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Debates of the Senate (Hansard)

2nd Session, 40th Parliament,
Volume 146, Issue 31

Tuesday, May 5, 2009
The Honourable Noël A. Kinsella, Speaker


 

THE SENATE

Tuesday, May 5, 2009

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

Prayers.

SENATORS' STATEMENTS

Vancouver Canucks

Hon. Larry W. Campbell: Honourable senators, I rise today with great pride. As all hockey fans know, the Vancouver Canucks are Canada's last hope for the 2009 Stanley Cup. While the Senators and Leafs unfortunately failed to make the playoffs, and the Flames, Oilers and Habs all fell by the wayside after round one, the Canucks completed round one by winning all four games, albeit a tough one in the fourth. They are currently fighting furiously with the fourth seed Chicago Blackhawks to determine who will advance to round three.

The first game of this series was a triumphant win for Vancouver as they beat Chicago 5 to 3 after losing a 3 to 0 lead. The Blackhawks rallied for game two on Saturday and reversed the tables, making a huge comeback after two early goals by the Canucks. This was of great import to my friend Senator MacDonald.

I encourage all senators to stand behind our beloved Canucks tonight for game three as they take on the Blackhawks in Chicago. While they will be missing Sami Salo and Pavol Demitra, I am sure their teammates will make every effort to ensure their absence will not turn into success in Chicago's favour.

I would also like honourable senators to know that I was the most popular senator at the Liberal convention in Vancouver, even if I was the only one who had tickets to the game.

(1405)

[Translation]

Canadian Broadcasting Corporation

Atlantic Canada Coverage

Hon. Rose-Marie Losier-Cool: Honourable senators, today I would like to talk about the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation's treatment of Acadia.

On Tuesday, April 28, the Société nationale de l'Acadie released a study conducted by Marie-Linda Lord, who holds the Chair in Acadian Studies at the Université de Moncton. The report focused on how much air time news and views from the Atlantic provinces get on Radio-Canada's evening Téléjournal and its English-language equivalent, The National, on CBC.

The study compared English and French television news programs broadcast from January 18 to February 14, 2009. Professor Lord and her assistant, Dominique Martel, analyzed the presence of the Atlantic provinces with respect to both the number and origin of reports aired, texts read, interviews conducted and experts consulted on both the Téléjournal and The National.

Honourable senators, the people of the Atlantic provinces represent 7 per cent of Canada's population, so they should be entitled to about that much coverage on our national broadcaster's evening news programs. But that does not happen in either English or French.

Anglophones in the Atlantic provinces do get better treatment: 4 per cent of the CBC's total news coverage and 6 per cent of its interviewees hail from Atlantic provinces. In contrast, Radio-Canada allocates just 1.4 per cent of its total news time and 0.7 per cent of its interview time to the Atlantic provinces. Furthermore, Radio-Canada pays a lot of attention to Quebec, especially to Montreal, in its Téléjournal, while the CBC does a better job of fulfilling its mandate as a national broadcaster by reflecting our country's regional diversity.

Honourable senators, I cannot think of a better summary of the study than its title: One Nation, Two National News Broadcasts: Quebec in French, Canada in English. This is a sad thing for francophones in minority language communities. Nothing has changed since the SNA conducted a similar study two years ago on how much air time RDI news broadcasts spent talking about Acadia. There is every reason to believe that Radio-Canada plans to pay less and less attention to Acadia now that it has announced the elimination of Téléjournal midi Acadie and two radio programs, 3-60 and Tam-Tam Acadie.

I know that, to some extent, the recent budget cuts are the result of Radio-Canada's revenue shortfall. However, those cuts also reflect Radio-Canada's chronic indifference towards the regions outside Quebec. Our national broadcaster must address that indifference once and for all, in order to respect its mandate and continue to earn our esteem.

[English]

Visitor in the Gallery

The Hon. the Speaker: Honourable senators, I wish to draw your attention to the presence in the gallery of His Excellency Ricardo Alarcón de Quesada, President of the National Assembly of People's Power of the Republic of Cuba.

On behalf of all honourable senators, welcome, Mr. President, to the Senate of Canada.

[Translation]

Dr. Ricardo Alarcón de Quesada

Hon. Marcel Prud'homme: Honourable senators, today it is a great honour for us all to welcome to the Senate the President of the National Assembly of People's Power of the Republic of Cuba, Dr. Ricardo Alarcón de Quesada.

Not only does Dr. Alarcón hold one of the most important positions in the Republic of Cuba, but he is also one of the most famous figures in the history of Cuba in recent decades. This political figure and professor of philosophy has been President of the National Assembly since 1993. As early as 1954, while still a young student at the University of Havana, he dedicated himself, heart and soul, to the fight against the Batista regime.

(1410)

He soon joined the 26th of July Movement led by Fidel Castro and after the victory of the Cuban revolution in 1959, he became vice-president of the federation of university students. Interestingly, at the same time, I was president of the law students at the Université de Montréal.

Then began a dazzling career in foreign policy during which he headed the Americas division of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and served as Permanent Representative of Cuba to the United Nations, Vice-President of the General Assembly of the UN, President of the Governing Council of the UN Development Programme and Vice-President of the UN Committee on the Exercise of the Inalienable Rights of the Palestinian People. In 1978 he was promoted to first vice-minister of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, and in 1992 he became Minister of Foreign Affairs. The following year, he was elected as a member of the National Assembly. He left behind his ministerial duties and became President of the National Assembly of People's Power. He was re-elected in 1998, 2003 and 2008. Mr. Alarcón is also a member of Cuba's Politburo and holds a chair in philosophy at the University of Havana.

Mr. Alarcón's presence here comes at a very opportune time, because just a few days ago, on the occasion of the visit by the Cuban Minister of Trade, Raul de la Nuez, the Government of Canada again expressed its commitment to strengthening the economic ties between our two countries.

Mr. Nuez, whose remarks were well received by the Minister of International Trade, Stockwell Day, and the Minister of Agriculture, Gerry Ritz, indicated that he hoped to increase the volume of trade between our two countries, not in the medium or long term, but in the coming months.

More specifically, Minister Day and Minister Nuez discussed making Canada Cuba's third-largest trading partner and increasing the number of Canadian tourists to the island, initiatives that I applaud.

Señor Alarcón, benvenido a Canada and larga vida a la amistad Canada-Cuba, and long live Commandante Fidel Castro and President Raul Castro.

[English]

Fifteenth Anniversary of the Election of Nelson Mandela

Hon. Donald H. Oliver: Honourable senators, I am honoured to rise today to pay tribute to one of the 20th century's most compelling and outstanding leaders. On April 27, 1994, South Africans of all colours went to the polls and elected their first Black president, Nelson Mandela. May 10 will mark Nelson Mandela's fifteenth anniversary since becoming president of post-apartheid South Africa.

The election was a historic event that not only changed the course of history in South Africa but also marked a turning point in world history. Mr. Mandela's victory put an end to more than three centuries of White rule in the country.

On February 11, 1990, nearly 20 years ago, "Prisoner No. 46664" was released from the Victor Verster Prison. After spending 27 years in prison, Nelson Mandela had become the embodiment of hope.

Elected President of the African National Congress in 1991, Nelson Mandela won 252 of the 400 seats in the first democratic, multiracial election in South Africa's history. More than 12 million South Africans voted for the ANC, giving the party a strong mandate with 62.6 per cent of the votes.

I was in South Africa during the 1994 election as an observer with the United Nations. I will forever remember watching tens of thousands of Blacks lined up for miles walking to the polls to cast their vote for the first time ever.

I recall an incident in the North West Province, where I was stationed, where an elderly gentleman in his late 80s stood for several minutes in the polling booth with his ballot. He did not know what to do. He was unable to read or write. Finally, the polling officer asked him repeatedly if he would like some help. He stood there and finally, in a soft voice, he nodded yes; and he said one word, "Mandela." A broad smile of personal satisfaction covered the man's face as he deposited his ballot in the box.

This was democracy in action. It was grassroots politics; it was a graphic demonstration of the healing power of the vote. Black people spoke through their ballots. They spoke to end a regime that was found to be intolerable by most civilized countries and they were successful.

In his inaugural address as president, Mandela said:

Let freedom reign. The sun shall never set on so glorious a human achievement.

His victory brought social change around the world, and his legacy lives on through his many foundations.

(1415)

Honourable senators, the 1994 South African election was a remarkable event in history where what is good and right in our world won over everything else. It was a great example of the triumph of the human spirit and the yearning for democracy.

Nelson Mandela never wavered in his devotion to democracy, equality and learning. Despite terrible provocation, he has never answered racism with racism. His life has been an inspiration to all who are oppressed and deprived, and to those who are opposed to oppression and deprivation.

Please join me, honourable senators, in paying tribute to Nelson Mandela's historic 1994 victory and to his endless battle for human rights, diversity and equality.

Mental Health Week

Hon. Joan Cook: Honourable senators, May 4 to 10 is Mental Health Week in Canada. This national awareness week, spearheaded by the Canadian Mental Health Association, provides citizens across the country with opportunities to learn more about the importance of mental health and how to achieve and maintain it in our daily lives. This year's theme focuses on mental health and the economy, with the slogan, "Now more than ever. . .Invest in yourself."

In a recently published study done by Desjardins Financial Security entitled Health Is Cool!, it was found that 44 per cent of Canadians are stressed about their finances. The current state of the economy and declining employment opportunities are increasing Canadians' concern and anxiety over their jobs, housing income and the cost of living. Through community events and activities, advertising campaigns and online information, Mental Health Awareness Week will offer Canadians tips on creating supportive relationships; reaching out to neighbours, friends, co-workers and family; staying fit and healthy through exercise and a proper diet; and seeking expert advice if faced with financial challenges.

In my home province of Newfoundland and Labrador, the Canadian Mental Health Association will host numerous events this week. On Monday, May 4, the week was kicked off with a symposium hosted by Geoff Chaulk, Executive Director of the Canadian Mental Health Association, Newfoundland Branch; and Colleen Simms, Regional Director of Mental Health and Addictions, Eastern Health. The symposium discussed my province's economy and how it affects us, as well as how Newfoundlanders and Labradorians should continue to invest in our mental health during these stressful economic times.

Honourable senators, I am proud to be a member of the board of a drop-in centre that was created for mental health consumers in the St. John's area called The Pottle Centre. The Pottle Centre will host an open house and information session this Thursday to help the community deal with the stresses of uncertain economic times.

In closing, I will leave honourable senators with this thought: Statistics show that one in five Canadians will experience some form of mental health problem at some point in their lives. Despite the fact that most of us know someone who has been or will be affected by mental illness, very few of us know much about it. I urge honourable senators to take some time this week to learn a bit more about mental health and the impact of difficult economic times. Together, we can create a mentally healthy Canada.

Women's Ski Jumping

Hon. Nancy Greene Raine: Honourable senators, I wish to comment on the issue of women not being allowed to ski jump in the 2010 Olympics. First, I want to make it clear that the exclusion of women jumpers is a decision made by the International Olympic Committee. As required by the bidding process, the Vancouver Olympic Committee agreed that the IOC has the exclusive right to decide which events are included in the Olympics. The IOC is based in Geneva, Switzerland, and may not be required to abide by Canada's gender equity laws.

Like many others, I recently wrote to the President of the IOC urging reconsideration of their decision. He replied that the decision was made "strictly on a technical basis, without regard to gender." I cannot imagine what the "technical basis" for this exclusion can be. The women currently jump similar distances to the men off the normal jump — the smaller of the two jump hills used in Olympic competition. In fact, the men's and women's hill records on the normal jump at Whistler are almost equal.

(1420)

I must explain, though, that for each competition a technical delegate adjusts the starting point on the inrun to prevent athletes from over-jumping the hill. The women start higher up the inrun to fly as far as the men.

I have also heard the IOC state that women's jumping is not ready for the Olympics. During the past season there were 150 active registered women ski jumpers representing 17 countries on the international Continental Cup elite level tour. This number represents far more international competitors than in at least three other sports recently accepted into the Olympics.

The International Ski Federation, the governing body for ski jumping, resisted the lobby for women's ski jumping for many years. As recently as 2005, federation president, Gian Franco Kasper, was quoted as saying that ski jumping "seems not to be appropriate for ladies from a medical point of view." However, the federation allows women to compete in Olympic downhill, aerials and ski-cross events, which are arguably far more dangerous than ski jumping.

Unfortunately, it appears that even though the ski federation voted 114 to 1 for women's jumping to be added to the Olympic program, their leadership did not lobby effectively, and the IOC seems to have dug in their heels. They do not see what a great opportunity they have to use the wonderful facilities at Whistler to introduce women's ski jumping to the world.

The fact that over 9,000 people from 6 continents have signed a petition supporting women's ski jumping at the Olympics shows they already have a growing audience. There is no doubt women's ski jumping will be included in the 2014 games in Sochi, Russia, but why not in Canada in 2010?

I know that VANOC will do everything possible to include the women if the IOC gives its blessing, and I know it is not too late.

No matter what the Supreme Court of British Columbia rules, it will be up to the IOC. Let us hope they change their minds.


[Translation]

ROUTINE PROCEEDINGS

Indian Oil and Gas Act

Bill to Amend—Fourth Report of Aboriginal Peoples Committee Presented

Hon. Gerry St. Germain, Chair of the Standing Senate Committee on Aboriginal Peoples, presented the following report:

Tuesday, May 5, 2009

The Standing Senate Committee on Aboriginal Peoples has the honour to present its

FOURTH REPORT

Your committee, to which was referred Bill C-5, An Act to amend the Indian Oil and Gas Act, has, in obedience to the order of reference of Thursday, April 23, 2009, examined the said Bill and now reports the same without amendment.

Respectfully submitted,

GERRY ST. GERMAIN
Chair

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

(On motion of Senator St. Germain, bill placed on the Orders of the Day for third reading at the next sitting of the Senate.)

[English]

Study on Issues Relating to Federal Government's Current and Evolving Policy for Managing Fisheries and Oceans

Second Report of Fisheries and Oceans Committee Tabled

Hon. Bill Rompkey: Honourable senators, I have the honour to inform the Senate that pursuant to the order of reference adopted on March 12, 2009, and to the order adopted by the Senate on April 29, 2009, the Standing Senate Committee on Fisheries and Oceans deposited with the Clerk of the Senate, on May 4, 2009, its second report, entitled: Rising to the Arctic Challenge: Report on the Canadian Coast Guard, and I move that the report be placed on the Orders of the Day for consideration at the next sitting.

(On motion of Senator Rompkey, report placed on the Orders of the Day for consideration at the next sitting of the Senate.)

[Translation]

Study on Provisions and Operations of National Defence Act

Fifth Report of Legal and Constitutional Affairs Committee Tabled

Hon. Joan Fraser: I have the honour to table the fifth report of the Standing Senate Committee on Legal and Constitutional Affairs, its final report on the provision and operation of An Act to amend the National Defence Act (court martial), entitled Equal Justice: Reforming Canada's System of Courts Martial.

 (On motion of Senator Fraser, report placed on the Orders of the Day for consideration at the next sitting of the Senate.)

(1425)

[English]

Arctic Waters Pollution Prevention Act

Bill to Amend—First Reading

The Hon. the Speaker informed the Senate that a message had been received from the House of Commons with Bill C-3, An Act to amend the Arctic Waters Pollution Prevention 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.)

[Translation]

Canada Not-for-profit Corporations Bill

First Reading

The Hon. the Speaker: Honourable senators, a message had been received from the House of Commons with Bill C-4, An Act respecting not-for-profit corporations and certain other corporations, to which they desire the concurrence of the Senate.

(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.)

[English]

European Union Importation of Commercial Seal Hunt Products

Notice of Inquiry

Hon. Mac Harb: Honourable senators, I give notice that, two days hence:

I will call the attention of the Senate to the fact that the European Union has passed a resolution effectively banning the importation of commercial seal hunt products, that the Canadian government should therefore take immediate steps to assist those Inuit communities and Atlantic fishers affected by the ban and that the Canadian government should drop any threats of a taxpayer funded WTO challenge against our second largest trading partner, the European Union.

[Translation]

The Honourable Yoine Goldstein

Notice of Inquiry

Leave having been given to revert to Notices of Inquiry:

Hon. Claudette Tardif (Deputy Leader of the Opposition): Honourable senators, I give notice that, pursuant to Rule 57(2), two days hence:

I will call the attention of the Senate for the purposes of paying tribute to the Honourable Yoine Goldstein, in recognition of his outstanding career as a member of the Senate of Canada and for his many contributions and service to Canadians.

(1430)

[English]

Fisheries Act

Cessation of Commercial Seal Hunt—Presentation of Petition

Hon. Mac Harb: Honourable senators, I have the honour to present a petition signed by Alberta residents from Calgary and Edmonton. Those petitioners request that the Government of Canada amend the Fisheries Act to stop the seal hunt.

An Act to Amend the Patent Act

Presentation of Petition

Hon. Yoine Goldstein: Honourable senators, I have the honour to present a petition from the residents of Ottawa and, more precisely, 241 medical students from the University of Ottawa, concerning Bill S-232, An Act to amend the Patent Act (drugs for international humanitarian purposes) and to make a consequential amendment to another Act, to ensure that those most in need receive essential medicines.


QUESTION PERIOD

Science and Technology

Funding

Hon. Art Eggleton: Honourable senators, the evidence keeps mounting, and it is not coming from the opposition; it is coming from the science community.

According to The Globe and Mail yesterday, one of Canada's top researchers from the University of Montreal, Dr. Rafik-Pierre Sékaly, is moving to the United States and taking 25 scientists with him because of federal funding cuts to basic science research.

He said:

Right now, the funding is not there. They are going to fund you . . . at levels that will not allow you to be highly competitive. If you are not highly competitive, you are done.

When will this government increase the funding to Canada's three science funding agencies to ensure that Canadian scientists stay competitive, particularly in light of the $10 billion investment by President Obama in the United States? How do we remain competitive in light of that investment?

Hon. Marjory LeBreton (Leader of the Government and Minister of State (Seniors)): Honourable senators, I was hopeful that the newly crowned leader of the Liberal Party would establish his research office within the confines of the Liberal Party and not the front pages of The Globe and Mail.

With regard to the case that the honourable senator raises about the scientist who appeared on the front page of The Globe and Mail saying he was moving to Florida, no funding to the researcher in question has been cut by the Canadian Institutes of Health Research under this government. Since 2006, our government has provided him with over $2.3 million in research funding, and the only cut to AIDS research funding was made under the Liberals in 2005. That cut was made to the Canadian Network for Vaccines and Immunotherapeutics, CANVAC.

With respect to HIV and AIDS, as this area is where Dr. Sékaly has expertise, in 2009-10, we will invest more than $94 million towards HIV and AIDS research and initiatives. Let us not forget the unprecedented leadership shown through our investment of $111 million over five years in partnership with The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation.

Senator Eggleton: Senator LeBreton is missing the point. The point is that we are not remaining competitive. Dr. Sékaly obviously is not receiving enough money to conduct the kind of high-quality research that will keep him in Canada, and he is not the only scientist saying that; many others are as well.

Our own Standing Senate Committee on Social Affairs, Science and Technology, in a report issued in the last Parliament, expressed many of the concerns we have expressed about government policy.

The report also said that the government needs to give further attention to the Scientific Research and Experimental Development, SR&ED, program, its tax credit limits and its regulations. The government needs to pay attention to providing incentives to increase access for Canadian firms to venture capital funds and to standardize intellectual property policies with the province and academic institutions. All these things, by the way, were adopted unanimously by both sides of this house.

The point I am making in this competition is that our standard of living is at stake. When will the government address these shortcomings so that Canada can take a leading role in the 21st century knowledge economy?

(1435)

Senator LeBreton: Honourable senators, as I said in answer to previous questions, it is easy to pick up on the comments of individuals who make certain personal choices. In the case of this gentleman, there were no funding cuts.

Our government has invested $137 million in CIHR since 2006, and the total budget for CIHR now stands at close to $1 billion. That is a significant amount of money. It is the most that has ever been spent in our nation's history.

These investments will support the federal initiative to address AIDS research and the Canadian HIV Vaccine Initiative. We have provided funding to many organizations, including universities and research chairs. This government has a very good record of supporting science and technology and research.

Concerning the funds that the Obama administration is putting into science and technology, I recently read a report saying that the U.S. uses a completely different benchmark. The U.S. includes in their calculations money spent in the schools. Comparatively, we are fully supporting our scientific and research community. If the honourable senator so requests, I will be happy to provide many examples of that support.

[Translation]

Hon. Jean-Claude Rivest: Honourable senators, the point just raised by the honourable senator is extremely regrettable. These 25 young researchers were trained in Quebec and in Canada, and our society has spent a lot of money on them.

I am asking the minister if, when such an announcement is made, the Canadian government does something to examine the causes.

Since minister does not seem to know the facts, Dr. Sékaly clearly stated that he was leaving partly because of the insufficient funds put at his disposal. Does the Government of Canada get involved when brilliant researchers leave Canada, or does it let them go without doing anything except talk about the money invested generally in research? Is direct action being taken to prevent this brain drain?

[English]

Senator LeBreton: Honourable senators, the government cannot comment on every person who appears on the front page of The Globe and Mail. I thought I was clear in my answer to Senator Eggleton when I said that there were no cuts to this gentleman's research funding other than in 2005. Since 2006, when we came into government, this gentleman has been funded with $2.3 million. The only cuts made to HIV and AIDS research were made by the previous government. At the time, people may have been quoted on the front page of any newspaper bemoaning that fact. Someone could have risen in the Senate or the House of Commons and asked a question pointing out this person's unhappiness and dissatisfaction.

(1440)

I understand that this particular gentleman made some comments today in the Quebec media that were somewhat toned down compared to what he is purported to have said yesterday in The Globe and Mail. I always give the benefit of the doubt to someone who appears in The Globe and Mail.

The fact is that the government has spent consistently in every budget since Budget 2006. I have a long list of government funding for the various research councils, universities and university chairs. I have that information and I would be happy to provide it to the honourable senator.

Hon. James S. Cowan (Leader of the Opposition): On the same general topic, if I may, the leader and I have had several exchanges over the past weeks on this issue of support for science and technology. The leader has quite rightly pointed out the amount of money the government has committed, particularly, with respect to infrastructure.

I have tried to make the point that in many cases there are two sides to these matters. There is the infrastructure and capital side, and there is the operating side. In this case, there is a question of maintaining the proper balance. I have suggested to Senator LeBreton that the criticism she referred to in the press is directed to that lack of balance.

I came across an example the other day which makes the point. I want to bring that to her attention and ask for her comment. There is a centre called the Churchill Northern Studies Centre in Churchill, Manitoba. That centre received $11 million in infrastructure funding from the government. They were, obviously, very happy when they received that, but in the middle of celebrating this $11 million in infrastructure funding, their $80,000 operating grant from the Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council was cut. The $80,000 goes toward the operating funds of the technical staff and the day-to-day operations of the centre.

Here is the government handing money out to make welcome infrastructure improvements while taking away the money required to operate the facility. It seems to me that there is an inherent conflict. It is inconceivable that the government cannot understand that it is not enough to fund one side of the ledger without providing proper support to the other.

I would ask the minister to draw this particular small example to the attention of her colleagues because it clearly indicates the wider problem that all of us have been talking about for so many weeks.

Senator LeBreton: Honourable senators, I will certainly seek some further information on that specific project, but it is important to look at this issue in an overall government context and the amount of work this government has done in all of our budgets.

For example, because Genome Canada was not specifically mentioned in our Economic Action Plan, somehow or other that meant we were not funding Genome Canada when, in fact, Genome Canada had been given long-term stable funding.

As a government, we understand the importance of developing science and technology in Canada, where we have a population and a workforce that is favourable to this kind of initiative. That is why the Prime Minister launched our science and technology strategy in May 2007 and that is why we created the Canada Excellence Research Chairs program, a prestigious new research funding program that awards up to $10 million over seven years to 20 of the world's leading university researchers to support their research activities in Canada. It is one of the world's most valuable research funding programs. That is why, in the last three years, the government has invested $205 million in the granting councils, providing them and the researchers with stable, long-term funding. That is why we are supporting Canada's research chairs, the Vanier scholarships and Genome Canada with multi-year support. That is why our Economic Action Plan makes $5.1 billion in new investments, such as $2 billion in the Knowledge Infrastructure Program and $750 million for the Canada Foundation for Innovation.

Honourable senators, you would never know it from listening to the questions in this place, but Canada is number one in the G7 and number two among OECD nations supporting basic discovery-oriented research at our universities and colleges. That is not us speaking; that is the G7 and the OECD.

(1445)

Our science and technology strategy supports basic research, but we also need to ensure that researchers have the equipment and facilities that they need to do their jobs. This was the primary request of Canadian universities and colleges as the government, the Minister of Finance and officials went around in the budget consultation process, and we delivered.

Senator Cowan: Let me try this once again, honourable senators. I am not arguing that the money being spent on infrastructure is not a good investment. I am asking the leader to consider the following: It passes my understanding as to how it makes sense from the government's point of view to invest $11 million to improve infrastructure and withdraw with the other hand the money required to operate that infrastructure. That makes no sense to me. I do not understand.

Senator LeBreton: As I said in my answer to the honourable senator's last question, I will seek further clarification on that one particular project.

Senator Cowan: That is but one example.

Senator LeBreton: There are many examples, including the Canada Excellence Research Chairs that I just mentioned. These are all the new and innovative programs of this government.

As I pointed out to Senator Eggleton, we did not cut research for the gentleman who precipitated this discussion today. In fact, we gave him significant funds. His budget was cut in 2005. Since 2006, we have made sure that he has had proper funding.

Hon. Lorna Milne: Honourable senators, following the same line of questioning, last week it was reported that an award-winning technology investment program will be cancelled at the end of this fiscal year. This program is called TEAM, Technology Early Action Measures. It supports projects demonstrating technologies that mitigate greenhouse gas emissions both in Canada and internationally. The international projects supported by this program will be devastated by this cancellation.

Honourable senators, the Speech from the Throne, if I may quote the Governor General, said:

Our Government is committed to seeking out new opportunities for Canadians and to promoting global prosperity . . . .

However, in this instance we are cancelling the funding for projects that display Canadian ingenuity in Canada and around the world, projects that tackle issues related to climate change. How can this government justify such a decision?

Senator LeBreton: Honourable senators, I do not have the specifics on that particular program. We have established many new endeavours in the field of science and technology. I am not sure where it was, but questions have been asked about the report of the Science, Technology and Innovation Council. That report will be very helpful to the government. However, people failed to point out that the Science, Technology and Innovation Council was established by this government.

We have a different approach to the question of scientific research in this country. For every person that the honourable senator can stand up and quote or program that she can mention, I can rise to quote from another person and put forward another program. We then get into a see-saw battle.

(1450)

In the last budget, we put $5.1 billion into science and technology. That is a considerable sum of money. Several weeks ago in this very place, Senator Keon delivered a speech during which he put on the record some of the great work the government is doing.

We can debate a phased out program, but we never hear about the new programs. It is a mug's game at best.

The government stands by its commitment to science and technology. We have committed significant funds across the spectrum and we have received considerable support from the science and research community.

Senator Milne: I thank the honourable senator for the answer, but I was not quoting this or that person. I was quoting the government in this place. I was asking about TEAM.

As the Cuban ambassador was here today take, for example, the Refrigerant Services Inc. project. Researchers in Cuba developed an alternative to using CFCs in refrigerators but did not have the capacity to replace or convert CFCs in all these appliances. Refrigerant Services Inc. developed a separation technology capable of producing this alternative chemical and increased production by 500 per cent. A scant four years later, 1,600 mechanics and technicians have been trained on retrofitting refrigerators to the cleaner alternative. This company is now positioned to distribute its technology throughout the developing world. This project demonstrates that developing countries can and will adhere to climate change initiatives given the opportunity.

None of this would have happened without the Canadian TEAM program. The total cost to help Cuba develop this technology through the TEAM approach was $152,000. This is a minimal cost, yet it is such a superb idea.

Why are we turning our back on the international community at a time when investing in climate change is so important?

Senator LeBreton: Honourable senators, we are not turning our back on the international community or our international responsibilities, as was shown by Minister Oda yesterday when she visited Sri Lanka, although on other matters.

On this particular program, I will take the honourable senator's question as notice and ask the department to provide a written response.

Hon. Grant Mitchell: Honourable senators, in the absence of an adequate or any answer to Senator Cowan's questions, I wish to return to the subject of the Churchill Northern Studies Centre.

Just to clarify for perhaps the third or fourth time, the Churchill Northern Studies Centre received $11 million in capital infrastructure grants. Unfortunately, the centre will not be able to keep the heat and lights on because it lost $80,000 in federal operating grants.

Does anybody in that government actually believe that these researchers will be able to do their research while they are freezing in the dark?

Senator Comeau: That is an Alberta phrase.

Senator LeBreton: As Senator Mitchell sits on the side of the opposition; I will take the question as notice.

Senator Mitchell: There is a similar problem with the northern research chair at the University of Alberta, who has received funds for infrastructure capital spending on laboratories but, interestingly enough, has had cuts to operating grants so that he now cannot fly to the North to his field sites.

Who is the policy genius who decided that this researcher could somehow do his research in the North if he cannot even get there?

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Senator LeBreton: Every time Senator Mitchell asks a question, I take it with a grain of salt and do not accept it as fact. Therefore, I will take the question as notice.

Senator Mitchell: Regarding the Churchill research centre, they are receiving $11 million in infrastructure funding and they only need $80,000 in operating funds. Could the government not figure out that it could give them $10,920,000 in infrastructure and save up the other $80,000 so they could do their research with light and heat and not have to stand around a Bunsen burner while they try to stay warm?

Senator LeBreton: At least the honourable senator is acknowledging that we are providing infrastructure money. A couple weeks ago, honourable senators on the other side were saying that we were not doing anything for infrastructure.

Regarding the comment about standing around a Bunsen burner to keep warm —

Senator Comeau: He is a stand-up comic.

Senator LeBreton: When I was in science class, I would not have gone near a Bunsen burner to keep warm. In any event, I will take the question as notice.

[Translation]

International Trade

European Union Ban on Commercial Seal Products

Hon. Céline Hervieux-Payette: Honourable senators, my question is for the Leader of the Government in the Senate. Today, the European Parliament voted for a complete boycott of seal products, with one small exception in the case of products from traditional hunting and not-for-profit purposes.

Canada is facing a very powerful vegetarian lobby whose stated objective is to force our society to adopt a way of life that totally excludes the consumption of animal products. Because they did not have a credible political alternative, and because they are in the middle of an election campaign, our colleagues in the European Parliament had no option but to yield to the pressures of this lobby. This lobby has just won its first victory and others could follow if we do not appreciate the danger that is threatening us.

Indeed, the PETA organization is resorting to the same techniques as those now successfully used by the seal lobby to launch an anti-fishing campaign in the United States. Meanwhile, in Europe, some groups are beginning to protest the consumption of eggs.

Could the Leader of the Government tell us if the government is going to take those measures that have been lacking so much over the past three years regarding the seal hunt, in order to fight the vegetarian lobby and its new campaigns, which are already threatening other areas of our economy?

[English]

Hon. Marjory LeBreton (Leader of the Government and Minister of State (Seniors)): Honourable senators, of course Canada condemns the European Union ban on Canadian seal products. Thousands of coastal Canadian families and our northern citizens have been dealt a serious blow to their livelihood. All parliamentarians need to be united against this ban. Our government's position remains that any ban on humanely conducted hunts, such as Canada's, is completely without merit.

[Translation]

Senator Hervieux-Payette: The Government of Canada is currently negotiating an economic free trade agreement with the Europeans and was aware of a possible ban of seal products. Canada's Minister of International Trade, the honourable Stockwell Day, said the following on April 28, and I quote:

[English]

Negotiations on a free trade deal between Canada and the European Union will not be affected by the EU's plan to ban imports of seal products, Trade Minister Stockwell Day said on Tuesday.

"It's two separate tracks. The EU discussions will continue," Day said in an interview with Reuters financial television.

[Translation]

Could the Leader of the Government tell us whether, during his visit to Prague, in the Czech Republic — a country whose Prime Minister is currently the President of the European Parliament — the Prime Minister will challenge the European decision and ask the minister of the European Union not to vote in favor of the boycott?

[English]

Senator LeBreton: I will not comment on the Prime Minister's meetings in Prague. However, I know that if there is no exemption for Canada, a country that has strict guidelines in place for humane and sustainable sealing practices, we will challenge the ban at the World Trade Organization.

Natural Resources

Forestry Subsidies

Hon. Terry M. Mercer: Honourable senators, a recent announcement by governments to convene a joint committee on forestry issues for over 250,000 employees of 300 forest-dependent communities who are struggling to stay alive is simply not enough.

One of the biggest threats to the forestry industry is "black liquor" subsidies. The U.S. government is providing billions of dollars to the pulp industry for a renewable fuel that they produce and use in their mills called black liquor, as opposed to black rum and Diet Coke.

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It seems they are hiding the subsidy under the guise of a renewable fuel to prevent being caught in violation of the softwood lumber agreement that this government negotiated. Black liquor subsidies technically fall outside the softwood lumber agreement because the Americans sell the pulp domestically.

What is being done to stop these subsidies? How much more money will be left on the table, since the government has already left billions of dollars in the hands of the Americans?

Hon. Marjory LeBreton (Leader of the Government and Minister of State (Seniors)): Honourable senators, in all honesty, I have never heard the term, "black liquor." I expect I will now, so I will seek clarification from my colleagues regarding the honourable senator's questions.

[Translation]

Delayed Answers to Oral Questions

Hon. Gerald J. Comeau (Deputy Leader of the Government): Honourable senators, I have the honour to table three answers to oral questions: the first was raised by Senator Rompkey on March 26, 2009, concerning life expectancy in Nunavik; the second by Senator Jaffer, on April 9, 2009, concerning Foreign Affairs, the status of women in Afghanistan; and the third by Senator Cordy, on April 29, 2009, concerning Human Resources and Skills Development, Employment Insurance benefits for Sadie and Maurice Ricketts.

Indian Affairs and Northern Development

Life Expectancy in Nunavik

(Response to question raised by Hon. Bill Rompkey on March 26, 2009)

Cost of Living

Canada has introduced a number of measures to reduce the cost of living for all Canadians, including Nunavimiut.

Starting in 2008, we increased the tax credit for residents of remote areas by 10%.

In addition, Budget 2009, Canada's Economic Action Plan, includes $20 billion in personal income tax relief over 2008-09 and the next five fiscal years. Tax relief initiatives include:

  • Increasing the basic personal tax amount by 7.5 per cent over its 2008 level to $10,320.
     
  • Providing an estimated $1.5 billion in additional support through enhancements to the Canada Child Tax Benefit and the National Child Benefit supplement.
     
  • Increasing the Age Credit amount by $1,000 to provide tax savings to about 2.2 million seniors. This is in addition to a $1,000 increase in the amount as part of the 2006 Tax Fairness Plan.

Overcrowding

The Government of Canada is aware that housing and over-crowding statistics in Nunavik are consistently one of the worst in Canada. Nunavik has the highest rate of overcrowding among Inuit regions (49% in 2006) and is the only Inuit region where the rate has increased from 2001.

Since 2000, through the Housing Agreement (relating to implementation of the James Bay and Northern Quebec Agreement), Canada and Quebec have contributed significant funding toward social housing in Nunavik.

At the March 2009 Katimajiit Round Table meeting (Canada / Quebec / Nunavik) there was a commitment to hold a Housing Forum (likely in late June 2009) which would aim to "substantially improve the housing situation by 2015."

Food Mail Program

Canada recognizes that access to healthy food at affordable prices is a significant factor in reducing the cost of living and improving the quality of life, nutrition and health in Nunavik communities.

In 2008-2009, Indian and Northern Affairs Canada provided approximately $56 million to Canada Post to reduce the cost of shipping nutritious perishable food and other essential items by air to isolated northern communities under the Food Mail Program.

The Government of Canada is fully aware that the Food Mail Program is of critical importance to the residents of Nunavik. As the Honourable Senator may be aware, a comprehensive review of the program is underway to try to find ways of making it more effective and efficient. The review is based in part on the results of pilot projects in three communities, including one in Nunavik, where the cost of shipping certain key perishable foods has been further reduced.

  • Both Makivik Corporation and Kativik Regional Government have been part of the review process via meetings with the Minister of Indian Affairs and Northern Development's special representative, Mr. Dargo.
     
  • Mr. Dargo recently completed his work and officials are currently reviewing the report and recommendations.

Community-based programs administered through Health Canada, such as the Canada Prenatal Nutrition Program, Aboriginal Head Start and the Aboriginal Diabetes Initiative, promote nutrition and access to traditional food and healthy store-bought food. For example, these programs include activities such as the provision of food supplements and/or vouchers for food, community kitchens, community freezers, healthy snacks, and cooking classes.

As food security is a complex issue that requires multiple agencies/sectors working together, the Government of Canada is working with various partners to help address this issue and improve access to traditional food and healthy store-bought food. For example, Health Canada has partnered with key retailers who operate in Nunavik to improve the store environment by promoting the availability and quality of store-bought food; these retailers have agreed to increase the supply of nutritious foods that are relatively affordable.

Funding and Support for Northern Medical Workers

In 2004, the Government of Canada introduced a five-year $100 million Aboriginal Health Human Resources Initiative (AHHRI) that aims to develop and implement Aboriginal health human resources to increase the number of Aboriginal health care providers, improve supports to Aboriginal health career students, and increase the level of cultural competency of health care providers working in Aboriginal communities.

To date, AHHRI has allocated over $4.75 million to Inuit-specific projects, with projects currently underway in the NWT, Nunavut, Quebec and Atlantic regions.

The total amount to date for Nunavik is $513,284. It is in the project proposal phase for this fiscal year.

Foreign Affairs

Government Action on Status of Afghanistan Women

(Response to question raised by Hon. Mobina S.B. Jaffer on April 1, 2009)

Upon learning of the Shia Personal Status Law, Canada raised its deep concern on this issue immediately and forcefully with the highest levels of the Afghan government. The Minister of Foreign Affairs raised the Law with Afghan Foreign Minister Rangin Dadfar Spanta and Afghan Interior Minister Hanif Atmar at the Afghanistan Conference in The Hague. The Prime Minister publicly underlined Canada's deep concern at the G20 meeting. Canadian officials intervened with the President's office in Kabul and with Afghan Ambassador to Canada, Omar Samad, in Ottawa. At every opportunity, we have pressed and we continue to press the Afghan government to meet its international obligations, including respect for the equality of women before the law. Afghan President Hamid Karzai has since publicly committed to revising articles of the law that are inconsistent with the Afghan Constitution. When the Minister of Foreign Affairs again raised the Law with his Afghan counterpart Minister Spanta, by telephone on April 5th, the Afghan Foreign Minister confirmed that Afghanistan would halt implementation of the Law and undertake a review to ensure its consistency with the Afghan constitution and International Law.

The Afghan government has committed to reviewing the law to ensuring its consistency with the Afghan constitution and International Law. Canada will continue to work with Afghan and international partners, including Afghan civil society, to help address concerns with certain provisions of the law. Canada's Ambassador to Afghanistan, Ron Hoffmann, most recently met with President Karzai on April 16th and Speaker of Afghanistan's Lower House on April 19th to express Canada's concerns and urge the government to ensure its review process is comprehensive and consistent with Afghan and International Law. In preceding days, Canadian officials also met with the Second Vice President, the Minister of Justice, the Chief Justice of the Supreme Court, the Attorney General and other government officials and prominent politicians.

Canada is already supporting a range of programs that advance this objective. For instance, CIDA funds a three-year $5 million Rights & Democracy family law project. DFAIT funds a legislative drafting expert, through the Canadian Governance Support Office, to provide the legislative drafting unit of the Afghan Ministry of Justice with technical advice. As part of Canada's six priorities in Afghanistan, we will continue to support a full range of projects that aim to improve women's legal and democratic rights, increase their access to education and healthcare and improve their social and economic livelihoods.

Human Resources and Skills Development

Employment Insurance Benefits for Sadie and Maurice Ricketts

(Response to question raised by Hon. Jane Cordy on April 29, 2009)

We commend Trooper Ricketts for his bravery and we sympathize with his situation. Minister Finley spoke to Ms. Ricketts directly on Friday, May 1, 2009.

We have resolved her case. Due to the provisions of the Privacy Act, further details about this particular case cannot be divulged.

[English]

Speaker's Ruling

The Hon. the Speaker: Honourable senators, before calling Orders of the Day, I want to deal with a point of order.

At the beginning of Orders of the Day on April 23, Senator Mercer rose on a point of order relating to the conduct of Question Period held earlier that day and the application of rule 24(1)(a). This provides that an oral question may be addressed to:

(a) The Leader of the Government in the Senate, if it is a question relating to public affairs

[Translation]

As has been noted in a number of rulings, there is considerable latitude during Question Period in terms of what constitutes "public affairs." In the present case, the matter referred to the commission of inquiry being conducted by Mr. Justice Oliphant. The general practice in Parliament has been to avoid discussing matters or proceedings currently before the courts or quasi-judicial inquiries. This is referred to as the sub judice convention.

[English]

While the convention has not been codified, procedural literature indicates that, although not binding, parliamentarians should be cautious about making reference to the proceedings, evidence, or findings of a commission before it reports.

Applied to Question Period, parliamentarians should exercise due restraint in terms of the questions they ask and the answers they provide.


ORDERS OF THE DAY

Criminal Code

Bill to Amend—Second Reading—Debate Adjourned

Hon. John D. Wallace moved second reading of Bill C-14, An Act to amend the Criminal Code (organized crime and protection of justice system participants).

He said: Honourable senators, I am pleased to speak today about Bill C-14, An Act to amend the Criminal Code (organized crime and protection of justice system participants).

The bill was passed by the House of Commons with no amendments. It was studied by the House of Commons Standing Committee on Justice, Human Rights, Public Safety and Emergency Preparedness, which heard from the Minister of Justice, officials from the Department of Justice, and Statistics Canada's Canadian Centre for Justice Statistics, as well as a range of stakeholders, including representatives of law enforcement, prosecutors and the Canadian Council of Criminal Defence Lawyers.

Organized crime, street gangs and guns are serious problems in Canada. Gang-related homicides are on the rise in Canada. In 2007, there were 594 homicides in this country, and 117 were gang related. As reported in the media, Canada has experienced recently a wave of organized crime activity, including gang violence.

I am pleased that there has been unanimous agreement from all parties that immediate action is needed. With this bill, we propose firm but appropriate responses to some of the growing problems of organized crime and their threats to public safety, particularly threats posed by violent street gangs.

According to the Criminal Intelligence Service Canada, CISC, there are in the order of 900 identifiable organized crime groups operating across Canada. Many of these criminal organizations are street gangs. Organized crime groups can be loosely organized, as is the case with most street gangs, or they can be hierarchical, with a highly organized structure, as in the case with most outlaw motorcycle gangs. Criminal organizations rely upon networking and collaboration with other criminal groups to conduct their illegal activities.

Regardless of their level of sophistication, their activities harm Canadian communities. Gang violence goes hand-in-hand with their illicit activities, with consequences that go far beyond the criminal subculture. Recently, there have been numerous incidents in which innocent Canadians have been killed as a result of gang activity.

These incidents reveal an increased level of risk to Canadians, and we take this risk seriously. The role of government is to take the necessary steps to better protect the safety and security of all Canadians.

Canadians want the government to take action against organized crime. In a 2007 survey on this issue, Canadians indicated that they believe organized crime is as serious a threat to Canada as terrorism. Nearly half of those surveyed indicated that they felt they were personally affected by organized crime. Approximately 89 per cent of those surveyed know that organized crime is linked to drug trafficking, and just over half are of the view that new legislation was required to address organized crime more effectively.

This government believes it is time to strengthen the criminal justice system and to give law enforcement and judges better tools to hold offenders to account for the harm they cause to society.

To this send, Bill C-14 proposes amendments in four areas. First, the bill makes all murders connected to criminal organizations automatically first-degree murder, regardless of whether they are planned and deliberate. Second, it creates a new offence to target drive-by and other reckless shootings involving intentional disregard for the life or safety of another person. Third, the bill creates two new offences to respond to assaults against peace officers that cause bodily harm, involve the use of a weapon, or that constitute aggravated assault of a peace officer. Fourth, the bill amends the gang recognizance provision to clarify that a judge can impose any reasonable conditions, as well as to lengthen the possible period of the order to 24 months where an offender has been convicted previously of a criminal organization or terrorism offence, or the intimidation of justice system's participants offence.

When the bill was studied by the Justice Committee, most of the witnesses who appeared gave their support to the bill. For example, the proposed amendments to make automatically first-degree all murders committed in close connection with organized crime were well received by law enforcement and prosecution representatives.

As honourable senators know, those convicted of murder receive a life sentence, but those convicted of first-degree murder are ineligible for parole for 25 years. In the case of second-degree murder, it is 10 years.

Let me take a moment to review with honourable senators the ways in which Bill C-14 will provide powerful new tools for law enforcement to respond to organized crime. With respect to the first area of reform — murders that can be linked to organized crime — the government, as noted, proposes amendments that automatically treat all these cases as first-degree murder, regardless of whether they are planned and deliberate.

These amendments are extremely important, honourable senators. The Justice Committee heard from representatives from the Canadian Centre for Justice Statistics, who testified that gang-related homicides are on the rise in Canada, comprising 20 per cent of all murders. In British Columbia, I am told the number is 40 per cent. This increase is to be contrasted with the fact that homicide rates, more generally, are decreasing across Canada. The committee also heard evidence from a prosecutor who supported this amendment as a tool to address the growing problem of gang homicides.

Our proposed amendments would provide two separate tests to address murders that are connected to organized crime. First, if it can be established that the murder was committed for the benefit of, at the direction of, or in association with a criminal organization, it will be classified as first-degree murder.

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Second, if it can be established that the murder occurred while the person was committing or attempting to commit another indictable offence for the benefit of, at the direction of, or in association with a criminal organization, it will be classified as first-degree murder.

The person would have to be guilty of murder in the circumstances. This would not create some form of "constructive murder" or raise manslaughter to murder in those circumstances. Rather, the effect of the provision would be to make any murder committed in the course of another criminal organization offence first degree rather than second degree.

The second reform proposed in the bill is that a new offence should be added to the Criminal Code that would target drive-by and other intentional shootings involving reckless disregard for the life or safety of others. Currently, the offences available to prosecute these kinds of cases range from section 86, which is careless use of a firearm, to section 244, which is the discharge of a firearm at a person with intent to cause bodily harm.

The negligence-based offences do not, however, appropriately capture the severity of a drive-by scenario, which involves consciously reckless conduct. Section 244, on the other hand, requires proof that the firearm was discharged at a particular person with a specific intent to cause bodily harm. While clearly the more appropriate offence if it can be shown that the shooter did have a particular target, it can sometimes be difficult to prove in a drive-by shooting scenario where the intent is to intimidate a rival gang, and in many cases, the shooters may be firing wildly, in any event, without a particular target.

The proposed offence will thus fill a gap in the Criminal Code and provide a tailored response to this behaviour. This new offence would require proof that the accused had specifically turned their mind to the fact that discharging their firearm could jeopardize the life or safety of another person and consciously ran this risk.

The proposed penalty system would mirror that of similarly serious offences involving the use of firearms, such as section 244. This offence would be punishable by a mandatory minimum penalty of four years imprisonment and a maximum of fourteen years.

The mandatory minimum would increase to five years if the offence was committed for the benefit of, at the direction of, or in association with a criminal organization; or if it involved the use of a prohibited or restricted firearm, such as a handgun or automatic firearm. In addition, repeat offenders in these circumstances would be subject to a higher mandatory minimum penalty of seven years in prison.

As is already the case in the Criminal Code, any one of the listed class of serious offences involving the use of firearms would qualify as a previous offence for the purpose of the increased mandatory minimum for repeat offenders linked to organized crime or using prohibited or restricted firearms.

When the bill was reviewed by the Justice Committee, a motion by the Bloc Québécois was introduced to remove the mandatory minimum penalties. This motion did not carry.

Let me take a moment to explain why mandatory minimum penalties were included in the proposed drive-by shooting offence. The proposed penalty scheme of this offence would be part of the overall penalty scheme for offences involving the use of firearms in the Criminal Code. There are already a number of such

offences where these mandatory minimum penalties apply, such as attempted murder and assault with a weapon. One of these is section 244, which is the existing offence of "discharging a firearm with intent." The proposed new offence is closely related to section 244. It would thus have created an inconsistency in the Criminal Code to have removed the mandatory minimum penalties from the proposed offence to address drive-by shootings.

Honourable senators, legislation targeted at the deadly combination of guns and gangs must be supported. In 2007, nearly 69 per cent of gang-related homicides were committed with a firearm. In non-gang-related homicides, only 20 per cent involved firearms.

The third area of reform relates to assaults committed against peace and public officers, such as police — those who are entrusted with maintaining law and order and preserving the public peace.

The Criminal Code currently treats some acts of violence committed against peace officers separately from the same acts committed against the general public. For example, section 270 of the Criminal Code makes it an offence to assault a peace officer engaged in the execution of their duties. At the other end of the spectrum, section 231 of the Criminal Code classifies the murder of a peace officer acting in the course of their duties automatically first-degree murder, regardless of whether it was planned and deliberate.

There are, however, no offences covering the more serious levels of assault. Bill C-14 contains a proposal to fill this gap in the Criminal Code's treatment of violent acts committed against peace officers by creating two new offences. The first offence would prohibit the assault of a peace officer involving a weapon or which causes bodily harm. This would be a hybrid offence punishable by a maximum of 10 years imprisonment.

The second offence would prohibit the aggravated assault of a peace officer. This would be a straight indictable offence punishable by a maximum of 14 years imprisonment. Taken together, these two offences, along with the existing offences, would create a complete and separate scheme within the Criminal Code to respond to violence committed against peace officers carrying out their duties.

These amendments will address assaults not only on police officers, but also on prison guards, wardens, border and Coast Guard personnel who have law enforcement duties, as well as fishery officers, to name just a few.

These amendments will send a strong message that assaults committed against law enforcement officers will not be tolerated. These attacks not only put the lives or safety of the individual officers at risk, they also attack and undermine the justice system more broadly.

In order to ensure these offences are adequately punished, the government has proposed amendments that would require that a judge, when sentencing an offender for any of the specific offences targeting assaults against peace officers, give primary consideration to the principles of denunciation and deterrence. The same principle would apply to cases involving intimidation of justice system participants, including judges, prosecutors, jurors and many others who play a role in the criminal justice system. This conduct is expressly designed to undermine the rule of law, and the justice system more broadly, and must be strongly denounced and punished.

The fourth issue addressed in this bill relates to the use of the recognizance order, or peace bond, which is specifically aimed at preventing the commission of an organized crime or terrorism offence or the intimidation of justice system participant offence.

Section 810.01 was first added to the Criminal Code in 1998, and its purpose, as with other recognizance orders, is the prevention of future harm. Ten years later, in 2008, our government's Tackling Violent Crime Act was passed. Among other things, that legislation made changes to strengthen the recognizance provisions that address serious personal injury offences and certain sexual offences against children.

The government, in Bill C-14, is now proposing further amendments to do the same thing to the "gang peace bond" provisions. Specifically, we are making changes to clarify that when imposing conditions as part of the order, a judge has a very broad discretion to order any reasonable conditions that are desirable in order to secure the good conduct of the person before the court. It is hoped that this will result in more effective conditions being ordered. Any breach of the conditions imposed will make the person subject to prosecution for the breach.

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The second significant change in this area relates to the potential length of the peace bond. Like the Tackling Violent Crime Act, the duration of the peace bond would be for up to two years when it is established that the defendant has been convicted of an organized crime, terrorism, or intimidation of justice system participants. In the case of repeat offenders, 12 months was often not enough time and necessitated a prosecutor going back to court to seek a new order. This change will provide more effective controls on the persons made subject to these orders and will ease some of the burdens faced by those responsible for the administration of justice.

This government has made the safety and security of Canadians a priority. I am confident that Bill C-14 is a strong and measured response to the threat posed to Canadians by gangs, guns and organized crime. I urge honourable senators to support the passage of Bill C-14 into law as quickly as possible. Canadians deserve nothing less.

Hon. Colin Kenny: Honourable senators, will Senator Wallace accept a question?

Senator Wallace: Yes.

Senator Kenny: The Standing Senate Committee on National Security and Defence heard testimony by the Commissioner of the RCMP that the RCMP is aware of a significant number of active organized criminal groups in Canada but have the resources to deal with only 30 per cent of them. Is there anything in Bill C-14 to assist the RCMP in their need for resources to address the other 70 per cent?

Senator Wallace: I thank the honourable senator for the question. As with any such matters, there are implications from statistics and there are cost issues, which we all understand. The important point in these proposed changes to the Criminal Code is to give law enforcement officers the tools they need, including  the creation of a deterrent, so that we do not put at risk the lives of police officers and innocent people walking down the street who become victims of these seemingly random shootings. It is important that society and law enforcement officers have the necessary tools, and creating a deterrent is one important tool. Yes, there are always cost issues, but we cannot take a back seat and refuse to move ahead and do the right thing based on a cost consideration. We will have to deal with those issues, but the safety and security of Canadians has to come first.

Senator Kenny: When the Commissioner testified before the Defence Committee, he did not mention any of the matters that the honourable senator mentioned about Bill C-14. Rather, he addressed the fact that he was short of people and that if he had more, he thought that he could move forward. It would seem strange that he did not volunteer that such proposed legislation would be most useful. He simply volunteered to the committee that he was short of people.

Senator Wallace: In particular in large urban centres, I doubt that a police force exists that does not consider itself understaffed to deal with the issues of crime. Thank heavens for the protection of all of us and our families that they do that. Those issues cannot stop us from moving in the right direction to put the necessary laws in place in an effort to prevent the occurrence of acts of violence. It is true that the issue of resources will surround just about everything that comes before the House or the Senate, but we have to do the right thing, and that is protect our society.

Hon. Tommy Banks: Would the honourable senator take another question?

Senator Wallace: Yes.

Senator Banks: I am not a lawyer but you are a lawyer so I hope you will forgive the naïveté of my question and answer in terms that a layman might understand.

The honourable senator said that a murder will be considered committed in the first-degree in certain described cases, such as terrorism and criminal activity, and that such a murder would be considered committed in the first-degree even though it might not have been deliberate. I question the use of the word "deliberate." My understanding of the term "murder" is that it requires what lawyers refer to as mens rea — intent. If there is not intent, then the offence is considered something other than murder. Does the word "deliberate" supplant the word "intent?"

Senator Wallace: There is no question that the issue of mens rea is at the root of the Criminal Code, and that would have to be present for any conviction. The bill proposes looking at activity originating in organized crime and activity that results in the death of others in circumstances that would meet the test of murder, as defined in the Criminal Code.

Whether the act is deliberate or aimed at a particular individual, as opposed to a gang-related activity that might have involved someone other than the person intended; it is in the circumstance of an activity arising from organized crime that it could constitute first-degree murder. To that extent, the deliberateness of the event might be a by-product of what actually occurred but, if it meets the test of murder, as stated in the Criminal Code, then the fact that it originates from organized crime would be at the heart of the offence.

Senator Banks: Forgive my naïveté, but do I understand correctly that a murder could be committed that was intentional but not deliberate?

Senator Wallace: The issue of mens rea is engrained in the criminal law of this country and would still be present. I will leave my comment at that for now.

Hon. Lorna Milne: Would Senator Wallace accept another question?

Senator Wallace: Yes.

Senator Milne: When the bill is referred to committee, will the government present evidence that mandatory minimums work?

Senator Wallace: I have not gone through the complete review of what will be presented to the committee but certainly I am not surprised to hear the honourable senator ask that question. I am sure it will be anticipated by anyone who testifies before the committee.

(On motion of Senator Tardif, debate adjourned.)

Canada Elections Act

Bill to Amend—Second Reading—Debate Adjourned

Hon. Michael L. MacDonald moved second reading of Bill S-6, An Act to amend the Canada Elections Act (accountability with respect to political loans).

He said: Honourable senators, I am pleased to have this opportunity to begin the debate on this bill, which is designed to bring consistency, accountability and transparency to the rules governing political loans.

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The bill addresses gaps in our law with respect to loans. Although parliamentarians have continuously strengthened the political financing measures in the Canada Elections Act over the past 35 years, the provisions governing political loans have not been kept up-to-date to meet the high expectations that Canadians have for their politicians.

For example, the reporting requirements for loans in the Canada Elections Act are not sufficiently transparent to enable Canadians to know who is lending how much money to which party or candidate and under what terms and conditions. Similarly, the lack of rules governing the source and limit of loans mean there is a risk that loans could be used to circumvent the contribution limits under the Federal Accountability Act. This can create a perception that politicians could become beholden to wealthy interests.

Since the 2006 election, our government has worked to enhance Canadians' confidence in the political process. We did this by passing the Federal Accountability Act, our first bill introduced in Parliament. Through the bill before us today, our government is seeking to build on this progress by making the provisions governing political loans consistent with the Federal Accountability Act.

I hope today to contribute to the debate by explaining some of the practical benefits of the measures proposed in this bill.

As I have noted, the bill has its origins with the Federal Accountability Act. That act significantly reduced the influence of wealthy interests in the political process by reducing the amount individuals can contribute to political entities to $1,100, by completely banning contributions by corporations, unions and associations and by ensuring complete transparency in political contributions.

However, during study of the act in the House of Commons, concerns were raised that the lack of equivalent rules governing loans could create a loophole and undermine the effects of the Federal Accountability Act. As a result, the Standing Committee on Procedure and House Affairs asked the Chief Electoral Officer to prepare a report on political financing issues with recommendations respecting the use of loans.

The Chief Electoral Officer's report in January 2007 stated:

While Parliament has imposed an extensive regime to control the source and extent of contributions, it has not done so with respect to the other source of funding constituted by loans.

His report went on:

The loans granted by lenders— who are not in the business of lending, who lend money at non-commercial rates, with terms that are not available to others, or in cases where there is little prospect of reimbursement— may be perceived as a means to influence the political entity to which the funds are provided.

The Chief Electoral Officer therefore made the following recommendations to the House of Commons: That political entities may borrow money in excess of the contribution limits only from financial institutions; that all loans by financial institutions be at commercial rates; that the limits on loans made by individuals should be their contribution limit; that a separate regime for the treatment and reporting of loans be established in the act.

Our government acted on the Chief Electoral Officer's recommendations by introducing Bill C-54 on May 8, 2007. Bill C-54 was at report stage when Parliament was prorogued and was reinstated as Bill C-29 in the subsequent session of Parliament. Bill C-29 was passed by the House of Commons on June 17, 2008; however, the Senate did not have time to complete the debate on this important bill before Parliament was dissolved.

Allow me to recap the important and welcomed changes proposed in this bill. The bill would create a uniform and transparent reporting regime for all loans to political entities, including the mandatory disclosure of terms and the identity of all lenders and loan guarantors.

The $1,100 annual contribution limit for individuals established in the Federal Accountability Act would now extend to the amounts of loans and loan guarantees. There would be a prohibition on loans by unions and corporations other than financial institutions. These same bodies are prohibited from making donations under the Federal Accountability Act. Financial institutions could still make loans, but those would have to be made at fair market rates of interest and be subject to full disclosure.

Finally, riding associations or parties will be held responsible for unpaid loans taken out by their candidates as a measure of accountability for the actions of their candidates.

One of the most important benefits of these changes would be the enhanced transparency requirements for loans to all political entities; that is, parties, candidates, electoral district associations and contestants in leadership and nomination races. In addition to the full reporting requirements, all loans will have to be made in writing; a backroom handshake will not suffice.

I note as well that the reporting requirements would apply when the party or candidate files their next statutory report with Elections Canada, a practical and reasonable measure. This change will bring the greatest increase in transparency in the case of candidates and nomination contestants who currently have only limited disclosure requirements. It will impose on these persons the same obligation of full disclosure that has applied to other political entities since 2003.

At the moment, candidates and nomination contestants need only disclose loans and the identity of the lender if the loan is over $200 and they do not report terms and conditions of the loan. In the case of unpaid loans, they do not report on the loans separately from any other unpaid claim in their campaign expenses.

Increased transparency for every loan means Canadians will be able to see for themselves who is borrowing from whom, when, how much and on what terms. It will ensure that loans are subject to the same transparency as contributions. This will be a welcomed change, especially at the grassroots level in our communities, but also at the national level. Uniformity and transparency will make compliance easier for those subject to the rules and also make enforcement easier.

The second major change is to include loans made by individuals in the individual contribution limit. Now there will be a limit to how much you can lend, and that will preclude anyone from using loans to bypass the contribution limits for individuals. This can happen when a large loan is made and then written off, allowing the borrower to avoid repayment. Such loans are essentially a contribution in disguise.

The third change requires that only financial institutions can make loans to political entities beyond the $1,100 limit and at fair market rates of interest. Loans from unions and corporations will be prohibited outright.

The effect of this change is to prevent unions and corporations from doing indirectly through loans what they are now prohibited from doing through contributions. This is neither an unreasonable nor onerous restriction, given that the class of eligible lenders is broad, including domestic and foreign banks, trust and loan companies, credit unions, caisse populaires and insurers.

By preserving the role of the small lenders in our communities, including cooperatives, and in financing grassroots political campaigns, the bill does not unnecessarily concentrate lending in the hands of just a few banks, and the disclosure requirements will ensure transparency.

Requiring a fair market rate of interest further levels the playing field for all borrowers and lenders. There will no longer be situations that raise questions of whether favourable terms were offered to political entities in exchange for special consideration.

The most welcomed effect of this change will be to close off one of the last remaining opportunities for unions and corporations to exert financial influence in the political process by extending loans to political entities. It means that politicians will have to seek contributions from voters, not corporate entities or special interest groups. That change will focus accountability where it belongs, between citizens and their elected representatives.

Once again, it will protect MPs, riding associations and parties from any misperception that they might be beholden to a corporate entity with its hands in our purse strings.

The final set of changes is about responsibility for loans taken out by candidates at the grassroots level, closest to the citizen.

It will surprise many Canadians to learn that under the current rules, a riding association is not accountable for money borrowed by its candidate to finance an election campaign. That is right; if a local candidate borrows money and does not pay it back, the riding association is not held responsible for repayment. This change will be an important means of ensuring that candidates and riding associations are held accountable for money they borrow in that community.

Honourable senators, these are simple, straightforward rules for loans. They are not radical or revolutionary, as similar rules exist in many provinces. In fact, provincial governments have taken the lead in this area.

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For example, in Ontario, loans can be made only by financial institutions, and riding associations are liable for the unpaid loans of their candidates. In Quebec, loans can be made only by an elector or a financial institution. In Manitoba, only financial institutions can make loans for an amount of more than $3,000. In Alberta and Newfoundland and Labrador, loans can be made only by financial institutions.

The fact that many provinces already have similar rules in place should answer any concerns that the bill may have unforeseen consequences.

Honourable senators, the bill before us today is substantially the same as the bill passed by the House of Commons in the last Parliament. Minor adjustments have been made on the advice of legislative counsel and Elections Canada officials to ensure the bill is consistent with the existing provisions of the Canada Elections Act.

One change I want to highlight is one proposed by the Liberal Party to change the contribution limit for a leadership contest to an annual limit rather than a per-contest limit.

This bill received a fair amount of scrutiny by the other place, leading to amendments in committee and at the report stage.

In the interests of fairness, a government amendment at committee excluded from the annual contribution limit any portion of a loan that is repaid to the lender and any unused loan guarantees. The effect of this change is to allow a lender whose loan has been repaid, or whose guarantees have been unused, still to contribute up to the annual contribution limit.

Opposition amendments at committee require the Chief Electoral Officer to hear representations from affected interests before making a determination about a deemed contribution. Opposition amendments also extended the period that loans must be repaid or become deemed contributions from 18 months to three years. The government accepted these amendments.

As is evident, the government worked with the opposition parties in the House of Commons to ensure that the bill would have broad, multi-party support.

I look forward to working with honourable senators when this bill is referred to committee. I know the committee will provide a thorough review of the proposed measures.

Before concluding, I want to stress that loans are a legitimate source of financing. However, the provisions governing political loans have not kept pace with other reforms to political financing, and are now significantly out of date.

In recent years, party finance has changed dramatically in Canada. Less than a generation ago, political financing was essentially unregulated and wealthy interests could exert control through large donations. The situation was open to abuse. Canadians were losing trust in the political process and confidence in their democratic institutions.

Now the playing field is much more level. Political financing is controlled, transparent and subject to rigorous standards of accountability. It is therefore doubly important to ensure that loopholes are closed quickly and decisively lest the influence of the wealthy regain a toehold.

Stronger accountability and transparency have made politics fairer in Canada, and have improved accountability to citizens. They help preserve public trust and public confidence in Canada's democratic institutions.

With these changes, loans will have caught up with the rest of the political financing regime as updated through the Federal Accountability Act. More important, loans will have been brought up to date with the higher expectations of Canadians for accountability and transparency. That bill is a good thing for everyone and for all concerned.

Hon. Jane Cordy: Will the honourable senator from Dartmouth accept a question?

Senator MacDonald: I will try to answer a question, yes.

Senator Cordy: In the spirit of fairness, openness, accountability and transparency, will Peter MacKay and Stephen Harper disclose the list of their campaign contributors when they ran to be the leader of their respective parties?

Senator MacDonald: Honourable senators, I am a student of history and a student of politics. If we went back in the past to all the different political campaigns over the years, I am sure we could cherry-pick a lot of people who reported or did not report under an old set of rules. This bill is about us going forward with a new set of rules for Canadians. We are not here to fight the battles of the past. We are here to set some standards for the future.

We responded to the Liberal Party in the House of Commons committee. The Liberal Party was supportive of the changes. I encourage all senators to support these changes.

Hon. Joseph A. Day: Will the honourable senator accept another question, from someone who has recently had an opportunity to start focusing on this bill? I obviously will study it more, but I want some background.

Senator MacDonald: Certainly.

Senator Day: My concern is the portion that the senator indicated with respect to local riding associations being responsible for loans that a candidate may take out and the candidate does not pay back. What type of check will there be to protect the local riding associations? I can see this provision as a serious concern for a number of individuals who are prepared to help in the political process but may not want to become caught up in the sometimes unrealistic enthusiasm of a candidate who borrows an unreasonable amount of money and then the local riding association is left to handle it.

Have checks on this situation been considered?

Senator MacDonald: I am not fully aware of all the discussions that have been held in the other place about this issue. As someone who has been involved — and I am sure we all have — in local electoral district associations for a long time, I think it encourages local EDAs to pay that much more attention to the people they nominate as candidates and how those candidates conduct themselves when it comes to financing campaigns.

All this bill does is to increase transparency. It forces the EDAs to be more aware of the conduct of their candidates and the negotiations they enter into to finance their campaigns. Even though I have some sympathy for the honourable senator's concern, I also believe that transparency of this nature will work to the benefit of both the candidate and the respective EDA.

Senator Day: Will the honourable senator determine from the government if the government is prepared to entertain an amendment providing that the local riding association or a representative, to be responsible for the debt of a candidate, will be required to sign off on the loan documentation?

Senator MacDonald: I am more than willing to bring the suggestion back to the house and to the government. The government has made it clear that they are prepared to work with the opposition to pass this bill.

Senator Day: Thank you.

(On motion of Senator Hervieux-Payette, debate adjourned.)

Criminal Code

Bill to Amend—Second Reading

On the Order:

Resuming debate on the motion of the Honourable Senator Wallace, seconded by the Honourable Senator St. Germain, P.C., for the second reading of Bill S-4, An Act to amend the Criminal Code (identity theft and related misconduct).

Hon. George Baker: I will be brief. I have been asked to say a few words about the bill. Senator Wallace has outlined adequately what is in the bill. In principle, we agree with the bill and we should refer it to the committee to examine it in detail.

Honourable senators might recall that this bill was in the House of Commons last year prior to the election, and the chair of the Justice Committee refused to hold a meeting. This situation went on for months. I think it was about the Cadman affair at that time.

The government gave up trying to pass it through the House of Commons and they have reintroduced it here in the Senate.

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Identity theft is a serious subject today and it must be addressed. However, we will point out in the committee examination things that perhaps the government can do itself to cut down on identity theft.

The main components of the bill, as Senator Wallace has pointed out, are interesting: unlawfully possessing government-issued identification documents that contain information of another person, and then the accompanying Criminal Code amendments creating a new offence of fraudulently redirecting or causing redirection of a person's mail; and, secondly, creating a new offence of possessing a counterfeit Canada Post mail key — and on it goes.

When I read the bill in detail, I thought about the time years ago when items were sent by registered mail. There was little incidence of identity theft in those days. I thought about it, looked at the amendments and wondered why there is such a problem now with identity theft of government-issued documents sent through the mail. I discovered that much of it has to do with the fact that government documents are sent to an individual so that they can access the Internet, and therein, as the evidence shows, a great many of the problems arise.

When someone becomes 60 years of age — oh, to be 60 again — normally they receive communication from the federal government saying that they qualify or do not qualify for a Canada pension. Then, at 65, they receive notification that they qualify for Old Age Security. A person is sent this notice through the mail, not registered mail, just in a brown envelope. It states the following:

As a Canada Pension Plan (CPP) and/or Old Age Security (OAS) beneficiary, Service Canada would like to find out about our Online Services by providing you with your own Personal Access Code (PAC).

It says that you will need this code to register and access your account. You will need to create your account. The first step in the registration process is that you will be required to validate your identity, since you are given your code in the mail, not registered, with your social insurance number, your date of birth, your province/territory of residence, as well as your personal access code in order to activate your account. Everyone's personal access code, it says, is issued for five years. Each person who has a personal access code will have a new one sent to them in five years' time, at which time your code will be automatically cancelled and you can use a new one.

Please keep your Personal Access Code confidential. Do not provide this code to anyone, even when contacting us in writing or by phone.

In writing? They just wrote you a letter, not registered, and they gave you the code. The safeguard, of course, as mentioned in this letter, is that your social insurance number and your date of birth are needed in order to activate your account. Well, those are pretty good safeguards, are they not?

Last year, the Senate dealt with a bill that would have released everyone's date of birth to the entire world, supported by every political party in the House of Commons.

Senator Nolin: Who amended the bill?

Senator Baker: The Senate amended the bill, and of course the House of Commons admitted they were in error and approved the amendment.

The safeguard is that they will need the social insurance number and the date of birth.

They receive a second letter in the mail on the same day, in a brown envelope, not registered, again from the Government of Canada. What does this one say? You open up the letter that is addressed to the person, and it gives notice of entitlement, a monthly amount — and this one is $166.96 — and the effective month. Then it gives your date of birth. My goodness. What is under that? The social insurance number.

Senator Banks: No!

Senator Baker: Yes!

Senator Nolin wonders if the social insurance number is right. To ensure it is right, the next day you receive in the mail another brown envelope addressed to you saying that enclosed is your personalized Old Age Security card with your identification number on it. When you look down at the identification number, lo and behold, it is your social insurance number!

That is the third letter you have received in the mail, not registered, with all of the information you require in order to access your account, change your account, change your address, change your method of payment, directly into a bank account or not, via the Internet. We should be examining that process when the committee meets.

I have been here for a long time. I sat on the Justice Committee off and on for many years. I have watched changes to the Criminal Code over 35 years now, and I thought we passed a law saying that you cannot use your social insurance number as an identification number. I went back to look, and lo and behold, we did. In 2001, we passed the PIPEDA Act, which stands for the Personal Information Protection and Electronic Documents Act. A judgment was given the following year, stating that the act came into effect on January 1, 2001. It applies to every federal government department, federal work undertaking or business. In this case, it applies to a bank. The Privacy Commissioner ordered that the bank had no valid basis for inferring consent to the use of a social insurance number as the identifier. I do not want to name the bank because it could be my bank.

Senator Comeau: Oh, go ahead.

Senator Baker: This is a published document. I am not sure which bank it is here. It is called "the bank." From this judgment, the bank had to stop using the social insurance number as an identifier; yet, when you turn 60 years of age today, that does not apply to the Government of Canada.

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The Government of Canada maintains the social insurance number that they send to everyone. You can imagine someone 65 years of age in some apartment building in Toronto, Montreal or Vancouver picking up the mail and the first letter they read is, "to help you on your online services on the Internet."

Do you know what that person would normally do? They would throw it in the garbage. However, that envelope contains the access code to their account, which they or anyone who picks it up can change.

That is what we will say to the Government of Canada: It is fine to pass laws, but why does the government not follow the law in this particular case and do its part to clear up identity theft.

The Hon. the Speaker: Are honourable senators ready for the question?

Hon. Senators: Question.

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

(Motion agreed to and bill read second time.)

Referred to Committee

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

(On motion of Senator Wallace, bill referred to the Standing Senate Committee on Legal and Constitutional Affairs.)

Bankruptcy and Insolvency Act

Bill to Amend—Second Reading—Speaker's Ruling—Order Withdrawn

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).

The Hon. the Speaker: Honourable senators, on April 1, when the order was called for resuming debate on the second reading of Bill S-219, An Act to amend the Bankruptcy and Insolvency Act (student loans), the Deputy Leader of the Government, Senator Comeau, rose on a point of order. He argued that the bill requires a Royal Recommendation, and therefore cannot continue before the Senate. Senator Comeau referred to the Constitution Act, 1867, Senate rule 81, and authorities such as Bourinot and Erskine May in explaining how, in his view, the bill violates the financial initiative of the Crown.

[Translation]

Senator Comeau's concern was that the amendments to the Bankruptcy and Insolvency Act proposed in Bill S-219 could possibly increase the government's liabilities under the Canada Student Loans Act. Fundamentally, Bill S-219 seeks to implement two changes. First, a person declaring bankruptcy could seek relief from student loan debts at the end of five years, instead of waiting seven, as is now the case. Second, the bill would allow any former student to apply for changes to the terms of repayment, without having to wait five years as they must currently.

[English]

Since the government is the guarantor for loans made under the Canada Student Loans Act, it is liable to the lender if former students are discharged from debts or obligations with respect to such loans. The changes that Bill S-219 proposes would thus have the effect of increasing the contingent liabilities of the government, possibly resulting in additional charges on the Consolidated Revenue Fund.

The sponsor of the bill, Senator Goldstein, challenged the idea that the bill requires a Royal Recommendation. He noted it does not specifically appropriate public money, from which he concluded that rule 81 does not apply. He also mentioned that the bill had been before the Senate in previous sessions, and had been referred to committee, without this issue being raised.

[Translation]

At the outset, it should be noted that a point of order on such issues can be raised at any time while a bill is before the Senate. A point of order in a new session is certainly acceptable, and has occurred on a number of recent occasions.

The question of the relationship between the Crown's liabilities and the Royal Recommendation does not arise often in the Senate. There have, however, been some cases of relevance. On October 23, 1991, Bill S-5 was ruled out of order, since it would have imposed new liabilities on the Crown. In that case reference was made to the 20th edition of Erskine May, which states that both liabilities and contingent liabilities require the Royal Recommendation. Earlier, on February 20, 1990, the same text had been cited, among others, when some amendments proposed to a bill in a committee report were ruled out of order.

[English]

From the most recent edition of Erskine May, the 23rd edition, it is evident that a Royal Recommendation is still required for proposals that would incur a liability or a contingent liability. Page 884 specifically indicates that this includes charges that "might arise from a Treasury guarantee." While page 888 does state that the Royal Recommendation may not be required if the "liability arises as an incidental consequence of a proposal to apply or modify the general law," this does not save Bill S-219, since the changes proposed to the student loans regime are not merely incidental to the bill, but its primary purpose.

While there is a general preference in the Senate to favour debate in uncertain situations, this must be balanced against the need for a scrupulous respect for the financial initiative of the Crown, a basic principle of our parliamentary system. The passage of Bill S-219 would expand the range of conditions under which the government would have to make good its guarantee of loans under the Canada Student Loans Act. This would change the existing scheme, since payments from the Consolidated Revenue Fund might increase due to the change in possible obligations. As such, the bill should have a Royal Recommendation, and would have to originate in the other place.

The ruling is, therefore, that this bill is out of order. Debate at second reading cannot continue, and the bill shall be withdrawn from the Order Paper.

(Order withdrawn.)

Bank of Canada Act

Bill to Amend—Second Reading—Speaker's Ruling—Debate Continued

On the Order:

Resuming debate on the motion of the Honourable Senator Grafstein, seconded by the Honourable Senator Pépin, for the second reading of Bill S-230, An Act to amend the Bank of Canada Act (credit rating agency).

The Hon. the Speaker: Honourable senators, on March 31, after Senator Grafstein had spoken to his motion for the second reading of Bill S-230, An Act to amend the Bank of Canada Act (credit rating agency), Senator Nolin rose on a point of order. He noted that, under clause 2, the bill cannot be brought into force before funds have been appropriated, based on a Royal Recommendation, for the purpose of the bill. On this basis, he was of the view that the Senate cannot proceed with the study of the bill.

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The effect of the type of clause challenged by Senator Nolin was addressed in some detail in a ruling given on May 27, 2008, concerning Bill S-234, introduced by our retired colleague Senator Gill. That bill contained a virtually identical provision. The ruling is published at pages 1086 to 1088 of the Journals of the Senate and is directly applicable to the current point of order. The final paragraph, which summarized the effect of this type of clause, applies equally to Bill S-230. It suggests that the bill has no real effect without a separate appropriation of the necessary funds. As stated in the ruling of May 27, 2008:

[Translation]

[T]here is no obligation to appropriate new money imposed upon Her Majesty. Nothing can happen if funds are not properly appropriated following a Royal Recommendation. Preferring to err on the side of allowing Senators the largest opportunity possible to consider proposals, debate on this item can proceed.

[English]

The ruling on Bill S-230 is the same. The bill does not require a Royal Recommendation, since nothing can happen following its adoption until and unless funds have been appropriated. Debate can therefore continue.

(On motion of Senator Comeau, debate adjourned.)

[Translation]

National Philanthropy Day Bill

Second Reading

On the Order:

Resuming debate on the motion of the Honourable Senator Grafstein, seconded by the Honourable Senator Hubley, for the second reading of Bill S-217, An Act respecting a National Philanthropy Day.

Hon. Andrée Champagne: Some honourable senators may recall that the last time we debated Bill S-217, I was unable to support its proposal that the government declare November 15 of each year to be a special day to officially highlight the significant contribution of philanthropy in Canada. Over time, however, I have changed my mind.

I hope that honourable senators do not think I was unaware of the important role that charitable organizations play in the lives of Canadians. The sector helps people who cannot participate fully in our society and helps them overcome difficulties. It assists people who have been afflicted by disaster, disease, death of a family member or loss of income.

Charitable organizations also play a leading role in promoting artistic creation, supporting education, setting up places of worship, and promoting new ideas.

Honourable senators, a very reliable study has shown that, in 2004 alone, over 22 million Canadians donated money and did over 2 billion hours of volunteer work. Yes, Canada is lucky to have such energetic and dynamic charitable organizations.

It is no surprise that, every year in Canada, groups other than the government set aside special days or periods to express their appreciation to those who participate in our philanthropic tradition.

For instance, Volunteer Canada celebrates National Volunteer Week. This special time serves to pay tribute to those who dedicate their time and energy to bring about change in our communities.

National Volunteer Week was created in 1943 by Women's Voluntary Services in Montreal, Toronto, Winnipeg and Vancouver. At that time, special events were organized to raise public awareness about the vital contributions made by women to the war effort on the home front.

In the late 1960s, the idea of a week dedicated to volunteers was re-introduced, but this time, it incorporated all volunteers involved in community activities. During the ensuing decades, this special week became increasingly important until, in 1990, the third week of April was designated National Volunteer Week in all communities across Canada. Although no legislation exists to compel Canadians to observe it, it remains, without a doubt, one of the most celebrated weeks in the country.

Honourable senators, I am sure you understand why and how I came to support the principle and objective underlying Bill S-217. However, I am sure it will also come as no surprise to hear me add that, in my humble opinion, the honourable senators must examine all the ins and outs of this bill more carefully in committee. We would all like to ensure that, if November 15 is retained as the date and will henceforth be celebrated as National Philanthropy Day, that date will receive all the attention it deserves.

There are various ways to call attention to these special days. For instance, Aboriginal groups, multiculturalism and the expulsion of the Acadians are all commemorated by special days established by Royal Proclamation by the Governor General in the name of Her Majesty under the Great Seal of Canada.

Other special days have been designated through legislation, for instance, Canada Day, Remembrance Day and Victoria Day. There are special days that pay tribute to Sir John A. MacDonald, Canada's first Prime Minister and a Father of Confederation, as well as Sir Wilfrid Laurier, Canada's first francophone Prime Minister.

Let us return once again to Bill S-217. Honourable senators, for all the reasons already mentioned, I recommend that we join together and pass this bill at second reading, so that National Philanthropy Day may be considered the most appropriate way of highlighting the generosity of Canadians. It is a way of thanking all those who give of their time, talents and resources to improve the lot of their fellow human beings. We would also like the bill to extend a true invitation to celebrate the day without infringing on other observances.

Bill S-217 will surely benefit from in-depth study in committee. I therefore move that we approve the bill at second reading so that it may be promptly examined by a committee.

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

(Motion agreed to and bill read second time.)

Referred to Committee

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

(On motion of Senator Tardif, bill referred to the Standing Senate Committee on Social Affairs, Science and Technology.)

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Financial Administration Act

Bill to Amend—Second Reading—Debate Continued

On the Order:

Resuming debate on the motion of the Honourable Senator Murray, P.C., seconded by the Honourable Senator Banks, for the second reading of Bill S-221, An Act to amend the Financial Administration Act (borrowing of money).

Hon. Gerald J. Comeau (Deputy Leader of the Government): Honourable senators, this bill is about to be struck from the Orders of the Day. I would like some more time to prepare my notes. I want to give a big speech about this bill, but I have not

had time to complete my notes, so I will move adjournment of this item for the balance of my time.

(On motion of Senator Comeau, debate adjourned.)

[English]

Aboriginal Peoples

Budget and Authorization to Engage Services and Travel—Study on Federal Government's Responsibilities to First Nations, Inuit and Metis Peoples—Third Report of Committee Adopted

The Senate proceeded to consideration of the third report of the Standing Senate Committee on Aboriginal Peoples (budget—study on matters generally relating to the Aboriginal Peoples of Canada—power to hire staff and travel) presented in the Senate on April 28, 2009.

Hon. Gerry St. Germain: I move the adoption of the report standing in the name of Senator Hubley.

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

(Motion agreed to and report adopted.)

Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe Parliamentary Assembly

Motion to Support Resolution on Expanding Trade Between North America and Europe Adopted

On the Order:

Resuming debate on the motion of the Honourable Senator Grafstein, seconded by the Honourable Senator Fairbairn, P.C.:

That the Senate endorse the following Resolution, adopted by the OSCE Parliamentary Assembly at its 17th Annual Session, held at Astana, Kazakhstan, from June 29 to July 3, 2008:

RESOLUTION ON EXPANDING TRADE BETWEEN NORTH AMERICA AND EUROPE

1. Reaffirming the importance of trade for economic growth, political stability and international peace,

2. Recalling the fundamental importance of the economic and environmental dimension in the OSCE's comprehensive approach to security,

3. Considering that expanded free trade between North American and European markets will benefit all OSCE participating States politically as well as economically,

4. Recalling the commitments made by the participating States at the Maastricht Ministerial Council in December 2003 regarding the liberalization of trade and the elimination of barriers limiting market access,

5. Recalling the recommendations of the 2006 OSCE Best Practice Guide for a Positive Business and Investment Climate, published by the Office of the Co-ordinator of OSCE Economic and Environmental Activities, which advocate stronger international trade policies and conditions favourable to the circulation of international capital,

6. Concurring with the conclusions of the Co-ordinator of OSCE Economic and Environmental Activities that free trade agreements and the reduction of tariffs are vital to a strong trade policy,

7. Recalling the importance that the OSCE Parliamentary Assembly accords to the development of international trade as underlined by the Assembly's Fifth Economic Conference on the theme of "Strengthening Stability and Co-operation through International Trade" held in Andorra in May 2007,

8. Recalling the deep historical and cultural ties between the peoples and states of North America and Europe which shaped their common values, on which the OSCE is based, and which are reinforced by the strength of their economic links,

9. Recognizing the considerable impact that the economies of North America and Europe have on international trade,

10. Considering the increasingly interdependent nature of the economic links between North America and Europe,

11. Noting the scope and depth of trade between North America and Europe which benefits public accounts and the private sector in addition to generating opportunities for employment,

12. Welcoming recently signed agreements that promote greater and freer trade between a limited number of markets in North America and Europe, such as the January 2008 Free Trade Agreement between Canada and the European Free Trade Association,

13. Acknowledging the appeal of the emerging markets in Asia and South America, whose growth will generate new levels of competition and economic efficiencies for trade between North America and Europe,

14. Concerned with the persistence of trade barriers in the economic relations between North America and Europe which limit opportunities for greater economic growth and human development,

15. Concerned with the state of the Doha Round of negotiations at the World Trade Organization which is affecting inter-regional trade negotiations such as the Canada-European Union Trade and Investment Enhancement Agreement suspended since 2006,

The OSCE Parliamentary Assembly:

16. Resolves that seminars and conferences to raise awareness of the opportunities and shared benefits of trade liberalization should be considered;

17. Calls on the parliaments of the OSCE participating States to vigorously support and accelerate all multilateral, inter-institutional and bilateral initiatives that promote the liberalization of trade between North America and Europe, including the harmonization of standards and the elimination of regulatory barriers;

18. Calls on the parliaments of the OSCE participating States to sustain the political will of their governments as members of existing economic agreements, including the North American Free Trade Agreement, the European Union, the European Free Trade Association and the Central European Free Trade Agreement, to develop transatlantic partnership agreements that expand and liberalise trade between and among them;

19. Recommends that current and future initiatives that target expanded trade between the economies of North America and Europe consider greater involvement where appropriate of regional and subregional governments and groupings;

20. Recommends that current and future initiatives that target expanded trade between the economies of North America and Europe reflect the principles and standards of the OSCE, particularly human rights, environmental protection, sustainable development and economic and social rights, including workers' rights, as agreed to in the 1990 Document of the Bonn Conference on Economic Co-operation in Europe, the 1990 Document of the Copenhagen Meeting of the Conference on the Human Dimension of the CSCE and the 1990 Charter of Paris for a New Europe.

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

(Motion agreed to and report adopted.)

[Translation]

Bilingualism in Canada

Inquiry

Hon. Maria Chaput rose pursuant to notice of March 31, 2009:

That she will call the attention of the Senate to the discontinuance of the Interdepartmental Partnership with the Official-Language Communities (IPOLC) and its damaging consequences for official bilingualism in this country.

She said: Honourable senators, I have initiated this inquiry to call your attention to the discontinuance by the Government of Canada of the Interdepartmental Partnership with the Official-Language Communities, or IPOLC.

The elimination of IPOLC happened very quietly, without notice and without consultation. This fund, created in June 2000 to strengthen cooperation between official language minority communities and federal organizations, was abolished on March 31, 2009. No new government fund, program or initiative has been proposed by the current government to fill the void.

The Conservative government's decision to terminate IPOLC without notice or consultation goes against the will of Parliament, as expressed in sections 41 and 42 of the Official Languages Act.

I remind you that, under section 41:

. . . the Government of Canada is committed to (a) enhancing the vitality of the English and French linguistic minority communities in Canada and supporting and assisting their development; and (b) fostering the full recognition and use of both English and French in Canadian society.

Under section 42, the Minister of Canadian Heritage, in consultation with other ministers of the Crown, shall encourage and promote a coordinated approach to the implementation by federal institutions of the commitments set out in section 41.

Also, since 2005, section 41 of the act provides that every federal institution, and I quote:

. . . has the duty to ensure that positive measures are taken to implement these commitments.

Positive measures mean active measures. Regardless of the definition that, some day, will be given to the legal notion of "positive measures", it is clear that this expression imposes on the government an obligation to act.

This obligation to act imposed upon the federal government falls within a very specific legal context. Indeed, the Supreme Court reminds us that the Official Languages Act, and I quote:

. . . belongs to that privileged category of quasi-constitutional legislation which reflects certain basic goals of our society.

The Official Languages Act is therefore not an ordinary act.

Thus, the obligations imposed on the federal government under that act cannot be brushed aside. Not only is the obligation to take positive steps imperative, but it also falls within a quasi-constitutional framework.

In other words, the federal government must take action in order to ensure the vitality of official language minority communities. That is its duty.

IPOLC, as it existed before being summarily eliminated by the Conservative government, was a positive step aimed at encouraging federal departments and agencies to promote the implementation of section 41 in their respective programs. It provided funding to complement the contributions made by participating federal institutions toward the fulfillment of their responsibilities under the Official Languages Act.

Ironically, although the IPOLC was established in 2000, before the legislation even obligated the federal government to take positive measures, it was abolished by the government under the new legislative regime, with no consultation and without any new positive measures being introduced. Instead of acting, the federal government chose to stop acting.

Inaction seems to be the order of the day for the current government, despite an obligatory, clear and precise statutory requirement that requires the contrary. So, what was this IPOLC?

The IPOLC was a Canadian Heritage initiative, with an annual budget of $5.5 million, that aimed to enhance the vitality and development of official language minority communities. The money was intended to create partnerships, especially new partnerships.

According to the IPOLC's general guidelines, Canadian Heritage:

. . . seeks to promote activities that can have a multiplier effect by establishing best practices and models to inspire other initiatives in other regions of the country and engage other Canadian target groups. Within this mandate, the department has created the Interdepartmental Partnership with the Official-Language Communities.

Between 2000-01 and 2005-06, about 20 memoranda of understanding were signed by the Department of Canadian Heritage and various federal institutions thanks to IPOLC. Although a variety of organizations have participated, including Health Canada and Western Economic Diversification Canada, IPOLC has been particularly useful to the cultural community.

Under IPOLC, the Canada Council — one of the main recipients of funding — was able to award grants to individual artists as well as to arts organizations in order to encourage artistic creation in official language communities.

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These grants were awarded in the media arts, visual arts, dance, writing and publishing, music and theatre.

According to a recent study by the Office of the Commissioner of Official Languages, "It is nevertheless clear that the IPOLC has contributed to an increase in the number of projects being funded and the amounts of funding" for artists and artistic organizations in a minority situation.

However, the study points out that this increase was very modest, generally less than 1 per cent.

While Canada Council financial assistance for the francophone minority has been declining since 2002-03, IPOLC was able to compensate for this reduction. Year after year, according to the Commissioner's study, the francophone minority receives only 2 per cent of all Canada Council funding. Within the Canada Council, IPOLC was the only support that exclusively targeted official language minority communities.

According to the study by the Commissioner of Official Languages, the IPLOC was "a targeted funding initiative that has enabled OLMC artists to make significant progress."

That said, although the IPLOC was designed as a temporary measure to build new, stable, sustainable initiatives, there is some skepticism regarding the effectiveness of this partnership. The IPLOC, as an incentive, did not increase funding for official language minority communities to the degree its designers hoped it would.

The IPLOC targeted short-term projects and was unfortunately not structured "to provide the stable, long-term support required" to build the sustainable initiatives that had been hoped for.

While some of the findings are less than stellar, others are more positive. For example, let us look at the impact the IPLOC had on the anglophone community in Quebec, a minority official language community we too often forget.

In English Quebec, the IPLOC helped fund several new initiatives such as the National Film Board's Doc Shop and Voices from the Hood, Quebec Scene, the National Arts Centre's Programme de développement du théâtre en region and the development of English-language feature films and television dramas by Telefilm Canada.

IPLOC contributions to the Canada Council for the Arts led to a gradual increase in funding for anglophone artists and arts organizations in Quebec starting in 2000.

An independent study produced for the Canada Council for the Arts concluded that the IPLOC fund was extremely important to the anglophone community in Quebec, and I quote:

[English]

Anglophone artists in Quebec increasingly see themselves as a community rather than as an assemblage of individuals, and they are actively seeking to identify their artistic community needs. Interdepartmental Partnership with Official Language Communities funding allowed the community to clearly articulate these needs, and provided funds for artistic community building initiatives.

[Translation]

What will become of all the progress made by the anglophone community in Quebec now that the IPOLC no longer exists?

The IPOLC also had an important economic impact. Some $75 million was invested between 2000-01 and 2005-06. Of that amount, $26 million came from Canadian Heritage, while the other $49 million came from federal institutions and other sources.

According to the Fédération culturelle canadienne française:

Statistics show that the IPOLC made it possible for additional investments of nearly $6.4 million to be injected into the cultural sector in francophone minority communities from 2001 to 2005-06, in addition to corresponding investments by the recipient organizations and other partners, for a grand total of more than $16.5 million.

Thus, we believe that the losses caused by the elimination of the IPOLC will be much greater than the few million dollars that the program itself put into official language minority communities, since, without that program's contribution certain federal institutions will be less inclined to invest in projects that benefit those communities.

Despite uneven results, the IPOLC made a significant contribution to the vitality and development of official language minority communities. For example, in 2006-07, the IPOLC backed the production of two short, French-language dramas in partnership with Telefilm Canada, Radio-Canada and the National Film Board of Canada. Carole Ducharme, from Vancouver, was given the opportunity to present the black comedy she wrote and directed, Ben voyons, Camille!, while Pamela Gallant, from Cap-Pelé, New Brunswick, was able to present La voisine, which she wrote and directed, thanks to the IPOLC.

Those dramas, along with Rébus, Un bon gars, Embargo and Louez un mari were all produced as the result of a contest that was launched by the IPOLC. Other examples of the IPOLC's positive contribution in terms of televised material include Un monde passion and Carmen à la campagne by Productions Rivard, a film and video production company in Winnipeg, Manitoba, that was created in order to ensure a greater western francophone presence in Canada's film industry.

The current government made no attempt to enhance IPOLC by making specific changes to the way the fund worked. No concrete alternatives were proposed. No consultations were held with official language minority communities before the government eliminated IPOLC.

The Guide for Federal Institutions, published by Canadian Heritage in 2007, offers a series of key questions to help federal institutions make decisions when implementing section 41 of the Official Languages Act. These key questions include the following important questions:

What actions could be taken to consult official language minority communities and the organizations that represent them or other key stakeholders involved in the promotion of official languages? Who should be consulted, and how?

It seems that the government did not ask these questions before deciding to get rid of IPOLC. So my question is: why? Why did Canadian Heritage, the department responsible for protecting official languages, not follow its own official languages guide? How could it gauge IPOLC's effectiveness without talking to the target population?

The Fédération des communautés francophones et acadienne deplores the fact that the decision to eliminate IPOLC was made without consulting the communities. The FCFA speaks on behalf of French-language minority communities in Canada at the national and international levels. It submitted a complaint to the Commissioner of Official Languages about the decision.

According to the FCFA, federal initiatives like IPOLC will always be necessary. It said:

. . . there is nothing to suggest that anything has changed or that support from Canadian Heritage is no longer needed to facilitate contact between departments and communities. Rather, interdepartmental collaboration and Canadian Heritage's role in this matter are still of great importance to communities.

Canadian Heritage's most recent report on official languages, the 2006-07 report, describes IPOLC as:

. . . [bridging] the gap between OLMCs and federal departments and agencies, thereby raising the latter's awareness of their existence and needs.

Why does the Conservative government want to get rid of an initiative that it has called a bridge between communities and federal institutions?

We have received precious few answers to these questions so far. I would therefore urge the federal government to give the matter some more thought, this time together with the official language minority communities.

The federal government must take action to protect the vitality of official language minority communities. It is required by law to do so. It has a moral duty to do so. And it is in our national interest to do so.

(On motion of Senator Comeau, debate adjourned.)

[English]

Bottled Water within Federal Government Buildings

Environmental and Financial Costs—Inquiry—Debate Adjourned

Hon. Grant Mitchell rose pursuant to notice of April 28, 2009:

That he will call the attention of the Senate to the high environmental and financial costs of providing bottled water within the parliamentary precinct and federal government buildings.

He said: Honourable senators, I rise to draw the attention of honourable senators to an environmental initiative that would be relatively easy to implement and would save the federal government a significant amount of money, thereby saving taxpayers a significant amount of money.

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While not having immense impact environmentally, although it will have significant impact environmentally, it will allow the federal government, in addition to capturing that environmental impact, to provide leadership to Canadians by demonstrating that there are many things that each of us can do that do not substantially and significantly change our lifestyles, as it is said all too often. In fact, we can encourage Canadians to take lesser steps that can accumulate to significant impacts in total on environmental, and particularly climate change, policy and problems in our country.

The government has not demonstrated profound leadership on the environmental issue. In fact, the government has demonstrated that its seem without focus. It seems without drive. It is as though ideas and objectives are announced only to spin some kind of sense amongst Canadians that this government does care and is prepared to do something. The government has had had three ministers of the environment in three years. That turnover clearly would break up any kind of direct, sustained leadership that any one of them might have been able to provide but clearly has been unable to provide. The government has had at least three, and it now looks like four, different stages, if I can put it that way, of environmental announcements. I want to say environmental policy, but that truly has not been the case, although they did cancel all the former Liberal government's

climate change initiatives, which probably is their only concrete policy.

The government did bring to Parliament a clean air act, but it was inadequate in its establishment of targets for 2050, targets that were in no way based upon the real science that drives real conclusions about what needs to be done with respect to reducing carbon emissions in Canada and in the world. The government then tried to establish a greater presence in the climate change policy area by announcing its "turning a corner", but over the year since that was announced, the government seems to have done absolutely nothing except establish, although not clearly or rigorously, targets for 2020. Those targets are based on reductions of 2006 levels of emissions, targets which, once again, bear no relationship to the science and to the demands of science for determining what reductions and emissions are necessary under that scientific regime.

Most recently, the government has announced a cap-and-trade initiative for establishing caps on coal-fired electrical plants in Canada. It seems odd that the government would announce only for one particular industry when many industries need to be brought under this umbrella. Given the government's track record, I think most Canadians have little confidence that anything concrete will be done and that this cap-and-trade announcement is only another announcement in an effort to dispel this idea or conclusion that the Conservative federal government wants not at all to do something about climate change.

The initiative I raise in my inquiry concerns water in plastic bottles. This environmental initiative may seem relatively small. I want to see water in plastic bottles no longer used anywhere in Canada except in some places where clearly there is not potable water. I will exclude, for the purposes of this discussion, military operations around the world, particularly, for example, in Afghanistan, where bottled water is left everywhere for military personnel so that the problem of dehydration can be less significant.

The general usage of bottled water creates significant, and some might say profound, environmental problems. Let me give honourable senators statistics on the environmental impact of plastic bottles that hold water for Canadians' use.

One billion bottles of water are consumed by Canadians every year. It takes three litres of water for the production of a single plastic bottle, which contains an average of one litre of water.

The life cycle of the energy involved in creating these bottles is startling. The energy required, the amount of oil to create every bottle is equal to one third of the volume of that bottle. This energy use is exacerbated by the fact that the water is not delivered by pipes that are already in the ground and do not require a great deal of energy to deliver but water delivered by trucks, which exacerbate the amount of carbon emissions.

When we add it all up, the production of the one billion plastic bottles from which the water is consumed by Canadians requires 1.5 million barrels of oil per year. That amount is about the production from the oil sands of one day — one three hundred and sixty-fifth of the production of Canada's oil sands. If we look at it another way, 1.5 million barrels of oil is the equivalent of one-half of one day of all the oil used in that single day in all of Canada. The annual usage of energy to produce bottles is equal to one half of the oil that is used in a single day in Canada. The energy use is not insignificant.

It is compelling that when we look at our Kyoto objective of reducing Canadian carbon footprint emissions by 250 million tonnes of carbon a year, the production of plastic bottles amounts to 5 per cent of that Kyoto objective. Finding 20 other initiatives like this one would have allowed us to achieve our Kyoto objectives. Think about that, honourable senators. Naysayers think that achieving significant climate change objectives such as Kyoto is impossible and will ruin an economy. No, it is not. The challenge is to lead Canadians to the kinds of creativity, commitment and drive with which they have accomplished so much in the past and with which they can accomplish easily, readily, and far more quickly than people imagine, significant climate change carbon reductions.

There are those who will say that recycling mitigates a good deal of the impact on energy and on the environment of these plastic bottles. It is not so. Between 40 per cent and 80 per cent — and it is difficult to specify — of the bottles produced and used are not recycled. That percentage amounts to about 800 million of these bottles a year — because people consume the water from a billion of them — going to landfills. I do not know too many places in Canada that have enough landfill room, and it would not be wise for us to want more landfill. In particular, use of plastic water bottles underlines again the waste of energy.

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Even if we could recycle all these bottles, the production of bottles is 2,000 times more energy intensive than tap water. Tap water in Canada is some of the best and healthiest water on the face of the earth. There is absolutely no reason to replace tap water with bottled water from any number of parameters, including environmental, oil, energy, recycling and health.

On the issue of health, people somehow think that bottled water is healthier. It is not commonly known that municipal water can be tested hundreds of times per day. There is a continual testing of municipal water.

On the other hand, bottled water is often not tested frequently at all and companies are required only to follow voluntary testing regimes. Since 2008, only 6 per cent of all bottled water plants have been inspected by federal regulators.

If we want safe water, we should be drinking tap water to be absolutely assured of safety. Clearly, there are exceptions, such as the case of Walkerton. Generally speaking, the water in Canada is exceptionally safe and is not diminished in its comparison to bottled water. In fact, if we want certainty, we should not be drinking bottled water.

Honourable senators, action is being taken by some enlightened governments in this country. Forty municipalities across Canada have implemented restrictions on bottled water already. The Federation of Canadian Municipalities passed a resolution urging their 1,775 members to phase out the sale and purchase of bottled water.

Interestingly, the University of Winnipeg — and we have colleagues here from Manitoba — became the first Canadian university to ban the sale and provision of bottled water on their campus.

The first significant advantage of doing away with bottled water is energy and environmental consequence. Second, we have leadership from important institutions in our country that are already moving to eliminate bottled water.

After one considers the environmental advantage, what does that mean for federal government expenditure advantage? That is an interesting question. The same federal government that wants to take $80,000 of operating grants away from the Churchill Northern Studies Centre has spent $15 million over the last five years in federal government departments. Approximately $2.6 million of that money has been spent by the Department of National Defence. The figures do not distinguish whether that money was spent on bottled water for the military in Afghanistan. I recognize that bottled water must be used in Afghanistan. Given that it is not that much money compared to the amount of water I saw people drinking, I expect it is probably in addition. However, even if that bottled water for Afghanistan is included in the $15 million, if it is subtracted, we still have this hard-nosed, "cut, cut, cut" government spending $12.4 million over five years on absolutely unnecessary bottled water.

One might think there would be some sensitivity within the Department of the Environment about using bottled water given its impact on the environment. It is interesting to note the irony that over the last five years they have spent between $110,000 and $150,000 annually on bottled water. The total is getting near $600,000 to $650,000.

Think how many research stations at $80,000 per year that would fund? Do the math. If we had to set priorities, would we rather have research or bottled water that simply is not necessary?

I point out that the Prime Minister's own department, the Privy Council Office, spends over $30,000 annually on bottled water contracts.

The Hon. the Speaker pro tempore: I regret to inform the honourable senator that his 15 minutes have expired. Does he wish to request more time?

Senator Mitchell: Yes, please.

Senator Comeau: No more than five minutes.

Senator Mitchell: I will get right to the point.

Honourable senators might wonder how this money adds up to such a large figure. It is because a litre of bottled water costs more than a litre of gas. It is hard to believe.

This inquiry calls upon the federal government to do something for the environment that is so fundamentally dead-easy that I cannot believe and do not want to assume that this government would not jump up and do it. This government could tell taxpayers that it will save them at least $12.4 million over five years and significantly reduce pollution, the carbon footprint of this country and the pressures currently on waste disposal sites around the country.

First, we are asking that further examination be given to the federal government's own recently released figures to determine whether the locations where bottled water was provided by federal agencies and departments are also served by potable tap water. I expect that about 99.999 per cent of them will be.

Second, we would specifically like to see that parliamentary precinct procurement policies also phase out the provision of bottled water where potable tap water is available and appropriate. I am not certain that there would be any place in Parliament where it is not available and appropriate.

Third, we should increase access to tap water and public drinking fountains wherever there is insufficient access on federal government property.

I urge honourable senators to consider this inquiry.

(On motion of Senator Comeau, debate adjourned.)

[Translation]

The Senate

Motion to Urge European Union to Rescind Ban on Commercial Seal Hunt—Debate Adjourned

Hon. Céline Hervieux-Payette, pursuant to notice of March 25, 2009, moved:

That:

Whereas the Honourable Senators note the European Union's interest in addressing the animal welfare aspects of seal hunting and presumably all hunting activities;

Whereas the Honourable Senators recognize the needs and traditional livelihoods of Inuit and other coastal communities;

Whereas the Honourable Senators recognize the positive conservation role that seal harvesters and other hunters play in the sustainable management of both prey and predator populations; and

Whereas the Honourable Senators re-affirm our shared moral obligation to treat all wild species humanely and with respect, and our shared commitment to the conservation principles of the Convention on Biological Diversity and the IUCN's (International Union for Conservation of Nature) "wise use" philosophy;

The Senate of Canada call on the European Union not to proceed with its proposal to ban seal imports, as such a trade restriction would be contrary to international trade rules and would do nothing to encourage either sustainable use or humane sealing practices;

The Senate of Canada call on the EU Member States who manage sealing operations within their national waters, and other Member States who are responsible for the management of major wildlife harvesting regimes within their territories, to join with Canada in the development of a Universal Declaration which will promote sustainable, respectful hunting practices and professionalism amongst all hunters; and

That a message be sent to the House of Commons requesting that House to unite with the Senate for the above purpose.

She said: Honourable senators, I move the motion standing in my name in the Notice Paper.

Hon. Gerald J. Comeau (Deputy Leader of the Government): Will the honourable senator explain her motion to us? She has not yet spoken to her motion.

Senator Hervieux-Payette: Honourable senators, in fact, today is the day we need to talk about it in greater detail because the European Union has passed a significant regulation calling for a near-total boycott of seal products. This is a very sad day for the people of Newfoundland, the Magdalen Islands and our Aboriginal communities. Even though the regulation provides for one minor exception, I must say that it reflects a certain paternalism that is characteristic of older countries. The EU is saying that people here can hunt and declare their income, but they cannot sell products. I do not know how the Europeans can reconcile the two. They say it is okay to hunt seals, but they do not want seals to be shot or killed using the traditional hakapik or other tools. Presumably seals have to be killed by the Holy Spirit! I have to say that I find it extremely insulting to Canadians to know that we continue to be the victims of propaganda spread by animal rights activists who are vegetarians. These people will not recognize that humans share the same planet and the same resources, and that Canadians use this resource in a way that is environmentally friendly and in accordance with accepted hunting practices. I must say that it is very disappointing that public opinion in Europe was swayed by the extremely powerful media campaign.

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We should tell ourselves that those members do not have many seal hunters in their ridings. I am told that they could lose the election if they do not pass this motion. Given the current global economic problems, I do not think that Europeans are bothered by the seal hunt in Canada.

Still, we should recognize the core of this issue: it is not the seal hunt but, rather, the fact that human beings eat animals. After targeting the seal hunt, they will focus on other sectors. Indeed, this same lobby is campaigning against the consumption of fish. This will surely be of interest to my colleagues opposite. These people maintain that fish should be left alone to live in peace, that we should not disturb them and that we should not eat them.

There is also another lobby in Europe that has launched a campaign against egg consumption. This is rather odd, because vegans, the strictest vegetarians, do not eat eggs.

When we understand the philosophy behind this measure, we realize that these people went after the lowest common denominator. They did not target the beef or poultry sector, because they would have had to deal with powerful industries. Those who hold these views are not mere amateurs and they are aggressive. They are mostly American lobbies who campaigned in Europe with audio-visual techniques that would very often distort the nature of seal hunting. They invented images.

For example, they showed a naked woman, lying on the ground, wrapped in a Canadian flag, with a red liquid dripping onto her body. This illustrates the degree of reflection on this issue. I am mentioning it, because I find it insulting for women to see their body and our flag used in such a vile and grotesque fashion to convey a strong message.

I remind you that this issue has been debated in the European Parliament since September 2006. This is more or less the apex for this parliament. However, there is one more step left: the ministers of each parliament must legislate on these issues. Let us not forget that seal hunting and seal products were banned in certain countries, including Belgium.

The government maintains it position. We are going to the WTO. We went to the WTO, following Belgium's decision. Guess what happened? Nothing. Today, we are still saying that we are going to fight and that we will go to the WTO. In case you did not hear about the softwood lumber issue, we have surely spent more than $20 million in legal costs, not to mention the hundreds of millions to help that industry.

The simplistic solution proposed by our opponents is to pay hunters to stay home, even though this is their legitimate occupation and they make a good living. This is a supplementary income that allows them to live decently, at the beginning of the season, before going fishing. Doing this would deprive Canadian workers of their right to work.

Currently, these workers get two things. First, they get continuous training from experts, veterinarians and animal pathologists who teach them how to hunt seals properly. Second, a group of experts, including anthropologists, oceanographers and members of the industry and of the Aboriginal community, recently spent over two months drafting a universal declaration on the ethical harvest of seals. Last week, that declaration was fully endorsed by the Government of Newfoundland and Labrador. That government has no problem at all defending this industry, which is covered by this policy statement.

We hope that all governments participating in this activity, and with which we have contacts, will endorse the declaration. Last week, we sent all European parliamentarians and their governments a copy of that document, which is available at www.sealsonline.org. The universal declaration is in English, French and Inuktitut. In it, you will see the principles that were developed. Ultimately, we will be able to file this declaration with the United Nations, knowing that it is consistent with other international conventions, such as those on the preservation of biodiversity. In so doing, we will know that all conservation movements will adopt this kind of ethical approach regarding a very difficult human activity.

As I mentioned a little earlier, Mr. Harper will be in Prague this week. Even if we must sit down at the negotiating table and review the whole trade picture with Europe, it is important, since the president of that country sits in the European Parliament, to begin a dialogue with the various governments, to assure them that we are going to respect this declaration and to ask them if they want to sign on to it. I should add that this declaration could apply to the hunting of other wild animals.

[English]

In conclusion, I invite honourable senators visit the website www.sealsonline.org to look at the Universal Declaration on the Ethical Harvest of Seals to ensure that we are working with the highest ethical standard. Our industry is suffering greatly from this ban. The price of seal skin will be reduced dramatically, and this group will suffer.

I want to thank my colleagues, both in the House of Commons and here, who are great supporters of this activity. We have 308 MPs and normally 105 senators, and of those only one does not support this activity.

Honourable senators, I hope that you will all support the declaration and that we will all fight for this portion of our population that deserves our support.

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Senator Comeau: I agree with Senator Hervieux-Payette that there is a much larger issue being dealt with by some of the European fundraisers; this is their opening salvo. Fairly soon, it will be beef and hogs and who knows what else. It is an attempt to stop all people from eating meat of any kind. They are using this issue as a means to arrive at their eventual end. This is one of the things I have told European parliamentarians.

I want to come back to the issue at hand, which is the motion put forward by Senator Hervieux-Payette. I have studied the motion and have a few concerns about minor things that could be readily changed. For example, whereas the honourable senator noted the European Union, it is not, in fact, the European Union but rather the European Parliament. Wording such as this could be cleaned up in a few places in the motion.

One of my major concerns with this motion is in the paragraph that states:

The Senate of Canada call on EU Member States who manage sealing operations within their national waters, and other Member States who are responsible for the management of the major wildlife harvesting regimes within their territories, to join with Canada in the development of a Universal Declaration which will promote sustainable, respectful hunting practices and professionalism. . . .

This paragraph basically implies that our current hunting practices are not sustainable, respectable or professional. It undermines the Canadian position we have had for a long time where, in fact, our hunting practices in regard to seals are sustainable, respectful and professional.

Senator Hervieux-Payette is suggesting that we are now going hat-in-hand to the European Parliament saying, "We will modify to higher standards." We are saying — and it has been a long-standing practice both when the other side was in government and since we have been in government — that we are using sustainable and humane practices.

This wording undermines the Canadian position. I do not think it is intentional, and possibly by working together we can make improvements. However, at this point, I do not think it is the time to start saying to the Europeans that we are not practising sustainable, respectful and professional practices in our sealing industry.

Honourable senators, a motion in the House of Commons today notes that the seal hunt is a humane and economic pursuit and that the European Parliament's recent decision to ban the importation of seal products should be rejected. It is a simple, straightforward motion, easy to understand. It does not suggest in any way that our practices here in Canada are not sustainable, professional or respectful.

Earlier today, Senator Manning proposed a motion that completely sustained the Canadian position on the seal hunt. The adjournment was taken on the honourable senator's side.

I would suggest that until such time as we clean up this motion, we continue the adjournment and see if we can come up with a motion that this chamber could adopt, one that would endorse the Canadian position that we are respectful of marine life.

In the early stages of the honourable senator's comments, I endorsed everything she said, up until her comment that this is the way to go. At that point, I said, no, let us endorse the Canadian position and take it from there. In the meantime, I do want to continue researching this subject. Therefore, I will adjourn the debate for the balance of my time.

Senator Hervieux-Payette: May I comment? How does the honourable senator intend to go about making the amendments? Changing the word "Union" for "Parliament" would not be a big issue for me.

Regarding the honourable senator's suggestion that Canada knows the right way to go, I would like to remind him that, yes, the Liberal government had the same position, but we had the same results. The debate about seal hunting has taken place for many years.

There are big changes. Now there will be compulsory training, which did not exist before. Studies have proven that sometimes there were ethical problems. With this declaration, we would commit ourselves to ensuring that both the people doing the hunting and the people supervising it would respect the highest ethical standards.

I do not think any scientist would agree that Canada has never committed wrongs in the past and has done everything perfectly well. Studies were conducted and statistics prove that mistakes were made. The situation should improve and the provinces have committed to do so.

My question is: How will we proceed to make the amendments that the honourable senator suggests?

The Hon. the Speaker pro tempore: I must remind senators that there is a motion to adjourn further debate.

(On motion of Senator Comeau, debate adjourned.)

(The Senate adjourned until Wednesday, May 6, 2009, at 1:30 p.m.)