if the whole bill is before us, it would mean that we can move amendments to different clauses of the bill. I am still not convinced that the entire bill is before us and is open to us for amendment. I am not satisfied with that at all.

In any event, I should like to sympathize in a way with the opposition — although it is only sympathy — with the fact that they seem to be attempting to avoid a provocation from the government. We have all read recent media stories about how the government wants to provoke its own defeat in a motion of confidence.

Senator Mercer: Not any more!

Senator Cools: It does not matter to me one way or the other, but if that is the reason for the opposition's rather mild stance, it is their stance and not mine. As I said a few days ago, when anyone — in this instance, the Leader of the Government in the Senate, being the minister — comes to this place and asks the house to reverse itself on a position that it had taken just a few weeks ago, in other words, to reverse its decision to alter its judgment and to adopt a contrary one, that, to my mind, is a step that should rarely be taken. When asked for, it should usually be declined, unless an exceptional reason or argument is put before the house.

My position has not changed since then. I remain fundamentally opposed to the whole initiative and to the manner of the prosecution of the bill through both Houses, and now again.

(1520)

I wish to add to what Senator Murray said a few moments ago about Mr. Byng and Mr. King. Unfortunately that little episode in our history is not sufficiently well understood. Senator Murray is absolutely correct. When Mr. Mackenzie King, Prime Minister at the time, appealed to Lord Byng to dissolve the House, Mr. King was, at that point, facing a motion of censure. Frankly, Lord Byng was correct. The prevailing opinion at the end of the day — there are some exceptions such as Mr. Keith, and so on — was that, despite the fact that Mr. King won an election not long thereafter, constitutionally, Lord Byng was correct. Lord Byng essentially said to Mr. King that the Prime Minister could not appeal to His Majesty in such a way as to put His Majesty into conflict with the people of the country: That is, to put the Governor General into a position of conflict with the House of Commons. Apparently what Lord Byng also said to Mr. King was that that he had to face the judgment of the House of Commons and that the King's dissolution could not be called upon to avoid that judgment of the House. That principle stands as true today as it did then.

That kind of thing would not even be possible with this bill because what this bill attempts to do does not limit prime ministers for prime ministers will be beneficiaries of this sort of thing. What it is doing is limiting the public, the citizen. That is my concern with Bill C-16. This bill and this government are doing it again and again. This government is tampering with the most fundamental relationship of all: The relation between subject and sovereign or between citizen and Queen. That relationship is so fundamental. This bill bothers me deeply and I will not support these measures.

Honourable senators, I spoke about this matter some days ago. I referred to the whole notion of the elective franchise. I will try one more time, although it seems here that it does not matter how much argument is brought forth: The government does not listen. I want to explain one more time the importance of this pillar of our Constitution, which is the fact that the citizen, or the subject, has a right to an election any time the circumstances allow it. The notion is that never again will the citizens, the subjects of these lands, need to resort to arms to relieve themselves of despotic governments. I want to put this notion on the record again. Sometimes, repetition makes sense.

I want to read from Sir William Blackstone, Commentaries on the Laws of England, four books. I will read from book 2, in particular, Mr. Justice Sharswood's edition at page 36, Franchises, which states:

Franchise and liberty are used as synonymous terms: and their definition is, a royal privilege, or branch of the king's prerogative, subsisting in the hands of a subject. Being therefore derived from the crown, they must arise from the king's grant; or, in some cases, may be held by prescription, which, as has been frequently said, presupposes a grant.

Honourable senators, let us understand what the elective franchise is. This peculiar British constitutional notion tells us that the phenomenon of representation and the citizens of this land being licensed, so to speak, or authorized by the Royal Prerogative of his majesty to vote, is the finest expression of representation. At the end of the day, representation in the British sense was, and is, a delegated monarchical phenomenon. It is in that process of representation that Her Majesty the Queen or the King joins with his or her subjects to be able to perform this grand task of representation.

I want to say that again: Representation is, of itself, the delegated monarchy of a nation. I call it one of the pillars of the system because that is where the notion of the sovereignty of the people comes from, as the sovereignty of Parliament. It is all borrowed from the sovereignty of the sovereign.

Honourable senators, this notion is such a fundamental pillar of this entire system that I shudder and I am afraid that it is being altered and tampered with. Once this is tampered with, it means that the subject citizen is no longer at the centre of the Constitution.

Perhaps, honourable senators, we need to wonder why this government seems to want this change. One of the most shocking and disappointing elements of this government is that I see a constant expenditure of many millions of dollars for what I consider to be for no good reason at all. There is no need whatsoever for this bill.

For the sake of argument, if one or two prime ministers have been errant, then what is needed are stronger caucuses to confine and constrain prime ministers because prime ministers have enlarged their jurisdiction over the years. It was not Lord Acton, but one of those lads who said that it took 700 years to take certain powers away from a king and 50 years to give them to a prime minister. That this fundamental pillar of the Constitution has been altered, like so many profound aspects of it, by means of a simple bill, and on the say-so of one or two lawyers, is even more bothersome. Let us make no mistake: This bill is a fundamental and profound alteration to the Constitution of this land. These changes move the citizen from the centre of the Constitution. The Constitution has been thought to have two centres: the citizen, or the subject, and the sovereign. I have a lot of problems with the slow, sure and persistent moving of the position of prime minister into the centre of the Constitution, especially when we consider that the prime minister has no legal existence.

Honourable senators, I want to express my concern with the constant reference at all times to prime ministers holding elections. I find this to be bothersome. These assertions by Prime Ministers are relatively recent in our history.

In 1979 — and I remember it vividly — Mr. Clark announced, following his defeat in the House of Commons, that he was going to the Governor General to request the dissolution of Parliament. Until recently, no prime minister ever made statements to the effect that he or she will have an election, hold an election or call an election. I put those questions to the Leader of the Government here and I found six responses that were singularly distressing.

(1530)

To return to the Prime Minister's statements made just outside the Senate chamber, I said the last time I spoke that I found that press conference to be singularly disturbing. It is understood that when a High Court is in session, with the mace on the table, all reverence should be granted. I do not believe that in any other court in this land, not the Supreme Court of Canada or the Superior Court of any province would anyone hold a press conference right outside the court's door. That has shocked me deeply, and I still have not recovered from it. I was always taught that the mace on the table is the symbol of the royal dignity and that the entire House is to be accorded respect.

On Thursday, December 14, 2006, the Prime Minister answered a reporter saying:

In terms of an election, you know, I give you the same answer I've given all along. I've got to say I really like this job. I want to keep it a while. I want to get some things done. I have no reason to call an election. The public's not asking for an election. I don't know what the reason for an election would be.

The Prime Minister then went on to talk about Mr. Dion. A few sentences later, in speaking about his Bill C-43, he said:

No, that is not true. If we tried to establish mandatory elections for senators, it may be there would be a problem with a constitutional amendment. But the bill proposed by the government simply gives the Prime Minister the power to consult citizens before proposing names to the Governor General. Holding consultations in an election or proposing names are decisions for the Prime Minister and ultimately for the Governor General. I think that the real decision is to hold an election. I prefer to have senators with a democratic mandate, but I think that if a prime minister holds an election —

— there it is again —

— it is politically necessary to accept the result.

I hear this again and again, honourable senators. Maybe this is an era of weak Governors General. Some have been chosen for weakness. Empires built on weakness usually falter.

I believe that the initiative in Bill C-16 is wrong. I would like to have seen forceful opposition to it. I do not know where all these changes are going, because we are receiving them piecemeal. No one will tell us where they are leading.

Honourable senators, elections belong to the citizens of the land. That is the way they share in governance and play their part in what we call the monarchy.

Some Hon. Senators: Question!

The Hon. the Speaker: Are honourable senators ready for the question?

Some Hon. Senators: Question!

The Hon. the Speaker: The question is on the amendment moved by the Honourable Senator Hervieux-Payette. Is it your pleasure, honourable senators, to adopt the motion?

Some Hon. Senators: Yes.

Some Hon. Senators: On division.

Motion in amendment agreed to, on division.

The Hon. the Speaker: We are now on the main motion.

Hon. Marcel Prud'homme: I would like to thank all honourable senators who helped me through the very difficult time of the passing of my sister.

I am quite upset with the Leader of the Government in the House of Commons and Minister for Democratic Reform, the Honourable Peter Van Loan.

[Translation]

His lack of respect for the current institutions bothers me. I have always believed that we represent legitimacy and that any attack on legitimacy is an attack on our institutions. It is our duty to respect Parliament, composed of the House of Commons and the Senate.

We have the monarchy. The desire to change the Senate is tantamount to the desire to change Canadian institutions. You have before you a former member of Parliament, a senator who, 20 times in his life, has pledged his allegiance to Her Majesty, Queen Elizabeth II, Queen of Canada. From the start of my career as a student, as an army officer in Shilo, Manitoba, until just recently, I have sworn allegiance 20 times.

I am one of those who believe that the evolution of Canada may one day lead us to redefine the position of head of state, but in the meantime, I am very loyal to Her Majesty, Queen Elizabeth II of Canada. I speak these words in French and I will repeat them anywhere in Quebec. It is not Her Majesty's problem that Canada has a monarchy. It is not the senators' problem that the Senate was created as we know it. The unacceptable and disagreeable comments by both the Minister of Public Works and Government Services and the Leader of the Government in the other place do not improve the status of our Parliament, which we are attempting to change and to modernize, but also to respect as it exists today.

As a senator, even though I was an MP for almost 30 years, I would be prepared to fight the members of the House of Commons if I believed that, for the sake of the national interest, it was necessary for us to stand up to their claims. There comes a time in one's life, however, when, after discussing, studying and analyzing, we arrive at the conclusion that we would like to have a bill that is different from that of the House of Commons. Should the other place decide to disregard the opinion of the Senate, the senators would then have to decide if they should bow to the House of Commons or if they would continue to fight.

With respect to this bill, I have come to the conclusion that, after expressing our point of view, after hearing Senator Joyal — who was brilliant, as usual — suggest another option, after hearing the House of Commons' reaction, after analyzing their comments, which were in short supply but relevant to the bill, I would have no problem yielding to the House of Commons' wishes. Yet, I repeat, I do not yield to the members of the other place because they threaten us, as some members of the Bloc Québécois or the ruling party regularly do. I find their comments on the Senate unacceptable because the Senate is an integral part of the current system. If people do not like it, they must discuss it publicly. They cannot make piecemeal changes.

(1540)

I am looking forward to Senator Brown's arrival. I am sure we will have interesting discussions with him about his proposals for Senate reform.

After examining both sides of the issue and considering the proposals of Senator Joyal and others who feel we should not yield, I have concluded that in this case, I am not prepared to say that we have all of the answers. I will always be prepared to do battle with the House of Commons if it is in the best interest of Canadians. Like it or not, it is our duty. However, in this case, I am prepared to yield to the House of Commons.

[English]

Hon. David P. Smith: Honourable senators, it is my intention to support this proposed legislation. I do not really feel good about doing so, but I shall do so, and I shall explain why.

I do not feel good about this because, personally speaking, I prefer the parliamentary system over drifting into the American checks and balances system. As well, if we go the route of Senate election, the same thing can be said — we may be back into the checks and balances system.

Our whole rationale for the parliamentary system at the moment is that you only form a government because you can get legislation through. It is very rare that this chamber goes to the wall and defies the other place. The committee work we do here, and I have sat in the other chamber as well, is stronger. They have more pressures time-wise, and I understand that, but the occasions where we defy them are very rare, and you are familiar with those examples. The reason for that, at the end of the day, is respect for the fact that they do have a direct mandate from the public.

Bill C-16 deals with the timing of elections. When this bill was first dealt with by the House of Commons, on the principle of having a fixed, four-year term, it was supported unanimously by all parties. I was surprised about that, but that is what happened.

When we passed the amendment to C-16 that was moved by Senator Joyal, and the bill as amended went back to the other place, both the Liberal caucus and the NDP caucus saw merit to the amendment. The government was in a defiant mood, and the Bloc, for whatever reason, backed them, so the amendment was rejected.

Honourable senators, it is one thing to have respect for the other place and some degree of deference, particularly when dealing with how people get elected to that chamber. That does not mean that we do not have the right to speak about it and to talk about our reservations.

As I have said, my reservations are fairly simple: I prefer the parliamentary system over the American system. I say with regret that, in my opinion, our Prime Minister believes that whatever happens in Washington is just wonderful. I do not happen to think that way.

Having said that, at the end of the day, I have great respect for this chamber. Were we to defeat this bill, I do not think we would get respect back from the other place. I think the Prime Minister would throw a tantrum, and I think he would unfairly characterize this place. I think he would vilify us. I have broad shoulders, and I can live with that, but I go back to the fundamental principle. The House of Commons dealt with this bill, and I am supporting it. The House dealt with it twice, and I am showing respect for the fact that they did. I shall not abstain from voting. I shall be on the record as supporting the bill, in respect of what the House did unanimously on round one, but it is also important to me to have on the record my real thoughts, and I have now done that.

Hon. Consiglio Di Nino: Honourable senators, I shall take a few moments both to restate some of the things that have been said on this issue and to make further comments.

The substance of Bill C-16 was subject to a fulsome discussion and analysis in both chambers. At third reading, it received all-party support in the other place. That House of Parliament, in effect, approved this piece of legislation and sent it to us for our consideration.

In the Senate, apart from the amendment, the bill garnered agreement on both sides. The amended Bill C-16 was then returned to the other place for their consideration.

Bill C-16 as originally passed was once again accepted by our colleagues in the other place — in other words, the amendment was rejected as being unnecessary. A message informing us to that effect was sent on April 23, 2007.

Honourable senators, the subject matter of the proposed legislation deals with fixing the date of future elections for members of the other place. I want to make sure that we put that on the record: The bill fixes the date of future elections for members of the other place, who twice pronounced their support with their votes.

As our honourable colleague Senator Segal said last week, surely we have some modest obligation to respect the democratic will of the other place, which has sought passage of Bill C-16 on a multi-party basis. Surely, there is some deference to be shown to our elected colleagues, to repeat the term that Senator Smith used a few moments, particularly when the subject matter is of direct consequence to them.

The rationale for this bill was thoroughly discussed and ably advanced by the government, in my opinion, as well as by a good many witnesses who appeared in committee in both Houses. Indeed, a sizable number of advantages were described that will contribute to enhancing our democracy. I shall not repeat them. They are well documented in Hansard.

Some honourable senators have questioned the constitutionality of Bill C-16. For the benefit of those who were not present at the hearings of the Standing Senate Committee on Legal and Constitutional Affairs, it should be noted that both Professor Peter Hogg and Professor Patrick Monaghan, two of our country's most renowned experts on constitutional law, lent their weighty support for this bill.

At committee, Professor Hogg said that there would be no impact on constitutional conventions, that there would be no need to amend the Constitution to enact the proposed legislation, and he identified no infringement on the principles underlying our system of responsible government.

Professor Monaghan, the dean of Osgoode Hall Law School, offered a similar opinion, going even further by stating his unequivocal support for the policy of the bill, not just its constitutionality.

I think it is worth repeating Professor Milner's testimony. He said:

It may seem rather a simple point to make, but it is useful to make among people who spend their time inside the walls of Parliament that elections are really for people, for voters, for citizens and only secondarily for politicians.

He then added:

If you are a citizen, you would like to know when the next election will take place. It is as simple as that.

Honourable senators, last Thursday, Senator Banks said:

. . . the main question before us concerns the matter of the amendment because this house agreed with the bill, as amended.

(1550)

I concur wholeheartedly and thank the honourable senator for that comment.

Our colleague, the learned Senator Joyal, has spoken eloquently and with passion about the concern giving rise to the amendment. I believe his intentions are well motivated. Certainly he and others deserve our respect and consideration for that. Once again I must respectfully disagree with the need for the amendment.

Last week Senator Joyal quoted the Chief Electoral Officer, Jean-Pierre Kingsley, who appeared at committee. It was indeed an accurate quotation, but later in the hearing our honourable colleague, Senator Oliver, put the following to Mr. Kingsley. He said, in reference to the amendment to subsection 56.2(1) contained in Bill C-16, and I quote:

It seems that "suitable for that purpose" is the main discretion given to the Chief Electoral Officer, and "suitable for that purpose" is extremely broad language to encompass any of the contingencies that Senator Joyal talked about.

Quoting Senator Oliver:

When you look at the two words, first "including" but even more importantly, "suitable for that purpose," surely that wording is broad enough to encompass the contingencies and gives generous discretion to the Chief Electoral Officer. Would you agree?

In response to the question, Mr. Kingsley replied, and I quote:

There is no reason to disagree, senator.

Honourable senators, the fact is that the examples of what might be "unsuitable," including being in conflict with a day of cultural or religious significance, or provincial or municipal election, by virtue of the normal rules of statutory interpretation are only illustrative and do not exclude other reasons. Surely there is nothing more analogous to a provincial referendum than a provincial election, and so the former is easily covered within the four corners of the bill.

The bill also gives the Chief Electoral Officer great discretion and gives him maximum flexibility to recommend a change of date, and therefore precludes the need for any amendment.

I respectfully urge all honourable senators to agree with the message sent by the other place. Obviously we did not, but I hope that all honourable senators will agree to embrace this important contribution to democratic renewal.

Senator Cools: Will the honourable senator take a question?

I did not attend those Senate committee meetings. In respect of the testimony of Professor Hogg and Professor Monahan, could the honourable senator tell me when last he knows of a situation where they disagreed with the government of the day?

Senator Di Nino: I do not know.

Senator Cools: Are there many constitutional lawyers who are not in the employ of the government?

Senator Di Nino: That is an insult to the two professors for whom we have a great deal of respect, and I will not answer that question.

Senator Cools: My second question was not about the two professors whatsoever. Active imagination by itself cannot convert my question. The fact of the matter is that any lawyer who sets out to study constitutional law knows at the end of the day there are only two jobs for him; teaching or working for the government. Trust me; go talk to the constitutional lawyers.

My other question has to do with the role of the Chief Electoral Officer. I am sure honourable senators know that the Senate has always been deferential to the notion that the House of Commons has a great interest in the running and the administration of elections. As a matter of fact, we support that.

In point of fact, the administration of elections used to take place under the supervision of the Speaker and the clerk of the Crown in chancery. That was changed in 1920 with the creation of the Chief Electoral Officer. For a long time thereafter, the notion has always been that the Chief Electoral Officer is a servant of the House of Commons, because he replaced the House in its task.

It is crystal clear to me that many of these recent initiatives are altering or changing the constitutional position of the Chief Electoral Officer. My question to the honourable senator is the following: Is it desirable that the Chief Electoral Officer, as time goes by, becomes less the servant of the House of Commons and Parliament and becomes the servant of the government?

Senator Di Nino: That has nothing to do with this bill. Nothing in this bill changes the role and responsibility of the Chief Electoral Officer.

Hon. Tommy Banks: We seem to be in confessional here about what we will do. When I first read and heard about this bill, I naively arrived at the conclusion that I opposed it. Then I realized that I had made a mistake: I was not naïve, or at least my naïveté led me to the same conclusion as people who are not, who know better than I.

Senator Di Nino and Senator Cools both invoked the primacy of the electorate, the citizen in this case, and arrived at different conclusions. That is one of the glories of our system. It is to the glories of that system that I first naively, and now with substance, defer, having heard what Senator Atkins, Senator Murray, Senator Cools and Senator Prud'homme have said. Having reconsidered the matter more in that light, I will vote against the motion. This is a bad move. This will change the dynamic of Parliament. It will not necessarily be for the better.

We will rue the day we pass this legislation. As I have said before, we are trying to graft the beak of an eagle on to a beaver, and it does not work. To the extent we do that, even though it is not a constitutional question, we are changing the fundamental way in which this place operates. We did not figure that out last Thursday. It has taken 800 or 900 years to get to the point of our system working as well as it does.

I am utterly convinced by the arguments I have heard today that my original naïveté was correct, and I will vote against the bill.

Senator Di Nino: The issue we are dealing with here is really the amendment. Is the honourable senator saying this amendment will change the way we fundamentally do things in this Parliament?

Senator Banks: We have already voted on the amendment. I believe we are voting on the motion of Senator LeBreton. If that is not the case, then I am apologetically wrong.

Hon. A. Raynell Andreychuk: I wish to add a few words on the issue of the amendment, which is really the subject matter of this motion.

I believe that the bill, in principle, was passed by this house. If we are now choosing to reverse ourselves it will be rather interesting to go that route.

(1600)

I wanted to discuss what the Standing Senate Committee on Legal and Constitutional Affairs dealt with, and what I believe Senator Joyal's motion was about, whether we include the word "referendum."

The Chief Electoral Officer was given the authority, in this bill, that if we chose to have a fixed date, which I believe we the Senate had, to defer from that date, including its being in conflict with a day of cultural of religious significance or a provincial of municipal election.

The issue was that the four examples were illustrative of the types of issues that the Chief Electoral Officer could put his mind to. It did not preclude deferring an election because of a referendum. He certainly would have the full discretion to do so.

What was not canvassed, I believe, on the floor of the Senate, which was addressed in committee, was the issue that the Chief Electoral Officer had that discretion and that even in the four categories that are listed, the fact that there is a culturally or religiously significant event or a provincial or municipal election, does not preclude a federal election proceeding. It is only if the Chief Electoral Officer thought it would inhibit, in his words and in the words of other witnesses, the fundamental reason for having the election and that is that some citizens might be impeded from being able to exercise their democratic rights, which is a fundamental element in our Constitution. The overriding responsibility of the Chief Electoral Officer, both in our country and when he goes to teach around the world, is to ensure free and fair elections.

A fixed date for elections will not inhibit and might improve the electoral process.

If there is a cultural or religious event or a provincial or municipal election, the Chief Electoral Officer could defer the election, as he could with other issues that are not enumerated here.

The reason I would not put in the word "referendum" is that it is a new and evolving issue. We are not sure when and how elections will be intruded on by a referendum. If it is to the extent that we cannot have a free and fair election, that some people might be impeded from voting, then I believe the Chief Electoral Officer would defer to another date not to conflict with the referendum.

Equally, there are jurisdictions when referendums are held in conjunction with dates to expedite a more efficient system. I believe the discretion resting in the electoral officer is correct.

When Senator Joyal put to Mr. Kingsley what he thought if a referendum were specifically indicated, Mr. Kingsley replied that if there was a political wish to include referendums, then they would be included as well, but referendums would be covered in this bill rather than amending the section on unforeseen events.

In other words, you can take it in; you do not have to have it specifically. He said it was a political choice. I think we made a choice by majority, not unanimously. The House has come back, politically, to say they do not believe it should be there constitutionally, legally or politically. Therefore, it is time to pay heed to that.

Finally, the Chief Electoral Officer, at any time, has the right on any unforeseen events that come up during the course of the call of an election or the process of an election to stop or delay the election.

There is nothing in this bill that precludes that full power and consequently, I believe that there has been an expression by the House of Commons, an expression by many people that the fixed date would facilitate Canadians in an election and I for one do not see why we should intrude on this point by the amendment.

However, with respect, Senator Joyal felt differently. I think we had our say. The House has responded and I believe it is time to move on.

Senator Cools: Will the honourable senator take a question?

Senator Andreychuk: I will try.

Senator Cools: Despite all the assertions to the opposite, the real limitation that this bill is imposing is on the Royal Prerogative, on Her Majesty and the Governor General.

Basically what this bill is saying, and it is a haughty piece of legislation, is that Her Majesty or Her Majesty's representative, the Governor General, cannot take certain actions and will be prohibited in the future. This bill is an instruction, believe it or not, to the Governor General and to Her Majesty. Some bills speak to different sectors of the population. This one is speaking to Her Majesty.

Since Senator Andreychuk is a lawyer, has the government consulted with Her Majesty or with the Governor General in the production of this bill and in the prosecution of it?

Senator Andreychuk: I will not speak to what extent the government consulted with the Governor General. The Legal and Constitutional Affairs Committee's record speaks for itself.

I do know, that the honourable senator was there and raised the issues at one of our meetings and it was clearly constitutional, that we are not infringing on any of the Governor General's rights. The evidence was satisfactory that the amendment, which is what we are dealing with here today, and the consequent motions that come from that do not in any way infringe on the Governor General's rights.

Senator Cools: It does actually.

I was not at any of these committee meetings. The meeting she is speaking of was on Bill S-4 when I asked the gentleman from the Privy Council if the government had consulted with Her Majesty in respect of Bill S-4 and their response was a clear "no." I did not attend any meetings on this particular Bill C-16.

I reviewed some of this testimony. An authority on the law of Parliament has not been brought before a committee for years and I am speaking about the exclusive law of Parliament, which is this law here. There are not that many of them alive any more. There are not too many authorities on that and the governments of the day have made it a habit and a practice now to discourage mastery of the law of Parliament among its own members and to develop what we call internal in-house authorities on the matter. I had the great privilege of serving alongside Professor John Stewart in difficult constitutional times and I remember the caucus that I was then serving in being always satisfied that it had in-house the finest mind of the law of Parliament. Two areas of law which are the most neglected and understudied, yet are the most prolific in daily use, are the law of prerogative and the law of Parliament.

Would Senator Andreychuk give us some constitutional authority for her statement that this bill does not impinge on the Royal Prerogative?

Senator Andreychuk: As I indicated, I thought Senator Cools had been at this meeting and I certainly withdraw that. Certainly, others questioned whether this would affect the Governor General's rights in any way and I think we were satisfied in the committee — at least I was — that it did not. I will not speak for the rest of the committee.

(1610)

The record of the Standing Senate Committee on Legal and Constitutional Affairs speaks to the question and it is answered there. As I indicated, at this point, it is not reopening the bill that I am dealing with, but the amendment per se.

Senator Cools: Will this bill support and foster the continuing constitutional notion that a governor general has a duty to dismiss a prime minister who is unworthy or guilty of misconduct, and to select a new prime minister temporarily until an election can be held? Does this bill support that notion or does it undermine it?

Senator Andreychuk: This bill does not interfere with any of the rights and responsibilities that the Governor General has, and has had, by way of the Constitution.

Senator Cools: How can it be, in the instance if a prime minister has to be dismissed? In the literature, a prime minister has not been dismissed for a little while, but there have been many near dismissals in the last 20 years, as outgoing lieutenant-governors have talked about them.

The question I am asking the honourable senator is if there was a case of personal misconduct on the part of a prime minister which the caucus was willing to forgive, but the Governor General thought was offensive, could the Governor General dismiss the prime minister, select a new prime minister and then grant the new prime minister a dissolution despite fixed dates? There would be no issue of confidence here. Could such be done by this bill?

Senator Andreychuk: I simply reiterate that this bill does not in any way, in my opinion, affect the Governor General's rights and prerogatives as they now stand.

Senator Cools: Read it again.

Hon. James S. Cowan: I share many of the concerns that Senator Murray and Senator Atkins have expressed about this bill. I do not think there is anything about our system that needs to be fixed in this way; I think it is gimmickry.

However, for the reasons that my friend Senator Smith has set out and following his logic, I will be supporting this bill. Nevertheless, I certainly do share the concerns that have been expressed by others.

Senator Comeau: Question!

The Hon. the Speaker: Are honourable senators ready for the question on the motion?

It was moved by the Honourable Senator LeBreton, P.C., seconded by the Honourable Senator Comeau:

That the Senate do not insist on its amendment to Bill C-16, An Act to amend the Canada Elections Act; and

That a Message be sent to the House of Commons to acquaint that House accordingly, and

In amendment, by the Honourable Senator Hervieux-Payette,

That the motion be amended by adding after the word "accordingly.", the following:

"However, the Senate expresses its regret that the House of Commons provided no sound reasons to refuse the Senate amendment to Bill C-16, which was clearly in line with the objective of the Bill."

Is it your pleasure, honourable senators, to adopt the motion?

Some Hon. Senators: Yes.

Some Hon. Senators: No.

The Hon. the Speaker: All those in favour of the motion will please say "yea."

Some Hon. Senators: Yea.

The Hon. the Speaker: All those opposed to the motion please say "nay."

Some Hon. Senators: Nay.

The Hon. the Speaker: In my opinion, the "yeas" have it.

And two honourable senators having risen:

The Hon. the Speaker: Call in the senators. The bells will ring for 30 minutes.

(1640)

Motion, as amended, agreed to on the following division:

YEAS
THE HONOURABLE SENATORS

Andreychuk Keon
Bryden Lapointe
Callbeck LeBreton
Campbell Meighen
Chaput Merchant
Cochrane Milne
Comeau Mitchell
Cook Nancy Ruth
Cordy Nolin
Cowan Pépin
De Bané Peterson
Di Nino Poulin
Downe Prud'homme
Eggleton Segal
Fairbairn Smith
Fraser St. Germain
Goldstein Stratton
Hays Tardif
Hervieux-Payette Tkachuk
Hubley Trenholme Counsell
Jaffer Watt
Johnson Zimmer—44

NAYS
THE HONOURABLE SENATORS

Atkins Kenny
Banks McCoy
Biron Mercer
Cools Moore
Corbin Murray
Day Spivak—12

ABSTENTIONSTHE HONOURABLE SENATORS

Adams Mahovlich
Furey Munson—5
Joyal

(1650)

Canada Pension Plan
Old Age Security Act

Bill to Amend—Third Reading

On the Order:

Resuming debate on the motion of the Honourable Senator Angus, seconded by the Honourable Senator Tkachuk, for the third reading of Bill C-36, to amend the Canada Pension Plan and the Old Age Security Act.

Hon. Jane Cordy: Honourable senators, it is a pleasure to speak today at third reading of Bill C-36, to amend the Canada Pension Plan and the Old Age Security Act.

Bill C-36 should help to enhance the accessibility of benefits for our seniors and for those who are disabled. It will modernize the delivery of services for those who are receiving Canada Pension, Old Age Security and the Guaranteed Income Supplement.

Income security is an important concern for all Canadians, but for seniors who are on a fixed income and for those who are disabled and no longer able to participate in the workforce, income security becomes a major concern.

Canada should be proud of its achievements and the progress made regarding the welfare of Canada's senior population. The financial status of seniors in Canada has improved considerably over the past 25 years. The Old Age Security Program, the Guaranteed Income Supplement and the Canada Pension Plan have contributed to this improvement.

According to Statistics Canada, the percentage of Canadian seniors living in poverty in 1980 was 21 per cent. In 2004, this percentage dropped to 5.6 per cent. Honourable senators, this improvement in the financial status of our seniors is a very positive thing. We must, however, look more closely at this 5.6 per cent to determine the best policies to reach those seniors who are still in need financially.

Single seniors are 10 times more likely to live in poverty than those seniors in a family. Furthermore, single women are twice as likely as single men to be living in poverty. More senior men tend to have income from private pension plans than do women. Many women have interrupted their careers due to family responsibilities and they tend to occupy lower-paying jobs with no private pension plan as a result.

The reality is those who do not have private pension plans or investment income have the lowest incomes and are far more dependent on government support.

According to the recent Statistics Canada report, New Frontiers of Research on Retirement, the current structure of Canada's pension system does not match with the irregular work patterns typical of the modern working woman; rather, the system was developed to meet the needs of the male worker who was the lone breadwinner supporting a family.

I believe it is important that we look more closely at the dynamics of retirement for women. Further improvements to the act in the future should reflect the lives of Canadian women and also men who are living in poverty.

Honourable senators, this bill eliminates the need for seniors to have to reapply for the GIS if their income situation changes. This is a very positive step. Seniors will apply once and their records will be modified, if need be, through their yearly tax return. This is a positive step because it will provide seniors who are eligible but do not reapply, for whatever reason, to receive benefits. The only concern I have on this issue is that the change does not consider those who do not file a tax return.

Honourable senators, there are good programs for Canadian seniors. We have one of the best retirement income systems in the world. We know that Prime Minister Chrétien and his government put in place measures to ensure stability of the CPP and the OAS programs for at least another 75 years.

However, honourable senators, I am concerned that too many seniors are unaware of the benefits to which they are entitled. According to some sources, close to 320,000 eligible seniors are not in receipt of their GIS benefits. Why is this? I am not certain, but there are a number of factors to consider: isolation of seniors living alone, language or cultural reasons, lack of grassroots outreach programs to educate seniors, literacy issues and so on.

At the Standing Senate Committee on Banking, Trade and Commerce, when I questioned Minister Solberg on the importance of educating seniors about the benefits available to them, he stated that the department continues to take steps to address these concerns. It would be interesting to have a study from the department to track what programs work best to inform seniors and, for that matter, all Canadians about accessing government programs for which they may be eligible to receive benefits.

Honourable senators, Bill C-36, to amend the Canada Pension Plan and the Old Age Security Act, is a positive piece of legislation which will help seniors and those with disabilities to better access the system. The bill is a step forward, but we must continue to work to ensure that the number of Canadians living in poverty continues to decline.

The Hon. the Speaker: Are honourable senators ready for the question?

Is it your pleasure, honourable senators, to adopt the motion?

Motion agreed to and bill read third time and passed.

First Nations Land Management Act

Bill to Amend—Second Reading—Debate Adjourned

Hon. Gerry St. Germain moved second reading of Bill S-6, to amend the First Nations Land Management Act.

He said: Honourable senators, I rise today to express my support for Bill S-6, which was tabled in this place on April 25.

As the title suggests, this bill incorporates changes to the First Nations Land Management Act, or FNLMA, so that First Nations in Quebec can implement economic development projects and realize their dreams for their communities.

I would like to draw honourable senators' attention to the content of Bill S-6 and the benefits of the First Nations Land Management Act in the hope that they will support Bill S-6 and ensure its prompt adoption into law.

In the early 1990s, 14 First Nation chiefs initiated discussions with the Government of Canada on the issue of management of lands and resources in their communities. This group of First Nations chiefs desired greater autonomy to develop larger-scale resource development plans, such as residential, commercial and industrial projects.

Determined to expand their economies on behalf of their community members, they worked in partnership with the Government of Canada to develop a governance mechanism that would allow them to be exempted from certain property provisions of the Indian Act.

In 1996, the 14 chiefs and government representatives signed the Framework Agreement on First Nations Land Management, which establishes the basic guidelines that would allow First Nations greater flexibility with respect to land management.

The Framework Agreement was endorsed in 1999 when the First Nations Land Management Act was passed. However, the Framework Agreement was drafted in accordance with common law legal principles only, because the initial group did not include representatives of the First Nations in Quebec.

This state of affairs complicated access to the Framework Agreement for Quebec First Nations communities. One of these communities, the Essipit Innu First Nation, expressed interest in participating in the Framework Agreement in 2004, thus making it imperative that amendments be included in the First Nations Land Management Act to reflect legal concepts specific to civil law in force in Quebec.

(1700)

Honourable senators, Senator Gill and I sat down with the Essipit Innu First Nation and discussed this very issue. I believe the other side has been fully apprised of the need for this legislation.

Honourable senators, Bill S-6 contains these amendments and will pave the way to self-determination and opportunities for prosperity for Quebec First Nations. Allow me to highlight the merits of Bill S-6. First Nations communities establish their own priorities and determine for themselves the methods they will use to improve their economic and social conditions with their choice of partners. By participating in the framework agreement, the First Nation acquires the necessary legislative tools and governance mechanisms to manage its own on-reserve lands and resources.

Any First Nation interested in participating in the framework agreement must draw up its own land tenure system and have it ratified by its members, whether or not they live on reserve. Once endorsed, the land tenure system has the force of law. While the First Nation develops its land tenure system, it and the federal government negotiate a separate agreement in order to determine the terms and conditions for transferring the administration of land management and funding of operations.

Within its land tenure system, the First Nation develops laws that enable it to effectively manage its lands and resources, that is, laws pertaining to the environment, dispute settlement and conflict of interest.

The framework agreement is administered by the lands advisory board which works in partnership with the Department of Indian Affairs and Northern Development. The advisory board includes the chiefs of First Nations that have become fully operational since becoming participants in the framework agreement. There are currently 47 First Nations participating in the framework agreement. Of these, 17 have had their land tenure systems ratified by their communities and are actively implementing innovative employment-generating projects. Bill S-6 expands the scope of the First Nations Lands Management Act and promotes the economic, social and cultural vitality of First Nations in Quebec.

Honourable senators, I encourage you to support this bill. It is much sought after by our Quebec First Nations people. Any delay would be detrimental to them and their communities.

On motion of Senator Peterson, debate adjourned.

Income Tax Act

Bill to Amend—Second Reading—Debate Adjourned

Hon. David Tkachuk moved second reading of Bill C-294, to amend the Income Tax Act (sports and recreation programs). —(Honourable Senator Tkachuk)

He said: Honourable senators, I would like to speak to Bill C-294, to amend the Income Tax Act with regard to sports and recreation programs.

I believe we would all agree that there is nothing as quintessentially Canadian as hockey, except perhaps taxation. This bill touches on both of these Canadian preoccupations. In doing so, it demonstrates how integral both are to the Canadian way of life. The difference between them is that hockey gives us so much and overreaching taxation takes so much away.

It is a sad day in Canada, honourable senators, when the taxman, who cannot keep his hands out of Canadian pockets, extends that reach to junior hockey players, especially those who play Tier 2 hockey. However, that is precisely what happened a few years ago in Saskatchewan. In 2003, the taxman decided that the money junior hockey players in my province were getting for room and board should be declared as a taxable benefit. These junior players, who leave hearth and home to play hockey elsewhere than their hometown, are now being sent to the penalty box for their efforts. The taxman has decided to penalize them.

With one hand we encourage young people to participate in sports, even providing their parents with tax credits in order that they can do so, and with the other hand we penalize them when they do.

Junior hockey in this country is a vehicle by which many young men become professional hockey players. If just one of these young men makes it to the NHL — and many have — and plays for a Canadian team, he will be paying plenty of taxes, probably more in even a short career than you or I will make in a lifetime, and no doubt more than the CRA is likely to collect from this punitive and petty tax.

Let us say that in a lifetime of this tax — and if the CRA had its way it would be a long lifetime — perhaps one player who would have played for the NHL is unable to do so because of this tax. Perhaps he has to stop playing junior hockey for either personal financial reasons or because his team folds. Many of these teams are financially strapped. Remember, Tier 2 hockey is not Tier 1 hockey. Tier 2 teams in Saskatchewan are not privately owned in all cases and are non-profit teams. They are normally owned by the community or non-profit organizations. How much will the CRA be forgoing in future revenue in an effort to collect what it does now?

The Saskatchewan league has been advised that the CRA is following similar practices with regard to other Tier 2 teams in junior hockey leagues all across Canada. There are roughly 130 Tier 2 junior hockey teams across Canada that operate on the same basis as the Saskatchewan Junior Hockey League.

Tier 2 hockey is not only a place for young men to hone their skills to play Junior A hockey, to perhaps take the leap into semi-professional or professional hockey, or even to play professional hockey in the NHL. It is also a major vehicle for many young men in this country to get scholarships to an American university. Technically, under this tax measure, Tier 2 team players are ineligible for such scholarships because they are now considered employees getting paid to play sports. If you play sports professionally, even junior hockey, and are deemed to be playing so, you are not eligible for a U.S. scholarship. That is why many good young players decide to play Tier 2 hockey rather than Junior A hockey. In that way they can get noticed by one of the great American universities that have significant hockey programs. Those universities watch Tier 2 hockey players and give scholarships to the ones who are gifted athletically as well as, hopefully, academically.

Bill C-294 received all-party support in the other place. If enacted, it would amend the Income Tax Act to allow these athletes to exclude room and board allowances of up to $300 per month for their income calculation, thereby relieving them of this unfair tax. Three hundred dollars a month is not a great deal of money. That is probably how much a parent would give a young man who was remaining at home. I would say the team that is paying $300 for room and board is getting a deal, if you know what a 14, 15 or 16-year-old eats in your home, and many honourable senators know what that is like.

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A similar bill was introduced in 2004. Like this one, it had passed the House and made it to the Senate, but it died on the Order Paper when the election was called. I ask honourable senators to support this bill at second reading to allow these young men to receive an allowance free from taxation, an allowance hardly any greater than what some of their peers are no doubt getting from their parents at home. I ask all honourable senators to give support to this bill and send it to committee as quickly as possible.

Hon. Jane Cordy: Would the honourable senator take a question?

Senator Tkachuk: Certainly.

Senator Cordy: I appreciate the honourable senator bringing this to our attention today at second reading. I admit I have not read the bill. He referred to young men; is this bill specific to young men in hockey?

Senator Tkachuk: It is referring to young men because young men are playing Tier 2 hockey right now. I am sure that if a young woman made the Tier 2 hockey team, she would face the same circumstance they do.

Senator Cordy: Again, I have not read the bill. Is it specific to Tier 2 hockey, or is the bill for any athlete, male or female, who may be paying board and residing in another part of the country?

Senator Tkachuk: Right now, they have ruled on junior hockey, so this bill specifically excludes them from taxation.

Senator Cordy: Just for my clarification, currently we just have young men playing junior hockey, so currently this bill is very specific.

Senator Tkachuk: It is very specific, yes. It is gender neutral, but it is young men who play junior B hockey. That is the way it is.

On motion of Senator Mahovlich, debate adjourned.

Study on Matters Relating to Africa

Motion to Adopt Report of Foreign Affairs and International Trade Committee and Request for Government Response—Debate Continued

On the Order:

Resuming debate on the motion of the Honourable Senator Segal, seconded by the Honourable Senator Keon, that the seventh report of the Standing Senate Committee on Foreign Affairs and International Trade entitled Overcoming 40 Years Of Failure: A New Road Map For Sub-Saharan Africa, tabled in the Senate on February 15, 2007, be adopted and that, pursuant to Rule 131(2), the Senate request a complete and detailed response from the government, with the Minister of Foreign Affairs, the Minister of International Trade, the Minister of International Cooperation and the Minister of National Defence being identified as Ministers responsible for responding to the report.—(Honourable Senator Corbin)

Hon. Peter A. Stollery: Honourable senators, this item was to have been stood in my name. I would ask that it be stood in my name instead of Senator Corbin's name.

The Hon. the Speaker: Is it agreed, honourable senators?

Hon. Senators: Agreed.

On motion of Senator Stollery, debate adjourned.

Study on Veterans' Services and Benefits, Commemorative Activities and Charter

Report of National Security and Defence Committee Adopted

The Senate proceeded to consideration of the fourteenth report of the Standing Senate Committee on National Security and Defence (subcommittee's attendance at the 90th Anniversary of the Battle of Vimy Ridge), tabled in the Senate on April 24, 2007. —(Honourable Senator Day)

Hon. Joseph A. Day moved the adoption of the report.

He said: Honourable senators, the fourteenth report of the Standing Senate Committee on National Security and Defence actually relates to the Subcommittee on Veterans Affairs. It is, in fact, the report of the subcommittee's attendance at the ninetieth anniversary of the Battle of Vimy Ridge and the dedication of the restored Canadian National Vimy Memorial over the Easter weekend of this year, April 7, 8 and 9.

Honourable senators, on Saturday, April 7, members of your committee and other French and Canadian dignitaries attended the internment services of a First World War soldier. The remains had been found in an unmarked grave. Through modern science, DNA in particular, and very good investigative work, the remains were identified as those of Private Herbert Peterson.

Senator Banks: An Albertan.

Senator Day: An Albertan indeed. He was a member of the 49th Battalion Canadian Expeditionary Force, and he was killed during a raid that took place on the nights of June 8 and 9, 1917.

Senator Banks: That was the Loyal Edmonton Regiment.

Senator Day: Representatives of the successor regiment from Edmonton were in attendance at this committal ceremony at the Chaudière military cemetery very close to Vimy. That was a very moving ceremony, honourable senators.

The next day, church services took place at a church in Arras. Honourable senators will be pleased to know that Adrienne Clarkson was in attendance, along with her husband. She has been appointed and was in attendance as the honorary colonel of the regiment of the Princess Patricia's Canadian Light Infantry. She succeeded Countess Mountbatten, the daughter of Lord Mountbatten. This is the first time a Canadian has held this distinguished position of honorary colonel of the regiment. It is indeed an honour, and you may want to congratulation her when you have the opportunity to do so.

Honourable senators, on Sunday afternoon, your committee attended what can only be described as a very moving and interesting ceremony entitled the Freedom of the City, a ceremony that was given by Arras, France, to the Canadian battalion in attendance. This is the most significant honour that the community can bestow to a military unit, and we were in attendance for this. It was a very interesting ceremony indeed, honourable senators.

During the reception following the Freedom of the City ceremony, we attended a reception by the town of Vimy, a small town near Vimy Ridge. I was struck by the fact that their coat of arms has the Canadian maple leaf incorporated into it, recognizing the contribution that Canadians made to their community those many years ago.

Honourable senators, the Freedom of the City on that same day was led by three mounted RCMP officers, followed by Canadian Forces contingent in attendance and representing the four divisions of the Canadian corps that fought at Vimy Ridge that Easter some 90 years prior to the particular occasion when we were there.

Finally, honourable senators, on Monday, Easter Day, your committee had the honour of attending the commemoration ceremony at Vimy Ridge and the dedication of the restored memorial. In excess of 5,000 students were in attendance, plus, as you would guess, many others from the community and from Canada, indeed.

One of the students is from Ottawa. She is 17 years of age. Her name is Alex Emanuelli. Like each student, she was required to research a soldier. Her soldier was Private Mather. She researched and found out about his family. He was also a Canadian infantry member from the Alberta regiment. She learned that he had written his will only days before. He left all his worldly possessions to his mother. He was 22 years old, unmarried, a private. She was very touched by the research that she performed and the information she was able to gather. Each student did likewise, and they were very moved by the research they were asked to do as part of the Canadian contingent. This is the same kind of work and the same kind of research that is done by students in Holland with respect to Canadian graves.

(1720)

You can meet students in Holland if you happen to visit a grave when the student is there, and that student will tell you that that is her soldier and she looks after that. She can tell you all the history of that soldier and ensures that grave is properly attended to. It was a very moving and touching tribute to the sacrifice made.

Honourable senators, in conclusion, I wanted to let you know that we, as your committee, attended all the events. The presence of parliamentarians at the events was very much appreciated. If I may say so, the presence of senators at those events was particularly appreciated. We have been involved in Veterans Affairs matters for some time and are recognized and known by a number of the veterans and their associations.

The difficulty that we had is we almost did not attend. In the past we have relied on being invited by Veterans Affairs Canada as part of the contingent. Honourable senators will recall that we only got approval a few days before the event took place. The post-mortem of this particular event, and looking back at lessons learned, is that as a committee, and as a Senate, in the future we should not rely on being invited by the minister or the government department, but we should be represented as a group, as the Senate. I am hopeful that will be the approach we take in the future with respect to these very worthwhile activities with respect to veterans' affairs.

Honourable senators, I trust that you will accept the report and that you will accept the recommendations made.

The Hon. the Speaker: Are honourable senators ready for the question?

Hon. Senators: Question!

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

Motion agreed to and report adopted.

Canada's Commitment to Darfur, Sudan

Inquiry—Debate Continued

On the Order:

Resuming debate on the inquiry of the Honourable Senator Dallaire calling the attention of the Senate to the situation in the Darfur region of Sudan and the importance of Canada's commitment to the people of this war-torn country.—(Honourable Senator Cowan)

Hon. Yoine Goldstein: Honourable senators, Senator Dallaire, Senator Segal and others have spoken with great eloquence in connection with this inquiry on Darfur, which started almost a year ago in this place.

My statement today is part of a series of interventions being made both here and in the other place by the recently formed All-Party Parliamentary Group for the Prevention of Genocide and Other Crimes Against Humanity. We are a group of some 30 parliamentarians, many from this chamber, from all parties, who are trying to make sure that situations like Darfur not be lost in the crush of other important issues that face this body each day. Although we were only formed last fall, so far we have had the UN special adviser for the prevention of genocide speak at Parliament, we have hosted a panel on genocide prevention at Carleton University and next week we will be hosting consultations with civil society groups active in Darfur. I hope honourable senators will be able to join us, and invitations will be sent out for that event.

I begin by taking personal responsibility for my lengthy and unpardonable silence. I could have spoken out on this conflict last year, or even in 2003, when it first began. I could have and should have risen in this chamber each day we met and demanded that the government take further action. I could have and should have taken steps to ensure that the issue receives attention in the Canadian media, like fasting for a day on the lawn of Parliament, but I did not. I did not do any of these things. Therefore, before blaming anyone else, I must acknowledge my own responsibility.

Darfur is not an African problem; it is not a European problem; it is not a Canadian problem. It is a human problem of monstrous, titanic proportions. It is not important whether one feels the situation is a true genocide or an instance of war crimes or a case of massive crimes against humanity. No matter what we call it, we know the horrific face of the problem; the slaying of 200,000 to 400,000 innocent human beings, the 2 million to 3 million displaced people, and up to 4 million people who desperately need humanitarian aid, the dozens of thousands of rape victims, widows, orphans, desperately trying to survive. Every fifth child in Darfur suffers from acute life-threatening malnutrition. They lack health services; there is no sanitation to speak of, and I could go on.

The problem is not diminishing. It is in the process of spreading throughout Chad, to the Central African Republic, which now hold hundreds of thousands of Darfuri refugees and are facing a strain on their own stability.

Earlier this year the International Criminal Court reported that it had found sufficient evidence to recommend the prosecution of Ahmed Harun, Sudan's former Minister of State for the Interior, on 51 crimes against humanity and war crimes for his activities in Darfur from 2003 to 2004 and onwards.

There are two aspects to this problem: the political-military problem and the humanitarian problem. They are intimately involved or interconnected but discrete. The extent of the military catastrophe is well-known, as is the fact the Sudanese government has been centrally and essentially involved in committing and facilitating these atrocities. The Government of Sudan has failed to take the necessary steps and measures to protect its own civilians. The "Responsibility to Protect" doctrine, which was developed under Canadian leadership and adopted by the 2005 World Summit at the United Nations established that "if states are unable or unwilling to protect their populations from gross humanitarian abuses or if they fail to halt such abuses, the international community has a responsibility to protect, which implies armed intervention" if necessary.

Our success in achieving a solution in Darfur will be the litmus test of whether the Canadian sponsored "Responsibility to Protect" doctrine is meaningful or meaningless. It will also determine whether humanity will finally be willing to take the kind of action required by the phrase "Never again."

Sudan's agreement three weeks ago to allow an additional 3,000 United Nations troops to supplement the ill-trained and ineffective African Union mission is clearly not enough. Sudan agreed to that precisely because it knows it is not enough. The United Nations has demanded the deployment of 20,000 additional troops; the minimum required to bring even a minimum order to the present chaos.

Humanitarian aid is desperately needed, but regrettably is not forthcoming. Recently, within the past number of weeks, Oxfam reported that it needs at least 5 million pounds to provide temporary food and rudimentary sanitation to only 500,000 of the 4 million people needing assistance.

However, perhaps the most frustrating and intolerable part of the situation is that while the people of Darfur starve and die and are displaced, Sudan's elite are enjoying the benefits of the greatest economic boom in the country's history. Despite only starting to export oil in 1999, Sudan has now become Africa's third largest oil-producing country, with the rate of production continuing to grow, thanks to investment from China.

Perversely, the Sudanese government has received international praise for its sound macroeconomic policies and it is now predicted that the country's economy will grow between 11 and 12 per cent this year.

A construction boom fuelled by investment from North Africa, the Middle East and China has now begun in the capital of Khartoum with $4 billion in construction projects poised to transform the city into a new Dubai full of office towers, shops and hotels waiting for tourism.

(1730)

The Government of Sudan will have absolutely no incentive to even think about stopping the conflict so long as its prosperity continues to rise. We must be willing to engage in an economic boycott of Sudan and the companies that do business with it.

A number of the larger international firms, including Siemens and Rolls Royce, have already pulled out of Sudan in response to pressure from civil society. An international divestment campaign is quickly gathering steam with six American states having already adopted divestment legislation and 20 more considering it.

In Canada, Queen's University reacted to lobbying from its students by selling its investment in two Chinese oil firms that were doing business in Darfur. We have to build on these examples and make sure the world knows that there will be a price to pay for those willing to do business with the Government of Sudan.

Canada has made some contribution towards addressing both the political-military and the humanitarian aspects of the problem. Former Prime Minister Martin appointed Senator Jaffer as Canada's special envoy to the peace process in Sudan in order to show high level Canadian engagement on the issue. Canada has recently supported UN Security Council resolutions to impose sanctions against persons involved in the conflict and to refer the matter to the International Criminal Court.

In terms of physical resources, Canada has supported the African Union mission with military advisers and close to $200 million in financial and material aid and we have provided or pledged nearly $150 million in humanitarian aid.

These contributions are insufficient but they are at a least a beginning.

Honourable senators: Qui s'excuse, s'accuse — whoever abstains is guilty.

What can we do and what should we do? I propose that the Government of Canada adopt the following 10-point plan to make a meaningful difference in the situation in Darfur. Two weeks ago, I made this proposal in the presence of Senator Milne and Senator Fraser at the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe which, as I understand it, will be acting on these 10 points in June.

First, we must specifically put pressure on China. China is the paymaster of the Sudanese government. How do we do that? PetroChina and China Petroleum together supply the bulk of the cash flow required by Sudan to continue doing what it is doing. We should pressure China to in turn pressure their state-owned companies by suggesting that if they continue supplying funds for purposes of killing people, we would encourage a boycott of the Beijing Olympic Games. This suggestion has already been made internationally by French Presidential candidate Ségolène Royal. We should also put pressure on the businesses that are active in Sudan by supporting the international divestment campaign and by denying entry to our ports of any ship known to have been used to ship oil from Sudan.

Second, we should pressure Sudan to accept the third phase of the United Nations initiative, the deployment of 20,000 peacekeepers, together with the appropriate military material. These troops must be accompanied by appropriate military equipment, including a fleet of aircraft to enforce a no-fly zone, which would prevent the Sudanese from bombing and strafing human beings and destroying villages from the air.

Third, the present mandate of the African Union mission expires at the end of June, in 60 days. Pressure must be brought to bear now on the Sudanese Government to agree to its renewal.

Fourth, the Sudanese people who have committed war crimes and crimes against humanity should be immediately apprehended by any member country and brought to trial, both as a punishment and to deter others from similar behaviour.

Fifth, the International Monetary Fund, the World Bank and other international financial institutions should force Sudan, as a condition of continued aid by them, to undertake verifiable commitments to stop the genocide or forgo this international aid.

Sixth, we must continue ongoing parliamentary debate and inquiry with respect to the Darfur catastrophe.

Seventh, we should encourage other parliamentarians around the world to have an all-party, non-partisan grouping to continue to raise national and legislative consciousness of the Darfur genocide.

Eighth, we should support and form alliances with the NGOs that are working in the area.

Ninth, we must insist that all involved parties respect and implement the Darfur peace agreement, which regrettably has become a dead letter.

Tenth, we should encourage all nations and groups to implement incremental economic sanctions, seize assets, deprive Sudanese criminals of their right to travel and make it clear that the continuation of the atrocities will not be tolerated.

If we do not do this, who will do it? If we do not do it now, then when?

On motion of Senator Andreychuk, debate adjourned.

The Senate

Motion Urging Government to Engage in Free Trade Negotiations with European Union—Debate Adjourned

Hon. Hugh Segal, pursuant to notice of March 29, 2007, moved:

That the Senate call upon the Government of Canada to engage in negotiations with the European Union towards a free trade agreement, in order to encourage investment and free movement of people and capital.

He said: Honourable senators, I want to speak briefly in support of the motion before calling upon the Government of Canada to engage in negotiations with the European Union towards a free trade agreement in order to encourage investment and free movement of people and capital. The reason I rise to make the case is because there will be an EU-United States summit this month and a Canada-EU summit in June. The Chancellor of Germany has, as the President of the European Union, already made the case that we need a new transatlantic partnership between Europe and North America, so as to maximize the opportunities for productivity, for economies of scale.

(1740)

The premise behind this is that if we do not wish to see all our manufacturing jobs exported to China and Asia, we have to — on a North American basis and with our colleagues and partners and mother countries in Europe — begin to work together to establish significant economies of scale in our societies, societies where the value of labour or fair wages or environmental concerns are duly respected. The way to do that is to work constructively by reducing some of the existing trade barriers between our two countries.

[Translation]

The Premier of Quebec, Mr. Charest, was recently in Davos to propose a free trade agreement between the European Union and North America, particularly Canada. Mr. Charest was accompanied by business leaders, who strongly support the proposal, from across Canada.

[English]

If we look at the numbers, we can ascertain that if we could put together an FTA between Europe and Canada, we would be bolstering economic relations with the region that is the largest single marketplace in the world, and Canada's second largest trading partner next to the United States, our ally and friend.

When one thinks about the world writ large, Canada is one of only eight countries — together with Australia, China, Japan, New Zealand, Singapore, South Korea and the U.S. — who do not have a preferential trade agreement with the European Community. Why we would want to be among the eight, as opposed to the majority that does, does not, in and of itself, suggest itself clearly in terms of our foreign policy priorities.

The average levels of tariff right across the board are high. They are a significantly high enough nuisance to divert trade in the manufacturing sector.

The federal government's June 2001 Canada-EU tariff elimination study dealt with the elimination of just those tariffs in the non-agricultural areas, I understand how sensitive supply management issues are, certainly on the part of Ontario I seek to represent in this place. Supply management is an important element of our economic construct. If we could reduce the other areas of tariffs, we could produce an 11.2 per cent increase in bilateral trade, adding $2.4 billion to Canada-EU economic activity on an ongoing basis.

I truly believe, in matters of foreign and trade policy — and I submit this to my colleagues in this place — that the bicycle theory is most appropriate. If we are not pedalling forward, we will have stability problems one way or the other. NAFTA was an agreement that many in this house supported, as did many in the country. A matter of great controversy, NAFTA and free trade are static agreements. They do not change, modify or expand. They are what they are and they generate great good — not without some difficulties, but great good.

We have to have a more aggressive trade commitment as a society; and bringing our European colleagues to the table would be a constructive step forward.

It is important that as we look to Asia and to the economic opportunities that are there, and we look to have a double-track strategy with our Chinese friends — trade on the one hand, due regard for human rights and related concerns on the other — that we do not lose track of the core relationship with our European allies and colleagues. The gesture that Europe is now trying to make toward an invigorated transatlantic relationship gives us a chance to get ahead of the curve and to do so in a fashion that would be most constructive.

While trade experts would say there is no great desire for a Canada-EU discussion around a free trade agreement — the Mexicans have already done it and other countries have as well. Honourable senators, wait and see the response should the Americans initiate meaningful negotiation this month with the Europeans relative to a free trade agreement. We will see the rush and panic in our Foreign Affairs and International Trade department, the likes of which will be absolutely overwhelming.

We have a chance in this body to encourage some sense of getting ahead of the curve, advancing the proposition and putting the idea before the government in a sustained and constructive way for their consideration prior to the Canada-EU summit scheduled for June. Honourable senators, I commend the motion to your thoughtful consideration.

On motion of Senator Di Nino, debate adjourned.

Study on Funding for Treatment of Autism

Motion to Adopt Report of Social Affairs, Science and Technology Committee and Request for Government Response—Debate Adjourned

Hon. Art Eggleton, pursuant to notice of April 26, 2007, moved:

That the twelfth report of the Standing Senate Committee on Social Affairs, Science and Technology, entitled Pay Now or Pay Later, Autism Families in Crisis, tabled in the Senate on March 29, 2007, be adopted; and

That, pursuant to rule 131(2), the Senate request a complete and detailed response from the government, with the Ministers of National Revenue, of Intergovernmental Affairs, of Health and of Finance being identified as Ministers responsible for responding to the report.

He said: Honourable senators, I rise today to speak about the twelfth report from the Standing Senate Committee on Social Affairs, Science and Technology, entitled "Pay Now or Pay Later, Autism Families in Crisis."

I wish to start by thanking the members of the committee who demonstrated great compassion and care toward Canadians with difficulties. This is the first study report that the committee has released since I became its chair, succeeding Senator Kirby, and I was impressed with the contributions of all members. This is once again a unanimous report, which puts forth sensible and attainable solutions to a serious problem.

As well, I wish to highlight the contribution of Senator Munson. On May 11, he began an inquiry, which turned into the order of reference that launched the study. Families across Canada owe him a debt of gratitude as he brought an important issue to the floor of the Senate.

Like most senators, I know the issues of autism from what I have seen in the media. Many stories have appeared regarding court cases, perhaps some of them highlighting protests by parents or announcements by governments — which do not seem to satisfy anyone. However, I did not really understand the depth of the issue.

Those stories do not fully portray the frustration and fear that parents of autistic children have. After hearing from researchers, interest groups, parents and autistic individuals, I can say that I better understand. Hearing the stories pulled at my heartstrings, but they showed the reality of the situation and proved that it needs our immediate attention.

We heard from parents and what they see in their children in crisis, with very little help forthcoming. The reaction of each of us when something threatens our children is to protect them.

Laurel Gibbons, a mother with a nine-year-old autistic son, testified that instead of using her son's health care card to access treatment, she relied on two other cards: her library card to research autism, and her Visa card to pay for treatment.

She added:

We were going to have to pay for any interventions, including ABA, as well as the recommended speech and occupational therapy that ran into thousands of dollars.

After re-financing our mortgage three times in the last four years, the money has run out. The speech therapy has stopped, as did the occupational therapy for his sensory issues. . . . We are still doing what we can piecemeal. I worry every day that I may have to relinquish my custody of him and hand him over to social services because he becomes unmanageable.

Honourable senators, after hearing that, how can we not act? How can governments not support these parents and how can we not expect parents to be frustrated or angry?

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Treatment, honourable senators, can cost $60,000 a year, the committee was told time and time again. There is varied support from the provincial and territorial governments. Certainly, it is not equitable across the country. The majority of that $60,000 is coming from the pockets of parents.

The committee was pleased to hear from a number of adult witnesses who have autism. Their testimony was inspirational and touching, and it showed what the results of detection and treatment can mean. Their testimony leads to some of the recommendations contained in the report.

Mr. Kristian Hooker, from Selkirk, Manitoba, spoke to the issues that persons with autistic spectrum disorder face. He said:

A big problem with people facing ASD in society is that others often have a stereotype of how a person with ASD is supposed to look or behave. Many people with ASD could eliminate that stereotype but rarely get that opportunity, especially with a large group of people.

That is why one of our recommendations is for the inclusion of autistic individuals in both national public awareness campaign and the proposed symposium announced by the Minister of Health last year. It is essential that this group be represented at any table that discusses what to do to help people with autism.

Mr. Jason Oldford is 36 years old and was diagnosed in 1974. He supported the views expressed by Ms. Laurel Gibbons in her testimony when he said:

ABA is an expensive treatment. You have probably heard the figure $60,000 per year per child. . . . Parents put themselves on the verge of bankruptcy when they have to pay for that treatment out of pocket. I certainly understand the situation they are in.

The testimony of people like Jason Oldford and Laurel Gibbons is the reason that the committee recommended that the federal government convene a federal-provincial-territorial ministerial conference to examine innovative funding arrangements for the purpose of financing autism therapy and that the federal government establish an appropriate level of funding — its appropriate share — in all of this. Parents are facing extraordinary costs to help their children, and what they need and ask for is help. They are asking their federal, provincial and territorial governments to help to alleviate this stress. The proposed meeting is not just needed, it must happen and must happen now.

Honourable senators, beyond these two significant recommendations of inclusion and a federal-provincial-territorial meeting, the committee further recommends: the creation of a public awareness campaign to enhance knowledge and understanding of ASD and the difficulties, the challenges and some of the great qualities and abilities that many ASD people exhibit; and the creation of an autism knowledge and exchange centre and an Internet-based web portal for reliable data for those seeking information on autism. The committee heard from many witnesses that there is too much confusing information.

The committee also recommends the creation of an autism research network and the provision of money for research through the Canadian Institutes of Health Research, because there remains much to learn about ASD disorders. The committee recommends that the federal government work with the provinces and territories to address the human resources issues, including training standards. The Province of Alberta provides funding, but they do not have the human resources; Ontario does not provide as much funding but has lots of human resources. There are problems right across the country of that sort, including training standards, which are so varied. As well, we ask that the Department of Finance study the implications of income splitting and other tax measures to help the families.

Pulling it altogether, the committee recommends that the federal government, in collaboration with the provinces and territories, establish a comprehensive national autism strategy, which is needed now.

The committee also noted that in Budget 2007 the government has taken steps toward helping parents — and I congratulate those who sit on the government side in this place on announcing the creation of a registered disability savings plan. However, this plan will help only some people tomorrow, not today, and today is the issue. Parents are going broke now and there is no money for tomorrow.

In the words of Jason Oldford — and I quote:

. . . if you pay for it now, look at the return you get on your investment. The people with autism will get out into the real world and get jobs, and that will stimulate the economy. Or you can pay later, which means they will go into group homes and it will cost the taxpayers a lot of money in the long run to keep them there.

Pay now, or pay later. Honourable senators, that is why we need to act today.

In conclusion, I thought I would use the words of my esteemed colleague and deputy chair of the Social Affairs Committee, Senator Keon: At committee, when asking one of his questions of witnesses, he said.

Our job is to come up with a plan that is good enough that government cannot say no to it.

Senator Keon said that, in his experience, plans are turned down if they are not good enough but that if they are good enough, they are never turned down.

The report of the committee contains good recommendations that will help families across the country to deal with this growing problem. I know we could have gone further, and many people wanted us to, but we had to make recommendations that could be and should be implemented — ones that are reasonable. These recommendations help to move us in the right direction on this issue, to show parents and autistic adults that they are not alone and that they have not been abandoned.

Honourable senators, I look forward to hearing from the government in respect of this motion on the twelfth report of the Social Affairs Committee and, more important, I look forward to the implementation of this report.

Hon. Gerry St. Germain: Would the honourable senator take a question?

Senator Eggleton: Yes.

Senator St. Germain: Autism has emerged in my life. As well, I have been approached by people in British Columbia on the issue. Does the honourable senator know, through his studies with the able assistance of Senator Keon, why this illness has been neglected in the process of treatment? Why has autism not been recognized by provincial health authorities?

Is there an increase in the number of births of children with autism? Are there any scientific projects under way to determine whether diagnoses of this illness are on the increase?

I speak with sincerity, honourable senators, because I have a niece who has two autistic children. I have seen a beautiful young woman virtually deteriorate before the family's eyes.

The information given to me by some who are active in British Columbia on this issue has clearly stated that there appears to be an increase in the number of births of autistic children. Could the honourable senator clarify that point? Did the committee's study reveal why the issue has not been addressed by provincial health authorities and Health Canada?

Senator Eggleton: I thank the honourable senator for the excellent questions. It is not clear whether there has been an increase in the number of births of children with autism. However, it is clear that there is an increase in awareness of autism, with earlier diagnosis and earlier treatment for some, but not for everyone because not everyone can afford it or access it readily. Certainly, there is an increase in awareness but an increase in the numbers is not clear from the studies to date.

(1800)

With respect to health, one of the difficulties with autism spectrum disorder is that it covers more than one field. It is not only a question of health. They go to doctors and clinics, but many things would come under the social service umbrella or even the education umbrella. Also, many costs relate to the fact that many of these young people require one parent to stay at home. It is extremely difficult for both parents to work.

The Hon. the Speaker: Honourable senators, it being six o'clock, I am obliged to leave the chair unless there is consent not to see the clock.

Hon. Gerald J. Comeau (Deputy Leader of the Government): I propose that we give the senator a few moments to conclude.

Hon. Senators: Agreed.

Senator Eggleton: This is why we think we need a national autism strategy. We need to pull together the governments at different levels to work out how we can cross the lines of health care, education and social support services, and what to do about the loss of income for parents. All these things create enormous financial and emotional pressures for these people.

This is why we have suggested that we need a strategy. We need the symposium that Minister Clement recommended, which would include people in the autism field. We also need the federal and provincial governments to come together to work on this national strategy.

On motion of Senator Cowan, for Senator Munson, debate adjourned.

The Senate adjourned until Wednesday, May 2, 2007, at 1:30 p.m.