Hon. Marjory LeBreton (Leader of the Government and Secretary of State
(Seniors)): Honourable senators, I have great respect for the Standing
Senate Committee on Social Affairs, Science and Technology and the work it does.
I remember fondly my many hours of work on various studies while a member of
I must admit that I was surprised by a news release from the committee, dated
April 30. I was surprised that my honourable colleagues called for renewed
investment in science and research when that is exactly what this government is
already doing, as outlined in the federal budgets. Conservatives believe in
rewarding hard work and providing incentives to create jobs and opportunities.
That is why our government is delivering $200 billion in tax relief to
hard-working families and businesses, and why we have the lowest unemployment in
Some of the tax relief specifically benefits Canada's post-secondary
students. Our government brought in a tax credit for textbooks and eliminated
federal income tax on student scholarships, fellowships and bursaries.
Tax relief is important, but if Canadian businesses are to compete in the
global economy, we must invest in people, knowledge, and modern infrastructure.
The government announced an additional $800 million per year for the
provinces and territories to strengthen the quality and competitiveness of
Canada's post-secondary education system. Budget 2008 supports hard-working
Canadian students with a $350 million investment in a consolidated Canada
Student Grant Program and $123 million to improve and modernize the Canada
Student Loans Program.
Canadian students will also benefit from investments of $25 million to
establish a new Canada graduate scholarship, $21 million to strengthen the
ability of Canadian universities to attract and retain leaders in science, and
an additional $80 million to Canada's three university granting councils for
research into health care, industrial innovation and northern development.
Our latest budget also set aside an additional $140 million for Genome
Canada, and $250 million over five years to help the auto industry develop
innovative, greener and more fuel-efficient vehicles.
Honourable senators, under the strong leadership of Prime Minister Stephen
Harper and members of the cabinet — Ministers Flaherty, Clement, Prentice,
Emerson and Lunn — our government is investing in people, knowledge and modern
infrastructure. By cutting taxes, paying down debt and investing in the
knowledge of Canadians, our government is building a stronger Canada.
Hon. Jerahmiel S. Grafstein: Honourable senators, I rise to pay
tribute to the late Charles Caccia, who suddenly passed away over the weekend.
Charles Caccia was a friend and a Liberal stalwart for over 40 years.
Born in Italy and educated throughout Europe, he immigrated to Toronto and
became involved with COSTI, the Toronto Italian community services outreach
organization helping immigrants and others to adjust to Canada.
Charles was a man of the left, so much so that sometimes he was ignored by
members of the Toronto Italian community, where he was respected for his honesty
but where his views were not always fully appreciated.
He was an academic of note. He became a professor of forestry at the
University of Toronto and became interested in environmental issues.
I first became acquainted with Charles in the early 1960s when he and I
worked the streets of downtown Toronto for the Liberal cause. When his hero and
mentor, Walter Gordon, left Parliament and left the Davenport riding seat open
in 1968, after a very raucous, contested nomination of over 5,000 people at the
coliseum at the CNE, Charles won the Liberal nomination. After that, he
continued to hold the Davenport seat for 10 successive Parliaments until 2004,
when he returned to academia.
After a very distinguished parliamentary career as a backbencher serving on
many committees, Charles was appointed as Minister of Labour under Pierre
Trudeau, and then became Minister of the Environment under John Turner.
With his environmental expertise, Charles became almost the godfather of
environment issues within Parliament and beyond into the wider community. When
he left Parliament, he continued and started teaching as a fellow at the
prestigious University of Ottawa Institute of the Environment.
Charles was a formidable personality. He was a thoughtful, well-read,
independent, prickly, outspoken, at times aggressive left-wing Liberal who was
consistent and passionate in his views. He was relentless and he was also an
outspoken champion of the labour movement and working Canadians.
Charles loved Canada. He believed in and fought for one Canada. He was a true
In his latter years, Charles served as Chairman of the Canada-Europe
Parliamentary Association and encouraged me to become active at the OSCE
parliamentary assembly in Europe, where he felt that Canada needed a consistent
and constant voice for human rights and issues of interest to all Canadians.
Charles will be sorely missed in the Liberal Party, where he brought a
perception, an attitude and a strong voice that is growing dimmer and dimmer,
not only within the party but across Canada.
Our condolences to his devoted family. To know Charles was to never forget
his honesty, his courage, his independence, his passion and his commitment for a
progressive reform agenda for all Canadians.
Hon. Andrée Champagne: Honourable senators, on February 21 Canada's
arts community lost a great musician, Neil Chotem.
If you were to ask me what kind of music Neil Chotem was famous for, I would
have to say all kinds of music.
He once said:
In the long run, if you succeed in ignoring the existing categories, you
end up creating a new one.
That was Neil Chotem.
A child prodigy on the piano at age five in his native Saskatchewan, he moved
to Winnipeg ten years later, at which point he quit his academic studies to
devote himself to music. Soon, he was giving solo recitals and performing with
In 1942, he joined the air force as a musician. To be able to take part in
parades, he decided to learn to play the mellophone, a sort of French horn. It
took him two weeks to master the instrument.
After the war, he settled in Montreal and married the woman who organized all
the military band tours. They had three children. To earn a living and satisfy
his musical curiosity, Neil Chotem wrote hymns and founded a jazz trio, while
preparing to play Rachmaninoff's Concerto No. 2 with the Toronto Symphony
Orchestra. Later, he wrote arrangements and directed musical ensembles for
numerous CBC and Radio-Canada variety programs.
He worked with every singer in Montreal and became convinced of the
importance of learning French. When I met him in the 1970s, he refused to let me
speak English to him.
Neil Chotem also wrote for the ballet. I am thinking of Pythagore 1 à 7.
As well, as surprising as it may seem, he let himself be talked into working
with a rock group: Harmonium.
Serge Fiori refers to Neil Chotem as a model, a mentor. Chotem used his
talents as an arranger and pianist on the group's album L'Heptade,
imbuing Harmonium's music with a sort of French impressionism reminiscent of the
colours and nuances of Debussy and Vaughan Williams. The album is unforgettable.
Perhaps remembering his memorable tour with Harry Belafonte, Neil Chotem
continued composing and arranging for the rest of his life.
Without him, Canadian music, whether it be classical, popular, jazz or rock,
will never be the same.
Maestro Neil Chotem, we honour your memory and extend to you our heartfelt
Hon. Lowell Murray: Honourable senators may be pained to hear that I
will speak about equalization, but they may be reassured by the three-minute
time limit on Senators' Statements.
In recent years, eight provinces have been recipients of equalization
payments. Today, there are six. In the not-too-distant future, there may be
five. Provinces such as Saskatchewan, British Columbia, and Newfoundland and
Labrador become eligible or ineligible for payments as their respective fiscal
capacities fall below or rise above the national average. In my opinion, this
shows that the concept of equalization is working as it was intended to do.
The prospect that Ontario will be eligible a couple of years from now has
created a great clamour among the commentariat. Some are calling for a radical
overhaul of the program in order to disqualify Ontario. The Constitution Act,
1982 defines the purpose of equalization payments as being ". . . to ensure
that provincial governments have sufficient revenues to provide reasonably
comparable levels of public services at reasonably comparable levels of
taxation." An objective measurement of each province's fiscal capacity relative
to a national average is still the best and fairest way to calculate
equalization entitlements, and we should stick with it. In this context,
description of provinces as "have" and "have-not" is inaccurate and
Alberta was briefly a recipient of equalization payments in the early days of
the program. Ontario's eligibility may well turn out to be also short-lived. In
any case, as Premier Williams said Sunday, Ontario's "broad shoulders" have
carried the rest of the country many times. The formula should not be
manipulated to deny the province what, objectively speaking, is its due.
If and when there are serious affordability problems for the federal
treasury, there are recommendations on the public record as to how these may be
resolved without imposing a burden on any recipient province relative to the
As for Newfoundland and Labrador's emerging renaissance, in which we all
rejoice, some perspective helps. Last week's budget reported that their
unemployment rate in 2007 ". . . fell to 13.6 per cent . . . the lowest rate in
26 years" and that in 2008, the unemployment rate is forecast at 12.4 per cent.
A province that has been losing people recorded a net in-migration of 2,000 in
the last half of 2007. This is welcome progress but, clearly, it has only just
Hon. Terry M. Mercer: Honourable senators, this Sunday is Mother's
Day. I would like to pay tribute to all mothers across Canada but, in
particular, to four.
Of course, the first mother to whom I would like to pay tribute is my own,
Bessie Mercer, who is 88 years old and will be 89 on July 3 if the good Lord is
willing. My mother has the privilege of still living alone, driving her car,
spending her weekend nights at the local Legion — dancing her feet off if she
can — and participating in the community. I thank my mother for many things: for
her love, support, criticism and, most of all, for my liberalism.
I also thank another important woman in my life, my mother-in-law, Catherine
Simmons, who passed away a number of years ago. I thank her for her friendship,
her love and, most importantly, for her daughter.
Of course, I thank my wife, Ellen, who I have been married to for 37 years,
for her love, patience, dedication, support and, indeed, understanding.
Thank you for being a wonderful mother to our son, Michael.
I also pay tribute to Dora Munson, the mother of my friend and seatmate,
Senator Jim Munson. Dora has been ill lately, but at 95 years of age is fighting
Thank you, Dora, for your dedication to Jim and his siblings. Our prayers are
I close with a quote from one of Canada's greatest children's authors, Robert
Munsch, from his book Love You Forever. If you do not want to cry, you
should leave. In the final part of the book, it says:
Well, that mother, she got older. She got older and older and older. One
day she called up her son and said, "You'd better come see me because I am
very old and sick." So her son came to see her. When he came in the door
she tried to sing the song. She sang:
I'll love you forever,
I'll like you for always . . .
But she couldn't finish because she was too old and too sick. The son
went to his mother. He picked her up and rocked her back and forth, back and
forth, back and forth. And he sang this song:
I'll love you forever,
I'll like you for always,
As long as I am
my Mommy you'll be.
The Hon. the Speaker: Honourable senators, before proceeding to the
tabling of documents, I wish to draw to your attention the presence in the
gallery of Mr. Bruno Rodriguez Parrilla, First Deputy Foreign Minister of the
Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the Republic of Cuba. He is accompanied by His
Excellency Ernesto Antonio Sentì Darias, Ambassador of the Republic of Cuba to
Canada. They are guests of the Honourable Senator Ringuette.
On behalf of all senators, I welcome you to the Senate of Canada.
Hon. Senators: Hear, hear!
The Hon. the Speaker: Honourable senators, I wish to draw to your
attention the presence in the gallery of recent graduates from the Consortium
national de formation en santé. They are accompanied by the executive director
of the program, Jocelyne Lalonde.
On behalf of all honourable senators, I welcome you to the Senate of Canada.
The Hon. the Speaker: Honourable senators, I have the honour to table,
in both official languages, the May 2008 report of the Auditor General of
Canada, pursuant to section 7(5) of the Auditor General Act, as well as an
addendum, consisting of copies of environmental petitions received between July
1, 2007, and January 4, 2008.
Hon. Céline Hervieux-Payette (Leader of the Opposition): Honourable
senators, I give notice that, at the next sitting of the Senate, I will move:
Whereas Elections Canada is an independent and non-partisan body
mandated by Parliament to administer all aspects of federal elections;
Whereas Elections Canada carries out its mandate fairly, openly and
Whereas Elections Canada has an impeccable international reputation and
has been asked to provide electoral assistance in countries around the world
by, among others, the United Nations, the Organization for Security and
Cooperation in Europe, the Organization of American States, La Francophonie
and the Commonwealth;
Whereas since 1980 Elections Canada has organized some 400 international
development missions in 100 countries in response to such requests;
Whereas Elections Canada enjoys a national and international reputation
for excellence that is above reproach;
Whereas Canadians should be able to have confidence that the next federal
election will be administered freely, fairly and openly by Elections Canada;
That the Senate therefore express its full and unswerving confidence in
Elections Canada and the Commissioner of Canada Elections.
Hon. Wilbert J. Keon: Honourable senators, I give notice that, at the
next sitting of the Senate, I will move:
That, pursuant to rule 95(3)(a), the Standing Senate Committee on
Social Affairs, Science and Technology be authorized to sit on Tuesday, May
20, 2008 and Wednesday, May 21, 2008 in St. John's, Newfoundland, for the
purposes of its study of population health, even though the Senate may then
be adjourned for a period exceeding one week.
Hon. Jim Munson: Honourable senators, I have the honour to present a
petition from Jeremy Davis, a grade eight student at Westboro Academy in Ottawa,
praying for the passage of a petition to save the arts.
We, the undersigned, ask the Canadian Senate to remove from passage the
amendment in Bill C-10 the clause which allows the government to decide
which films made in Canada are eligible for tax credits. This is censorship
of the arts and cannot be tolerated. The government should promote the arts,
not stifle them.
Hon. Céline Hervieux-Payette (Leader of the Opposition): Honourable
senators, my question is for the Minister of Public Works and Government
Services. Ever since the Coordination of Access to Information Requests system
was created it has been the responsibility of the Minister of Public Works and
The Conservative government, which was elected on transparency and
accountability, is demonstrating once again, by discontinuing the CAIR database,
that its promises were nothing more than hollow electioneering. CAIR allows
every citizen to find out what information Canadians have obtained through the
Access to Information Act.
The government has justified this action by saying, through a government
The registry is being discontinued because it's not valued by government
The government does not seem to understand the purpose of the program it has
discontinued. It was never a question of whether this program was valued by the
government, at least not at the time when the bill was passed. This program was
created to be valued by Canadians, who ask that their government be transparent
Could the minister explain why his government is in the process of setting up
what could be called a state secret?
Hon. Marjory LeBreton (Leader of the Government and Secretary of State
(Seniors)): Honourable senators, I thank the honourable senator for her
question. This topic is the responsibility of the President of Treasury Board
and not the Minister of Public Works, as the honourable senator stated in her
The Coordination of Access to Information Request system, better known as
CAIR, was set up by the previous government in order to control and manage
access to information requests. It was set up in such a way as to bring all
access of the press to the desk of the Prime Minister, rather than let the
access to information system work properly.
If the honourable senator's party and government were such big supporters of
the system, why did they not keep it up to date? A 2004 survey showed that some
major departments never updated the information in that system, and many others
did only rarely. In 2004, the Liberals stopped sending out the information in
the CAIR system in searchable electronic files.
The fact is that we have expanded access to information to 70 additional
government institutions. Canadians can now see how their tax dollars are being
spent; witness the stories we are now seeing about the CBC and Canada Post, to
name just two.
Senator Hervieux-Payette: Honourable senators, if I am hearing the
Leader of the Government right, although she lacks conviction, we will have
access to everything in the Library of Parliament, but our research will be more
efficient if the information classification index is destroyed. That would leave
us looking at every book in the library before finding what we need for work,
research or information.
Can the minister tell us what good reason prompted her government to decide
to discontinue the CAIR system, which allowed for quick and efficient
consultation, in her words, without providing access to the basic information?
Senator LeBreton: Honourable senators, that information remains
available, and anyone who wishes to have it can simply ask for it.
To reiterate the point I made in my first answer, I will read a segment of an
article dated March 28, 1997, from the magazine Canadian Business Technology:
Former Defence Minister David Collenette resigned in October after an
access request turned up a letter he wrote that breached cabinet ethics
guidelines. With the CAIR system, any request involving a minister's conduct
is shipped to the Prime Minister's desk 'right away because he is
responsible for the ethical behaviour of his ministers,' says Mitchell
Sharpe, a close advisor to Jean Chrétien.
Mr. Chrétien was able to consult with his ethics counsellor, decide upon
Collenette's fate and choose a successor, all before the request was filled
and the media feeding frenzy began.
That was a convenient system that Mr. Chrétien set up, whereby access to
information requests were gathered in such a way as to give him, as the Prime
Minister, a head start on how to respond.
By contrast, under the Accountability Act, we have expanded access to
information. As I mentioned, 70 additional government institutions have been
added to the system, and Canadians can now see how their tax dollars are spent.
I believe it has been proven that there has been a great increase in the
number of requests for access to information. The last report we heard was that
many departments' grades had improved, according to the commissioner.
Hon. Francis Fox: Honourable senators, my question is for the Leader
of the Government in the Senate. The point at issue is the recent termination of
the registry by the government. As the minister knows, the Access to Information
Act was proclaimed 25 years ago this year. In a sense, this year is a
celebration of the Access to Information Act and the closure of the registry is
an odd way to mark the milestone.
The father of freedom of information legislation in our country was an
eminent Albertan Progressive Conservative member of Parliament, the Honourable
Gerald Baldwin. His efforts were rewarded by the introduction by the Clark
government of a bill that carried the title of Freedom of Information, which was
shepherded in the House by an eminent and respected Progressive Conservative
parliamentarian, the Honourable Walter Baker. It was reintroduced by the
successor government of Pierre Elliott Trudeau, adopted by Parliament and
proclaimed into law on July 1, 1983.
In 1989, the government of the Right Honourable Brian Mulroney greatly
enhanced the access legislation by introducing the same registry that was
terminated this week.
Would the minister and her colleague, the Minister of Public Works, ask their
colleagues to reconsider an action that will, as a matter of fact, greatly
reduce the legacy and efforts of successive governments and generations of
parliamentarians to strengthen, rather than weaken, a law that has well served
democratic life in Canada?
Senator LeBreton: I thank the honourable senator for his question. We
did not weaken access to information; we strengthened it. We will not, as was
done in the past, maintain elaborate and incomplete centralized control over
access to information that is expensive, bureaucratic and does little to improve
actual access to information.
Therefore, as I said in answer to the honourable senator's leader, all of the
information that was part of the CAIR system remains available to anyone who
asks for it. Some individuals have been requesting the contents of this internal
database and posting it on their own websites for public use. They can continue
to do this. All people have to do is ask for the information, as they always
have, and the information will be made available.
Senator Fox: Honourable senators, when the honourable member talks
about reducing costs or says that the efficiency of the system is still in
place, it is hard to understand how that argument can be made when, as a matter
of fact, the registry will no longer be updated.
My interpretation of the information that is available at the moment suggests
that precisely the opposite of what the leader is saying is more likely to be
true. The database allows researchers to determine whether the information they
seek has been requested by others and, if so, they need only request a copy of
what has already been prepared. Blinding researchers to that ensures that many
duplicate requests will be made and bureaucrats will needlessly be forced to
process each request as though it were brand new, rather than simply
photocopying what has already been prepared. I have trouble understanding how
doing away with this system increases efficiency and reduces costs.
Senator LeBreton: As I said earlier, the information was not up to
date under the Liberals. Many departments did not update their information for
over four years.
With regard to individual researchers, they simply have to ask if there has
already been an access request on any given subject, and the information will be
made available to them.
Senator Fox: Instead of saying departments have not supplied
information to the registry and that is the reason they are closing down the
registry, would it not be in the greater interest of access to information in
this country if the Treasury Board were to issue a directive to those
departments telling them that henceforth they shall supply the information that
is requested? That would be far more in keeping with the legacy of freedom of
information legislation in this country which was championed by people on both
sides of this house.
Senator LeBreton: Honourable senators, expanding the Access to
Information Act to include many more agencies has much more to do with providing
the public with access to information than with maintaining a registry that has
been proven to be counterproductive to access to information because it gave a
heads-up on requests or centralized control of information. I believe in the
system that we have put in place by adding 70 additional agencies to be eligible
for access to information.
I wish to point out that all of these access requests are handled by various
departments. It is an immense amount of work to update a registry with
information that has been proven not to have been used. If an individual really
wants to know if there has been an access to information request on a specific
subject, he or she can simply ask for that information. Multiple pages of a
registry are not necessary when either a simple phone call or a request via
computer to see if the question has been asked before will suffice.
Hon. James S. Cowan: Honourable senators, my question is for the
Leader of the Government in the Senate. Last week, Auditor General Sheila Fraser
set off a fire storm in the House of Commons Standing Committee on Public
Accounts when she said:
Recently, for example, there's a draft communication policy going around
that would have all communication strategies, all communications,
everything, go through Privy Council Office. Well, I can tell you there is
no way that my press releases about my report are going to go to Privy
Council Office or our communications strategies are going to be vetted by
Privy Council Office.
The next day in the House of Commons, Mr. Van Loan was asked to table the
draft communications policy to which the Auditor General had referred. The
government refused to do so.
In view of the fact that this government has earned a well-deserved
reputation for centralized control of the message, the leader will understand
why this assurance by Mr. Van Loan was received with some skepticism. Will the
leader clear the air once and for all by obtaining and tabling in this house the
draft communications policy so that Canadians can see, once and for all, what
this government is up to?
Hon. Marjory LeBreton (Leader of the Government and Secretary of State
(Seniors)): Honourable senators, I answered this question last week. My
answer remains the same: The government has never had any intention of requiring
independent agents of Parliament to make their communications known to the
government in any way, shape or form.
I do not have the exact news story, but I read somewhere that, following her
appearance before the committee, the Auditor General herself clarified this
Senator Cowan: Honourable senators, my question to the Leader of the
Government in the Senate is very simple. I repeat: Will the minister obtain and
table a copy of the draft communications policy in this house, yes or no?
Senator LeBreton: We do not have a draft communications policy for
officers of Parliament, and I cannot very well table something that does not
Senator Cowan: The question is not about whether it applies. We are
asking the leader to table the policy so that we can see it for ourselves.
Mr. Van Loan has given assurances in the past that have been somewhat less
than fulsome and forthcoming. Therefore, perhaps the best way to clear the air
would be to table a draft communications policy in this house. We can then see
for ourselves who is caught and who is not.
Senator LeBreton: The fact is that there is no draft communications
policy that applies to officers of Parliament. As I said a moment ago, I cannot
table something that does not exist.
I will be happy to look into what my colleague Mr. Van Loan, the Leader of
the Government in the House of Commons, said in the other place. I would like to
know to what he was referring. However, in terms of officers of Parliament,
there is no such directive.
Hon. Jean-Claude Rivest: Honourable senators, my question is for the
Leader of the Government in the Senate. Quebec's economic development minister,
Raymond Bachand, has publicly expressed disappointment with a decision made by
the federal minister responsible for regional economic development, Jean-Pierre
Blackburn, concerning Montreal International. Montreal International was and
still is a very important resource for the economic development of Quebec in
that it scouts out new investments and promotes the economic benefits of the
In recent months, although it is represented on the board of directors of
Montreal International, the Canadian government decided to cancel its financial
support for Montreal International. The minister said that this was because
Montreal International is a non-profit organization and the government decided
to award grants only to specific projects and not to advisory bodies.
Nevertheless, while there has been good cooperation between the Canadian
government and the Quebec government in many areas and on many files, this one
has turned out to be very disappointing.
Can the minister tell us whether the government plans on changing its
attitude to support Quebec's economy and, thus, Canada's economy?
Hon. Marjory LeBreton (Leader of the Government and Secretary of State
(Seniors)): I thank the honourable senator for his question. Minister
Blackburn has indicated that the government will continue to support economic
organizations, but we are supporting one-off projects and no longer providing
Montreal International has received $66 million from the Canada Economic
Development Agency over the past 10 years, and we expect Montreal International
to present the government with a transition plan. In two years, effective March
31, 2010, it is hoped that Montreal International will be self-sufficient and
able to draw support from the community. There is a transition period until
Although the government clearly sees projects such as this one as helping to
establish the economic development of organizations, it is not providing
recurring funding. The current funding is meant to get an organization up and
running and able to function on its own.
Senator Rivest: Could the minister, after consulting Mr. Blackburn,
bring to the Senate a list of the other organizations from across Canada that
have been affected by this Canadian government decision?
Senator LeBreton: I would be happy to find that information for the
Hon. Tommy Banks: Honourable senators, my question is for the Leader
of the Government in the Senate. I had planned on entirely different questions,
but some of the questions that have already been asked lead me to this one.
The minister's government has proclaimed that it is putting into place a new
era of transparency and accountability. That is what they have proclaimed, but
today we have heard that the government has shut down the Coordination of Access
to Information Requests System.
The week before last, we had the spectacle of government communications
people exiting down the fire escape of the Lord Elgin Hotel in order to go to
another hotel to try to have a press conference with selected members of the
The minister's government has shut down the Law Commission of Canada,
abolished the Court Challenges Program and is keeping Canadians from having
their proper constitutional representation in this place.
It has fired the head of the Wheat Board for doing his job, which was to act
at the behest of his board, and removed the head of the Canadian Nuclear Safety
Commission because she did her job.
How can the government still look in the mirror in the morning and say to
Canadians that you have anything to do with accountability, transparency or
Hon. Marjory LeBreton (Leader of the Government and Secretary of State
(Seniors)): Honourable senators, the honourable senator needs to be more
original with his questions; that is the same sort of question that Senator
Goldstein asked a couple of months ago.
First, information access requests are not handled by ministers or political
staff. The work is done by professionals in the public service. Second, the
number of requests for access to information has grown significantly. The
requests are up from less than 25,000 in 2005 to 30,000 in 2007. Finally, our
government is expanding coverage to more institutions and, in April, 2007, we
expanded access to information to cover the Canadian Wheat Board; agents of
Parliament, including the Office of the Auditor General; and five foundations.
Last September, seven additional Crown corporations were brought under the
Access to Information Act, including the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation and
Canada Post. Coverage was also extended to all wholly-owned subsidiaries of
In 2006-07, the Information Commissioner's annual report, which I referred to
a moment ago, found that nine institutions improved their grades under our
watch, with three moving all the way from an F grade to an A grade.
The fact of our party's dispute with Elections Canada is well-known.
However, it is a matter that is before the courts, and we will let the courts
The honourable senator talks about other programs. I have said this many
times, and I will repeat it again: Our government actually won the election. I
know some honourable senators have difficulty accepting that fact, but we won
the election to bring in our programs and to also deliver on programs that we
advocated in our election platform. We were not elected in January 2006 to carry
on with old, failed Liberal programs, despite how viable honourable senators
might have thought those programs were.
Senator Banks: Honourable senators, the Coordination of Access to
Information Requests System was introduced, as Senator Fox said, in the present
form by the government of Prime Minister Mulroney. It was not a failed program
or a Liberal program.
Hon. Tommy Banks: If the honourable senator checks the transcript, she
will find that no one today has asked her about the Access to Information Act.
We were asking about the registry.
I will revert to Senator Cowan's question. He did not ask whether the
honourable senator had tabled a document to do with a communications strategy
related to officers of Parliament; he asked if the honourable leader would table
a document that had to do with communications strategy — unequivocal and
unmodified. Will the honourable leader please do that?
Hon. Marjory LeBreton (Leader of the Government and Secretary of State
(Seniors)): Honourable senators, Senator Cowan started by asking about the
Auditor General, who is an officer of Parliament. Therefore, I was responding to
his question. It was based on the Auditor General's apparent testimony to a
committee in the other place, where there was clearly some misunderstanding of
information, and which the Auditor General has apparently corrected herself. I
was within my right to respond to the question about officers of Parliament,
since that was the question he asked me.
I will speak to the registry. The registry is a system whereby there can be
more — not less — control over the public's right to access to information. We
have expanded the Access to Information Act, as I have said. The registry was
costly and bureaucratic, and no one used it. If researchers and other people who
want to make an access to information request of the government without asking a
question that has already been asked, it is a simple matter for them to make
that inquiry. They will then be told whether or not that question has already
been accessed, and that that information is available.
I hasten to add that another honourable senator from Alberta, Senator
Mitchell, wanted to exclude the Wheat Board from the Access to Information Act.
Hon. Francis William Mahovlich: Honourable senators, I rise today to
inquire about a tragic event that took place last week in Northern Alberta. The
terrible incident made headlines across the country and indeed around the world.
It is an incident that I, like many others, feel was fully avoidable.
I am talking about the ducks that were stuck and that died after landing in a
toxic tailings pond north of Fort McMurray. Some 500 ducks landed in this pond
during their annual migration north, but only one of them survived.
This tragedy struck last Monday at the Aurora settling basin owned by
Syncrude. According to their website, the company uses audible noisemakers to
deter birds from landing on the ponds from spring until fall. However, due to
bad weather conditions, the deployment of the noisemakers was delayed.
I recall hearing about the snowstorm Alberta experienced recently, but I also
remember they had very mild temperatures for over a week at the beginning of
April. Surely the noisemakers could have been deployed at that time, especially
if the company was aware of the upcoming snowstorm.
Sadly, it seems that these 500 ducks were only a small number of the wildlife
that is being harmed by these toxic waste basins. Over the weekend, it was
reported that another eight birds, including three loons, had settled on a briny
pond belonging to another company's oil sands project in Northern Alberta.
Aboriginal leaders in Fort McMurray have called on the federal government to
launch an inquiry. Recently, the Government of Alberta announced that it will
not launch a public inquiry into this tragedy, but has stated that Syncrude
could be fined nearly $1 million if they did not have equipment in operation to
scare the birds away.
While I agree that the company should be penalized if it is proven they were
negligent in this event, it is my hope that everything possible will be done in
the future to prevent something like this from happening again. This tragedy is
a disgrace and has tainted both Alberta's and Canada's international image.
My question is for the Leader of the Government in the Senate. What role will
the federal government play in investigating this incident and in preventing
future ones from occurring?
Hon. Marjory LeBreton (Leader of the Government and Secretary of State
(Seniors)): Honourable senators, I thank Senator Mahovlich for the question.
As he knows, the Prime Minister happened to be in Alberta a few days after this
very sad incident, when he was attending the opening of the Mazankowski Heart
Institute. Both the Prime Minister and Minister Baird are obviously concerned
about this situation.
Officials from Environment Canada and the Canadian Wildlife Service are on
the scene to provide support. The Minister of the Environment has asked
officials of the Department of the Environment to take immediate action to
investigate this serious matter, including determining whether any laws were
broken. An investigation is currently moving forward.
Obviously, I agree with Senator Mahovlich that this was a very negative story
for Canada, the Province of Alberta and the oil industry. Having said that, the
oil sands are one of our greatest resources and we are taking measures to
develop more environmentally friendly ways to deal with emissions in the future.
Hon. Gerald J. Comeau (Deputy Leader of the Government): Honourable
senators, I have the honour to table two responses to oral questions, one raised
by Senator Murray on February 7, 2008, concerning natural resources, strategic
petroleum reserves; and one raised by Senator Goldstein on February 7, 2008,
concerning natural resources, strategic petroleum reserves.
(Response to question raised by Hon. Lowell Murray on February 7, 2008)
The Borden line, established in response to the Royal Commission on
Energy (Borden Commission), was created in order to create an additional
market for Western Canadian crude oil, not as a means to ensure a secure
supply of crude oil to Eastern Canada. All refiners west of the Ottawa
Valley were required to purchase crude oil from Western Canadian sources.
Quebec and Atlantic Canada still relied heavily on imported crude oil
following the initial construction. In the early 1970s, the pipeline from
Western Canada was extended to Montréal in response to growing concerns
about the accessibility of foreign crude oil. Decreasing concerns about the
security of foreign oil and a decline in production of Canadian conventional
crude oil resulted in the reversal of the Sarnia to Montréal portion of the
pipeline in the late 1990s.
(Response to question raised by Hon. Yoine Goldstein on February 7, 2008)
The issue of whether or not Canada should hold strategic oil reserves has
been discussed and analyzed frequently since the oil crises of the 1970s.
Each time, the issue arose in response to differing sets of circumstances.
In all situations, further analysis led to the conclusion that the cost of a
Strategic Petroleum Reserve outweighed the benefits for Canadians. Natural
Resources Canada undertook, as recently as March 2007, a full assessment of
Canada's need for a strategic crude oil reserve and a strategic heating oil
reserve in Atlantic Canada. Again, it was found that despite the region's
dependence on imported crude oil, there was no need for strategic reserves.
All refinery operations serving Atlantic Canada have efficient storage
and distribution systems and supply lines; moreover, they are net exporters
of heating fuel, serving mainly the United States Northeast market. This
provides not only a secure supply, but also adequate coverage in the event
of a disruption. Storage could be easily drawn down and distributed to most
major centres in a timely manner.
In the case of an international crisis affecting world supply of crude
oil, Canada's membership in the International Energy Agency provides the
flexibility to swap oil in the West for alternate imports in the East. While
Canada is not obligated to hold strategic reserves, under this agreement, it
is understood that if there was a shortage, countries holding reserves would
contribute to the world market thus freeing up imports that could be
diverted to regions such as Eastern Canada.
The Hon. the Speaker informed the Senate that a message has been
received from the House of Commons returning Bill S-215, An Act to protect
heritage lighthouses, and acquainting the Senate that they have passed this bill
with the following amendments, to which they desire the concurrence of the
Thursday, May 1, 2008
AMENDMENTS made by the House of Commons to Bill S-215, An Act to protect
1. Preamble, page 1: Add after line 15 the following:
"AND WHEREAS it is important to provide access to heritage
lighthouses in order for people to understand and appreciate the
contribution of those lighthouses to Canada's maritime heritage;"
2. Clause 2, page 2: Replace line 9 with the following:
"this Act, and includes any related building"
3. Clause 2, page 2: Replace lines 19 to 28 with the following:
""related building", in relation to a heritage lighthouse, means any
building on the site on which the lighthouse is situated that
contributes to the heritage character of the lighthouse."
4. Clause 6, page 3: Replace line 6 with the following:
"include any related building that the Min-"
5. Clause 7, page 3: Replace line 29 with the following:
"whether any related buildings should be"
6. Clause 11, page 4: Replace line 19 with the following:
"lated building should be included in the des-"
7. Clause 16, page 5: Replace line 23 with the following:
"house and whether any related building"
Clerk of the House of Commons
On motion of Senator Murray, message placed on the Orders of the Day for
consideration at the next sitting of the Senate.
Hon. Terry M. Mercer: Honourable senators have known for some time the
disdain that Senator Fortier has for this place, for members of the Liberal
caucus and for his own caucus members. However, I do not think that honourable
senators need stand for the fact that he constantly shows disdain and disrespect
for the chair of this chamber. Again today, Senator Fortier rose from his seat
and left the chamber. I draw the attention of honourable senators to rule 19(2)
of the Rules of the Senate under the heading, "Demeanour of Senators in
Chamber," which states:
When entering, leaving or crossing the Senate Chamber, Senators shall bow
to the Chair, symbol of the authority of the Senate. . . .
I would ask His Honour to speak to the honourable senator. I do not care that
the honourable senator does not like me or my colleagues or his own colleagues,
but I do care that he continues to show disrespect for His Honour.
Some Hon. Senators: Hear, hear!
Hon. Gerald J. Comeau (Deputy Leader of the Government): Honourable
senators, this is not a point of order.
The Hon. the Speaker: Honourable senators, I will take the matter
under review and report back expeditiously.
Resuming debate on the motion of the Honourable Senator Murray, P.C., for
the Honourable Senator Carney, P.C., seconded by the Honourable Senator Day,
for the second reading of Bill S-217, An Act to amend the International
Boundary Waters Treaty Act (bulk water removal).—(Honourable Senator
Hon. Pierre Claude Nolin: Honourable senators, Bill S-217 may be
short, but it is nonetheless very important because it seeks to amend an act
concerning a treaty. Given that I have not completed my research, I ask that the
debate be adjourned in my name for the remainder of my time.
The Hon. the Speaker: Senator Murray asked a question regarding
procedure with respect to this item, as it has reached its fourteenth day on the
Order Paper and Notice Paper. Senator Nolin said he would like to finish his
This item will be at the fifteenth day if Senator Nolin begins debate for a
certain period and wishes to continue for the time remaining to him. Is that
indeed what Senator Nolin is proposing?
Senator Nolin: Your Honour, I ask that the debate be adjourned in my
name for the remainder of my time.
The Hon. the Speaker: Except that we must begin the debate. Senator
Murray asked a question about this item and there was an answer to his question.
That means that, if Senator Nolin is proposing that the debate be adjourned,
tomorrow will be the fifteenth day. However, if the senator wishes to begin the
debate and propose the adjournment afterwards, that is another matter.
Senator Nolin: I will explain to all honourable senators where I am in
my own reflections. The bill aims to amend the International Boundary Waters
Treaty Act. The text of the act already prohibits the diversion or removal of
waters from Canadian water basins. Furthermore, the text already prohibits
removing water and taking it outside the water basin in which the boundary
waters are located.
I have not yet found an answer to the question of how the proposed amendment
would alter this prohibition to the point of distorting it. That is the point I
have reached. For this reason I am asking that the debate be adjourned in my
name and that I be allowed to continue later.
The Hon. the Speaker: Is it your pleasure, honourable senators, to
adopt the motion?
Hon. Claudette Tardif (Deputy Leader of the Opposition) moved third
reading of Bill C-292, An Act to implement the Kelowna Accord.—(Honourable
Senator St. Germain, P.C.)
She said: Honourable senators, it is common knowledge that this bill was
introduced by the Right Honourable Paul Martin during the last session of 2006.
However, the bill died on the Order Paper, while under consideration by the
Senate committee, when the Conservative government prorogued Parliament in 2007.
The bill was reinstated in October 2007 and was thoroughly examined by the
Standing Senate Committee on Aboriginal Peoples. The committee reported the bill
in the Senate without amendment. During the committee's consideration of the
bill, the chair, Senator St. Germain, stated:
This committee has worked historically in a non-partisan fashion in
trying to accomplish the goals of improving the plight of First Nations in
this country. There is no reason why we cannot continue along those lines.
Canadian Aboriginal peoples view Bill C-292 as an optimistic step in the
right direction. We hope that this vital measure will pass through third reading
as quickly as possible.
On motion of Senator Comeau, for Senator St. Germain, debate adjourned.
Resuming debate on the inquiry of the Honourable Senator Hubley, calling
the attention of the Senate to questions concerning post-secondary education
in Canada. —(Honourable Senator Tardif)
Hon. Vivienne Poy: Honourable senators, this inquiry stands in the
name of Senator Tardif, and Senator Cowan will be speaking on this inquiry
following my remarks today. Thereafter, I would request that the inquiry
continue to stand in the name of Senator Tardif following Senator Cowan's
The Hon. the Speaker pro tempore: Is that agreed,
Hon. Senators: Agreed.
Senator Poy: Honourable senators, I rise today to speak on Senator
Hubley's inquiry on post-secondary education, on the occasion of the tenth
anniversary of the release of the Special Senate Report on Post-Secondary
Education. As Senator Hubley has emphasized, many of the issues and concerns
highlighted by that committee a decade ago are still relevant today from what we
have heard from the post-secondary students who visited many of our offices over
the past few months.
Post-secondary education is a priority because it is fundamentally linked to
Canada's future. There are three interconnected issues on which I would like to
speak. They are affordability, attracting international students and developing
In March 2007, the Council of Ministers of Education, Canada, CMEC, an
intergovernmental body founded in 1967 by the ministers of education from all
provinces and territories, which deals with pan-Canadian education issues, wrote
to the Minister of Human Resources and Social Development, the Honourable Monte
Solberg, indicating that post-secondary education is at a critical juncture. In
that letter, the council claimed that federal cash transfers for post-secondary
education are lower today than they were in 1994-95.
During the last decade, as funding declined, we have also seen a steady
increase in student enrolment in post-secondary education. As Senator Hubley
stressed, post-secondary education has become a requirement for employment in
the workplace. The result is that the institutions are stretched to their
capacity and beyond, students are mired in debt, and the cost of tuition is
climbing exponentially. This situation is not sustainable.
I do not want to suggest that the picture is entirely bleak. Since the late
1990s, there has been some reinvestment in education, most notably the creation
of the Canadian Foundation for Innovation and the funding for the Canada
Research Chairs Program.
These two very successful initiatives did much to spur innovation in our
universities and attracted top researchers to Canada.
In addition, the Millennium Scholarship Foundation provided support for needy
students. The endowment for the foundation was set to expire by the end of next
year, and I am happy to note that the Canada Student Grant Program has been
announced in Budget 2008 to replace this funding.
However, despite the renewed investment, the essential finding of the Council
of Ministers of Education in Canada in its 2007 report is unchanged that Canada
is less affordable than all 11 European countries except Italy and the United
Kingdom. The report also found that, as post-secondary education has become less
affordable, the burden of the cost of education has shifted steadily on to the
shoulders of parents and their children. I am sure that if one was to ask any
student in Canada they would say that they are graduating with a mountain of
debt as they enter the workforce.
Although federal funding is increasing for post-secondary education, the
amount is not dedicated to post-secondary education and there is no way to
ensure that funding intended for post-secondary education is not diverted to
other provincial priorities. If post-secondary education is to be a priority,
its federal transfer must be dedicated funding with accountability built into
Another avenue for increasing the revenues of post-secondary institutions is
that of international students. Indeed, international students can do much more
than provide a source of additional revenues through their differential
tuitions; they also help to build long-term links to other global institutions
and provide Canadian-born students with an opportunity to learn from other
As a result of the benefits to be gained from internationalizing campuses,
there has been a worldwide effort to attract international students.
Unfortunately, Canada has fallen behind the U.S., the U.K., Australia, France
and Germany in the number of international students it attracts.
Ten years ago, the report of the Special Senate Committee on Post-Secondary
Education recommended that Canada create a national strategy to attract
international students. Regrettably, Canada did not develop such a strategy.
Australia, which has made a major effort in this regard over the last decade,
now has more international students per capita than the U.S. We are lagging
behind in this area and that is a great loss to our students, institutions and
economy, which can only benefit from attracting the best and brightest from
around the world.
Finally, perhaps the most important reason that we must focus on
post-secondary education is that the entrepreneurial nations of the world have
moved beyond dependence on natural resources to emphasize innovation and build
international knowledge economies. Canada has fallen far behind. For Canadians
to be referred to as "Mexicans with sweaters" in the book by Andrea
Mandel-Campbell, Why Mexicans Don't Drink Molson, is very disturbing.
Honourable senators, our colleges and universities are research centres that
will spur our competitive advantage. They train our labour force and are
breeding grounds for innovation.
Consider the case of Jim Balsillie, the chairman and co-CEO at Research In
Motion and a graduate from a commerce program at the University of Toronto. He
invented the BlackBerry, which many cannot do without. His vision has changed
the way we do business and conduct our daily lives. Incidentally, Mike
Lazaridis, president and co-CEO of Research In Motion, illustrates the need to
attract the best and brightest from around the world. He came to Canada from
Turkey and studied at the University of Waterloo. Needless to say, he has made a
great contribution to this country and the world. Together, they have built one
of the most successful Canadian international corporations.
In a time when innovation is most needed to tackle our global problems,
higher education is the most important key to our future as a nation. Honourable
senators, I do not see enough of a long-term, sustained commitment to research
in universities. We need a strategy to spur innovation and that is why I support
the call of the Canadian Council on Learning for a national framework to set
goals and measure progress.
The recent report of the Conference Board of Canada ranks Canada's
performance in innovation at 14 out of 17 OECD countries. In terms of research
and development investment, we rate twelfth among those same countries. In fact,
our rates of investment in R&D have actually declined between 2001 and 2005.
Honourable senators, post-secondary education is the tool that Canada can use
to transform our society and to help meet future challenges. We cannot afford
the luxury of being complacent with our abundant, though non-renewable, natural
resources. We live in a competitive world and the knowledge economy is our
Sir Wilfrid Laurier said in 1902:
No, this is not a time for deliberation, this is a time for action. The
flood-tide is upon us that leads on to fortune, if we let it pass, it may
never recur again. . . .
Hon. James S. Cowan: Honourable senators, I congratulate Senator
Hubley for her initiative in launching this inquiry into the status of higher
education in Canada and commend all who have made thoughtful interventions in
the debate. Post-secondary education has been a long-standing interest of mine,
and I wish to take a few minutes this afternoon to contribute to the discussion.
Canada has a world-class education system composed of universities, community
colleges and polytechnic institutions. Ensuring access to the system by all
qualified students, regardless of their personal financial circumstances, should
be a national objective. Ensuring the quality of the system is a complementary
and equally important objective. Financing higher education in Canada, or in any
country for that matter, is a cooperative venture involving post-secondary
educational institutions, governments, private benefactors, students and, in
many cases, as Senator Poy pointed out, their families.
Each of these partners has an important role to play in ensuring
accessibility to and sustainability of that system. Achieving a proper level of
financial support and balance amongst the contributors of that support is
critical to achieving the twin goals of accessibility and sustainability.
Institutions play their part by providing scholarships, prizes and employment to
students. Governments support institutions by direct grants for operating
expenses and for research and through various tax measures, such as registered
education savings plans.
The private sector is an increasingly important source of financial support.
Most universities and colleges are aggressively and successfully attracting such
philanthropic support, and students obviously support the system through their
payment of tuition fees.
Private philanthropy has always played a major role in the financing of
Canada's education system and has increasingly become a focus of our
universities and colleges. As one of Canada's leading fundraising consultants,
Ketchum Canada Inc. has recently noted the fundraising environment in Canada is
characterized by two key factors:
On the one hand, there is substantially more competition. On the other
hand, interest and awareness in philanthropy and its impact on non-profit
organizations continues to grow.
According to most recently available statistics from the Canada Revenue
Agency, there are almost 83,000 registered charities in Canada, and another
80,000 non-profit organizations without registered charity status.
In the spring of 2007, Ketchum estimated that there were more than 160 major
fundraising campaigns under way in Canada, with total financial goals of almost
$10 billion. The good news is that charitable giving in Canada rose by more than
13 per cent in 2004-05, to about $10.7 billion. Individual Canadians account for
approximately 75 per cent of donations to Canadian charities.
While these trends are encouraging, they are but one part of the financial
puzzle that is our post-secondary education system. Despite strong support from
governments and benefactors, higher education remains beyond the means of many
Senator Goldstein has drawn our attention to the staggering levels of student
debt, which are the inevitable result of the escalating costs of obtaining
post-secondary education in Canada. As he pointed out during his October 23,
2007, speech on Bill S-205:
. . . the cost of post-secondary education in Canada has risen
dramatically over the past two decades, with the average annual cost of
undergraduate tuition jumping by more than 100 per cent, from $1,800 in
1989-90 to over $4,000 in 2003-04. A similar jump was seen at the college
level, with the average tuition in provinces other than Quebec more than
doubling, from $1,000 to over $2,000, during the same period. However, it
was professional schools that experienced the most dramatic tuition hikes,
with the cost of medical school in Ontario, for example, skyrocketing 500
per cent, from under $3,000 in 1989-90 to roughly $15,000 in 2003-04. For
many families, indeed most families, these costs are prohibitive, and
students are forced to borrow money if they wish to attend college or
Not surprisingly, rising tuition costs have also been accompanied by
growing levels of student debt. Many students are borrowing more money to
finance their post-secondary education. From 1990 to 2006, the proportion
of Canadian undergraduates with debt at graduation rose from 45 per cent to
59 per cent, and the average debt load for undergraduates with loans more
than doubled, from $11,600 to over $24,000. In 2003-04, government student
loans were the second largest source of funding for post-secondary students,
covering approximately 19 per cent of their costs. In 2005-06, the Canada
Student Loans Program loaned roughly $1.9 billion to 350,000 post-secondary
students. Its total outstanding loan portfolio in that year was $8.2 billion
owed by 990,000 current and former students.
Despite these concerns about rising tuition fees and student debt, it must be
recognized that tuition fees obviously pay only a portion of the cost of
providing academic programs to students. On average, at my own University of
Dalhousie, for example, tuition revenue per full-time equivalent student
constitutes 40.3 per cent of the direct and indirect costs of academic
programming. The percentage ranges from 18.6 per cent in dentistry to 72.3 per
cent in arts and social sciences.
While tuition fees at Dalhousie — and indeed at most Nova Scotia universities
— are amongst the highest in Canada for most programs, provincial grants from
the Government of Nova Scotia on a per student basis are amongst the lowest in
Canada, although such grants are amongst the highest on a per capita basis. This
is so because only 48 per cent of students attending Dalhousie University come
from Nova Scotia. The remaining 52 per cent come from the rest of Canada and
around the world.
In Nova Scotia, as in most other jurisdictions, there has been great pressure
on government to reduce, or at least cap, tuition fee increases. To the extent
that government grants rise as an offset to reduce tuition revenue, there is no
net gain to the total funding for the university. To the extent that tuition
revenue is frozen or reduced, the burden to fund increased operating costs is
shifted entirely to the provincial operating entity.
Most Canadian universities were essentially private institutions relying on
tuition fees and philanthropy until the mid-20th century, when government began
to play a more active role in the financing of post-secondary education in this
In my own province of Nova Scotia, by 1990-91, 73 per cent of the operating
revenues of Nova Scotia universities were provided by the Government of Nova
Scotia. By 2004-05, that percentage had dropped to 40.7 per cent.
Canadian universities are caught in a severe financial squeeze. On the one
hand, as I have said, they face increasing and understandable pressure from
students and government alike to control costs and reduce tuition fees, while on
the other hand they are struggling to ensure that they can continue to attract
and retain world class faculty and support staff, all at a time when they need
to expand and maintain the quality of their physical plant — not just building
new facilities, but maintaining existing infrastructure.
In 2000, the Canadian Association of University Business Officers, CAUBO,
estimated that collectively Canadian universities had a staggering $3.6 billion
worth of deferred maintenance. One can only imagine that the number is even
higher today. At Dalhousie alone, the most recent estimate of the deferred
maintenance millstone was $235 million.
Best practice would suggest a standard annual expenditure on facilities
maintenance of 2 per cent of the value of an institution's fixed assets. Most
Canadian universities, including Dalhousie, are spending less than 1 per cent on
such maintenance. As a result, they are falling further behind with each passing
year. The problem is getting worse, not better. Our colleague Senator Moore has
more than once drawn the attention of the Senate to this pressing issue of
Despite all of these pressures, Canadian universities do their utmost to
provide assistance to their students. In 2004-05, Canadian universities spent
4.3 per cent of their total revenues on student scholarships, bursaries and
prizes. Dalhousie spent 8.6 per cent of its total revenue, or 43 per cent of its
total tuition revenue, on scholarships, bursaries, prizes and student
employment. At Dalhousie in 2005-06, 28.4 per cent of the total student
population received some form of student financial assistance, such as
scholarships, bursaries and/or employment.
Many Canadian universities, as Senator Poy pointed out to us, are
contributing to society by carrying out world-class research. Such research
projects are generously supported by provincial and federal governments, their
funding agencies and by the private sector, yet even these welcome research
activities come at a cost to the universities. It is estimated that the indirect
costs of research run at approximately 40 per cent. The federal government, by
far the largest funder of research in this country, funds such indirect costs at
a rate of only 25 per cent. The recent budget proposed a modest increase in the
level of this support.
Honourable senators, it was not my intention this afternoon to propose any
solutions to the challenges facing Canadian post-secondary educational
institutions and those who will support, attend or wish to attend such
institutions. My purpose is to celebrate the national treasure that is our
system of universities, community colleges and polytechnical institutions, and
to draw attention to the twin challenges of ensuring and enhancing the quality
of the system itself while striving to ensure access to that system by all
qualified students, regardless of their personal financial circumstances.
Honourable senators, a highly skilled and educated workforce is of critical
importance to the future economic growth and prosperity of our country. Surely
there can be no higher priority than the education of our young people. Our
colleague Senator Goldstein expressed it very well in the speech I referred to a
few moments ago when he said the following:
Canada's competitiveness in a global economy depends in large measure on
the knowledge and skills of its citizens, especially given the growing
importance of advanced technology. A highly trained workforce is also needed
to raise Canada's productivity, to drive innovation and to attract foreign
investment. Accessible, high-quality education is essential to ensuring that
Canada has a skilled and innovative workforce required to remain
economically competitive and socially progressive in the 21st century. An
educated workforce benefits the Canadian economy and Canadian society as a
Honourable senators, why should Canada not aspire to be a nation that ensures
that post-secondary education in a properly financed post-secondary education
system is available and affordable to all qualified students without regard to
their personal financial circumstances?
Hon. Michael A. Meighen: Would the honourable senator accept a
Senator Cowan: By all means.
Senator Meighen: First, I congratulate the honourable senator on an
excellent speech. There is great food for thought there. I am sorry the
honourable senator did not propose solutions, because I think many of us are
searching for those solutions.
I wonder if the honourable senator has the same information I received and
whether he has any comment on it. I have been told that in Nova Scotia the fees
are the highest per capita in the land. However, more important, and
notwithstanding that, attendance at post-secondary universities in Nova Scotia
is the highest in the land. The converse of that is that in Quebec, my province
of birth, the fees are the lowest in the land and so is the per capita
attendance at university.
Does Senator Cowan have any explanation for that apparent contradiction?
Senator Cowan: I thank the honourable senator for his question. I have
had the same discussion with students at Dalhousie University who regularly
complain to the board about the effect of raising tuition fees. What I have
heard is exactly what the honourable senator has said, that tuition fees in
Quebec are the lowest in the country and, if not the highest, amongst the
highest, in Nova Scotia. Yet, more and more students continue to apply to Nova
Scotia universities and participation is at least as high in Nova Scotia as it
is elsewhere. High tuition fees do not seem to deter people from attending
university, and low fees do not ensure a greater percentage of young people will
attend university. That is certainly my understanding.
The Hon. the Speaker pro tempore: Is the Honourable
Senator Cowan asking for more time?
Senator Cowan: I would be happy to continue the discussion if Senator
The Hon. the Speaker pro tempore: Five more minutes.
Senator Meighen: I am always struck by the fact that, given what the
honourable senator just said, in the United States, admittedly primarily in the
private universities there, the fees are, by our standards, astronomical; mind
you, so are the endowments. Therefore, most students who have the intellectual
capacity to attend but not the financial wherewithal are not deterred or
prevented from attending.
Does Senator Cowan have any bias as to where the solution might possibly lie?
Is it in keeping tuition fees extremely low, perhaps extraordinarily low in this
country, or is it in augmenting the financial aid that is available to students
who have the intellectual capacity but not the finances to attend?
Senator Cowan: My bias is in favour of the latter. I think that either
artificially freezing tuition fees or lowering tuition fees, by itself, would
not solve the problem. The way to deal, at least in part, with this issue of
accessibility is to provide more money to allow the tuition fees to rise and to
allocate a greater share of that money in supporting students who need
There are many students who are fortunate enough to be able, through their
own or family resources, to attend university, regardless of what the tuition
fees are. It does not seem sensible to me to artificially depress the tuition
fees that students pay, so I would like to see those fees allowed to rise and to
use that money to support those students who cannot otherwise attend.
Hon. Serge Joyal: Would the honourable senator accept a question?
Senator Cowan: Absolutely.
Senator Joyal: I have been led into this debate by the comments made
by our colleague Senator Meighen on the attendance at universities in Quebec.
Are honourable senators not aware that although the statistics on attendance
at the university level in Quebec are rather low compared to the average in
Canada, it is in the province of Quebec where the number of Ph.D.s is the
highest in Canada? Therefore, what we do not have in quantity, we have in
I say that with the greatest respect for Senator Meighen. I know that Senator
Meighen has spent a significant amount of time and energy supporting the
university community in Canada, and I have great respect and admiration for his
However, honourable senators, to understand the picture of university
attendance, rather than just looking at the university spectrum we must look
into the secondary level of education. The problem in Quebec — and my colleague
Senator Nolin is well aware of this — essentially lies with the dropout rate at
the secondary level. The numbers are astounding. In some regions of the
province, the dropout rate in secondary school is over 45 per cent, which is
close to half. In the Montreal region, I believe the dropout rate is 40 per
cent. In the Eastern Township region, which the honourable senator knows well,
the dropout rate is 47 per cent.
If one is to understand the plight of the university community, we must look
at the overall condition of the education system in a province in order to
arrive at a fair conclusion about the performance of the university.
Senator Cowan: I absolutely agree. Those are helpful comments.
By way of additional comment, I was pleased to hear Senator Callbeck propose
a reference the other day to our Standing Senate Committee on Social Affairs,
Science and Technology for a study — 10 years after the Bonnell report — on the
state of post-secondary education. I would certainly support using that study
as a vehicle to explore the very kinds of things that Senator Joyal and Senator
Meighen have brought to our attention this afternoon.
Leave having been given to revert to Other Business, Reports of Committees,
Item No. 5:
The Senate proceeded to consideration of the sixteenth report (interim) of
the Standing Senate Committee on Social Affairs, Science and Technology,
entitled: Mobilizing Science and Technology to Canada's Advantage.—(Honourable
Senator Eggleton, P.C.)
Hon. Art Eggleton moved the adoption of the report.
He said: Honourable senators, I wish to speak to the sixteenth report of the
Standing Senate Committee on Social Affairs, Science and Technology. As
honourable senators know, it is the mandate of our committee to examine issues
relating to science and technology, S&T, which includes the federal government's
new Science and Technology Strategy. In an increasingly knowledge-based economy,
it has become ever more important that Canada remains a substantial competitor
through strong commitments to science, research and development. The strength of
our power to research and innovate will ultimately determine our ability to
achieve and retain a reputation of being a world leader in science and
Witnesses at the committee included the Minister of Industry, as well as
other representatives from industry, higher education and government. All spoke
favourably about the new Science and Technology Strategy. The committee had a
favourable impression. I was rather surprised, therefore, by the opening
comments today from the Honourable Senator LeBreton with respect to the release
of this document. I believe this document is saying, "Okay, you have a science
and technology strategy. We like what we hear, but we would like to make some
suggestions on the basis of some of the representations that we have heard so
that we can help you in strengthening the policy."
Honourable senators, I want to assure the Leader of the Government in the
Senate that we do applaud the work of the government in this respect and have a
few additional suggestions to add.
I would like to go through the 12 recommendations briefly to illustrate that.
Recommendation No. 1 points out that the government has adopted four areas of
priority to stress research. They are environmental science and technology,
natural resources and energy, health and related life sciences and information
communications technology. That is fine; it is good to set priorities. However,
we are also saying that they should not limit additional funding in the S&T
envelope to just those four categories. There is basic research and other types
of research that are quite valuable to this country. For example, the Canadarm 2
and Dextre, which is used on the international space station, demonstrate
outstanding research and development, R&D, in robotics. The chemistry research
done by Nobel Prize winner John Polanyi is another example. Neither of these
examples would have qualified if just those four envelopes had been funded.
Basic research leads to those types of achievements in our country, and we
should not forget them. We are simply saying: Have priorities but do not forget
the other types of research as well.
Recommendation No. 2 deals with venture capital funding. We were told by many
witnesses that venture capital funding is a big problem in Canada. They get the
discoveries and a product, but they cannot get it to market, nor can they get
the venture capital. Frequently, they must go south of the border to get that
venture capital, which takes it out of Canadian hands in many cases. Therefore,
we are pointing out the need for further focus in that area.
In Recommendation No. 3 we deal with the Science Research and Experimental
Development Tax Credit, which is the biggest government program at this point in
time to assist the research and development community. However, when they set up
this program in 1985, they only placed a $2-million limit on it in terms of
qualified expenditures. Between 1985 and now, there has been a huge change in
inflation, and the industry, Biotech Canada amongst them, a representative group
of a number in the science industry, has asked that it be raised to $10 million,
which is more realistic with the type of qualified expenditures that would
relate to carrying out research and development in Canada today.
Recommendation No. 4 is that the restriction limiting the 35 per cent credit
to Canadian-controlled private corporations be lifted as long as foreign
companies perform their R&D activities in Canada. We believe this is a useful
add-on to the government's strategy because, right now, if a company, in its
quest to get venture capital, for example, ends up going south of the border and
is no longer being controlled in Canada, it does not qualify. The research tax
credit is cut off, even if the research is being done here in the country. Most
important, the research should be carried out in Canada. As long as it is in
Canada, it should qualify. Companies should not be disqualified because they go
outside of the country to get additional funding and may lose status as a
Canadian corporation. The point of this recommendation is to ensure that the
research is done here.
Recommendation No. 5 suggests a need for clarification and standardization of
intellectual property regimes. The Bayh-Dole Act in the United States has helped
to do that; maybe we need something similar here. Again, we are saying that we
need to have a look at that.
In Recommendation No. 6, we talk about indirect costs of research, for
example, operating and maintaining research laboratories, complying with safety
requirements and managing intellectual property. These adjuncts to the main
research grants are allowable up to 25 per cent. The industry, academics and
others are saying that is not a realistic level. In the United States, it is
around 50 per cent. That level should be raised to 40 per cent to help our
researchers be more competitive in terms of dealing with those types of indirect
Recommendation No. 7 and Recommendation No. 8 deal with the people advantage,
which, again, was part of the report, both to help encourage students in the
Canadian context and also foreign students, for example, foreign students
running into credential problems. We have heard about that problem before in
many other areas of endeavour and believe this needs a little more attention if
we are to ensure the type of people graduating from our institutions can help
carry out research and development in the future.
Recommendation No. 9 is that the Government of Canada ensure that the
products of federally funded research and development activities, including
intellectual property, are used for the long-term benefits of Canadians. These
safeguards for Canadians should remain in place, even if the company receiving
the federal research funds moves into foreign ownership. This directly relates
to the tenth recommendation.
In Recommendation No. 10, we are asking the Minister of Industry, using
discretion under the Investment Canada Act, to block the sale of MacDonald,
Dettwiler and Associates Limited to Alliant Techsystems so that the ownership of
RADARSAT-2 remains in Canada. We put that recommendation together when the
minister still had the matter under consideration. Since then, he has announced
that it was his intention to stop this sale of MacDonald, Dettwiler and
Associates Limited, and we applaud the minister for that. We leave the
recommendation unchanged because there is still a final decision to come with
respect to that matter. We trust that final decision will continue in the line
that the minister has already indicated.
Recommendation No. 9 is the general principle, and Recommendation No. 10 is
specific to the RADARSAT 2 investments by the federal government.
Recommendation No. 11 asks that the Government of Canada recognize that
social scientists are an integral component of scientific discovery and increase
funding for social science research. Unfortunately, it seems to have been left
out here. The humanities and social sciences are an important, integral
component of each of the four areas that have been identified in the strategy,
yet they have not been incorporated in a noticeable way at all. We are
suggesting that social sciences need to be part of that.
Finally, there is Recommendation No. 12. A number of my colleagues were
concerned about the low representation of Atlantic Canada in the distribution of
the Network Centres for Excellence, and we are asking that further consideration
be given to more balance with respect to Atlantic Canada.
Honourable senators, when Mr. Prentice appeared before the committee, he made
it clear: Countries that invest aggressively in innovation have high standards
of living and high quality of life. The government's Mobilizing Science and
Technology strategy is an essential part of our future as a nation. This new S&T
strategy has the promise of making a significant contribution to Canadian
society as a whole, and its implementation should be considered a priority.
With this report, our committee hopes to highlight how this strategy can be
the most effective and make the greatest impact on both the scientific community
and our nation's position in the global knowledge economy.
Honourable senators, this report is submitted as the sixteenth report of our
Resuming debate on the motion of the Honourable Senator Meighen, seconded
by the Honourable Senator Johnson:
That the Senate urge the Government of Canada to take appropriate steps
to end the long and unjust delay in recognition of Bomber Command service
and sacrifice by Canadians in the liberation of Europe during the Second
World War.—(Honourable Senator Stratton)
Hon. Hugh Segal: Honourable senators, I rise today to speak in support
of our colleague Senator Meighen's motion that you see before you, that the
Government of Canada take appropriate steps to end the long and unjust delay in
recognition of Bomber Command service and sacrifice by Canadians in the
liberation of Europe during the Second World War.
I reference Senator Meighen's numbers from his own speech in this place:
18,000 Canadians participated in Bomber Command, and nearly 10,000 of them lost
their lives, including 91 Women's Auxiliary Air Force members.
It is in the very nature of war that normal, hardworking and decent people
are called upon to do extraordinary things that do not, in peacetime, seem
normal. The Canadian airmen who served in Bomber Command experienced casualty
levels unparalleled in other aspects of the armed services. These were normal,
hardworking and decent people who did extraordinary things.
There is a small chart in the Cabinet war rooms underneath Whitehall that
shows how deaths and bomb weights increased in London when the Nazis resorted to
the "buzzbombs" or rocket-powered ordnance that landed on civilian London
neighbourhoods. These were notoriously inaccurate, and without the telltale
warning time of Luftwaffe bombing runs. They were also especially deadly and
caused thousands of casualties.
We live today in a time when every single Canadian military tragic casualty
or death is a cause for pause, and broadly both mourned and reflected upon, as
it should be. It is hard to think about a time when soldiers and civilians on
both sides died in the hundreds and thousands, or in one battle on one day, on
one beach, such as Dieppe, where more Canadians would perish in the service of
freedom than we have lost over six years in Afghanistan. But those were the
times then — when hundreds would perish nightly under Luftwaffe raids on
I much prefer our times, and feel fortunate that my generation gets to live
in our times as opposed to those of 1914-18 or 1939-45, but I have no illusions
about how we got here. It was because of the Commonwealth flyers and navigators,
air crew and maintenance teams and, yes, bombardiers of Bomber Command,
including the Canadians who served and their commitment not to shirk from the
difficult but vital task. Sir Winston Churchill wrote to Sir Arthur Travers "Bomber" Harris to thank him for the remarkable job and huge risks his crews
took on behalf of king and country, a letter I have asked to have posted
prominently next to the exhibit on Bomber Command's activities.
It would have been better had the nature of German leadership at the time not
been a fanatical, racist and nationalist socialist cult, unable to sue for an
honourable peace when it was clear that stalemate at best, and defeat most
probably, lay ahead for them. Another German government more reflective of the
civility and equilibrium of German history might have so engaged, but that did
not happen. Taking the war to Germany was the only way to end the war. Taking
the war to Germany, in one of those ironical insanities that war produces, was
the only way to achieve peace and save lives.
I would like to take a moment today to congratulate Senator Day and his
colleagues on the Subcommittee on Veterans Affairs for the work that they did in
brokering a rational and balanced sort-through on the Bomber Command exhibit
itself without violating curatorial independence, essential to any museum's
reputation and integrity, or deserting our obligation to the aircrews, flyers
and service people who served our country at great risk and huge loss in a vital
action without which the war would have continued for many months and years,
killing many more thousands on both sides.
The Canadians who served deserve a medal for their bravery and the vital
nature of the campaign from our own government and the Chancery of Awards at
Government House, Rideau Hall. They were our young Canadians whose service,
death, survival and mission symbolized who we have always been when the choices
are few and survival of freedom itself is at stake. There is no ideology here.
There is no embrace or affection for the calamities and brutality of war. There
is no relish that German civilians perished in the process.
There is, however, a realization that had the Nazis been victorious, Europe
and the British Isles, large parts of North Africa and the Middle East would
have been under Nazi German hegemony. While the new world would have fought on,
even with the brave and determined support of our Russian allies, we would have
faced an Axis power to our West and a unified Nazi Europe across the Atlantic.
Concentration camps would have expanded. Political repression would have
deepened. A racist view of the world would have become the reality for tens of
millions under the Nazi jackboot. Our task, with our American and Australian
Allies, would have been immeasurably harder.
Canadians who served at Dieppe, who fought up the spine of Italy, who landed
at Juno or who braved the cold Atlantic to resupply the war effort and the
engine of democracy which the United Kingdom became against the Nazi onslaught,
or who liberated France, Holland and Belgium, have all been recognized with a
decoration by which their service is gratefully acknowledged by a nation that
knew of sacrifices and did not take them for granted.
Those of Bomber Command who served and were wounded, who served and perished
at enemy hands, who served and returned to help build Canada itself, have no
such recognition. That is what Senator Meighen and others in this place are
asking for when moving this motion ahead.
Let me be clear: This is not an opportunity for celebrating war but, rather,
and more important, an opportunity to recognize service, bravery, loyalty,
sacrifice and the determination to do what was necessary to protect Canada and
everything we today enjoy and hold dear. It is hard to imagine that Canada and
the rest of the Allies faced an existential threat back then — their own very
survival was at play — but we did. The fact that it seems so remote from our
free and democratic, pluralist and optimistic lives today is because of what
Bomber Command did over the skies of the enemy, an enemy who had chosen first to
do the very same to civilian populations throughout Europe and in the United
Canadians are the beneficiaries of Bomber Command, just as we are of those
who served and perished or were wounded or who returned to build Canada from
other challenging battles, none more demanding than the Bomber Command task that
Together we should ensure that a grateful nation expresses to those members
who are still among us and to the families of those who are not that we are
grateful, we have not forgotten, and their service mattered deeply to us all and
to the very outcome of the war.
Hon. Tommy Banks: Honourable senators, I will ask a question, if I
may. I apologize for asking it here. I probably should have asked it elsewhere,
but the honourable senator may know the answer. No one would take issue with
anything Senator Segal said or anything that is in Senator Meighen's bill.
However, there is apparently an impediment, if I remember correctly, in that the
19,000 Canadians who served in Bomber Command were serving in the RAF, not in
the RCAF. Bomber Command was a function of the Royal Air Force. I wonder whether
we will rely on someone else to find appropriate steps, as the bill says, "to
urge." It looks like the Government of Canada will have to urge the Government
of the United Kingdom to make such recognition, since it is the policy of the
Canadian armed forces to not recognize those Canadians who served in the armed
forces of other nations. I am not sure if I have that correctly. It would not,
in any case, change the intent of the bill. I wonder if Senator Segal knows any
of the details.
Senator Segal: I do not believe Senator Banks is wrong on the
technicality. I believe he is spot-on. There is quite a campaign underway in the
United Kingdom to have this matter addressed as well. It relates to flyers from
other Commonwealth countries who were part of the effort at that time. Should
the British government, in its wisdom, for whatever reason, decide not to
proceed, I would take the hopeful perspective that we would have the courage to
recognize those Canadian flyers who served. The distinction today between the
RCAF and the RAF is of value and important for a host of legitimate, historical
reasons. However, so much of what the Allies did were joint activities where
people from different armed forces worked together in a common effort that it
would be a mistake if the technicality that the honourable senator references,
which is absolutely spot-on, stood in the way of appropriate recognition. My
hope would be that should this chamber in its wisdom choose to approve and
support the motion as put forward by my colleague, we would use that for the
purpose of both urging Canadian diplomatic activity in the United Kingdom on
this issue, as well as maintaining the premise that our own directorate with
respect to these sorts of awards and decorations keep the option of acting on
its own for Canadians should it choose to do so over time.
The only constraint, of course, is tempus fugit. Not many of those who
served with such courage are still with us, and it would be good if we could act
while there were still living survivors to share in the reflection. I think of
events that took place a few years ago when a group of Canadians were invited to
the French embassy to be given the Legion of Honour because they had flown,
sailed or marched and landed in the liberation of France. They were not in the
French armed forces; they were in our armed forces, but they were part of the
liberation of an ally.
The members of our forces who were part of the RAF were part of an effort
vital to the protection of our primary ally in that part of the world at that
time, the United Kingdom. I hope that we would not get caught up on this, and I
know that is not in any way the intent, but we have a chance to move the
proposition ahead. I believe that what this chamber chooses to do will find
itself expressed both on the floor of the House of Lords and the House of
Commons by people who share our interest in this matter.
Hon. Joseph A. Day: Honourable senators, I thank Senator Meighen for
bringing forward this motion. I know it is a matter of importance to those still
living who participated in Bomber Command during the Second World War. I also
thank Senator Segal for his remarks in relation to this motion.
I wish to join in the debate and at this stage I move the adjournment.
Hon. Claudette Tardif (Deputy Leader of the Opposition) rose pursuant
to notice of April 2, 2008:
That she will call the attention of the Senate to the present state of
linguistic rights in Canada and on the development of official-language
She said: Honourable senators, I rise today to speak about linguistic rights
in Canada and the development of official language minority communities.
Although linguistic rights have been clarified over the years, the situation of
Canada's official language communities outside Quebec remains precarious, and
current trends in linguistic rights are disturbing. My remarks today give a
quick overview of linguistic rights, look at current trends and impacts on the
official languages and make proposals for the new Action Plan on Official
Linguistic rights have to do with the equal and predominant status of English
and French in Canada. Their goal is to maintain and enhance the development of
the two European linguistic communities that founded Canada: the anglophone
community and the francophone community. Linguistic rights in Canada emanate
from the Official Languages Act and the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms,
as well as from certain provincial legislative measures and case law. The
Official Languages Act, which was adopted in 1969 and amended in 1988 and 2005,
sets out these rights and clarifies the federal government's obligations to
enhance the vitality and support the development of official language
communities. The Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms is the constitutional
source of linguistic rights in Canada. Sections 16 to 22 establish that French
and English have equality of status and equal rights as to their use as
languages of communication and work in federal and New Brunswick institutions.
Section 23 sets out rights to education in the language of the minority.
Provincial laws and case law provide additional protection. Every common law
province in Canada has created a secretariat of francophone affairs, and every
francophone community has set up French language school boards to oversee its
The record of case law on linguistic rights is also positive. The
Reference re Secession of Quebec in 1988 was one turning point. It
stipulated that the recognition and respect of minorities was an underlying
principle of the constitutional order of Canada. The Beaulac case was another
turning point. Together with the insistence of the Commissioner of Official
Languages, this ruling, which recognized access to the courts in the official
language of the accused's choice, encouraged Parliament to introduce a bill
amending the Criminal Code that would ensure equal treatment and access to the
courts in the official language of the accused's choice.
The Arsenault-Cameron ruling confirmed that, while provincial and territorial
governments are responsible for implementing educational rights, they must take
into account the differences in needs of majority-group and minority-group
students and formalize an approach based on real equality more so than formal
However, this record has recently been overshadowed by four tendencies that
illustrate the state's and the government's growing indifference to official
language communities: indecisive political leadership, growing minimalism in the
application of the Official Languages Act, failures in legal matters and attacks
on the governance of official languages.
With regard to leadership, the Government of Canada was the leader in
supporting linguistic rights for a long time. The current situation shows a
change in course, and not for the better. We see less commitment from the
current federal government.
Setbacks can be seen in language of work, the governance structures for
linguistic minorities, services available and language training. What is more,
we are still waiting for the action plan and bills to clarify linguistic rights.
Furthermore, this government leans toward decentralization to the provinces.
However, the legislative and bureaucratic framework to support francophone
minorities in the majority of provinces is, at best, quite new and not very well
integrated into their political cultures and, at worst, completely absent.
The Commissioner of Official Languages has noted the minimalism in the
application of the Official Languages Act in terms of services, bilingualism
requirements for public service positions and training available in French.
According to the Commissioner of Official Languages, the active offer of
services in French has dropped from 24 per cent to 13 per cent in 37 departments
and agencies in the federal public service.
Services in French at Air Canada, inadequate training in French in the
Canadian Forces and the government's decision in Doucet v. the Government of
Canada are other examples of the minimal and case by case application of the
act. In Doucet, the government chose to limit the RCMP's language obligations to
a single detachment, the Amherst detachment, instead of taking into account the
linguistic rights of the travelling public on the Trans-Canada Highway. Moving
the head office of the Canadian Tourism Commission from Ottawa to Vancouver is
another example of minimal application of the Official Languages Act. Because a
federal head office is moved from a bilingual region to a unilingual region, the
employees of that institution lose their language of work rights under Part V of
the Official Languages Act.
The Standing Senate Committee on Official Languages reviewed this issue and
recommended that the government draft language of work regulations that
establish rights for federal employees in all head offices across the country to
work in the official language of their choice. Rather than operate on a case-by-case basis as it did for the Canadian Tourism Commission, the government
could have taken advantage of the opportunity to show leadership by expanding
the law's application framework while complying with the new requirements under
Part VII of the Official Languages Act to implement positive measures to support
the development of official language communities.
Let us not forget that in November 2005, Bill S-3, sponsored by our former
colleague Senator Jean-Robert Gauthier, was passed. According to that bill,
federal institutions are responsible for ensuring that positive measures are
implemented to support the development of official language communities, and
this is enforceable before the courts. Two years on, there has been little
progress in terms of implementing this amendment to Part VII of the Official
Despite the fact that Heritage Canada, Justice Canada and the Public Service
Human Resources Management Agency of Canada are leading a task force to raise
awareness among federal institutions of their obligations under the new Part VII
of the act, they have not yet clearly defined the notion of "positive
measures," and they are not in a hurry to implement it.
During a meeting of the Senate Committee on Official Languages, the
Commissioner of Official Languages indicated that Justice Canada tends to
interpret the amendments in a restrictive fashion and is recommending prudence
to the federal institutions. Moreover, the communities are still waiting to be
consulted and brought into the discussion around developing definitions of
"positive measures" and "evaluation criteria."
A major setback in legal matters in recent years was the abolition of the
Court Challenges Program. This program helped minority groups access the courts
in order to contest laws and other measures that infringed on their rights. The
courts recognized the importance of supporting access to the courts for public
interest cases, because the government cannot be expected to both enforce and
contest the laws. But anglophone and francophone communities, for example, the
Fédération des communautés francophones et acadienne and the Quebec Community
Groups Network, have made an application to the Federal Court to void the
decision to abolish the Court Challenges Program. The government must now
develop an alternative to the program to support individuals and groups that
want to go before the courts to fight for their rights. The Supreme Court of
Canada highlighted the importance of the Court Challenges Program in a recent
decision, which was a victory for the francophone community in New Brunswick. It
acknowledged that the RCMP must offer bilingual police services everywhere in
New Brunswick. According to officials at the Société des Acadiens et des
Acadiennes, without the help of this program, the Paulin case never would have
made it to the Supreme Court.
The most favourable decisions for official language minority communities seem
to have been handed down by higher courts, especially the Supreme Court.
Provincial courts are sometimes reluctant to rule in favour of official language
minority communities. Thus, the elimination of the Court Challenges Program
could mean that complainants will no longer be able to appeal their cases before
higher courts, thereby allowing case law that is less favourable to their rights
The appointment of a new bilingual judge to the Supreme Court of Canada to
replace Justice Michel Bastarache is of the utmost importance to official
language minority communities. There are two things to be concerned about.
First, if the lack of leadership and integrated vision on the part of
politicians and bureaucrats continues, we run the risk that the judicial
appointment process will tend to select judges who interpret language rights
more strictly than previous judges.
Second, eliminating the Court Challenges Program could limit access to higher
courts and reduce the number of appeals. This is worrisome for the groups and
individuals concerned in the language issue, since lower courts tend to have a
narrower interpretation of language rights than higher ones. Francophone
communities have long been calling on the federal government to appoint
bilingual judges to provincial superior courts and to the Supreme Court of
In terms of governance of official languages, two major changes have taken
place since 2006. First, the Canadian government decided to make the Department
of Canadian Heritage responsible for two roles: one, coordinating all activities
in the federal institutions pertaining to official languages and overall
implementation of the legislation; and two, managing part of the activities for
which Canadian Heritage is responsible. The coordination role serves to ensure
that government partners fulfill their responsibilities under the act. The
management role pertains to programs likely to be targeted when carrying out the
first role. It is very difficult for one department to ensure that both roles
are carried out effectively and to do justice to both roles.
Second, the official languages coordination centre, the Official Languages
Secretariat, was moved from the Privy Council Office to the Department of
Canadian Heritage. Previously, the Privy Council Office, as a central agency,
was well placed to manage the file and give direction to the rest of government.
Now, Canadian Heritage, whose mandate is more of a sector mandate, has less
authority and ability to influence than its predecessor.
The federal government also confirmed that there are no longer any
departmental official languages committees, and that coordination, once the
responsibility of the minister responsible for official languages, is now being
carried out through bilateral meetings with colleagues whose portfolios include
responsibilities in this area.
The purpose of the Action Plan for Official Languages, which was introduced
in 2003 and ended in March 2008, was to breathe new life into official languages
and the federal government's commitment to them. The new action plan will have
to adopt an approach that does not resemble the current government's tendency
toward minimalism, defensiveness and a case-by-case approach. The plan must also
focus on the application of Part VII of the act, which requires federal
institutions to implement positive measures to promote French and English and to
support the growth and development of francophone and anglophone minorities in
Canada. We need to define "positive measures" and set targets for promoting
The Hon. the Speaker: Honourable senators, I regret to inform Senator
Tardif that her time is up. Does she have permission to continue?
Hon. Gerald J. Comeau (Deputy Leader of the Government): We will give
her five more minutes.
Senator Tardif: Honourable senators, we need to define "positive
measures" and set targets for promoting bilingualism and linguistic duality in
the public service, the offer of services and the vitality of official language
communities. The government organizations responsible for meeting these targets
need to be held responsible for the success or failure of the measures in the
plan. The central agencies need to be involved to provide leadership at the
As our late colleague Senator Simard used to say, "It takes 15 years to win
recognition of a right, but it takes only 15 minutes to lose it." I am
therefore calling on the current government and politicians to play a leadership
role in combating disengagement and the growing tendency to take a minimalist
approach to linguistic rights. I also call on them to meet the federal
obligations prescribed in the act.
In closing, honourable senators, I would like to say that Senator Chaput, who
could not be here today, asked that the debate be adjourned in her name.
Senator Comeau: Honourable senators, we would like there to be
discussion on both sides of the chamber. I suggest that a senator on this side
take adjournment of the debate. Senator Chaput can take adjournment later. Does
the honourable senator agree?
Senator Tardif: I have no objection.
On motion of Senator Champagne, debate adjourned.
The Senate adjourned until Wednesday, May 7, 2008, at 1:30 p.m.