The Hon. the Speaker: Honourable senators, before we proceed, I would
invite senators to rise and observe one minute of silence in memory of Warrant
Officer Robert John Wilson, Corporal Mark Robert McLaren, Private Demetrius
Diplaros, Corporal Thomas James Hamilton, Private John Michael Roy Curwin,
Private Justin Peter Jones, Private Michael Freeman, Warrant Officer Gaetan
Maxime Roberge, Sergeant Gregory John Kruse and Trooper Brian Richard Good whose
tragic deaths occurred over the last few months while serving their country in
Hon. Donald H. Oliver: Honourable senators, tears of joy filled my
eyes one week ago as I witnessed Barack Obama sworn in as the forty-fourth
President of the United States of America.
No election in the western world in my lifetime has had as profound an impact
on the globe as this one. From places as far away as Mexico City, Kenya, and
London, millions watched the inaugural address on television screens in public
squares, bars and living rooms, hanging on Obama's every word.
A 47-year-old American lawyer of mixed race is impacting the globe. In Paris,
French President Nicolas Sarkozy said, "We are eager for him to get to work so
that with him we can change the world."
In his letter of congratulations to the new president, Nelson Mandela wrote,
"You, Mister President, have brought a new voice of hope that these problems
can be addressed and that we can in fact change the world and make of it a
better place." Mr. Mandela added that, "Your Presidency brings hope of new
beginnings in the relations between nations, and that the challenges we all face
. . . will be addressed with a new spirit of openness and accommodation."
Nearly two thirds of African-Americans now believe that Martin Luther King's
dream has been fulfilled; namely that people ". . . will not be judged by the
colour of their skin but by the content of their character." President Obama is
the personification of this dream. Barack Obama is the first African-American
President of the United States, a ground-breaking event with symbolic
significance. An article in The Economist commented that, "In his speech,
Mr. Obama did not mention his colour. He did not need to. The whole world could
see his face."
I was inspired when he said, "This is the meaning of our liberty and our
creed . . . and why a man whose father less than 60 years ago might not have
been served at a local restaurant can now stand before you to take a most sacred
oath." I was deeply moved when he said that because of my personal experience
of not being served in certain restaurants in Canada.
Honourable senators, we do not yet know how, but the Obama presidency will
impact Canada in major ways in relation to things such as trade, environmental
policies and maybe — just maybe — our awareness of the business case for
President Obama's victory offers hope to Canadians that the leaders in our
country will address some of the discrimination Black Canadians and other
visible minorities are subject to, such as a lack of visible minorities in the
executive ranks of the public service of Canada.
In any event, we are blessed that President Obama will be making his first
official visit to Ottawa in the coming weeks.
President Obama is truly a role model for millions of people and a source of
inspiration around the globe. He is more than just a Black president. As one
person said, he is a politically educated man who has touched the imagination of
people all around the world.
Hon. Claudette Tardif (Deputy Leader of the Opposition): Honourable
senators, I would like to begin by congratulating and extending a warm welcome
to our 18 new senators.
This year marks the 40th anniversary of the Official Languages Act. The year
1969 was a historic moment in the advancement of language rights in Canada. The
recommendations that appeared in the report of the Royal Commission on
Bilingualism and Biculturalism led to the first Official Languages Act, which
officially recognized French and English as the official languages of all
federal institutions in Canada.
In 1988, the Act was amended, first to ensure respect for English and French
as the official languages of Canada and ensure equality of status and equal
rights and privileges as to their use in all federal institutions; second, to
support the development of English and French linguistic minority communities;
and third, to set out the powers, duties and functions of federal institutions
with respect to the official languages of Canada.
In 2005, thanks to the work of Senator Jean-Robert Gauthier, the Act was
amended once again to ensure that federal institutions would take positive
measures to support the development of official language communities and to
foster the full recognition and use of both English and French nationwide.
For the past 40 years, linguistic minority communities have been fighting for
access to services, health care and good quality education in the official
language of their choice. These communities are still working hard because,
despite the government's announcement of a roadmap for linguistic duality, the
actual implementation of the roadmap remains abstract.
In recent years, the government has taken a minimalist approach toward
enforcement of the Official Languages Act, and language rights have been eroded.
It is unfortunate that the government has been so reluctant to enforce the
regulations and slow to implement amendments to the Official Languages Act.
There is an obvious lack of coordination in the machinery of government when
it comes to official languages. After 40 years, a great deal of work still needs
to be done. Positive steps need to be defined, community consultations are
greatly needed and anticipated, and an overall vision must be established.
I sincerely hope that we will see this legislation fully enforced in 2009. I
hope the roadmap for linguistic duality will be implemented and increase in
scope. The lack of commitment and political will should, I hope, be a thing of
Hon. David Tkachuk: Honourable senators, on January 12, 2009, the
47-member United Nations Human Rights Council passed a resolution on the
conflict in Gaza by a vote of 33 to 1. There were 13 abstentions.
The resolution, which was drafted by some Arab, Asian and African countries,
strongly condemned Israel for its military operations in Gaza, but it failed to
adequately acknowledge the rocket attacks on Israel that precipitated the
conflict — rocket attacks by Hamas and its allies that have been taking place
there daily since 2001. These rocket attacks against Israeli civilians over the
last eight years are estimated by some to exceed 10,000.
How unbalanced was the resolution? In a United Nations press release, the
. . . demanded the occupying power, Israel, to immediately withdraw its
military forces from Gaza. The Council also decided to dispatch an urgent
independent fact-finding mission to investigate all violations of
international human rights law and international humanitarian law by the
occupying power against the Palestinian people throughout the Occupied
. . . the Council called for the immediate cessation of Israeli military
attacks throughout the Palestinian Occupied Territory and called upon the
occupying power to end its occupation to all Palestinian lands occupied since
1967, and to respect its commitment within the peace process towards the
establishment of the independent sovereign Palestinian state with east
Jerusalem as its capital. The Council also demanded that the occupying power
stop the targeting of civilians and medical facilities and staff as well as
the systematic destruction of cultural heritage. It demanded further that the
occupying power lift the siege and open all borders.
Honourable senators, the only member of the UN Human Rights Council to vote
against this one-sided resolution was Canada. The European members abstained;
and not only did Canada vote no, it asked that the vote be recorded to ensure
that there was no mistaking its opposition.
I congratulate the Canadian government and, in particular, the leadership of
Prime Minister Stephen Harper and Minister Lawrence Cannon for taking such a
courageous and just stand by voting against this resolution.
Hon. Grant Mitchell: Honourable senators, the Prime Minister announced
in the fall his intention to put certain 14-year-old children in jail for the
rest of their lives, and ultimately to place these children amongst some of the
toughest, most hardened criminals, and in some of the most frightening
institutions in our society, as if that approach would make Canadians safer.
As I thought about that intention, I could hardly believe that anyone in a
just and compassionate society would be so angry at a 14-year-old that they
would contemplate a sentence of such magnitude and futility.
Has the government considered even for a moment whether a 14-year-old child
who is sufficiently disturbed to commit a violent crime would be deterred for an
instant by this particular sentence? More to the point, I wonder if a
14-year-old child who is sufficiently disturbed to commit such a crime would
even know about this sentence.
It is instructive to note that last year, this Canadian government, on the
one hand, raised the age of sexual consent from age 14 to age 16 because
apparently 14-year-olds are unable to make that kind of decision maturely. On
the other hand, they lowered the age at which a child of 14 can be treated like
an adult in the adult court system as though that same child can somehow
maturely think through a violent crime.
I know in my heart of hearts that this initiative does not reflect in any way
the core values that I grew up believing and still believe, values that made
this country great and made our people special. I also know that it does not
capture the deeply held core Canadian values of compassion, justice and
fairness. People across the world fight for such justice and liberty. They look
to us as a beacon of hope because they want so desperately to emulate those
values in their lives.
Why is this government so locked in the past and stuck on the idea that
harsher criminal sentences, combined with little else, will solve this problem?
All of the evidence is to the contrary. If we want to get tough on crime, then
let us get tough on the causes of crime. Let us attack child poverty, violence
against women and child abuse. Let us give police forces the resources they need
to deal with gang violence and Internet crime. Let us talk about how to build
the facilities and the programs to deal with mental health.
Honourable senators know that there are no simple solutions to complex
problems. Canadians know this, and I know as sure as I stand here today that
there are no solutions to any problems when government reduces its policy
initiatives to nothing more than hot-button politics.
Hon. Sharon Carstairs: Honourable senators, pursuant to rule 28(4), it
is with great pleasure that I request leave to table a document entitled
Pages of Reflection: A Journal of Essays by Senate Pages, Volume 2, Fall 2008.
The Hon. the Speaker: Is leave granted, honourable senators?
Hon. Gerald J. Comeau (Deputy Leader of the Government): Honourable
senators, with leave of the Senate and notwithstanding rule 58(1), I move:
That, during the first twelve sitting days following the adoption of this
motion, any Senator at the time of prorogation of the first session of the
fortieth Parliament who had not yet made and filed the renewed Declaration of
Property required under Rule 135 shall do so; and
That immediately after the expiration of this period, the Clerk of the
Senate shall lay upon the Table a list of those Senators who have made and
filed the renewed Declaration during the first or second sessions of the
The Hon. the Speaker: Is leave granted, honourable senators?
Hon. Gerald J. Comeau (Deputy Leader of the Government): Honourable
senators, I give notice that at the next sitting I will move:
That, for the remainder of the current session,
(a) when the Senate sits on a Wednesday or a Thursday, it shall
sit at 1:30 p.m. notwithstanding rule 5(1)(a);
(b) when the Senate sits on a Wednesday, it stand adjourned at 4
p.m., unless it has been suspended for the purpose of taking a deferred vote
or has earlier adjourned; and
(c) when a vote is deferred until 5:30 p.m. on a Wednesday, the
Speaker shall interrupt the proceedings, immediately prior to any
adjournment but no later than 4 p.m., to suspend the sitting until 5:30 p.m.
for the taking of the deferred vote, and that committees be authorized to
meet during the period that the sitting is suspended.
Hon. Jerahmiel S. Grafstein presented Bill S-211, An Act to require
the Minister of the Environment to establish, in co-operation with the
provinces, an agency with the power to identify and protect Canada's watersheds
that will constitute sources of drinking water in the future.
(Bill read first time.)
The Hon. the Speaker: Honourable senators, when shall this bill be
read the second time?
(On motion of Senator Grafstein, bill placed on the Orders of the Day for
second reading two days hence.)
Hon. Sharon Carstairs: Honourable senators, I give notice that, two
days hence, I will move:
That a Special Committee of the Senate be appointed to examine and report
upon the implications of an aging society in Canada;
That, notwithstanding rule 85(1)(b), the committee be comprised of seven
members, namely the Honourable Senators Carstairs, P.C., Chaput, Cools, Cordy,
Keon, Mercer, and Stratton, and that three members constitute a quorum;
That the committee examine the issue of aging in our society in relation
to, but not limited to:
promoting active living and well being;
housing and transportation needs;
financial security and retirement;
abuse and neglect;
health promotion and prevention; and
health care needs, including chronic diseases, medication use, mental
health, palliative care, home care and caregiving;
That the committee review public programs and services for seniors, the
gaps that exist in meeting the needs of seniors, and the implications for
future service delivery as the population ages;
That the committee review strategies on aging implemented in other
That the committee review Canada's role and obligations in light of the
2002 Madrid International Plan of Action on Ageing;
That the committee consider the appropriate role of the federal government
in helping Canadians age well;
That the committee have power to send for persons, papers and records; to
examine witnesses; to report from time to time and to print such papers and
evidence from day to day as may be ordered by the committee;
That the committee be authorized to permit coverage by electronic media of
its public proceedings with the least possible disruption of its hearings;
That, pursuant to rule 95(3)(a), the committee be authorized to meet during
periods that the Senate stands adjourned for a period exceeding one week;
That the papers and evidence received and taken and work accomplished by
the committee on this subject during the First and Second Session of the
Thirty-ninth Parliament be referred to the committee; and
That the committee submit its final report no later than April 30, 2009,
and that the committee retain all powers necessary to publicize its findings
until 90 days after the tabling of the final report.
Hon. Pierrette Ringuette: Honourable senators, I give notice that, at
the next sitting of the Senate, I will move:
That the Standing Senate Committee on Banking, Trade and Commerce be
authorized to examine and report on the credit and debit card systems in
Canada and their relative rates and fees, in particular for businesses and
That the Committee report to the Senate no later than June 30, 2009, and
that the Committee retain all powers necessary to publicize its findings until
90 days after the tabling of the final report.
Hon. Tommy Banks: Honourable senators, I give notice that, on
Thursday, January 29, 2009, I will move that:
Whereas, in the 2nd Session of the 40th Parliament, a bill has been
introduced in the Senate to amend the Constitution of Canada by repealing the
provision that requires that a person, in order to qualify for appointment to
the Senate and to maintain their place in the Senate after being appointed,
own land with a net worth of at least four thousand dollars within the
province for which he or she is appointed;
Whereas a related provision of the Constitution makes reference, in respect
of the province of Quebec, to the real property qualification that is proposed
to be repealed;
Whereas, in respect of a Senator who represents Quebec, the real property
qualification must be had in the electoral division for which the Senator is
appointed or the Senator must be resident in that division;
Whereas the division of Quebec into 24 electoral districts, corresponding
to the 24 seats in the former Legislative Council of Quebec, reflects the
historic boundaries of Lower Canada and no longer reflects the full
territorial limits of the province of Quebec; And whereas section 43 of the
Constitution Act, 1982 provides that an amendment to the Constitution of
Canada may be made by proclamation issued by the Governor General under the
Great Seal of Canada where so authorized by resolutions of the Senate and
House of Commons and of the legislative assembly of each province to which the
Now, therefore, the Senate resolves that an amendment to the Constitution
of Canada be authorized to be made by proclamation issued by Her Excellency
the Governor General under the Great Seal of Canada in accordance with the
AMENDMENT TO THE CONSTITUTION OF CANADA
1. Section 22 of the Constitution Act, 1867 is amended by
striking out the second paragraph of that section, beginning with "In the
Case of Quebec" and ending with "the Consolidated Statutes of Canada.".
2. (1) Paragraph (5) of section 23 of the Act is replaced by the
(5) He shall be resident in the Province for which he is appointed.
(2) Paragraph (6) of section 23 of the Act is repealed.
3. This Amendment may be cited as the Constitution Amendment, [year
of proclamation] (Quebec: electoral divisions and real property
qualifications of Senators).
Hon. Hugh Segal: Honourable senators, pursuant to rule 56, I give
notice that, two days hence:
I will call the attention of the Senate to the government of Iran's
imminent nuclear war capacity and its preparation for war in the Middle East,
and to the commitment of Canada and its allies, including the USA, Russia,
Turkey, the Gulf States, Egypt, Jordan, Saudi Arabia and others, to diplomatic
and strategic initiatives that exclude first-use nuclear attack, the ability
of Canada to engage with its allies in order to understand, measure and
contain this threat, and the capacity of Canada to support allied efforts to
prevent a thermonuclear exchange in the Middle East.
Hon. James S. Cowan (Leader of the Opposition): Honourable senators,
Canadians across the country are increasingly worried about losing their jobs,
their pensions and their savings, yet all they have seen and heard from this
government so far is inaction and political gamesmanship. Why should Canadians
trust a prime minister who has repeatedly manipulated the truth? Why should
Canadians trust a prime minister who has repeatedly chosen partisanship over
statesmanship? Why should Canadians trust a prime minister who has broken
promise after promise to suit his short-term political agenda?
My question to the Leader of the Government in the Senate is simple: Why
should Canadians trust this prime minister now?
Hon. Marjory LeBreton (Leader of the Government and Minister of State
(Seniors)): Honourable senators, before I answer the question, may I
congratulate Senator Cowan and his party on the change of leadership, as well as
the wisdom of the new leadership in leaving him in his present capacity as
Leader of the Opposition.
With regard to the honourable senator's question, the Canadian public clearly
trusts the Prime Minister to steer the government through this difficult
economic time. The Prime Minister and all members of the government, especially
ministers responsible for economic portfolios, have worked hard over the last
two months to broadly consult all levels of government, governments of various
political stripes, and Canadians from all walks of life.
The budget that will be presented an hour and a quarter from now will address
many of the concerns that were expressed. I believe that the Prime Minister,
with his background as an economist and as a strong leader, along with the very
good work that was done by the Minister of Finance and others, will provide the
necessary leadership. The budget will address the concerns that Canadians face
in light of the worldwide economic crisis.
When the Prime Minister attended the G20 meeting in Washington last November
15, he made a commitment to those other nations that Canada would do its part in
dealing with the worldwide economic slowdown.
Senator Cowan: Honourable senators, does the leader not understand how
seriously the actions of the Prime Minister since the October election have
eroded the trust that must exist between the Prime Minister and the people of
Senator LeBreton: Honourable senators, I do not know to what the
honourable senator is referring specifically. The November update was an
explanation of the situation at that time. The government was not in a deficit
situation then; it was dealing with a surplus. Many measures were taken in that
economic update with regard to seniors and others, including trying to deal with
the lack of available credit.
The public let all politicians know how they felt about the update and how
they felt about the then proposed coalition. It is erroneous to say that the
public has lost confidence either in the government or in the Prime Minister as
a result of the events of last fall.
Hon. Claudette Tardif (Deputy Leader of the Opposition): My question
is for the Leader of the Government in the Senate. Over the past few days, the
government has been leaking key budget points before the official introduction,
which is to take place today. When ministers make such announcements during
press conferences or to the media, they demonstrate disdain for the role of
Parliament and undermine the credibility of the budget and the Minister of
When will this government stop courting public opinion and playing politics
at the expense of our political system and start caring about the interests and
needs of Canadians, particularly in times of economic crisis?
Senator LeBreton: That question is interesting, honourable senators,
because the government was urged to consult widely with the Canadian public and
with all the stakeholders in our economy, from small businesses to large
corporations, provinces and municipalities. All ministers of the government,
except for the brief period of time between Christmas and New Year's, have work
diligently. I believe this consultation was the broadest, largest and most
extensive ever undertaken by a government — all conducted in an open and
transparent manner with public meetings.
Honourable senators, the ministers who travelled around the country in the
last week, dealing specifically with their portfolio, were simply carrying
forward on this requirement to be honest and transparent about their plans for
their departments. They scheduled public meetings that were open to anyone who
wished to attend — and, of course, the meetings were well attended — to report
to these various groups, for example, on mining, the forestry industry, the
cultural industries and the tourism industry — as to what they could expect in
the budget as a result of their consultations.
Senator Comeau: A breath of fresh air.
Senator Tardif: I have a related question. Consultation is all well
and good, but those statements went beyond consultation. Those were official
announcements made by ministers. In the past, such actions would surely have
It seems that the government is more interested in managing the media than in
managing the economy.
Just eight short weeks ago, the government announced that there was no
recession and that there would be no deficit. Now that we are in the middle of
an economic crisis, the government is announcing that we can expect a $34
billion deficit this year and a $30 billion deficit next year.
This government has a habit of saying one thing and doing another; how can we
possibly have confidence in it?
Senator LeBreton: I thank the honourable senator for her question, but
the fact remains that we are speaking about an economic update and I cannot be
responsible for people's expectations of what they thought would be in the
economic update. The government has been projecting a surplus for this current
fiscal year, not a deficit. That is the situation.
Regarding the announcements made by various ministers, there is ample proof
that no details were revealed that would affect the markets. There is nothing
untoward or unlawful about cabinet ministers making announcements that affect
their departments, especially when the announcements are the direct result of
consultations they have had with people regarding matters concerning their own
Hon. Jim Munson: My question is for the Leader of the Government in
the Senate. Yesterday's note from the throne offered a new glimpse on the
Conservative government. Yesterday, we heard words we have never heard before:
working together, solidarity, reaching out, listening, unity — and my favourite
— non-partisan cooperation.
Some Hon. Senators: Hear, hear!
Senator Munson: Honourable senators, it sounded more like a New Year's
resolution than a Speech from the Throne. However, we do not have to look too
far to see that words and reality with this Conservative government do not
always coincide. Remember the promise of no Senate appointments? Today, we have
18 new colleagues. Remember fixed election dates? The Prime Minister went ahead
and called an election anyway. Remember parliamentary involvement in government
appointments? Remember the call for transparency? Honourable senators, without a
parliamentary hearing process we have a new Supreme Court judge.
Would the leader tell us: Why should we believe the lovely words in the note
from the throne when experience tells us to expect the opposite?
Hon. Marjory LeBreton (Leader of the Government and Minister of State
(Seniors)): Honourable senators, I never cease to be amazed by the chutzpah
of the honourable senator. Senator Munson is the former director of
communications to the Prime Minister who said he would axe the tax — no GST.
Senator Munson is the former director of communications to the Prime Minister
who said he would scrap NAFTA.
In answer to the honourable senator's question regarding the Throne Speech, I
think everyone will acknowledge that the worldwide economic situation has
changed drastically, and continues to do so almost on a weekly basis.
The Canadian public wants parliamentarians to deal with the economic
situation and to put aside their partisan beliefs. We have been listening to the
The honourable senator specifically mentioned the Supreme Court. Senator
Munson knows that one Supreme Court judge went through the parliamentary
process. The events of the fall hampered the parliamentary procedure for the new
Supreme Court judge. As honourable senators know, the Chief Justice made a
specific request to the Prime Minister to appoint this highly qualified person
as the court could not go on much longer with one judge less than required.
Before agreeing to the Chief Justice's request, the Prime Minister consulted
with the Leader of the Opposition and Mr. Ignatieff gave his blessing that, in
this particular case, we should proceed. It was also made very clear that
appointment of future judges will go back to the parliamentary process.
Senator Segal: That is the spirit of cooperation.
Senator Munson: With respect to the comment about chutzpah, these
answers are beginning to sound like David Letterman's "Great Moments in
I will leave it at that because I want my colleagues who work as a team here
to ask other questions.
Hon. Norman K. Atkins: Honourable senators, I congratulate all our new
senators and welcome them to Ottawa and to this house.
My question is to the Leader of the Government in the Senate. Can we now
assume that the Prime Minister and some of the ministers of this government will
refrain from referring to senators as "political hacks"?
Senator LeBreton: Honourable senators, I have not seen any references
to senators being "political hacks," but I will take the honourable senator's
word for it.
We swore in 18 outstanding Canadian citizens who bring a great deal to the
Senate in terms of their personal qualifications. However, that initiative does
not take away from the fact that the government still believes what we ran on in
the last election; namely, that Senate reform is necessary and required in the
year 2009. At some point, we will craft legislation to bring before Parliament a
Senate selection process and a bill that has an eight-year term for senators. I
will work with the Honourable Steven Fletcher, the Minister of State responsible
for Democratic Reform.
In the meantime, as the Prime Minister has said, we need senators in this
place to deal with government legislation, and we want to obtain support from
both sides for the legislation when it is introduced into Parliament.
Hon. Joan Fraser: Honourable senators, that response from the Leader
of the Government was fascinating. I add my voice to those who have been
congratulating our new colleagues, not only for their quantity but for their
quality. It is an impressive bunch, and we all look forward to working with
However, there are interesting things about this list. As I read it, under
the terms of the Constitution, four of our new colleagues will be with us for
less than the Prime Minister's previously preferred term of eight years. Six of
them will be here for more than even the 15 years that many senators have
recommended as an appropriate term.
Does this situation mean the Prime Minister has changed his mind about the
desirability of eight-year terms, or does it mean, once again, that we cannot
know which of his many declarations to believe in?
Senator LeBreton: As the honourable senator said, it is
"fascinating" that the honourable senator has done the arithmetic on the ages
and potential tenure of our new senators. All of that information is
interesting, but it does not detract from the fact that the government intends
to bring in legislation that will provide for Senate selection and will
recommend a term of eight years. I hope that is what the government legislation,
when tabled, will indicate. At that point in time, our hope is that honourable
senators on both sides will support that legislation. It is nothing more and
nothing less than that.
The particular age of each senator appointed yesterday does not detract from
the intent of the legislation. There is nothing fascinating about that. It is a
Senator Fraser: Why did the Prime Minister not put his money where his
mouth was? He could have done so. We have precedents, familiar to many members
of this chamber, of prime ministers appointing large numbers of senators who
have less than eight years to serve. He could have done the same thing. He could
have appointed 18 people who had eight years or less to serve, which is
presumably what he believed in.
I hear an honourable senator talking about age. Some of our most effective
senators are over 68 years old, as are some of the hecklers.
It is a serious question, honourable senators, because there seems to be a
disconnect between what the Prime Minister says and what he does. Why does he
not do what he says?
Senator LeBreton: Honourable senators, the senators who were appointed
were summoned to the Senate on the basis of what they could contribute. It is
ludicrous for my honourable friend to suggest that the Prime Minister or anyone
would go through a census list to find only people who are 67 years old.
The Prime Minister asked the Governor General to summon the senators based on
existing rules, and he hopes now to introduce legislation that will be supported
by all honourable senators. How my honourable friend can relate legislation that
has not yet been tabled in Parliament to Senate appointments that are currently
made is a stretch that even I do not want to make.
Hon. Lorna Milne: Honourable senators, this Conservative government is
so eager to help Canadians spend their way into a deficit that yesterday — one
day before the budget was to be tabled — Transport Minister John Baird called a
news conference to unveil $7 billion in infrastructure spending. We will have
time in the next while to discuss this infrastructure spending. However, my
question is about last year's budget. How much money was there in last year's
budget for infrastructure spending and how much of that has actually gone out
Senator Munson: Zero.
Hon. Marjory LeBreton (Leader of the Government and Minister of State
(Seniors)): Honourable senators, I do not have the exact figures and would
be happy to take that question as notice.
As the Prime Minister, the Minister of Finance and all ministers, including
Minister Baird, have gone through the consultation process, one of the
frustrations for municipal, provincial and federal governments has been the
excessive amount of red tape. A great deal of the infrastructure money has been
held up by red tape. This concern was expressed two weeks ago by the Federation
of Canadian Municipalities. Red tape was cited as the primary reason much of the
infrastructure money did not flow as quickly as it should have. It made no sense
to the municipal and provincial leaders that the same three levels of government
go through the same process in order to approve the same funding.
As to last year's budget and the exact amount of money that was sent to the
various municipalities and provinces for infrastructure projects, I will take
the question as notice.
Senator Milne: I thank the Leader of the Government in the Senate for
her usual thoughtful and composed answer; this time composed about red tape.
I see we actually have red coats on the other side.
Senator Fraser: Yes, look at that.
Senator Munson: Nancy Ruth.
Senator Milne: The only reason I ask is that the Conservative
government has created a trend of promising funds, making big announcements and
generating press about a project only to see it shelved a few weeks or months
later. One need look no further than the Joint Support Ship Project or the
proposal to build 12 inshore patrol boats for the Canadian Coast Guard to see
that the Conservative government was less than fully committed to the
infrastructure that Canadians were told was so vital.
Senator Segal: One cannot live in the past.
Senator Milne: I ask the Leader of the Government in the Senate, is
her Conservative government, is Senator Segal, committed to fulfilling the
infrastructure spending that will be announced by Minister Flaherty later this
Senator LeBreton: Honourable senators, many projects that the
government announced are under way and being implemented. I believe that the
honourable senator should await the budget that will be delivered in 55 minutes.
Obviously, it is important — and all levels of government have indicated its
importance — for the government to provide funds for these projects quickly. The
government will make every effort to do that and I am sure we will be
successful. However, I ask the honourable senator to await the budget for
details on how the government plans to do that.
Senator Milne: Honourable senators, I hope what the Leader says is
right, but I strongly suspect that this government will be committed only until
the stage lights go down and the microphones are turned off.
Senator Tkachuk: In the spirit of bipartisanship — those are nasty
Senator LeBreton: Canadians are witnessing this unprecedented
worldwide economic downturn.
Senator Milne: Exactly.
Senator LeBreton: As a result of paying down the debt and putting
money back into taxpayers' pockets, we are better positioned and farther ahead
of the curve than other countries in the G8. This position has been acknowledged
by many organizations. However, I think Canadians will want to see less of that
kind of talk and more action. They want all of us to work in the best interests
of the country, to work through these economic difficulties and arrive at a
position where, if we handle it properly, Canada should come out of these
difficulties quite well.
Senator Tardif: No more attacks.
Senator Munson: Let us all sing "Kumbaya."
Hon. Terry M. Mercer: I have a supplementary question for the Leader
of the Government in the Senate because I think she failed to understand Senator
Milne's question. The question was pointed and talked about announcements made
in the past by this government. Some announcements — honourable senators will
hear it for the first time from me — were good announcements.
Regarding the announcements that we all waited for — the joint ships that
Senator Milne talked about and the Atlantic gateway that has been announced,
announced and re-announced — at a meeting of the Transport Committee when it
went to Halifax, as a member of the Transport Committee, I posed a question to
the vice-president of Atlantic Canada Opportunities Agency, ACOA, the agency
responsible for distributing the funds for the Atlantic gateway. The question
was, how much money had been distributed?
The answer to the question was "zero dollars." When I asked a supplementary
question as to how one would apply, I was told there was no application process.
I asked: If there were an application process and a good application came in,
how quickly could the money flow? The answer was that it could not flow. I then
asked: Why? The response was that it had not been approved by Treasury Board.
Senator Milne and many senators ask why these projects are announced, many of
which are good, when the money does not flow out the door to support them.
Canadians need to see the money flow so that the work can happen. At such a
rate, five years down the road, people will still not be working on the projects
for which the infrastructure money will be announced later today.
Senator LeBreton: Honourable senators will be surprised to hear me say
this and will be glad to know that I agree with my honourable friend; and that
is part of the problem. Various agencies have had great difficulty obtaining
access to funds as quickly as they should. I suggest that the honourable senator
will be happy if he waits to hear the government's plans in the budget to free
up this money more quickly.
The Hon. the Speaker: Before proceeding with the Orders of the Day, I
remind honourable senators that the budget speech will be delivered in the other
place at 4 p.m. today, Tuesday, January 27, 2009. As in the past, senators must
take their seats in the section of the gallery reserved for the Senate in the
House of Commons. Seating will be first come, first served. As space is limited,
it is the only way we can ensure that those senators who wish to attend can do
The Senate proceeded to consideration of Her Excellency the Governor
General's Speech from the Throne at the opening of the Second Session of the
Hon. Suzanne Fortin-Duplessis, seconded by the Honourable Senator
That the following Address be presented to Her Excellency the Governor
General of Canada:
To Her Excellency the Right Honourable Michaëlle Jean, Chancellor and
Principal Companion of the Order of Canada, Chancellor and Commander of the
Order of Military Merit, Chancellor and Commander of the Order of Merit of the
Police Forces, Governor General and Commander-in-Chief of Canada.
MAY IT PLEASE YOUR EXCELLENCY:
We, Her Majesty's most loyal and dutiful subjects, the Senate of Canada in
Parliament assembled, beg leave to offer our humble thanks to Your Excellency
for the gracious Speech which Your Excellency has addressed to both Houses of
She said: Honourable senators, it is a great honour for me to rise and give
my first speech in this historic chamber, moving the Address in Reply to the
Speech from the Throne.
Her Excellency's speech illustrates just how serious our Conservative
government is about dealing with the challenges we face. Before I begin, I would
like to welcome our esteemed Speaker, Senator Kinsella, a man I know to be wise
and impartial. The role of the Speaker is never easy and I wish him good luck as
this session begins.
On this side of the chamber, I am pleased to see a very hardworking and
devoted woman who I greatly admire, my colleague Senator LeBreton, the Leader of
the Government in the Senate. I would like to thank her for her efforts on
behalf of Canada's seniors and I look forward to working with her in this new
I acknowledge the Deputy Leader, Senator Comeau, and the Whip, Senator
Stratton. I am pleased to be again working with Senator Comeau, a former
colleague in the House of Commons. I hope that the increase in our numbers will
not in any way complicate Senator Stratton's job, which is already a very
difficult one. I know that both these honourable senators have served
Conservative senators very effectively in recent years and I am convinced that
they will perform their duties with the same diligence in the new session.
On the other side, I salute Senator Cowan, Leader of the Opposition, who
helped found the Landmark East School for children with learning disabilities in
Wolfville, Nova Scotia, his home province.
I am eager to work with Senator Claudette Tardif, Deputy Leader of the
Opposition, a fellow teacher.
I offer my best wishes to Senator Jim Munson, who is returning as Whip, and
my congratulations for his efforts to promote the interests of Canadians with
And to all the people in the senatorial district of Rougemont, I give the
assurance that I am here in the Senate to make your needs known and defend the
issues that are important to you, and I will carry out my duties to the best of
my ability. I learned one thing from all my years in the other place: in the
work of a parliamentarian, the people and their interests are paramount. We are
here to serve our fellow citizens.
Honourable senators, I am grateful for the opportunity to sit in Parliament
once again among my political colleagues. I have known some of them for years,
and I am anxious to get to know the rest. I know I speak for all the new
senators in the class of 2009 when I say that we are ready to work. And I would
like to take this opportunity to congratulate them on their appointment.
In closing, I would like to thank Her Excellency, the Right Honourable
Michaëlle Jean, Governor General of Canada, for approving and signing my writ of
summons, and the Right Honourable Stephen Harper, Prime Minister of Canada, who
caught me completely by surprise when he called me. I can assure you that if I
had not been sitting down, I think I would have fallen over when he gave me the
opportunity to once again serve Canada, Canadians, my province and my region. I
accepted immediately. And what a marvellous Christmas present.
Thank you to my sponsor, the Honourable Marcel Prud'homme, for agreeing to
sponsor me. We have been good friends since 1984 because we are both involved in
the Inter-Parliamentary Union. I salute you, Marcel.
To all honourable senators, regardless of your political stripe, I extend my
sincere thanks for your warm welcome, your letters and your congratulations. I
am deeply touched.
Thank you to my spouse, Maurice, and to my sons, Jean-Maurice and Claude,
and their families for their unwavering support, to the Fortin and Duplessis
families and to everyone who in some way has supported me in my life, especially
the volunteers who worked tirelessly for my election as the Member of Parliament
for Louis-Hébert. I believe that families of all types are the heart and soul of
society. And I am very proud of my seven grandchildren.
Our family went through a very difficult time in January 2003, when our son
Claude, who was working on contract in Algeria, stepped on a land mine.
He had one leg amputated and he almost lost the other. Hence, I am extremely
sensitive to the grief felt by the families of soldiers who have died or been
injured in Afghanistan as well as the courage and determination it takes to get
through such adversities. Claude was 39 when it happened and married, with three
children, including a nine-month-old baby.
I would like to pay tribute to our troops who are deployed in Afghanistan,
helping the Afghan people to bring peace and democracy back to their country and
to allow young Afghan girls to go to school.
In my role, I will defend the government's position while remaining
respectful toward and working positively with my honourable senatorial
colleagues who have different political allegiances, all in a spirit of
My father and mother often told me that we were a family and a family could
not keep only to itself. We live in a society and we must work to make it
better. My parents volunteered constantly. That is what I have done my whole
life. The values that my parents instilled in me are still very important to me
In coming to the Senate, I am bringing not only my personal experience, but
also my experience as a municipal councillor in Sainte-Foy, my Parliamentary
experience in the other place from 1984 to 1993, my experience as a
parliamentary secretary in foreign relations and in science and technology. I
continue to believe that it is through high-tech research, through
implementation of the results of this research and through development that all
young Canadians will find their future jobs.
Honourable senators, in October, Canadians gave Stephen Harper's Conservative
government a strengthened mandate because they see us as the best choice to
guide our country, which is confronted by the challenges of a slower global
economy. We understand that a number of people in our communities are worried
about their jobs, their savings and their retirement. Although the crisis
started outside our borders, Canadians expect their federal government to
support the workers and communities that are at risk because of the recession,
and they are expecting the provincial government to do its part.
I would like to congratulate Prime Minister Stephen Harper and the provincial
premiers who agreed, earlier this month, to work together to support and
strengthen the economy.
Among other things, they agreed on the importance of ensuring access to
credit, protecting pension plans, making it easier for skilled workers to find
work in other provinces, and eliminating obstacles to interprovincial trade.
Our government has also doubled spending on infrastructure. Together with the
provinces, we have taken immediate steps to begin work on and accelerate funding
for infrastructure projects for the 2009-10 construction season.
Even though we have not been spared the effects of the global economic
slowdown, we are still in a better position than many other countries thanks to
the decisions our government has made over the past three years. Having paid off
a considerable portion of the national debt, we are in a much better position to
take necessary actions. We have strengthened Canada's ability to compete on the
international stage, and we have left more money in the taxpayers' pockets by
significantly reducing personal and business income tax as well as sales taxes.
The tax cuts we have introduced since coming to power will amount to $31 billion
this year alone and have already begun to stimulate our economy. We have made
more funding available to post-secondary students and apprentices. Our financial
institutions are among the most stable in the world. Together with the Bank of
Canada, we will ensure that Canadians have access to credit, that the real
estate and banking sectors remain relatively stable, and that savings and
retirement income will not be threatened.
We have also helped seniors with registered retirement income funds by
relaxing the rules on withdrawals for 2008.
However, even more must be done in these difficult times. We did not cause
this economic crisis, but we will take action to protect jobs now and ensure
that our economy can create jobs for the future.
Honourable senators, the men and women in my community expect their
government to provide stable leadership. They expect parliamentarians to
cooperate and avoid conflicts. Their message is clear: it is time to take action
and to show some solidarity.
The speech given by Her Excellency yesterday represents a new step in
Canada's economic action plan. It was an unprecedented Speech from the Throne,
appropriate for these unprecedented times. It was a speech that shows that this
government, like all our citizens, sees the economy as a priority. Our
government has clearly said: Canada, like other countries around the globe, must
take serious, significant and multi-year measures to protect workers, businesses
and families in this time of global economic downturn. People who have lost
their jobs or who risk losing them want their government to work for them. They
deserve to know that the government is on their side.
Our government has conducted extensive consultations in recent weeks. It
heard from Canadians from all regions, communities and social backgrounds. In a
spirit of open and non-partisan cooperation, we listened to those who work,
those who invest, those who create jobs, those who build infrastructure and
those who provide non-profit services.
We listed to representatives of communities, municipal, provincial and
territorial governments, and Aboriginal leaders. We consulted the leaders of the
other parties. As Her Excellency pointed out yesterday, there is no monopoly on
good ideas because we face this crisis together.
Our action plan provides for immediate measures to build roads and bridges
and carry out other major infrastructure projects. It stimulates the economy
through direct government action and by encouraging the private sector. It
provides assistance for the people hit hardest by the recession, including the
unemployed and low-income workers, seniors and Aboriginal people. Our action
plan will support industries in difficulty, such as forestry, the automotive
industry, tourism and agriculture, and will protect the families and communities
that depend on those industries. It preserves the stability of the financial
system and gives businesses and consumers access to credit. The measures to be
announced later today in the budget will be targeted and will take the form of
an immediate stimulus. We will have a deficit, but these measures will prevent
the return to a permanent deficit, and the Minister of Finance will present a
plan that will enable us to restore a budget surplus.
Honourable senators, Canadians want their elected representatives to focus on
the economy and the concerns of ordinary people. They want us to set aside our
quarrels and our partisan interests.
The Hon. the Speaker: I regret to inform Senator Fortin-Duplessis
that her time has expired.
Hon. Gerald J. Comeau (Deputy Leader of the Government): Honourable
senators, would it be possible to give Senator Fortin-Duplessis five more
Some Hon. Senators: Agreed.
Senator Fortin-Duplessis: Our government has prepared a clear and
focused plan to help us get through this difficult period that may perhaps last
for several years. We will spend what we must to stimulate the economy and we
will make the investments needed to maintain our prosperity.
We will do everything necessary to help Canadians get through this period of
economic turbulence. It is vital that parliamentarians on both sides work in
concert on this common cause.
Allow me, honourable senators, to quote Her Excellency the Governor General
who stated yesterday:
The present crisis is new, but the imperative of concerted action is a
challenge to which Parliament has risen many times in our history. What will
sustain us today will be the same strengths of character that have pulled
Canada through critical times before: unity, determination and constancy of
Together, acting in concert, we will rise to the challenge and come out of
this serious economic crisis even stronger.
In closing, honourable senators, I once again thank the Prime Minister from
the bottom of my heart for allowing me, to the best of my ability, to continue
to work on behalf of my country, Canada.
Some Hon. Senators: Hear, hear!
Hon. Irving Gerstein: Honourable senators, being a member of the
Senate for all of one day, I feel especially humbled and privileged to stand
before you to second the motion to adopt the Speech from the Throne put forth so
ably by my colleague, Senator Fortin-Duplessis.
I am grateful that so many of you, from both sides of the chamber, have made
me feel so welcome, and I hope that my contribution to the work of the Senate
will be worthy of your expectations.
Every one of you knows why you are here. I would ask if you might indulge me
and let me tell you why I am here. I am one of the 18 new senators appointed by
the Prime Minister in December, and it is fair to say that those appointments
were greeted — certainly by many in the media — with less than lavish praise.
Some commentators even waded in with comments about "bagmen."
Well, I want to tell you that I do not admit to being a bagman; I proclaim
I believe that the job of raising funds for the Conservative Party or, for
that matter, any party, is both necessary and honourable. Parties require money
Remember, the financial side of any political party is unique in politics in
that it is the only area in the political spectrum where you do not have to take
a poll or feel the wind to know where you stand; you just have to look at the
party's balance sheet and income statement.
Political fundraising today is a business characterized by extreme focus,
attention to detail, and constant innovation. Most of it involves highly skilled
people using very smart computers. Just look to the south, where many believe
President Barack Obama would still be a U.S. senator if his campaign had not
revolutionized campaign funding through the sophisticated use of the Internet.
There may have been a day when political fundraising was about access and
attitude; today, it is all about creativity and skill.
The success of the Conservative Party's fundraising activity is the result of
years of investing in the development of integrated giving programs. We have
created complex leading-edge fundraising techniques such as data mining,
segmentation, targeted marketing and relationship management, all in an effort
to move our pool of identified supporters up the support pyramid, from
supporters, to members, to donors.
Honourable senators, for all practical purposes, notwithstanding my great
friend and mentor Senator Angus, the day of the bagman in Canadian federal
politics is over. Today, federal political fundraising, as I said earlier, is
all about running a business.
Here in Canada, the myth of the smoke-filled back room is just that: in 2003,
then Prime Minister Chrétien brought in Bill C-24 effective January 1, 2004,
which basically eliminated corporate and union donations to political parties
and limited individual donations to $5,000 a year. Commencing January 1, 2007,
individual donations were reduced to $1,100 a year. In fact, as you know, many
of the funds given to Canada's political parties today come from taxpayers,
through a per capita allotment by Ottawa matching the number of votes that the
party received in the last federal election.
The reality is that Canada has some of the most democratic and transparent
political fundraising rules of any nation — far more open than the United
States. It is a tribute to the members on both sides of this chamber that those
rules are in place and working. However, to suggest that political parties can
just sit back and wait for their government grant is equally wrong-headed. If
your party's fundraising falters, it is hard to build momentum, and even harder
to deliver your message. There is an old saying that all fund raisers, whether
political or charitable, know by heart: Message creates momentum creates money.
Honourable senators, I know what happens when a political party does not have
money. A decade ago I returned as chair of the PC Canada Fund when the
Progressive Conservative Party was more than $10 million in debt. At the top of
our monthly bank statement was a debit of $70,000 of interest every month. It is
hard to "send a message," let alone win an election when you can barely pay
the interest on what you owe.
There are thousands of Canadians from all leanings who raise money for their
parties, and millions of Canadians who contribute to their candidates. I am
proud to be a member of both groups.
I have been a volunteer for the Conservative Party for over 43 years. I love
politics, but never had the time to become a candidate, so I went where my
skills took me. Since 1965, when I raised my first dollar for John Diefenbaker,
I have had the best seat in the house — centre reds right behind the players'
bench. I do not have to tell you that if you are looking for something that
mirrors life — its triumphs, tragedies, and utter unpredictability — nothing
beats Canadian politics.
Honourable senators, I have been a Conservative and consumed with politics
since I was 13 years old. My history teacher at Malvern Collegiate in the east
end of Toronto, Mr. Gilmour, was an unabashed fan of John George Diefenbaker.
Like many teachers of that era, he had returned from fighting in the Second
World War convinced that democracy was something precious that needed constant
nurturing to keep it alive. His commitment and passion rubbed off on me.
After a lifetime in business and fundraising for many different causes, I
have been appointed to the Senate. Did I seek this seat? As honourable senators
know all too well, if you get into politics in order to get into the Senate,
your life will be filled with disappointment.
Do I want to be in the Senate? Of course I do. I would like to think that I
bring some business skills, political skills — and I must say with pride — some
fundraising skills to my party and to this chamber. I am here to work alongside
all of you.
Fellow senators, Canadians are facing the most calamitous financial
challenges since the Great Depression, but I believe we cannot wring our hands
and roll up our sleeves at the same time. I am here to learn, as well as to
As others have noted, this is an unprecedented Throne Speech for an
unprecedented time. It demonstrated that, like all Canadians, the government is
focused on the economy. As the Governor General said yesterday in the Throne
Speech, "The nations of the world are grappling with challenges that Canada can
address but not avoid."
In the face of these exceptional global challenges, the government has
reached out to Canadians in all regions and communities and has listened to
Canadians from all walks of life. Minister Flaherty and others have travelled
throughout the country and have engaged in an open and non-partisan dialogue.
The Throne Speech clearly reflects the government's concern to help every
Canadian in these troubled times.
In seconding the motion to adopt the Throne Speech, I confirm this
government's commitment to serious, substantial and multi-year action in
protecting today's jobs while readying our economy to create tomorrow's jobs. In
many ways, Canada is like all developed nations in having to protect its economy
but relative to many nations, we are in a uniquely strong position.
At the same time that we can take immediate action to build roads, bridges
and other critical infrastructure, we can also provide tax relief to stimulate
the economy and help protect those Canadians in the lower and middle income
groups who are hardest hit by the recession.
This government is not only ready to do whatever it takes to help Canadians
weather this economic storm; it is able to do what it takes.
Accordingly, I am pleased to support the motion by Senator Fortin-Duplessis
that this house adopt the Speech from the Throne.