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Debates of the Senate (Hansard)

2nd Session, 40th Parliament,
Volume 146, Issue 24

Wednesday, April 1, 2009
The Honourable Noël A. Kinsella, Speaker


 

THE SENATE

Wednesday, April 1, 2009

The Senate met at 1:30 p.m., the Speaker in the chair.

Prayers.

Visitor in the Gallery

The Hon. the Speaker: Honourable senators, I would like to draw your attention to the presence in the gallery of His Excellency Mohamed Abdulla Mohamed Bin Mutlaq Al-Ghafli, the newly appointed Ambassador of the United Arab Emirates to Canada.

On behalf of all senators, I welcome you to the Senate of Canada.


SENATORS' STATEMENTS

Canadian Secretary to the Queen

Mr. Kevin MacLeod

Hon. Marjory LeBreton (Leader of the Government and Minister of State (Seniors)): Honourable senators, since March 2008, the Senate has been honoured by the presence of Mr. Kevin MacLeod as our Usher of the Black Rod. This morning, the Prime Minister announced his appointment as Canadian Secretary to the Queen.

The Usher of the Black Rod, in addition to his other duties in the Senate, performs a 600-year-old parliamentary tradition as the personal attendant and messenger of the sovereign or her representative. This includes protocol, logistical and administrative details regarding official parliamentary functions in this place such as the Speech from the Throne.

The Canadian Secretary to the Queen coordinates the planning and delivery of royal visits to Canada through close partnership with various government officials and the Royal Households. Mr. MacLeod will lead the planning of the royal visits expected to take place in 2009-10. He will also chair the Diamond Jubilee Committee celebrating Her Majesty's sixtieth anniversary as Queen of Canada in the year 2012.

As the Prime Minister said this morning:

I am delighted that Her Majesty The Queen of Canada has graciously agreed to this appointment. Royal Visits demonstrate the enduring ties between the Royal Family and Canadians and offer a unique opportunity to celebrate this important aspect of our shared heritage, culture and identity. In his capacity as Canadian Secretary to The Queen, Mr. MacLeod will play a crucial role in ensuring the success of upcoming Royal Visits.

Mr. MacLeod, as we all know, honourable senators, has extensive experience in organizing royal visits. Since his first involvement in the 1987 visit of Her Majesty to Canada, he served 22 years with the Department of the Secretary of State, later the Department of Canadian Heritage, and held the position of Chief of Protocol. He is the recipient of several honours and decorations, including Commander of the Royal Victorian Order, CVO, presented personally by Her Majesty the Queen in 2005 for personal service to the sovereign. Mr. MacLeod served as Acting Canadian Secretary to the to the Queen during the 2005 royal visit of Her Majesty the Queen and His Royal Highness the Duke of Edinburgh.

Honourable senators, this is a great honour for Kevin MacLeod and also a great honour for the Senate of Canada. It is difficult, if not impossible, to think of anyone more qualified than him for this position. I am sure all honourable senators join with me in offering our sincerest congratulations to our Usher of the Black Rod, Kevin MacLeod.

Hon. Senators: Here, here!

Nunavut

Congratulations on Tenth Anniversary as Territory

Hon. Willie Adams: Honourable senators, I rise today to draw your attention to the tenth anniversary of Nunavut. After many years of consultations, on May 25, 1993, the agreement between the Inuit of the Nunavut settlement area and Canada was signed. On June 10, 1993, Royal Assent was given to the Nunavut Act declaring April 1, 1999, as the date Nunavut would officially be created.

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The territory of Nunavut is almost 2 million square kilometres of land and water. We would finally have our own government, allowing us to make laws according to Inuit wishes. There are 19 members in the Legislative Assembly and we have our first woman premier.

I was in Iqaluit last week. Nunavut has come a long way since 1993. We are now consulted on important issues such as sovereignty, fisheries, mineral resources, land use and wildlife resources.

Today, we have more control over the future and the future of our grandchildren. It is important they not lose their language, culture, identity and the ability to survive and enjoy what their land has to offer.

We are a young territory and we are just beginning.

Canadian Forces

Hon. Pamela Wallin: Honourable senators, yesterday Senator Kenny challenged me to be brave and to offer up honest criticism regarding the military. First let me say that I am not interested in contrived posturing to "stand up to the Prime Minister" for the sake of a headline. I stand with the Prime Minister, with our military leadership and with our troops, and I can only suggest that the senator read the report of the Independent Panel on Canada's Future Role in Afghanistan, of which I was a part, if he is uncertain of my views.

While the Defence Committee has spoken about the issue of military funding, as The Globe and Mail said of the Manley Report that "it is the single most useful contribution" on the topic, showing both "honesty and clarity." The report and our government's response to it has prompted new and valuable support from our American allies. If the senator wants further confirmation of my views on the importance of military spending, he can check the public record.

In fact, Senator Kenny might check his own comments on the topic. From the Calgary Herald, August 2007:

How, you ask, can I lump the Conservative government currently ruling the country with the preceding Liberal governments that allowed our military to slip into such steep decline? Aren't the Conservatives out announcing that they intend to buy all kinds of expensive weaponry? Didn't they extend the Canadian mission in Afghanistan — a mission that follows the sensible adage that threats to Canadians are best dealt with at a safe distance from our shores?

I acknowledge that "yes" is the honest response to both these questions.

He also told the Toronto Star in May 2008:

. . . Stephen Harper and his defence ministers have very much enjoyed talking about how muscular they have made the Canadian Forces, compared to those 98-pound Liberal weaklings under Jean Chrétien and Paul Martin.

I have no problem with the current government depicting those Liberal governments as pikers when it came to funding the kind of military Canadians need. They were pikers.

Senator Kenny has said on many occasions that his party simply does not attach "that big a priority to the military." Also, for the record, I want to note that the senator has, in his comments, left the mistaken impression that General Leslie, in testimony before the Defence Committee, has made the case that our military was "just pretend."

I attended that hearing, listened to the witnesses and his comments that day. Let me say that at no point did the general ever say our military is "just pretend." Those are the words of the senator.

On the same day that our chiefs of land, air and navy gave testimony at our committee, The Canadian Press reported that this is "the start of a new chapter in the way Canada fights this three-year-old desert war in Kandahar province."

We have a long way to go; work remains to be done but we are on the right track. We, the military and our soldiers in the field were once grateful for Senator Kenny's support in the past and we hope we may have it again. However, to call our military "just pretend" is not support. It is unfair, unwise and unhelpful.

Yes, it makes me emotional. The life, death and security of our soldiers is an important issue and it is an emotional matter. I love my country, honour those who serve it, pray for their safe return and fight to the best of my ability every day for their security, which includes the need for better equipment, better support and more and real help from our government.

Some Hon. Senators: Hear, hear!

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Pauktuutit Inuit Women of Canada

Congratulation on Twenty-fifth Anniversary

[Editor's Note: Senator Watt spoke in Inuktitut.]

Hon. Charlie Watt: Honourable senators, I will switch to English. I did not make a deal with His Honour, so I have to cut down what I say in my mother tongue. Hopefully, next time I will be able to speak entirely in Inuktitut. That capability is not yet in place but it is coming.

Today Pauktuutit Inuit Women of Canada, the voice of Inuit women from across the Inuit Nunaat, celebrates its twenty-fifth anniversary. Since 1984, Pauktuutit has worked tirelessly to address a broad range of health and social issues of concern to our Inuit communities.

Priority issues have included housing, education, economic development, elimination of violence and abuse against Inuit women and children, the administration of justice in Inuit communities and achieving social and political equality in Canada.

Honourable senators, with input from the communities and the Inuit experts, some of this work resulted in the 2006 National Strategy to Prevent Abuse in Inuit Communities, as well as a National Inuit Residential Schools Healing Strategy. Elimination of abuse against Inuit women and children continues to be an ongoing priority.

Honourable senators, I, for one, congratulate Pauktuutit on their success, and encourage our government to continue to work with them as a respected and much-needed partner in improving living conditions in the Arctic.

Queen's University

Hon. Hugh Segal: Honourable senators, Robert Sutherland, who lived between 1830 and 1878, was the first Black student and graduate at Queen's University, and one of the university's most important early benefactors.

He was born in Jamaica and came to Queen's in 1849. He is the first known Black university student to graduate in Canada.

Mr. Sutherland won 14 academic prizes, including one for general merit in Latin, awarded by a vote of his fellow students. He was an excellent debater and served as treasurer of the Dialectic Society, which has become today's Alma Mater Society at Queen's University.

Mr. Sutherland graduated in 1852 with honours in classics and mathematics, and went on to study law through apprenticeship and examination. He qualified in 1855, 12 years before Confederation, and was British North America's first known Black lawyer.

Mr. Sutherland practised law in Walkerton for more than 20 years, served briefly as the town's reeve and had connections to the Underground Railroad and the Black Diaspora.

He drew up his will three weeks before his death and left his entire $12,000 estate to Queen's University. Friends recalled that he often said Queen's was one place where "he had always been treated as a gentleman."

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Robert Sutherland's donation was the largest that any person had given to the university to date and came at a time when the university had lost most of its endowment in a bank collapse a few years earlier. Sutherland's gift was used to launch a fundraising campaign that helped to stop Queen's from being annexed by the University of Toronto — a fate worse than death. In appreciation, Principal George Munro Grant ordered that a large granite tombstone be placed on his grave in Toronto's Mount Pleasant Cemetery, where it still stands, to mark his connection with Queen's.

In February 2009, the Queen's Board of Trustees unanimously approved a student-initiated motion to rename the Policy Studies Building at 138 University Avenue after alumnus Robert Sutherland. This great Afro-Canadian stood with Queen's in its darkest financial hour. His memory merits our respective note and celebration, not only as a reflection of Queen's but also as a reflection on the seminal role that Afro-Canadians have played in the national academic and institutional roots of this country.

The Late William Ronald

Hon. Peter A. Stollery: Honourable senators, I draw your attention to the work of the late William Ronald, a founding member of the mainly Ontario group of celebrated abstract expressionist painters known as the Painters Eleven. The Painters Eleven worked at about the same time, or a little later, as the Montreal-based group the Automatistes, founded by Paul-Émile Borduas, whose famous members included Jean-Paul Riopelle.

Senators will have seen one of the large murals in the National Arts Centre painted by William Ronald. On large canvases, Ronald painted a famous series of abstract expressionist portraits of Canada's prime ministers, from Sir John A. Macdonald to Kim Campbell. We are approaching the twenty-fifth anniversary of the unveiling at the Ontario Art Gallery in Toronto of the first 16 portraits, which I believe belong in the National Art Gallery and, when it opens, in Ottawa I hope, in the national portrait gallery.


[Translation]

ROUTINE PROCEEDINGS

Conflict of Interest for Senators

Report Pursuant to Rule 104(2) Tabled

Hon. Serge Joyal: Honourable senators, pursuant to rule 104(2), I have the honour to table, in both official languages, the first report of the Standing Committee on Conflict of Interest for Senators, which reports on the expenses incurred by the committee during the second session of the 39th Parliament and the Intersessional Authority.

(For text of report, see today's Journals of the Senate, p. 429.)

Criminal Code

Bill to Amend—First Reading

Hon. Gerald J. Comeau (Deputy Leader of the Government) introduced Bill S-5, An Act to Amend the Criminal Code and Another Act.

(Bill read first time.)

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

(On motion of Senator Comeau, bill placed on the Orders of the Day for second reading two days hence.)

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Canadian NATO Parliamentary Association

Spring Session, May 23-27, 2008—Report Tabled

Hon. Pierre Claude Nolin: Honourable senators, I have the honour to table, in both official languages, the report of the Canadian Parliamentary Delegation to the 2008 spring session held in Berlin, Germany, from May 23 to 27, 2008.

Visit of Science and Technology Committee, July 7-10, 2008—Report Tabled

Hon. Pierre Claude Nolin: Honourable senators, I have the honour to table, in both official languages, the report of the Canadian Parliamentary Delegation to the visit of the science and technology committee held in Ottawa and Montreal from July 7 to 10, 2008.

Canada-Europe Parliamentary Association

Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe Parliamentary Assembly—Election Observation Mission in Georgia, January 1-7, 2008—Report Tabled

Hon. Consiglio Di Nino: Honourable senators, I have the honour to table, in both official languages, the report of the Canadian delegation of the Canada-Europe Parliamentary Association respecting its participation in the Election Observation Mission in Georgia, of the OSCE Parliamentary Assembly, held in Georgia, January 1 to 7, 2008.

Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe Parliamentary Assembly—Winter Meeting, February 21-22, 2008—Report Tabled

Hon. Consiglio Di Nino: Honourable senators, I have the honour to table, in both official languages, the report of the Canadian delegation of the Canada-Europe Parliamentary Association respecting its participation in the seventh Winter Session of the OSCE Parliamentary Assembly held in Vienna, Austria, February 21 and 22, 2008.

Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe Parliamentary Assembly—Bureau Meeting, April 14, 2008—Report Tabled

Hon. Consiglio Di Nino: Honourable senators, I have the honour to table, in both official languages, the report of the Canadian Delegation of the Canada-Europe Parliamentary Association on its participation in the Meeting of the Bureau of the Parliamentary Assembly of the OSCE, held in Copenhagen, Denmark, on April 14, 2008.

Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe Parliamentary Assembly—Election Observation Mission in Georgia May, 17-22, 2008—Report Tabled

Hon. Consiglio Di Nino: Honourable senators, I have the honour to table, in both official languages, the report of the Canadian delegation of the Canada-Europe Parliamentary Association respecting its participation in the Parliamentary Assembly of the OSCE's Election Observation Mission in Georgia, held in Georgia, May 17 to 22, 2008.

Legal and Constitutional Affairs

Study on Provisions and Operation of DNA Identification Act—Notice of Motion to Authorize Committee to Travel

Hon. Joan Fraser: Honourable senators, I give notice that at the next sitting of the Senate, I will move:

That the Standing Senate Committee on Legal and Constitutional Affairs, which was authorized by the Senate on February 26, 2009 to examine and report on the provisions and operation of the DNA Identification Act, be empowered to travel inside Canada for the purpose of its study.

Conflict of Interest for Senators

Notice of Motion to Authorize Committee to Meet During Sittings of the Senate for Duration of Current Session

Hon. Serge Joyal: Honourable senators, I give notice that at the next sitting of the Senate, I will move:

That, for the duration of the current session, the Standing Committee on Conflict of Interest for Senators be authorized to sit even though the Senate may then be sitting and that rule 95(4) be suspended in relation thereto.

[English]

Notice of Motion to Authorize Committee to Refer Papers and Evidence from Second Session of Thirty-ninth Parliament and Intersessional Authority

Hon. Serge Joyal: Honourable senators, I give notice that, at the next sitting of the Senate, I will move:

That the papers and documents received and/or produced by the Committee on Conflict of Interest for Senators during the Second Session of the Thirty-ninth Parliament, and Intersessional Authority be referred to the Committee on Conflict of Interest for Senators.

Fisheries Act

Cessation of Commercial Seal Hunt—Presentation of Petition

Hon. Mac Harb: Honourable senators, I have a petition here, signed by residents of Ontario, requesting that the Government of Canada amend the Fisheries Act to end Canada's commercial seal hunt.


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[Translation]

QUESTION PERIOD

Foreign Affairs

Government Action on Status of Afghanistan Women

Hon. Lucie Pépin: Honourable senators, my question is for the Leader of the Government in the Senate. The Afghan government is apparently preparing to pass a law that might be expected of the Taliban. This law legalizes marital rape, forbids women to go out without their husband's permission and automatically gives custody of children to the father.

Afghanistan must be able to create its own legislation. However, Canada did not take up arms against the Taliban regime, which we opposed because of its backwards laws with respect to women, so that the rights of women would be restricted.

Can the Leader of the Government assure us that our government has already done everything necessary to have the Afghan government re-evaluate this law from another era?

[English]

Hon. Marjory LeBreton (Leader of the Government and Minister of State (Seniors)): I could not agree more with the honourable senator. Our troops are not in Afghanistan fighting for the rights of Afghan people, and women in particular, to have this terrible news be presented to us.

We have called upon the Afghan government, in the strongest terms possible, to honour its human rights treaty obligations under international law, including respect for the equality of women before the law. Afghans expect their government to promote and protect their human rights.

While participating at the United Nations International Conference on Afghanistan in The Hague over the last few days, the Minister of Foreign Affairs has expressed Canada's deep concerns to the Afghan foreign minister and the interior minister. Canadian officials in Afghanistan will continue to raise this matter, seeking clarification on possible implementation of this law with the Afghan government, including their Ministers of Justice and Foreign Affairs, as well as the Attorney General, and the Office of the President.

The government, through our Minister of Foreign Affairs and our officials in Afghanistan, will continue actively to engage in this issue alongside our international partners, who are as shocked and dismayed by this news as we are.

Hon. Mobina S.B. Jaffer: I appreciate what the Leader of the Government in the Senate has said, and it is obvious we are all on the same page. Our troops, our young men and women, were not sent to Afghanistan for what is happening now. Canadians sent our young men and women to Afghanistan because we were upset with what was happening to the women of Afghanistan.

To repeat, the Karzai government wants to legalize rape within marriage, to forbid women from going to the doctor or leaving their homes without their husband's permission, and to grant custody of children only to fathers or grandfathers.

At the conference at The Hague, foreign ministers have been meeting and discussing the issues of Afghanistan. I understand that the U.S. Secretary of State, Hillary Clinton, met with President Karzai yesterday about this abusive law.

Has Lawrence Cannon, our Minister of Foreign Affairs, met with President Karzai? If so, what issues has Minister Cannon addressed specifically with President Karzai, and, more specifically, will we empower the women of Afghanistan by providing resources to fight this law?

Senator LeBreton: I believe we were all well aware of the view of the Secretary of State for the United States, Hillary Clinton. The look on her face on the front page of The Globe and Mail this morning said it all.

Honourable senators, I reiterate the government's grave concern about this turn of events. Equality between women and men is an important objective for Canada's work in Afghanistan, and is strongly reflected in its programming priorities, particularly in terms of the delivery of basic services such as education and governance.

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Canada's priorities in Afghanistan, as the honourable senator rightly states, in particular our focus on Kandahar, enable projects designed to improve the lives of women. That is why we are there, and surely no one would think that our mission there did not have that as its primary objective.

Honourable senators have heard Minister MacKay, as Minister of National Defence; Minister Day, who is in charge of the cabinet committee on Afghanistan; and Minister Cannon, the Minister of Foreign Affairs, all cite many examples, when they have visited Afghanistan, of vast improvements in the area of education, health and opportunities for women. That this improvement would take such a huge backward step is a troubling turn of events.

I assure all honourable senators that promoting and protecting human rights is the core element of Canada's participation in Afghanistan.

With regard to the honourable senator's specific question about whether the minister had an opportunity to meet directly with President Karzai in The Hague, I cannot say definitively whether he did or not. They were at the same meeting, so I presume they met, but I cannot say that with absolute certainty. I will ask if the minister met the president and if they can provide us with information on what that exchange entailed.

Hon. Jim Munson: I thank the leader for her answers. Recognizing that the issue is a domestic one in a sovereign country like Afghanistan, does the leader think it is possible for our government, at least, to initiate a process to ask for the removal of this individual as President of Afghanistan?

Senator LeBreton: Honourable senators, I do not believe I am in a position to answer that question at the moment. I will leave it to my cabinet colleagues, most particularly those who are working on this matter, including the Prime Minister, who also commented in London about this troubling turn of events.

Honourable senators, as to what Canada and our partners in the North Atlantic Treaty Organization might do with regard to this particular matter, I am not in a position to comment right now.

Senator Jaffer: I asked the leader whether the Government of Canada would consider providing assistance to Afghan women and empower them with resources and other support to fight this law, if this law proceeds.

Senator LeBreton: As honourable senators know, a significant amount of money has been provided already for other projects in Afghanistan, especially for projects directed to women. I will inquire about whether a decision will be made to redirect that money or direct new sources of funds. I will take notice of the honourable senator's question.

Human Resources and Skills Development

Canada Graduate Scholarships Program

Hon. Catherine S. Callbeck: Honourable senators, my question is to the Leader of the Government in the Senate. Last week, representatives from the Canadian Alliance of Student Associations were on the Hill talking to parliamentarians. One of their main concerns is the investment to the Canada Graduate Scholarships Program that was outlined in the government's Economic Action Plan. It indicated that those scholarships are limited only to those pursuing business-related degrees.

Students feel the government is discriminating against those enrolled in faculties of education, environmental studies, social work and other non-business-related programs. I know the leader has been asked similar questions before, but with all due respect, she has not been clear on this point.

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Can the leader explain the government's rationale for limiting these scholarships to business-related degrees?

Hon. Marjory LeBreton (Leader of the Government and Minister of State (Seniors)): So as not to misinform the honourable senator, I do not know exactly what this group said. I did not see their presentation, so I will take the question as notice.

Senator Callbeck: I would also like to know what analysis the government has done to show why they chose to invest in the business-related degrees. Does the internal analysis suggest there is a particular shortage of business-related degrees compared to other fields of specialization?

Senator LeBreton: I thank Senator Callbeck for the question. I will take both questions and ask the department to provide answers.

Public Safety

Correctional Service Canada—Prison Farms

Hon. Lorna Milne: Honourable senators, can the Leader of the Government in the Senate explain the justification for Correctional Service Canada's decision to close six federal prison farms?

Senator Prud'homme: That is the right question; short and sweet.

Hon. Marjory LeBreton (Leader of the Government and Minister of State (Seniors)): With regard to prison farms, this is a decision made by Correctional Service Canada. I do not have at my fingertips the rationale for all of their decisions, but I will be happy to take the question as notice.

Senator Milne: Apparently, a Correctional Service Canada spokesperson said the plan is to provide more relevant and practical employability skills for inmates.

Honourable senators, is this Conservative government prepared to use the funding from the sale of these valuable farms to increase the rehabilitation programs available to inmates, or will the funds merely disappear into general revenues, thus depriving these inmates of the opportunity to learn to face life after they are out of prison?

Senator LeBreton: Obviously there are good and valid reasons these decisions have been made. I am aware of one such institution not far from Ottawa that was closed several years ago, and it is still sitting there as vacant land. By "several years ago," I mean more than three years ago. I will be happy to ask the responsible minister to provide a detailed answer as to the rationale behind closing these farms.

Senator Milne: Honourable senators, farming is now an intensified industry with land and assets owned by larger and larger operations. We have seen this recently in Saskatchewan. Many of these entities are corporations that need to hire workers with the skills and job experience that these 300 inmates would gain under this program.

Why is the Conservative government so eager to disband this program and sell these properties on today's market, which is rather depressed? Is there a plan in place here, or is this merely a cash grab by Correctional Service Canada in order to satisfy their political masters and to help this Conservative government balance its books?

Senator Comeau: She says indignantly.

Senator LeBreton: There is always a conspiracy theory behind everything.

Senator Milne: I am usually right.

Senator LeBreton: There is no doubt, as the honourable senator states, that the agricultural and farming industries have become very complex, much more so than the days when I was raised on a farm.

I say again, honourable senators, that I do not have the rationale behind the decision of Correctional Service Canada. I know the honourable senator attaches motives to everything that happens by every agency of government. Who knows, it might just be sound business practice, such as was the case with the CBC, when we trust the board of directors to run their own affairs.

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Hon. Terry M. Mercer: The Leader of the Government in the Senate is probably aware and probably read in detail the last several reports of the Standing Senate Committee on Agriculture and Forestry. One such study was initiated by a colleague in her caucus, Senator Segal, a study on rural poverty, as well as previous studies where we studied the state of agriculture across the country.

One of the underlying things that we were told, as we talked to Canadians in rural Canada and to farmers from all across this country, was the shortage of workers, of people who would come to work on the farm. Indeed, every fall and summer we must import large numbers of migrant workers to come and pick apples, potatoes, peaches, et cetera, and it seems to me that this makes little sense. We have people in our prisons being trained to work on farms. Hopefully when they leave prison, they will find work on a farm as experienced farm hands and perhaps farm managers. It seems to me that the left hand does not know what the right hand is doing.

I hope the Leader of the Government in the Senate would speak to both the minister responsible for Corrections Canada and the Minister of Agriculture and Agri-food to ensure that that minister impresses upon his colleague that this program is helpful to farmers in every province of this country.

Senator LeBreton: I thank Senator Mercer for his suggestion, but I dare say there would not be enough prisoners in the whole country, in all of the various correctional institutions, who could satisfy or meet the demands of the labour shortages on farms. This shortage of workers is a serious problem, especially at the time of harvesting, when temporary foreign workers are brought into the country to perform these various tasks.

The fact Correctional Service Canada has decided to close some prison farms, while those trained there may assist, in no way would they be able to accommodate the requirements of all of our farms. There are regional difficulties as well.

Since Senator Mercer is concerned that perhaps some of these prisoners who have been trained on prison farms may end up helping the agricultural industry, which perhaps is a loss of manpower for our farms across the country, I will draw that link, however weak, to the attention of my ministerial colleagues.

Human Resources and Skills Development

National Housing Strategy

Hon. Art Eggleton: Honourable senators, a recent report by the Special Rapporteur for Adequate Housing for the United Nations, Miloon Kothari, called on Canada to develop a national housing strategy. Most G8 and OECD countries have responded to the call. Mr. Kothari is joined by many Canadians and Canadian organizations as varied as the Wellesley Institute and the Canadian Chamber of Commerce that have called for a national housing strategy.

The UN report was concerned with the rise in the number of homeless people in Canada. A 2008 factsheet produced by the City of Calgary noted that approximately 4,000 people in that city are homeless, and that was an increase over two years of approximately 18 per cent.

Will the government work with the provinces and develop a national housing strategy?

Hon. Marjory LeBreton (Leader of the Government and Minister of State (Seniors)): I thank Senator Eggleton for the question. As the honourable senator knows, in our Economic Action Plan, the issue of housing and homelessness was addressed, as it was in previous budgets.

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This is a serious problem, mainly for the provinces, because they do administer the housing files. Many of the social housing units in the country require energy efficiency upgrades and renovations. We will be working with our provincial and territorial partners to strengthen social housing. In September 2008, we committed more than $1.9 billion over the next five years to improve and build affordable housing and to help the homeless.

The Economic Action Plan builds on the $1.9 billion that we announced last September, with a $2 billion investment to help low-income Canadians and the homeless through renovation of social housing. It will also provide for new social housing to help vulnerable groups such as seniors, under the seniors' housing component. Aboriginals living on reserve and persons with disabilities are also part of this program.

Honourable senators, we are investing more in housing for vulnerable Canadians than has any government in our history, for which my colleagues in government deserve great credit. I know that our counterparts in the provinces very much appreciate it. As a matter of fact, the Co-operative Housing Federation of Canada has said:

The federal budget's allocation of funding for more affordable housing and renovation of existing stock will help deal with Canada's affordable housing problem and put Canadians back to work. . . .

Even an organization like the Co-operative Housing Federation applauded the government for its actions.

Senator Eggleton: Honourable senators, I appreciate that answer. I understand that it is part of the action plan, and the leader has outlined a number of measures. However, I was specifically targeting a national housing strategy pulling all the pieces together, not only the things that are in the budget but also the things that are not there.

In fact, the budget is remarkable for who it leaves out. The leader has said who is included, and that is fine, but what about the people it leaves out? The action plan did not say anything about the homeless. Most low-income Canadians who are having difficulty getting decent, affordable housing were not included. Aboriginal peoples who live in cities and towns were not included.

Why has the government not allocated money to build new affordable housing units for hundreds and thousands of Canadians who are in need of affordable housing? They were not included.

Senator LeBreton: Honourable senators, Senator Eggleton must not have read the action plan. I actually mentioned the homeless in my answer.

The government is contributing $1.9 billion and $2 billion to these programs in partnership with our provincial partners, which is a lot of money. The honourable senator asked about a policy. He knows that the Conservative government believes that the provinces are best positioned to deal with this problem, as they are with child care, and that is why the money is transferred to them.

The federal government does not stand over the provinces with a big stick telling them how to run their affairs. We work in partnership with them, with a considerable sum of money. Being closer to the problem areas, they are in the best position to determine where best to spend the money.

Homelessness Partnering Strategy

Hon. Jane Cordy: Honourable senators, my question is for the Leader of the Government in the Senate. Announcements are great, but the reality is that many announcements are not followed by funding.

Last summer, the Standing Senate Committee on Social Affairs, Science and Technology's subcommittee studying cities went to St. John's, Newfoundland. One of the witnesses we heard from was Minister Skinner, who is responsible for dealing with poverty. Newfoundland and Labrador has a very forward-looking strategy to help eliminate poverty in their province.

Minister Skinner told us about federal-provincial meetings that were supposed to be established. He was to be a co-chair. The other co-chair, representing the federal government, was to be Minister Solberg. Minister Skinner said that he had been trying to arrange a meeting with Minister Solberg to get all of the provinces together. He had not been able to arrange a meeting for one year.

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At that point, in August, Minister Solberg said that he would give all of the provinces one hour of his time in October. We know that in the meantime the Prime Minister called the election and that meeting did not take place. Mr. Solberg is no longer a minister in the government because he did not run in that election.

Is the federal government still part of a process to get all of the provinces together to talk about a national strategy to deal with poverty?

Hon. Marjory LeBreton (Leader of the Government and Minister of State (Seniors)): Senator Cordy is asking about a specific minister in a government with regard to a meeting that he claims he tried to set up with the previous federal minister, Mr. Solberg. In answer to Senator Eggleton's question, I indicated that a significant amount of money was allocated in September 2008 and then again in the action plan. The provinces have been working with the federal government. The processes used by the provinces perhaps vary.

I will specifically ask my colleague Minister Finley, who took over this portfolio from Minister Solberg, what process she follows in terms of rolling out the money we have provided under the national housing and homelessness strategy.

Senator Cordy: Will the federal government still be part of getting the provinces together to discuss a national poverty initiative?

Senator LeBreton: Honourable senators, I answered that question for Senator Eggleton. I believe Senator Cordy is asking to go back to a national housing strategy. I am saying that we are obviously working with the provinces in partnership. I would doubt whether they all will meet at the same time.

With regard to a specific meeting that Senator Cordy mentioned in Newfoundland and Labrador, I cannot verify what happened there or whether there was any follow-up. The honourable senator will have to allow me to find out what happened to that meeting request.

All of this is to say that when the federal government has $1.9 billion plus $2 billion on the table to work with the provinces and territories on housing and homelessness, we obviously are meeting with them to work together to best provide them the opportunity to implement the policy. I am not personally aware of how these meetings take place or what format Minister Finley is using, but I will be happy to find out.

National Housing Strategy

Hon. Tommy Banks: Honourable senators, my supplementary question is to the Leader of the Government in the Senate. I am returning to the question of a national policy and to the things that Senator Eggleton referred to as not being included.

The leader talked about the amount of money being spent in the action plan on social housing, for which the government deserves congratulations, and the amount being spent for on-reserve housing, for which the government also deserves commendation. However, the holes that would be plugged by a national housing policy include two things about which I would specifically like to ask.

Can the leader find any references in the action plan to housing other than social housing? By that I mean subsidized public housing that has an aspect of public ownership, which constitutes less than 5 per cent of the housing in the country. Many Aboriginal people in our country who need assistance with respect to decent housing, which is affordable and appropriate to them, do not live on reserves. The vast majority of Aboriginals and non-Aboriginals who need this help are not included in social housing because most of them rent from private landlords.

Can the Leader of the Government in the Senate undertake to tell us where those matters and needs are addressed in the action plan?

(1430)

Hon. Marjory LeBreton (Leader of the Government and Minister of State (Seniors)): Honourable senators, I will read directly what was announced by the government and what we have committed.

Our government, in September 2008, committed more than $1.9 billion over the next five years to improve and build new affordable housing and to help the homeless. Our Economic Action Plan builds on this, with a $2 billion investment to help low-income Canadians and the homeless through renovations to existing social housing. It will also provide for additional new social housing to help vulnerable groups such as seniors, Aboriginals living on reserve and persons with disabilities.

We are investing more on housing for vulnerable Canadians than any other government in the history of the country.

Pages Exchange Program with House of Commons

The Hon. the Speaker: Honourable senators, before calling Orders of the Day, I am pleased to introduce two House of Commons pages who are participating in the pages exchange program between the Senate and the other place.

Sarah Francis of St. Albert, Alberta, is enrolled in the Faculty of Health Sciences at the University of Ottawa where she is majoring in human kinetics.

[Translation]

Julien Adant, from Sherbrooke, Quebec, is studying international development in the Faculty of Social Sciences at the University of Ottawa.

Welcome.

[English]

Questions of Privilege

National Security and Defence Committee—Speaker's Ruling Reserved

Hon. Pamela Wallin: Honourable senators, pursuant to rule 59(10), I rise on a question of privilege. My privilege as a senator, I believe, has been breached.

Today at a special meeting of the Standing Senate Committee on National Security and Defence, once again, we were unable to strike the crucially important Veterans Affairs Subcommittee. There has been agreement on this issue by both leaderships, but the chair remains resistant to this important subcommittee being struck in a timely manner.

We are asking why. Since the subcommittee has not been struck, this has prevented me, as deputy chair of the committee, and our committee members from moving ahead with important veterans' business.

There was a time not all that long ago when veterans' affairs referred to the aging warriors of yesterday's wars. We saw these heroes on Remembrance Day, as they proudly stood on guard for Canada as they have done in wartime.

Perhaps we remember those from the First World War who survived the mud, the bullets and the hell to pass on their stories of war's horrors and their personal heroism. Over the years, they became fewer in number as the advance of time took away what the war did not.

Those veterans of the Second World War were always younger, whether they stormed the beaches on D-Day, flew through a hailstorm of anti-aircraft fire to destroy the Nazi war machine or sailed through the U-boat menace to continue the supply route to Britain. Our soldiers, our sailors and airmen reminded us all of what Canada has done for the cause of freedom, how important that cause was and how great the cost was. Many of them are gone today — so many veterans from Vimy Ridge, Dieppe or the Korean conflict. We owe them much.

Canada continues to hold high the torch of freedom and we continue to honour the veterans of today. Canada is at war today in Afghanistan. We are under attack. Canadians are fighting terrorism. Canadians are dying and they return home to a grieving, but grateful nation. More than 100 Canadians have given their lives in Afghanistan, and we are frequently reminded of their heavy duty and their sacrifice.

Still, many others return home just as their colleagues did almost a century ago. Those who survived the carnage of Flanders Fields came back, but as different people, changed in mind and body, suffering from injuries, and living with physical and emotional challenges that they, of course, never contemplated.

As our veterans return home today, they deserve our care, our compassion and our concern. They require our attention, our action and our empathy. Suddenly, the matter of veterans' affairs is a very clear and present concern for many Canadians. Veterans are our fathers, our brothers, our wives, our daughters. Canada must dispense the same measure of assistance for today's veterans as it has in the past, and more. Politics did not impede our care for veterans in the past and it should not today.

The Senate Subcommittee on Veterans Affairs needs to be catapulted into action, not restrained by some kind of attempted political gain or personal ego. There are lives at stake here. Families are hurting and are in need, and there is the matter of Canada's reputation as a caring nation. There is a contract to uphold, a contract with all veterans who put their lives on the line for the sake of their country. They should not come home to indifference or lack of resolve. They should not come home to see their needs displaced by political gamesmanship.

Honourable senators, that is why we need this subcommittee now, not tomorrow, next month or next year. The issue remains the urgent needs of veterans and our overwhelming duty to meet those needs. Nothing else should stand in the way. This is our responsibility.

At an appropriate time, I will move a motion for the Senate to rectify this.

Hon. Colin Kenny: Honourable senators, my friend opposite seems enamoured by the sound of her voice.

Some Hon. Senators: Oh, oh!

Senator Kenny: The honourable senator opposite and Senator Tkachuk talked out a motion in committee today that was set to create a full committee on veterans affairs. There is no lack of interest on the part of veterans' affairs in the Standing Senate Committee on National Security and Defence.

However, before we could come to a vote on the matter that included an amendment by my honourable friend opposite to allow for the continuation of the subcommittee until the full committee was created, Senator Tkachuk and Senator Wallin proceeded to talk out the time until there was no time left.

I draw to the attention of the house that there is only one way committee matters can be brought forward in the Senate, and that is by way of a report. It is not appropriate to raise a point of order. The honourable senator is out of order in raising this matter and does not understand that the rules do not permit it.

Senator Segal: Let the Speaker decide.

Senator Kenny: The Speaker will decide the matter, and His Honour has invited advice on this matter. I am doing this and Senator Segal, in turn, can rise to give advice if His Honour recognizes him.

To summarize, the committee moved forward with an effort to enhance the care that veterans will receive by giving these issues the importance they deserve by creating a full 12-member committee to focus solely on veterans' affairs.

The Prime Minister of Canada supported this — I am referring to Mr. Harper — and caused a full committee to be created in the other place. It seems to us that it might also be worthwhile to have a full committee here.

To be clear, my friend opposite moved an amendment, which said that until the committee can be created, we would like to have the subcommittee continue. However, did she allow it to come to a vote? No. She and Senator Tkachuk talked it out. They kept talking until the bells stopped ringing. It was a devious way to stop the committee from expressing itself and coming forward with an enhancement for veterans.

(1440)

Hon. David Tkachuk: Honourable senators, I want to clarify a few matters, as we often must do. The meeting was called this afternoon at one o'clock for the purpose of setting up the Subcommittee on Veterans Affairs. We knew we had only half an hour. A new item was added to the agenda. The new item was the establishment of a full committee for veterans' affairs.

We tried to explain to the chair and to members opposite that there had been a motion in this place already by the Leader of the Government, and supported by the Leader of the Opposition, to study all committees. If there is to be a new committee of veterans affairs, then my idea was to send a letter, perhaps, to the Chair of the Standing Committee on Rules, Procedures and the Rights of Parliament suggesting this new committee as a possibility. Following that letter, we could make a presentation to have this committee happen. To say we did not want a full committee is entirely false.

Then our deputy chair asked that an amendment be put forward that a subcommittee be struck while the full committee was being considered by the Senate because our committee cannot establish another committee of the Senate. All we can do is send a recommendation to this place. The Senate then must establish a subcommittee.

Not one member on the Liberal side spoke in favour of the amendment to have the subcommittee sit while the other committee is being considered and established. I tried to explain as best I could that we cannot have more committees or fewer committees; I will not presume what the Rules Committee will report back to this place. However, they have been ordered to study this matter by all honourable senators, and I think they should do their job.

However, it is false to say that we tried to talk for the remainder of the meeting to avoid passing a motion that was not even on the agenda. There is no doubt in my mind what would have happened if I were chair of the committee and put forward something like that motion.

Hon. Wilfred P. Moore: I want to clarify the situation for the record. I made the motion on Monday of this week. My motion was that the committee meet today to discuss the matter. It was not a matter of establishing, adding or reducing. It was a matter of the subcommittee.

Hon. Fabian Manning: I have the agenda here. It says: "In camera. Discussion on the striking of a Subcommittee on Veterans Affairs."

I am new here, so excuse me if I am taking anything the wrong way. On the question of privilege put forward by Senator Wallin, there is no doubt in my mind that there is something strange. An effort was put forward to put a subcommittee in place and to put a full committee in place. I support the establishment of the full committee, as a member of the Senate. However, a process must take place. My concern, as a member of the committee, is what happens in the interim. Will this new committee be put in place today, tomorrow or six or eight months down the road?

I want to bring forward veterans in my home province of Newfoundland and Labrador to a committee or subcommittee. In the absence of a committee or subcommittee, I am left standing in limbo. What do we do in the meantime?

I am not sure what happened in the House of Commons when they formed a full committee. I am sure they did not send the subcommittee home for six months to wait for the new committee to be formed.

There must be a process to allow us to continue with our work while waiting for the Senate to decide if we are to have a full committee. Forget about sides of the house or political stripes; the important people are the veterans. Some veterans are in hospital beds in this country. It is time we settle this foolishness.

Hon. Joan Fraser: Dare I say, Your Honour, that this is not the Senate's finest hour. The one thing that is perfectly clear is that there is no question of privilege here.

Suggestions have been made that perhaps some senators are not as dedicated to veterans' interests as others. I, personally, find that suggestion insulting. I think every single member of this chamber is dedicated to veterans. Even if that were not true, the matter would not be a question of privilege. What we have heard described is the kind of activity, argument and debate — the word "manoeuvre" might be overstating the case slightly — that happens in committees and, sometimes, indeed, on the floor of this chamber. That activity is well within the rules, as far as I can see.

I did not hear any honourable senator say that any point of order had been raised in the committee. However, what I heard described in terms of the events of the committee meeting sounded as if, if anything was to be raised, it might be a point of order but not privilege. No senator's privilege has been infringed upon in any way here, Your Honour. I urge you to find that to be the case.

The Hon. the Speaker: Honourable senators, as all honourable senators know, because we are familiar with the procedural literature on this topic, it is for the Speaker to decide when he or she has heard enough on the question of privilege that has been raised.

I advise you that I have heard enough. I am seized of the matter.

The reason why the question of privilege has been raised or can be raised, under rule 59, is because of the order of the house from yesterday that the decision of the Speaker was overturned. Honourable senators will recall the ruling that I made yesterday said that case of yesterday would not stand as a precedent. The decision of this chair was overturned, so that rule 59 as applied in yesterday's case is, in fact, a precedent.

Therefore, the matter is properly before us as a question of privilege. I will determine, therefore, as I am required to do, whether, in my judgment, a prima facie case has been made.

Remarks during Inquiry into the Cessation of Commercial Seal Hunt—Speaker's Ruling Reserved

Hon. Mac Harb: Honourable senators, I also rise on a question of privilege. I bring page 560 of the Debates of the Senate to the attention of honourable senators. The time is at or around 6:10 p.m.

Senator Manning asked a question; whether I have received any support from any organization, to which I said yes, I received assistance with transportation to see the seal hunt.

An honourable senator said "Bought and sold," and Senator Manning continued:

Honourable senators, I am appalled. Making the point is one thing, but reaching the point of no return is another. I think Senator Harb reached it when he accepted the travel voucher from the IFAW to travel to the hunt.

I bring to Your Honour's attention that we have procedures in this house for when a senator receives subsidies. There is a process for receiving subsidies, including disclosure to the Conflict of Interest and Ethics Commissioner in due time. A press release was issued within hours after I left P.E.I. Furthermore, various Sun Media outlets were informed immediately. As soon as I was able to disclose, I did. Forms were filled out with the Conflict of Interest and Ethics Commissioner.

The issue is the implication of this debate; trying to silence another senator. That is not the way to go. That is taking the debate to another level.

I raise this issue today because, according to rule 43(1)(a), the issue must "be raised at the earliest opportunity" and this is the earliest possible time for me to raise it. I also raise it based on rule 43(1)(b), which is a matter that affects me personally as a member of the Senate. Finally, I raise this matter under rule 43(1)(c) and I am asking for a remedy to the matter.

(1450)

Based on rule 43(1)(d), I am raising the matter because I want to correct a grave and serious breach, which is the implication of what the honourable senator is trying to put before the Senate, and therefore before the public.

I wish to quote rule 51 of the Rules of the Senate, under the heading of objectionable speeches, "All personal, sharp or taxing speeches are forbidden."

I submit that the speech was not only sharp and personal, but it also had an improper implication for this chamber and that is not a good precedent for a member who has served in the House of Commons and who is now in the Senate of Canada. The honourable senator should know better.

Furthermore, referring to rule 52 which refers to the redress of an injured Senator:

A Senator considering himself or herself offended or injured in the Senate, in a committee room, or in any of the rooms belonging to the Senate, may appeal to the Senate for redress.

That is exactly what I am doing. I am appealing to His Honour to correct this injustice and this unfairness from the honourable senator.

I refer also to rule 53(1), and the topic of exceptional words:

When a Senator is called to order for words spoken in debate, such Senator or any other Senator may demand that the exceptional words be taken down in writing by the Clerk at the Table.

I submit that this senator should be called to order and his words should be stricken from the record.

Furthermore, rule 53(2), which concerns retraction and apologies, states:

A Senator who has used exceptional words and does not explain or retract the same or offer apologies therefor to the satisfaction of the Senate shall be dealt with as the Senate may think fit.

Your Honour, I believe it is appropriate that the Senate ask the honourable senator to withdraw his words.

I want to add one thing, Your Honour. At 1810, in the Debates of the Senate of March 31, 2009, one might think if the honourable senator had had a chance to hear my answer, he would have stopped at that point. Senator Manning wanted to add insult to injury, when he said:

My next question is whether there has been any other financial contribution, in any way, shape or form, to your cause in spreading the myths of the seal hunt across Canada, from the IFAW or from any other organization or any individual who is involved in spreading the myths.

Your Honour, this is a matter of debate; it is not my cause. I am responding to a public policy issue, which has been in the public domain for many years. This issue has been debated and discussed in the public domain since the early 1970s.

All I am doing is providing a channel for discussion in this house, because I believe honestly and genuinely from the bottom of my heart that this is the place where we can debate serious, controversial and difficult issues. That is why I brought it up in this chamber. I have been sitting on this issue for 13 years. I decided to do it now because I have been struggling with it like many of my colleagues.

Frankly, Your Honour, an honourable senator who has served in the House of Commons should know better than to stoop to this level and to insult a fellow senator. I call on Senator Manning, as an honourable senator, to stand up at the earliest possible opportunity, offer his apology and retract his words.

On the other front, in terms of an honourable senator who indicated "bought and sold," that particular senator has two options: stand up and be counted; or, if not, to have that particular phrase, "bought and sold," stricken from the record.

Hon. Terry Stratton: If I may, I have a point of clarification. When Senator Wallin brought forward her question of privilege, she did so at the earliest opportunity. She did not have time to file a written submission with the clerk under rule 43(3), where thereafter it was to be distributed under rule 43(5).

One has the right in this chamber to put forward a question of privilege under rule 59(10). However, if you have the time, as the honourable senator had yesterday, to put his question of privilege to the Clerk by 11 o'clock or 11:30, three hours before the Senate sits, they could then distribute that question of privilege to this chamber. Therefore, I think the honourable senator is out of order.

Hon. Fabian Manning: In making the comment on the question of privilege raised by Senator Harb, I want to say that we had a heated discussion yesterday, which was certainly something that I was looking forward to. An honourable senator said "bought and sold," Your Honour, but that phrase certainly did not come from my lips in any way, shape or form.

Was I appalled that the honourable senator would accept a travel voucher from IFAW to travel to the seal hunt? Yes, I was appalled yesterday, I am appalled today and I will be appalled tomorrow.

If a senator of Canada, in this honourable place, wanted to go and view the seal hunt in a neutral manner, I am sure he or she could make arrangements to do that through the Coast Guard or the Department of Fisheries and Oceans, as the case may be. I know of several senators and members of Parliament who have done so.

In the debate we were having, when Senator Harb answered my question — did he receive any monetary assistance from anyone — by saying yes, he did receive a travel voucher from IFAW. I felt he then walked himself over to the other side and did not have the opportunity to be neutral.

My understanding is that I am supposed to be offering advice. Maybe I hit a nerve. That is understandable in any discussion that we have. However, the nerve that has been hit, honourable senators, is the nerve of the people involved in this very important industry in my province and in this country. Our government and previous governments have defended it widely across the world and will continue to do so.

I do not apologize for anything I said yesterday, honourable senators. I said I am sorry once in my life and I have regretted that ever since. I have no intention of doing so today.

Hon. Joan Fraser: Complications, complications. On the substance, Your Honour, I believe that Senator Manning was within his rights to ask about the financial sponsorship of travel related to the seal hunt. There is a reason why we put these things in our public disclosure. It is because we think it is a useful part of the public debate. I do not think that was an infringement of Senator Harb's privilege.

I recall hearing the words "bought and sold" and thinking at the time that they were over the line, but I do not recall who I heard say them. I just asked an honourable senator who, like me, remembered hearing the words and did not remember who said them.

I think they came under the general heading of "heckling," in which we often have greater latitude than in formal prepared remarks. However, it would probably be appropriate for us to bear in mind that privilege applies then too, because privilege is, in the end, a matter of respect.

On the point raised by Senator Stratton, however, I think he is wrong. Senator Harb did not comply with the requirements of rule 43, but rule 59(10) does not say you have to do it at the earliest possible opportunity. Therefore, as rule 59(10) now stands — and many honourable senators know I have trouble with the way it now stands — the honourable senator is within his rights to rise now and seek to defend his reputation.

The Hon. the Speaker: I thank honourable senators for their assistance with this matter. I will take the matter under advisement and make a determination whether, in my judgment, a prima facie case of privilege has been established.

Hon. Lorna Milne: Honourable senators, I was the one who said the words "bought and sold." I would like to retract them for the record but I certainly will not retract the thought.


(1500)

ORDERS OF THE DAY

Transportation of Dangerous Goods Act, 1992

Bill to Amend—Second Reading—Debate Adjourned

Hon. John D. Wallace moved second reading of Bill C-9, An Act to amend the Transportation of Dangerous Goods Act, 1992.

He said: Honourable senators, I am pleased to rise to speak to Bill C-9, which proposes to amend the Transportation of Dangerous Goods Act, 1992. It is important to the economic interests and the safety of all Canadians that dangerous goods be transported safely and securely. Above all else, these are the objectives of the bill that I am pleased to present today.

The Transportation of Dangerous Goods Act, 1992, provides the federal government with the required tools and authorities to develop policies, regulations and standards. It helps to guide emergency response, manage risk and promote public safety during the transportation of dangerous goods. However, since 1992 the world has changed.

At that time, no one could have predicted how the events of September 11, 2001, and the threat of global terrorism would affect security provisions worldwide. Incidents around the world in the United States, the United Kingdom and Spain, to cite a few examples, demonstrate the challenges being faced during the transportation of dangerous goods in this country. Canada is not immune to this threat, and that is why this government is bringing forward these proposed amendments to the Transportation of Dangerous Goods Act, 1992. These amendments will help to build a prevention and response program for security incidents during the transportation of dangerous goods, exactly like the prevention and response program that exists for safety, which has certainly proven to be a success.

A look back at history reminds us of the dramatic consequences that can occur if such measures are not in place. In Halifax in 1917, a collision between two ships loaded with explosives destroyed a large part of Halifax and left thousands of people dead or injured. After this incident, provincial governments brought forward their own legislation regarding dangerous goods. Provincial legislation, of course, addresses mostly local transportation on highways.

[Translation]

Hon. Fernand Robichaud (The Hon. the Acting Speaker): Honourable senators, some of you are talking and I am having trouble hearing the speaker. If you wish to engage in conversation, do so outside this chamber. I would simply like us to hear the senator who has the floor.

[English]

Senator Wallace: In the 1970s, the provinces brought forward their concerns for the need for a federal act to help deal with the growing interprovincial and international transport and trade of dangerous goods. Before legislation could be passed, another incident occurred, this time in Mississauga, Ontario. Train cars carrying chlorine derailed and led to the evacuation of about 250,000 people. Fortunately no one was injured. The Mississauga incident and the actions that followed led to the creation of the first federal Transportation of Dangerous Goods Act in 1980. That was updated in 1992 and to this day serves as the basis of the authorities that govern the transportation of dangerous goods in this country.

Since the time of these incidents, and with the Transportation of Dangerous Goods Act, Canada has been blessed with a comprehensive dangerous goods program that focuses principally on preventing incidents during the transportation of dangerous goods. However, it also includes a responsive component should dangerous goods be released, either planned or accidental.

The proposed legislative amendments before honourable senators today build on these existing plans. An amended Transportation of Dangerous Goods Act will provide a new, security terrorism prevention and response program just like the one that exists for safety. These amendments will also provide for appropriate safety enhancements.

Bill C-9 requires that security plans and training be established in order to support the security prevention program. Performance-based regulations based on international and United Nations recommendations and aligned with existing U.S. regulations will have to be developed to ensure compliance.

In addition, an amended Transportation of Dangerous Goods Act will enable regulations to be drafted that will provide for the tracking of dangerous goods and will require all companies to report whenever dangerous goods are lost or stolen while in transit.

Another component of the security prevention program is the requirement for security clearances. In August 2005, an act known as The Safe, Accountable, Flexible, Efficient Transportation Equity Act: A Legacy for Users, SAFETEALU, came into effect in the United States. It requires truck drivers doing cross-border transport, and who are licensed in Canada or Mexico, to go through a background check — that is, security clearance — similar to that required for American truck drivers when transporting large quantities of dangerous goods into and within the United States.

Currently, Canadian truck drivers can cross the border using the Free and Secure Trade Program, FAST, of the Canada Border Services Agency and the U.S. Bureau of Customs and Border Protection. In providing a comprehensive security terrorist response program, Bill C-9 will enable the use of 1,000 Transport Canada approved Emergency Response Assistance Plans that industry currently uses to respond to non-terrorist releases of dangerous goods.

Industry has indicated that it is prepared to respond to a terrorist incident involving dangerous goods should the government request their services. This will allow us to use the existing expertise and resources in the private sector, while enabling the government to spend taxpayers' dollars on other important issues and areas.

As for the safety amendments, the provisions in this bill will reinforce the requirements of the existing Emergency Response Assistance Plans Program. Consultations with provincial and territorial governments, first responders and industry concerning the activation and use of an emergency response assistance plan have led to the proposed changes in the bill that include automatic activation of a plan as well as authority for an inspector to activate a plan.

It is extremely important that we move forward and adopt the proposed amendments to the Transportation of Dangerous Goods Act, 1992. Should we fail to have the appropriate legislation and authorities in place to protect Canadians, Canada will remain exposed to the risk of a potentially disastrous terrorist incident involving the transportation of dangerous goods.

Our international partners expect Canada to bring forward these appropriate security requirements, just as they are doing in their respective countries.

Moreover, this bill will provide necessary security prevention regulatory tools and response capacity for the Winter Olympics. The use of security measures and interim orders as laid out in the bill, along with the necessary authority for the activation of an approved Emergency Response Assistance Plan for terrorist incidents will go a long way to ensuring that Canada's 2010 Vancouver Winter Olympic Games are safe and secure.

In addition, not moving forward with an amended Transportation of Dangerous Goods Act might expose Canada on both the safety and security fronts to significant adverse trade implications with our North American partners. Canada must and will have the appropriate tools at its disposal to confront all issues that might arise during the transportation of dangerous goods. Our government remains committed to protecting our citizens, and Bill C-9 will do just that. That is why today I ask for the support of all honourable senators for this critically important legislation.

The Hon. the Acting Speaker: Honourable senators, does anyone wish to continue debate?

(On motion of Senator Mercer, debate adjourned.)

(1510)

Budget 2009

Inquiry—Debate Continued

On the Order:

Resuming debate on the inquiry of the Honourable Senator Comeau calling the attention of the Senate to the budget entitled Canada's Economic Action Plan, tabled in the House of Commons on January 27, 2009 by the Minister of Finance, the Honourable James M. Flaherty, P.C., M.P., and in the Senate on January 28, 2009.

Hon. Wilbert J. Keon: Honourable senators, I rise today on the important inquiry put forth by my colleague, the honourable Senator Comeau. These times are difficult. The economic news seems worse each day as job losses mount and families find themselves stretched to the limit. Our responsibility as a government, and, indeed, as a Parliament, is to muster every tool available to help Canadians weather this storm, and to ensure that as a nation we come through it stronger than ever.

The Conservative government takes this responsibility seriously, as evidenced in the budget tabled in January. Through our Economic Action Plan, we will make needed and substantive investments in Canada that will have returns for all Canadians, both today and tomorrow. As Finance Minister Flaherty stated in the opening lines of his budget speech:

Budget 2009 is Canada's Economic Plan. It is Canada's plan to stimulate our economy, to protect Canadians during the global recession and to invest in our long-term growth. It is Canada's response to the challenge of our time.

This budget meets the challenge of our time through real action that will help Canadians and stimulate spending. It includes action that will encourage construction in the housing sector, as well as action that will support both businesses and communities.

Where I want to focus today is the action included in this economic plan that will help to build infrastructure in our nation. My interest is not primarily in spending on roads, bridges or highways, although I recognize that such an investment is important for the smooth running of our nation, as well as being a critical way to help jump start our economy. I want to speak specifically to the $500 million in support that is included in this plan for the development of the Canada Health Infoway. As honourable senators are aware, the infoway is a non-profit organization funded by the federal government to collaborate with the provinces, territories, health care providers, and information technology providers to facilitate the use of electronic health records in Canada.

The funds provided in this budget are an investment and digital form of infrastructure that can vastly improve our health care system — a top priority for our government. The funds will be used to help the infoway meet its goal of ensuring that half of Canadians have electronic health care records by 2010, and to speed up the process of setting up electronic medical systems for physicians, hospitals, pharmacies, and community care facilities.

By and large, medical records in Canada are still kept on paper and stored away in filing cabinets. No doubt, honourable senators have seen them in their doctors' offices. While this system has served us for many years, it is highly inefficient and can lead to gaping holes in health care. It is time for change.

Imagine, for a moment, a woman who arrives at a hospital emergency room without a list of the 30-odd prescriptions she may be taking currently. Reliance on paper records, which may be locked up in her doctor's office far away, puts her at risk, in a worst-case scenario, of dangerous drug interactions. The use of electronic health records means that all her information is immediately available to staff, thus minimizing the risk. In addition, the use of electronic health records also enhances the overall safety, quality and efficiency of the health care system. Electronic records reduce waste of duplication and improve the management of chronic disease and access to care.

In the words of Dr. Lewis O'Brien, the lead physician for an electronic project, EMRxtra in Sault Ste. Marie, electronic records are "the glue that holds the multifunctional team together," as physicians can spend more time listening to patients and less time digging through charts for information.

Electronic health records will also increase productivity and save money — an important consideration in a sector where costs are rising. For example, as the budget document tabled in January states:

Infoway estimates that investments in digital diagnostic imaging technology have already increased productivity to a level equivalent to adding more than 500 radiologists to Canada's health care systems.

Imagine that. They can eliminate 500 radiologists simply by having automatic digital transmission of the images that are taken. I am familiar with the technology; we have had such a system at the Heart Institute for about 10 or 15 years. It eliminates all kinds of people. The document goes on to state:

Patients in remote northern communities are now connected with health care professionals in urban centres through telehealth — improving their access to care.

The use of electronic health records is an important investment that will benefit us all. Furthermore, they have the potential to allow us to carry with us our health information in electronic format, whether it be a memory stick or device.

Imagine this: Every Canadian individual owns their medical record. That information is theirs. It is private; they can deal with it however they wish. At the present time, however, there has been no mechanism to carry this information about, whether they are travelling abroad, travelling from one city to another, or change doctors.

Honourable senators, the electronic technology is available via a memory chip. They plug it into the computer in the emergency room, the person is admitted and their whole record is right there. It is amazing that we have been so slow to arrive at this point, but we are there now, finally.

Honourable senators, we in the Senate have put a great deal of effort into better understanding the health needs of Canadians. Through our studies on the health of Canadians, mental health, aging, early childhood development and, in particular — and herein lies my own interest — our crucial work on population health, the implementation of an electronic medical record system has the potential to allow us to put this knowledge that we have gained to good use.

The budget also provides investments in knowledge infrastructure, including $600 million for future activities of the Canada Foundation for Innovation, and this investment is complementary. It directs $250 million over the next two years to address deferred maintenance of federal laboratories — and this is complementary — and $50 million to support the construction and establishment of a new world-class research facility for the Institute of Quantum Computing, which I believe is fundamental. This institute will be based at the University of Waterloo.

Let me come back to the electronic health record, because this technology is truly a giant step forward. Not only will this system be a tremendous improvement in the efficiency and equality of clinical care, but it will open the door to data and information systems that can help form part of the foundation for the population health information system. Tracking health outcomes and supporting research and analysis extends well beyond clinical health care information.

Canada's first ministers fully understood the potential of this development and they unanimously agreed to work together to develop the Canada-wide health infrastructure to improve quality, access and wait times for health care. The first ministers also recognized that Canada's challenges could best be met with a national commitment to develop solutions that would operate across the health care organizations and systems. Fourteen deputy ministers, working together, will assist the provinces and territories to develop the information systems they need for efficient health care delivery systems.

(1520)

I am very familiar with Infoway. I had the honour of serving on the committee that founded Infoway a number of years ago.

Infoway has already had a number of successes, with 270 active or completed projects under way. What I find exciting about this is that we have finally reached the point in the evolution of health information technology where the synergism between all of the players can come into force. Infoway working closely with the Canadian Institutes of Health Information, Health Canada, Statistics Canada, the Public Health Agency of Canada, the provincial data pools and the NGOs can finally give us the information platform we need to function efficiently in the health care delivery system.

Of equal or perhaps even greater importance, we will now be in a position to gather longitudinal information on the human life course and use a population health approach to correct the terrible health disparities we have in Canada, particularly between our native peoples and the rest of the population. For example, infant mortality is four times higher in our native people than in the overall population. This is not acceptable in this day and age. We must come together to correct this situation. We now have the capacity to work towards health equity for all Canadians.

I remarked earlier in this chamber a few weeks ago that last year we spent $170 billion on the health care delivery system, but 50 per cent of the illness and disease entering the system and taxing it to the limit are preventable. Think about that, honourable senators.

The time has come to flip the paradigm and use another approach. Of course, we must sustain the health care delivery system and it must be there for all of us when we need it, but we must do much more. We must get out in front of the entire situation by building communities of good health, well-being and productivity. As honourable senators know, productivity parallels health status and well-being. When people are not in a state of good health and well-being, they are not productive. Thus, we are not only prolonging life with good health; we are dramatically improving productivity.

In the near future, the Subcommittee on Population Health of the Standing Senate Committee on Social Affairs, Science and Technology will be reporting to this chamber a plan for dramatically improving the overall health, well-being and productivity of Canadians and in the process drastically reducing the health inequities that exist today.

For today, honourable senators, I want to emphasize the most important piece of the puzzle has now been put in place: the giant step forward that the government has taken through Infoway in advancing the information system on health is unprecedented and will pay huge dividends for decades to come.

Hon. Francis William Mahovlich: Could the honourable senator explain to me how long a patient's records are kept?

Senator Keon: One virtually has to keep them for the life course. As a matter of fact, I am looking at this now personally because all the personal health records of the 16,000 people I operated on in my life are in storage. I must keep them available in case the person needs them. Once the person expires, their records can be destroyed. They can also be destroyed after a time limit expires, which is not good. There should be permanent records, and if they were electronic records, storage is very simple.

Senator Mahovlich: I can appreciate that because I had a problem. I phoned down to Birmingham, Alabama, for records that my knee doctor in Toronto wanted, and they told me to forget about it. They left a pin in there. They throw the records away after 28 years.

The Hon. the Acting Speaker: Continuing debate?

(On motion of Senator Dickson, debate adjourned.)

Customs Act

Bill to Amend—Second Report of National Security and Defence Committee—Debate Adjourned

The Senate proceeded to consideration of the second report of the Standing Senate Committee on National Security and Defence (Bill S-2, An Act to amend the Customs Act, with an amendment), presented in the Senate on March 31, 2009.

Hon. Colin Kenny moved the adoption of the report.

He said: Honourable senators, it is customary that the amendment be explained. With the indulgence of the house, I would recommend we have Senator Banks do that, in as much as it was his motion and he is most expert on it.

Hon. Tommy Banks: This is Senator Tkachuk's bill. I have no doubt that senators will remember my deathless response and brilliant speech in response to Senator Tkachuk's introduction of this bill. Therefore, I can be mercifully brief.

At the risk of being a broken record, senators may be aware that I have an ongoing concern with the outsourcing of parliamentary authority and with the derogation of the responsibilities of these two institutions of Parliament, which we are continually doing under government after government after government. It is not this government, it is not just the previous government and not just the one before that. Regardless of the colour of government, it is convenient to the Crown to escape the scrutiny of Parliament. That is very efficient government.

Honourable senators, parliamentary democracy is not efficient government; but we live in what is supposed to be a parliamentary democracy. Among the things that are supposed to happen is that the Governor-in-Council proposes policies, legislation and undertakings, which Parliament is supposed to examine and from time to time approve and from time to time question.

The motion before honourable senators contains an amendment to the present bill, Bill S-2, which is a series of amendments to the Customs Act, all of which are good, laudable and needed, except the very last bit at the end, which talks about — and this is a phrase common to a number of pieces of legislation — the incorporation by reference as part of the regulations under this bill of material from any source. Not only that, it is the importation of an ambulatory provision.

Let us assume for the sake of this customs bill that one of the things that needs to be incorporated by reference is the mechanical drawings for a Boeing 747. Needless to say, it is impractical to have the drawings for a 747 form a normal, natural, ordinary part of the regulations of any bill. However, the point is that they become part of the regulations. When Boeing decides to change those specs three years hence, those changes become part of the regulation and therefore part of Canadian law. They are not susceptible to study or scrutiny by any aspect of Parliament because of what I find as the offending part of the proposed bill, which states in proposed section 164.1(2):

Material that is incorporated by reference in a regulation is not a statutory instrument for the purposes of the Statutory Instruments Act.

(1530)

Honourable senators, the Statutory Instruments Act is the act by which, in section 19 of that act, the Joint Committee on Scrutiny of Regulations is empowered to study regulations to ensure they conform to the intent of the bill, that there are not unintended consequences that were not intended by Parliament.

That provision itself, whether intended or otherwise, would mean that those materials incorporated by reference would escape that scrutiny, would not ever be examined by any parliamentarians in any degree. It means that the changes to be made in this material incorporated from whatever source by that source, subsequent to their first inclusion in the regulations, would also become part of the regulations. That raises the possibility, however remote, that a Canadian could be in breach of those regulations and, therefore, of the law, without knowing what the law is.

The amendment has the simple expedient with what I think Senator Tkachuk would agree is the concurrence at the time of the minister who was before us, of simply expunging that paragraph. In other words, it removes the amendment contained in the report of the committee that seeks to amend the bill before us and has the following effect: It eliminates lines 28, 29, and 30 on page 7 of the bill, and renumbers 164.1(1) to 164.1. This is in clause 17 of the bill of amendment. I commend it to the positive consideration of honourable senators because this is a good bill. It does good things. It will now be a better one.

(On motion of Senator Moore, debate adjourned.)

[Translation]

Income Tax Act

Bill to Amend—Second Reading—Debate Continued

On the Order:

Resuming debate on the motion of the Honourable Senator Mitchell, seconded by the Honourable Senator Lovelace Nicholas, for the second reading of Bill S-213, An Act to amend the Income Tax Act (carbon offset tax credit).

Hon. Gerald J. Comeau (Deputy Leader of the Government): Honourable senators, this bill has now been on the Order Paper for 14 days, and I would like it to remain there. I still have some things to say about this bill. I would therefore like to adjourn the debate for the balance of my time.

(On motion of Senator Comeau, debate adjourned.)

[English]

Bankruptcy and Insolvency Act

Bill to Amend—Second Reading—Point of Order—Speaker's Ruling Reserved

On the Order:

Resuming debate on the motion of the Honourable Senator Goldstein, seconded by the Honourable Senator Zimmer, for the second reading of Bill S-219, An Act to amend the Bankruptcy and Insolvency Act (student loans).

Hon. Gerald J. Comeau (Deputy Leader of the Government): Honourable senators, I rise on a point of order on this bill, An Act to amend the Bankruptcy and Insolvency Act introduced by Senator Goldstein.

Without commenting at all on the merits of Bill S-219, I submit that this bill would increase government liability and therefore it must be accompanied by Royal Recommendation.

Honourable senators will know that section 53 of the Constitution Act, 1867, requires that bills appropriating any part of the public revenue originate in the House of Commons. Section 54 requires that such bills be recommended to that house by the Governor General.

On page 407, of the fourth edition of Bourinot's Parliamentary Procedure, there is reference to the financial initiatives of the Crown as a constitutional obligation and this constitutional obligation means that the government alone is responsible for initiating financial measures.

The twenty-first edition of Erskine May, on page 691, defines financial initiatives of the Crown as, ". . . a long-established and strictly observed rule of procedure, which expresses a principle of the highest constitutional importance that no public charge can be incurred except on the initiative of the Crown."

As honourable senators are aware, Senate rule 81 specifies that the Senate shall not proceed with a bill appropriating public money that has not been recommended by the Queen's representative. I will explain how Bill S-219 is inconsistent with the constitutional and procedural requirements I have just outlined.

Under section 7 of the Canada Student Loans Act, the minister is liable to pay to a lender the amount of any loss sustained by and as a result of a student loan. Under section 21 of the same act, that amount is to be paid out of the Consolidated Revenue Fund.

Honourable senators, I submit that clauses 1(1) and 1(2) of Bill S-219 would increase the Crown's liability to pay money in a situation of a bankruptcy. "Clause 1: (1)" reduces the current time given in subparagraph 178(1)(g)(ii) of the Bankruptcy and Insolvency Act from seven to five years, thereby increasing the government's liability for any loss sustained as a result of a student loan by two years.

"Clause 1: (2)" gives a court the discretion to relieve debtors of the obligation to payback all or part of their loan, thereby increasing the government's liability in the case where a judge could take into consideration factors that could lead to the release of the debtor from all or part of the student loan.

Honourable senators, both of these provisions are new and therefore not provided for in the Bankruptcy and Insolvency Act. As a result, Bill S-219 is clearly inconsistent with rule 81 of the Rules of the Senate and should be found to be out of order.

Hon. Yoine Goldstein: Honourable senators, I will respond in two ways. The first way is we have just witnessed an extraordinary example of government transparency. This bill was a bill in the previous Parliament. This bill was a bill last year. This bill was approved in principle by this chamber. This bill went to the Banking, Trade and Commerce Committee and was dealt with in that committee. This bill was then reintroduced because of the prorogation of Parliament. This bill went through 15, now 16, postponements. Today, for the very first time, this transparent government raises the issue of Royal Recommendation, a matter which incidentally has been dealt with time and time again by the Speaker in this chamber, making it clear that the objections raised by the honourable senator are totally without foundation.

(1540)

That having been said, I recommend that the honourable senator re-read rule 81, which says that one cannot introduce a bill if it calls for "appropriating public money." There is no appropriation of public money in this bill. The matter has been argued briefly and dealt with by this chamber and His Honour. I urge Senator Comeau to look at previous rulings in this respect.

I have an additional observation. I find it disappointing and, frankly, inappropriate — with great respect to the honourable senator and his side — that after two years' consideration of this bill, and after postponing this bill time and time again, he raised this matter for the first time today. I consider that to be incorrect.

Senator Comeau: For the record, we must advise this chamber that whether this bill, or a bill that purports to be similar to this bill, was introduced in the same words in previous sessions or previous parliaments is entirely irrelevant. This is a brand new session of Parliament. Any actions on any bills similar to this one are entirely irrelevant.

[Translation]

The Hon. the Acting Speaker: Honourable senators, the Speaker will consider the statements by the honourable senators and give his ruling at a future sitting.

[English]

Anti-Spam Bill

Second Reading—Debate Continued

On the Order:

Resuming debate on the motion of the Honourable Senator Goldstein, seconded by the Honourable Senator Fraser, for the second reading of Bill S-220, An Act respecting commercial electronic messages.

Hon. Yoine Goldstein: Honourable senators, this bill is here for the fifteenth time, after eight weeks. I had a discussion this morning for the first time with the representative of the relevant minister, which was arranged, as I understand it, by Senator Comeau.

Hon. Gerald J. Comeau (Deputy Leader of the Government): I wish to point out to His Honour that if Senator Goldstein speaks at this point, debate will be closed on this bill and it will be passed on to the committee. That is not our intention at this point.

If the honourable senator is raising a point of order or something else, that is an entirely different matter. However, by speaking at this point, the honourable senator will close the debate at a stage where we are not ready to accept closure.

My understanding is that the honourable senator met with officials from the department today. I hope that he will continue his discussions with ministry officials. I had a conversation with Senator Goldstein on this matter. I hope that a rapprochement can be made between the ministry and the honourable senator, rather than precipitating a procedural move at this point, which is not in anyone's interest.

I am not prejudging the outcome of those discussions. That is still my hope.

[Translation]

The Hon. the Acting Speaker: Honourable senators, in the interests of clarity, I want to be sure that we are talking about resuming debate on Bill S-220, introduced by Senator Goldstein and seconded by Senator Fraser.

The Speaker must inform all the honourable senators that if Senator Goldstein were to speak at this point, it would have the effect of closing the debate.

Senator Goldstein: May I ask a question without closing the debate? I am not talking about the merit or scope of the bill, but only about Senator Comeau's request to suspend debate.

The Hon. the Acting Speaker: The Order Paper shows that we are resuming debate on the motion for the second reading of Bill S-220. No one had asked to speak other than Senator Goldstein, who has now risen. The Speaker must now inform the Senate that if Senator Goldstein moves this motion, debate will close.

I am informing you that is what will happen. If you agree to let the honourable senator speak at this point, debate will be closed when he finishes speaking. I am asking you what you want to do, honourable senators.

Seeing no one rise to speak to Bill S-220, are the honourable senators ready for the question?

Senator Comeau: I move adjournment of the debate.

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

Senator Goldstein: No!

Some Hon. Senators: Yes!

(Motion agreed to on division.)

[English]

International Boundary Waters Treaty Act

Bill to Amend—Second Reading—Debate Adjourned

Hon. Lowell Murray moved second reading of Bill S-222, An Act to amend the International Boundary Waters Treaty Act (bulk water removal).

He said: Honourable senators, I will not take much of your time. I have moved second reading of the bill now to restart the clock, and I shall explain why.

Some honourable senators may recall that I inherited this bill from our former colleague and my former seatmate, the Honourable Pat Carney. The bill has its genesis in certain amendments that she, I and several other colleagues in the, unfortunately now defunct, Progressive Conservative Party tried to propose to a Liberal government bill brought in under the sponsorship of the then Minister of Foreign Affairs, the Honourable John Manley. Those proposed amendments failed. We tried to correct the situation at the first opportunity by making these amendments. Unfortunately, the bill has died several times at prorogation or dissolution of Parliament.

The reason I have taken so long to open debate on second reading is that the present government has offered to give me a briefing on these issues, specifically, the Minister and Department of Foreign Affairs. I thought it would be discourteous to decline such a briefing. We are in the process of arranging something now.

One lives in hope. However, my expectations are not high that the briefing will contain anything much different or more satisfactory than the arguments I heard when Mr. Manley was the Foreign Affairs minister. Governments come and governments go. Ministers come and ministers go, but the departmental culture abideth forever. Therefore, honourable senators, I will propose the adjournment shortly.

(1550)

[Translation]

In anticipation of this briefing with senior officials of the Department of Foreign Affairs, I move adjournment of this debate.

(On motion of Senator Murray, debate adjourned.)

Question of Privilege

Motion to Refer to Standing Committee on Rules, Procedures and the Rights of Parliament—Debate Continued

On the Order:

Resuming debate on the motion of the Honourable Senator Cowan, seconded by the Honourable Senator Tardif,

That the matter of the Government's erroneous statement concerning the proceedings of the Senate, as appeared on its website "actionplan.gc.ca", be referred to the Standing Committee on Rules, Procedures and the Rights of Parliament for consideration and report.

Hon. Joan Fraser: Honourable senators, the debate was adjourned in the name of Senator Comeau. I consulted him and I do not wish to infringe in any way on his right to speak.

[English]

Therefore, I will propose that at the end of my brief remarks, this item remain adjourned in Senator Comeau's name. However, there is something that I think would be appropriate to place on the record in connection with this matter.

Honourable senators will recall that in discussion of the question of privilege and indeed in the Speaker's ruling, reference was made to the rapidity with which the government acted to have its website on their Economic Action Plan corrected. It was suggested that the government had acted within a relatively short space of time, after the matter was raised in this chamber. The implication was that it was when or not too long before the matter was raised in this chamber that the government became aware that a correction was required.

I wish to place on the record the fact that the matter had been raised nearly 24 hours previous to its discussion in this chamber, in a committee of the other place; namely during the Standing Committee on Finance of the House of Commons, which met at 3:30 p.m. on Wednesday, March 25.

Among other persons present were the chair, Mr. James Rajotte, a member of the government caucus, and Mr. Ted Menzies, Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Finance.

At that committee meeting, the Honourable John McCallum stated twice, "They are still asking the Senate to pass the budget, and that was two weeks ago."

This reminder to the government was made, as I say, in presence of members of the government caucus, including the parliamentary secretary to the Minister of Finance, during working hours. Therefore, if, as we consider this matter, we are contemplating timing, I thought that should be placed on the record. I would like the adjournment to remain in the name of Senator Comeau.

(On motion of Senator Fraser, for Senator Comeau, debate adjourned.)

The Senate

Motion to Televise Proceedings—Debate Continued

On the Order:

Resuming debate on the motion of the Honourable Senator Segal, seconded by the Honourable Senator Cochrane:

That the Senate approve in principle the installation of equipment necessary to the broadcast quality audio-visual recording of its proceedings and other approved events in the Senate Chamber and in no fewer than four rooms ordinarily used for meetings by committees of the Senate;

That for the purposes set out in the following paragraph, public proceedings of the Senate and of its Committees be recorded by this equipment, subject to policies, practices and guidelines approved from time to time by the Standing Committee on Internal Economy, Budgets and Administration ("the Committee");

That selected and packaged proceedings categorized according to subjects of interest be prepared and made available for use by any television broadcaster or distributor of audio-visual programmes, subject to the terms specified in any current or future agreements between the Senate and that broadcaster or distributor;

That such selected proceedings also be made available on demand to the public on the Parliamentary Internet;

That the Senate engage by contract a producer who shall, subject only to the direction of that Committee, make the determination of the programme content of the selected and categorized proceedings of the Senate and of its committees;

That equipment and personnel necessary for the expert selection, preparation and categorization of broadcast-quality proceedings be secured for these purposes; and

That the Committee be instructed to take measures necessary to the implementation of this motion.

Hon. A. Raynell Andreychuk: Honourable senators, I wish to speak to this, but I have a full speech I wish to give. In light of the time, I will adjourn until tomorrow.

(On motion of Senator Andreychuk, debate adjourned.)

(The Senate adjourned until Thursday, April 2, 2009, at 1:30 p.m.)