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Debates of the Senate (Hansard)

2nd Session, 39th Parliament,
Volume 144, Issue 44

Tuesday, April 1, 2008
The Honourable Noël A. Kinsella, Speaker


THE SENATE

Tuesday, April 1, 2008

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

Prayers.

Afghanistan—Fallen Soldier

Silent Tribute

The Hon. the Speaker: Honourable senators, before we proceed, I would like to ask you to rise and observe one minute of silence in memory of Sergeant Jason Boyes whose tragic death occurred recently while serving his country in Afghanistan.

Honourable senators then stood in silent tribute.


(1405)

[Translation]

SENATORS' STATEMENTS

Loss of L'Acadien II

Hon. Céline Hervieux-Payette (Leader of the Opposition): Honourable senators, early Saturday morning, L'Acadien II, a fishing boat carrying sealers from the Magdalen Islands, sank in the icy waters off Cape Breton. Today, I want to honour the memory of Bruno Bourque, Gilles Leblanc and Marc-André Deraspe, who tragically lost their lives. I also want to remember Carl Aucoin, whose body has not been recovered.

This tragedy reminds us that some Canadians live off the resources of the sea at the peril of their lives. Theirs is a noble, legitimate and necessary profession, but it is also a dangerous one. Last year, when The Hill Times ran an article I wrote entitled "Waging the Seal War," I had no doubt that this war would have casualties. Unfortunately, it is a war we are waging, an image war, a war of enlightenment, a war pitting science against a new dark age, a new moral order.

Even though our compatriots perished as a result of a towing accident, the fact remains that irresponsible pressure from national and international organizations on sealers disrupts their lives and threatens their safety.

Unfortunately, we saw this again yesterday, with the foolhardy manoeuvre by the Farley Mowat, the ship of Paul Watson's Sea Shepherd Conservation Society, which, despite being prohibited by Canadian authorities from navigating in our waters, deliberately sought a confrontation with the Coast Guard, at the risk of causing a collision.

Barbarism, honourable senators, is when organizations threaten the physical safety and economic security of people who live year-round in contact with nature, in areas far from the comfort of Paris, Washington, London or Brussels, yet are perfectly responsible and work for the sustainable development of their ecosystem.

Barbarism, the absence of civilization, is when men take pleasure in the death of other men, as postings made since Saturday on numerous anti-sealing Internet sites attest. Barbarism is when people use pro-animal causes to make money. One needs only to visit the Internet site of the Humane Society of the United States, which has been completely revamped for the occasion and is dedicated to garnering donations at the expense of seals and Canadians, Magdalen Islanders, Newfoundlanders and people in the Far North.

Canada must not bow to these organizations that manipulate information and threaten Canadians' physical safety and economic security. It must be creative in putting science back at the centre of a debate that is deliberately dominated by emotion, and it must be resolute in its diplomatic battle with foreign countries and especially with Europe. Honourable senators, that is what Canadian sealers expect of us.

[English]

Desnethé-Missinippi-Churchill River

Congratulations to Mr. Rob Clarke on Winning Federal By-election

Hon. David Tkachuk: Yesterday, honourable senators, members of the other place welcomed the newest Conservative MP from Saskatchewan, Rob Clarke, of Desnethé-Missinippi-Churchill River. Mr. Clarke won in the recent by-election by campaigning on the priorities of local families, lower taxes, safer communities and strong leadership for the economy.

The Conservative by-election victory is an endorsement of the strong leadership and real results people see from our Prime Minister and our Conservative government.

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The win also highlights the fact that today there are more Conservative MPs and, I might say, fewer Liberal MPs than there were following the last federal election. Rob Clarke will work for the people of his riding with the same dedication he gave to the RCMP, which he served for 17 years.

Chemical Sensitivity

Hon. Sharon Carstairs: Honourable senators, in this world where the environment has been polluted with many noxious substances, there are some Canadians as well as world citizens who are extremely vulnerable. These people suffer from extreme environmental sensitivity. I believe most of us are aware of the tremendous increase of children using puffers, without which they cannot breathe. We have also become sensitive to Canadians with peanut and shellfish allergies.

However, to date, we have expressed far less empathy to those persons with severe chemical sensitivity. These persons are allergic to their workplaces and to their homes. The glues used to install floors cause allergic reactions, as do many other products such as moulds, perfumes and insecticides.

Unfortunately, the public and the medical community have been slow to recognize that the breathing problems, muscle weaknesses and even seizures are a direct result of these sensitivities. Britain, Germany and the United States have developed an understanding of this debilitating illness and offer effective treatment, in part by providing antigen shots. In Canada we have been slow to react.

Honourable senators, it will take years and a great deal of political will and financial resources to clean up our environment. Meanwhile, this group of Canadians needs our help and support. We must ensure that their concerns are addressed both medically and through changes to our environmental footprint.

Parliamentary Budget Officer

Appointment of Mr. Kevin Page

Hon. Donald H. Oliver: Honourable senators, on February 5, in my inquiry in the Senate, I explained how the Harper government had fulfilled virtually all of its obligations and commitments under the Federal Accountability Act. I referred then to the pending appointment of Canada's first Parliamentary Budget Officer.

I am pleased to confirm that the appointment is now a reality. On March 14, Mr. Kevin Page was announced as Canada's first Parliamentary Budget Officer, effective March 25.

I view this appointment as the most important one flowing from Bill C-2 and the Federal Accountability Act. It can almost be called the empowerment of parliamentary committees act. This appointment will assist parliamentarians materially in performing their due diligence in holding the government to account. Honourable senators, Parliament is the key institution of democratic accountability in our system of government.

Mr. Page will be an independent officer of the Library of Parliament who reports to the Speakers of both chambers. He will help the government oversee policy. He will also assist us in determining the cost of our own policy proposals. Furthermore, he will provide independent analysis on the state of Canada's finances.

This non-partisan position was created through amendments to the Parliament of Canada Act contained in the 2006 Federal Accountability Act. When explaining the importance of this position, the Honourable Peter Van Loan said: "I think the sense was by the government when they were in opposition that the opposition side didn't have the kind of support they needed on background analysis around the budget, how budgets are put together, estimates, projections."

Mr. Page is highly qualified for this position. He is no stranger to the federal budget. In his 25-year career as a public servant, he has worked on fiscal forecasting, policy and expenditure portfolios for three key departments: the Department of Finance, the Privy Council Office and the Treasury Board. He also has experience in farm financial programs.

Honourable senators, Mr. Page's leadership, expertise and distinguished career will serve him well as he carries out this new and important role.

We have reason to celebrate. Our Conservative government has delivered its promise to strengthen government accountability and increase transparency and oversight in government operations by appointing Canada's first Parliamentary Budget Officer.

[Translation]

Official Languages

Renewal of Action Plan

Hon. Claudette Tardif (Deputy Leader of the Opposition): Honourable senators, five years ago, the Honourable Stéphane Dion presented the Action Plan for Official Languages. It was rare to see ministers, senior government officials and leaders of francophone and anglophone minority communities working together to produce a plan that would give a boost to the development of these communities across Canada, an innovative plan that would guarantee the federal government's support in areas such as education, health, justice and immigration.

Since the Conservatives took power, their commitment to the action plan has been steadily waning. When the government tabled the budget in February, it did not allocate money to renew the action plan, a sign that the government does not take the official languages file seriously.

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The 2003-08 Action Plan for Official Languages expired today. Official language minority communities are on pins and needles, left hanging with projects that are essential to their survival.

The government must fix this and make a clear, concrete commitment to bilingualism and linguistic duality in Canada. The budget would have been the perfect opportunity to take such action. Unfortunately, the budget was not specific, and we are left waiting for a new action plan that has yet to be announced.

For a long time, the Government of Canada was seen by the communities as a leader in supporting language rights, but this situation shows a change in direction, and not for the good.

We are urging the government to take action and reassure the communities by delivering a clear message that reaffirms the important place of bilingualism and linguistic duality in the Canadian identity. This message must be accompanied by adequate funding that meets the needs of the communities in a coherent and visionary framework for action.


ROUTINE PROCEEDINGS

Canadian Human Rights Commission

2007 Annual Report Tabled

The Hon. the Speaker: Honourable senators, I have the honour to table the 2007 Annual Report of the Canadian Human Rights Commission, pursuant to section 61 of the Canadian Human Rights Act and section 32 of the Employment Equity Act.

[English]

Canadian Human Rights Tribunal

2007 Annual Report Tabled

The Hon. the Speaker: Honourable senators, I have the honour to table, in both official languages, the 2007 Annual Report of the Canadian Human Rights Tribunal, pursuant to subsection 61(4) of the Canadian Human Rights Act.

[Translation]

Canadian Security Intelligence Service

2005-06 and 2006-07 Public Reports Tabled

Hon. Gerald J. Comeau (Deputy Leader of the Government): Honourable senators, I have the honour to table, in both official languages, the Canadian Security Intelligence Service's Public Reports for the fiscal years ending March 31, 2006 and March 31, 2007.

Plans and Priorities, 2008-09

Report Tabled

Hon. Gerald J. Comeau (Deputy Leader of the Government): Honourable senators, I have the honour to table, in both official languages, the reports on Plans and Priorities, 2008-09, Main Estimates, 2008-09.

Canada-United States Inter-Parliamentary Group

National Governors Association—Winter Meeting, February 23-25, 2008—Report Tabled

Hon. Jerahmiel S. Grafstein: Honourable senators, I have the honour to table in the Senate the report of the Canadian Delegation of the Canada-United States Inter-Parliamentary Group respecting its participation at the annual meeting of the National Governors Association held in Washington, D.C., from February 23 to 25, 2008.

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[English]

Fisheries and Oceans

Committee Authorized to Meet During Sitting of the Senate

Hon. Bill Rompkey: Honourable senators, with leave of the Senate and notwithstanding rule 58(1)(a), I move:

That the Standing Senate Committee on Fisheries and Oceans have the power to sit at 5:30 p.m. today, Tuesday, April 1, 2008, even though the Senate may then be sitting, and that Rule 95(4) be suspended in relation thereto.

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

Hon. Senators: Agreed.

Motion agreed to.


[Translation]

QUESTION PERIOD

Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission

Proposal to Authorize Transmission of United States Television Channels

Hon. Céline Hervieux-Payette (Leader of the Opposition): Honourable senators, my question is for the Leader of the Government in the Senate and is in reference to the article that appeared on the front page of The Globe and Mail yesterday, which mentioned a plan that would allow American stations to enter the Canadian market with ease. On April 8, the CRTC will begin hearings to examine the possibility of letting American networks, namely, HBO and ESPN, into the Canadian market. If there is such an intention, can the minister tell us if the Conservative government directed the CRTC to allow these American networks into the Canadian market?

[English]

Hon. Marjory LeBreton (Leader of the Government and Secretary of State (Seniors)): I thank the honourable senator for the question. I saw the same article in The Globe and Mail that the CRTC will hear these submissions. I am not aware of any directives, but I am happy to take the question as notice.

[Translation]

Senator Hervieux-Payette: I see that we both read the same paper quite thoroughly every morning. In reference to that article, I think we should mention sections 3 and 5 of the Broadcasting Act, which require the CRTC to support the creation, distribution and broadcasting of Canadian content. As such, if American networks distributed in Canada — which are not required to produce any Canadian content whatsoever — do not contribute to the Canadian broadcasting system, is the Conservative government not Americanizing our broadcasting system, which is envied worldwide because of the diversity and quality of the content it produces, and causing yet more problems for people in the cultural sector?

[English]

Senator LeBreton: I know there are people from the senator's party who have a big problem with our neighbours to the south, but there is no evidence whatsoever that this government in any way, shape or form is engaged in the Americanization of our own broadcast system.

Justice

Case of Omar Khadr

Hon. Roméo Antonius Dallaire: Honourable senators, I realize that the Conservative Party has a rather significant interest in the American election. While I was in Houston recently, I had the opportunity to read some of the newspapers from that area. I came upon an article about Senator John McCain and a major foreign policy statement he announced. His policy statement addressed nuclear disarmament, a subject the leader's party does not even want to touch on with our NATO allies. He also believes that Guantanamo Bay should be closed, provided that nations can agree "on the disposition of detainees under our control."

Are we willing to assist our colleagues to the south and take on the case of Mr. Omar Khadr, the dangerous prisoner who is detained in Guantanamo Bay?

Hon. Marjory LeBreton (Leader of the Government and Secretary of State (Seniors)): I thank the honourable senator for the question. I think all Canadians are watching the U.S. elections with interest. How can we avoid it? News of the American election can be seen all over the place, on every television station. I noticed a Liberal staffer the other day walking through the halls wearing a Barack Obama button, so I imagine there is much interest on all sides.

(1425)

I am aware of Senator McCain's comments with regard to Guantanamo Bay. When I heard them, I thought to myself, "Senator Dallaire may now be a supporter of Senator McCain."

In any event, I have read Senator Dallaire's submission to the National Post and I also saw him this morning on "Canada AM." I am well aware of the honourable senator's interest in Mr. Khadr, but that does not change the answers I have given previously. The government is monitoring this case very carefully. Mr. Khadr is facing serious charges. There is nothing more I can add at the present time with regard to his situation.

Senator Dallaire: I wish to inform the honourable senator that both Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama have also pledged to close Guantanamo Bay and restore habeas corpus. The candidates are saying that they would get rid of that place because it is illegal; it is irresponsible. It is not the way to stop terrorism.

Mr. Khadr more than meets the needed criteria to be brought home, consistent with our commitments to international pledges, conventions and international human rights law. If the government wants to pursue — as I hope it does — an argument of global justice and human rights, the Prime Minister might want to say something about Guantanamo Bay, particularly as a Canadian is sitting there, rotting, on the basis of an argument the honourable senator continues to repeat. Every time the argument is repeated, it loses enormous credibility and depth because Omar Khadr was a child soldier. The honourable senator's side and our side agree it is government policy that one does not put child soldiers in jail; one brings them home to rehabilitate them.

Will the Prime Minister come forward and say something credible and tangible about a Canadian child rotting in an illegal American jail that the candidates for the presidency of the United States have said they want to close?

Senator LeBreton: I thank Senator Dallaire for his question. I think the characterization of this young man rotting in Guantanamo Bay is a little over the top. Canadian officials have visited him on several occasions. There is no evidence he is being mistreated in any way, shape or form.

A legal process is under way. For the moment we must allow that legal process to make its way through the courts.

As the honourable senator said, I am aware of the view of the two presidential candidates running in the Democratic Party primaries. That does not change the fact that Canadian officials have monitored this situation. There is a legal process. Mr. Khadr does face serious charges, including murder. The prudent path for the moment is to allow the legal process to continue.

Senator Dallaire: Honourable senators, we are talking about a 15-year-old who was shot twice, indoctrinated into war by a parent who has another perspective on life and has now wasted six years of his life in a jail with oppressive conditions that are at the limit of what the Red Cross has accepted as tolerable. That may not be "rotting," but that is pretty close to totally destroying the life of this individual.

Perhaps some individuals do not count as much as others because they have done something we consider worse than others have done in the context of international law such as child soldiers. Mr. Khadr shot an American. That is worse than if he had shot 15 Somalis, Sudanese or Darfurians.

Is the honourable senator arguing that because Mr. Khadr is not perceived to be mistreated, he is being treated fairly and this country is satisfied with the position taken by the honourable senator's government?

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Senator LeBreton: As I have pointed out, Mr. Khadr was actually a child when the previous government was in office and for four years that government left Mr. Khadr sitting in jail. However, having said that, I think it is beneath anyone to suggest that if the victim was an American, somehow or other the government puts a grade on that. In my opinion, that statement is quite offensive.

As the honourable senator knows, officials of the Canadian government have been assured many times that Omar Khadr is being treated humanely and his situation is before the courts. There is no doubt that he faces serious charges. For the moment, we should let the matter make its way through the legal system.

There is nothing more that I have to say about the matter.

Finance

Discussions on International Oversight of Financial Institutions

Hon. Jerahmiel S. Grafstein: Honourable senators, I have a question for the Leader of the Government in the Senate arising out of yesterday's financial press.

Yesterday, there was an announcement that the United States Secretary of the Treasury, Mr. Hank Paulson; and the Prime Minister of the United Kingdom, Mr. Gordon Brown, announced proposals for a new, sweeping U.S.-U.K. partnership to overhaul the architecture of oversight and to create new early warning watchdogs and mechanisms over financial institutions in the United States and the United Kingdom. Why was Canada left out of these discussions?

Hon. Marjory LeBreton (Leader of the Government and Secretary of State (Seniors)): I thank the honourable senator for the question.

I am aware of the announcement and I am quite certain that officials from the Department of Finance and the Minister of Finance are very interested in discussions between the United Kingdom and the United States. In terms of who was at the meeting and who was not, I am not in any position to answer what procedures were followed in setting up these meetings.

Senator Grafstein: Could the leader inform herself? The information is clear that the Canadian government was not involved or mechanisms of the Canadian government were not involved in these proposals. They were not named and they were not present.

Regulatory Oversight of National Financial Institutions

Hon. Jerahmiel S. Grafstein: Honourable senators, I will move on.

Is the Government of Canada contemplating more precise regulatory powers of oversight for our financial institutions respecting the Bank of Canada or the bank regulators?

Hon. Marjory LeBreton (Leader of the Government and Secretary of State (Seniors)): Honourable senators, I will take the question as notice.

Bank of Canada—Financial Support to Troubled Financial Institutions—Amending Legislation

Hon. Jerahmiel S. Grafstein: Honourable senators, does the Government of Canada plan to introduce legislation to repair the current legislation that limits the Bank of Canada's flexibility to provide financial support for troubled financial institutions under extraordinary circumstances?

Hon. Marjory LeBreton (Leader of the Government and Secretary of State (Seniors)): Honourable senators, I will take that question as notice as well.

Proposals Involving Banks, Financial Institutions and Private Investors—Treatment of Small Investors.

Hon. Jerahmiel S. Grafstein: Perhaps the leader could add this to the list: To what extent — and this is quite a sensitive issue — is the Government of Canada taking steps to ensure that the current proposals between bank and financial institutions and private investors will ensure that small investors will not be treated differently or discriminated against with respect to larger financial institutions such as our banks?

Hon. Marjory LeBreton (Leader of the Government and Secretary of State (Seniors)): I thank the honourable senator for his question. I will take that as notice as well.

Public Safety

Border Services Agency—Halifax Harbour Stowaways—Offer of Assistance from Halifax Police Department

Hon. Terry M. Mercer: Honourable senators, on March 26, 2008, it was reported in The Globe and Mail that Canada's border services rejected an offer from the Halifax Police Department to dust for fingerprints on the bus aboard a ship in Halifax Harbour where it was reported that stowaways had hidden.

Honourable senators will recall that a number of Algerian stowaways eluded the guard on March 16 at the Cerescorp container terminal in Halifax and then took a taxi to Truro, which is 100 kilometres away. The deputy chief of police in Halifax offered the forensic expertise of his office to the Canada Border Services Agency and received a polite "No, thank you."

My question to the Leader of the Government in the Senate is this: Since it is the responsibility of the Halifax Police Department to police the Port of Halifax, why would the minister responsible not use them to gather evidence?

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Does the minister know that there were only four stowaways? Were there six; were there eight? Without fingerprints, how does the minister actually know? Would the minister not want to use every avenue to ensure the safety of all Canadians?

Hon. Marjory LeBreton (Leader of the Government and Secretary of State (Seniors)): Honourable senators, the minister would absolutely want to use every possible avenue to secure the safety of Canadians. As the honourable senator is aware, and as the minister reported, the incident of the stowaways who landed in Halifax and made their way to Truro caused great concern to both the minister and the government. The minister has been working diligently to get to the bottom of the incident and determine what measures might be taken to prevent the repetition of such an incident.

As the honourable senator knows, the security of our ports and borders is a top-of-the-mind issue with Minister Day. I will be very happy to ask the Minister of Public Safety for an update on the investigation into this incident and what steps the minister plans to take to prevent this from happening in the future.

Senator Mercer: I thank the honourable senator for that answer, but it seems to me that any 12-year-old with a CSI kit received for Christmas could figure out that he or she should dust for fingerprints.

When a spokesperson for the Canada Border Services Agency was asked whether the agency had collected fingerprints, the spokesperson replied that the agency does not have the tools to gather forensic evidence and must rely on the local police and the RCMP. I already mentioned the Halifax police.

When contacted, the RCMP spokesperson said the force did not search for fingerprints either. That does seem odd — a crime scene, yet no fingerprints were gathered.

I happen to know that Minister Day sends regular email missives to his department, including all employees of the Canadian Border Services Agency and all members of the RCMP. One of these emails states, "Whether you get a break this weekend, or whether you are literally "on the line" while the rest of us party, here's a thank you from one citizen who knows what you do."

Honourable senators, if the minister knows what everyone does in his department, why would he not use the Halifax police force and the RCMP to gather the evidence? Is he too busy trying to be everyone's buddy rather than leading his department to ensure the safety of all Canadians?

Senator LeBreton: I thank the honourable senator for that question.

Senator Mercer read from an email, and I would have to see the context of that message. Minister Day is a very credible minister. He has been applauded for his work in the area of securing our borders and has worked very hard with his officials and staff. I dare say that he has the respect of his staff because of his work with his officials.

With regard to the request for fingerprints, I am not aware of the procedures carried out by the Department of Public Safety to track these individuals once they reached our shores. I would be happy to provide Senator Mercer with an update on what has happened thus far.

Senator Mercer: I can assure the honourable senator that I was kind to Mr. Day in selecting the mild phrase that I did from a number of his emails that I have seen. It is common that these emails come out of his office. I think that if he paid more attention to managing his department and less attention to trying to be the buddy of the men and women on the front line, we would all be better off.

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Agriculture and Agri-Food

Food Inspection Agency—Safety of Imported Milk

Hon. Lorna Milne: Honourable senators, in 1999 Canada rejected the sale of the bovine growth hormone rBST in Canada. This decision was based on more than nine years of comprehensive review of the effects of rBST on animal and human safety, and a Senate study on the issue.

Veterinary experts concluded that the use of rBST represents a sufficient and unacceptable threat to the safety of dairy cows. These experts noted that the cows injected with the hormone had an increased risk of mastitis of up to 25 per cent, of infertility by 18 per cent, and of lameness of up to 50 per cent. The hormone affects humans in exactly the same way.

Would it surprise honourable senators to learn that the United States approved the use of rBST in 1994? Would it surprise senators that this hormone can be found in milk imported into Canada, particularly into Ontario, from the United States?

My question is for the Leader of the Government in the Senate. What, if anything, is this government prepared to do to maintain the purity and the safety of imported milk purchased in Canada?

Hon. Marjory LeBreton (Leader of the Government and Secretary of State (Seniors)): I thank the honourable senator for the question. I well remember the Senate study on the issue of rBST. Senator Spivak was one of the senators very concerned about this matter.

The issue of food and product safety is of great concern to the government. The honourable senator will remember that in December the Prime Minister announced the Food and Consumer Safety Action Plan. That action plan involves a comprehensive plan of new measures to strengthen and modernize the safety system for food, health and consumer products. The plan calls for mandatory product recalls when companies fail to act on legitimate safety concerns, which makes importers responsible for the safety of all the goods they bring into Canada. The plan also raises fines under the Food and Drugs Act from $5,000 up to current global standards and provides better safety information for consumers.

This is an area of great concern to the government. In today's papers, we have reports that the awareness level in the United States is much higher than it is in Canada. We are aware of all these issues.

With regard to the importation of milk, I will try to ascertain by way of delayed answer if specific measures have been taken with regard to the importation of milk with substances banned in Canada.

Senator Milne: I thank the honourable senator for that answer. The budget increase that the Canadian Food Inspection Agency received is an excellent idea. Unfortunately, the agency itself will be the source of almost one third of the funding announced in the budget for Canada's Food and Consumer Safety Action Plan. Thirty million dollars of the $113 million program announced in the budget came from a spending review of the agency. It was cut out of the agency's budget. Therefore, this new investment is really only $83 million over three years. I guess that after 2011 this government expects not to need an action plan to protect Canadians from the food they eat or the products they use.

Even Wal-Mart in the United States announced last week that it would no longer sell milk from hormone-treated cows. My understanding is that the Canadian Food Inspection Agency intends to contract out some of its inspection services to the private sector in order to save more money. Is this really how this government feels toward the safety of Canadians? Do Canadians deserve to have their safety depend on the reliability of the lowest bidder?

Senator LeBreton: Honourable senators, that is absolutely false and the honourable senator knows it is false. She made assumptions, in a question before the break, that somehow or other certain bodies would not receive parliamentary oversight. That was how she framed her question, when that was not the case.

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In Budget 2008, $113 million was set aside for the Food and Consumer Safety Action Plan. This issue is of great concern to all Canadians and to the government. I believe that Minister Tony Clement has done a good job of explaining to Canadians that one issue we are well aware of and that is of great concern to Canadians is food and product safety. The honourable senator should not make assumptions that the government, according to her calculations, does not take this issue seriously. We take this issue seriously.

With regard to the specific question on milk, as I undertook to do in my answer to the honourable senator earlier, I will find out what measures are being taken to keep products that are banned in Canada out of the country.

Senator Milne: Honourable senators, I thank the Leader of the Government in the Senate for that answer, I guess.

Of that $113 million, $30 million is old money; money that was there and that was not spent.

In addition to Wal-Mart opting out of rBST milk, also the Kroger grocery chain, with 2,500 stores in the U.S., last month began selling only milk that comes from cows that have not been treated with rBST. I urge the government to take this issue seriously and to ramp up inspection at the border as the milk comes in.

Senator LeBreton: The honourable senator does not need to convince me that this issue is serious. I take her urgings seriously. I am familiar with the drug and its effects, not only on cattle. I was raised on a dairy farm, after all. I know what mastitis is and I also know of the dangers to humans. I take the issue seriously.

[Translation]

Justice

Appointment of Bilingual Federal Judges

Hon. Maria Chaput: Honourable senators, my question is for the Leader of the Government in the Senate and concerns the process for appointing federal judges and the lack of importance, or the indifference, given to the judges' linguistic skills.

Quite recently in the Supreme Court of Nova Scotia, two bilingual judges were replaced upon their departure by two unilingual anglophone judges. In my opinion, this is unacceptable. For one thing, when a bilingual judge retires or steps down, the bilingual capability of the court should never leave with them; for another thing, bilingualism should be one of the selection criteria used by the provincial and territorial committees in the judicial appointment process.

Please, could you inform Canada's Minister of Justice that what has just happened in Nova Scotia is unacceptable and that bilingualism should be a mandatory selection criterion used by the committees of every province and territory?

[English]

Hon. Marjory LeBreton (Leader of the Government and Secretary of State (Seniors)): I will be happy to convey the views of the honourable senator to the Minister of Justice. Judicial appointments in the various jurisdictions are made by the Minister of Justice in consultation with the chief justices of the various jurisdictions. With regard to the criteria, I believe that the courts and the chief justices of the various provinces set out a formula by which the language requirements respect the traditions of the court. I would be surprised if the level of bilingual judges is not maintained in terms of appointments. I will find out.

(1450)

Having been through this process myself at one point, sometimes a unilingual judge is replaced by a bilingual judge. Months later, officials then name a unilingual judge. This complex process is carried out in consultation with the chief justices.

As the honourable senator knows, the people recommended to the government for judicial appointments come through a rigorous process involving committees set up in various provinces that include representatives of the province's minister of justice, the chief justice in the province and usually the law society of the province. Together, committee members make the recommendations to the federal Minister of Justice who then, in turn, makes the appointment.

I was not aware of the two cases that the honourable senator cites specifically in the province of Nova Scotia. However, I will make her concerns known to the Minister of Justice and ask whether he is aware of the linguistic capabilities of the appointees that are to be made in the future, to keep the proper balance.

[Translation]

Delayed Answers to Oral Questions

Hon. Gerald J. Comeau (Deputy Leader of the Government): Honourable senators, I have the honour to table seven delayed answers to oral questions: a question raised by the Honourable Senator Jaffer, on November 14, 2007, concerning citizenship, immigration and public safety, the 2010 Vancouver Olympic Games and prevention of human trafficking; a question raised by the Honourable Senator Angus, on December 6, 2007, concerning public safety, the possibility of exercising the Royal Prerogative of Mercy for Robert Latimer; a question raised by the Honourable Senator Carstairs, on January 31, 2008, concerning Industry Canada, ministerial power regarding the heads of government organizations and commissions; a question raised by the Honourable Senator Chaput, on January 31, 2008, concerning National Defence and CFB Borden; a question raised by the Honourable Senator Goldstein, on February 12, 2008, concerning the promotion of trade relations with Iran; a question raised by the Honourable Senator Hervieux-Payette, on February 26, 2008, concerning Industry Canada, Crown corporations and the Investment Canada Act; and lastly, a question raised by the Honourable Senator Milne, on February 28, 2008, concerning agriculture and agri-food, the Canadian Grain Commission, modernizing the Canadian Grain Act and the salary of the chief commissioner.

Justice

2010 Vancouver Winter Olympics
Prevention of Human Trafficking—Legalization of Brothels

(Response to question raised by Hon. Mobina S. B. Jaffer on November 14, 2007)

Citizenship and Immigration Canada

Citizenship and Immigration Canada (CIC) will continue to work closely with its federal partners on the Interdepartmental Working Group on Trafficking in Persons (TIP) to strengthen federal responses to trafficking in persons, including its responses to TIP in the context of the 2010 Olympics.

Additional measures undertaken by the Minister of Citizenship and Immigration to protect victims of trafficking include the issuance of a short-term Temporary Residence Permit (TRP) for up to 180 days to foreign national victims of trafficking in Canada.

This permit provides trafficking victims with temporary legal status in Canada. It is intended to give victims a period of reflection to consider their options. Short-term TRP holders qualify for medical coverage, including counselling, under the Interim Federal Health Program and they may apply for a work permit. The short-term TRP and work permit are both fee-exempt. Victims do not have to cooperate in the prosecution of their trafficker in order to obtain this temporary legal immigration status in Canada. CIC visa officers overseas work closely with partners and other law enforcement agencies to prevent and combat human trafficking through information-sharing, intelligence-gathering and will exercise due diligence to identify traffickers and their victims.

The Minister of Citizenship and Immigration also recently introduced legislation (C-17) in recognition of the importance to further protect from exploitation and abuse, vulnerable foreign nationals, who come to work in Canada. It will allow officers to refuse an authorization to work if, in the officer's opinion, public policy considerations expressed in Ministerial instructions justify a refusal. The public policy considerations would aim to protect foreign nationals who risk being subjected to humiliating or degrading treatment, including sexual exploitation.

Finally, CIC will continue to collaborate with its partners in the development of training materials for officers and participation in regional workshops to raise awareness about human trafficking.

Public Safety Canada

Trafficking in persons (TIP) involves the recruitment, transportation or harbouring of persons for the purpose of sexual exploitation or forced labour. TIP can occur either domestically or internationally and often involves organized crime. Traffickers use various methods to maintain control over their victims including force, sexual assault and threats of violence to their family abroad.

The Government of Canada is committed to ensuring that all efforts are made such that the 2010 Winter Olympic and Paralympic Games are not a venue for those that wish to engage in human trafficking.

To ensure that the events unfold peacefully, the Government of Canada's security efforts will continue through the 2010 Winter Olympic and Paralympic Games as part of the overall commitment to ensure the safety and security of Canadians and foreign visitors.

The Royal Canadian Mounted Police (RCMP) has already been identified as the lead agency responsible for coordinating security for the Games and has been specifically tasked to form and lead an integrated police planning group to support the provision of policing and security for the Games; take all appropriate and necessary federal security measures to help ensure the safe holding of the Games; and, cooperate with other key partners, including the City of Vancouver, the Organizing Committee for the Olympic Games and the International Olympic Committee on security-related matters for the Games.

Ensuring the security of the Games also means ensuring that victims are not trafficked into Canada, and, in the event this occurs, ensuring that Canada is equipped to protect victims and not treat them as criminals.

Reports on major sporting events (e.g. the 2006 World Cup in Germany) have demonstrated that prevention and awareness campaigns, targeted training for law enforcement officials, and the development of clear protocols for responding to the needs of victims are among the necessary components of a successful strategy for responding to the potential increase in human trafficking around major sporting events.

This approach is entirely consistent with the Government's current efforts to prevent trafficking, protect the victims and to prosecute the offenders.

Our approach will focus on a number of components related to prevention and awareness, front-line training and, if necessary victim support. For example, the RCMP is currently updating its training video to reflect more information on domestic trafficking and will be used as an awareness tool prior to, during, and after the upcoming Games. The Government of Canada is also delivering human trafficking training workshops for law enforcement, border and immigration officials across Canada. These training workshops will be delivered in the Vancouver region prior to the 2010 Winter Olympic and Paralympic Games, and will address the issue of human trafficking related to the Olympics.

The Canada Border Services Agency will continue its mission to ensure the security and prosperity of Canada by managing the access of people and goods to and from Canada.

Emphasis will be placed on maintaining a high level of security and efficiency at all Ports of Entry prior to and during the 2010 Games, through ongoing targeting and inspection of travellers and responding to increased demands for intelligence, as well as interagency and foreign requests for information-sharing.

Our federal officials, through the Interdepartmental Working Group, continue to work together building on our strengths in preparation for this major event. We also realize that successful strategies will require collaboration more broadly. Our officials have been in discussion with their provincial counterparts in British Columbia, as well as representatives from the Vancouver Police to ensure a coordinated response. Steps are also being taken to liaise with the RCMP Policing and Security Sub-Committee and the Vancouver Olympic Committee to discuss how best to incorporate our anti-trafficking responses into the larger security planning in relation to the 2010 Games.

Possible Clemency Order Regarding Robert Latimer

(Response to question raised by Hon. W. David Angus on December 6, 2007)

This is indeed a tragic case which has captured significant public interest and has raised a number of moral and legal issues. The Honourable Senator asked whether the government is prepared to consider granting Mr. Latimer clemency under the Royal Prerogative of Mercy (RPM).

As the Honourable Senator undoubtedly knows, the authority to grant clemency rests with Governor General of Canada who has largely unlimited power to exercise clemency under the Royal Prerogative of Mercy. It is not, however, a power that is exercised by the Governor General alone. By constitutional convention, the Governor General acts on the advice of the Minister of Public Safety or that of at least one other minister. A request for clemency may be considered as soon as the court makes its determination in a case and all avenues available under the Criminal Code, or other pertinent legislation, have been exhausted.

The Royal Prerogative of Mercy permits the exercise of clemency as an exceptional remedy under exceptional circumstances. For clemency to be considered there must be evidence of a substantial injustice or undue hardship which is disproportionate to the nature of the offence and more severe than for other individuals in similar situations.

The clemency process requires that a submission be made by or on behalf of an applicant for clemency which identifies the remedy being sought and substantiates a claim of undue hardship or injustice. Such a request made to the Minister of Public Safety would — when he or she directs — be given to the National Parole Board to conduct any investigation or inquiry in relation to a request for clemency.

The Honourable Senator is no doubt also aware by now that the Appeals Division of the National Parole Board recently reversed an earlier decision of the Board and has authorized the release of Robert Latimer from prison on day parole.

The Cabinet

Ministerial Authority Regarding Heads of Government Agencies and Commissions

(Response to question raised by Hon. Sharon Carstairs on January 31, 2008)

The Competition Bureau, an independent law enforcement agency, has long followed a policy of informing the Industry Minister's office of important decisions and law enforcement matters in a timely fashion, keeping in mind its obligations under the Competition Act and other laws. The Commissioner recognizes the importance of timely communications with the Minister's office.

National Defence

Use of French at Canadian Forces Base Borden

(Response to question raised by Hon. Maria Chaput on January 31, 2008)

The Department of National Defence welcomes the acting Ombudsman's interest in CFB Borden and shares her desire to provide a permanent and lasting solution to the very serious issues affecting francophone recruits at this base.

The Canadian Forces have made it clear that CFB Borden is a bilingual organization, committed to serving both Anglophones and Francophones equally.

This past summer, the Chief of Military Personnel and the Commander of the Canadian Defence Academy visited CFB Borden to address the Base leadership, senior instructors, and students about the need to ensure that students are treated fairly and that linguistic rights are respected in accordance with the Official Languages Act.

The Canadian Forces have appointed an Official Languages Champion to Borden and developed a strategic plan specifically for CFB Borden to ensure that the Canadian Forces are led, trained, administered, and supported in the official language of their choice.

The Chief of Military Personnel updated the Ombudsman on the progress at Borden in early December and the Canadian Forces expect to complete their first annual CFB Borden Official Languages Report in April 2008.

The Department of National Defence and Canadian Forces will continue to work closely with the Ombudsman to improve its record on Official Languages.

International Trade

Iran—Efforts to Establish Trade Relations

(Response to question raised by Hon. Yoine Goldstein on February 12, 2008)

The government shares the concerns expressed by the Honourable Senator.

Canada's current approach to Iran is quite intensive in its scope, and clearly reflects concern about Iran's behaviour and its policies on a number of key issues.

This approach reflects Canada's longstanding and ongoing concerns about Iran's official opposition to the Middle East Peace Process, its support of terrorist organizations, its pursuit of weapons of mass destruction and its entirely unacceptable human rights policies. The latter include the persecution of religious and ethnic minorities, the oppression of women's rights and the severe restriction of the freedom of expression and the media.

Since 1996, Canada's relations with Iran have been governed by a policy of controlled engagement. This policy prohibits the opening of Iranian consulates, cultural centres and Iran banks in Canada, and also suspended talks on direct air flights between Canada and Iran.

Following the death of Canadian-Iranian Zahra Kazemi in 2003, and the lack of progress in punishing those responsible for her death, Canada tightened the Controlled Engagement Policy. As it stands now, the Controlled Engagement Policy limits official bilateral dialogue to the following four topics: the case of Ms. Kazemi, Iran's human rights performance, Iran's nuclear program and Iran's role in the region.

The controlled engagement policy bars cooperation between Canadian and Iranian government agencies. As a consequence, Canada no longer promotes or facilitates trade and investment between the Canadian private sector and Iranian state entities. As of this moment, Canada does not have an Ambassador based in Tehran and there is no Iranian Ambassador in Ottawa.

Further, Canada has fully implemented the binding economic measures decided by the United Nations Security Council in its Resolutions 1737 and 1747 concerning Iran's nuclear program. The sanctions include a ban on the export to Iran of proliferation-sensitive products which could contribute to Iran's nuclear activities, a prohibition on the provision to any person in Iran of technical assistance, financial services, brokerage or other services related to the products subject to the export ban, a prohibition on making available to any person in Iran any property, financial assistance or investment, related to the products subject to the export ban, an embargo on the import from Iran of arms and related material or proliferation-sensitive products, and an assets freeze against designated persons engaged in Iran's nuclear activities. These sanctions reflect many of the international community's concerns, and send a strong signal to Iran that it must change its behaviour with respect to uranium enrichment activities or face stringent sanctions.

Canada supports these sanctions, and believes that they are an effective approach for attempting to compel Iran to end its uranium enrichment program. The Security Council is currently deliberating on a third sanctions resolution which, if approved, would place additional international pressure on Iran. Should this resolution be adopted, Canada would fully implement the new measures decided upon therein.

The Government has also supported and responded to the October 11, 2007 warning by the Financial Action Task Force (FATF) on the risks posed to the international financial system by Iran's lack of an anti-money laundering and counter-terrorist financing regime. On the very next day, October 12, 2007, the Office of the Superintendent of Financial Institutions recently issued an advisory drawing attention to the FATF's recommendation for heightened attention to transactions related to Iran as a result of these concerns.

Also on October 12, 2007, the Financial Transactions and Reports Analysis Centre of Canada (FINTRAC) issued an advisory that financial institutions should give heightened attention to transactions related to Iran, and reminded financial institutions of their obligations under Canada's "Regulations Implementing the United Nations Resolution on Iran."

The Commercial Section of the Embassy currently consists of a Canada-based Senior Trade Commissioner and four locally engaged staff. The Senior Trade Commissioner is returning to Canada on normal rotation in August 2008, and is not being replaced. Overall staff levels are currently under review.

The Commercial Section is no longer engaged in active trade or investment promotion vis-à-vis the public sector in Iran, but is active providing economic reports and analysis, and maintains a network of contacts and exchanges information with private sector bodies and individuals interested in economic relations with Canada.

The Section also assists and advises Canadian companies that have selected Iran as a target market for their products, services, technologies and investments.

Finally, the Commercial Section has actively supported Canadian colleges and universities that are maintaining cooperative study and research projects with Iranian educational institutions.

The Government will continue to work on strategic and focussed actions to respond to the situation concerning Iran.

Natural Resources

Ownership of Resource Extraction Companies—Oversight Legislation

(Response to question raised by Hon. Céline Hervieux-Payette on February 26, 2008)

Canada welcomes foreign investment because it is essential to our prosperity. Foreign investment brings in the knowledge, technology, capital and global networks that Canadians need to remain competitive. It creates jobs, spurs innovation and enhances productivity.

In November 2006, the government released Advantage Canada, a long-term plan to improve Canada's economic prosperity. While it re-iterated Canada's openness to foreign investment, Advantage Canada also identified a concern that there may be rare occasions where foreign investments by state-owned enterprises (SOEs) with non-commercial objectives and unclear corporate governance and reporting may not benefit Canadians.

On December 7, 2007, Minister Prentice issued Guidelines under the Investment Canada Act (ICA) to communicate Canada's expectations for SOE. The ICA provides for reviews of large acquisitions by foreign investors to determine their net benefit to Canada and lists a series of factors on which this net benefit must be assessed.

The Guidelines clarify these factors in cases where investments are by foreign SOEs. The Guidelines underscore that sound principles of corporate governance and commercial orientation are considered when reviewing investments by foreign SOEs. During such reviews, the Minister will apply existing ICA principles and will examine:

  • the nature and extent of control by foreign government;
     
  • the corporate governance, operating and reporting practices of the SOE; and
     
  • whether the acquired Canadian business retains the ability to operate on a commercial basis.

The Guidelines also provide an illustrative list of undertakings that SOEs may offer to demonstrate net benefit, such as appointment of Canadians to boards of directors, employing Canadians in senior management positions, incorporation of a company in Canada, or a listing of shares on a Canadian stock exchange. Appropriate monitoring will ensure compliance.

Agriculture and Agri-Food

Bill C-39—Effect on Canadian Grain Commission

(Response to question raised by Hon. Lorna Milne on February 28, 2008)

Before commenting on the salary of the Chief Commissioner of the Canadian Grain Commission, some clarification is needed on Bill C-39 and its effect on farmers and the organization itself.

First, Bill C-39 will not remove the Canadian Grain Commission from parliamentary oversight.

The organization is still obligated under the requirements of the Financial Administration Act to report to Parliament through the Minister. On an annual basis the Canadian Grain Commission submits its Report on Plans and Priorities and Departmental Performance Report for parliamentary review. Bill C-39 removes a redundant reporting requirement that predates the production of these documents.

Second, under the proposed legislation farmers will still have the right to appeal grain grades. In fact this right of appeal is being extended to other delivery points in the grain handling system, including process elevators and grain dealers.

It is proposed that the Canadian Grain Commission, an independent government agency, provide final arbitration when shippers or receivers dispute the grain grades assigned by the private sector.

Finally, with respect to the salary of the Chief Commissioner of the Canadian Grain Commission, the salary range for this Governor in Council appointment, as established by Treasury Board guidelines, is $204,300 to $240,400.

[English]

Business of the Senate

Request for Answers

Hon. Jane Cordy: On May 9, 2007, I asked the Leader of the Government in the Senate a question regarding child care spaces in Canada. About four months later, Parliament was prorogued and I did not realize the question would drop off the Order Paper. I asked the question again in December and, in January, the honourable senator explained the situation. It was understandable that the question dropped off with the prorogation.

I submitted the same questions in writing on January 30 that I asked in May 2007. I hoped those questions would be answered today. Can the honourable senator give me an indication of when those questions will be answered? Even though Parliament was prorogued, the department had four months prior to prorogation to look at the question.

Hon. Gerald J. Comeau (Deputy Leader of the Government): We will put a tracer on the response.

Senator Cordy: I asked another question in December regarding the Paillé report, and the Leader of the Government in the Senate took that question as notice. I did not hear an answer in January. Therefore, I submitted the question again as a written one on January 30. I still have not received an answer. Can the deputy leader look into that question as well?

Senator Comeau: I will put on a second tracer.


(1455)

ORDERS OF THE DAY

Income Tax Act
Excise Tax Act

Bill to Amend—Second Reading

On the Order:

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)

Hon. Terry Stratton: Honourable senators, I thank you for the opportunity to join the debate at second reading of Bill S-214. The bill proposes a significant increase in the tax assistance provided to residents of Nunavik, Quebec, through the personal sales and excise tax systems.

Personal income tax relief would be provided by creating a third zone for the purpose of the Northern Residents Deduction for residents of Nunavik, Quebec, and providing a $70 per day deduction for Nunavik residents on top of the existing Northern Residents Deduction.

Sales and excise tax relief would be provided by applying a 0-per-cent GST rate on the supply of goods and service in Nunavik and by exempting petroleum or fuel sold or purchased in Nunavik from federal excise taxes.

In discussing this bill, there are a number of important points to bear in mind. First, there is the considerable tax relief already available to residents of Nunavik through the Northern Residents Deduction through current provisions of the Excise Tax Act and as a result of significant tax relief introduced by our Conservative government. Second, whether it is fair to provide further tax relief to Nunavik residents but to provide nothing to other northerners. That is worth repeating — to provide nothing to other northerners. Third, the significant fiscal cost this bill would impose. Fourth, the considerable support the Government of Canada already provides to people residing in Nunavik through other means.

I will deal with each of these issues in turn, starting with an overview of the tax assistance already available to residents of Nunavik and other Canadians living in northern and isolated regions.

Tax recognition of the additional costs of residing in the North is already provided through the Northern Residents Deduction. This deduction provides an effective incentive for drawing skilled labour to northern and isolated communities by significantly reducing the tax burden on northern residents. Specifically, it provides a daily residency deduction that recognizes the high cost of living in the North. In addition, it provides a deduction for two employer-provided vacation trips per year as well as unlimited employer-provided medical travel. For 2008-09, the Northern Residents Deduction will provide about $140 million in tax relief.

As part of our Conservative government's comprehensive northern strategy, Budget 2008 proposes a 10 per cent increase in the residency component of the Northern Residents Deduction. In particular, the maximum daily residency deduction will be increased from $15 to $16.50. This increase will bring the maximum annual amount of the residency deduction to $6,022.50 from $5,475 for residents of the northern zone and to $3,011.25 from $2,737.50 for residents of the intermediate zone. This measure will be effective as of January 1, 2008, and will provide an estimated $10 million in additional tax relief for 2008-09 and 2009-10.

This means that for 2008, an individual may receive a basic daily allowance totalling up to $6,022.50 per year. When combined with the basic personal amount of $9,600 and the Canada employment credit of $1,019, a single resident of the North can earn more than $16,600 without paying personal income tax.

I note for the benefit of honourable senators the widespread praise this budget has received from northern leaders in Canada. For example, Northwest Territories Premier Floyd Roland said that he was pleased to see the matter being addressed.

(1500)

The Yellowknife mayor, Gordon Van Tighem, applauded the government for addressing a long-standing request, noting that it was "something we've been asking for a significant period of time."

A Yellowknife newspaper editorial cheered the move as a "nice unexpected surprise," especially in contrast to the inaction of the previous government, noting our action was a

. . . whole lot more than previous Liberal governments ever gave. Despite enormous budget surpluses and the voice of a cabinet member from the NWT . . . the Liberals never lifted a finger to increase the tax deduction, even after years of steadily rising costs.

And, I might add, steadily rising surpluses in the federal government.

This Budget 2008 initiative is appropriate, but it is only one of the ways in which the Government of Canada recognizes the unique circumstances faced by Canadians living in the North, including residents of Nunavik. Certain provisions of the Excise Tax Act also provide significant tax relief in favour of commercial transportation and remote communities.

For example, diesel fuel and aviation fuel are subject to a reduced rate of federal excise tax — 4 cents per litre, as opposed to 10 cents per litre for gasoline. This reduced rate of excise tax on diesel and aviation fuel recognizes the importance of these fuels for businesses in general, and for commercial transportation in particular. This rate is especially important in rural and remote regions of Canada, where it is necessary to transport goods, equipment and people over vast distances.

As well, federal excise taxes are fully relieved for diesel fuel used either as heating oil or to generate electricity. Again, this relief is especially important in remote and rural regions of Canada where diesel fuel may be used as a substitute for home heating oil, and where it is sometimes necessary to use diesel generators to provide electricity. These measures ensure that excise taxes do not apply when diesel fuel is used to provide shelter comforts of heat and electricity.

Nunavik residents, along with other Canadians from all over the country, have benefited from the significant, broad-based tax relief provided by this government. Since coming to office, the government has taken action that will reduce the overall tax burden for Canadians and businesses by about $200 billion over 2007-08 and the next five years, bringing taxes to their lowest level in nearly 50 years. Three quarters of this tax relief will benefit individuals and families directly, whether through the reduction in the GST rate from 7 per cent to 5 per cent, or through personal income taxes. That tax relief for individuals and families is almost $140 billion.

For instance, federal tax for a family earning between $60,000 and $80,000 will be reduced on average by $1,496 for the 2008 tax year. These reductions are real and meaningful.

In consideration of the substantial tax relief already available to northern residents, one needs to question whether Bill S-214 is warranted.

My second consideration is whether it is fair to provide significant tax relief to residents of Nunavik alone, and not to other northern residents.

Allow me to explain, starting with the proposal for northern residents deduction. As set out in this bill, the residency deduction component for residents of Nunavik would rise to more than $31,000 — about a five-fold increase. An increase in the deduction of this size would be a source of inequity not only between Nunavik residents and those who live in the South but also between Nunavik and other parts of the North. Why? Because, as I mentioned a moment ago, this bill is targeted to Nunavik residents only.

For example, the proposed increase would allow someone in Nunavik to earn up to $42,000 without paying taxes, while someone living in another northern community, say Nunavut or Northern Labrador, would begin to pay income taxes on earnings above $16,600. Other residents of the North, not to mention other taxpayers in general, understandably would consider this situation unfair.

The same is true with respect to GST and excise tax proposals included in this bill. Recall that this bill proposes a 0-per-cent GST rate on the supply of goods and services in Nunavik. It also proposes a federal tax exemption on petroleum and fuel costs sold or purchased in Nunavik. Many would question such a measure that would create this scale of inequality in the tax system.

Honourable senators, my third concern with this bill is the fiscal costs that go well beyond Bill S-214 itself. The direct cost of personal income tax changes proposed in Bill S-214 would be $15 million annually in foregone revenue. However, the pressure, for the sake of fairness, to extend those same breaks to all those currently eligible for the northern residents deduction would be intense — not to mention costly — at $290 million annually in foregone revenue.

Finally, my fourth point, I want to review the many other ways in which this government supports the residents of Nunavik, specifically the enactment of the Nunavik Inuit Land Claims Agreement Act.

As the Prime Minister recently declared, this historic milestone hails the dawn of a new era for the Nunavummiut. Not only did the act resolve the issues of land and resource ownership and usage rights, the agreement created a stable investment and development environment that will mean new business opportunities and employment for people throughout this region.

The land claims agreement enables greater local control over economic and social development by providing clearly defined, constitutionally protected land and resource ownership rights within the Nunavik marine region; joint ownership with the Cree over 400 square kilometres of land on Hudson's Bay; formal creation of the Torngat Mountains National Park; and harvesting rights for the Nunavummiut people within the park.

I note that the people of Nunavik were extremely pleased following the enactment of this agreement. Elder Pita Aatami was particularly appreciative of the Prime Minister's contribution, stating that for the Prime Minister "to take the time to be with us to celebrate this historic moment for us is an honour."

Taken together, these measures, including the tax provisions that recognize the higher costs of living in the North and direct federal support through Quebec for other initiatives, clearly demonstrates this government's commitment to Nunavik's residents and to their continued success.

In closing, as I have outlined in my speech, this bill raises a number of concerns relating to equity and fiscal costs. For these reasons, the government is unable to support Bill S-214. I trust my colleagues will agree with the points I have raised today and will vote no to this bill.

The Hon. the Speaker: Is there continuing debate? Are honourable senators ready for the question?

Hon. Senators: Question!

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

Some Hon. Senators: Agreed.

Some Hon. Senators: No.

The Hon. the Speaker: The motion has failed, on division. I will put the question more formally.

All those in favour of the motion to adopt the bill at second reading will please say "yea."

Some Hon. Senators: Yea.

The Hon. the Speaker: Those opposed to the motion will please say "nay."

Some Hon. Senators: Nay.

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

And two honourable senators having risen:

The Hon. the Speaker: It now being 3:10, the bells will ring for 30 minutes and the vote will take place at 3:40. Call in the senators.

(1540)

Motion agreed to and bill read second time on the following division:

YEAS
THE HONOURABLE SENATORS

Bacon Hubley
Bryden Joyal
Callbeck Mahovlich
Carstairs Mercer
Chaput Merchant
Corbin Milne
Cordy Moore
Cowan Munson
Dawson Peterson
De Bané Poulin
Downe Robichaud
Dyck Rompkey
Eggleton Sibbeston
Fairbairn Smith
Fox Stollery
Grafstein Tardif
Hervieux-Payette Trenholme Counsell—34

NAYS
THE HONOURABLE SENATORS

Brown

LeBreton

Champagne

Nolin

Cochrane

Oliver

Comeau

Rivest

Di Nino

Spivak

Gustafson

St. Germain

Johnson

Tkachuk—15

Keon

ABSTENTIONS
THE HONOURABLE SENATORS

Nil.

Referred to Committee

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

Hon. Claudette Tardif (Deputy Leader of the Opposition): Honourable senators, I move that Bill S-214 be referred to the Standing Senate Committee on National Finance.

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

An Hon. Senator: On division.

On motion of Senator Tardif, bill referred to the Standing Senate Committee on National Finance, on division.

Criminal Code

Bill to Amend—Second Reading—Debate Adjourned

Hon. David Tkachuk moved second reading of Bill C-343, An Act to amend the Criminal Code (motor vehicle theft).—(Honourable Senator Comeau)

He said: Honourable senators, Bill C-343, An Act to amend the Criminal Code (motor vehicle theft) which has come to us from the other place, creates a specific and distinct offence for theft of a motor vehicle. It also amends the Criminal Code to provide for maximum punishments for persons convicted of motor vehicle theft.

At present, auto theft crimes are not treated any differently in the Criminal Code than other property crimes. This bill, which was passed unanimously in the House, is directed at combating the high rate of auto theft in Canada and should be supported. I am sure we can all agree that reducing the rate of auto theft will make Canadian streets safer and target a major source of profits for criminal organizations.

Honourable senators, auto theft in Canada must be reduced. Statistics Canada reports that more than 160,000 cars were stolen in 2005. The rate of auto theft, while declining since 1996, is still 56 per cent higher than two decades ago. Recent declines may be due to a combination of anti-theft devices in newer vehicle models as well as police programs designed to reduce theft such as the use of bait cars. It is important to note that on September 1, 2007, Transport Canada enacted a requirement that new vehicles in Canada must be equipped with immobilizers, which makes it nearly impossible to steal a new car without the keys.

(1550)

While programming and an increased focus by law enforcement are critical components of a strategy aimed at reducing auto theft, a truly effective strategy needs strong laws that provide additional tools to law enforcement and prosecutors. The bill, as amended, now mirrors the maximum penalty provided in the general theft defence; that is, 10 years on indictment.

The rate of motor vehicle theft across this country is quite varied. Cities such as Regina and Winnipeg are reported as having very high rates of motor vehicle theft, while centres such as Toronto and Quebec City have comparatively lower rates. Nonetheless, motor vehicle theft is a substantial concern.

Auto theft is not a uniform phenomenon across Canada. For example, in Winnipeg auto theft is predominantly a youth crime issue. In other areas such as the Lower Mainland of B.C., auto theft is tied to drug abuse where drug users steal cars in order to fund their drug habit. In other cities, especially those with ports, such as Montreal, there is a stronger link to auto theft by organized crime. The cars may be given a new vehicle identification number and sold under a different identity within Canada, broken down and sold for parts or exported from Canada for sale overseas.

In October 2007, in the Speech from the Throne, the government undertook to address the serious issue of property crime, including auto theft. Bill C-343 does not discharge the government of this undertaking and, as mentioned in the Speech from the Throne, the government is committed to following through. A bill will soon be brought to the House of Commons on this matter.

It is a commonly cited statistic that motor vehicle theft costs Canadians over $1 billion a year in insurance, health care, court, policing and out-of-pocket expenses such as deductibles. While the financial cost of auto theft is a serious concern, an additional concern is the dangerous driving that often results from the commission of a car theft. Dangerous driving can and does result in serious injury and death to innocent Canadians.

Every year, motor vehicle theft contributes to a significant number of injuries and loss of life. In Ontario, between 1991 and 1999 there were 2,415 reported injuries and 33 deaths as a consequence of police pursuits. Over half of these pursuits involved stolen motor vehicles.

Research has shown that youth involved in motor vehicle theft sometimes encourage police pursuits to escalate the thrill of the ride. In Manitoba, in 2000, six people were killed and five had injuries requiring long-term care as a result of accidents involving stolen vehicles. Another 68 suffered less serious injuries. Nationally, at least 34 deaths in 1999 and 24 deaths in 2000 resulted from stolen vehicles.

There is also a trend in Canada in which auto theft is shifting away from random criminal acts towards more organized criminal activity. The recovery rate for stolen cars is on the decline. For example, in Toronto, over 90 per cent of stolen cars used to be found and returned. That rate is now less than 70 per cent. In Quebec, less than 50 per cent of stolen cars are recovered. Out of the 173 automobiles stolen every year, police and insurance experts estimate 20,000 of these cars are being shipped abroad to destinations such as Eastern Europe, West Africa, the Middle East and Latin America.

Theft rings are insidious organizations that the government is determined to fight. They tend to be complex organizations made up of brokers who hire middlemen who, in turn, hire thieves to steal cars. The role of organized crime in auto theft raises yet another serious crime issue, namely, the role that young offenders play in motor vehicle theft. Almost 40 per cent of those charged for stealing a motor vehicle are between the ages of 12 and 17, and oftentimes cars are stolen for joyriding. Increasingly, organized crime is recruiting youth for their operations.

Youths are recruited to steal the cars and deliver them to middlemen, while the criminals at the upper levels of the organization are insulated from the risk of getting caught. Auto theft is a gateway crime that introduces youths to a criminal lifestyle. Very often youths graduate to more serious violent crimes and ultimately become career criminals as adults.

The government has introduced a number of pieces of legislation that aim to crack down on serious criminal offences. The government has proven its commitment to combat dangerous driving by introducing Bill C-19, which created five new offences to combat street racing and also provided for mandatory minimum periods of driving prohibitions. The Senate supported this bill and it received Royal Assent on December 14, 2006.

Bill C-343 would create a separate, distinct offence for motor vehicle theft. One compelling reason for the creation of a distinct offence is that it would make the criminal justice system more efficient in tracking this sort of criminal activity. Currently, a prosecutor is often unaware whether an offender is a career car thief. Normally, this offender is simply charged with theft over $5,000 and there is no indication on the record as to the type of property stolen. The creation of a distinct offence would help to give the courts a clearer picture of the nature of the offender for bail hearings or when it comes to handing down a sentence.

Honourable senators, I support the goal of Bill C-343 and I urge all of you to do the same.

On motion of Senator Tardif, debate adjourned.

Canadian International Development Agency

Need for Reform—Inquiry—Debate Continued

On the Order:

Resuming debate on the inquiry of the Honourable Senator Stollery, calling the attention of the Senate to the need for reforms to the Canadian International Development Agency.—(Honourable Senator Di Nino)

Hon. Consiglio Di Nino: Honourable senators, I have been discussing this inquiry with the sponsor and we are actually both looking at some additional developments that are taking place in this area. He is totally in agreement with me that we should not let the item fall from the Order Paper. I will attempt to speak on the matter as soon as our mutual additional research to focus on this issue is completed.

I ask that this item stand in my name for the remainder of my time, please.

On motion of Senator Di Nino, debate adjourned.

The Senate adjourned until Wednesday, April 2, 2008, at 1:30 p.m.