Hon. Jane Cordy: Honourable senators, November 5 to 11 marks Veterans'
Week in Canada. It is a time each year to reflect on those who made the ultimate
sacrifice for our country and to pay tribute to all who served our country
during times of war and times of peace. It is with this in mind that I would
like to recognize the contributions Canadian women have made in service to our
Women first served in the Canadian military in 1885 as nurses. During World
War I and World War II, women in the military started to get additional training
outside of nursing. They received paramilitary training in small arms, first
aid, mechanics, parachute rigging and heavy mobile equipment driving.
Although women were beginning to get more training for a wider variety of
roles in the military, the vast majority of these additional roles were as
reservists and emergency home guards.
The image of the female Canadian veteran serving in the Canadian military
solely as a nurse did not start to change until more recently. It was not until
1989 that all occupations in the Canadian Armed Forces, except for submariners,
were opened to women. It was not until 2000 that submarine occupations were
opened to women as well.
Today, women make up just over 15 per cent of Canada's total military,
serving in all branches of the Armed Forces, including combat roles.
My work with NATO has helped me to understand more fully the reality of the
need for women in today's peace and security support forces in conflict areas
all over the globe. There is an increased demand for female personnel in all
roles and ranks within the NATO peace-support operation forces.
The Committee on Women in the NATO Forces strives to advise NATO leadership
and member nations on critical issues affecting women in the alliance's Armed
Forces, such as promoting recruitment, training and quality of life for female
Women personnel have many advantages when deployed with peace and security
forces. Female victims of violence often find it easier to approach and talk to
another woman when appealing for help.
Female personnel are valuable at checkpoints when it comes to performing any
type of search on other women when checking for illegal weapons. They are also a
visible reminder to those women they are there to help that there are
possibilities available for women to gain control of their lives.
Women in the military can also play a role to involve more local women in
To quote Colonel Annicq Bergmans, former chairperson of the Committee on
Women in the NATO Forces, when speaking of peacekeeping in Kosovo, she said:
"To move negotiations forward with the male villagers, sometimes we needed to
involve and convince female villagers because they held the power behind the
Honourable senators, I am honoured to pay tribute today to all those women
who served Canada with distinction over the years and continue to serve today in
far away lands and, indeed, in our own country.
Hon. Marcel Prud'homme: Honourable senators, Senator Goldstein, from
Quebec, accused me in this chamber on March 31, 2009, and in the Canadian
Jewish News on May 14, 2009, of making some false claims in my speech on
March 24, 2009, in support of the Treaty on Cluster Munitions, in response to
the wonderful speech by my distinguished colleague, Senator Hubley.
He even said, in the Canadian Jewish News, from Montreal, which is
read by a number of my friends, and I quote:
I all but called him a racist.
He went as far as to say that I was engaging in "misinformation" that was a
"figment of someone's overactive imagination."
Before I leave, I would like to set the record straight.
He accused me in this chamber of "selective sympathy" for the victims of
the conflict in southern Lebanon in July and August 2006. He chose to ignore my
mentions of Iraq, Afghanistan, Gaza and Kosovo. He plugged his ears when I spoke
about the 31 countries around the world that are still polluted with cluster
munitions, and the 14 countries that are exporting cluster munitions or have
exported them since the 1950s, a situation that was very well described by
Then, I was even accused of things I did not do. Why? I had the misfortune of
bringing up — as the international community already had — the deplorable
actions of Israel in southern Lebanon during the 2006 conflict, when southern
Lebanon was carpeted with cluster munitions during the final 72 hours of the
What is worse is that they are trying to claim that this information cannot
be verified. The numbers I referred to in this chamber were provided by the
United Nations Mine Action Coordination Centre in southern Lebanon, led by Chris
Senator Goldstein talked about 100,000 bombs and 365 sites, but those numbers
were way out of date because they are from August 3, 2006. The latest reports I
have seen from the UN Mine Action Coordination Centre list 970 contaminated
Nor was I mistaken during my speech in this chamber when I said that, for
three years, Israel refused to provide the United Nations with maps of where the
cluster bombs were dropped on Lebanon in 2006. The maps were finally given to
the UNIFIL blue berets on May 12, 2009, about six weeks after my statement on
the subject here.
With respect to the cluster bombs dropped by Israel during the last three
days of the conflict, on August 30, 2006, the UN Under-Secretary-General for
Humanitarian Affairs himself, Jan Egeland, condemned Israel's heavy use of
cluster bombs during the last three days of the war with Lebanon, calling it
"shocking and completely immoral", particularly given the fact that, as he
said, "we knew there would be a resolution", and the end of the conflict was
Honourable senators, I did not make anything up. Everything I said is well
known and verifiable.
I do so today so that my new colleagues in the Senate will believe that
Marcel Prud'homme never lied to his colleagues in the Senate, and that is why I
felt obliged to correct certain facts.
Hon. Lillian Eva Dyck: Honourable senators, in light of Veterans Week
and of a National Day of Remembrance on November 11, I draw special attention to
the sacrifice and continuing struggle of First Nations veterans in Canada.
Often forgotten, First Nations veterans enlisted and fought side by side with
non-Aboriginal soldiers in both world wars and the Korean War. It has been
widely noted that Aboriginal Canadians exhibited the highest levels of
volunteerism, even though they were exempted from conscription.
In World War I, about one in every three able-bodied Aboriginal men enlisted.
In total, approximately 12,000 Aboriginal Canadians participated in both world
wars and the Korean War. On the home front, First Nations communities purchased
Victory Bonds, donated to the Red Cross and worked in munitions factories. On
the front lines, First Nations veterans were integrated into the military unit.
They were treated as equals, with respect and dignity for their extraordinary
However, upon returning to Canada, their optimism for a better life was
quickly dashed as the harsh realities of government administration, prejudice
and discrimination were imminent. Aboriginal veterans continued to be treated as
second-classcitizens. First Nations veterans were told to return to their
reserves and talk to their Indian agent for benefits.
Inequalities became commonplace as First Nations veterans did not receive
equal access to benefits information, equal dependents allowance benefits and
were greatly disadvantaged by land compensation outlined in the Veterans' Land
Act. While non-Aboriginal veterans were promised $6,000 and the prospect of
purchasing land through the Government of Canada, First Nations veterans were
promised only a maximum of $2,320, and they were more or less confined to
farming on reserve lands, with no real ownership.
In addition, First Nations veterans faced hardships in securing other
benefits, such as a re-establishment credit, vocational training benefits or
university education benefits. During the war, Indian agents often withheld full
dependents allowances from the spouses of enlisted Aboriginal soldiers because
it was believed that "Indian women did not know how to spend money correctly."
Honourable senators, for years, First Nations veterans in this country have
fought the uphill battle for just compensation for their services and an apology
from the Government of Canada. In 2002, the Government of Canada looked like it
would finally make amends for their years of neglect. In the Aboriginal Veterans
Compensation Package, the government provided surviving veterans and spouses
with a maximum of $20,000 per veteran. This package fell short of claims of both
First Nations groups and of the Department of Veterans Affairs' own estimate of
$120,000 as fair compensation.
Many veterans did not want to take the money but feared they would not be
around long enough to wait through a lawsuit process or another round of
Honourable senators, this day, surviving First Nations veterans feel cheated
and disheartened as the country that they risked their lives for in war has yet
to recognize the grave injustices its policies have caused for a generation of
brave Canadian Aboriginal heroes.
Hon. Consiglio Di Nino: Honourable senators, I, too, wish to make a
few comments about this time of the year, when we honour veterans and those who
never came home.
Five years ago, I had the privilege of accompanying a group of Canadian
veterans who participated in the Italian campaign during World War II. It was
the sixtieth anniversary of a brutal, deadly and, ultimately, successful
campaign, which sadly took the lives of some 4,500 of our soldiers.
As we travelled north from the southern shores of Sicily to visit many areas
where Canadian soldiers distinguished themselves, and yes, where many died, the
veterans brought to life the experiences of those days with their stories.
The most difficult places were the cemeteries. At each one of them, a veteran
would ask me to accompany him to visit one or more of his buddies. Tears would
flow and I always felt my new buddy's pain. Probably the most difficult time for
me was at the war cemetery in Ortona, at a town on the Adriatic coast, not far
from where I was born, where some 1,400 Canadian soldiers are buried. It brought
back a flood of childhood memories which, to this day, still haunt me. My
childhood memories are mostly about the war. To realize I was there when these
soldiers were fighting and dying for me, my family and my country of birth made
the experiences particularly painful.
Honourable senators, the men and women of the Canadian Forces have
distinguished themselves wherever they have served and where too many have made
the ultimate sacrifice while protecting peace and freedom. I salute them all but
I wish to particularly honour those who, 65 years ago, served the Italian
campaign and died so that I could be free.
The Hon. the Speaker: Honourable senators, I draw your attention to
the presence in the gallery of Dr. Young Sup Chung and Ms. Inhi Chung, two
distinguished Canadians. They are the guests of the Honourable Senator Martin.
On behalf of all senators, I welcome you to the Senate of Canada.
Also in the gallery, honourable senators, is Ms. Siobhan Ward, a guest of the
Honourable Senator Duffy.
On behalf of all senators, I welcome you to the Senate of Canada.
Hon. Lorna Milne: Honourable senators, I have the honour to table, in
both official languages, the report of the Canadian parliamentary delegation of
the Canada-Europe Parliamentary Association to the Third Part of the 2009
Ordinary Session of the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe, held in
Strasbourg, France, from June 22 to 26, 2009.
Hon. James S. Cowan (Leader of the Opposition): Honourable senators,
my question is for the Leader of the Government in the Senate. Yesterday, the
Auditor General tabled her report. The Ottawa Citizen's front page
headline today summed up her assessment as, "Disaster agency itself a
disaster." The Auditor General found that this government has never formally
approved a federal emergency response plan to coordinate emergency response
activities across government. The article quotes Ms. Fraser as saying that this
government ". . . has not exercised the leadership necessary to co-ordinate
emergency management activities." Canadians are seeing the result of this
failure as supplies of H1N1 vaccine are running out and vaccination clinics are
closing their doors.
Yesterday, in response to my questions about the government's inadequate
response to the H1N1 pandemic, the leader told the chamber that: "The
government has and had a plan with the provinces and the territories."
Will the leader table this plan so that we and all Canadians can judge the
adequacy of this government's preparedness to meet this pandemic?
Hon. Marjory LeBreton (Leader of the Government and Minister of State
(Seniors)): Honourable senators, with regard to H1N1, the Auditor General
was clear that her study was not in relation to the current H1N1 pandemic. We
have the Public Health Agency of Canada and a pandemic plan, which we are
currently using. It was this government that gave $1 billion for pandemic
preparedness in the 2006 budget.
With regard to the Auditor General's report's "Chapter 7 — Emergency
Management — Public Safety Canada," the government is committed to providing
federal departments with the tools they need to prepare for emergencies and
pandemics. In 2007, this government revised the Emergency Management Act to
improve leadership in this regard. We will bring forward a finalized plan in the
Canada has also been operating under the existing draft plan through a number
of emergencies and disasters. For example, the draft plan was used during the
recent Manitoba floods when it worked well and was applauded. We have seen good
coordination between the federal government, provincial governments and local
authorities. We are confident this practice will continue.
Senator Cowan: Honourable senators, that is interesting information,
but it does not respond to my question in any way.
The leader referred yesterday to a plan that had been worked out and said
that the rollout of the H1N1 vaccine program was in response to that plan. I
will repeat my question. Will the leader table that plan in the Senate so that
we may judge for ourselves whether the preparedness of this government was
Senator LeBreton: I thank the honourable senator for the question. I
just said that the government gave the Public Health Agency of Canada $1 billion
for pandemic preparedness in 2006. A plan was developed at that time as a result
of the experience of the country during the SARS scare. The then Minister of
Health in Ontario, Tony Clement, salvaged this country's reputation with regard
to SARS. He was the Minister of Health when this pandemic plan that the
government is now following with the provinces and territories was prepared.
With regard to the pandemic plan, I am sure much of the information is
available. The provinces, territories and the federal government have agreed to
this plan and have been following it with considerable success. We should be
applauding our public health workers. They have done an outstanding job in
getting these vaccines out and we should be celebrating them. I am glad to see
in the media today that the public actually does appreciate our public health
Senator Cowan: Honourable senators, let me try again. Perhaps if I
cannot make myself clear to the leader in my own words, I will make myself clear
in her words. This is what she said yesterday:
Honourable senators, the government has and had a plan with the provinces
and territories. The premiers, when they met in the summer in Regina, agreed
to this plan. The pandemic plan was put in place by the government as a result
of SARS. The premiers agreed to the plan. When the ministers of health met in
Winnipeg, they agreed to the plan to follow the recommendations of Canada's
public health officials. . . .
That is the plan that the leader referred to yesterday. My question is
simple: Will she table that plan in the Senate?
Senator LeBreton: Honourable senators, I thought I answered that. I
said that the federal government, provinces and territories are following the
pandemic plan. I am quite certain the details of this plan are widely known
because all the provinces, territories, public health officials and the federal
government are following it.
Inasmuch as there is a document outlining the actual steps that various
public health officials and provinces are following through their ministers of
health, I will take that question as notice. I will ask my colleagues and
officials at the Public Health Agency of Canada if there is a specific document
they can provide for the Senate.
Senator Cowan: The leader said there was such a document yesterday.
All I am asking her to do is to table the plan she spoke about yesterday. That
is all I am asking. Either there is a plan, or there is not. If there is a plan,
will she table it? If there is not a plan, then it speaks for itself.
Senator LeBreton: Honourable senators, this is a serious issue. The
honourable senator is doubting the provinces and every public health official in
this country when he says there is not a plan. They are all following the
I am simply saying that I am not sure exactly what the documentation involves
and I will take his question as notice.
Senator Cowan: Perhaps I could ask a supplementary question. We are
obviously not getting anywhere.
Once again the leader's government is failing to provide adequate information
to Canadians. On the one hand, we are told that vaccine supplies would be
radically reduced this week because GlaxoSmithKline, the manufacturer in Quebec,
had to interrupt production in its plant to switch to the manufacture of
non-adjuvanted vaccine for pregnant women. This is the version that her
government waited until September 4 to order.
On the other hand, we have now learned that GlaxoSmithKline has manufactured
enough vaccine, but cannot put it into vials fast enough to satisfy demand. The
company is actually shipping large quantities of the vaccine to other countries.
Canadians have known that this pandemic was coming for the past seven months.
If, indeed, there is enough vaccine and, in fact, if that is why GlaxoSmithKline
can export large quantities in bulk to other countries, why did this government
not have in place a plan that would ensure adequate supplies of the vaccine in
usable form for Canadians?
Senator LeBreton: Honourable senators, the government has done just
that. Canadians come first with GlaxoSmithKline. These antigens will interfere
in no way with the Canadian supply.
The government has said, and I will repeat again, that we have ordered enough
vaccine for every single Canadian who needs or wants it. These vaccines will be
rolling out over the coming weeks. As a result of the tenor of the honourable
senator's question, I will put on the record — because I think it speaks for
many Canadians — the editorial today in the Montreal Gazette, which is
Senator Fraser's former newspaper.
A crisis brings out the best in people, and the worst in people. So far the
H1N1 swine flu seems to be bringing out mainly the less admirable side of some
Canadians, starting with queue-jumpers and including those politicians who are
stretching common sense badly out of shape in an effort to profit from public
In Ottawa on Monday, opposition parties did what they could to depict Leona
Aglukkaq, the federal health minister, as a moron or a menace, or both. We're
having trouble seeing the advantage to anyone in that. To the extent that this
is a genuine crisis, surely a more constructive tone would be more helpful.
The editorial went on to say:
The federal Liberals, with hawk-like hindsight, say Canada should have
ordered vaccine sooner, as some other countries did. But the government notes
that Canada has so far received more doses per capita than any other country.
It's hard to get angry about that.
Hon. Terry M. Mercer: On a supplementary question, perhaps I can help;
I think I might have found the answer.
I want to quote a famous Conservative in this country, who said yesterday:
People get sick every day and people die. It is too bad, but not an
emergency . . . The government was bullied by the World Health Organization
and by the media into going for, you know, what I think is a crazy policy of
Tom Flanagan, the Prime Minister's buddy made that comment. Is it Tom
Flanagan's policy we are following or is it the policy that will protect
Senator LeBreton: Honourable senators, it is hard to take anything
that Senator Mercer says seriously, but there are all kinds of outrageous
comments being made by many people in this debate.
I will repeat what I said yesterday, which is the truth. More than 6 million
doses of H1N1 vaccine have been delivered to the provinces and territories.
Canada currently has more H1N1 vaccine per capita than any other country.
Vaccine is being distributed as quickly as it is being produced.
In a National Post article today, Mr. Tom Blackwell confirms what I
said yesterday: There are many good news stories.
The government and the provinces and territories jointly determined priority
groups for H1N1 vaccine distribution. There is enough vaccine for all priority
groups. There will be sufficient H1N1 vaccine available in Canada for everyone
who needs it and wants to be immunized. Not a single person will be left out. We
are only in week two of the largest mass campaign in Canadian history. The
campaign was slated to start in November; it started ahead of schedule on
October 26 and it is rolling out over the coming weeks.
As I mentioned yesterday, there were obviously problems with the long
line-ups, and many health authorities used the opportunity to get rid of a few
of the glitches. As each day passes and people get used to the system, this will
improve by the day.
Hon. Grant Mitchell: Honourable senators, I wish to ask a couple of
supplementary questions before I start on my other questions.
First, when the leader is talking about these agreements with the provinces
that have set out how the vaccine will be delivered, was a part of these
agreements to handle how professional hockey players would jump ahead of the
Senator Comeau: This is ridiculous. He thinks he is still in the
Senator LeBreton: There is a plan with all of the public health
agencies and the ministers of health in the provinces and territories. The plan
was — as the honourable senator knows and I have repeated many times — that the
most vulnerable were supposed to be first in line. That was the recommendation.
With regard to the story that was reported yesterday, the public health
officials in the provinces and territories are doing their best to ensure that
the vaccine is distributed.
Obviously, I cannot answer the media reports with regard to the Calgary
Flames. However, I do believe that some of the problems that developed in the
first few days of the campaign are being addressed, and every single health
ministry and public health official is working in unison to ensure that the
vaccine is distributed to every Canadian who wants or needs it.
Senator Mitchell: When the leader mentioned on a number of occasions
that her government has delivered 6 million doses to Canadians, could she tell
us here and now — or at least get this information — how many the government has
allowed to be exported from Canada?
Senator LeBreton: Honourable senators, as I just said, the government
ordered 50 million vaccine shots from GlaxoSmithKline. Canadians come first in
this, and although I know the honourable senator does not like to hear this,
Canada is ahead of the rest of the world in distributing the vaccine. That is
Fortunately, as the honourable senator will know if he listened to or watched
the news today, this is actually getting through. Canadians want all levels of
government and all politicians to work together to ensure that the right thing
Those Canadians who want and need a vaccine will be able to get it. They will
be able to get the vaccine because it is rolling out now and will continue to
roll out over the next weeks.
Senator Mitchell: One thing I would like to hear, as would many
Canadians, is that Canada is ahead of the world in climate change action.
Speaking of climate change action, last week the TD Bank released —
The Hon. the Speaker: Supplementary questions must be supplementary to
the principal question. That is a different question.
Hon. Donald Neil Plett: Honourable senators, it is a proven fact that
when Canadians complete apprenticeships and learn skilled trades, they improve
their career and income potential. Encouraging Canadians to take up the trades
is part of how Canada will continue to weather the global economic downturn and
My question is for the Leader of the Government in the Senate. Can the
minister tell us what action this government has taken to encourage Canadians to
take up the skilled trades?
Hon. Marjory LeBreton (Leader of the Government and Minister of State
(Seniors)): Honourable senators, I thank the senator for that question. I
certainly agree with him — being a tradesperson himself, and my husband being a
tradesperson — that skilled tradespeople are crucial to our country's economic
growth and sustainability.
As all honourable senators may be aware, this is Skilled Trades and
Technology Week, which provides a great opportunity to promote these careers to
our young people. This is important. As demographers tell us, in the long run,
Canada will face labour shortage challenges.
Since 2006, our government has taken several important initiatives to benefit
students studying as apprentices and to encourage youth to consider skilled
trades. Budget 2006 introduced the new Job Creation Tax Credit to encourage
employers to hire apprentices; a $500 deduction for tools used by tradespersons;
and the $1,000 Apprenticeship Incentive Grant for those who complete their first
and/or second level of their apprenticeship program.
Building on this, the Economic Action Plan introduced the Apprenticeship
Completion Grant, which will offer $2,000 to eligible apprentices who complete
their training and certification in a designated red seal trade, which is a
trade that the honourable senator proudly served in. It is estimated that up to
20,000 apprentices per year will benefit from this measure, which we believe is
a practical incentive to encourage services and trades.
Although I do not often revert to a previous question, which was a practice
of my predecessor, Senator Austin, in further response to Senators Cowan and
Mitchell, it has just been announced by Health Canada that 1.8 million doses of
vaccine will go out next week.
Hon. Dennis Dawson: Honourable senators, the business section of the
November 3, 2009, edition of La Presse reported that economic recovery
could be slower in Quebec than in the rest of the country. Statistics show that
Quebec is not experiencing the economic recovery promised by the Stephen Harper
Between March and September of this year, the unemployment rate in Quebec
rose from 8.3 per cent to 8.8 per cent. During the same period, according to
Statistics Canada figures, hundreds of jobs were lost in the forestry and
My question is for the Leader of the Government in the Senate. Will she
recognize that the economic plan of this government is a failure because, while
other places are recovering from the recession, people in eastern Canada and
Quebec are still losing jobs?
Hon. Marjory LeBreton (Leader of the Government and Minister of State
(Seniors)): Honourable senators, I saw the news reports regarding
infrastructure spending and announcements in the province of Quebec. The
Minister of Transport said that, with the municipal elections now over in
Quebec, they will continue to work with all partners to complete the remainder
of the infrastructure stimulus investments in Quebec. All regions of the country
are getting their fair share, and it is being distributed equitably.
Obviously, Senator Dawson, the government continues to remain focused on the
unemployed because people lost their jobs during the global economic downturn
through no fault of their own. That is why the government introduced Bill C-50.
It is hoped that it will pass in the Senate this week and receive Royal Assent.
Minister Finley announced yesterday that self-employed small business people
will have access to Employment Insurance special benefits.
Senator Dawson: I would like to share some official statistics to
demonstrate how this situation is being reflected in everyday life.
In the Chaudière-Appalaches region of Quebec, on the south shore of the St.
Lawrence, 3,600 jobs were lost in September alone. That is one concrete example.
In Lotbinière, because of the economic downturn, the Bibby-Ste-Croix foundry
was forced to lay off 99 workers at the end of September.
In Laurier-Station, Laurier Furniture was forced to shut down completely and
as a result, 60 people, men and women, are now unemployed.
In Lévis, the management at the Barrettewood plant decided to close the plant
down for six months, laying off 120 workers.
If the government continues with its economic "inaction" plan, the list
could continue to grow. Will the government provide Canadians and Quebecers with
a real economic action plan, to get our economy moving again and create jobs in
all regions of the country?
These are not statistics. These are real people, in real places, losing their
jobs in — as the leader said 10 times during Question Period yesterday — real
time. As we speak, they are losing jobs. When will she act on these issues?
Senator LeBreton: Honourable senators, I would argue strenuously that
the government has taken considerable actions to assist those who, through no
fault of their own, have lost their jobs. In the Economic Action Plan, the
government extended EI benefits by five weeks; expanded work sharing, which
currently protects 160,000 jobs; froze EI premiums for two years; provided $500
million for skills training for long-tenured workers, which was very important
in Quebec and other areas with single-industry towns; and provided $1.5 billion
in training for people who qualify for EI and also for those who do not qualify
for EI benefits. There were some good news stories in the newspapers over the
past few days of people in single-industry towns learning new job skills so that
they could reintegrate into the workforce.
The government has introduced Bill C-50, which will extend regular EI
benefits by 5 to 20 weeks for long-tenured unemployed workers. Such individuals
paid EI premiums for years but made limited use of the program and they are now
in need of help. As I mentioned earlier, a bill was just introduced that will
allow self-employed people to collect EI benefits.
No one takes any joy in seeing people lose their jobs. The government and the
Honourable Diane Finley have worked hard with the various stakeholders to put
forward programs to assist people. The most important thing to do now is to pass
Bill C-50 so that people can begin to collect EI benefits.
Senator Dawson: Honourable senators, if cooperation is desired, this
side will pass Bill C-50 as quickly as possible. However, neither passing Bill
C-50 nor the words of the leader will be of any comfort to the 3,600 people who
lost their jobs during the month of September.
Senator LeBreton: Honourable senators, no one takes any pleasure in
seeing people lose their jobs. For the honourable senator to even suggest that
is really beyond the pale.
Senator Dawson: I never said that.
Senator LeBreton: Whatever the senator suggested.
Senator Tkachuk: The leader suggested it.
Senator LeBreton: The fact is that the world has experienced a serious
economic downturn that affected numerous industries, in particular forestry,
auto and manufacturing. The government has taken many measures, including ones
to ensure that Canada maintains its share of the auto industry. With regard to
forestry, the government has taken many steps, including introduction of skills
training programs for the unemployed. The government is doing everything
possible to assist the unemployed through retraining or job sharing, but I know
full well that in some sectors of the forestry industry there are no jobs to
share. For those people, there are skills training programs to prepare for new
jobs as the economy emerges from this global economic downturn.
Hon. Lorna Milne: Honourable senators, my question is directed to the
Leader of the Government in the Senate. I understand that the Olympic torch
relay will spend four days in Calgary and only one day in Toronto. Did Minister
Lunn arrange it this way because he wants brownie points with the Prime
Minister, or is it because there are no Conservative MPs from Toronto?
Hon. Marjory LeBreton (Leader of the Government and Minister of State
(Seniors)): Honourable senators, the answer is: That is ridiculous.
The Hon. the Speaker: Honourable senators, the time for Question
Period has expired. We will proceed to Delayed Answers.
Senator Milne: I still have 30 seconds, Mr. Speaker. I believe the
leader is able to respond in those 30 seconds.
The Hon. the Speaker: Delayed answers have been called.
Hon. Anne C. Cools: Honourable senators, I am sorry to interrupt like
this and raise a point of order. Several minutes ago, when Senator Comeau had
asked for unanimous consent for leave to move directly to second reading of Bill
C-50 today, I raised some objections and denied consent. I would like to explain
to honourable senators why I did so.
I encountered Senator Comeau earlier this afternoon and he told me he would
ask for leave and of course, and as is my usual tendency, I inquired as to the
nature of the urgency. I sincerely believe that all senators are accorded a due
explanation whenever a senator rises in terms of abridging the notice periods
between the stages of bills.
My understanding from Senator Comeau was that there was no real emergency or
urgency to the bill, so I felt it was my bound and imperative duty to say no. In
any event, Senator Comeau has since put new information before me. I took it
upon myself to consult with members of the opposition, and even more
importantly, to consult with the chairman of the committee, because Senator
Comeau has informed me that the National Finance Committee, of which Senator Day
is the chair, is ready, willing and able to receive this bill for study tomorrow
On the strength of that, honourable senators, I am prepared to reconsider so
that second reading debate may proceed today, but I would like to make the point
as strongly and strenuously as I can that unanimous consent is supposed to be
rarely asked for and rarely used. I invite Senator Comeau to be extremely
conservative, I would say even frugal, even parsimonious in his requests to this
house to give unanimous consent unless there is a serious reason that can be
widely agreed upon and widely understood by all.
I know that leaders of governments and parties often hold the threat of
senators having to sit on Friday mornings. I am also aware that His Honour
Senator Kinsella will be holding his annual veterans Remembrance Day ceremony
here on this Friday morning.
The real point is that unanimous consent is being requested too frequently
and too often and perhaps the leadership could think about that and use it on
those occasions when it is really urgently needed.
Hon. Gerald J. Comeau (Deputy Leader of the Opposition): Honourable
senators, I appreciate Senator Cools' reconsideration of this bill. I simply
cannot let it stand on the record that I indicated that there was no urgency for
this bill. If she misunderstood what I said, it is obviously a misunderstanding.
Bill C-50 in my view, and I say this very sincerely, is extremely important
for those people who are at the end of their EI period. As an Atlantic Canadian
whose constituents have had to depend on seasonal employment for years and
years, I have a full appreciation for the importance of what EI is to Atlantic
Canadians. My appreciation is not only for Atlantic Canadians at this time but
all Canadians who have gone through this worldwide economic downturn Canada has
been a part of.
If Senator Cools misunderstood in any way — and I do not remember misspeaking
along those lines — that there was no urgency to the bill, then that is simply
not the case. However, I heard the senator's comments on unanimous consent, and
I do sympathize with the concept of unanimous consent, that we must be careful
when we use it. Whenever I use it, I do try to consult with as many of the
non-aligned senators as possible. Obviously I must discuss it with the other
side as well.
I do appreciate Senator Cools being prepared to reconsider and that unanimous
consent could be requested again. With that in mind, I would like to do so, if
we could revert to Government Business and proceed with Bill C-50.
Some Hon. Senators: Agreed.
Hon. Sharon Carstairs: Honourable senators, before doing that I would
like to put a few words on the record because I agree totally with Senator Cools
that unanimous consent to pass a bill in two days should be extremely rarely
given in this place.
The argument will be made that we will not sit next week; it is Remembrance
Day week. I think we all want to participate, as we should, in Remembrance Day
ceremonies, but I would remind members of this chamber that this bill was before
the House of Commons and they rose for the G20 week. They rose for the
Thanksgiving week and did not pass this bill, and now we are being asked in this
chamber to do something within a matter of 48 hours that should be done with
Senator Cools: Honourable senators, I have not given consent yet. I
would like to make the point that I have no misunderstanding about what
happened. I would like to make it clear that at no time did I stray to speak on
the substance of Bill C-50. I was speaking on a point of order and I insisted on
keeping myself strictly to the point of order, which was on the question of
altering my position on unanimous consent and yielding to my colleagues.
Let us understand clearly that this bill is very important, undoubtedly, but
today that was never at issue just as the substance of the bill was never at
issue. What was at issue was whether or not this bill should be subjected to
extraordinary speedy and faster techniques, in other words, techniques that even
begin to beg the question of what a parliament is for.
I would make the point, yes, it is important; I would hope that most bills
that come through here are important, and this bill obviously has considerations
that touch many people's lives, but when we speak of urgency, we speak of
urgency in parliamentary terms; and urgent in parliamentary terms means clauses
within the bill that have to be met within urgent time frames, et cetera.
Let us understand that, in this system, urgency has a particular meaning and
it does not mean important or unimportant. Let us differentiate between
importance and urgency.
The Hon. the Speaker: Honourable senators, if I have understood the
intent of the house, procedurally we could deem that the motion that has been
carried that the bill be at second reading two days hence be set aside and that
the question put before the house right now is a request of leave by the Deputy
Leader of the Government, notwithstanding rule 57(1)(f). If that is agreed, I
will put that motion.
With leave of the Senate, and notwithstanding rule 57(1)(f), it was moved by
the Honourable Senator Comeau, seconded by the Honourable Senator Keon that this
bill be placed on the Orders of the Day for second reading later this day. Is it
your pleasure, honourable senators, to adopt the motion?
Hon. Senators: Agreed.
The Hon. the Speaker: Honourable senators, this matter would follow
Government Business, and therefore I would ask, if it is the will of the house,
that we now go to Government Business and have the table call second reading of
Hon. Richard Neufeld moved second reading of Bill C-50, An Act to
amend the Employment Insurance Act and to increase benefits.
He said: Honourable senators, I am pleased to participate in the Senate
debate on second reading of Bill C-50, An Act to amend the Employment Insurance
Act and to increase benefits.
This timely and important bill is designed to support experienced workers who
have lost their jobs through no fault of their own. These workers were affected
by a global recession that sliced through the Canadian economy, leaving some of
our most experienced workers without a job.
As senators we can appreciate the value of experience, knowledge and skills
in the workplace. Each of us, in our working lives, has learned the importance
of experienced, skilled workers who help make the workplace run more
We can all appreciate the devastating effect this recession has had on
certain vital sectors of the Canadian economy such as forestry and the auto
sector; sectors that have undergone significant structural change.
Bill C-50 is designed to support unemployed, long-tenured workers. Who are
long-tenured workers? They are individuals who have worked, paid their taxes and
Employment Insurance premiums for many years. They have never or rarely
collected EI regular benefits. Some of these workers are unemployed for the
first time in their lives.
What is the purpose of this bill? It is to temporarily provide additional
weeks of EI regular benefits to these unemployed long-tenured workers who have
lost their jobs.
For those from sectors that have undergone significant structural change,
these workers may even need to start a new career. Such a prospect is not easy
when they have spent their working life at one particular type of occupation.
Of those Canadians who have lost their jobs since the end of January and have
made an EI claim, about one third are long-tenured workers.
Bill C-50 will provide these workers with 5 to 20 weeks of additional
benefits, depending on how long a long-tenured worker has been employed and
paying EI premiums. The goal is to give them additional weeks of EI while they
look for jobs.
Under this legislation, to be eligible for five weeks of extended benefits,
long-tenured workers must have paid at least 30 per cent of the annual maximum
EI premiums for seven out of the last ten calendar years.
Requiring these contributions for seven of the last ten years allows
claimants to remain eligible even though they have had a temporary absence from
the labour market; for example, due to the birth or adoption of a child or due
to illness or non-contribution to the program as a result of being
self-employed for a period of time.
For every additional year of EI contributions, the number of weeks of
benefits will increase by 3 weeks, up to a 20-week maximum.
We realize that workers in some industries may have had to use EI during
temporary shutdowns or layoffs, and that is why we are allowing claimants to
have received up to 35 weeks of regular benefits in the past 5 years.
Honourable senators, we have looked at information on the past and current
population of long-tenured claimants, including exhaustion rates. We looked at
private-sector forecasts for the national unemployment rates. Based on that
information, it is estimated that about 190,000 workers will be eligible for
these extended benefits.
Senators, it is clear that some of these workers will face a challenge in
finding other work. In some cases, they have skills that may not be easily
transferable to other industries. It is only right and fair that we help them
during this economic downturn. We believe extending their EI benefits is the
responsible measure to take at this time. We need these experienced workers when
the economy starts to rebound and signs of recovery are on the horizon.
Bill C-50 is a temporary measure, designed to respond to the economic
downturn and give these long-tenured workers the support they need while they
look for new employment. The bill will apply to eligible long-tenured workers
whose claims started between January 4, 2009 and September 11, 2010.
We want to make these extra weeks of benefits available to eligible workers
as soon as possible. As honourable senators are aware, in the original draft of
the legislation, the start date for eligibility was tied to the date of Royal
Assent. To ensure that all eligible long-tenured workers have full access to the
extended benefits and that the time taken by members of Parliament and senators
to study the bill does not affect eligibility, we have amended the bill.
The first amendment established January 4, 2009 as the only eligibility start
date and, as a result, removed the reference to an alternate time frame of nine
months prior to the coming into force of the legislation.
The other amendment sufficiently extended the benefit period for long-tenured
workers who have had an active claim at the time of Royal Assent so they can
collect all their additional benefits, regardless of when Royal Assent occurs.
With these amendments, we ensure that all eligible long-tenured claimants
will be able to draw down on all their additional weeks of regular benefits
provided by Bill C-50. Long-tenured workers will be eligible for extended
benefits until September 11, 2010, which means that payments of these extended
benefits will continue until the fall of 2011.
There will be a gradual transition back to the normal terms and conditions.
Beginning in June 2011, the level of additional benefits will be reduced in
Honourable senators, we understand that we will need to explain Bill C-50 to
Canadians and we have planned for Service Canada to hold public information
sessions across the country. This measure will come as a great comfort to
long-tenured workers who may be worried about exhausting their benefits before
finding a new job.
Bill C-50 is not the only way we are helping long-tenured workers. Let me
briefly mention other measures under Canada's Economic Action Plan. The
government is also investing in long-tenured workers through training. The
Career Transition Assistance initiative is designed to assist those long-tenured
workers who need training to acquire new skills.
Under the Career Transition Assistance initiative, eligible long-tenured
workers can have their EI benefits extended up to a maximum of two years while
they take long-term training. They can also have earlier access to EI if they
pay for their course tuition using part or all of the money from their severance
package, if they received one.
Honourable senators, the government also introduced other measures that help
all unemployed Canadians and not only long-tenured workers. For example, the
government is providing an additional $1.5 billion for skills training to be
delivered by the provinces and territories. While job losses have slowed in
recent months, Canadians continue to need timely access to EI benefits. Through
the Economic Action Plan, we have provided for an extra five weeks of EI regular
benefits to all workers across the country. In regions with high unemployment,
we have also increased the maximum number of weeks of benefits from 45 to 50.
We are also protecting jobs by extending work-sharing agreements by an
additional 14 weeks and allowing employers participating in the program more
flexibility in their recovery plans. As of October 11, 2009 there were close to
6,000 work-sharing agreements nationally benefiting more than 167,000
Honourable senators, let me refer to another program called the Targeted
Initiative for Older Workers, which applies to people who are 55 to 64 years
Under Canada's Economic Action Plan, we are investing an additional $60
million over three years to provide upgrading and work experience to help older
workers make the transition to new employment. Further, we have expanded the
program so that it extends access to older workers in major communities as well
as smaller cities affected by significant downsizes or closures.
We are supporting the initiatives that focus on Aboriginal Canadians. The
Aboriginal Skills and Employment Partnership program has received an additional
$100 million over three years to provide on-the-job training and work
opportunities in sectors such as natural resources, construction and tourism.
The initiatives funded under this program depend on partnerships between
Aboriginal organizations and major employers in the field.
In addition, the Aboriginal Skills and Training Strategic Investment Fund
will help about 5,800 Aboriginal people over the two years to acquire the
specific skills they need to benefit from economic opportunities, now and in the
future. This fund also supports greater investment in training for Aboriginal
people who face barriers to employment, such as low literacy or a lack of
Canada's Economic Action Plan is helping Canadians access the labour market
in all kinds of different ways. One way is by freezing EI premiums for 2010 at
$1.73, the same rate as 2009. This rate is at its lowest level since 1982.
Canadian employers and Canadian workers can be assured that the EI premium rate
will not increase during the economic downturn.
We are delivering on our commitments to improve the governance and management
of the EI account by establishing the Canada Employment Insurance Financing
Board. The board will be an independent, arm's length Crown corporation. It will
implement and improve the EI premium rate-setting mechanism that will ensure EI
revenues and expenditures break even over time and set the EI premium rate
starting in 2011.
Above and beyond all these measures, the government has recently introduced
further amendments to the Employment Insurance Act through Bill C-56, the
Fairness for the Self-Employed Act. This act will allow self-employed Canadians
who opt into the EI program to be eligible to receive the same special benefits
currently available to salaried employees, namely maternity benefits, parental
adoptive benefits, sickness benefits and compassionate care benefits.
In the meantime, honourable senators, let me return to Bill C-50. The
purpose of this bill is to help long-tenured workers directly affected by the
force of this recession. As explained earlier, the legislation before us
proposes a temporary measure that will provide much needed assistance to
long-tenured workers throughout the country. The passage of this bill will make
a difference in their lives. It will help put groceries on their table. It will
help them provide for their families, and it will make a difference to industry
when the economy recovers.
I hope we can all support a speedy passing of this much needed change.
Hon. Joseph A. Day: Will the honourable senator accept a question?
Senator Neufeld: Yes.
Senator Day: Honourable senators, I think Senator Neufeld may have
answered my question in his comment towards the end of his speech, upon which I
congratulate him, when he said, "let me return to Bill C-50." I was wondering
what the Career Transition Assistance initiative and about 15 other things he
mentioned had to do with Bill C-50. I think the honourable senator has confirmed
that none of those items appear in Bill C-50. Is that correct?
Senator Neufeld: Yes, I referred to other items to make the house
aware of other things being done besides what is in Bill C-50 to help
unemployed, long-tenured workers and other workers in our economy in this
Senator Day: I am sure we are all grateful the honourable senator took
the time to do that. He indicated that Canada's Economic Action Plan provided
for five extra weeks. Was that provision not in Bill C-10? I do not recall Bill
C-10 being called the Economic Action Plan. Are the five weeks provided for in
Senator Neufeld: Yes, they are. I appreciate the questions and the
remarks, Senator Day. All too often I hear from other honourable senators that
not enough information is given in the house about what is done, and other
honourable senators may want to know, so I talked about other measures that had
been taken recently to help people who find themselves in a difficult position.
I do not think any of us should be shy about talking about those benefits so
that people who should receive the benefits actually do receive them.
Senator Day: Absolutely; my final question is to confirm that it was
Bill C-10, An Act to implement the budget, rather than the Economic Action Plan,
that triggered the five extra weeks.
Senator Neufeld: Honourable senators, Bill C-10 gave the extra five
weeks, and we debated that bill during meetings of the Standing Senate Committee
on National Finance.
An Hon. Senator: It is part of the action plan.
The Hon. the Speaker pro tempore: Are there more
questions? On debate, Senator Day.
Senator Day: Thank you, honourable senators. I will briefly outline
some of the issues that we found in studying Bill C-50. We undertook a pre-study
of this bill in the Standing Senate Committee on National Finance. Permission to
begin the pre-study was approved by the Senate as a whole, and we were directed
and authorized to begin looking at Bill C-50 before it arrived here in the
Seeing and viewing the progress of Bill C-50 in the other place, we felt that
there would be some degree of urgency when the bill finally arrived here, and we
wanted to have an appreciation of what was in the bill. As it turns out, that
pre-study has worked nicely. I anticipate, once this second reading is concluded
and the bill is referred to our committee, that we will not spend as much time
as we normally want to spend on a bill of this nature because of the fact that
we have had an opportunity to conduct the pre-study, in part. I say "in part"
because we saw the bill coming and we knew it would arrive quickly, so we did
not conclude all the study we might otherwise have undertaken, and we did not
report back on the bill because of that fact as well.
For the information of honourable senators, Bill C-50 was introduced in the
House of Commons on September 16. It had second reading from September 17 to
September 29 of this year. We are having second reading out of our normal time
frame this afternoon, having received the bill today. It then proceeded to
committee. It came out of committee and committee report on October 29. We
anticipate because of the pre-study that we will not need to study it any more
than one or two days. The House of Commons had the bill for well over a month.
Honourable senators, I give you those statistics so that you and I will be
armed when we are confronted with the typical argument that we are not sensitive
to the plight of the unemployed and that we do not recognize the importance of
moving legislation through as quickly as we can.
Honourable senators, we are continuing to do the job that we are intended to
do here, so that the benefits can be out there for the individuals they are
intended to benefit. That is exactly what we are doing in this case. Senator
Gerstein and I and the rest of the members of our committee ask honourable
senators for their permission to move this bill through the Senate
expeditiously, but nevertheless cautiously and responsibly, so that the benefits
can be out there.
We know there are amendments, and we have not studied those amendments.
Senator Neufeld referred to certain amendments that were made to this
legislation. We will want to study those.
However, one of those amendments addressed the importance of having Royal
Assent to this bill by mid-October and removed it. One would wonder why there
would be, in a piece of legislation, a requirement for Royal Assent by
mid-October. If it was after mid-October, then certain people at the front end
of entitlement would drop off.
Why would that be put in a piece of draft legislation? I think honourable
senators may want to think about that a little bit. I would hope that it was not
in anticipation of that bill having been passed in the normal course in the
other place and then pressure would be put on us in this place to pass it by
mid-October. Were we not to do so, certain people would be lose their
entitlement. I would hope that it does not appear in a piece of draft
legislation for that reason.
Honourable senators, three different panels appeared before us in committee
on this matter. The overview of the discussion from the panels of the
non-government people was that, generally, this will help a certain number of
individuals and it should be passed.
There are individuals who have not typically claimed Employment Insurance
over many years. I will remind honourable senators of what Senator Neufeld has
already indicated: At the top of the scale are the claimants who have
contributed at least 30 per cent of their maximum EI employee premiums in at
least 12 of the 15 preceding years. They have been working away for 12 of the 15
years and they have contributed at least 30 per cent of the maximum.
Additionally, they have not claimed more than 35 weeks in a five-year period.
That is a pretty special group of individuals and that point was made.
One point made about that at our committee was that this was really favouring
the upper income segment. It does not help the lower-salaried individual who is
not likely to have contributed at least 30 per cent of the maximum EI benefit
premiums. It obviously does not help any of the workers out there who have
claimed more than 35 weeks over the past five years, and there are many of
those. It does not help individuals who are seasonal employees through no fault
of their own. That is the job they have and they do it well during that seasonal
employment, but there is no opportunity to find alternate employment for the
rest of the year. It does not help them.
When we passed Bill C-10 and gave the extra five weeks, we recognized it was
during an economic downturn period and that there was a need for help. However,
it was a need for help universally. It applied to everybody. Everyone who needed
Employment Insurance received the extra five weeks. In fact, honourable senators
will recall that there was already a program in place giving an extra five weeks
in areas of high unemployment. If we had focused on that a little more, we might
have not felt the urgency to get Bill C-10 through as quickly as we did.
However, that was only for areas of high unemployment, whereas Bill C-10 was
Surely, that has to be the concept that we accept with respect to insurance.
It does not matter that someone happens to be a lower-income employee. It
should not matter that someone is a seasonal employee. It should be universal.
The main problem with this legislation is that it is not universal. It
applies to a maximum of 190,000 people and will cost between $900 million and $1
billion for that select group of individuals.
That was the fundamental complaint that we received with respect to this
legislation. Yes, it will help those select individuals, but there is a need for
a fundamental review of the Employment Insurance regime across the board. It has
been used over the years by many different governments for situations that
should have been funded out of general revenue, as opposed to being funded by
those people who are paying into Employment Insurance and the employers who are
paying into this program through an employment tax.
That is the main complaint that we received during our hearings on this
Honourable senators, it is piecemeal legislation, but it does help. To the
extent that it does help that group of individuals, as we reviewed the
legislation, we found nothing in terms of its wording or what it is trying to
achieve that would cause us fundamental concern. The only complaint is that it
is too restrictive and it treats a group of individuals who are probably the
best suited of all unemployed people to obtain assistance in other ways and
through other programs, which was referred to by Senator Neufeld.
We had Bill C-50, the Budget Implementation Act, 2008, which created the
Employment Insurance Board. Then we found out the board had not been appointed
yet. Its main job is to set the premiums and, shortly after that, premiums were
fixed for 2008, 2009 and 2010. Therefore, assuming no further legislation, the
first time the board will be involved in setting premiums will be in 2011.
Government policy is that it will set premiums such that this program will
break even. However, only $2 billion has been put into the trust fund, whereas
everyone who came before us, including actuaries and various industry
representatives, said it should be in the range of $15 billion to $20 billion.
Then it could work like an arm's-length insurance group. However, it will be
poorly funded. It will not have the funds to do the job it is supposed to do,
and it has not been appointed in any case.
That is the beginning of the reform of Employment Insurance. There is a need,
honourable senators, for a fundamental review of this whole area. After the
Budget Implementation Act, 2008, Bill C-50, passed a year and a half ago — it is
coincidental that the number was the same as today's legislation — we had Bill
C-10. We dealt with Bill C-10 and the five-week extension. Now we have Bill
C-50, and Honourable Senator Neufeld has advised us there is another bill
forthcoming, Bill C-56.
Each of these is important in its own right, but when dealing with a program
piecemeal like this, there will be the unintended consequences of one piece of
legislation interfering with another piece, or one group of people being
disadvantaged to the advantage of another.
I suggest to you, honourable senators, that although it is unlikely that we
will be proposing major fundamental changes to this piece of legislation — and I
say "unlikely" since I do not know what the committee will feel after it has a
chance to review these amendments — behind this is our feeling that there should
be fundamental review of the entire subject of Employment Insurance.
The Hon. the Speaker pro tempore: Is it your pleasure,
honourable senators, to adopt the motion?
Hon. Joseph A. Day moved second reading of Bill S-239, An Act to amend
the Conflict of Interest Act (gifts).
He said: Honourable senators, this bill addresses a loophole in the Conflict
of Interest Act, which was part of Bill C-2 the Federal Accountability Act.
After considerable study in this chamber, we passed that bill, which was one of
the first pieces of legislation of the then new government of Mr. Harper.
Honourable senators, I have not had an opportunity to draw all my thoughts
together on this proposed legislation, although I spent a great deal of time
studying this issue when Bill C-2 passed through this house. Therefore, with
your permission, I would ask that the matter be adjourned in my name for the
balance of my time.
Resuming debate on the motion of the Honourable Senator Chaput, seconded by
the Honourable Senator Hubley, that the fourth report of the Standing Senate
Committee on Official Languages, entitled Reflecting Canada's Linguistic
Duality at the 2010 Olympic and Paralympic Winter Games: A Golden Opportunity,
Follow-up Report, tabled in the Senate on September 15, 2009, be adopted
and that, pursuant to rule 131(2), the Senate request a complete and detailed
response from the government, with the Minister of Canadian Heritage and
Official Languages and the President of the Queen's Privy Council for Canada
being identified as ministers responsible for responding to the report.—(Honourable
Hon. Andrée Champagne: Honourable senators, last week, Senator Jaffer
moved adjournment of the debate and promised to speak this week.
I think that we all agree that we must proceed as quickly as possible if we
want the government to respond to our recommendations, and I believe we are
wasting a lot of time. Can I hope that Senator Jaffer will be here after the
break week and that we can proceed with this committee report?
Hon. Claudette Tardif (Deputy Leader of the Opposition): Honourable
senators, unfortunately, illness strikes unexpectedly. Senator Jaffer was to
speak this week, but she is unable to do so. We will therefore wait anxiously to
hear from her when she returns.
The Senate proceeded to consideration of the seventh report of the Standing
Committee on Rules, Procedures and the Rights of Parliament (authority to
print updated versions of the Rules of the Senate), presented in the Senate
on October 27, 2009.
Hon. Donald H. Oliver: Honourable senators, I have the honour to speak
to the seventh report of the Standing Committee on Rules, Procedures and the
Rights of Parliament.
As honourable senators know, amendments to the Rules of the Senate
take place at the time they are adopted in the Senate. However, a consolidated
version of the Rules containing the amendments is not automatically prepared
each time the Rules are changed and the online version of the Rules of the
Senate is not automatically updated.
Instead, the current practice in relation to printing updated versions of the
Rules of the Senate and integrating changes into the online versions is
that a new version containing previously approved modifications is approved by
the Rules Committee before being tabled in the Senate. It is only when the new
version is tabled that it is printed and posted online. This process sometimes
leads to significant delays between a change to the Rules being approved by the
Senate and the new text appearing in printed or online format with consequential
inconvenience to senators and to many other users.
To avoid such delays, the committee looked at the procedures to see if they
could be simplified. Accordingly, the committee recommends:
The Clerk of the Senate be authorized to prepare and print from time to
time as required for tabling in the Senate by the Speaker, consolidated
versions of the Rules of the Senate containing any changes approved by
the Senate up to that time, and any minor typographical corrections.
That the Clerk of the Senate be authorized to update the online version of
the Rules of the Senate at any time any change is approved by the
Should those recommendations be approved by the Senate, the Rules Committee
would no longer have to authorize the printing of the Rules containing
amendments that have already been approved by the Senate and which may have been
in force for months or even years.
The task that would be assigned to our Speaker would be administrative in
nature. It would be limited to tabling the consolidated version of the Rules in
the Senate that is to be prepared by our clerk from time to time as required.
I would also note that the proposed process in respect to the printing of the
Rules whereby they are reprinted as needed is similar to the process used in the
Thank you for your attention, honourable senators.
The Hon. the Speaker pro tempore: Are senators ready for
Hon. Senators: Question.
The Hon. the Speaker pro tempore: Is it your pleasure,
honourable senators, to adopt the motion?
The Senate proceeded to consideration of the sixth report of the Standing
Committee on Rules, Procedures and the Rights of Parliament (committee
substitutions), tabled in the Senate on October 8, 2009.
Hon. Donald H. Oliver moved the adoption of the report.
He said: The Rules Committee is now studying the rules of committees and
restructuring of committees. The subject of committee substitutions is being
examined under that rubric. The committee decided to wait until that is complete
before dealing with this subject.
The Hon. the Speaker pro tempore: Is it your pleasure,
honourable senators, to adopt the motion?
Resuming debate on the inquiry of the Honourable Senator Segal calling the
attention of the Senate to the government of Iran's imminent nuclear war
capacity and its preparations for war in the Middle East, and to the
commitment of Canada and its allies, including the USA, Russia, Turkey, the
Gulf States, Egypt, Jordan, Saudi Arabia and others, to diplomatic and
strategic initiatives that exclude first-use nuclear attack, the ability of
Canada to engage with its allies in order to understand, measure and contain
this threat, and the capacity of Canada to support allied efforts to prevent a
thermonuclear exchange in the Middle East.
Hon. Marcel Prud'homme: Honourable senators, I know that you have
waited a long time for my speech on the motion of my friend and colleague
Senator Segal. I will repeat, my honourable friend and colleague, the brilliant
With his inquiry of February 3, Senator Segal wanted us to examine the issue
of Iran's nuclear capacity and his fear that Iran would unleash a thermonuclear
exchange in the Middle East. I hasten to immediately make a friendly correction.
In speaking of a potential thermonuclear exchange in the Middle East, we cannot
leave any of the countries in this region that have nuclear weapons out of the
equation. That is common sense. To be factual we should be speaking not of
Iranian nuclear issues but of Middle East and Asian nuclear issues.
It is commendable that Senator Segal has requested that we have a substantive
debate on this issue so that Canada can play a role in bringing peace to this
embattled part of the world.
As the Honourable Thomas Axworthy wrote in the Ottawa Citizen on May
Canada is not a negligible factor in world politics (despite our habit of
self-deprecation) and we should be thinking of how we can contribute to this
agenda of world peace.
We should also be thinking about what Senator Segal said, when we join this
debate that he has proposed, even if we do not come to the same conclusion.
According to Senator Segal:
The time for bold initiative and fresh thinking on the Iran-regional
challenge has never been more compelling.
That was on February 3.
I am a patient man.
According to Senator Segal:
. . . the time for bold initiative and fresh thinking on the Iran-regional
challenge has never been more compelling.
I could not agree with him more, especially now, while this issue is still so
much in the news.
However, when my colleague warns us about the threat of a nuclear Iran, I do
not understand why he does not also talk about — in the same geostrategic region
— the nuclear capacities of Pakistan, India and Israel.
We have to stop telling tales. We have to stop and think, as if we did not
know who started the arms race in the Middle East. We have to stop pretending to
forget that Pakistan, India and Israel, unlike Iran, did not sign the Treaty on
the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons. Just ask General Dallaire.
I am glad that Senator Segal opened the door to this debate, but I admit that
I wonder why he did not call a spade a spade. I need not tell you that I wish he
had done so. He points out that Israel has assets:
Assets that the world knows they have at their disposal.
He used the word "assets" in English. He was referring to Israel's nuclear
arsenal, an arsenal that puts Israel on a level playing field with France and
England in terms of each country's striking power.
I admit that the situation in these regions of the world is extremely
complicated. I understand that Israel has some difficulty trusting the outside
world. That is clear. I understand that Israel has some difficulties
communicating with the outside world, as Trita Parsi said in his fascinating
book on Iran-Israel relations, Treacherous Alliance.
We must try to understand that the Iranians have not been treated very fairly
in the past. Even President Obama acknowledged this in his June 4 speech in
Cairo, when he recalled that in the middle of the Cold War, the United States
played a terrible role in the overthrow of a democratically-elected government
Iran, through the intervention of the CIA and British secret service.
Senators will recall that when Saddam Hussein invaded Iran in 1980, the UN
did not consider that action to be a threat to world peace and security. It took
more than two years for the Security Council to call for the retreat of the
Because of obstruction from the Americans, it took five years for the UN to
discuss the issue of the chemical weapons used against Iranian soldiers and
It was a bitter lesson for the Iranians. When it was threatened, Iran would
have liked to have been able to count on protection from the Geneva Conventions
and the United Nations Charter.
Despite everything, this did not prevent Iran from signing the Treaty on the
Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons, a treaty whose ultimate goal is to
eliminate all nuclear weapons.
We must keep in mind that the Iranians want to create a modern state, and
want to be perceived as such by the rest of the world. By modern state, Iran
means a state that is able to provide for its long-term energy needs.
With regard to the nuclear issue we are debating today, we must remember that
this is a very political issue in Iran, and no Iranian politician, conservative
or reformist, would dare to lower their expectations.
Iran rightly believes that it has the legal right to enrich uranium for
peaceful purposes, while still respecting the terms of the non-proliferation
I should point out that the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear
Weapons, which was signed on July 1, 1965, and came into force on March 5, 1970,
was renewed indefinitely on May 12, 1995. But we must not forget the conditions
attached to the 189 signatory states keeping it in force. The treaty was renewed
for an indefinite period in 1995 on the express condition demanded by Arab
countries neighbouring Israel that Israel take measures to disarm. Fourteen
years on, where are those measures? Why is everyone trying to keep Iran's
nuclear potential under control at all costs when, since 1995, practically
nothing has been done to make Israel see reason and comply with international
law? Why the double standard?
Why, against all common sense, do we still have this nuclear ambiguity
policy? Let us not forget that, on September 26, 1969, at the White House,
President Nixon and that extraordinary and energetic woman, Golda Meir, came to
a secret agreement now known by the name:
"Don't ask, don't tell."
Both countries agreed not to reveal the existence of an Israeli atomic bomb
to the world. Now, in 2009, Russia and the United States are eagerly negotiating
a new START treaty for 2010 and President Obama hopes to achieve total
disarmament one day. In that light, are we going to accept this nasty little cat
and mouse game with the international community?
Would it not be better for everyone to lay their cards on the table to give
peace a real chance?
That being said, I would like to digress for a moment. I admit that the
outrageous nature of the president's speeches — I repeat — I admit that the
outrageous nature of President Ahmadinejad's speeches regarding Israel does not
help calm the debate. His speeches only aggravate the situation. Furthermore —
I have had occasion to communicate with the Iranians in no uncertain terms,
. . . how I think about this. Accordingly, the first thing Canada should
encourage is the signing of the non-proliferation treaty by Pakistan, India and
Israel. This would greatly facilitate any future discussions about making the
region a completely nuclear-free zone. The multinational agreement that Senator
Segal would like to see in the Middle East is already part of that treaty. It
already exists. There is no need, in this case, to add to the prevailing
complexity by promoting a new agreement that would only be redundant. What are
needed are three new signatures on the existing treaty.
An arms race in the Middle East and among its neighbouring countries poses a
real and undeniable danger. So what can we do to avoid an escalation?
We need to have a strategic vision and the political will to change our
relationship with Iran. We need to see a change that is similar to the
spectacular, innovative and daring change conceived of by Pierre Elliott
Trudeau, when he decided to change Canada's position regarding China, an
undertaking that later proved extremely beneficial to Canada.
No matter what we say or do, our current approach will not prevent Tehran
from developing a nuclear fission program or any other military capability.
Iran's foreign minister, Mr. Mottaki, said so repeatedly on October 19, when
discussions between his country and the group of six began in Geneva. "The
meetings with world powers and their behaviour shows that Iran's right to have
peaceful nuclear technology has been accepted by them," he stated. He said and
repeated that his country would continue to enrich uranium, although he agreed
to have Iran's nuclear fuel enriched abroad.
What should we do? Impose sanctions that have never worked with Iran? And do
so against the will of Russia and China? Attack Iran?
Let's be serious. As President Obama said in Cairo:
We must leave the past behind and make a new beginning. We must be
pragmatic. No single nation should pick and choose which nations hold nuclear
That is why the American President reaffirmed the United States' commitment
to seek a world in which no nations hold nuclear weapons.
And any nation — including Iran — should have the right to access peaceful
nuclear power if it complies — I repeat, if it complies — with its
responsibilities under the nuclear non-proliferation treaty.
As for eradicating nuclear weapons, this is what President Obama said:
That commitment is at the core of the Treaty, and it must be kept for all
who fully abide by it. And I am hopeful that all countries in the region can
share in this goal.
I would point out that he said "all countries in the region." I hope that
all the governments in the region were listening.
Some people in this Parliament are in favour of a policy of isolating Iran,
but I feel that such an approach is naive. Consider the issue of sanctions.
Iran's leaders feel that any threat of sanctions by Western nations would strip
all credibility from any diplomatic initiatives. It would be like saying to the
Iranians, "Negotiate! But if you don't meet our demands, we will impose
Sanctions are juvenile ultimatums that can only lead to disaster.
We must not continue treating a country like Iran in this way and continue
hoping for appeasement. It is clear that the constant threat of sanctions and
military intervention against Iran will only make the Iranian regime more
intransigent and more imaginative on the nuclear issue.
All of the West's hard line policies have proven ineffective to date. What
proof do we have? When the Bush administration began making threats about Tehran
and its nuclear program, there were 164 centrifuges in Iran. Today, there are
more than 6,000.
Let us go back to the origins of the current tensions.
If the Middle East is at risk of an arms race, it is because one country has
sounded the starting signal. If Iran wishes to build a nuclear bomb, which is
madness — and far from certain, it is because, in addition to other factors, one
country already has that technology. Therefore, we might see a domino effect,
which could be catastrophic for humanity. In this regard, I share my colleague's
Take a look at what is happening elsewhere in the region. Four years ago,
Saudi Arabia did not want to have anything to do with nuclear energy. Now, it is
trying to procure the materials to build a nuclear reactor system.
Honourable senators, I ask permission to extend my time.
The Hon. the Speaker pro tempore: Honourable senators,
Senator Prud'homme's time has expired. Will you agree to extend his time by five
Hon. Senators: Agreed.
Senator Prud'homme: Throughout the region, everyone — Turkey, Egypt,
Abdullah II of Jordan — wants to build nuclear facilities using Canadian
By the way, a nuclear cooperation agreement between Canada and Jordan was
signed on February 17, 2009, and may serve as a model for our future relations
The outgoing Director General of the International Atomic Energy Agency, Mr.
ElBaradei, believes that the nuclear issue in the Middle East is not at all
technical but rather political. He also stated that the only way to deal with
this matter is through direct talks and diplomacy. On March 9 he stated:
. . . a security structure in the Middle East should be found that also
involves Israel, which is widely believed to have nuclear weapons.
President Obama sat down and talked with the Iranians. That is the right
attitude to adopt in order to make progress. Had the Americans refused to sit
down with the Iranians, we would not have moved forward.
Canada runs the risk of taking the wrong approach. If Canada has such
excellent diplomatic relations with Iran, as Senator Segal claimed in his
speech, what is our government waiting for to accept the appointment of Tehran's
ambassador here in Ottawa? Should that not be done first before beginning talks
of any kind? And how can we make any serious representations to the government
in Tehran without a Canadian ambassador in Tehran?
As you are well aware, honourable senators, NATO is working together with
Iran on regional issues like that of Afghanistan, where the convergence of
interests between the West and Tehran are unmistakable.
I believe that NATO has agreed to assign parliamentarians to Iran shortly.
The U.S. administration played a determining role in that decision. Why don't we
in the Senate, the Standing Senate Committee on Foreign Affairs, take the
initiative to send a Canadian parliamentary delegation to meet with our Iranian
counterparts, without being too aggressive or too accommodating?
It is in the interest of Canada and the West in general.
Why would Canada not become a forerunner on this issue and the hero of a
great international conference on nuclear disarmament?
All that to say that we must accompany Iran down its path with respect and
not isolate it or attack it militarily. The latter would resolve absolutely
nothing. It would be the worst case scenario. It is much better to integrate
Iran into the international system.
I sincerely believe that President Obama's strategy of openness — negotiating
without conditions — should be Canada's strategy as well.
Recent political developments in Israel lead us to fear that the new
coalition government in that country is still not prepared for that kind of
openness and I am sorry to hear that.
The last thing we need is an act of war against Tehran. I dare not think of
the catastrophic consequences of such madness.
In closing, there is a small fundamental detail that we must not lose sight
of when we talk about peace in the Middle East. I have devoted my life to that
small detail and I am coming back to it today: to achieve peace, as Barack Obama
says and several others have said, the Israeli-Palestinian conflict needs to be
resolved once and for all.
In the House of Commons 42 years ago, I said, solve that problem; this is a
cancer that will spread around the world. That was 42 years ago.
You may say that by addressing that issue we are departing from the nuclear
issue, but I am saying that, on the contrary, we are deep in the middle of it.
Thank you, Senator Segal, for allowing us to share some of our thoughts with you
through your proposal.
Leave having been given to revert to Tabling of Reports from
Hon. Donald H. Oliver: Honourable senators, I have the honour to
table, in both official languages, the report of the Canadian parliamentary
delegation of the Inter-Parliamentary Union to the Seventeenth Session of the
Steering Committee of the Parliamentary Conference on the World Trade
Organization, held in Geneva, Switzerland, from April 3 to 4, 2008.
Hon. Donald H. Oliver: Honourable senators, I have the honour to
table, in both official languages, the report of the Canadian parliamentary
delegation of the Inter-Parliamentary Union to the Eighth Workshop of
Parliamentary Scholars and Parliamentarians, held in Wroxton, United Kingdom,
from July 26 to 27, 2008.
Hon. Donald H. Oliver: Honourable senators, I have the honour to
table, in both official languages, the report of the Canadian parliamentary
delegation of the Inter-Parliamentary Union to the Meeting of the Asia-Pacific
Working Group, held in Beijing, China, on March 20, 2009.
Hon. Marcel Prud'homme: For my new colleagues, I will say that I have
loved the IPU for 40 years. I would kindly ask our friend, Senator Oliver, if a
decision has been taken as to the possibility of Canada being the host for the
next world convention? I chaired the one held in 1985, and I was present in 1965
in Ottawa, when we were host to a thousand parliamentarians. Are there any
Senator Oliver: If I had not been late today for the Senate Chamber, I
would have given a Senators' Statement today, honourable senators, with the news
that Canada, after three years of trying, has finally received the permission of
the Council of the Inter-Parliamentary Union to host a General Assembly of the
Inter-Parliamentary Union in Quebec City in the fall of 2012.
Senator Prud'homme: For the record, I must say I was happy to be a
member of the Joint Inter-Parliamentary Council, thanks to Senator Tkachuk. I
know I will be replaced very soon, however, I would express a wish — and I
really mean it with all my passion — to try to convince the IPU to stop passing
resolution after resolution, with "whereas" after "whereas," and to try to
get to know each other better. That was the case in 1889 when the IPU was
created in London, thanks to Britain and to France. That is Canada in action. It
was created thanks to a British person and a French person whom I think both
eventually won the Nobel Peace Prize.
Some day, in my older age, I hope to read that the IPU is changing its
attitude and not trying to be a replica of the United Nations where they pass
resolution after resolution, and condemnation after condemnation, and where
before everyone goes back home, they take all the resolutions and put them in
the basket because they are too heavy to carry back. Can we hope eventually
that, through your leadership, Senator Oliver, you will convince them to have
discussions between people and governments that do not talk to each other? That
was the spirit behind the creation of the IPU, to allow parliamentarians,
regardless of political background or government affiliation, to talk above, on
the side, and in the cafe, to see if they could not bring a little bit more
sanity to the world and world affairs.
The Hon. the Speaker pro tempore: I am sure Senator
Oliver's leadership will think about your wish, Senator Prud'homme.
(The Senate adjourned until Thursday, November 5, 2009, at 1:30 p.m.)