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Debates of the Senate (Hansard)

Debates of the Senate (Hansard)

1st Session, 39th Parliament,
Volume 143, Issue 103

Tuesday, June 5, 2007
The Honourable Noël A. Kinsella, Speaker



Tuesday, June 5, 2007

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


The Late Master Corporal Darrell Jason Priede
The Late Corporal Christopher Deliva

Silent Tribute

The Hon. the Speaker: Honourable senators, before we proceed, I would ask senators to rise and observe one minute of silence in memory of Master Corporal Darrell Jason Priede and Corporal Christopher Deliva.

Honourable senators then stood in silent tribute.



Eighteenth Anniversary of Tiananmen Square Massacre

Hon. Consiglio Di Nino: Honourable senators, 18 years ago, on June 4, 1989, the events in Tiananmen Square shocked the world. The killing of hundreds of unarmed civilians, whose only crime was to gather at a peaceful protest, stands out as one of the worst examples of brutality inflicted by a government on its own citizens.


On the anniversary of this atrocity, I stand in solidarity with the thousands of Chinese people who participated in the Tiananmen Square demonstrations, and with the millions of citizens who continue to be denied their rights and freedoms for which their fellow countrymen perished.

According to Human Rights Watch, 143 participants involved in the demonstrations are still languishing in prison. To date, honourable senators, Beijing has failed to account for the massacre or even allow debate over it. Instead, it has engaged in the harassment of survivors, their families and those who dare challenge the official whitewash of the events of that fateful summer.

Given the remarkable economic transformation that has taken place in China, it would be easy to believe that all other things have changed as well. Unfortunately, this is not the case. While democracy has emerged in other Asian countries, freedom of expression, multi-party elections and the ability to dissent are no more tolerated today in China than they were in 1989. It is a troubling reality, a reality that demonstrates how the tools of capitalism can be used to perpetuate government oppression under the veil of economic progress and stability.

Honourable senators, 2008 will be an Olympic year for Beijing. If we really believe in the concept of international human rights, Canada and the rest of the world community should hold the Chinese government to their promise of improving human rights and freedoms. The sacrifice of so many in Tiananmen Square should not be one that was made in vain.

Les Grands Ballets canadiens de Montréal

Fiftieth Anniversary

Hon. Yoine Goldstein: Honourable senators, this year marks the fiftieth anniversary of Les Grands Ballets canadiens de Montréal, and today marks the retirement of Anik Bissonnette, a star among stars, a dancer described by the artistic director of the National Ballet of Canada, Karen Kain, as one of the most exquisite and accomplished dancers of all times.

Anik has become a cultural icon in Quebec, within and beyond dance circles. She has danced leading roles in all of the great classics and has worked with many of today's best choreographers. She has been awarded both the titles of Officer of the Order of Canada and Chevalier de l'Ordre du Québec.


For 18 years, Anik has been lighting up the stage with her legendary grace. Les Grands Ballets and Anik Bissonnette, individually and together, have continued to grow, flourish, and especially, to win over the hearts and minds of their audiences everywhere they have set foot on the stage.


In the past several years, Les Grands Ballets has expanded its repertoire through commissioned original works by young, up-and-coming choreographers to the delight of audiences throughout Canada, the United States and Europe. It is no exaggeration to say that this so-called "small town" ballet company has become a world-class cultural icon under the guidance of its outstanding artistic director, Gradimir Pankov.

Please join me, honourable senators, in congratulating Les Grands Ballets on achieving 50 successful years of bringing exciting, entertaining and enriching cultural performances to Quebec, Canada and many other countries throughout the world, and in wishing Anik Bissonnette well on her retirement and success in all her future endeavours, which we can all be assured will be stellar.

Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis (ALS) Awareness Month

Hon. Lowell Murray: Honourable senators, a while ago, I was asked if I would draw your attention to the fact that June is ALS Awareness Month in Canada. ALS — amyotrophic lateral sclerosis — is also known as Lou Gehrig's disease, after the renowned New York Yankee baseball player who died of it.

I am honoured to have been asked to do this. Those of our fellow human beings — and there are several thousand of them in Canada — who are afflicted with this disease suffer uniquely. Not for them the balm of unawareness, of mental and physical capacities ebbing out together gradually and painlessly. With ALS, the mind and senses remain unimpaired, perhaps even more alert, while all physical autonomy is lost. The courage of these people in facing every day's existence is quite phenomenal; so too is that of their families and loved ones.


The ALS Society of Canada is a non-profit organization dependent on volunteers and devoted exclusively to fighting this disease. This society is dedicated to funding medical research and improving the quality of life of Canadians with ALS.


There is no effective treatment for ALS and no known cure. Approximately 80 per cent of people diagnosed with ALS die within two years.


Every year, the staff and volunteers of the ALS Society of Canada organize fundraising activities, such as the Walk for ALS, to create awareness about the disease and to raise money to fund research.



Let us salute the generosity and compassion of these volunteers and express our solidarity in every possible way with those whose cruel fate it is to be quite alive while dying of ALS.


Canadian Summit of Francophone and Acadian Communities

Hon. Maria Chaput: Honourable senators, from June 1 to 3, 2007, the University of Ottawa hosted the Summit of Francophone and Acadian Communities of Canada. I was very proud to participate in the summit and to spend time with this community, which is so close to my heart. The summit's theme was "Join forces and take action." This gathering provided an opportunity for all 760 participants to discuss priority issues, come up with solutions and take part in the final phase of a dialogue on their future that has been going on for two years.

At the end of the summit, Canada's francophone and Acadian leaders committed to turning that vision into action. I urge the government to acknowledge the intensive consultation that took place, to work with our leaders starting now, and to accept the shared goals and the priority issues they focused on during the Summit of Francophone and Acadian Communities.

Despite all this, in her speech Wednesday evening, the Minister of Official Languages said that, this fall, she would undertake extensive consultations on the government's overall vision of official languages and linguistic duality in order to create a roadmap. That would be discouraging and even insulting to all francophones and Acadians in Canada who have just completed this process.

I hope that the government in power will recognize the work done during this summit as the ultimate consultation initiative involving all francophone and Acadian stakeholders and that this new shared vision supported by all leaders will also receive the support of the government in power.

I would like to congratulate the Fédération des communautés francophones et acadiennes du Canada, the members of the steering committee and the resource people on this excellent initiative. I would also like to thank all of the volunteers who supported them.


Under-Representation of Women in University Faculty Positions in Science and Engineering

Hon. Lillian Eva Dyck: Honourable senators, the Royal Society of Canada held a conference entitled "Rooms of Their Own" in Edmonton, May 2-4. I had the honour of being one of the plenary speakers. My talk addressed the under-representation of women in university faculty positions in science and engineering.

With the large numbers of male faculty retiring now and in the next few years, it is important to ensure that women are given a fair chance in the hiring process at universities. I refer to the report of the National Academy of Sciences, Beyond Bias and Barriers: Fulfilling the Potential of Women in Academic Science and Engineering. I shall list three key findings from this report: First, women are very likely to face discrimination in every field of science and engineering; second, evaluation criteria contain arbitrary and subjective components that disadvantage women — women faculty on average are paid less, are promoted more slowly, receive fewer honours and hold fewer leadership positions than men — and third, although most scientists and engineers believe they are objective and intend to be fair, research shows that they, like most people, are biased in their evaluations.

In another report, leading brain researcher Baroness Greenfield found that many women in science were bullied. Honourable senators, that certainly was my experience. Like many, I was not sure how to cope with the bullying, but as I thought of my mother my inner strength and determination returned. My mother overcame blatant racism and survived residential school, so there was no way that I was going to let some man push me out of my job simply because I was a woman.


Honourable senators, women have a rightful place in society and in the university academy and ought to be accepted with respect and gender equality. We should be free to say and do what we want without feeling constrained by gender roles or rules, and without fear of being punished for daring to be the women we are meant to be. We are meant to be women who walk tall, walk proud, and walk strong.

Honourable senators, at the conference, I gave a PowerPoint presentation which had pictures of powerful Aboriginal women who are models of beauty and power. You will have to use your imaginations to visualize these two examples, which I will share with you today. My first example was Bear Woman, who has the medicine of healing and strength; and the second example was of our ancestral mothers and grandmothers who walked before us with the medicine of determination.

Honourable senators, women in science and engineering, and all women, should be respected and valued in their homes, their communities and in their workplaces so that they can walk tall, walk proud and walk strong.


Canada Elections Act
Public Service Employment Act

Bill to Amend—Report of Committee

Hon. Donald H. Oliver, Chair of the Standing Senate Committee on Legal and Constitutional Affairs, presented the following report:

Tuesday, June 5, 2007

The Standing Senate Committee on Legal and Constitutional Affairs has the honour to present its


Your Committee, to which was referred Bill C-31, An Act to amend the Canada Elections Act and the Public Service Employment Act, has, in obedience to the Order of Reference of Wednesday, March 21, 2007, examined the said Bill and now reports the same with the following amendments:

1. Title: Delete the words:

"and the Public Service Employment Act".

2. Page 2, clause 5: Delete from line 36 the words:

"date of birth".

3. Page 6, clause 13:

(a) Delete on lines 14 and 15 the words:

"address and date of birth"; and

(b) Add on line 14, after the word "name" the words:

"and address".

4. Page 7, clause 18: Replace line 35 with the following:

"does not indicate an elector's sex or date of birth".

5. Page 13, clause 28: Replace lines 11 to 16 of the French text with the following:

"i.1) sur demande, et à intervalles minimaux de trente minutes, fournit aux représentants des candidats, sur le formulaire prescrit et selon les directives du directeur général des élections, l'identité des électeurs ayant exercé leur droit de vote le jour du scrutin à l'exclusion de celle des électeurs s'étant inscrit le jour même;

i.2) sur demande, après la fermeture du bureau de vote par anticipation, fournit aux représentants des candidats, sur le formulaire prescrit et selon les directives du directeur général des élections, l'identité des électeurs ayant exercé leur droit de vote ce jour-là, à l'exclusion de celle des électeurs s'étant inscrit le jour même;".

6. Page 13, clause 28: Replace lines 12 to 17 with the following:

"(i.1) on request, and at intervals of no less than 30 minutes, provide to a candidate's representative, on the prescribed form and as directed by the Chief Electoral Officer, the identity of every elector who has exercised his or her right to vote on polling day, excluding that of electors who registered on that day;

(i.2) on request, after the close of the advance polling station, provide to a candidate's representative, on the prescribed form and as directed by the Chief Electoral Officer, the identity of every elector who has exercised his or her right to vote on that day excluding that of electors who registered on that day; and".

7. Delete clause 40, page 16.

8. Delete clause 41, page 17.

9. Page 17, clause 42: Replace line 8 with the following:

"42. (1) Despite subsection 554(1) of the Canada Elections Act, sections 3, 6, 8 and 9, subsection".

10. Page 17, clause 42: Replace line 9 with the following:

"10(2), sections 11, 12, 14 to 16, 20 to 27, 28 (f), (g) (h) and (i), 29 to 33 and".

11. Page 17, clause 42: Replace line 23 with the following:

"17 to 19, 28 (i.1) and (i.2) and 34 come into force ten months".

Respectfully submitted,


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

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

Emergency Management Bill

Report of Committee

Hon. David P. Smith, Chair of the Special Senate Committee on the Anti-terrorism Act, presented the following report:

Tuesday, June 5, 2007

The Special Senate Committee on the Anti-terrorism Act has the honour to present its


Your Committee, to which was referred Bill C-12, An Act to provide for emergency management and to amend and repeal certain Acts, has, in obedience to the Order of Reference of Wednesday, March 28, 2007, examined the said Bill and now reports the same without amendment.

Respectfully submitted,


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

On motion of Senator Meighen, bill placed on the Orders of the Day for third reading at the next sitting of the Senate.


Citizenship Act

Bill to Amend—First Reading

The Speaker informed the Senate that a message had been received from the House of Commons with Bill C-14, to amend the Citizenship Act (adoption).

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.


Criminal Code

Bill to Amend—First Reading

The Hon. the Speaker informed the Senate that a message has been received from the House of Commons with Bill C-35, to amend the Criminal Code (reverse onus in bail hearings for firearm-related offences).

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 place on the Orders of the Day for second reading two days hence.


Canada-United States Inter-Parliamentary Group

National Governors Association Winter Meeting, February 24-27, 2007—Report Tabled

Hon. Jerahmiel S. Grafstein: Honourable senators, I have the honour to table in the Senate, in both official languages, the report of the Canadian delegation of the Canada-United States Inter-Parliamentary Group respecting its participation at the National Governors Association Winter Meeting, Innovation America, Washington, D.C., February 24 to 27, 2007.

The Senate

Notice of Motion for Address to Governor General on Filling Vacant Seats

Hon. Anne C. Cools: Honourable senators, pursuant to rule 57(1)(b), I give notice that I shall move:

That the following address be presented to Her Excellency the Governor General of Canada:

To Her Excellency the Right Honourable Michaëlle Jean, Chancellor and Principal Companion of the Order of Canada, Chancellor and Commander of the Order of Military Merit, Governor General and Commander-in-Chief of Canada.

May it Please Your Excellency:

We, Her Majesty's most loyal and dutiful subjects, the Senate of Canada in Parliament assembled, beg leave humbly to represent to Her Excellency our just anxiety for the constitutional condition of our country, which condition is needing Her Excellency's intervention to provide Her Majesty's Canadian subjects with proper and full representation in the Senate of Canada, and thereby to avert the constitutional crisis arising from the Prime Minister's refusal to perform his sworn constitutional duty of advising Her Excellency in the exercise of Her lawful constitutional duties, in particular, Her Excellency's vice-regal duty in regard to Her Majesty Queen Victoria's command which Her Majesty enacted as the British North America Act, 1867, Section 32, in the most carefully chosen words, "When a Vacancy happens in the Senate by Resignation, Death, or otherwise, the Governor General shall by Summons to a fit and qualified Person fill the Vacancy.", which words "shall . . . fill" are clear and unambiguous in their constitutional construction, meaning, and interpretation, and are not open to any doubt whatsoever;

That it appears to your faithful subjects and senators that the Prime Minister has claimed a power unknown to our Constitution and to our law, being the false power of refusal to advise the Governor General, and, that the Prime Minister's public refusal to advise the Governor General on qualified persons for appointment to the Senate is a power which is not only false, but which is also wholly repugnant to the Constitution, because the exercise of such a power by a prime minister has the effect of making the Governor General into a felon and outlaw of the Constitution, and that this would be a most terrible infamy, not countenanced by the Constitution, of which Her Majesty is the source of all power and authority, and that such infamy would be a most terrible constitutional crisis;


That it appears to your faithful subjects and senators that prime ministers have no constitutional power whatsoever to compel or to cause the Governor General of Canada to transgress the law, and that confronted with such compulsion and provocation from any prime minister, the Governor General's proper constitutional duty is to refuse to acquiesce to that prime minister, and to decline to transgress the law, therein to uphold the Constitution, the law, and the rights of Canadians to responsible government and a lawfully abiding prime minister;

We therefore humbly pray Your Excellency, that, in conformity with the law and the B.N.A. Act, 1867, Section 32., Your Excellency, the Head of Parliament, the high representative of the people of Canada and the actuating power in the Constitution, will be pleased to exercise her lawful and constitutional duties, and will be pleased to summon qualified persons to the Senate of Canada to fill the many and growing vacancies, thereby to provide Her Majesty's Canadian subjects with proper representation in the Senate and thereby also to provide for the proper operation of the Parliament of Canada, for peace order and good government, and for the amelioration of the constitutional condition of the country.

Some Hon. Senators: Hear, hear!

Human Rights

Notice of Motion to Authorize Committee to Refer Documents from Study on Bill S-21 During First Session, Thirty-eighth Parliament to Study on Bill S-207

Hon. A. Raynell Andreychuk: Honourable senators, I give notice that at the next of the Senate, I will move:

That the papers and evidence received by the Standing Senate Committee on Legal and Constitutional Affairs during its study of Bill S-21, an act to amend the Criminal Code (protection of children) during the first session of the Thirty-eighth Parliament be referred to the Standing Senate Committee on Human Rights for the purpose of its study on Bill S-207, to amend the Criminal Code (protection of children.)

Legal and Constitutional Affairs

Notice of Motion to Authorize Committee to Extend Date of Final Report on Study of Benefits and Results Achieved through Court Challenges Program

Hon. Donald H. Oliver: Honourable senators, I give notice that at the next sitting of the Senate, I will move:

That, notwithstanding the Order of the Senate adopted on Thursday, December 7, 2006, the Standing Senate Committee on Legal and Constitutional Affairs, which was authorized to examine and report on the benefits and results that have been achieved through the Court Challenges Program, be empowered to extend the date of presenting its final report from June 30, 2007 to December 31, 2007.

Notice of Motion to Authorize Committee to Extend Date of Final Report on Study of Including in Legislation Non-derogation Clauses Relating to Aboriginal Treaty Rights

Hon. Donald H. Oliver: Honourable senators, I give notice that at the next sitting of the Senate, I shall move:

That, notwithstanding the Order of the Senate adopted on Thursday, June 1st, 2006, the Standing Senate Committee on Legal and Constitutional Affairs, which was authorized to examine and report on the implications of including, in legislation, non-derogation clauses relating to existing Aboriginal and treaty rights of the Aboriginal peoples of Canada under s.35 of the Constitution Act, 1982; be empowered to extend the date of presenting its final report from June 30, 2007 to December 31, 2007.


Study on Evacuation of Canadian Citizens from Lebanon

Notice of Motion to Adopt Report of Foreign Affairs and International Trade Committee and Request Government Response

Hon. Consiglio Di Nino: Honourable senators, I give notice that, at the next sitting of the Senate, I will move:

That the twelfth report of the Standing Senate Committee on Foreign Affairs and International Trade entitled The Evacuation of Canadians from Lebanon in July 2006: Implications for the Government of Canada, tabled in the Senate on May 31, 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 Citizenship and Immigration and the Minister of National Defence being identified as Ministers responsible for responding to the report.


State of Research in Canada

Notice of Inquiry

Hon. Wilbert J. Keon: Honourable senators, pursuant to rules 56 and 57, I hereby give notice that on Tuesday, June 12, 2007, I will call the attention of the Senate to the state of research in Canada.





Support for the Arts—Funding of Summer Festivals

Hon. Céline Hervieux-Payette (Leader of the Opposition): My question is for the Leader of the Government in the Senate. Late last week, the Federation of Canadian Municipalities unanimously passed an emergency resolution calling on the government to immediately distribute the money promised for festivals in the most recent budget. Montreal Mayor Gérald Tremblay also recently asked the government to release the promised funding without delay to help these events succeed.

In my constituency, the mayor of Ville-Marie, Benoît Labonté, reminds us that for every dollar the federal government invests in festivals, it gets nine dollars back; that festivals in Montreal create 12,000 jobs, most of which are seasonal; and that festivals attract seven million visitors to the Montreal area and generate $200 million in economic spinoffs.

When will this government stop stalling the organizations and start paying out the promised money?


Hon. Marjory LeBreton (Leader of the Government and Secretary of State (Seniors)): I thank the honourable senator for the question. In 2007-08, Canadian Heritage, through the Arts Presentation program, will continue to support many of these local events. I entirely agree that festivals are very valuable not only to the communities in which they are held, but also to people visiting the communities. The Government of Canada is providing over $20 million to support events across the country in 2007-08.

Minister Oda mentioned in the other place yesterday that many festivals in Montreal will receive between $300,000 and $1.2 million from the government this summer.


Senator Hervieux-Payette: It will not have escaped the Leader of the Government in the Senate that her government's budget included $60 million over two years for festivals, or $30 million a year. Minister Oda said:


Festivals inside and outside Quebec this summer simply shouldn't have counted on getting money from the new program in the first place.


Are we to understand that her government's promises are meaningless and that the budget passed in the other place is not binding on the government, unless this money is reserved strictly for the Winterlude festival in Ottawa, which will be held in February? We are talking about festivals that are taking place this summer in Montreal and that have clear benefits, and I am certain the minister for the Montreal area also hopes these festivals will be very successful.


Senator LeBreton: Honourable senators, I think that the Leader of the Opposition has misunderstood. In Budget 2007 we committed to set up a new program to assist local events celebrating arts, culture and heritage with funding of $60 million over two years. This is new funding and will not affect existing programs or funds that are already in place for existing programs.


Senator Hervieux-Payette: I would quite simply like the Leader of the Government in the Senate to tell us — because we also must explain how our government works — at what point this budget, which has been before the other place for months and was expected to provide funding for events for the 2007-08 fiscal year, will release the $30 million and how long will this government take to put these criteria in place?

It seems that we could perhaps help the federal government, and even Raymond Bachand, Quebec's Minister of Economic Development, Innovation and Export Trade, has said that he is ready to help the current government establish criteria for this program.


Senator LeBreton: Honourable senators, I answered similar questions on this matter last week. As I explained then, the $60 million in new funding in no way affects money currently flowing to existing programs for festivals and cultural events across the country.

As the minister explained, the government is being very judicious in how this new funding of $60 million will be allocated. There will be a proper applications process for the various festivals and cultural groups that want to access this funding.


Since it is new funding and does not affect funding for the existing summer season, the government wants to be very careful that the organizations that will be applying for this funding are worthy organizations, that they meet a certain criteria because, as I mentioned a few days ago in this place, we do not want a situation to develop again whereby funding ends up in places it was not intended to end up.


Hon. Francis Fox: Honourable senators, my question is a follow-up to that of the Leader of the Opposition in the Senate. After yesterday's press conference by the mayors of Montreal, Ville-Marie and representatives of the Regroupement des événements majeurs internationaux, (REMI), and the Coalition des grands événements de Montreal, the mayor of Montreal made a statement. He was quoted this morning in the Montreal Gazette by two reputable journalists, Jan Ravensbergen and Elizabeth Thompson.


"I talked with" Michael Fortier. . . "again this morning" to try to unblock the money. . . . Fortier told Tremblay he was "working very hard to get the answers we need today," . . .


I assume that Senator Fortier believes that this $60 million could be disbursed right now and that there is no reason to wait.

Could the Leader of the Government in the Senate tell us if Mr. Fortier kept his promise to speak to Ms. Oda? Did he do his best "today," as he stated yesterday in his conversation with Mayor Tremblay?


Senator LeBreton: Honourable senators, not only did he do that, but Minister Oda actually answered yesterday when she made it clear that festivals in Montreal will receive between $300,000 and $1.2 million from the government this summer. I will be happy to obtain from the minister for the honourable senator the information to back up these figures.


Senator Fox: I want to thank the minister for her response, even though she did not answer the question.

There was a time when Marcel Masse, another minister in the Mulroney government, toured the country promising subsidies and reimbursements for culture when he did not really have the budget to do so, but the government never abandoned arts and culture. Now we have Minister Oda, who is touring the country talking about her budget but refusing to spend it. You will agree that these two situations are somewhat ironic.

Let us come back to yesterday's press conference. The spokesperson for the Canadian Festivals Coalition and director general of the Rassemblement québécois des événements majeurs internationaux confirmed in La Presse that a lobbyist had been hired by the festivals under a contract worth between $250,000 and $300,000. He thinks the lobbyist played a key role in the announcement of the new annual $30 million program for the next two years.

Do these people need to hire a second lobbyist to pay out the money the first lobbyist obtained by convincing the current government? Would it not be better, Madam Minister, to listen to Senator Fortier, who, in the words of Montreal's mayor, said he would do everything he could to unblock the money for this program? Would it not be better to listen to festival organizers, town mayors across Canada and some provincial governments? In short, would it not be better to listen to these people instead of telling us over and over that a program already exists? We are talking about the new $60 million program, not the existing money.


Senator LeBreton: Honourable senators, I cannot do anything but repeat what I have just said. In terms of the money that has been flowing to festivals in Montreal and the fact that these groups would hire a lobbyist, I have not had the opportunity to read the article so I will not comment on it.

With regard to the additional $60 million, as I said last week, I believe the honourable senator would agree that this is additional money and the government wants to ensure that this money flows to organizations that are deserving, that contribute to our arts and cultural life in this country, and that it does not end up in the hands of people where it was not intended to end up.


Public Works and Government Services

Review of Government Polling—Extension of Mandate

Hon. Sharon Carstairs: Honourable senators, my question is for the Minister of Public Works and Government Services as part of my ongoing strategy so that he will not feel lonely, unloved or unappreciated in this place.

Last Thursday, in reply to my question with respect to a poll of the ethnocultural communities of the government's five priorities — which failed to meet Treasury Board guidelines because it was not released until the government was forced to do so by the media — Senator Fortier responded that he welcomed the information and that I should provide him with additional information polls that had failed to meet this guideline. I welcome that initiative.

Will the minister go one step further and review the mandate of Mr. Paillé and allow him to investigate not only this polling contract, but also all other polling contracts that have been undertaken since this government took office?

Hon. Michael Fortier (Minister of Public Works and Government Services): Honourable senators, I am not aware of the data in relation to this additional poll that was not released, so I will need to be informed about it.

With respect to Mr. Paillé's mandate, we have pegged the goalposts at 1990 to 2003. That was in our political platform. I am sure that will not please the honourable senator as an answer, but it was there. At least the matter was out there in the open, transparent and in writing, black and white. It was linked to the Auditor General's report of 2003.

The honourable senator has since stated that she is happy with the measures implemented. All things being considered, it probably makes sense to keep those goalposts.

Senator Carstairs: I am delighted that the honourable senator does not think those goalposts should be kept, since he is quite right; the Auditor General made that statement.

Why, then, would the minister be unwilling to increase those goalposts to include any polling that has been undertaken while this government has been in office?

Senator Fortier: Maybe the honourable senator and I are confusing two issues, or maybe I am.

The issue to be addressed through Mr. Paillé's inquiry is how contracts were awarded. It is important that the data be released. I agree with the honourable senator.

In essence, Mr. Paillé's role is to indicate to us how the procurement process was handled by governments. There were several between 1990 and 2003.

If I understand the honourable senator correctly, she is complaining at this stage about the lack of disclosure in terms of the polling data. I say to her again today, I am happy to release the data or speak to my colleagues who have requested those polling numbers and who have sought polling on certain issues to ensure that they release the data. To me, these are two different issues.

Senator Carstairs: I think those issues are exactly the same. If Senator Fortier thinks it is important to ensure that governments from 1990 to 2003 were accountable, then I think it is equally important that governments in 2006 and 2007 are accountable.

Will the minister revise the mandate of Mr. Paillé and ask him to continue to investigate any contracts given to any firms for polling purposes so that his government can be just as accountable as the Auditor General said the previous government was?

Senator Fortier: The Auditor General confirmed that, since 2003, she was happy with how the process was being conducted. Frankly, I do not see the reason for asking Mr. Paillé to go through materials which the Auditor General has obviously reviewed and blessed.

Mr. Paillé is intending to review materials that go back to 1990 for reasons we have stated in the past. I agree with the honourable senator; it is important we be transparent.

Having said that, I believe that there was only one poll that was not published within the six-month period. If there is another, I ask the honourable senator to let me know. Senator Carstairs started her question by stating there is another case.

Senator Carstairs: No, I did not.

Senator Fortier: I do apologize. We have the one case, and we will ensure the same thing does not happen again.




Support for the Arts—Funding for Summer Festivals

Hon. Jean Lapointe: Honourable senators, my question follows on Senator Fox's and is for the Leader of the Government in the Senate. In addition to being an excellent tap dancer and having a way with words, the Leader of the Government has become a verbal contortionist. I greatly admire her for all these qualities, but I would like an answer that is as short as my question.

Will the festivals receive the $30 million before the events, yes or no?


Hon. Marjory LeBreton (Leader of the Government and Secretary of State (Seniors)): I thank the honourable senator for the question. There is a two-part answer. Funding to festivals is ongoing, and, as I have now pointed out three times, large festivals in Montreal, as Minister Oda said in the other place yesterday, will receive between $300,000 and $1.2 million from the government this summer.

The amount that seems to be in question is the $60 million which people say has not been allocated. This was $60 million additional dollars included in Budget 2007. As I explained today, and last week, the government and the department will be receiving applications for access to that $60 million. There are many festivals that take place in this country. Summer festivals are being funded. The $60 million will be accessible to anyone who wants to make application. Once it has been adjudicated to be a worthy recipient, the money will flow.

The government and the department is being careful to ensure that this money is being properly disbursed because, as I have said before, we do not want festival money or sponsorship money — or whatever you want to call it — to end up in hands where it was not intended to end up.


Senator Lapointe: I would just like to make a comment. That is the longest "yes or no" answer I have ever heard in my life.


The Senate

Minister of Public Works and Government Services—Recorded Votes—Resignation

Hon. Lorna Milne: Honourable senators, last week the Journals Branch of the Senate was kind enough to inform me that there have been 22 recorded votes in the Senate during the 102 sitting days since the session began on April 3, 2006.

On that day, April 3, 2006, a very special event occurred here. We had the privilege of being joined by our colleague Senator Fortier. Since Senator Fortier has been the only Canadian officially introduced into this chamber since that time, I have had a significant amount of time to review the Journals of the Senate, which leads to my question.

Can the minister himself, or, as usual, the Leader of the Government in the Senate on his behalf, advise honourable senators how many times Senator Fortier has stood in his place and had his vote recorded in the 102 sitting days since this session started over a year ago?

Hon. Marjory LeBreton (Leader of the Government and Secretary of State (Seniors)): Honourable senators, that is an interesting question. I do not know whether it exactly falls more into the category of Senate business or government business. I do not know the purpose or intent of the question, but I suppose a perusal of the Senate records could answer it. I do not have the answer off the top of my head. Suffice to say that Senator Fortier is a valued colleague, an excellent minister of public works and a nominated candidate to run for office for the House of Commons in the next general election.

Senator Milne: I thank the honourable senator, I guess, for that "sort-of" response. I would indicate to the chamber and for the record that Senator Fortier held up his fingers and said zero. I must tell honourable senators that he is wrong. To the best of my knowledge, Senator Fortier has cast a recorded vote five times since April of last year.


Can the minister himself or, once again, the Leader of the Government on the minister's behalf, tell honourable senators how many sitting days Senator Fortier has stood in his place and had his vote recorded in this place in those 102 days?

Senator LeBreton: Honourable senators, that begs the question: Why did the honourable senator ask the question in the first place, if she had the answer?

Senator Milne: As the Leader of the Government knows full well — and she shows her expertise at it — this is Question Period, not answer period.

Honourable senators, I can tell you that the honourable senator, to the best of my knowledge, has cast a recorded vote on only one day since the session started. That was November 9, 2006 — five votes on one sitting day, and that is it.

This government keeps preaching accountability, while changing the rules so they can be unaccountable to Canadians — not that one needs to change any rules to be unaccounted regarding recorded votes; rather, one can simply follow the honourable senator's example and fail to show up.

As the Leader of the Government has pointed out, Senator Fortier has been quoted in the press on many occasions as saying that he is prepared to run in an election in the other place at the earliest opportunity. However, when the opportunity presented itself, he did not do so. If the honourable senator is not interested in being here in this chamber and representing the people of the province of Quebec, why did he not resign his seat and run as a candidate in the November 2006 by-election in Montreal? If Senator Fortier is not interested in being here in this chamber, why does he not just resign his seat for the benefit of all Canadians?

Senator LeBreton: These types of questions do not, in my view, warrant a lot of attention. The fact is Senator Fortier was appointed Minister of Public Works and Government Services in February 2006. He is doing an outstanding job as Minister of Public Works and Government Services and representing the people of Montreal within government and at the cabinet table.

The good people of Vaudreuil have already approached Senator Fortier to be their candidate. He indicated to them that he was going to run in that riding and he has subsequently been nominated for that riding. The moment the general election is called, Senator Fortier will be very happy to accommodate Senator Milne and resign from the Senate.

Hon. Lowell Murray: Will the Leader of the Government examine the possibility that the Minister of Public Works has not been here because he was paired with some frequently absent Liberal senator?

Senator LeBreton: That is a possibility; I appreciate the honourable senator's question. However, if we were to go down that road, the colour of some faces in this place would be similar to that of the carpet.

Veterans Affairs

Veterans Independence Program—Coverage of Spouses of Veterans of World War II and Korean War

Hon. Catherine S. Callbeck: My question is to the Leader of the Government. It concerns the Veterans Independence Program, which is a valuable program that enables veterans and their spouses to live in their own homes longer, close to their family and friends. Unfortunately, this program does not cover all spouses.

Prior to and during the last election, the Prime Minister made a commitment that he would expand this program to include all spouses of veterans from the Second World War and the Korean War. When will the government honour this commitment made by the Prime Minister?


Hon. Marjory LeBreton (Leader of the Government and Secretary of State (Seniors)): I thank the honourable senator for the question. As she is well aware, Veterans Affairs Canada is conducting a comprehensive review of all its health care programs and services to veterans, initiated last year by the Minister of Veterans Affairs, Greg Thompson. The review will develop proposals aimed at ensuring that elderly veterans and their survivors continue to receive the health care programs and services most needed by them. About 97,000 veterans and their primary caregivers qualify for the Veterans Independence Program services across the country at a current cost of approximately $270 million per year. In addition to this program, Veterans Affairs Canada provides a wide range of support for our veterans. If any veterans or their caregivers think that they are eligible to receive help for a need that is not being met, we will work with them directly to see that they receive the care they need.

Senator Callbeck: I am glad to hear that the government is providing services to veterans — it is their duty to do so. I asked a specific question: When will the government expand this program?

Recently in my province of P.E.I., I attended an event hosted by the Royal Canadian Legion Ladies Auxiliary, Provincial Command, where I was asked when the government would expand the program as promised by the Prime Minister so that it would include the spouses of all veterans from World War II and the Korean War. The honourable leader mentioned that Veterans Affairs Canada will undertake a review of all its programs. I would like to know when the review on the VIP will be completed. If the Leader of the Government in the Senate is talking to Minister Thompson, would she impress upon him the importance of this very valuable program?

Senator LeBreton: Minister Thompson and the Prime Minister recently made an announcement about the veterans' ombudsman. With respect to the honourable senator's direct question, I will be happy to take it as notice and provide a written response as quickly as possible for the honourable senator.


Official Languages

Linguistic Duality—Consultation on Priorities

Hon. Maria Chaput: Honourable senators, my question is for the Leader of the Government in the Senate. This past weekend, like a number of my colleagues, I attended the Canadian Summit of Francophone and Acadian Communities. The 700 francophones and Acadians who took part adopted a 10-year development plan, the culmination of a lengthy consultation process that began in 2005.

In her speech at the summit, Minister Verner announced that she, and I quote:

. . . will hold extensive consultations on the government's overall vision for official languages and linguistic duality.

Within a year, we will have a clear roadmap that will have been developed with and for all communities.

Can the minister assure us that all the consultations, discussions and common strategies that came out of those two years of hard work and the three days of discussion at the summit that just took place will be taken into consideration and recognized by the minister as the definitive consultations she no longer has to hold?

Could her government agree that the priorities approved at the summit by all our leaders do, in fact, represent the needs and priorities of these communities, by the communities and for the communities, given the specific situation, and that her government now has the obligation not to hold new consultations, but to help implement this plan?


Hon. Marjory LeBreton (Leader of the Government and Secretary of State (Seniors)): I thank the honourable senator for the question. Minister Verner is a credible, committed spokesperson for the government on this issue as well as on her other responsibilities. This government has demonstrated its strong commitment to linguistic duality and official language minority communities. In response to previous questions, I pointed out that Budget 2007 includes an additional $30 million for cultural and after-school activities and community centres for linguistic minorities. This amount is in addition to the $642 million over five years provided in the Action Plan for Official Languages. For the record, since taking office, the government has announced significant support for official language minority communities and linguistic duality: $1 billion over four years, until 2009, in education agreements with the provinces and territories; $64 million over four years, until 2009, in agreements with the provinces and territories for services; and $120 million, until 2009, in agreements for official language minority communities.


I heard Senator Chaput's statement during Senators' Statements. I wish to assure Senator Chaput that the government is fully committed to Canada's minority language groups and to official languages, just as I assured her some time ago when she asked if the New Horizons for Seniors Program. was to be cut. In fact, we added money to the New Horizons for Seniors Program. I wish to assure Senator Chaput that this government is fully committed to and has put significant monies into these programs through the provinces and territories.


Delayed Answers to Oral Questions

Hon. Gerald J. Comeau (Deputy Leader of the Government): Honourable senators, I have the honour of tabling two responses to oral questions raised by the Honourable Senator Cowan on April 26, 2007, concerning France, the boycott on seal products, and by the Honourable Senator Milne on March 20, 2007, concerning housing on reserves.

International Trade

France—Boycott of Seal Products

(Response to question raised by Hon. James S. Cowan on April 26, 2007)

Canadian officials have been active in addressing moves by the French government to extend the existing European Union-wide import ban on seal pup products to cover all seal products imported into France. For example, during the first week of May, Canadian officials, including the Ambassador for Fisheries Conservation, Loyola Sullivan, met with the counsellors to President Chirac and high level officials of the Ministry of Ecology and Sustainable Development as well as the Ministry of Tourism to register Canada's concern regarding the extension of the ban. The meeting provided an opportunity to give French officials information regarding wildlife conservation and sealing practices.

The extension of the ban by France would take the form of a decree and could not take effect until the fall of 2007. An amended decree must be co-signed by the Ministers for Ecology, Agriculture and for Overseas and requires an opinion of the National Council of the Protection of Nature. This Council next meets in September 2007. This time frame offers Canada an opportunity to continue to address the issue through diplomatic channels. The Canadian government will raise the issue with officials in the new French government.

Budget 2007

Spending on Aboriginal Peoples

(Response to question raised by Hon. Lorna Milne on March 20, 2007)

In response to the question on how many houses on-reserve could be built for $450 million, it should be clarified that the $450 million identified in Budget 2006 was not only for housing, but education, water and to general improvement of socio-economic outcomes for Aboriginal women, children and families as well.

As the Honourable Senator indicated, houses in remote communities are significantly more expensive to construct. However, based on experience to date, the cost to build and service a house on reserve averages $150,000 per unit for a typical three bedroom house. In addition, every $1 million in direct funding will result in approximately six houses being built. If the funding is leveraged with private-sector financing, considerably more units can be delivered.

On April 20, 2007, Ministers Prentice and Solberg jointly announced the creation of a $300 million First Nations Market Housing Fund. The Fund will make it easier for First Nation individuals to obtain a loan to build, buy or renovate a house on reserve lands, and it will act as a guarantee against defaults for lenders who provide loans to First Nation home-buyers on-reserve.

A market-based approach will increase the housing supply on reserve, and provide First Nation individuals with a means to build equity and generate wealth, while maintaining the integrity of the reserve land base. This Fund represents a fundamental shift in how the Government of Canada supports housing on-reserve and builds on best practices demonstrated by the First Nations themselves.

It is estimated that the Fund could provide up to 25,000 units over the next ten years. The Fund is voluntary and available to those First Nations who choose to apply and qualify, and in addition, the Fund is not replacing any existing programs, rather it is another tool available to First Nations to address housing needs. The Fund is slated to become operational by April 2008.

The ultimate objective is to move away from a system that depends almost entirely on government subsidies to a system that gives First Nations people the same housing opportunities and responsibilities as other Canadians.


Constitution Act, 1867

Bill to Amend—Report of Special Committee on Subject Matter—Point of Order Withdrawn

Hon. Anne C. Cools: Honourable senators, I rise to withdraw the point of order that I had raised last Thursday. As honourable senators will recall, I had raised a point of order in respect of Item No. 1 of Reports of Committees, being the report of the Special Senate Committee on Senate Reform. Last Thursday, we settled many of the questions I had raised here on the floor. It seems to me that the need for a ruling is redundant because the entire situation has been overtaken by time and events.


Personal Watercraft Bill

Third Reading—Debate Adjourned

Hon. Tommy Banks moved third reading of Bill S-209, concerning personal watercraft in navigable waters. —(Honourable Senator Banks)

He said: Honourable senators, I think that everyone here knows everything there is to know about Bill S-209. This is the fourth time we have dealt with it on the floor. I simply urge all honourable senators to join in passing this bill, as we have once before.

On motion of Senator Comeau, debate adjourned.

Hon. Gerald J. Comeau (Deputy Leader of the Government): Before we proceed any further, Senator Ringuette was out of the room at the time when Bill C-40 was called. I was wondering if I might get unanimous consent to revert back to Bill C-40 so that she could speak on this bill.

Hon. Senators: Agreed.

Sales Tax Amendments Bill, 2006

Second Reading

On the Order:

Resuming debate on the motion of the Honourable Senator Meighen, seconded by the Honourable Senator Keon, for the second reading of Bill C-40, to amend the Excise Tax Act, the Excise Act, 2001 and the Air Travellers Security Charge Act and to make related amendments to other Acts.

Hon. Pierrette Ringuette: As a point of correction, I was not out of the room; I was discussing an important issue with Senator Fortier. Only time will tell if Senator Fortier resolved the issue.

Honourable senators, I am pleased to rise today to speak to Bill C-40 at second reading, An Act to amend the Excise Tax Act, the Excise Act 2001 and the Air Travellers Security Charge Act and to make relative amendments to other acts.

This bill contains a number of administrative amendments proposed to streamline the operation of the sales tax system. The bulk of this bill has to do with bringing previous legislation in line with the policy intent of the government and implementing previously proposed legislation that required further study. I understand this was done after adequate consultation.

Honourable senators, Bill C-40 is divided into three parts. Part 1 implements measures relating to the Goods and Services Tax and Harmonized Sales Tax; Part 2 contains measures relating to the taxation of wines, spirits and tobacco products; and Part 3 amends the Air Travellers Security Charge Act.

The main problem with this bill is that it is extremely diverse in nature and many of its provisions are completely unrelated to one another. For example, Bill C-40 ensures consistency in the GST/ HST legislation by providing tax-free status to the sale and importation of a blood substitute known as plasma expander. Another provision deals with ensuring the consistent application of the GST/HST to various agricultural products that can be purchased, imported and sold by farmers on a tax-free basis.

It is very unusual for the same legislation to address GST measures, an amendment to the Air Travellers Security Charge Act and measures related to the regulation of tobacco and alcohol. Nevertheless, taken independently, most of these measures make sense and represent miscellaneous improvements to the consistency of our tax system.

The main features of these taxation amendments are the provisions pertaining to the rules for applying the Harmonized Sales Tax. I believe that it is much better and much more equitable to Canadians to concentrate on cutting income tax, which is levied on increased income, rather than on cutting sales tax.

The Liberal Party has always been, as far as I can remember, a keen supporter of fairness with respect to using income tax as the basis for fairness towards Canadians. We have to keep in mind that most of the goods that provide us with our basic needs were exempt from sales tax.

The Conservative tax plan will benefit the upper class of our society. Working families will not save 1 per cent on bread and milk, but the friends of the Conservatives will save 1 per cent on their new luxury sport utility vehicles. That is the Conservative plan, or should I say the Reform plan?

In the first part of Bill C-40, one will find mostly GST/HST-related measures with broadly distinct amendments. The bill amends the rules on health, charities, business arrangements and governments and contains certain provisions changing the way in which the GST is applied. An important measure of this part deals with health-related rules. The bill amends the act so that speech-language pathology services are henceforth effectively zero-rated. This change confirms the tax-exempt status of these services, which will make it easier for young people with language problems to access such services.


A second section that caught my attention was the government's initiative to zero-rate sales and importation of a product that can be used to some extent as a blood substitute. Plasma expander makes it possible, for example, to inject a blood substitute during treatment for very serious burns or open fractures. Plasma expander provides an alternative during crucial treatment for seriously injured patients.

The government will also offer a GST rebate on motor vehicles that have been used after being specially equipped for use by individuals with disabilities.

Honourable senators, one can only be pleased with such initiatives. May I also say that most of the positive initiatives in this omnibus bill are a result of Liberal budgets.

Furthermore, concerning charities, some amendments will ensure that the exemption of supplies by charities of real property under short-term leases and licences extends to any goods supplied with such real property, for example, video screens and computers. This will mean less financial pressure on charities as they carry out their important social mission.

The third measure concerns business arrangements. The amendment to the GST legislation provides transitional GST-HST relief on the initial asset transfer by a foreign bank that restructures its Canadian subsidiary into a Canadian branch. This measure will act as an incentive to foreign banks in Canada to restructure their subsidiaries as Canadian branches, thereby promoting more competition in the Canadian banking sector.

Bill C-40 removes technical impediments that hindered the use of existing group relief provisions under the GST-HST. This amendment clarifies the rules of application of the legislation that are already in effect. In addition, the bill simplifies compliance by excluding beverage container deposits that are refundable to the consumer from the GST-HST base. In other words, honourable senators, in purchasing, say, a six-pack of beverages where there is an added fee for the return of the beverage containers, under Bill C-40 the added fee is not a taxable item. This will make it easier for businesses to manage collection and will lighten the regulatory burden associated with deposits, with a view to promoting more recycling and environmental protection.

Other technical sections deal with the possibility of an agent to claim GST-HST deduction for bad debts and to claim adjustment or refunds of tax in respect of sales made on behalf of a principal where an agent collects or reports tax. Another measure extends the existing agent rules under the GST-HST legislation to persons acting only as billing agents for vendors.

The second part of this bill contains measures relating to the taxation of wines, spirits and tobacco products. A review of the federal framework for the taxation of alcohol and tobacco products resulted in new existing legislation in 2001. With these amendments, it will provide administration and enforcement, updated to reflect the current industry tendencies and practices.

Honourable senators, given that these sections are highly technical, I will not go into detail. The first of the principal measures deals with tobacco and seeks to give greater precision to certain provisions contained in the Excise Tax Act in order to better defend against the smuggling of tobacco products and facilitate collection of taxes on tobacco. The bill includes measures to extend the requirement to identify the origin of tobacco products on all products, including those sold at duty-free shops or for export, consistent with the Framework Convention on Tobacco Control, an international agreement. The bill also specifies that cigarettes, tobacco sticks, fine-cut tobacco or cigars, but not packaged raw-leaf tobacco, may be supplied to the export market or the domestic duty-free market.

The second measure concerns alcohol. The bill has two main objectives. First, it authorizes provincial liquor boards and vintners to possess a still or similar equipment, for the purpose of analyzing substances containing ethyl alcohol without holding a spirits licence. This measure aims to avoid the administrative burden and cost of requiring provincial liquor boards and vintners to obtain a permit.

Part 3 of the bill contains provisions relating to the Air Travellers Security Charge. It makes various technical amendments that come mainly as a result of the consultative process with interested parties. These were implemented a few years ago, after the unfortunate events of September 11. They include the announced relief measures and minor changes to the Air Travellers Security Charge Act. There are two main measures. The first is tax relief. The bill relieves, in particular circumstances, the Air Travellers Security Charge in respect of air travel sold by reseller or donated by air carriers. This measure would help charities like the Children's Wish Foundation of Canada, which is dedicated to fulfilling a favourite wish for children afflicted with a high-risk, life-threatening illness. These amendments can only be applauded. From an administrative point of view, the bill provides authority for the Governor-in-Council to add, delete or vary by regulation the schedule of listed airports.

On a last note, I wish to convey to this house that I have some concern with clause 46 of the bill. As you are aware, honourable senators, the Minister of National Revenue had the power, through the Excise Tax Act, to waive or cancel penalties and interest payable by a person — without any restrictions on how far back they could apply their discretion. However, through the Budget Implementation Act, 2006, those provisions were amended by introducing a 10-year limitation period, which came into application on April 1, 2007.

Clause 46 of this bill would, once again, give the ability to the minister to waive or cancel penalties and interest beyond the 10-year limitation. Is this recognition by the government that its own legislation was flawed? Last year, a 10-year limitation was introduced with the general team of the government on accountability. This year — two months after the 10-year limitation was legislated, introduced and implemented — they are coming back with an omnibus bill removing the 10-year limitation of the Minister of National Revenue to have the ability to waive all penalties and interest.

The bill is about 140 pages long and it is an omnibus bill. If the bill were a means to try to hide the fact that the government either no longer wishes to be accountable or wishes to waive the accountability period beyond 10 years, that has been uncovered here.

Honourable senators, I encourage this chamber to send this proposed legislation to committee for it to follow its due course. I hope the committee will look extensively at the bill and, in particular, at the abolishment of the 10-year limitation on the part of the minister to waive interest and penalties for any person. I certainly do not agree with that.


The Hon. the Speaker pro tempore: Are honourable senators ready for the question? It was moved by the Honourable Senator Meighen, seconded by Honourable Senator Keon, that this bill be read the second time. Is it your pleasure, honourable senators, to adopt the motion?

Hon. Senators: Agreed.

Motion agreed to and bill read second time.

Referred to Committee

The Hon. the Speaker pro tempore: When shall this bill be read the third time?

On motion of Senator Meighen, bill referred to the Standing Senate Committee on Banking, Trade and Commerce.

Kyoto Protocol Implementation Bill

Third Reading—Motion in Amendment—Debate Continued—Vote Deferred

On the Order:

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

And on the motion in amendment of the Honourable Senator Tkachuk, seconded by the Honourable Senator Angus, that Bill C-288 be not now read a third time but that it be amended:

(a) in clause 3, on page 3, by replacing line 19 with the following:

"Canada makes all reasonable efforts to take effective and timely action to meet";

(b) in clause 5,

(i) on page 4,

(A) by replacing line 2 with the following:

"to ensure that Canada makes all reasonable efforts to meet its obligations",

(B) by replacing line 6 with the following:

"ance standards for vehicle emissions that meet or exceed international best practices for any prescribed class of motor vehicle for any year,", and

(C) by adding after line 13 the following:

"(iii.2) the recognition of early action to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, and",

(ii) on page 5,

(A) by replacing line 9 with the following:

"(a) within 10 days after the expiry of each",

(B) by replacing line 23 with the following:

"first 15 days on which that House is sitting", and

(C) by replacing lines 26 and 27 with the following:

"each House of Parliament is deemed to be referred to the standing committee of the Senate and the House of Commons that";

(c) in clause 6, on page 6, by adding after line 29 the following:

"(3) For the purposes of this Act, the Governor-in-Council may make regulations restricting emissions by "large industrial emitters", persons that the Governor-in-Council considers are particularly responsible for a large portion of Canada's greenhouse gas emissions, namely,

(a) persons that are part of the electricity generation sector, including persons that use fossil fuels to produce electricity;

(b) persons that are part of the upstream oil and gas sector, including persons that produce and transport fossil fuels but excluding petroleum refiners and distributors of natural gas to end users; and

(c) persons that are part of energy-intensive industries, including persons that use energy derived from fossil fuels, petroleum refiners and distributors of natural gas to end users.";

(d) in clause 7,

(i) on page 6,

(A) by replacing line 32 with the following:

"that Canada makes all reasonable attempts to meet its obligations under", and

(B) by replacing line 38 with the following:

"ensure that Canada makes all reasonable attempts to meet its obligations", and

(ii) on page 7, by replacing line 4 with the following:

"(3) In ensuring that Canada makes all reasonable attempts to meet its";

(e) in clause 9,

(i) on page 7, by replacing line 33 with the following:

"ensure that Canada makes all reasonable attempts to meet its obligations", and

(ii) on page 8,

(A) by replacing line 3 with the following:

"Minister considers appropriate within 30 days", and

(B) by replacing line 7 with the following:

"(1) or on any of the first fifteen days on which";

(f) in clause 10,

(i) on page 8,

(A) by replacing line 9 with the following:

"10. (1) Within 180 days after the Minister",

(B) by replacing line 11 with the following:

"tion 5(3), or within 90 days after the Minister", and

(C) by replacing line 38 with the following:

"(a) within 15 days after receiving the", and

(ii) on page 9,

(A) by replacing line 6 with the following:

"Houses on any of the first 15 days on", and

(B) by replacing line 9 with the following

"(b) within 30 days after receiving the advice,";

(g) in clause 10.1, on page 9,

(i) by replacing line 17 with the following:

"and Sustainable Development may prepare a",

(ii) by replacing line 32 with the following:

"report to the Speakers of the Senate and the House of Commons", and

(iii) by replacing lines 34 and 35 with the following:

"Speakers shall table the report in their respective Houses on any of the first 15 days on which that House".—(Honourable Senator Comeau)

Hon. Ethel Cochrane: Honourable senators, I am privileged to speak to the amendment to Bill C-288, to ensure Canada meets its global climate change obligations under the Kyoto Protocol. The bill before us purports to deal with climate change. It is an issue that has been characterized by some, including our honourable colleague Senator Mitchell, as the most important issue facing the country in a generation — the issue of the 21st century.

Honourable senators, I share the belief that climate change is an important issue, one that I, like many Canadians, have taken action on in my own home and in my daily life by replacing old light bulbs with energy-efficient ones, by turning down the thermostat, by driving less and by being mindful of my energy use. However, while I am committed to implementing changes that will help the environment, I feel the bill before us is nothing more than a political manoeuvre.

As parliamentarians, we are entrusted with the job of carefully and seriously considering legislation. Therefore, for this legislation, which deals with the most important issue facing our country, how do we perform this serious work? We held a grand total of seven meetings, discussing this bill with only 18 witnesses, some of whom were appearing on behalf of the same organization.

This is a bill that, by the government's own analysis, will cost 275,000 Canadians their jobs by 2009 and will see prices for gasoline, electricity and natural gas skyrocket, and yet we do not even take the time to hear from economists. Only one economist appeared, Jayson Myers, and that was in his capacity of Senior Vice President and Chief Economist of the Canadian Manufacturers and Exporters.

Given the limited scope of the investigation of this bill, I can only assume it was not given more thoughtful consideration because those on the side with numbers to make a difference thought this legislation was so obvious a ploy that it was not even worth the time needed for debate and discussion.

Honourable senators, sometimes it seems, in this place and elsewhere, that if one asks questions and seeks to probe beyond the surface of environmental issues, one is seen somehow as an enemy of the environment. This is a misrepresentation of the facts, and it is simply wrong.

It may surprise some honourable senators to know that other witnesses, many of whom have outstanding records of environmental achievement, voiced opposition to Bill C-288. We were told that Bill C-288 is simply not what Canada needs at this stage.

I think Richard Paton, President and Chief Executive Officer of the Canadian Chemical Producers' Association, perhaps said it best when he told the committee:

Bill C-288 is unfortunately a perfect example of a bill that reacts to an issue without a solid policy platform that will lead to long-term solutions to this important issue. . . . Climate change is a serious issue, but it deserves to be treated seriously. This bill does not do so.

Robert Page, the TransAlta Professor of Environmental Management and Sustainability at the University of Calgary, had similar concerns about the bill. He said:

In my opinion, this bill is politically motivated to a greater extent than it is in terms of the real climate change challenges and the real circumstances that Canada faces today.

He continued:

There is something absurd about legislating what is normally an eight to 14-year period for a new power plant and fundamental technology in the Kyoto period . . .

This is particularly true because any of the tonnes that we miss in 2008 are extra tonnes we have to pick up in the later years of the Kyoto period. This is not a target for 2012. This is the target for January 1, 2008.

In his presentation before the committee, Pierre Alvarez, President of the Canadian Association of Petroleum Producers, referred to the targets outlined in the bill as "Canada's domestically unachievable Kyoto target." He went on to say:

We believe Bill C-288 would be yet another diversion that would delay action in the areas required. The cost of buying foreign credits, if they were available, to cover Canada's 2008 to 2012 gap is conservatively estimated to be between $15 billion and $30 billion.

Indeed, many of the business leaders we heard from share these concerns. What surprised me, honourable senators, is the sense of commitment to achieving real environmental results that all of these groups seemed to have. I am sure Senator Mitchell would agree. They all want to improve and advance the environmental cause in this country, but they want to approach it in a balanced way.

Jayson Myers, Senior Vice-president and Chief Economist with the Canadian Manufacturers and Exporters, said in his presentation:

The key message here is how do we make doing something good for the environment something also good for the economy? I believe that can be done. I am concerned, though, that if we focus on unrealistic targets — and I believe the Kyoto target to be unrealistic — that we would lead to counterproductive outcomes. That is the experience we have had over the last 10 years of talking about how we would put this together.

He continued:

To put that into perspective, then, to go from where we are now to actually meet Canada's Kyoto obligation of 6 per cent reduction from 1990 levels, we would require, if we started right away, somewhere in the level of a 30 per cent, 35 per cent reduction in emissions over a five-year period. That would require an acceleration factor of 700 per cent acceleration in this rate of technological progress.

He later said:

Let us do things based on a realistic time frame, what technology can actually deliver and let us do things right that actually provide incentives.


Bob Page, to whom I referred earlier, was a particularly compelling witness. I was deeply impressed with his wealth of knowledge and experience as well as the honesty with which he spoke. Dr. Page was part of the official delegation for Canada and has worked privately for the Government of Canada in a variety of ways over the last 10 years. This is what he said:

It is not with any degree of enthusiasm that I have come to this conclusion that it is impossible to implement the Kyoto Protocol target now that we are only eight months before they commence.

Honourable senators, in looking beyond the great many concerns raised about meeting the Kyoto targets in such a short timeline, one finds serious flaws with the proposed legislation. Consider, for instance, that Bill C-288 does not include any recognition of the efforts made by Canada's environmental leaders, the early actors who have long been addressing their greenhouse gas emissions.

Avrim Lazar, president and CEO of Forest Products Association of Canada, told the committee the following:

Unless the early actors, those parts of society and industry who have been responsible environmental citizens since 1990, are recognized, we will be sending a clear signal that dragging our feet until regulation is the right strategy. We cannot afford this as a country. We have to recognize in regulation what early actors do so that industry and citizens realize that we should not wait for regulation; we should do what the Canadian forest industry has done and act.

One argument often promoted by those on the other side of the debate is that being green attracts economic advantages. Honourable senators, this argument is partly right at best. The reality is that true economic advantages are reaped only when there is a level playing field, as Mr. Lazar so clearly explained:

It is true that there are economic advantages to being green, but we should not oversimplify the situation because if our competitors are not green, we may be advantaged, but, in the long run, we will be out of business. There must be a level playing field. We can be greener than the competitors, but there is a comfort limit. We can get this far ahead but if we get too far ahead, we are actual shutting ourselves down and handing over the production to people who are not doing their environmental job. It is great to be green, but it is also great to stay in business. There is a margin beyond which you do not want to get ahead of global standards.

Richard Paton of the Canadian Chemical Producers' Association echoed the following sentiment:

In its current form, this bill does not deliver a sustainable solution. Canada must go forward, with a sustainable strategy that recognizes past performance and builds on ensuring a global solution that does not undermine Canada's competitiveness.

Dr. Page was perhaps most clear in his advice to the committee:

. . . I strongly urge that this committee — with its traditional role, as Mr. Paton put it, of sober second thought — come back either with amendments to, or rejection of, this bill so that we can build a Canadian plan that meets Canadian circumstances and really does deliver a program that will cut emissions significantly in an appropriate time frame.

Honourable senators, I am sure we all can appreciate the difficulties Senator Tkachuk faced in devising his amendment for third reading debate. Had he not been denied his right to put his amendments individually in committee, they could have been looked at, one at a time, in a forum that provided an opportunity for appropriate discussion, among those who had heard the testimony of the witnesses, with a vote and a determination.

Senator Angus: Hear, hear!

Senator Cochrane: At third reading in this chamber, Senator Tkachuk could only put one amendment, and he chose to assemble a number of the amendments he had planned for committee consideration into one single package. Unfortunately, as a result, this could lead some senators to vote against a package because of a single element, when in reality they might find the remainder perfectly acceptable.

With this in mind, I would draw the attention of honourable senators to the portion that specifically allows for the creation of a separate category of regulations for large industrial emitters. Although I know a similar provision in the House of Commons found some favour in a different context, this might have a differential impact on an energy-producing province like mine, Newfoundland and Labrador.

Motion in Subamendment

Hon. Ethel Cochrane: Accordingly, I move, seconded by Senator Angus:

That the motion in amendment be amended by deleting paragraph (c) and re-lettering paragraphs (d) to (g) as paragraphs (c) to (f).

The Hon. the Speaker: Honourable senators, it is moved by the Honourable Senator Cochrane, seconded by the Honourable Senator Angus, that the motion and the amendment be amended by deleting paragraph (c) and re-lettering paragraphs (d) to (g) as paragraphs (c) to (f). Is there debate?

Some Hon. Senators: Question!

The Hon. the Speaker: Are honourable senators ready for the question? Is Senator Angus rising to speak?

Hon. W. David Angus: Honourable senators, I am pleased to second Senator Cochrane's amendment to the motion in amendment proposed last week by Senator Tkachuk. I offer the following comments in support of the amendment of Senator Cochrane.

Honourable senators, I am not a happy camper when it comes to Bill C-288. Honourable senators know well that I deplore the events that took place at the Standing Senate Committee on Energy, the Environment and Natural Resources at the time this bill was rushed through clause-by-clause study. As I indicated at the time, I believe my rights as a senator were substantially violated on that occasion and that the whole travesty constituted an abuse of the process of this place. It is shenanigans such as those that cast the Senate and all of us — and I submit this most sincerely, honourable senators — in a poor light vis-à-vis the Canadian public. Is it any wonder there is such an outcry for Senate reform in this great land of ours?

On Bill C-288 itself, and quite apart from its merits as good or bad public policy or as good or bad proposed legislation, I continue to be an unhappy camper. Climate change is such a critical issue — perhaps the most critical issue of the day — not only here in Canada but globally. All we have to do is look at the front pages of all the periodicals. The Economist today issued a 15-page report entitled "Cleaning Up" on climate change and the G8 summit in Berlin. This is a very big issue facing all of mankind.


It makes me unhappy to see a bill such as this being debated here in this marginal fashion. The issue of climate change concerns us all deeply and deserves better treatment.

Bill C-288, a private member's bill from the opposition side, orders the Conservative government — also known as Canada's new government — to meet certain global climate change obligations stipulated in the Kyoto Protocol, a protocol signed by the Liberal Chrétien government in December 2002 but never implemented in Canada via appropriate domestic implementation legislation by either the Chrétien or the Martin Liberal governments.

Why was Kyoto not implemented, honourable senators? Why are opposition Liberals now trying to do indirectly what they refused and/or failed to do directly in government? I believe, as my colleague Senator Cochrane suggested, that it is because they are playing questionable political games trying to embarrass Canada's new government and to sidetrack it from its own enlightened, progressive, realistic, magnificent and workable climate change agenda.

A useful clue, I suggest, honourable senators, can be found in the words of former Prime Minister Jean Chrétien's ex-chief of staff, the legendary Eddie Goldenberg, who said and wrote: "When we signed Kyoto, it was not to meet the targets. We knew they were not achievable. Rather, it was to bring attention to the important issue of climate change."

Honourable senators, there you have it.

On December 17, 2002, Canada's government signed the Kyoto Protocol. The Kyoto Protocol officially came into force in February 2005, following ratification by Russia in November 2004. Having come into force, the Kyoto Protocol stipulated targets for various of the developed nations to reduce their greenhouse gas emissions to certain levels below 1990 levels. In the case of Canada, it was stipulated to be 6 per cent below 1990 levels. Yet, today, levels are 35 per cent higher rather than 6 per cent lower. As Senator Cochrane has said, we would have to reduce by between 30 and 35 per cent in a short time. This is a far cry from achieving the Kyoto targets.

In May 2007, Environment Canada submitted its annual national greenhouse gas inventory for 2005 to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change. The report indicates that there was almost flat growth in greenhouse gas emissions from 2003 to 2005, but that greenhouse gases are still over 30 per cent higher than our Kyoto targets. The report shows that the slow-down in greenhouse gas emissions growth appears to have been the result of action taken by the provinces which reduced coal-fired electricity and increased nuclear and hydroelectricity generation.

Honourable senators, let us be realistic. As of December 2006, a total of 169 countries and other governmental entities had ratified the agreement. However, notable exceptions include our good neighbour to the south, the United States, and our ally and partner in many ventures, Australia. Some countries, such as India and China, are exempt under the protocols, despite their huge populations. All in all, the countries that did accept targets under Kyoto account for less than 30 per cent of present-day global emissions.

Although Canada is a signatory, we were told by legal experts at the Energy Committee that without Canadian implementation or domestic legislation this agreement is not legally enforceable in Canada.

Ms. Collins, assistant professor at the University of Ottawa, stated:

If there is no domestic legislation, the international legal obligation exists, and Canada would be in violation of that. However, it would not be justiciable in Canada. In other words, we cannot take the treaty to court and hold the government accountable. We cannot take the treaty to court against emitters, et cetera.

In Canada, the question is, when can we take a legal obligation to court, and the answer is, when it has been implemented in domestic legislation.

That being said, once legislation such as Bill C-288 is adopted by both Houses, Canada will have no option other than to comply with the Kyoto Protocol and reducing Canada's emissions to 6 per cent below the 1990 level. This would mean that Canada would have to reduce its emissions by more than 30 per cent for the 2008-2012 compliance years.

Honourable senators, if there were a magical solution, and if it were easy, Canada would have reduced its emissions a long time ago. However, the fact is that emission reductions can only be achieved effectively and sustainably through technological innovation and consequential investments in capital. Corporate Canada needs to invest in research and development and the Government of Canada needs to continue to implement smart financial incentives for Canadian companies to do just that. Certain technological innovations can be achieved quickly, but others can take years to develop, perfect and commercialize.

Honourable senators, it has been very interesting to observe the change in this place over the past several years. I do not think it is an exaggeration to say that we have all become green. I, personally, have come full circle. I now recycle at home, where we do everything possible to meet the One-Tonne Challenge. Like most senators, I understand the importance of a clean and sustainable environment.

Most Canadians have been overwhelmed in the last years with the scientific evidence that has been forthcoming in a user-friendly and understandable way. The problem exists; the science is real. Many Canadians have observed the climatic change in our great and vast North and its impact on the way of life of our native peoples.

I am always fascinated by Senator Adams' tales from his home in the North. He recently told us that the people there have a habit of tying their husky dogs to trees just above the high tide line. However, because of the changes in the melting this year, 21 Husky dogs, I believe it was, drowned. These people are not negligent with their dogs. It is essential to their lives to have these dogs. The speed with which the changes are happening is staggering, and we must do something about it.

Most Canadians sympathize with our struggling farmers from coast to coast who are dealing with drought and extreme weather patterns. I do not think there is an issue about the extent of the problem; the issue is how we deal with it.

I remember the great Right Honourable John George Diefenbaker beset by a revolution led by our dear friend, the late Dalton Camp, in the Chateau Laurier. He stood there and said, "I am a big game hunter and when you are hunting big game you do not get sidetracked by rabbit tracks, like you." I believe Bill C-288 would have the effect of sidetracking Canadians with rabbit tracks.


Some Hon. Senators: Hear, hear.

Senator Angus: We want to hunt big game, we want to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and we want to protect our children and grandchildren and the next generation from the evils.

Senator Smith: I want to know where you stand.

Senator Angus: I strongly believe that to achieve real improvements in our environment, Canada must invest heavily on an urgent basis in the development of innovative green technologies, as Senator Cochrane has said. Through green technologies Canada can change the way it does business and have a significant impact on reducing pollutants and greenhouse gases. By aggressively exporting its new green technologies to nations around the world, Canada could emerge as a champion of the environmental cause and perhaps regain the prestigious international standing we once enjoyed but no longer enjoy on the environment.

Even in the last three or four years, when we were on the other side of this chamber, I used to be the senator of my party that would question the government when the annual or quarterly reports of the Commissioner of the Environment would come out. I can remember that each year I was quite startled. We started with the ranking of number 4 in the OECD, on a certain list of criteria as to our compliance with good behaviour in the environment. Gradually the standing got up to 28 out of 29 OECD countries. It is a shocking display and I am fairly sad about that standing.

The Hon. the Speaker: I regret to advise the honourable senator that his time has elapsed.

Some Hon. Senators: More, more!

The Hon. the Speaker: Will honourable senators allow Senator Angus to continue for five minutes?

Hon. Senators: Agreed.

Senator Angus: Honourable senators, Bill C-288, on its face, is a tiny little bill; it appears to be a simple bill; it purports to oblige our government, our new government, to come up with a plan for Canada to achieve these Kyoto targets, which I say are unrealistic, within 60 days. However, it is not a simple bill. When drilling down and examining it thoroughly, we find the potential negative economic consequences of this bill are tremendous. They amount to billions of dollars and are capable of doing irreparable damage to the present fairly robust Canadian economy.

The members and senators supporting this bill will say that it is needed to reduce greenhouse gas emissions in Canada. My response to this argument, based on the evidence that we have heard to date in the committee, is the following: This bill simply and clearly is not the way to go.

Senator Robichaud: I am surprised.

Senator Angus: Encouraging innovation and the advancement of technology by our Canadian companies investing in research and development and smart financial incentive is the way to go, honourable senators. That is the rational and realistic way to go. Let us make our Canadian companies stronger, not weaker, by forcing them to buy up international carbon credits. Instead, let Canadian companies invest in research and development in new high-tech and environment-friendly capital equipment.

Honourable senators, let us keep our hard-earned Canadian dollars in Canada to support our economy and to expand good, solid Canadian investments. Let us ensure our Canadian companies are better than the competing foreign companies. Let us ensure that our companies benefit from a technological comparative advantage and let us support research and development in Canada in exciting new technology to improve the environment.

Honourable senators, I earnestly believe — Canada's new government believes as well, I might add — that there are better and smarter ways of reducing greenhouse gas emissions than Bill C-288. There are better ways of enticing our corporations to control pollution than via Bill C-288.

Senator Mitchell: Name some. Even one would be good.

Senator Angus: If I had more than five minutes, I would list 500.

Honourable senators, as you now know, the Standing Senate Committee on Energy, the Environment and Natural Resources, through deplorable tactics and behaviour by certain Liberal senators, was unable to hear all the witnesses who were ready to testify against this bill. The committee did hear from a few witnesses and Senator Cochrane quoted their evidence at length.

Therefore, at this stage, honourable senators, I thank you for giving me some extra time. I would like to say again that I wholeheartedly support Senator Cochrane's sub-amendment.

Hon. Consiglio Di Nino: Honourable senators, I wish to make some brief comments on this subamendment. I am principally motivated by the exchange that took place last week on this debate between Senator Tkachuk's comments and Senator Mitchell's response. I found Senator Mitchell's very spirited response to Senator Tkachuk's speech, although entertaining, full of political rhetoric, to which I would like to make some brief comments.

Senator Cools: Good stuff.

Senator Di Nino: Let me begin by saying that this Conservative government was elected to implement its agenda, not the failed ideas of the previous government.

Some Hon. Senators: Hear, hear.

Senator Di Nino: I would like to remind all honourable senators that the good people of Senator Mitchell's province, in 28 of 28 ridings, democratically chose the Conservative government's agenda over that of Senator Mitchell's party. Although it may surprise some colleagues because their party's record on keeping promises is spotty at best, those Conservative men and women who were the choice of Albertans and joined by others from all parts of Canada will try very hard to implement this government's agenda even against the obstructions placed in its way by some honourable colleagues in both chambers.

Honourable senators, the Senate traditionally has been a much less partisan body for thoughtful and balanced debate than the other place. It is, after all, the chamber of sober second thought. Regrettably, the intervention of Senator Mitchell's recent remarks on Bill C-288, to me at least, represents the opposite. His speech contained insulting and thoughtless political jibes, which brought the debate down to a level we should avoid and I will do my best to do so.

The fact is, honourable senators, this government has been straight up with the Canadian people in telling them that a decade of Liberal inaction on the climate change file has put Canada in an impossible position. When Senator Tkachuk spoke last Thursday he included quotes from a very apt piece of the May 14 issue of Maclean's about Al Gore's comments on climate change.

Senator Mitchell: That is an elevated source.

Senator Di Nino: If the honourable senator were to listen, he might learn something.

For the record, I would like to add some additional quotes.


Senator Campbell: Is it peer-reviewed?

Senator Di Nino: Shall I sit down so you can talk? You will have a chance as soon as I am finished.

For the record, I would like to add some additional quotes from the same article:

The plan released by Environment Minister John Baird last month includes almost all the remedies Gore himself calls for. Ottawa has already introduced tax breaks for public transit. Now we have rebates for fuel-efficient cars with new standards on the way. There will be carbon sequestering, a new technology fund and a ban on incandescent bulbs.

You asked what we will do. These are a few ideas. We will have more as time goes on.

I continue to quote:

Baird's plan is also notable for its focus on reducing air pollution, which arguably has a bigger negative impact on Canadians today than global warming ever will. Taken as a whole, the plan represents an effective compromise between economic sanity and environmental necessity.

Gore's fascinating reinvention of himself from earnest but boring politician to environmental crusader is a notable achievement. If he has made himself rich in the process, we applaud that as well. But during this transformation, Gore appears to have forgotten the art of realistic policy-making, and has ceased to tell his audience the whole truth.

Speaking of the truth, an editorial in yesterday's The Globe and Mail, Monday, June 4, dealing with the G8 summit stated: "Canada has the opportunity and the obligation to tell the truth to those nations. . ."

I think that is worth repeating.

Canada has the opportunity and the obligation to tell the truth to those nations: that it cannot meet its Kyoto commitments because the treaty's terms are stacked against energy-exporting nations.

As Canadian officials noted yesterday, any post-Kyoto deal must consequently recognize that Canada is unique in both being an economic powerhouse and an emerging energy superpower.

Also for the record, honourable senators, a report from the World Wildlife Fund for Nature published yesterday in The Globe and Mail pegs Canada with the worst record among the G8 countries in addressing climate change between 1990 and 2005. Emissions in this country in that period of time increased by 27 per cent. It is also heartening to read in The Globe and Mail today that Canada and Germany have reached a certain agreement on long-term goals. I would like to quote Chancellor Merkel's comments. She said:

We agree on the fact that we need reduction targets. . . . Our objectives are worded in somewhat different kind of language, but I think at the end of the day we share this goal.

Honourable senators, Bill C-288 represents the previous government's failure to keep its promise to Canadians, even though some honourable senators do not like to be reminded of it. It is an inconvenient truth. The official opposition is trying to score political points by deflecting responsibility for their failure to this government. It will not work. The Harper government has been quite clear on this issue all along. It will fix the problem in a way that will balance the economic reality of today with the environmental health of our country. It will keep its promise to the people of Canada.

Honourable senators, I would like to adjourn the debate in my name for the remainder of my time.

Some Hon. Senators: No.

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

Some Hon. Senators: No.

Some Hon. Senators: Yes.

The Hon. the Speaker: All those in favour of the motion will signify by saying "yea."

Some Hon. Senators: Yea.

The Hon. the Speaker: All those opposed to the motion will signify by saying "nay."

Some Hon. Senators: Nay.

The Hon. the Speaker: In my view the "nays" have it.

And two honourable senators having risen:

The Hon. the Speaker: Is there agreement from the whips?

There will be a one-hour bell. The vote will take place at three minutes after 5. Call in the senators.

Does the chair have permission to leave?

Hon. Senators: Agreed.


Motion negatived on the following division:


Andreychuk Meighen
Angus Murray
Cochrane Nancy Ruth
Comeau Nolin
Di Nino Oliver
Gustafson St. Germain
Johnson Stratton
Keon Tkachuk—17


Bacon Gill
Banks Harb
Bryden Hervieux-Payette
Callbeck Lavigne
Campbell Losier-Cool
Carstairs Lovelace Nicholas
Chaput Merchant
Cook Milne
Corbin Mitchell
Cordy Munson
Cowan Pépin
Dallaire Peterson
Dawson Phalen
De Bané Ringuette
Downe Robichaud
Dyck Rompkey
Fairbairn Smith
Fox Stollery
Fraser Tardif
Furey Watt—40


Cools Prud'homme—2

Senator Di Nino: Honourable senators, I wanted to express my disappointment that I was denied the opportunity to continue the debate. I wanted to tell you why I wanted to wait.

First, I had not really seen the actual sub-amendment, but there is a great deal of discussion and negotiations going on right now with the G8. I quoted from one small part of it today about the positions of Germany and Canada coming closer together. Certainly, there are issues dealing with China, Russia, India and Brazil. We have some serious environmental problems with which those countries have to come to terms. More important, I was looking forward to additional accommodations being made between Canada and some of the other countries participating in these meetings because I believe that Prime Minister Harper's position will be a much more attractive position to many of the countries with which he is negotiating and dealing right now. That is why I had asked for a postponement for a day or so, but I was denied and I am disappointed.


Some Hon. Senators: Question!

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

Some Hon. Senators: No.

Some Hon. Senators: Yes.

The Hon. the Speaker: The question for the house is the motion in amendment moved by Senator Cochrane, seconded by Senator Angus, that the motion in amendment be amended by deleting paragraph (c) and re-lettering paragraphs (d) to (g) as paragraph (c) to (f).

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

Some Hon. Senators: No.

The Hon. the Speaker: I will put the question formally: All those in favour of the motion will signify by saying "yea."

Some Hon. Senators: Yea.

The Hon. the Speaker: Those opposed to the motion will signify by saying "nay."

Some Hon. Senators: Nay.

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

And two honourable senators having risen:

The Hon. the Speaker: Call in the senators. Do the whips have an agreement as to the time of the bell?

Hon. Terry Stratton: According to rule 67(1) and 67(2), I would like the vote deferred.

The Hon. the Speaker: Honourable senators, this is a motion. It is not an adjournment motion. It is subject to deferral and it is deferred until tomorrow at 5:30 p.m. Is that understood, honourable senators?

Hon. James S. Cowan: The rule refers to 5:30 tomorrow, but we have committees regularly scheduled. Is it being proposed that committees be cancelled?

Senator Stratton: The vote will be at 5:30. The committees can meet at 4 p.m. and adjourn to come to vote and then go back.

Senator Cowan: Is the honourable senator saying that the Senate would adjourn at 4 p.m., committees would meet and the vote would be at 5:30?

Senator Stratton: Yes. What is wrong?

The Hon. the Speaker: The chair would like to have the assistance of honourable senators. We have a house order that we adjourn at 4 p.m., but if a vote is called, as it has been called, and deferred to 5:30, it means we cannot adjourn until that vote takes place, unless there is an agreement between the sides.

The rule is clear. I will go over it again. When a vote is deferred to a Wednesday, it is at 5:30, according to the rules, but because there is a house order that we normally adjourn at 4 p.m., we will not adjourn at 4 p.m. because the calling of a vote trumps that house order at 4 p.m. That is the case unless the two sides agree.

Senator Stratton: Is Senator Cowan in agreement to have the house adjourn at 4 p.m. for regular committee meetings and come back for the 5:30 vote?

The Hon. the Speaker: I will read from the Journals of the Senate:

. . . where a vote is deferred until 5:30 p.m. on a Wednesday, the Speaker shall interrupt the proceedings, immediately prior to any adjournment but no later than 4 p.m., to suspend the sitting until 5:30 p.m. for the taking of the deferred vote, and that committees be authorized to meet during the period that the sitting is suspended.

Effectively, then, we will vote at 5:30 and committees will sit from 4 p.m. However, there is the question of how much time will we give the honourable senators to get over here for the vote at 5:30 if they are having meetings in buildings like the Victoria Building. We normally allow half an hour, so will the meetings of the committees taking place in the Victoria Building cease around five o'clock so honourable senators can get to the chamber?

This is why I invite the assistance of the house and, in particular, the two chief whips.

Senator Stratton: I would suggest that, as originally suggested, we have the vote at 5:30. The chamber suspends at 4 p.m., committees meet until 5:15, senators come for the vote at 5:30 and then go back to their meetings.

The Hon. the Speaker: Is it the will of the house that there be only a 15-minute bell?

Some Hon. Senators: Agreed.

Some Hon. Senators: No.

The Hon. the Speaker: There will be a 15-minute bell, and those who are at committees in faraway places understand the bell is only ringing for 15 minutes. The vote is at 5:30.

Hon. Anne C. Cools: Honourable senators, my understanding is that at 4 p.m. the Senate should adjourn normally. Therefore, a decision would have to be taken to alter that adjournment into a suspension. What is the rule number, Your Honour? I am not going to agree to suspend.

The Hon. the Speaker: To help the honourable senator, it was the decision taken on April 6, 2006, when we adopted the 4 p.m. rule.

Senator Cools: I know that, but what is the rule number?

The Hon. the Speaker: It is not in the rules. It is a decision of the house.

Hon. Lowell Murray: There is one rule that I would draw to your attention, rushing in where angels fear to tread. It is rule 66(3):

(3) When, under the provisions of any rule or order of the Senate, the Speaker is required to interrupt the proceedings for the purpose of putting forthwith the question on any business then before the Senate or when a standing vote has been deferred pursuant to rule 67, the Speaker shall interrupt the said proceedings not later than fifteen minutes prior to the time provided for the taking of the vote and order the bells to call in the Senators to be sounded for not more than fifteen minutes immediately thereafter.

Hon. Gerald J. Comeau (Deputy Leader of the Government): We would like to refer back to the house order which the Speaker just referred to. It is in Debates of the Senate, issue number 3, April 5, 2006:

(c) where a vote is deferred until 5:30 p.m. on a Wednesday, the Speaker shall interrupt the proceedings, immediately prior to any adjournment but no later than 4 p.m., to suspend the sitting until 5:30 p.m. for the taking of the deferred vote, and that committees be authorized to meet during the period that the sitting is suspended.

We do not need to have any bells. It is a house order.


The Hon. the Speaker: Honourable senators, just to be clear, prior to four o'clock tomorrow afternoon I shall rise to suspend the sitting, the bells will ring at 5:15 and the vote will be held at 5:30 p.m.

Constitution Act, 1867

Report of Special Committee on Motion to Amend—Motion in Amendment—Debate Continued

On the Order:

Resuming debate on the motion of the Honourable Senator Hays, seconded by the Honourable Senator Fraser, for the adoption of the second report of the Special Senate Committee on Senate Reform (motion to amend the Constitution of Canada (western regional representation in the Senate), without amendment but with observations), presented in the Senate on October 26, 2006;

And on the motion in amendment of the Honourable Senator Tkachuk, seconded by the Honourable Senator Campbell, that the second report of the Special Senate Committee on Senate Reform be not now adopted but that the motion to amend the Constitution of Canada (western regional representation in the Senate), be amended as follows:

(a) by replacing, in the third paragraph of the motion, the words "British Columbia be made a separate division represented by 12 Senators;" with the following:

"British Columbia be made a separate division represented by 24 Senators;";

(b) by replacing, in clause 1 of the Schedule to the motion, in section 21, the words "consist of One hundred and seventeen Members" with the following:

"consist of One hundred and twenty-nine Members";

(c) by replacing, in clause 1 of the Schedule to the motion, in section 22, the words "British Columbia by Twelve Senators;" with the following:

"British Columbia by Twenty-four Senators;";

(d) by striking out, in clause 2 of the Schedule to the motion, in section 27, the words "or, in the case of British Columbia, Twelve Senators,"; and

(e) by replacing, in clause 2 of the Schedule to the motion, in section 28, the words "exceed One hundred and twenty-seven." with the following:

"exceed One hundred and thirty-nine.".—(Honourable Senator Fraser)

Hon. Joan Fraser: Honourable senators may recall that last week I promised to speak to this motion this week, and I should like to do so now, before, as seems likely, we again become consumed in this chamber with consideration of matters relating to Bill S-4. This motion is very different from that, but it is equally important.

I wish I could support this motion; I truly do. I have agonized at some length about it because I think it was brought forward for good reasons. I believe that Senators Austin and Murray had the best possible reasons for putting forward this motion. We know how strong sentiment is in the West about a perceived lack of proper representation in the Parliament of Canada and, in particular, in the Senate of Canada. That grievance is real and it is, in many ways, entirely legitimate. The Fathers of Confederation could not have dreamed of the strength, numbers, weight and importance — economically, in particular, but not only economically — that the West would have at the beginning of the 21st century.

If the Fathers of Confederation had any inkling at all, they probably would have made provision in the Constitution for adjustments to be made as time went forward, but they did not. Therefore, we have the situation that has been so eloquently described by Senators Austin, Murray, Hays, Tkachuk, Carney and others of a huge region of the country where large numbers of people profoundly believe that it is wrong that their per capita representation in the Senate should be lower than the per capita representation in the Senate of other Canadians.

I know that even if the Senate adopts this motion it will not take effect. All it will do, and I believe all it was designed to do, is prompt negotiations, and it is not at all inappropriate to try to prompt negotiations when a substantial part of the country feels a substantial sense of grievance about the basic constitutional arrangements of the country. That is an appropriate thing to try to do. If the Senate were to adopt this resolution, it would demonstrate that we are collectively mindful of regional concerns and regional grievances, something we all take very seriously as our duty to be mindful of.

These are all good reasons to vote for this motion. However, I personally cannot do so. I have come to that conclusion with much regret and after much reflection. I cannot vote for the motion because, in addressing the real grievances of one group of Canadians, it overlooks an even more serious long-standing injustice done in the same section of the Constitution to another group of Canadians, inhabitants of the entire northern half of my province, most of whom are Inuit — most, but not all.

I shall now have to speak about the arcane, for most of us, subject of the senatorial districts in the province of Quebec, because that is what all of this hangs upon.

Honourable senators will recall that at Confederation, when each region was given 24 senators, the region of Quebec, unlike the other regions, was further divided into 24 districts — which are set out in article 22(4) of the Constitution Act, 1867.

The principal reason that I have been able to determine for the establishment of these districts was for the protection of a minority in Quebec — the protection of my minority in Quebec, English-speaking Quebecers. At the time, people often spoke about Protestants rather than about anglophones, which is a more recent word, but that is who they were talking about, the English-speaking residents of Quebec.

The Fathers of Confederation, English and French alike, agreed that it was important that that minority have some security that its interests would always be represented in the Senate. In fact, they had various concerns. They gave us education rights and language rights in the courts and legislature of Quebec. They took our needs and concerns seriously.

It is not the fault of the Fathers of Confederation that, in Quebec, as in the West, there has been massive demographic change. At the time that the districts were set out, they corresponded to the existing electoral districts in Quebec — the electoral districts as they represented the population in the 1860s. There have been huge population shifts since then, with the result that, for example, my district has between 60,000 and 100,000 people. The district of Senator Angus encompasses closer to 1 million people. These are the vagaries of being stuck with a system established in the 1860s when people could not know what the country would look like 140 years later. However, there the districts are, and, by law, according to the Constitution of Canada, every senator from Quebec represents one of those districts. We must own our property in that district or be resident in it.

One may think that the districts have become a bit of a polite fiction, rather like peerages in the House of Lords. I believe, for example, that Lord Black of Crossharbour took the title of his peerage from a tube station, or so the gossips have it. He does not claim to be the proprietor of the tube station.

In the case of the Quebec districts, however, no matter how much the reality may have changed, they remain there. They are set out in the Constitution of Canada.

There is an anomaly that I had not realized until recently. Senator Rompkey, in particular, was quite interested when I drew to his attention the fact that since these districts were set up in the 1860s and the Quebec-Labrador boundary dispute was only settled in 1927, one of the Quebec districts, les Laurentides, actually officially includes a good-sized chunk of Labrador. We should obviously be paying attention to this and settling it, but we are not settling it.


That is not the most serious anomaly. The most serious anomaly is that when those districts were established in the 1860s, Quebec was only half the size that it is today. The northern half of Quebec was not part of Quebec, so the entire northern half of Quebec is without a senatorial district. The line runs from halfway up the western border between Ontario and James Bay and then swoops up on the diagonal to Labrador. If you know anything about the province of Quebec, you know that a gigantic territory is not included in the senatorial districts. The residents of that territory are the only Canadians who do not have a senator. In every province and territory outside of Quebec, every senator represents every person in that province or territory. By law, senators from Quebec represent their districts.

We all know that Senator Watt is in practice the representative of the people of that region and so is Senator Gill, but Senator Gill has a district of his own. Senator Watt, however, because he is Inuit and so many people from that region are Inuit, has made it one of his missions in this place to represent them, and he has done a marvellous job of it. The Inuit people from that region are fortunate to have Senator Watt as a representative. As it happens, Senator Watt's true district is Inkerman, in southwest Quebec. Take a line from Ottawa and head northwest and you will be in Senator Watt's district in pretty short order.

The districts no longer have the importance they had long ago, and for a long time I thought I could support Senator Murray's and Senator Austin's motion in spite of this anomaly. The more I thought about it, the more I thought that such a choice would be wrong for me. I sit in this place as a representative of a community that was taken into account when the Fathers made the great bargain of Confederation and when they spent so many hours and days devising the Senate of Canada. I cannot in good conscience vote in favour of a motion that ignores another even more vulnerable minority in my province of Quebec.

I have been rereading the debates on this motion and two quotations moved me when I heard them the first time and moved me again when I reread them. I would like to leave them with honourable senators. One is from Senator Watt, on June 28, 2006, when he said:

The Aboriginal people in this country are under-represented. They happen to be the first people to occupy this land, the great land we call Canada today.

Senator Watt went on to say:

I believe our people have contributed to helping the newcomers in many different ways: safeguarding them, directing them and helping them to survive. I think it is only fair that they return the respect.

On December 11, 2006, Senator Hubley, in a most eloquent speech that many of us will remember, said:

. . . the promise of the Senate to provide an effective voice for a diversity of regional and other interests. It is the promise of the Senate to represent fairly the interests of women, racial and linguistic minorities and our Aboriginal peoples.

Honourable senators, while Lord knows I sympathize with the grievances of the West, I personally cannot support this motion.

On motion of Senator Cowan, debate adjourned.

Study on Recent Reports and Action Plan Concerning Drinking Water in First Nations' Communities

Report of Aboriginal Peoples Committee—Debate Adjourned

The Senate proceeded to consideration of the eighth report of the Standing Senate Committee on Aboriginal Peoples entitled: Safe Drinking Water for First Nations, tabled in the Senate on May 31, 2007.—(Honourable Senator St. Germain, P.C.)

Hon. Gerry St. Germain moved the adoption of the report.

He said: Honourable senators, two months ago the Senate mandated the Aboriginal Peoples Committee to examine and report on recent work completed on drinking water in First Nations' communities. Specifically, the committee examined the November 2006 Report of the Expert Panel on Safe Drinking Water for First Nations; the 2005 Report of the Commissioner of the Environment and Sustainable Development on Drinking Water in First Nations Communities; and the Department of Indian Affairs and Northern Development's Plan of Action to Address Drinking Water Concerns in First Nations Communities. In addition, honourable senators, we heard from the Assembly of First Nations, who provided testimony addressing their review of the status of safe drinking water in First Nations communities.

One of the essentials of daily life is access to clean drinking water. Canadians assume that the water they drink is of high quality; however, not all Canadians can be sure their drinking water is safe and this includes nearly 500,000 Canadians living in First Nations communities.

Governments have long known that the majority of water systems in First Nations communities are or have been susceptible to health risks. In 1995, an assessment carried out by the Department of Indian Affairs and Northern Development and Health Canada found that about 25 per cent of the water systems on reserves pose potential for health and safety risks to the First Nations people in the affected communities.

In 2001, a follow-up assessment revealed that almost three quarters of the drinking water systems on reserve pose significant risk. Most recently, in March 2007, the Department of Indian Affairs and Northern Development released a progress report on First Nations drinking water indicating that the water systems of 97 First Nations communities are classified as high risk. In addition, DIAND's 2006 Protocol for Safe Drinking Water for First Nations Communities requires that every First Nations community have a certified water systems operator. Currently, only 37 per cent of water operators are certified. Between 1995 and 2003, $1.9 billion was spent to build and operate drinking water and sewer systems in First Nations communities. In addition, another $1.6 billion will be invested between 2003 and 2008.

These investments have resulted in reducing the number of identified high-risk drinking water systems from 193 to 97 in the past year. However, providing safe drinking water is not just a money issue, honourable senators. First Nations, unlike other communities, have neither laws nor regulations governing drinking water. Provincial jurisdiction over drinking water does not extend to reserve lands. In 2005, an audit report published by the Commissioner of the Environment and Sustainable Development found that certain important elements for the provision of safe water were missing. On-reserve residents did not have an approval and licensing processes for water treatment plants and were without ongoing monitoring. The reserves were without compliance and enforcement mechanisms and public reporting requirements. Furthermore, no one was legally empowered to ensure that all required drinking water tests were duly carried out. The report revealed the many deficiencies in the design and construction of the water systems.


Witnesses testifying before the committee all agreed in principle on the need to establish a regulatory framework to govern the provision of drinking water in First Nations communities. However, witnesses emphasized the importance of ensuring that community capacity is addressed as a precondition to legislation. Regulatory standards without the physical and human capacity to meet those standards are unlikely to improve the quality and delivery of drinking water on reserve.

The committee is equally concerned that the department is not able to identify the existing physical and human resource needs for the delivery of safe water on reserves, nor is it able to identify deficiencies in those to any great degree of certainty. Subsequently, Parliament and Canadians are not getting full and accurate information about the quality and safety of First Nations drinking water.

The report recommends that the department provide for a professional audit of water system facilities, as well as an independent needs assessment of both the physical assets and the human resource needs of individual First Nations communities in relation to the delivery of safe drinking water. The report also recommends that the department undertake a comprehensive consultation process with First Nations communities regarding legislative options, including those set out in reports of the expert panel on safe drinking water and the AFN, with a view to collaboratively developing such legislation.

Honourable senators, the issue here is to militate against the occurrence of another Kashechewan incident. Failure to provide safe drinking water to First Nations is definitely not an option.

The committee hopes that the Senate will send this report to the government for their consideration of the two essential recommendations concerning the delivery of safe drinking water to First Nations communities.

Honourable senators, I thank the members of the committee who worked on this to provide these recommendations. This, like the other studies we recently reported, is very important. It is essential for a quality lifestyle for our First Nations people. I would like to see this report responded to as quickly as possible by the government and delivered as quickly as possible to the government side.

Hon. Tommy Banks: Will the honourable senator accept a question?

Senator St. Germain: Yes.

Senator Banks: The matter to which this excellent report refers has been referred to in two other places. First, a report entitled Water in the West by the Standing Senate Committee on Energy, the Environment and Natural Resources, which was released just over a year and a half ago; and, second, by Senator Grafstein's water bill. Has the honourable senator considered the way in which Senator Grafstein's bill, if it were to become an act of Parliament, would beneficially affect the situation to which he refers?

Senator St. Germain: There is no doubt that Senator Grafstein has put a significant amount of effort into the study of water. We were studying the recommendations and trying to monitor whether the recommendations brought forward by the expert panel and the department and various other entities dealing with this are being dealt with in a proper manner. We did not have the opportunity to review Senator Grafstein's bill, not that it would be ignored, and hopefully the department is taking this into consideration. I can certainly assure the honourable senator that I will make the Minister of Indian Affairs aware of Senator Grafstein's efforts, as well as the report from the Energy Committee, so that, as we go forward, we take all the tools required and all the information, which I am positive is good information, combine it together and hopefully come to a resolution of this critical situation.

On motion of Senator Tardif, debate adjourned.

Internal Economy, Budgets and Administration

Seventeenth Report of Committee Adopted

The Senate proceeded to consideration of the seventeenth report of the Standing Committee on Internal Economy, Budgets and Administration, (committee budget), presented in the Senate on May 31, 2007.—(Honourable Senator Furey)

Hon. George J. Furey: Honourable senators, I move the adoption of the report.

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

Motion agreed to and report adopted.

Study on International Obligations Regarding Children's Rights and Freedoms

Report of Human Rights Committee—Debate Concluded

The Senate proceeded to consideration of the tenth report of the Standing Senate Committee on Human Rights entitled: Children: The Silenced Citizens, tabled in the Senate on April 25, 2007.—(Honourable Senator Andreychuk)

Hon. A. Raynell Andreychuk, moved the adoption of the report.

She said: Honourable senators, before I make a few comments about the report, I wish to thank my deputy chairs, Senator Pearson and Senator Carstairs, and my incoming chair for their continued support on this important topic of the Convention on the Rights of the Child. I would also be remiss if I did not mention Senator Munson, who gave us gender balance on our steering committee and has faithfully attended the meetings. The rest of the members I will not name, but they have contributed both their experiences and their various commitments to the field of children's rights.

I also wish to thank Laura Barnett, our researcher, for her extensive understanding of international law and her commitment to the cause of children. Vanessa Moss-Norbury and Josée Thérien, our clerks, have worked many hours to produce this report.

In late 2004, the Standing Senate Committee on Human Rights began an examination of Canada's international obligations with respect to the rights and freedoms of children. In particular, the committee was concerned with Canada's obligations under the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child and whether Canada's legislation meets our obligations under this convention.

From the outset, the committee reviewed Canada's international obligations with respect to children's rights and freedoms as a case study reflecting the broader implications of ensuring that domestic legislation and policies comply with Canada's international human rights obligations.

In terms of children's rights more specifically, the committee sought to answer the following questions: Is Canada implementing the Convention on the Rights of the Child in domestic law and policy and, if so, how? Are all children in Canada benefiting from the convention? Are specific groups of vulnerable children benefiting from it? Has the convention furthered federal, provincial and territorial policies for such children? Are the federal, provincial and territorial governments and society responding to the challenges confronting today's children?

The committee proceeded to evaluate obstacles to the protection of children's rights and freedoms as enunciated by the Convention on the Rights of the Child, looking at whether Canadian policy and legislation reflect the provisions of and are in compliance with international obligations under this international human rights instrument. It also looked at the role of Parliament within this framework.

The committee filed an extensive overview report in the Senate entitled Who's in Charge Here? I acknowledge the hard work, determination and support of Senator Pearson in its preparation.


The committee tabled its final report, entitled Children: The Silenced Citizens — Effective Implementation of Canada's International Obligations with Respect to the Rights of Children, in this chamber. The report discussed Canada's approach to implementation of international law and, in particular, the Convention on the Rights of the Child.

The report focused on specific articles of the convention to highlight the ways in which children's rights have not been effectively implemented in Canada in so many ways. To rectify this situation, the report recommended a variety of measures and mechanisms to ensure more effective implementation of the convention for Canada's approximately 7 million children, as well as proposing a new approach to how Canada deals with its signature, ratification and implementation of human rights treaties.

It is important to note that right from the beginning Canada played an important role with respect to the Convention on the Rights of the Child. Drafting of the convention took 11 years, from 1978 to 1989, during which time Canada worked hard at the drafting table and facilitated communication between over 40 countries with varying religious, ideological, cultural and political traditions.

Former Prime Minister Brian Mulroney was also significant in the adoption process, jointly initiating and co-chairing the World Summit on Children at the United Nations, in 1990, to encourage ratification of the convention and draft a 10-year plan of action for children.

Reinforced by such political will, the convention was ultimately adopted by the United Nations in November 1989, representing the first time that the needs and interests of children were expressly formulated in terms of human rights. The instrument captured the imagination of world leaders and was embraced with overwhelming enthusiasm by the entire world community. It is currently the most widely subscribed to international treaty in history, ratified by 193 nations. Canada was able to ratify the convention in December 1991, once all the provinces and territories signalled their support for the convention by sending letters of support to the federal government.

The convention contains three general principles to guide interpretation and implementation of its more specific articles: the principle of non-discrimination; the principle of the best interests of the child; and the right of the child to be heard. The convention contains numerous specific rights that deal with many aspects of children's lives, such as: the right to the protection from all forms of violence and to health and health services; the right to an education and an adequate standard of living; and the right to be protected from sexual exploitation. Many of these rights are progressive rights.

Embedded in the Convention on the Rights of the Child and other modern international human rights law is the rights-based approach, which emphasizes the fact that all rights are equal and universal and that all people, including children, are the subject of their own rights, and should be participants in development rather than objects of charity.

The rights-based approach places an obligation on states to work towards ensuring that all rights are being met. As such, the convention emphasizes the need to focus on children as individuals with their own set of rights. The idea is that children are not merely objects of concern to be protected but are also to be recognized as persons in their own right. As such, they will also begin to understand their responsibilities in society.

Viewing children's rights within this framework means that children are afforded protection beyond the level of simple survival or basic needs, thus facilitating the creation of a sustainable environment in which such rights can be protected in the longer term.

Noting these valuable rights and responsibilities enshrined in the convention, our committee looked at Canada's implementation of its international human rights treaties on a general level. What quickly became clear is that, traditionally, such treaties are rarely incorporated directly into Canadian law. Instead, they are indirectly implemented at the domestic level by ensuring that pre-existing legislation is in conformity with the obligations accepted in a particular convention. In addition, Parliament plays no role in ratification. Thus, international human rights treaties that are not directly incorporated into domestic legislation completely bypass the parliamentary process.

As a result of successive governments' approaches to international human rights treaties, the committee found that the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child is not solidly embedded in Canadian law, in policy or in the national psyche. Governments and courts use it only as a strongly worded guiding principle with which they attempt to ensure that laws conform rather than acting as if they are bound by it. Jurisdictional complexities, the absence of effective institutions, an uncertain approach to human rights law and the lack of transparency and political involvement indicate that the convention is being ineffectively applied in the Canadian context. There appears to be a strong disconnect between Canada's international obligations and domestic law.

There was a disturbing recurrence of testimony from witnesses across the country that Canada is a country whose actions do not live up to its reputation. Witnesses were critical of the perceived gap between the rhetoric and the reality of children's rights in Canada. While the government attempts to conform to the rights-based approach as enshrined in the convention in theory, many witnesses argued that it hesitates to be bound by it in practice. In government, even among those dedicated to protecting children's rights, knowledge of the convention is spotty at best.

The committee discovered that some government officials working towards the protection of children's rights seemed to operate in ignorance of the international tool at their disposal. In many respects the convention is simply not used as a means or framework to protect children's rights.

Throughout our hearings, we became aware that there is very little knowledge of the convention outside academic and advocacy circles. Numerous witnesses expressed concern about the lack of awareness in government, in Parliament, among the public, and among children of the Convention on the Rights of the Child.

In terms of concrete illustrations of how the convention does not appear to be effectively applied to improve children's lives in Canada, our committee members heard eye-opening testimony about children and youth whose futures were at risk. We heard stories about children who were being subjected to violence and abuse, who were being exploited sexually, who were tangled in the justice system and had nowhere left to turn. We heard about children with disabilities who were not receiving the services they need to grow to their full potential, immigrant children who were separated from their families and about children who were forced by the system to be on their own just when they were starting to put their troubled lives together.

Among all the themes discussed in our report, serious concerns about Aboriginal children in Canada were perhaps the most emphasized by witnesses. The committee heard that Aboriginal children make up one of the most marginalized and vulnerable categories of children in Canada, over-represented in a wide variety of areas. Although Canada consistently ranks among the top countries in the UN's Human Development Index, Canada's ranking drops to 78th when the index isolates the economic and social well-being of Aboriginal populations.

Aboriginal children are disproportionately living in poverty and involved in the youth criminal justice and child protection systems. Aboriginal children also face significant health problems in comparison with other children in Canada, such as higher rates of malnutrition, disabilities, drug and alcohol abuse and suicide.


Ultimately, as noted in a recent meeting by one Billie Schibler, Children's Advocate for the Province of Manitoba:

In Canada, we as a country are very clearly failing to protect our most vulnerable, failing to preserve our most precious and presumably cherished resource, our children. We are an advanced country. We have natural resources and we have brilliant leaders, but unless we can find success in ensuring a brighter future for our children, unless we can provide them with hope, unless we can start listening and hear what they are saying, we as a province are lost, we as a country have no future.

The Hon. the Speaker: We are at the 15-minute mark of your time, Senator Andreychuk. It is very close to six o'clock. At six o'clock, I must leave the chair unless there is agreement to not see the clock.

Hon. Gerald J. Comeau (Deputy Leader of the Government): Honourable senators, I hate to do this to my colleague, but if we agree to not see the clock, we are going to be staying here quite late tonight.

Therefore, as discussed with my counterpart on the other side, we would see the clock, we would ask the unanimous consent of this chamber to let all matters stand in their place on the Order Paper and we would adjourn for the evening. I believe that is still the position of our leadership on both sides, so I would ask that we let all matters stand in their place and wrap up for the day.

Hon. Terry Stratton: Senator Andreychuk has about two pages left of her speech. Would it be agreeable to both sides if we were to allow her to complete her speech and then rise?

The Hon. the Speaker: Does Senator Andreychuk have the agreement of the house for two more minutes?

Hon. Senators: Agreed.

Senator Andreychuk: I thank you, honourable senators, because it is important to talk about children and I appreciate that the Senate has understood that.

In our report, the committee emphasized that all levels of government across Canada have a responsibility and the capacity to protect children's rights. Certainly, there is a widespread recognition across government of the importance of children. Throughout its hearings, the committee was overwhelmed by the expressions of concern and care for children's rights in each jurisdiction. It is simply a question of how effectively governments are accomplishing this task.

What is needed to push both the issue and respect for the democratic process further is enhanced accountability, increased parliamentary and public input, and a more open approach to compliance that promotes transparency and enhances political will. In order to move the agenda toward resolving some of these issues, our committee made a number of concrete recommendations in the report. Among our committee's key recommendations was the need to ensure that the voices of Canadian children are heard in a meaningful way.

The right of children to participate and to be heard is an important political right. It is one of the most fundamental principles underlying the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child. Our committee heard over and over again how children and youth feel they are not consulted or that their views are discounted, often on matters that have a significant impact on their lives. Articles 12 to 15 of the convention stipulate that, in appropriate circumstances, the child has a right to be heard in matters that affect his or her well-being. Not only is this a right, it is an important part of effective decision and policy making.

Our committee heard from a wide variety of children who brought their perspectives forcefully to our attention. One youth noted:

The convention states that children have the right to their own opinions, but we are never encouraged to speak. If we do voice our opinions, chances are that our opinions will be discussed by policymakers who are unwilling to listen . . . . If you walk away with anything at all today, please walk away realizing that youth know what they want to see and know what they need to make a difference. It is a matter of implementation from others that trust that we know what we are doing.

Through our recommendations, the committee sought to strengthen the active involvement of children in all institutions and processes affecting children. Children's voices rarely inform government decisions, yet they are one of the groups most affected by government action or inaction. Children are not merely under-represented; they are almost not represented at all. Our committee strongly believes that children should be meaningfully consulted on all significant issues affecting their rights and lives.

Parents, educators and governments can help in addressing this problem by ensuring that children are involved and consulted on issues concerning them; by becoming aware of the convention's rights themselves — learning about their own rights and responsibilities, as well as those of children; by putting the convention into school curricula; by passing laws and developing policies that are sensitive to children's rights; and by ensuring that the political will exists and is acted on in order to ensure the effective protection of children's rights. Our committee recommends that the federal government dedicate resources toward ensuring that children's input is given considerable weight when laws, policies and other decisions that have a significant impact on children's lives are discussed or implemented at the federal level.

Another of the committee's prime observations was that nobody is in charge of ensuring that the convention is effectively implemented in Canada, and political will is lacking. For Canada to claim that it fully respects the rights and freedoms of children, and to remain a human rights leader in the international sphere, it must improve its level of actual compliance. The federal government needs to take a lead with respect to the implementation of the convention.

The committee's report made a number of recommendations to facilitate implementation, including recommending the establishment of an independent children's commissioner to monitor implementation of the convention. Canada is one of the few countries in the developed world that does not have a permanently funded mechanism designed to monitor the protection of children's rights. Our committee also recommended that Parliament enact legislation to establish an independent children's commissioner to monitor such implementation. I will not go into the details, as our report fully fleshes out what we believe the commissioner could do for us.

To push the agenda for both children's rights and the respect for democratic process has also been included in our report, and I believe it warrants attention by this Senate and by the government. We need enhanced political will.

Release of our report represents a time for us to reflect on ways that Parliament can become more effectively involved in the implementation of international obligations with respect to children's rights.

In attempting to highlight the necessity of addressing children's rights, our committee is fully aware that the world may have grown weary of the phrase "our children are our future." While the statement remains true, witnesses emphasized that the government, Parliament and civil society need to move beyond that cliché and recognize that children are our citizens today. Only in understanding this can we begin to foster a true culture of rights and responsibilities for children in our society.

The Hon. the Speaker: If no other senator wishes to speak to this report or take the adjournment of the debate, it is deemed to have been considered.

The Senate adjourned until Wednesday, June 7, 2007, at 1:30 p.m.

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