Hon. Rod A. A. Zimmer: Honourable senators, today I rise to
acknowledge Hannah Taylor, a 12-year-old young woman who is the Founder of The
Ladybug Foundation. She is in the Senate gallery today with her father, Bruce
Most of you will remember the classic Jimmy Stewart movie, Mr. Smith Goes
to Washington. Honourable senators, today "Ms. Taylor goes to Ottawa."
Born in Winnipeg in 1996, Hannah's zest for life extends to her love of nature,
dragons and all the drawings and writings that spill out from those experiences.
After a life-changing encounter with a homeless person at the age of five,
Hannah is Canada's youngest advocate for the homeless. Braced with the simple
truth that everyone should have a home and that no one should have to eat from a
garbage can, Hannah has raised both awareness and money, and has spoken to
thousands of people across Canada. In 2004, at age 8, she founded The Ladybug
Foundation to support her efforts to assist registered charitable organizations
in Canada that provide food, shelter and other needs of the homeless and near
homeless without judgment so they can find dignity, security, hope and refuge.
Honourable senators, Hannah has inspired many and is at the forefront of
establishing a national education project called "Make Change" that will
launch in schools in 2008. This program ultimately will be available to every
school-aged child in Canada, letting them experience what is within all of us to
become involved and make a difference in our world.
Honourable senators, tomorrow, January 31, 2008 is the first ever National
Red Scarf Day of The Ladybug Foundation, like the one I am wearing around my
neck today. I will be sending you a letter tomorrow with a scarf and a bracelet
to purchase and wear. The scarves are $20 and the bracelets are $5. The proceeds
go to help Canadian hunger and homelessness.
Honourable senators, in Hannah's own words:
I saw him from far away and I felt my heart hurt just a little at first.
I didn't know him, but my heart felt like it did. When I first met a real
homeless person, his teeth didn't look like mine; he didn't smell like me,
or dress like me. I have never been hungry, or not had a beautiful cozy bed
to sleep in, but I have many friends who live most of their lives that way.
My heart was sad and broken to learn that on a cold winter day our world has
homeless people that eat garbage and sleep outside. I learned from my
homeless friends that when you share your heart, anything is possible and
that is why I do what I do! And why we have The Ladybug Foundation.
Those are the words from Hannah's heart.
Honourable senators, Senator Roméo Dallaire is one of my heroes for his
mission to eradicate child soldiers. Belinda Stronach is another hero for her
cause with Africa, malaria and Spread the Nets. Jodi Adler is another hero for
her work with the One X One Campaign fundraising galas for poverty. Hannah
Taylor is a true child soldier of another nature, ambassador for the homeless,
and today she is my new hero.
The Hon. the Speaker: Honourable senators, the record should show that
the honourable senators have acknowledged the presence in the gallery of Hannah
Taylor, Founder of The Ladybug Foundation to help the homeless and she is
accompanied by her dad, Bruce Taylor. As other distinguished guests have seen,
they are very welcome, as evidenced by the applause of all honourable senators.
Hon. Donald H. Oliver: Honourable senators, last year saw numerous
recalls of toys, food and drugs to protect consumers' safety. Frankly, running
around trying to close the door after the horse is out of the barn is not good
enough for the people of this nation.
Before Christmas, Prime Minister Stephen Harper fought back on behalf of
Canadians when he announced the creation of the Food and Consumer Safety Action
Plan. This plan will help make consumers safer by legislating tough regulation
of food, health and other consumer products. It will work by preventing problems
that have led to countless recalls rather than frantically reacting after the
damage has been done.
The legislation to be introduced this year will include mandatory product
recalls if firms do not act on legitimate safety concerns; making importers
responsible for the safety of goods they bring into this country; increasing
maximum fines to international levels, instead of the current $5,000; and better
safety information for consumers, as well as guidance for industries on how to
build safety throughout supply chains.
As Mr. Harper stated:
This plan will benefit all Canadians; it will improve our safety and
health; reward responsible industry players; and enhance Canada's reputation
abroad as a country whose product safety standards are second to none.
Canadians need to be assured that the products they buy will be safe for
their families. This plan will help us to build that assurance.
Hon. Lucie Pépin: Honourable senators, this week marks the twentieth
anniversary of the Morgentaler decision. Indeed, it was on January 28, 1988,
that the Supreme Court of Canada decriminalized abortion. This historic decision
gave Canadian women the freedom to control their own fertility and it blew a
gust of freedom into their lives.
We can thank Dr. Morgentaler for his boldness, courage and determination.
Besides him, several Canadian women were involved in this fight, including Dr.
Lise Fortier, an obstetrician and gynaecologist at Notre-Dame Hospital in
Montreal. Thanks to their efforts and many sacrifices, this injustice done to
women has been corrected.
This twentieth anniversary is a well-deserved time of celebration. We must,
however, take this opportunity to take stock. The truth is that the right to
abortion remains a fragile one in Canada.
Abortion services are unevenly dispersed across Canada. Today still, women
seeking to terminate a pregnancy continue to face contempt and even pressure,
often from medical personnel.
Access to abortion services is already limited, and yet there are people
trying to set us back 20 years by restricting a woman's ability to choose, while
others simply want abortion to be made illegal again.
All this prompts us to be more vigilant. Losing this right for which several
generations of Canadians, both men and women, have fought is out of the
As honourable senators no doubt recall, the reason that termination of
pregnancy as we know it is still possible is because, in January 1991, new
legislation that would have made abortion illegal was blocked in the Senate.
It is now up to us, the younger senators among us in particular, to carry the
torch. We must never forget that the fight for these rights has been long and
hard, but that they could be lost very quickly.
Let us celebrate fittingly, stay vigilant and look to the future.
Hon. Elizabeth Hubley: Honourable senators, it has now been 28 years
that Canada's Outstanding Young Farmers Program has been operating. This annual
competition recognizes farmers that exemplify excellence in their profession and
promote the contribution of the agricultural industry. In December, the national
awards dinner was held to honour the 2007 winners and honourees.
I congratulate Harry and Leony Koelen of Paisley, Ontario and Norman and
Laura Shoemaker of Mossbank, Saskatchewan, who were named this year's winners. I
also congratulate John and Clair Green of Springfield, P.E.I., dairy producers
who were honoured as outstanding examples of the diversification of Canadian
Canada's Outstanding Young Farmers Program celebrates the success of a new
generation of farmers who are demonstrating innovation and leadership in the
farming industry across Canada. I invite all honourable senators to join me in
congratulating these young farmers.
Hon. Jim Munson: Honourable senators, I want to echo the statement
that Senator Losier-Cool made yesterday. Perhaps we have started to forget the
tragic events that touched Bathurst High School recently. Young athletes, along
with their coach and his family, were returning from a basketball tournament in
Moncton, New Brunswick. It was late at night, they were tired, disappointed at
their loss and the weather was terrible. You know the rest. The van crashed,
with a tragic loss of life.
Although my title says I am the senator for Ottawa-Rideau Canal, my roots are
on the north shore of New Brunswick. Home is where the heart is. Bathurst is
home to me and when I read the familiar names of those lost in the accident, my
I grieve when I think of those boys — athletes, leaders, friends and students
— tired after a late night game and perhaps disappointed that they lost, but
already planning the next layup, jump shot, block or impressive dunk. What a
terrible loss for the school. What a terrible loss for Bathurst.
I grieve for the teacher accompanying her husband's team to show support and
to supervise. I grieve for the coach who has endured such a terrible loss. I
hope and pray that he finds the courage and the strength to parent his child who
has lost her mother. I hope and pray that he finds the courage and strength to
get back to practice and dig deep to coach a team that needs him. I grieve for
the teachers of Bathurst High School who dedicate themselves to preparing young
people for the future. Teachers see the future in their students and to see
those lives extinguished, I feel sure, creates an ache and a sense of loss that
will be there forever. I hope and pray that the community will be good to itself
on its journey of healing. If any community can move forward with love and
support, Bathurst can. A country mourns this terrible loss and a son of New
Brunswick sends his deepest sympathy.
Hon. Gerald J. Comeau (Deputy Leader of the Government): Honourable
senators, pursuant to section 4 of the User Fees Act, I have the honour to table
the Department of Industry user fee proposal for a spectrum licence fee for
broadband public safety communications in the band 4940 to 4990 megahertz.
After consultation with the Deputy Leader of the Opposition, the Standing
Senate Committee on Transport and Communications was chosen to study this
The Hon. the Speaker: Honourable senators, pursuant to rule 28(3.1) of
the Rules of the Senate, the document is referred to the Standing Senate
Committee on Transport and Communications.
Hon. Serge Joyal: Honourable senators, pursuant to rule 104 of the
Rules of the Senate, I have the honour to table the first report of the
Standing Committee on the Conflict of Interest for Senators, which outlines the
expenses incurred by the committee during the First Session of the Thirty-ninth
(For text of report, see today's Journals of the Senate, p. 465.)
Hon. Serge Joyal: Honourable senators, I give notice that at the next
sitting of the Senate, I will move:
That the papers and documents received and/or produced by the Standing
Committee on Conflict of Interest during the First Session of the
Thirty-ninth Parliament be referred to the Standing Senate Committee on
Conflict of Interest for Senators.
Hon. Jim Munson: Honourable senators, my question is for the Leader of
the Government in the Senate and then for the Minister of Public Works.
We have seen a story over the last day or two about a person who deals with
dossiers in the Prime Minister's Office. The story leaves us wondering why such
a communications person within the PMO would have anything to do with a real
estate deal between the private sector and Public Works and Government Services
Canada. I am referring to Dimitri Soudas, who intervened in favour of a Montreal
real estate developer currently involved in a multimillion dollar lawsuit with
PWGSC over the management of two office buildings.
I wonder if this gives a whole new meaning to the sentiment "it's who you
know in the PMO."
Hon. Michael Fortier (Minister of Public Works and Government Services):
Honourable senators, I thank the honourable senator for the question.
As we know, the matter with respect to Rosdev Group and the Government of
Canada has been back and forth before the courts for several years. The matter
was already before the courts when we formed the government two years ago, as a
matter of fact. The matter is still before the courts, so I will not comment on
the litigation, as the honourable senator understandably would expect.
With respect to the file, our lawyers and government officials are ensuring
that the rights of the Government of Canada are protected through the courts,
and I will leave it at that. Basically, the matter was before the courts when we
inherited power and when I was briefed on this file, and it is still before the
Senator Munson: Honourable senators, first, I want to thank Senator
Fortier personally for the Paillé report. On the very last day before the
holiday break, the honourable senator tabled the report in the chamber. If it
had not been for that, we would never have known the extravagant amount the
Conservative government spends on public opinion polls.
On the matter at hand, has the minister or a member of his staff ever met
with Mr. Leo Housakos regarding his department's handling of the Rosdev Group's
Senator Fortier: Honourable senators, I have not met Mr. Housakos with
respect to this matter. As a matter of fact, I have not seen him, I believe,
since he cleaned my clock in Laval West in 2000. I have not spoken to Mr.
Housakos about this matter at all.
Senator Munson: Senator Fortier stood up to the Prime Minister's
Office on this issue and we congratulate him for that because he made the right
Has anyone in the honourable senator's office met the Prime Minister's press
secretary, Dimitri Soudas, who echoed the lobby of his friend and the
Conservative party's bagman, the unregistered lobbyist Mr. Housakos, when doing
so went against this government's own Federal Accountability Act?
Senator Fortier: Mr. Soudas indicated this morning that he had
dealings with Public Works. He had an inquiry on this matter, and, in the course
of normal business, inquired of Public Works about the status of the file. That
is all there really is.
Senator Munson: "Integrity," "transparency" and "accountability"
are words that this government has sprinkled in every speech and communicated
for the last couple of years.
Did Senator Fortier ever attend a cabinet meeting in which the decision was
made to appoint Mr. Housakos to the board of VIA Rail? If so, did he raise any
concern over the fact that Mr. Housakos had shown poor judgment in lobbying the
government without being registered?
Senator Fortier: I fully support our government's agenda, and I know
the honourable senator does as well with respect to ethics and integrity.
Some honourable senators in this chamber have approached me from time to time
on files, and it is normal that people have questions. I do not think the fact
that people have genuine questions about an issue should shock anyone.
With respect, the honourable senator should be focusing on the result. As a
reality, this matter was before the courts when I became minister, and it is
still before the courts.
Hon. Sharon Carstairs: Honourable senators, my question is to the
Leader of the Government in the Senate. The Atomic Energy Commission makes
products, including isotopes. The mandate of the Canadian Nuclear Safety
Commission, an arm's-length quasi-judicial body, is the safety of nuclear
reactors and the safe creation of radioactive materials. Its responsibility is
to guard against a reactor meltdown, not to ensure the production of isotopes.
Would the honourable minister tell this chamber this afternoon why the
government chose to fire Linda Keen, who fulfilled her mandate, but has yet to
make AECL responsible for anything?
Hon. Marjory LeBreton (Leader of the Government and Secretary of State
(Seniors)): I thank the honourable senator for the question. The former
president was clear in her testimony yesterday when she said in so many words
that the health of Canadians and people from other parts of the world was of no
concern to her.
We had to balance the 100 per cent chance of seriously affecting the health
of Canadians. We took an action, and it was supported by Parliament. All members
of the House of Commons and the Senate supported the bill and supported the
government's urgent need to have the reactor up and running to produce the
Members heard testimony yesterday not only from the former president but also
from the Auditor General. A discussion was had with regard to AECL and its
difficulties going back to the 1990s. As the Prime Minister said, there were
problems on all fronts. AECL now has a new president.
However, yesterday was the first time the former president had ever publicly
stated that the risk was 1,000 times higher than international standards.
In response, AECL issued a statement disputing what the former president said
on several counts. AECL stated:
1. There are no international standards related to one-in-one million
for fuel failures.
2. All reactors experience fuel failures from time to time and there are
no safety consequences to the public, employees or the reactor.
3. No nuclear designer in the world incorporates a one-in-one million
per year earthquake scenario.
The frequency for a severe earthquake at NRU is assumed to be 1 in 1000
years. For this to lead to fuel failure, the following would all have to happen
A severe earthquake occurs with its epicentre directly under the NRU
reactor at Chalk River (there is no record of such an earthquake in the
Upper Ottawa Valley);
The provincial power grid fails;
Back-up diesel power and battery power supplies are knocked out;
No NRU operating staff takes any action;
After about 0.5 hour the reactor coolant begins to boil;
After about 1.0 hour the reactor coolant has boiled away;
The onset of fuel failures begins.
NRU is a small research reactor operating at low temperatures and low
pressure. Therefore, even in this worst-case scenario, the radiation exposure to
workers is less than half the radiation exposure received from a CT Scan, and
the radiation exposure to the public is less than half the radiation exposure
received from a cardiovascular diagnostic treatment.
The safety of the reactor has been endorsed by the CNSC, which has
licensed the reactor to operate this way for the past 50 years.
With regard to the question about the AECL, as the Auditor General stated,
the operations of AECL have been pointed out by her to two past governments as
well as the present government. There are now people at AECL seized with this
matter. However, the important thing to remember is that the actions taken by
the government and supported by Parliament were 100 per cent in the interests of
the health and well-being of Canadians and other people we service around the
Senator Carstairs: The honourable minister is continuing what her
Prime Minister did in the other House, namely, to make patently false
accusations against Ms. Keen.
Linda Keen did not say that she had no concern about the safety of Canadians;
rather, she said that the safety of Canadians was not part of her mandate. That
is an entirely different issue.
It is the mandate of AECL to produce isotopes. It is not the mandate of the
Canadian Nuclear Safety Commission to produce isotopes. Surely, the government
can get that straight.
In addition, in his testimony in this chamber, Minister Lunn promised a full
investigation. He said that it was highly unusual that he would have to bring in
emergency legislation. We gave him that emergency legislation, partly on the
basis of his total commitment to an investigation. However, before Mr. Lunn has
even launched this investigation, let alone seen it completed, he fired Linda
How in goodness name can the Leader of the Government in the Senate explain
the firing of someone who is an integral part of this process, according to the
minister, before an investigation has been conducted?
Senator LeBreton: I thank the honourable senator for the question. As
a matter of fact, a retired director general of the commission quoted in today's
The Globe and Mail completely disputes the testimony of the former
On numerous occasions, the government did ask AECL and CNSC to work together
to come to a resolution. The former president of the Canadian Nuclear Safety
Commission had a number of options available to her to deal with this matter but
chose not to act.
As I just mentioned, Parliament, as a whole, ultimately overruled the former
president, because it was the right thing to do in the interests of the health
and safety of Canadians.
The government has lost confidence in the former president's ability to
fulfill her executive responsibilities, which explains why the government took
the actions it did to remove her as president.
Ms. Keen still remains a full-time member of the commission and has not
suffered any financial loss as a result of it.
Senator Carstairs: Let me ask the honourable minister whether the
scenario I am about to describe reflects the new policy of the government: If an
individual has the nerve to disagree with the Conservative government, then he
or she should be prepared to be fired.
Senator LeBreton: I wonder if people have heard of François Beaudoin.
The situation respecting the CNSC president was unique. Certainly, as the
Prime Minister pointed out in his year-end interviews, this was not a situation
that any of us wanted to be in.
Of course, honourable senators, the scenario put forth by Senator Carstairs
is not true. The fact is, there was a very serious problem with regard to the
production of medical isotopes. I am sure many of us have family members who
would have been affected by this shortage — I know I do. I have a brother who is
being treated for colon cancer.
Honourable senators, we were in danger of threatening the lives and health of
Canadians. We were in danger of threatening the lives and health of people
around the world to whom we ship the isotopes. The consequences would have been
serious not only for Canadians and patients around the world but also for our
reputation as a supplier of this vital product. The government was put in the
position, backed by Parliament, of having to take unusual measures in this case.
We hope we will never be put in that position again, but it is not the policy of
the government to fire people who disagree with us.
Hon. Yoine Goldstein: Honourable senators, this question is directed
to the Honourable Senator LeBreton as Leader of the Government in the Senate.
We have just learned that the National Science Advisor, an outstanding
Canadian, Arthur Carty, filling a senior civil service position that has existed
since 1971, was summarily dismissed by the very neat, typical finesse trick that
has become a favourite of the Prime Minister, namely, the abolition of that
position. The position was abolished, obviously, because the Prime Minister
still does not want to deal with scientific truths such as climate change and
other such accepted positions in the expert science community.
We also learned yesterday that Linda Keen's firing by way of a midnight
letter resulted from the fact that she was to testify the following morning with
respect to the Chalk River matter and that the Prime Minister obviously did not
want her to be able to do that.
Before the Leader of the Government answers this question, I draw to her
attention the book called Accountable Government: A Guide for Ministers and
Secretaries of State, to which her party purportedly subscribed, which
reads, in part — and I quote:
The nature of the relationship between a Minister . . .
— and including, therefore, a Prime Minister —
. . . and an administrative tribunal with independent decision-making or
quasi-judicial functions . . .
— which was the case in this position —
. . . is a particularly sensitive issue. Ministers must not intervene in
specific decisions of those bodies.
The only sins of the two aforementioned senior civil servants were that they
refused to kowtow to the Prime Minister. Can we take it that the Prime Minister
will continue to fire every civil servant who either disagrees with him or
refuses to follow his dictates?
Hon. Marjory LeBreton (Leader of the Government and Secretary of State
(Seniors)): First, the premise of the honourable senator's question is
incorrect. Second, with regard to the former president of the nuclear
commission, there was an action the government recommended to Parliament.
Parliament supported the government.
With respect to other positions in the government, the fact is that all of
these positions are subject to possible change. As a government, we have made
many appointments of highly qualified individuals. The appointments secretariat
and the people in the Privy Council Office are working very hard to attract
qualified individuals to serve in the various positions.
As with all governments, when a government reorganizes it sometimes
necessitates some positions being changed. Obviously, changes made in the
structure of government will also affect the positions of people who are with
those organizations. I am particularly pleased, in looking at appointments made
in the public service under the Prime Minister's watch, with the number of women
who have been advanced and elevated to the senior levels of the public service —
something I thought the honourable senator should be congratulating us for.
Senator Goldstein: With respect, the honourable senator has not
answered the question. The question was not about appointments. The question was
about dismissals. The history of this government makes it clear that it will not
accept legitimate disagreement from any source.
Let me give some examples. Joanne Gélinas, Commissioner of the Environment
and Sustainable Development, was fired in January 2007 because she publicly
commented to the media about her not receiving sufficient information from the
government about its made-in-Canada environmental plan.
Jack Anawak, Ambassador for Circumpolar Affairs, was fired in 2006 after his
position was eliminated — a typical ploy on the part of the Prime Minister,
eliminating positions and therefore eliminating people he does not like.
Karen Kraft Sloan, Ambassador for the Environment, was fired in September
Adrian Measner, President and Chief Executive Officer of the Canadian Wheat
Board, was fired in December 2006 for reasons of which we are very much aware.
Yves Le Bouthillier, President of the Law Commission of Canada, was fired in
2006 by the neat ploy of eliminating his position.
Allan Amey, President of the Canada Emission Reduction Incentives Agency,
which was created to oversee compliance with the Kyoto Protocol, was fired in
Bernard Shapiro, who disagreed, was forced out.
Jean-Pierre Kingsley, who disagreed, was forced out.
John Reid, who disagreed and, therefore, "resigned", was forced out.
Jean-Guy Fleury, former chair of the Immigration and Refugee Board,
"resigned" because he had the temerity to refuse the government's attempt to
politicize the IRB. His entire advisory panel then followed.
Yves Côté was fired. I could go on and on.
Has it become a formal position of this government that people who disagree
are not entitled to freedom of speech? That is to say, they have no right to
dissent and they must simply follow the line?
Before the Leader of the Government in the Senate answers that question, I
ask her not to tell me what the previous government did or did not do, because
if the previous government eliminated people, which it did, it did so not for
reasons of dissent but for other reasons. If the honourable senator answers in
that manner, I will pose another supplementary question.
Senator Comeau: He says that with a straight face.
Senator LeBreton: Honourable senators, obviously that is what happened
to François Beaudoin from the Business Development Bank of Canada.
I am familiar with the question because it was the same question that was
asked yesterday in the House of Commons by Roméo LeBlanc's son, Dominic LeBlanc,
who had the temerity to get up and ask that question in the House of Commons,
although he had a father who was a senator, the Speaker of the Senate and the
Governor General of Canada at one time. I only point out an obvious fact.
Half the people the honourable senator mentioned on that list were not fired.
For instance, the Gélinas matter had nothing to do with the government. That
matter involved the Auditor General and Ms. Gélinas. We were happy to have her
stay there. She was telling us things that we all knew about in terms of the
The honourable senator answered his question in his summation. Governments
come in and they change the roles and structures of certain agencies of
government. This change is natural. People were in these positions, obviously,
when the positions ceased to exist. However, to use the word "fired" because
of disagreement is false. The honourable senator knows that.
Honourable senators, I would put the record of our treatment of public
servants and the people who serve the government up against any government in
the past, including the previous government with which I had experience. People
are valued and public servants are valued. They perform a wonderful service for
both the government and the public.
When Mr. Kingsley left, he submitted his letter of resignation. I think it is
quite a leap for the honourable senator to make that suggestion about an Officer
of Parliament. You can be sure that if that had been the case, it would have
been a known fact. I heard both Dominic LeBlanc yesterday and the honourable
senator today. If the honourable senator were to ask half the people on his
list, they would join with me and say that those facts are false.
Hon. Maria Chaput: Honourable senators, my question is for the Leader
of the Government in the Senate. It concerns French-language services provided
by the Royal Canadian Mounted Police to the travelling public and the urgent
need to make regulations.
You may be aware of the incident involving 25-year-old Justin Bell, a
Franco-Saskatchewanian teacher from Gravelbourg, Saskatchewan. He was pulled
over for speeding. When he requested service in French, the conversation became
heated. He filed a complaint with the Office of the Commissioner of Official
Languages, but it was ruled out of order. That incident reminds me of Doucet
v. Canada, because Mr. Bell was in a zone where French-language services are
not considered compulsory.
Mr. Bell has started fundraising in Saskatchewan to bring his case to court.
He needs at least $50,000 and so far he has collected $5,000. The court
challenges program is no longer there to help him.
I would now like to quote Mr. Bell who said:
What happened to me made me question my status as a francophone in
Saskatchewan. Now I am sometimes scared to ask for service in my own
language. I do not want to be treated as a second class citizen. I am a full
Does the minister not find that this situation is yet another example of how
important it is to clarify the linguistic rights of the travelling public, as
the Standing Senate Committee on Official Languages recommended in a report
tabled in the Senate in 2006?
Will the Leader of the Government bring this issue to the attention of the
President of the Treasury Board, the Honourable Vic Toews, who chose to limit
the scope of the regulations to the minimum in the case of Doucet v. Canada
instead of addressing the entire issue, as recommended by the court?
Hon. Marjory LeBreton (Leader of the Government and Secretary of State
(Seniors)): I thank the honourable senator for the question. However, as I
am not familiar with the case, I cannot comment on it specifically, but I would
be happy to address the matter.
I imagine that when the honourable senator mentioned Minister Toews, she
meant the Minister of Justice. Mr. Toews is no longer Minister of Justice.
Minister Nicholson is now the minister.
I wanted to reiterate that in Budget 2007, we committed $30 million in
additional funding over two years to support official language minority
communities and linguistic duality. On January 22, Minister Verner announced a
nationwide list of projects that will benefit from this funding. The former
premier of New Brunswick, Bernard Lord, is working on a report on the next phase
of an action plan on official languages, which we eagerly await.
On the subject of official languages, the government is taking extra measures
to improve the services of minority languages in some places in the country.
With regard to the specific case, I will be happy to make an inquiry.
Senator Chaput: Honourable senators, the Honourable Vic Toews is
President of the Treasury Board and my question has to do with an amendment to a
Treasury Board regulation. That is why I mentioned his name.
Senator LeBreton: My apologies. I thought that perhaps the honourable
senator referred to Mr. Toews because this was a justice matter, but I will
refer it to both of them.
Hon. Joan Fraser (Acting Deputy Leader of the Opposition): Honourable
senators, when the leader is doing her referrals, would she consider it
appropriate to convey the view that members of language minorities are well
aware that travelling is one of the areas in which it is hardest to get service?
In the same way that, one prime minister once said fish swim outside humanly
created zones on maps, travellers travel and they take their minority language
needs with them.
I hope the minister would agree that, far from regulating down, we should be
regulating up in this area. We should be intensifying our requirements for full
minority language service for the travelling public everywhere: in airports,
from airlines and from all manifestations of the Government of Canada, including
Senator LeBreton: I thank the honourable senator for the question.
Obviously, the situation as described is quite true and particularly prevalent
with the travelling public. However, I do not think one should assume we are
regulating down. We have put in place $30 million of additional funding. I
cannot imagine that the government, after providing $30 million of additional
funding for these communities, would then reduce the services.
Hon. Gerald J. Comeau (Deputy Leader of the Government): Honourable
senators, I have the honour of presenting a delayed answer to a question raised
on November 28, 2007, by Senator Sibbeston, concerning national parks.
(Response to question raised by Hon. Nick G. Sibbeston on November 28,
On November 21st, the Minister of the Environment announced the
withdrawal of millions of acres around the East Arm of Great Slave Lake and
the Ramparts River Wetlands, one example of our government's commitment to
protecting Canada's north. Parks Canada continues to work with the Dehcho
First Nations on the expansion of Nahanni National Park Reserve. There have
been two rounds of consultation in the communities, the first in July 2006
and the second in October and November 2007. A variety of studies were
completed during the past few years, including the Mineral and Energy
Resource Assessment (MERA) that was done by the Geological Survey of Canada,
part of Natural Resources Canada. This was the most detailed and
comprehensive of any MERA done for a national park in the north.
The latest round of consultations in October and November included public
meetings in five places: Nahanni Butte, Fort Liard and Fort Simpson in the
Dehcho Region, Yellowknife, NWT and here in Ottawa. At these meetings, Parks
Canada, Natural Resources Canada and Indian and Northern Affairs Canada
presented the results of the research programs, including the results of the
MERA, along with three options for expanded boundaries for Nahanni National
The results of the MERA were incorporated into the development of the
boundary options, as the information was made available to Parks Canada and
Dehcho First Nations researchers while the final MERA report was being
prepared for publication. MERA results — in the form of maps of mineral and
oil and gas potential — were shown at these meetings, and a geologist from
the Geological Survey of Canada made a presentation, explained what the maps
meant and answered questions from the public. In November, following the
public meetings, Parks Canada and the geologist met with most of the mining
companies that had interests in the area and again presented the MERA
mineral potential maps and discussed what the results meant.
The Geological Survey of Canada has a process to publish the results of
the MERA. This process involves the publication of the MERA Open File
Report, which includes the report itself, several related papers and all the
supporting data. There have been two MERA Open File Reports for the Nahanni
area. The first, published in 2003, was for three parts of the area of
interest and the second, published November 19, 2007, covered the entire
Greater Nahanni Ecosystem. Information from both Open Files was included in
the public consultation program. This has allowed for the mineral and oil
and gas potential of the Nahanni area to be considered before a final
recommendation is made with respect to the expanded boundaries of the
national park reserve.
For almost forty years, previous governments talked and talked about
protecting this land but did nothing about it. This Government is delivering
real action for Canadians by working hard to protect our natural heritage.
The expansion of Nahanni National Park Reserve will ensure that all its
wonders will be protected so future generations can enjoy and appreciate
Hon. Jerahmiel S. Grafstein moved second reading of Bill S-226, An
Act to amend the Business Development Bank of Canada Act (municipal
infrastructure bonds) and to make a consequential amendment to another Act.—(Honourable
He said: Honourable senators, with the current markets and the economy
increasingly choppy and unpredictable, the time has come to confront a
monumental economic and political task — a coherent rationale for urban
infrastructure renewal and modernization of our cities.
Not since the end of World War II, when federal, provincial and municipal
governments all recognized, each in their own spheres, the pressing necessity to
revamp and modernize our urban infrastructure, has the need been greater. A
recent, rather searing report from the Federation of Canadian Municipalities
titled, Danger Ahead: The Coming Collapse of Canada's Municipal
Infrastructure, outlines the staggering cost estimates for decaying urban
road works, transitways, waterworks, garbage incineration and better waste
management across Canada, all in need of instant renovation, all requiring
reinvestment and modernization for our burgeoning cities.
As our cities grow, the nature of Canada's economic activity is changing.
Services shaped, honed and polished in our cities are overtaking the older
manufacturing jobs as growth factors in our economic growth. The aging city
infrastructure contributes to the loss of jobs, especially manufacturing jobs.
In my city of Toronto, we have lost over 12,000 manufacturing jobs in recent
years. We must reverse this slide in manufacturing value-added jobs not only in
our cities but also across Canada.
If honourable senators are interested in the nature of national economies and
their direct relationship to cities, read any recent book on economic history:
The Rise of the Trading State: Commerce and Conquest in the Modern World, by
Richard Rosecrance; The Age of Extremes: The Short Twentieth Century, by
the outstanding English economist Eric Hobsbawn; The Wealth and Poverty of
Nations, by David Landis, to name just a few. Or meander, if you will,
through John Kenneth Gailbraith's economic nostrums and, of course, re-read Jane
Jacobs' on Cities and the Wealth of Nations and you will find common
agreement in all of these books.
As Jane Jacobs, who lived in Toronto and passed away recently, noted in her
classic work, Cities and the Wealth of Nations, our cities serve as both
engines of growth and creativity. One cannot divorce the nation's economic
growth from the economic growth of our cities. The two are attached like Siamese
twins. Cities propel our economic growth in all regions of the country. Value-added products and services are tested and marketed in our cities. New cultural
products are created and distributed from our city centres and exported around
Regretfully, our cities are now clogging our productivity. The inefficiencies
in our urban landscape contribute to the lagging productivity per worker, which
is currently about 15 to 20 per cent less than our American counterparts, making
our goods and services less competitive in the North American and in global
The 2007 report of Ontario's Institute for Competitiveness and Prosperity,
which compared our per capita GDP for workers to that in comparable states in
the United States, showed that the range of productivity in the U.S. was higher
by $20,000 per worker in three states; $14,000 per worker in 14 states; and
$1,000 per worker even in Michigan, which has suffered a devastating economic
Productivity depends on speed and cost effectiveness. Each time a Canadian
travels to work or within our cities to pursue their work and they are met with
gridlock, our productivity goes down. A study last week noted that Canadian
workers now spend 10 days a year commuting to cities. In Toronto, it is 12 days
a year — a day a month — which is totally unacceptable. Certainly, working in
any city in Canada today is less healthy because of increased pollution directly
due to increasing traffic gridlocks and road jams.
Our expressways are misnamed. Rather than expressways, they should be called
"moving parking lots." Traffic slowdown contributes to pollution from cars and
trucks, old and new, forced to idle on our streets and highways. The increased
costs to business and workers because of increased fuel consumption and time
lost are measurable inefficiencies that we have allowed to inflate and fester
within our cities.
Residents of Canadian cities pay a higher percentage of real estate taxes for
local services than do residents of comparable American cities. As Senator Art
Eggleton, a distinguished former mayor of Toronto, pointed out recently in the
Senate, over 50 per cent of local revenue for our cities is real estate tax
based compared to the United States, where it is about half as much, at around
25 per cent; and next year that ratio will be higher.
Our cities, some of which have failed to keep up with capital reinvestment
and renovations, demand more help by way of transfer of tax points from the
federal government. Let us see what that means. The federal government raises
the taxes and the cities spend it. This should raise in the minds of senators
the question of responsible governance.
There are varying degrees of accountability in this method and questions
about clarity and transparency for taxpayers in order that taxpayers can decide
whether their money is properly spent. Yet, municipal governments now estimate
that at least $125 billion will be necessary to renovate old, decaying
infrastructure, some 70 or more years old, such as Toronto's water system.
A recent report in my city of Toronto noted that the failure to renovate
Toronto's water system, or to keep up with modernization, results in up to one
third of water lost due to old and leaking piping. How inefficient. Residents
pay for 100 per cent of the water, but they do not get delivery of one third of
Meanwhile, more and more citizens from rural areas crowd into our cities. The
urban-rural split is intensifying, not only here but also around the world.
The current federal government's response is more episodic handouts. It is
difficult to get these numbers, and I hope these are correct. The current
federal government plans on $33 billion of episodic handouts for all the cities
of Canada for all purposes over seven years for fixing our trade arteries,
gateways and border corridors. That is $1,000 for each Canadian over seven
years. That is not nearly enough in the overall scheme of things. The cities
estimate that the total need is not $125 billion but $230 billion in the next
few years, if one includes renovations of existing infrastructure projects and
new and expanded infrastructure projects.
When confronted by the imperative choice of modernization or minginess after
World War II, the federal government led by building the St. Lawrence Seaway and
the Trans-Canada Highway. The provinces built province-wide expressways to line
up with the Trans-Canada Highway and new commuter rail links and subways to link
up and overlap our aging rail lines' rights-of-way. In the 1950s, Canada was
put on a moving escalator towards modernization.
Some cities have done better than others in managing their scarce economic
resources. Some cities have not been profligate. Some have a high respect for
each and every taxpayer's dollar. These well-managed cities should be rewarded
and not penalized.
What to do? We can learn from some best practices from our American
neighbours. There, municipal tax-exempt bonds have become one significant
building block in the foundation of urban renewal and modernization.
Financing, otherwise not available or affordable on urban projects with
revenue streams such as mass transit, waste management, drinking water systems,
expressways and bridges, can be obtained from the private market provided by
Studies in the United States show that, for every $1.00 of tax-exempt bonds,
67 cents goes for re-investment in municipalities. The other 33 cents goes to
the tax-exempt bondholder. Interest costs in the market will vary based on each
urban project's cost and revenues, as well as that city's track record of
cost-efficient management and construction management.
A recent report in the U.S. press notes that U.S. municipal bonds have become
"great value," rivalling the market for U.S. T-bills with slightly more
Bill S-226 would allow average Canadian workers and families, desperately
looking for relatively secure investments to replace the loss of income trusts
and other financial instruments, to receive a relatively secure and attractive
rate of return.
The bill's framework is simple. The Canada Business Development Bank Act
would be amended, reducing the cost of the new institution, to be cited as the
Urban Modernization and Business Development Bank, to act as a vehicle of
bank-style due diligence, approvals and construction oversight. Cities would
apply with a cost-effective plan for each renewal project to the Urban
Modernization and Business Development Bank. Each project would be
considered by the bank, after having been first approved by the province, since
municipalities are creatures of the province. Therefore, the bank could only
review projects after the province has approved them. If approved by the bank,
the exempt bond rate would, if and when set, obviously, vary from project to
project and city to city, based on the market's estimate of each projected
revenue stream and, of course, the infrastructure management track record of
construction supervision and revenue management of each city.
In the United States, at the end of 2005, there were in excess of $2.2
trillion of American municipal bonds in their marketplace. Comparing Canada, at
one tenth the size, there could be available in the market in excess of $200
billion from pools of Canadian investment by Canadian investors to satisfy our
made-in-Canada urban needs.
Canada's urban infrastructure continues to age rapidly. According to
Statistics Canada, Canada's waste management treatment systems have already used
up 63 per cent of their service life; roads and highways, 59 per cent; sewer
systems, 52 per cent; and bridges, 49 per cent. Bridge repair and replacement is
becoming a necessity of safety and security. These figures are only mean
averages. In many instances, the situation from city to city and project to
project is worse. Just this summer, bridges were reported to be falling apart in
In New York City, in the 1930s, there arose a consensus for bridge
construction, and it was financed by toll bridges and tunnels leading into
Manhattan — and it works to this day.
While the Federation of Canadian Municipalities projects up to $125 billion
for renovating existing aging infrastructure, another $115 billion is still
required for new infrastructure needs. This plan puts the onus where it should
be, namely, on each municipal government to come up with carefully costed and
revenue-projected investments over certain time periods. The benefit to cities
Cities will be able to plan and time their plans more cost effectively for
long-term projects that will be fully funded, from the outset, based on a market
interest rate set and determined by each city's record of economic management.
This will herald a rebalancing of responsible, accountable government, where
government spending is the government that is taxed, so that voters and
taxpayers can more clearly judge the effectiveness of their public officials.
The federal government will forego tax-exempt revenue from these bonds, but
it will be much less than under current plans for grants that never seem to
start on time and have no comprehensive means of cost accountability. I will not
criticize existing programs. We need those programs; this plan is not a
substitute but an additional tool. There will be ample room for existing and
future federal grants to ameliorate problems in the cities that do not have a
sustainable, ample or viable revenue base or those that need extraordinary and
supplemental grants by way of investment in the national interest. In that way,
the federal government's direct investments, together with the provinces, will
be able to better focus on areas of great need such as poverty, which should be
a pressing concern of every level of government; or matters of pressing national
Let history be our guide.
There were city states before nation states. Commerce, manufacturing and
markets resided in cities, which acted as liberating gateways to freedom and
trade. As cities grew as modes of attraction, manufacturing and markets, wealth
increased. As great cities like Rome declined, new city engines of growth arose
to take up the new opportunities for growth by productivity and ingenuity. The
rise of nations — the rise of Canada — can be directly related and traced to the
rise of productive and innovative cities.
Honourable senators, the bill before us is not a panacea for all that ails
our cities. Bill S-226 is but a new and additional tool available to those
cities that wish to respond quickly and sustainably to their pressing economic
needs. Cities need reinvestment in their capital plants. There are many other
new and additional ways to obtain that reinvestment. Time does not allow us to
make that fulsome analysis.
This bill does not impede or change any existing federal plan or program for
our cities, as I have said. That would be irresponsible. However, Bill S-226
will provide another sound, rational, transparent and accountable economic and
sustainable building-block for modernizing our cities, while respecting the
taxpayers' dollars, improving economic efficiency and productivity, and
improving the health in our cities and of its citizens. Modern cities can be
healthier cities. In the long run, healthier cities are more productive, will
produce more tax revenues and will reduce health costs.
Finally, I urge all senators interested in economics and economic growth to
read a recent book by James Buchan, entitled Capital of the Mind: How
Edinburgh Changed the World. In the 17th century, Edinburgh, a small city of
40,000, decided to change from "a sink of abomination" and transform itself
into the "Athens" of Great Britain and the then-existing Western world. How
did this small town in the northern part of the British Isles do this? The city
fathers decided that it would attract the best minds, philosophers, economists,
teachers, artisans, workers, artists and scientists. In the process, Edinburgh
overtook Paris, then the leading capital of Europe, in every area of arts,
crafts and science. Therein, honourable senators, lies the lesson for civic
leaders who fail to lead and inspire their own citizenry and cities to reach for
greatness, ingenuity and modernization.
All Canada's cities should become "Capitals of the Mind."
Honourable senators, now is the time to propel Canada's cities into the 21st
century to compete with the new and exciting cities being built around the
I urge speedy approval on second reading of this bill so that a committee of
the Senate can hold hearings to gauge carefully the cost benefits of this bill
and these representations I have made in support of these measures.
Hon. Lowell Murray: Honourable senators, I have a question that I
would like to put to the honourable senator.
The Hon. the Speaker pro tempore: Would you take a
question, Senator Grafstein?
Senator Grafstein: Yes.
Senator Murray: I hope I have accepted the invitation the honourable
senator proffered earlier for some of us to attend at his office for the
reception he is hosting in honour of Senator Fitzpatrick, our retiring
colleague. The reception is a good cause, but, more than that, I would never
want to miss an opportunity to have a drink at Senator Grafstein's expense.
With regard to this bill, his peroration almost carried me away as one who
loves Edinburgh and appreciates the history he has recounted to us. However, I
am not aware that the progress Edinburgh made at the time was made because of
tax-exempt municipal bonds.
The honourable senator's heart is in the right place in terms of the need for
investment and infrastructure. However, he knows, as we all do, that successive
federal governments have resisted the idea of tax-exempt bonds of this kind for
various reasons, including the pressure it would put on the fisc. I am sure that
his bill will be greeted by the same resistance from the federal government and,
in particular, the federal Department of Finance.
I look forward to hearing the exchange between Senator Grafstein and those
officials, or perhaps ministers, who will appear if his bill gets second reading
and goes to committee. His bill, would not even give the right to the minister,
but, rather, to the Business Development Bank, to grant an income tax exemption
under certain conditions.
How will the honourable senator answer the objection that will be made that
this is taking fiscal policy away from a minister and away from Parliament and
putting it in the hands of an independent autonomous body like the Business
Development Bank of Canada? How will he answer the other objections that will be
raised by the Minister of Finance as they have been raised by all of the
Senator Grafstein: These are questions I anticipate now and in
committee and I hope I will be able to respond to all of the arguments of the
Before I respond, I wish to extend an invitation. I am hosting an event for
our great colleague Senator Fitzpatrick today in my office. I urge all
honourable senators, including staff, to attend when the Senate adjourns. I also
wish to correct the record. At least part of the wine will not be provided by
me, but will come from a vineyard that happens to come from our colleague's home
in British Columbia. I will supply part of the wine, but most will come from
those vineyards and it will be the best of the best.
Related to the question, this is an antique argument.
Some Hon. Senators: Oh, oh.
Senator Grafstein: It is an antique, but valuable, renewable and
sustainable argument. That is, first, dealing with three parts of the honourable
Regarding fiscal responsibility, it is true that in the bill, the bank will
approve projects. However, the government can still establish guidelines through
regulations and, in that way, have direct and indirect control of the quantum
and the timing. That can be in the regulations.
I have no problem with the argument that we need to have fiscal
accountability. I accept that. However, having said that, there is another check
and balance here; that is, each province. Ultimately, this does not incur more
cost to the federal government except the lack of new revenue and I will discuss
the numbers in that regard.
As an example, the City of Toronto applies for a 10-year waterworks program.
They go into the marketplace and the market may or may not accept it. They
develop their projections, although in some instances they will not do so.
However, the rates will be much lower than what they would otherwise receive
because of the tax exemption.
Assume $100 billion is the cost, and that is modest. I expect it will be more
but at least that. This is three times the amount in one year that the federal
government is promising over seven years as a funding target.
Let us examine the cost of that $100 billion to the federal treasury. I have
looked at the numbers on this. If the rate is 5 per cent, half of that will be
tax exempt which is $2.5 billion based on $100-billion investment. The leverage
would be fantastic.
Senator Eggleton and Senator Campbell have admonished me on this subject.
They said they are interested in the idea but do not want to impede the existing
programs. This will not do that. If we have $2.5 billion a year to trigger $100
billion a year, the federal treasury will get that back many more times through
income tax because of reinvestment.
I have done the analysis on this, but there is a more interesting thing which
is the appetite of the Canadian public. Do we want the Canadian public to become
There was a recent article relating to the United States in USA Today
on January 2, 2008. The headline was "Municipal bonds become 'a great value."'
This article demonstrates that people stretching and searching for secure
investments following the sub-prime business in the United States are reacting.
They are finding a secure place to rest their money and are prepared to accept a
rate of return that is more attractive than T-bills, but at the same time they
feel it is as secure as T-bills.
From a security, leverage, market and a reinvestment standpoint, this is a
good idea. I am prepared to deal with department officials on this subject.
I will conclude with some advice I received from Mr. Trudeau once. He said,
"Senator Grafstein, you have a problem and you have to address this if you want
to be a good senator." He said, "You have good ideas and whenever you have a
good idea remember this: Instantaneously, there will be a coalition of the
'antis' and your job is to persuade them that your good idea is better than
their antithetical ideas."
Senator Murray: At the risk of being among the "antis," and to
close, I ask: What is the honourable senator's answer to the argument positing
distortions in the financial market as we all run to invest in these tax-exempt
municipal bonds? Second, the honourable senator says that he has done some
analysis. If it is in a shape to let us see it, as I trust it will be, I would
hope that by the time this bill goes to committee he might let us have the
benefit of such documentation as is available and that he can share that with
Senator Grafstein: I would hope that if we can get this matter to
committee quickly, we will have a spirited discussion. I hope that the committee
that is seized with this bill would call bankers, mayors and officials from the
treasury. I have tested this idea amongst a number of treasurers of individual
cities who are bureaucrats. That was done confidentially, but I asked if this
would help them with their current fiscal responsibilities and needs. They all
agreed it would be a useful tool. Some said they could not use it because their
city is already stretched and overextended on bonds. Others said yes because
they have been responsible.
Those cities that have been fiscally responsible should be given the
additional tools to do the job they want to do. I will have to meet those
challenges in committee, I agree, but this has been a labour of love for the
better part of half a decade.
Though I may meet with objections from many senators in this room, I want to
confront the issue that I do not believe in the thesis that a city comes to
Ottawa, asks for money and then runs away and comes back a year later to ask for
more without any comprehensive, understandable, clear responsibility to the
taxpayer. Other honourable senators will disagree with this and say there is
good accountability for the city dossier. However, I find it difficult to defend
and others might find it difficult as well.
I believe in responsible government. I believe that if a government taxes,
then that government should be responsible for every single dollar it raises. To
my mind, this is, in a way, an improvement on accountability. It makes the
cities a touch more accountable for their responsibilities and our split
responsibilities of government.
It is not a complete answer, senator, but I hope I will be able to respond
more fully at committee. I know the Department of Finance will address this
subject. I welcome the challenge.
Hon. Mira Spivak: Honourable senators, Senator Grafstein is on
overdrive with new ideas and I compliment him. The more difficult task is not to
get people to accept his ideas, but to get over the hurdle of the "antis" that
I have two questions. Let me preface the first one by saying that I live in
Winnipeg, which has a terrible problem of core area nondevelopment and urban
sprawl. Would the honourable senator indicate whether in his analysis of
American cities, although it is not exactly germane, in cities like Portland and
others that are models, have municipal bonds been a major factor in what they
have done? Money and good financing is not enough; one also needs smart ways to
My second question is this: How does the honourable senator define the risk
of those bonds as compared to income trusts? Is it a comparable kind of thing,
or is there more or less risk?
Senator Grafstein: First, another argument against my argument has
been that one should not compare Canadian cities to American cities; many
American cities are horribly worse than Canadian cities. I agree with that; that
is not my point. There are a number of model cities in the United States —
Portland is a good example, as is Seattle — but in every city of the United
States, municipal bonds are a fact of life.
I have not done this comparison, but I am sure that bond rates in the better
managed cities are lower by many basis points than those that are not well
managed. The risk and the rate will be determined by the market, project by
Let me talk again about my home city of Toronto. I have been involved in city
politics as long as I have been involved in federal politics. It is part of the
love of my life to see my city grow and prosper.
We have had a big debate in Toronto about subways. One of my first great
mentors — I will not say this to my Liberal friends — was Fred Gardiner, the
first mayor of Metro Toronto. He said, "Let's build it and get it done." He
was the one, along with others, who started the subway system in Toronto. Since
that time, we have had varying degrees of leadership — some said, "Let's do
it," others said, "Let's not do it;" meanwhile, subway construction has
If we had a plan that allowed the city fathers to say we can now build out a
subway system across Toronto two kilometres a year for the next 20 years and
here is the sustainable, separate funding for this purpose, I am sure we would
have faster and better mass transit in my city than under the current system of
stop and start. It is easier to make a 10-year plan than a 2-year plan and worry
if you will have the money at the end of two years. It is just common sense.
We build large developments in the city because at the beginning of the
construction, there is a commitment to build it out. This important element of
planning is missing, based on the current thesis that we do not know at this
moment if or when the federal government will come up with the cash they have
promised. No one knows; no one can tell us.
The government side cannot tell us this. We have asked this question. For
instance, we have promised a link from the airport to downtown Toronto, which
would relieve the highways in Toronto. It has been promised six times. It is
still not there and the right of way is there. This is because when you go and
look at the problem, they have not funded the thing. My view is if they want to
build a link that would relieve the highway traffic into Toronto, they could get
a bond that would allow them to do it in the next five years.
It would be easy to do, and that would take tremendous pressure off the
Gardiner Expressway and the 401, which is not a highway anymore. We do not have
highways in Toronto anymore; we have moving parking lots. I just say to
honourable senators that rational planning makes sense and this is rational
Senator Spivak: I congratulate the honourable senator, but I suggest
one more thing he should do with these wonderful ideas, which is to figure out
how to get enlightened leadership in the cities. In my city just recently, a
light rail transportation idea was never followed through because of, frankly,
stupidity. Perhaps Senator Grafstein could figure that out.
Hon. Mac Harb moved second reading of Bill S-223, An Act to amend the
Non-smokers' Health Act.—(Honourable Senator Harb)
He said: This particular bill appears, in one way or another, for the third
time before the Senate. The first time it came before the Senate in the form of
a motion which called on the government to enact legislation to declare Canada a
smoke-free country. The motion was discussed and was unanimously adopted and
moved to the other House, where it sat for a long period of time.
Following that, I concluded that perhaps what needed to happen was to
introduce a new mechanism that could force the hand of the government to take
action. Therefore, I introduced a bill, along with my colleague Senator Keon,
which will make it possible for Canada to be declared a smoke-free country. What
we are talking about here is an amendment to the existing legislation, which
would allow Canada to fulfil its commitment as a signatory to a World Health
Organization treaty in 2004. At that time, more than 140 countries signed the
agreement and, to date, 146 countries have ratified the WHO Framework Convention
on Tobacco Control, FCTC. Article 8 of the WHO FCTC requires governments to
protect workers and the public from second-hand smoke in areas under its
There have been a number of positive actions since 2004. I commend the
ministers in both the previous Liberal government and the present government for
the leadership that they have demonstrated. When the issue was raised in the
Senate, the Leader of the Government in the Senate undertook to bring it to the
attention of the government, and I believe she did so.
We have seen action taken to deal with second-hand smoke in Canada's prisons.
As well, the Minister of Labour has ordered a study on the issue of second-hand
smoke. The findings from the study were made public in a report that clearly
stated that great harm is caused by the existence of rooms where employees or
workers can smoke. The effect of second-hand smoke is negative on the health of
Canadians. The minister was so alarmed by the findings in the report that he
decided to take action, which was a positive thing to do.
However, I find it problematic that the action the minister decided to take
was to change the regulation that supports the existing legislation. Honourable
senators, it is fine and normal to change regulations as long as they fit within
the spirit of the legislation. However, the action becomes problematic when the
regulation is changed to the point where it no longer fits within the scope of
Honourable senators, although the minister's actions were within the scope of
the legislation, he did not change the regulations to the point that second-hand
smoke would be removed permanently from the workplace. The minister's actions
did everything but eliminate second-hand smoke from the workplace in certain
areas. Those areas include places where living accommodations are part of a
workplace such as nursing homes, as well as single occupancy workplaces such as
cars and trucks. Why did the minister not go all the way with the changes? I
asked him but, try as I might, I could not persuade his team to take it further
and completely eliminate areas of potential harm from second-hand smoke. I hope
that, at a time in the near future, we will be able to achieve our objective in
one way or another.
If the minister were to be proactive and declare all indoor workplaces and
public places 100-per-cent smoke-free, then we would be in compliance with our
international obligation, which, at only 95 per cent, we have not yet fulfilled.
To fulfill our obligation 100 per cent, we must eliminate the potential harm
caused by second-hand smoke. The majority of provincial governments have taken
action to deal with those issues. Every province that has dealt with the issue
has met their obligations.
It is time to deal with federal jurisdictions, and so the bill is back before
the Senate. The Senate can show leadership, moral persuasion and authority in
its traditional role by doing what is right — take action to shut down any
potential source of harm that might come from second-hand smoke.
One might ask why this action was not taken because it carries no political
fallout. We are dealing with a few nursing homes here and there and I will go to
those nursing homes and explain that although it might be painful in the short
term, it will be healthy and good for people in the long term. It is good
medicine to ensure that Canada fulfills its international obligation so that we
can say honestly that we not only ratified the treaty but also introduced
proposed legislation to ensure that we fulfill our commitment. It is my hope
that this bill will pass as quickly as possible so that it may go to the other
Honourable senators, the Senate will adopt those bills, unanimously in some
instances and on division in others, and send them to the other place for
consideration. It is so tragic that we work so hard in this place with our
committees studying Senate bills and examining issues both here in Ottawa and
across the country, only to watch the bills die on the Order Paper. For a
senator to have his or her bill heard, debated and referred to committee in the
House of Commons, a senator must find a member of the House of Commons who is
willing to give up his or her position on the list of precedents. If that member
has a bill pending, then that member must give it up to introduce a bill in the
other place that has come from the Senate.
Do you think that is fair, honourable senators? It is not fair. The Senate
needs to consider this issue because there seems to be discrimination in terms
of the treatment of bills going from the Senate to the House of Commons versus
bills coming from the House of Commons to the Senate. When a private member's
bill comes from the House of Commons to the Senate, any senator on either side
of the Senate can rise and introduce the bill in the Senate. The bill then
receives due and proper process, but it does not happen when it is the other way
around. That is not fair, honourable senators. What should be good for the horse
should be good for the donkey. We have to treat both animals in the same fashion
because we are in the same barn.
Honourable senators, I served in the House of Commons for close to 16 years.
I want to send a very strong signal to the government and the House of Commons
that, over the next 12 to 24 months, unless there are some changes to the
standing order in the other House to allow bills from the Senate to go to the
House of Commons and pass or have the due process, as we do with their bills, I
want to start being proactive and try to create some headaches for my colleagues
in the House of Commons and, for that matter, for the House leaders in the House
of Commons. They have to take action to ensure that there is fairness of
treatment between both Houses. Otherwise, why do I and my colleagues work so
hard on good, legitimate pieces of legislation that we send there, only to have
them sit on their seats, indefinitely if they choose so, without taking proper
Honourable senators, it is my hope that this bill will go through as quickly
as possible. It is my hope that the minister, with his strong and dedicated
commitment and leadership, will take the proper action and will stand up in the
House of Commons and adopt this bill as a government bill and let it go through
the House of Commons unanimously as it did in the past with the motion from this
Resuming debate on the motion of the Honourable Senator Goldstein,
seconded by the Honourable Senator Chaput, for the second reading of Bill
S-205, An Act to amend the Bankruptcy and Insolvency Act (student loans). —(Honourable
Hon. Yoine Goldstein: Honourable senators, this will be the tenth day
the item has been on the Order Paper. In another five, it will fall off. May I
ask when the government proposes to address this bill? I ask the question
because I do not wish to see the item fall off the Order Paper. I will move for
the bill to be referred to the appropriate committee next week unless I know for
sure that the government will be addressing it before it falls off the Order
Hon. Gerald J. Comeau (Deputy Leader of the Government): Honourable
senators, this side has absolutely no intention whatsoever of seeing any
senator's bill in this chamber fall from the Order Paper. As a matter of fact,
yesterday, we were getting close to the fall-off date for an item standing in
the name of one of our colleagues, Senator Watt, and I rose to ensure that did
not happen. Trust me on this: We on our side will not in any way allow a bill to
suddenly or accidentally fall off if we can help it.
Senator Goldstein: Honourable senators, I trust Senator Comeau
implicitly. I always have.
Resuming debate on the motion of the Honourable Senator Watt, seconded by
the Honourable Senator Cordy, for the second reading of Bill S-214, An Act
to amend the Income Tax Act and the Excise Tax Act (tax relief for
Nunavik).—(Honourable Senator Comeau)
The Hon. the Speaker: It has been brought to my attention that when
this bill was called yesterday, Senator Comeau's intention had been to adjourn
debate in his name. I understood that he was continuing the adjournment in his
name, so I called "stood" rather than putting an adjournment motion to the
house. In light of this clarification, it is appropriate to now put an
adjournment motion formally. I will call upon Senator Comeau to so do.
Resuming debate on the motion of the Honourable Senator Keon, seconded by
the Honourable Senator Segal, for the adoption of the second report of the
Standing Committee on Rules, Procedures and the Rights of Parliament
(amendments to the Rules of the Senate—reinstatement of bills from
the previous session of the same Parliament), presented in the Senate on
November 20, 2007.—(Honourable Senator Cools)
Hon. Joan Fraser (Acting Deputy Leader of the Opposition): With your
kind indulgence, honourable senators, this item stands adjourned in the name of
Senator Cools, and I would assume that it would continue to stand in her name
after I have made just a few comments about it.
I support this report from the Standing Committee on Rules, Procedures and
the Rights of Parliament, and I will say briefly why and also respond to some
concerns that have been raised by, notably, Senator Cools.
Basically, this report would enable us to join perhaps the 20th century, if
not the 21st, in the way we handle bills that have come before us and that for
one reason or another have been interrupted by prorogation, and only by
prorogation. This change to the rules would not apply to bills that die because
a Parliament is dissolved. It would apply only to bills that fall from the Order
Paper because of prorogation.
We all know how often, in every session, we have to start all over again,
contemplating bills that have already been accepted, often at first reading,
second reading, committee study, and third reading by the Senate. We have to
start the whole procedure all over again, and sometimes we have to do it as many
as five or six times. For example, I think of Senator Spivak and her noble
efforts with some of her private bills, and I think of Senator Lapointe and
numerous other senators, including Senator Bryden, who faithfully, session after
session, have brought back a bill that has already been studied, debated, and
accepted in this place.
In the House of Commons, they have a procedure whereby bills can be
reinstated at the stage where the bills were at the time of dissolution. That is
what this motion would allow us to do here.
The Rules Committee took this subject very seriously and built in a number of
very important safeguards to the recommendations that it made. Reinstatement of
bills in the Senate would in no way be automatic. There would not be a great big
basket motion to bring back all bills or anything like that. Each bill to be
reinstated would have to be the subject of a separate reinstatement motion, one
reinstatement motion per bill. That motion for reinstatement would be debatable
and therefore obviously votable. If the Senate had changed its collective mind
since prorogation, the Senate could decide not to proceed with the bill.
If the Senate decided to proceed with the bill, the bill would be reinstated
at the point where it was in the previous session of Parliament. If it was at
second reading, it would continue to be at second reading. If it had gone to a
committee and was still in committee, it would be sent back to that committee.
If it had come back from the committee and was at report stage, it would be
reinstated at report stage. If it were at third reading stage, it would be
reinstated at third reading stage. However, it would always be necessary to
have, again, in the new session of Parliament, a fresh vote on third reading,
which would be the ultimate safeguard that we were not rubber stamping something
that we might collectively have changed our minds about.
Of course, the bill in question would have to be identical to the bill that
had been considered in the previous session of Parliament. It seems to me there
are a number of useful built-in safeguards, and, as we know, if we want one of
our bills to be reconsidered and reinstated in the House of Commons, there is a
time limit to send the bill to them. The present system, where we have to do the
whole procedure over again — first reading, second reading, committee, third
reading — eats up a lot of time, time that could be useful in the other place,
if we wanted our bills reinstated there.
This is a truly useful proposal, and one that I hope the Senate will adopt.
I want to address what I believe to be Senator Cools' objection. If I
understand her position, she goes, as she often does, to some of the core
principles of Parliament — and, in this case, I believe the core principle is
that when something dies in Parliament it is dead and, thus, it must be
reintroduced. In other words, one cannot simply, by waving a magic wand,
reinstate a bill, say, because it was in a previous incarnation of Parliament.
If we were proposing to be able to reinstate bills after dissolution of
Parliament, I would agree entirely with Senator Cools, because it would be a new
Parliament that was being asked to swallow whole something that a previous
Parliament had done, or this chamber in a previous Parliament had done. However,
we are not talking about that. We are talking about simply reinstating bills
from one session of a given Parliament to the next session of the same
Parliament. It seems to me, therefore, that the principle of respect for the
autonomy of each Parliament is well maintained.
We have not invented this principle in Canada. It is done in numerous
Westminster-style parliaments around the world; it is done in various provinces
in Canada; it is done in the mother of parliaments in both chambers, and has
been done for some considerable time with success and without offending the
fundamental principles of Parliament. I believe we can and should take the same
Resuming debate on the inquiry of the Honourable Senator Comeau, calling
the attention of the Senate to the debilitating nature of arthritis and its
effect on all Canadians.—(Honourable Senator Keon)
Hon. Catherine S. Callbeck: This inquiry stands in Dr. Keon's name,
but, with his agreement, I shall speak to the matter today and adjourn it in his
Honourable senators, I thank Senator Comeau for calling this inquiry to help
raise awareness of the impact of arthritis on Canadians. Many people would be
surprised to know that over 4 million Canadians live with arthritis every day. I
myself live with rheumatoid arthritis and deal daily with its impact. As Senator
Comeau has already pointed out, the number of people affected becomes much
larger when you consider the impact on family and friends of arthritis
Arthritis is the second-most chronic condition in women and the third for
men. Some population groups are at a greater risk than others. The prevalence of
arthritis is 27 per cent for Aboriginal populations versus 17 per cent for the
general Canadian population.
Many people think that arthritis is the aches and pains that come with
advanced years; however, arthritis knows no age limits. Three out of five people
with arthritis are under 65. One in 1,000 babies, toddlers, children and teens
under the age of 16 live with arthritis.
It is among the top two causes of long-term disability. People over 55 are
twice as likely to report a long-term disability as Canadians living with any
other chronic condition, including the big three — cancer, heart disease and
diabetes. An individual who has arthritis is three times more likely to report
living with moderate to severe pain than if he or she is living with any of the
other chronic conditions.
Yet, people, including policy-makers, are just starting to appreciate the
enormous impact arthritis has on all aspects of Canadian society. Canada pays a
high cost for not having an effective, coordinated approach to addressing
arthritis and its consequences. According to the report Arthritis in Canada:
An Ongoing Challenge, arthritis cost Canadians $4.4 billion a year in 1998,
mostly due to lost productivity and long-term disability.
An Hon. Senator: Order!
Senator Callbeck: The report also —
The Hon. the Speaker: I am having a hard time hearing Senator
Callbeck. If conversations are really necessary, they would be best taken beyond
Some Hon. Senators: Hear, hear!
Senator Callbeck: This report also states that the figure of $4.4
billion may be underestimated because it does not include things such as costs
associated with health professionals, other than physicians, and only includes
some arthritic conditions. It is fair to say that the number could have been far
Ten years ago, health-care-related costs alone were $1 billion. It must be
noted, however, that in the last 10 years there has been a substantial increase
in the number of people with arthritis, so it would be fair to assume that the
associated costs have increased proportionately. It is estimated that by the
year 2026 more than 6 million people over the age of 15 will be living with the
disabling condition, a 50 per cent increase from present-day levels, increasing
the total costs even more.
There are also costs in quality of life. Many people with inflammatory
arthritis wake up each day unsure if they will experience a flare, which will
make them unable to carry out many of the essential activities of life without
extreme pain, if they are able to carry them out at all.
It is important to appreciate that arthritis may be inevitable, but it can be
treated. Fortunately, much has been accomplished. Not that long ago, in most of
our lifetimes, a child diagnosed with arthritis faced a life of significant
disability, likely becoming dependent on a wheelchair. Today, with the right
drugs, the same child can live a life comparable to his or her siblings and
friends who live without a disease.
Today, a new mother who faces the rapid and terrible onset of inflammatory
arthritis is able to care for her baby. A person reaching retirement can enjoy a
round of golf after having an arthritic knee replacement.
However, an enormous amount remains to be done.
There is promising research being done. A dedicated, innovative group of
researchers are regularly finding new and promising avenues to explore. For
example, an Ontario lab is growing cartilage to repair joints affected by
osteoarthritis. In a decade or so, not only might this replace existing
artificial joint replacements, but also it could even help stop the ongoing
deterioration of cartilage tissue.
A U.S. study has identified the optimal combination of existing medication to
most effectively manage rheumatoid arthritis. Canadian researchers are posed to
develop effective treatments studying how the interaction of genes, environment
and lifestyle can help predict juvenile arthritis outcomes early on in the
However, despite advances like these, arthritis research receives much less
funding than any other chronic disease. The Canadian Institutes of Health
Research spent $2.4 million to fund arthritis research in 2006-07. That is only
2 per cent to 3 per cent of what CIHR spent on cancer research. The Arthritis
Society itself provides over $6 million a year for arthritis research, all of it
raised from Canadians and Canadian organizations.
Canadians, speaking with their wallets, tell us that they value arthritis
research more than twice as much as does our government. If arthritis research
remains the poor cousin in Canada, many of our talented and passionate
researchers will be forced to move on to other fields.
Imagine what advances there might be in arthritis research if it received
more funding. Perhaps it could lead to a world free of arthritis or, at least,
to substantial improvements in arthritis treatment.
You may have noticed that many statistics I have used to speak to the impact
of arthritis are 10 years old. We live in a time when decisions are based on
clear evidence. However, arthritis faces a double challenge. For a long time,
arthritis was not considered serious enough to warrant up-to-date information on
its impact. Now, arthritis advocates struggle to urge policy-makers to take
action, but in some cases they do not have the up-to-date evidence that
policy-makers like to see.
I am glad to say that the Public Health Agency of Canada has recently
received funding to prepare an up-to-date report on arthritis. We must ensure
that sufficient data is collected and compiled on a regular basis to allow us to
appreciate the current and future impact of arthritis and to inform our future
planning. We cannot afford to be blind to this looming crisis.
Inflammatory arthritis can be devastating. However, recent advances in
pharmaceutical therapies have profoundly reduced the deformities and disability
that all too often result from this chronic disease. Overwhelming evidence
exists to show that early diagnosis and proper and timely treatment can
dramatically slow and often even stop the destruction of connective tissue and
joints. Unfortunately, too many Canadians cannot access the skilled
professionals to make this diagnosis or are forced to wait many months while the
disease destroys joints and tissue throughout the body.
The best therapies are expensive and, for too many Canadians, cost is an
insurmountable barrier to the therapy that they and their physicians know is
required. Given the current and future challenges in maintaining Canada's labour
force, as a country we should assist these Canadians to live without pain and
disability. We simply cannot afford to lose valuable workers because of
As it now stands, we allow arthritis to rob us of productivity from millions
of potential members of the workforce. Not only does arthritis force people to
leave the workforce for days, weeks, months or even permanently, it also makes
big demands on our health care and social support systems.
In my home province of P.E.I., one in every 1,000 children has juvenile
arthritis. Overall, more than 24,000 Islanders aged 12 and older live with some
form of arthritis. That number represents 22 per cent of the Island's
population, 5 per cent greater than the average national prevalence of 17 per
Fortunately, Islanders have an active and committed Arthritis Society. It was
established in the late 1970s with a part-time secretary, and has continued to
expand considerably over the years. This organization is made up of many
dedicated and committed Islanders who volunteer their time and energy to
advocate and assist Islanders living with arthritis. This small but mighty
organization offers a remarkable range of services with funds raised entirely
The Arthritis Information Line is a toll-free number that provides
information and referral to local services for people with arthritis, their
families, friends and health professionals. The Arthritis Registry is a free
information service that keeps members up to date with arthritis research,
programs, services, events and resources. The Arthritis Self-Management Program
is a six-week volunteer-led program that complements medical treatment and is
designed to help Islanders manage their arthritis more effectively. Aqua
Arthritis and People with Arthritis Can Exercise, PACE, offer recreational
exercise classes with trained and certified instructors.
At the national level, the Arthritis Society is also performing great work.
With resources provided by Health Canada's Primary Health Care Transition Fund,
they have partnered in the development and delivery of 30 workshops in 219
communities across the country. These workshops gave 900 primary health care
providers the opportunity to enhance their skills and improve their ability to
It is time that we, as parliamentarians and policy-makers, recognize that
much needs to be done. In late 2005, the members of Canada's arthritis community
came together and provided us with a road map.
These experts identified three top priorities. First, every Canadian must be
aware of arthritis. We must dispel the myths and make people aware of the
importance of fighting arthritis from its earliest stage. Second, health
professionals must have a screening tool to diagnose arthritis quickly and
accurately, and they must be skilled in using it. Third, Canadians must have
timely and equal access to appropriate medications.
In Senator Comeau's remarks last fall, he spoke of the dedication of the
members of the Alliance for the Canadian Arthritis Program. I had the
opportunity to talk to several of those members while they were here in the
Senate. One quickly recognizes their commitment, dedication and determination.
I also know from experience the same passion and energy from members of the
Arthritis Society, who also work hard to advocate for arthritis issues.
These tireless individuals are now asking us to take up their challenge and
become a part of the fight against arthritis. We must do our best to make life
better for Canadians with arthritis and, if possible, to ensure that no one
lives with it at all.
Resuming debate on the motion of the Honourable Senator Segal, seconded
by the Honourable Senator Keon:
That the Senate call upon the Government of Canada to engage in
negotiations with the European Union towards a free trade agreement, in
order to encourage investment, free movement of people and capital.—(Honourable
Hon. Gerald J. Comeau (Deputy Leader of the Government): Honourable
senators, I see that this motion has now been before us for 14 days. We cannot
allow the motion to expire simply because we did not pay attention. I would
therefore like to adjourn the debate.
On motion of Senator Comeau, debate adjourned.
The Senate adjourned until Thursday, January 31, 2008, at 1:30 p.m.