Hon. Hugh Segal: Honourable senators, I rise to
express the profound hope that the Parliament of Canada, most notably the House
of Commons, will see its way clear to modify its resolution of March 13, 2008,
and agree to the continued deployment of Canadian humanitarian and military
forces in the ongoing engagement in Afghanistan.
The Prime Minister is to be commended for staying fast and
true to the resolution on the end of the Kandahar province combat engagement in
2011, but that faithfulness does not negate the need for vision and renewed
Afghanistan is a critical theatre in an important war
against terrorism, which is and remains a scourge on humanity. Canadian troops
have spent too much blood and grief, and shown too much courage and progress to
end the engagement before realistic stability goals are attained. A minority
Parliament does not justify a failure of will or avoidance of international
The nature and mix of our deployment there may change, and
that is for elected parliamentarians to decide, but Canada's commitment to fight
the pathologies of terrorism in a part of the world where they are most intense
Hon. Catherine S. Callbeck: Honourable senators,
four in ten — or 42 per cent — of working-age Canadians have literacy skills
that fall below what is adequate for coping with the demands of everyday life
and work in an advanced society.
More disturbing, these numbers will not improve in the
future if things continue the way they are now.
Higher levels of literacy skills are fundamental to the
success of this country. Research has shown there is a strong relationship
between literacy skills and social and economic issues like health, productivity
Adults with low literacy skills can have poorer health
outcomes, work fewer weeks at a time, and make less during those weeks. Adults
with higher literacy skills are healthier, experience less unemployment, earn
more, and rely less on government assistance. They even tend to be more involved
in community groups and in volunteer activities.
In uncertain times like these, adult learning has even
more benefits. In its September 2009 report, State of Adult Learning and
Workplace Training in Canada, the Canadian Council on Learning notes:
Education and training can also act as a protective
factor in times of economic instability, enabling individuals to adapt to
fluctuations in the labour market — serving as a preventive, rather than a
reactive, form of social policy.
Without a doubt, improving literacy has real benefits to
individuals and to society. Support for literacy and learning is an investment,
not a cost. That is why I urge the federal government to make literacy a higher
priority on its agenda. We need to encourage Canadians to keep updating their
skills; lifelong learning should be the norm. By improving literacy levels
across the board, we can improve everyone's quality of life and strengthen the
Canadian economy at the same time.
Hon. Suzanne Fortin-Duplessis: Honourable senators,
the vast majority of Quebecers, together with Canadians from other provinces,
support the Quebec government's decision to require all individuals receiving or
providing government services to show their faces.
According to an Angus Reid poll commissioned by The
Gazette, nearly all Quebecers — 95 per cent — and 8 out of 10 Canadians
support Bill 94, which sets out guidelines on accommodation requests.
On Wednesday, the Government of Quebec introduced a bill
providing that, henceforth, people must show their faces to provide or receive
government services. Like the vast majority of Canadians, I applaud that
decision. Women wearing a niqab or burqa must have their faces uncovered when
dealing with a government employee regardless of whether the employee is male or
This bill is the Charest government's response to a recent
controversial incident involving a woman of Egyptian origin who chose to stop
attending her French classes rather than remove her niqab when asked to do so.
Bill 94 is limited in scope, seeking primarily to
establish guidelines on accommodation requests and to help government employees
handle situations involving women who request services but are wearing garments
that cover their whole bodies, including their faces.
If a request for accommodation is made, government
officials do have some latitude. The department or organization involved should
grant requests only if they do not create any "undue hardship."
Employees must consider whether a request would generate
any expense or raise issues of security, communication or identification.
Furthermore, the bill states that accommodation will be
subject to the Charter of Rights, specifically with respect to gender equality.
Gender equality is a fundamental and non-negotiable value for Quebecers.
The Conseil du statut de la femme, which was consulted as
the bill was being drafted, is very pleased with the government's initiative.
With this bill, Quebec is affirming the state's
"neutrality," not its "secularism." Basically, this means that it will not ban
religious symbols other than the full-body veil.
Honourable senators, Quebecers are reaffirming the
province's historical choice to favour open secularism.
Hon. Jane Cordy: Honourable senators, April 15,
2012 will mark the one hundredth anniversary of the sinking of the Titanic.
Along with Belfast, Cork, Southampton and Cherbourg, Halifax played a
significant role in the history of the Titanic. In April of 1912, Halifax
was a staging site for much of the search and rescue operations where cable
ships were dispatched to pick up victims and debris. Halifax's Fairview Lawn
Cemetery is the final resting place for 150 of the victims of the Titanic
disaster. The gravestones of those buried there align to form the shape of a
For an excellent history lesson on the Titanic
search and rescue operation, I encourage all senators to visit the Maritime
Museum of the Atlantic in Halifax. The museum does an outstanding job of telling
the story of the legacy of Halifax and the role Halifax played in the Titanic
disaster rescue mission. The museum houses many Titanic artifacts that
were pulled from the water within weeks of the sinking by ships from Halifax
searching for Titanic victims. Included in the exhibit with the wooden
items pulled from the Atlantic Ocean is one of the only Titanic deck
chairs known to exist.
Efforts are under way in Nova Scotia to commemorate the
one hundredth anniversary of the sinking of the Titanic by The Titanic
100 Society. The Titanic 100 Society is a broad-based initiative whose goal is
to bring together community organizations and partners to strengthen ties with
the legacy of the Titanic and promote the province of Nova Scotia and its
efforts in the aftermath of one of history's greatest nautical disasters.
To help highlight the role Nova Scotia played in the
rescue and recovery operations, the Titanic 100 Society plans to work with
community partners and tourism Nova Scotia to organize events and programs in
2012 to commemorate the centennial of the sinking of the Titanic.
I support the Titanic 100 Society's efforts and I hope
honourable senators will lend their support as well.
Hon. Consiglio Di Nino: Honourable senators, the
mental picture of 16 university professors banding together to oppose
scholarships for children of Canada's soldiers who gave their lives in the
service of others disturbs me.
While the vast majority of Canadians honour the men and
women of the Canadian Forces and consider those who paid the ultimate price as
heroes, these 16 so-called learned people offer a perverse opinion of the
soldiers as tools of "the increasing militarization of Canadian society and
I find their position contemptible and their statement
offensive. They tarnish the excellent reputation of the Canadian Forces. They
demean the goodwill of those who created and ran the Project Hero program, and
they offend Canadian values.
Honourable senators, I am frankly concerned. These
individuals have been entrusted with the education of future Canadian leaders. A
March 27 editorial in The Globe and Mail stated, in part:
. . . there is now a greater probability that one day
the child of a soldier killed in action, a fallen hero, will stand up in
class and challenge the pervasive and doctrinaire leftist analysis of the
mission in Afghanistan.
Hon. Joan Fraser: Honourable senators, I rise again
this year to pay homage and bear witness to journalists who were killed in the
line of duty. Last year, as listed by the Committee to Protect Journalists, 99
journalists lost their lives.
They were: in Afghanistan, Michelle Lang, of Calgary,
Sultan Mohammed Munadi and Jawed Ahmad; in Azerbaijan, Novruzali Mamedov; in
Brazil, José Givonaldo Vieira; in Colombia, José Everado Aguilar, Diego de Jesus
Rojas Velasquez, and Harold Humberto Rivas Quevedo; in the Democratic Republic
of the Congo, Bruno Koko Chirambiza and Bruno Jacquet Ossébi; in El Salvador,
Christian Gregorio Poveda Ruiz; in the Gaza Strip, Basil Ibrahim Faraj; in
Guatemala, Rolando Santiz and Marco Antonio Estrada; in Honduras, Rafael Munguia
Ortiz and Gabriel Fino Noriega; in Indonesia, Anak Agung Prabangsa; in Iran,
Omidreza Mirsayafi; in Iraq, Orhan Hijran, Alaa Abdel-Wahab, Suhaib Adnan and
Haidar Hashim Suhail; in Kazakhstan, Gennady Pavlyuk; in Kenya, Francis Nyaruri;
in Madagascar, Ando Ratovonirina; in Mexico, Bladimir Antuna Garcia, Eliseo
Barron Hernandez, José Emilio Galindo Robles, Norberto Miranda Madrid, Juan
Daniel Martinez Gil, Carlos Ortega Samper, Jean Paul Ibarra Ramirez and José
Alberto Velazquez Lopez; in Nepal, Uma Singh; in Nigeria, Bayo Ohu; in Pakistan,
Janullah Hasimzada, Wasi Ahmad Qureshi, Musa Khankhel, Siddique Bacha Khan, Raja
Assad Hameed, Tahir Awan and Mohammad Imran; in the Phillipines, Henry Araneta,
Vyacheslav Yaroshenko, Godofredo Linao, Mark Gilbert Arriola, Rubello Bataluna,
Arturo Betia, Romeo Jimmy Cabillo, Marites Cablitas, Hannibal Cachuela, Jepon
Cadagdagon, John Caniban, Lea Dalmacio, Noel Decina, Gina Dela Cruz, Jhoy Duhay,
Jolito Evardo, Santos Gatchalian, Bienvenido Legarte Jr., Lindo Lupogan, Ernesto
Maravilla, Rey Merisco, Reynaldo Momay, Marife "Neneng" Montano, Rosell Morales,
Victor Nunez, Ronnie Perante, Joel Parcon, Fernando Razon, Alejandro Reblando,
Napoleon Salaysay, Ian Subang, Andres Teodoro, Daniel Tiamson, Benjie Adolfo,
Crispin Perez, Jojo Trajano, Badrodin Abbas, Ismael Pasigna and Ernie Rolin; in
Russia, Abdulmalik Akhmedilov, Natalya Estemirova, Shafig Amrakhov, Anastasiya
Baburova and Vyacheslav Yaroshenko; in Somalia, Abdulkhafar Abdulkadir, Mohamed
Amin, Hassan Zubeyr, Mukhtar Mohamed Hirabe, Nur Muse Hussein, Mohamud Mohamed
Yusuf, Abdirisak Mohamed Warsame, Said Tahil Ahmed and Hassan Mayow Hassan; in
Sri Lanka, Puniyamoorthy Sathiyamoorthy and Lasantha Wickramatunga; in Turky
Cihan Hayirsevener; and in Venezuela, Orel Sambrano.
Honourable senators, these journalists were shot, stabbed,
decapitated, bombed and beaten to death, all because they were trying to serve
the cause of truth and the cause of telling the people of the world what is
going on in the world. I ask honourable senators to join me in honouring them.
Hon. Tommy Banks: Honourable senators, yesterday my
seatmate, Senator Moore, invited us to join in congratulating the Saint Mary's
Huskies for winning the national Canadian Interuniversity Sport men's hockey
championship. On behalf of my alma mater, the University of Alberta, I wish to
join in those congratulations. For the 18 occasions on which that championship
has been held, the University of Alberta Golden Bears have won the championship
14 times. We only think it is fair — Albertans are always fair — that, every
once in a while, someone else should have a shot.
The Hon. the Speaker: Honourable senators, I wish
to draw your attention to the presence in the gallery of Claire Tunorfé, Deputy
Mayor of the city of Lamentin, Martinique, representing Claude Lise, President
of the Martinique General Council and Senator of the French Republic; Jacques
Cornano, President of the International Commission of the Guadaloupe General
Council, Mayor of the city of Marie-Galante, and Deputy Member of the French
Republic; and Roland Rosillette, president of PLAC 21, an NGO.
They are guests of the Honourable Senator Losier-Cool. On
behalf of all senators, I welcome you to the Senate of Canada.
The Hon. the Speaker: Honourable senators, I have
the honour to table the 2009 annual report of the Canadian Human Rights
Tribunal, entitled: Ensuring equal access to the opportunities of Canadian
society through efficient, fair and equitable adjudication, pursuant to
subsection 61(4) of the Canadian Human Rights Act.
The Hon. the Speaker: Honourable senators, I have
the honour to table the 2009 annual report of the Canadian Human Rights
Commission, pursuant to section 61 of the Canadian Human Rights Act and section
32 of the Employment Equity Act.
Hon. Catherine S. Callbeck: Honourable senators, my
question is for the Leader of the Government in the Senate. The Canadian Council
on Learning is one of Canada's foremost researchers in education, and this
morning they held a round table in Ottawa where they discussed such important
topics as lifetime learning, literacy and post-secondary education.
The council's input is considered valuable to
policy-makers in this country. In fact, when we started our study in the Social
Affairs Committee on post-secondary education, the council's president, Dr. Paul
Cappon, was one of our first panellists. However, in January the council was
told that its funding was cancelled. They have indicated that they will try to
continue, but it will be on a much smaller scale.
Why did the federal government cancel the funding of the
Canadian Council on Learning?
Hon. Marjory LeBreton (Leader of the Government):
Honourable senators, there is a big difference between cancelling something and
having a program's term expire. The Canadian Council on Learning was provided
with one-time funding of $85 million in 2004. It has always been clear that the
funding would expire after five years, which took them to 2009. The funding
agreement was extended by our government for an extra year to March 31, 2010, to
ensure maximum impact and also to allow the council to wind up its work.
We are committed to value for taxpayers' dollars and
understand the need for stronger learning and labour market information systems.
Employers, workers and economists have all told us that
there is a need for better information that is more aligned with labour market
demand. We are focused on working with the provinces, territories and
stakeholders on the creation of better labour market information.
The previous government had a plan for this program to run
for five years. We extended it for one year. Simply because a program is put in
place, does not mean it has to stay in place for perpetuity.
Senator Callbeck: I would think if a program was in
existence and doing good work that this government would want to continue it.
The council was created in 2004 after cross-country
consultations. Some of those consultation participants were from the federal,
provincial and territorial governments, as well as education, business and
It is widely agreed that lifetime learning is essential to
make Canada a leader in innovation and skills. The council has a proven track
record. In fact, last year, the Secretary-General of the OECD was so impressed
that he wrote to the Prime Minister and praised the government for supporting
Would the Leader of the Government in the Senate impress
upon the Minister of Human Resources and Skills Development the good work that
the council is doing and ask that the minister consider funding this important
Senator LeBreton: Honourable senators, my answer is
clear. It is true that the council did some good work. As was the case with the
previous government when they consulted people to set up the council, our
government consulted with, as I mentioned a moment ago, employers, workers,
economists and people in the labour market and they have advised that we should
work on another model to better meet the demands of 2010 and forward.
Hon. Rose-Marie Losier-Cool: Honourable senators,
we learned yesterday that Canada will pay $100 million for the right to sit on
the Interim Haitian Recovery Commission that is due to be announced this week in
As Senator Fortin-Duplessis said in an inquiry, Canadians
have been very generous to Haiti since the earthquake struck in January. They
have already made $113 million in private donations.
My question for the Leader of the Government in the Senate
is this: is the $100 million Canada will pay to sit on the Interim Haiti
Recovery Commission part of the federal government's promised $113 million in
matching funds, or is this $100 million in addition to the $113 million?
Hon. Marjory LeBreton (Leader of the Government):
Honourable senators, the government was well pleased with the commitment of
ordinary Canadians when they made their donations to Haiti. The matching funds,
of course, will be spent directly in Haiti for the development and
reconstruction of Haiti. I do not have the breakdown because we still do not
know exactly what will be required but we are working with the Haitian
With regard to the reports that the honourable senator
cites, I will take her question as notice and seek further clarification.
Senator Losier-Cool: If the $100 million is in
addition, the government should check what proportion of that $100 million will
go directly to assistance on the ground in Haiti.
Here is perhaps the most important part of my question: as
a woman who is aware of the very important role women play in disadvantaged
countries that are recovering from a crisis, like Haiti, I would like to know
whether the $100 million entry fee Canada will pay to sit on the interim
commission will give Canada real oversight over the reconstruction activities in
Haiti and not just a symbolic role.
I am especially interested in two aspects. The first is
gender- based analysis in reconstruction projects. The second is targeted
assistance for female parliamentarians in Haiti to help them resume their
activities as soon as possible.
Senator LeBreton: Honourable senators, obviously
Canada took an important lead and responded immediately to the plight of our
Haitian neighbours after the disastrous earthquake on January 12. As I
mentioned, the Government of Canada very much appreciated the generosity of
Canadians and, of course, will provide matching funds for the reconstruction of
With regard to the reported entry fee, as Senator
Losier-Cool called it, I did say that I would seek further clarification. I
believe there are meetings taking place within the next couple of days.
With regard to women, I do not think it is any surprise to
anyone who has ever been to Haiti — and I have been there on several occasions —
to observe that women undoubtedly play a huge role in Haitian society and did so
especially in the activities following the earthquake. With respect to the
distribution of aid after the earthquake, aid workers finally made the decision
to distribute the aid and coupons to the Haitian women because the workers could
rely on them to get the food to where it was needed, namely to their families.
I will take Senator Losier-Cool's question as notice. I
cannot imagine any reconstruction or efforts in Haiti that would not involve
women in a significant way. Of course, this was further reinforced by Her
Excellency the Governor General when she went to Haiti and met with women's
groups and also underscored the important role women will play in the
reconstruction of Haiti.
Hon. James S. Cowan (Leader of the Opposition):
Honourable senators, I want to return to the topic that Senator Callbeck raised
with the Leader of the Government in the Senate a few moments ago, which dealt
with the failure to renew and continue the funding for the Canadian Council on
The leader said, as she has often said, that just because
a program is in place under a previous government does not mean that this
government, which was elected with different political priorities, must
continue. We understand that. However, this is an organization that is
universally recognized as a leader in the analysis and production of research on
lifelong learning and educational issues. The leader said in her response that
this was as a result of consultations with provinces, educators and others that
the government was moving from this very successful model to another one. Would
the minister articulate what that model is?
Hon. Marjory LeBreton (Leader of the Government):
Honourable senators, I do not know why it comes as a great surprise to the
Canadian Council on Learning. The council was well aware that after five years
of funding, from 2004 to 2009, and after receiving an extension of one year by
our government to complete any work they were doing, that the funding was
ending. The council received this information one year ago. Why would the
council suddenly think that they could go back and ask for another year?
With regard to the recommendations the government has
received about where the next focus should be, I will be happy to seek to
provide Senator Cowan with more information.
Senator Cowan: My question was not whether the
Canadian Council on Learning was surprised, disappointed or delighted about the
failure to renew. My question is: Why would the government move from a
successful model to no model? One could understand if the government claimed the
previous government's model was found lacking and that they had chosen a more
efficient model. Honourable senators, this government has done no such thing.
Surely, the leader would not suggest that a government do analysis and research
for five years and then simply stop. Analysis and research is a continuing
The other point that is important is the government quite
properly has taken great credit for the amount of money they poured into
infrastructure and universities last year. Those of us on this side were
supportive of those investments. However, we did say there had to be another
side to it. It is not simply enough to fund the infrastructure; one must fund
what goes on in the infrastructure and obviously one must analyze and research
the efficacy of what is done in those facilities. That is the missing part of
I urge the leader to call on her colleagues to reverse the
decision they took with respect to the Canadian Council on Learning and put in
place an even better model quickly, and sooner rather than later.
Senator LeBreton: Honourable senators, I can only
repeat what I have said. Employers, workers and economists have told us there is
a need for better information that is more aligned with labour market demands.
We are focused on working with those experts, the provinces and territories and
the stakeholders on the creation of better labour market information.
Senator Cowan talks about infrastructure and the
honourable senator is correct. The government, through the stimulus package, put
incredible sums of money into infrastructure and also into research and
development, so much so that we have had university heads, people like Allan
Rock and Lloyd Axworthy, praise the government for its commitment to monies that
have been directed to universities for these types of programs.
Hon. Jim Munson: Honourable senators, my question
is for the Leader of the Government in the Senate. April 2 is World Autism
Awareness Day, and I listened closely to the recent budget speech, hoping to
hear that there would be increased support for families dealing with autism
spectrum disorders, known as ASD. The word "autism" was not mentioned in the
There is a conservative estimate across our country that
autism affects one in 150 families, yet Canada does not have a national strategy
to understand this disorder. Canada does not have a strategy to diagnose it,
prevent it or help families and people with ASD participate fully in our
We all know that autism is a costly condition that is
bankrupting Canadian families. We are aware that autism imposes a huge burden on
society. Canada's response, in my view, is not up to the challenge and we need
to take action. We need a national strategy. When will we get one?
Hon. Marjory LeBreton (Leader of the Government):
Honourable senators, as Senator Munson noted in his question, the Government of
Canada has recognized April 2 as World Autism Awareness Day. Many honourable
senators know of families who are living with autism. We have colleagues in our
own caucus who have autistic children. A member of my own family has an autistic
son. We strive to work with families, service providers and policy-makers to
provide the best service and information to help them improve their quality of
In October 2007, as honourable senators are well aware, we
announced the creation of a national chair in autism research and intervention
to support research regarding interventions for individuals with autism, with a
federal investment in that chair of $1 million. As well, the Canadian Institutes
of Health Research has also provided $21.5 million to research effective
treatments and cures for autism. All of these measures are breaking new ground
and leading the way to assist families dealing with the terrible situation they
face with autism.
Senator Munson: I thank the leader for that answer.
I hate to inform the leader of bad news in regard to her statement about funding
for Simon Fraser University. I have asked these questions over the last year
and, of course, as the leader just mentioned, the government promised to spend
$1 million for a national research chair at Simon Fraser University. I have been
informed by the university that the promised $1 million has been sent back. The
university searched for a chair but the individual they wanted chose a
university in Seattle, I believe. They could not find a suitable candidate to
fill this position.
A promise was made, the money was sent, and now it has
been sent back. Some of the reasons are unclear for the return of the money, but
the chair was never established. Knowing that the money was returned to the
federal government, can the Leader of the Government in the Senate tell
honourable senators how this money is being used? Has the $1 million been used
to fund research or to help families with children of autism? What has happened
with the announced funding for research in autism at Simon Fraser University?
Senator LeBreton: Honourable senators, I will take
the honourable senator's question as notice. I was not aware of the situation
and I thank the honourable senator for providing the information. I will find
out if the university returned the money. If the government is searching for a
new chair, that is disappointing news. However, it does not take away from the
$21.5 million of funding through the Canadian Institutes of Health Research,
which provides research on autism for families with autistic children.
Senator Munson: I thank the leader for that answer.
I hope that the $1 million can be spent elsewhere in the autistic community.
Once again, prominent members across this country, from doctors to individuals
involved in the autism world have said repeatedly that we need a national
strategy. I hoped that this government would follow the example of President
Obama, who has declared that autism is a top public health priority in the
When will this government establish a division for autism
within the Public Health Agency of Canada so that we can track it and give it
the attention it deserves as it grows in epidemic proportions?
Senator LeBreton: As honourable senators know,
health services are delivered by the provinces and territories. I appreciate
Senator Munson's compelling argument for a national strategy just as we have
national strategies for cancer. However, honourable senators, I am not in a
position to advise Senator Munson today on what discussions Health Canada, the
provinces and the territories have had in an effort to focus exclusively on
autism. I will take the question as notice.
Hon. Bill Rompkey: Honourable senators, my question
is for the Leader of the Government in the Senate. Yesterday, Minister Cannon
hosted a meeting in Quebec of the five nations that ring the Arctic Ocean in
regard to the future of the Arctic. Not all nations on the Arctic Council were
included. Most importantly, there was no Aboriginal representation at the
meeting. It seems that Minister Cannon lost a great opportunity to say to the
world that because the Inuit, who are Canadians, have lived in the Arctic for
thousands of years, this is their territory. The foreign minister from Norway
informs me that when he is at such meetings, he has someone from the Sami
community next to him at the meetings.
Why were the Inuit, whose homeland was being discussed,
and whose future will be more affected than anybody else's future, not invited
to the meeting yesterday?
Hon. Marjory LeBreton (Leader of the Government):
Honourable senators, Minister Cannon supports Canada's hard work in the North
and believes Northerners play a fundamental role in Canada's Arctic sovereignty
strategy. Minister Cannon spoke with the territorial premiers and the leaders of
Arctic indigenous organizations in advance of Monday's meeting. He made it clear
that the meeting was specifically for those countries that share a coastline on
the Arctic Ocean. The Danish Minister for Foreign Affairs and Chair of the
Arctic Council, Lene Espersen, will brief other members of the Arctic Council on
discussions at the summit. The meeting was for attendance by countries that have
a coastline on the Arctic Ocean, including Canada, the United States, Denmark,
Norway and Russia. The meeting does not undermine in any way the role of the
Arctic Council or the role that the government expects to play with its Northern
territorial premiers and indigenous leaders in the ongoing policies on the
Senator Rompkey: The minister is aware that the
Inuit have lived on that coastline longer than any people from any other nation.
I will read to the honourable leader comments made by U.S. Secretary of State
Hillary Clinton. She said:
Significant international discussions on Arctic issues
should include those who have legitimate interests in the region and I hope
the Arctic will always showcase our ability to work together, not create new
We need all hands on deck because there is a huge
amount to do, and not much time to do it. What happens in the Arctic will
have broad consequences for the earth and its climate.
The main point was that we need everyone at the table.
There should be no divisions and no exclusions. This effort should be a
collective one. I hope the honourable leader will encourage Minister Cannon to
invite Aboriginal people to the table in future.
Senator LeBreton: Honourable senators, I noted
Secretary of State Clinton's comments. I saw her on the national news extolling
the virtues of the meeting and what was achieved.
Do not read anything into this meeting that was not there.
The meeting was only for the countries that share the Arctic coastline with
Canada. The involvement of the Inuit, territorial officials and all indigenous
people of the North is part of the government's strategy. This government is
addressing issues such as northern sovereignty, and is working with our northern
neighbours to ensure that they play a large role in any economic development,
which we hope is significant in the North. This government has done more work in
the North, and provided more support for the North and northern sovereignty,
than has been done since John Diefenbaker was prime minister.
Hon. Tommy Banks: Honourable senators, my question
is for the Leader of the Government in the Senate. I wish to pay her a
compliment, which I will try to frame as a question. Two weeks ago, I asked the
leader about trials undertaken by Health Canada with respect to the use of
Avastin in the treatment of glioblastoma. Last week, Health Canada approved that
treatment under certain conditions. Can we assume that is a result of the
efficacy of asking the leader questions in the chamber?
Senator Day: Take credit.
Hon. Marjory LeBreton (Leader of the Government):
That is right, Senator Banks. Why not?
I did appreciate the question and the opportunity to get
the information from Health Canada. It underscored, honourable senators, a
serious concern that the government is trying to address, which is how to break
the logjam on approval of pharmaceuticals that have been tied up in the process
for far too long.
I know that Health Canada is trying to work toward not
having people who need such important medications wait so long for the approval
process when those medications could save their lives.
Hon. Gerald J. Comeau (Deputy Leader of the Government)
moved third reading of Bill C-6, An Act for granting to Her Majesty certain sums
of money for the federal public administration for the financial year ending
March 31, 2010.
Hon. Joseph A. Day: Honourable senators, we have
debated Bill C-6 and the Supplementary Estimates (C), together with the report
that was filed and passed in this chamber in the latter part of last week, so
honourable senators will be familiar with this particular matter. However, since
we are dealing with two supply bills at the same time, permit me to touch on a
few of the highlights.
First, honourable senators are being asked to authorize
the government to spend $1.8 billion by voting this particular bill. That is
voted expenditures, honourable senators. There is also information in this bill
for statutory spending of $4.3 billion. It is for information purposes; we have
already approved this previously. Therefore, the total that is in the
Supplementary Estimates (C), of which this bill is reflective, is $6.1 billion.
There are two points in these particular estimates that
are worth recalling. One is the forgiveness of $450 million in aggregated loans
to the Islamic Republic of Pakistan. That was moved from a loan category to a
forgiveness grant category as a result of the fine work done by the Standing
Senate Committee on National Finance in raising the issue.
The second is with respect to relief in Haiti. For the
one-month period when the federal government undertook to match grants by
individuals in Canada, $135 million was raised by Canadian citizens for this
relief. That is a wonderful tribute to the Canadian people. The federal
government will match that, so there is an anticipated $270 million that will be
forthcoming under that initiative alone, and there are other initiatives.
In these supplementary estimates that are before us, CIDA
has requested $56 million from this particular program of the matching Haiti
Earthquake Relief Fund. Honourable senators should know, because there were
questions on this earlier, that none of that money has been disbursed yet. We
will see the rest of the matching funds, up to $135 million, in subsequent
supplementary estimates. Permission has not even been asked for by the
In summary, honourable senators, you are being asked to
approve $1.8 billion in this particular Bill C-6. This is third reading.
The Hon. the Speaker: Is it your pleasure,
honourable senators, to adopt the motion?
Hon. Senators: Agreed.
Some Hon. Senators: On division.
(Motion agreed to and bill read third time and passed, on
Hon. Gerald J. Comeau (Deputy Leader of the Government)
moved third reading of Bill C-7, An Act for granting to Her Majesty certain sums
of money for the federal public administration for the financial year ending
March 31, 2011.
Hon. Joseph A. Day: Honourable senators, this,
again, is third reading of another supply bill. This is interim supply for a
three- month period from April 1 to the end of June. The government is seeking
permission to spend $27.2 billion in that three-month period. This compares
fairly closely to last year's interim supply of $26.8 billion.
The total balance of the voted expenditures that the
government is seeking in the Main Estimates for this particular fiscal year is
$96.2 billion of voted, and $165 billion statutory, honourable senators. Before
the end of June, we will be called upon to vote the rest of the main supply.
In the interim, I expect that we will be receiving a
Supplementary Estimates (A) for more funds reflective of the initiatives in the
budget, because the budget is not reflected in these mains.
Honourable senators, at this time, you are being requested
to vote interim funding in the amount of $26.8 billion. This is third reading.
The Hon. the Speaker: Is it your pleasure,
honourable senators, to adopt the motion?
Hon. Senators: Agreed.
Some Hon. Senators: On division.
(Motion agreed to and bill read third time and passed, on
Resuming debate on the inquiry of the Honourable
Senator Comeau calling the attention of the Senate to the budget entitled,
Leading the Way on Jobs and Growth, tabled in the House of Commons on
March 4, 2010, by the Minister of Finance, the Honourable James M. Flaherty,
P.C., M.P., and in the Senate on March 9, 2010.
Hon. Percy Mockler: Honourable senators, I have the
honour and the pleasure of speaking to the 2010 budget.
I would be remiss if I did not first highlight and thank
our Leader in the Senate for her dedication, which has enabled us to advance
Prime Minister Stephen Harper's vision of improving the quality of Canadians'
lives, regardless of the province or territory in which they live.
In the words of Prime Minister Harper, in these difficult
economic times, it is more important than ever to protect Canadian families. It
should be remembered that, even before the global economic crisis, our
Conservative government was already putting programs in place to help families.
Furthermore, we have been innovative and even ingenious, as demonstrated by the
assistance provided to families through the universal child care benefit of
$1,200 per year, or the $2,000 children's fitness tax credit.
Also consider the tax break for parents who enrol their
children in sports.
Honourable senators, despite the recession, our government
has never stopped caring about Canadian families from coast to coast to coast.
Furthermore, in order to support and improve our fellow Canadians' quality of
life, we introduced a temporary home renovation tax credit worth $1,350, which
has been a tremendous success and created and maintained jobs in New Brunswick,
and in all provinces and territories.
In addition, we cannot overlook the assistance provided to
young families when purchasing their first home or property using their RRSPs or
the tax credit. No matter what our opponents may say, we will continue to create
mechanisms that ensure a better quality of life for all Canadians.
When we consulted Canadian families, they told us they
wanted our government, Stephen Harper's Conservative government, to continue
focusing on the economy and pursuing public safety priorities in all communities
Honourable senators, some people have a goal. Some people
strive to find a plan. Some people think that they have a plan and they do have
a goal. However, not everyone can execute a plan.
Our government is delivering an action plan. Honourable
senators, I want to say that I entered public life because I am a firm believer
that, on this side of the house, we need to share the wealth of Canada from
coast to coast to coast.
Senator Mercer: Tell the Prime Minister that!
Senator Mockler: Honourable senators, let us
remember Budget 2009, because it was in that budget that Prime Minister Harper
laid the foundation to weather our economy's biggest economic meltdown. He
introduced Canada's Economic Action Plan in that budget, and, yes, he
delivered for Canadians, regardless of where we live in our country.
Honourable senators, our government listened and
delivered. We are still delivering in Budget 2010.
Honourable senators, I stand in the Senate chamber to
congratulate the Prime Minister and the government for a job well done in
balancing the needs of New Brunswickers and Canadians during this time of global
economic recovery, and to be mindful, honourable senators, of the long-term
financial security for our country, regardless of where we live.
Honourable senators, Budget 2010 will keep Canada and New
Brunswick focused. Our country is on track to recover faster and end up in
better financial condition than the rest of the world. There is no doubt in my
mind, honourable senators, that our manageable debt and our workforce, which is
better prepared, will help Canada lead the way in the global economic recovery.
Our government's insight into and understanding of what
makes our economy work will continue to be recognized in the future as we move
ahead of all other countries.
Canadians are proud people and I want to share this pride
with honourable senators. We are proud we have the lowest debt-to- GDP ratio in
the G8. We are proud that Canada's decline in the real GDP was virtually the
smallest of all G8 countries. We are proud our Canadian labour markets have
fared much better than our neighbour to the south. Canadians are proud because
Canada's banks and financial institutions have not been bailed out. We are proud
because we are acknowledged as having the soundest banking system in the world.
We are proud that Canada's housing market is stable and provides stability for
the most vulnerable in our society.
Senator Cordy: Thank you, Jean Chrétien.
Senator Mockler: We are proud, honourable senators,
that our action plan helps Canadian families to create jobs and it pumps more
money into our communities and in New Brunswick, regardless of where we live.
Honourable senators, I am proud to share and examine
Budget 2010 and what it represents for New Brunswick.
Our government's specific goal is to strike a fair balance
in order to meet the needs of Canadians during this period of economic recovery
and to aim for long-term financial security for all New Brunswickers.
There is no way around it; regardless of what our critics
say, phase two will help us, in New Brunswick, to solidify our economic
recovery. Several hundred million dollars will be invested in our communities.
Honourable senators, New Brunswick is saying "yes" to
Budget 2010 because equalization payments will reach $1.6 billion, which is an
increase of $233 million over 2005-06. New Brunswick is saying "yes" to funding
to the tune of $580 million, or $23 million more than last year in health alone.
New Brunswick is saying "yes" to $246 million in social program transfers, a $34
million increase over 2005-06. New Brunswick is saying "yes" to $12 million in
public safety funding for police recruiting and training.
Honourable senators, New Brunswickers say "yes" to year
two of Canada's Economic Action Plan because it will provide over $63
million in personal income tax relief in 2010-11 to help the hard- working
families of New Brunswick.
New Brunswickers are saying "yes" to Budget 2010 because
of $32 million per year for the federal research granting councils to support
advanced research and improve marketing. New Brunswickers are saying "yes" to
Budget 2010 because of $8 million per year to support the indirect costs of
federal sponsored research at post-secondary institutions. New Brunswickers are
saying "yes" to Budget 2010 because it provides $15 million per year to double
the budget of our community colleges in innovation programs, which foster
research collaboration between businesses and researchers. New Brunswickers are
saying "yes" to this budget because of the creation of the new Canada
Postdoctoral Fellowships Program to help attract the best researchers to Canada.
This is another of our Prime Minister's great visions.
Now, let me share with honourable senators the positive
impact of Budget 2010 and what it means for our businesses and communities in
New Brunswick. I will take this as a prime example: First, forestry companies in
New Brunswick and across Canada could be eligible for the Next Generation
Renewable Power Initiative. We know the future is all about energy. The
government will invest $100 million over the next four years to support the
development, marketing and implementation of advanced clean energy technology in
the forestry sector — a great step in the right direction.
Second, regarding innovation, small and medium-sized
businesses in New Brunswick will benefit from the new small and medium-sized
enterprise innovation marketing program. It is a two-year, $40 million pilot
initiative through which federal departments and agencies will adopt and
demonstrate the use of innovative prototype projects and technologies developed
by small and medium-sized businesses in the province of New Brunswick.
Third, communities and businesses in New Brunswick will
benefit from $19 million per year — and we know what $19 million per year means
in Atlantic Canada — in ongoing funding for the Atlantic Canada Opportunities
Agency, ACOA. Honourable senators, this vision is a step in the right direction.
Fourth, honourable senators, it is remarkable that ten
Community Futures organizations in New Brunswick will benefit from the $11
million per year in ongoing resources provided in Budget 2010 for the Community
Futures Program. The program is delivered by ACOA in New Brunswick. I want to
share with honourable senators today a "hats off" to Minister Keith Ashfield,
who has done a remarkable job for Atlantic Canada.
Honourable senators, on this side of the Senate chamber,
we are proud that our government has held true to its commitment of stimulating
economic growth and of creating and protecting jobs. This commitment is
continued in the second phase of our economic action plan. People do not care,
honourable senators, about who we are until they know what we care for.
There is no doubt in my mind that Canada cannot afford a
tax- and-spend approach to managing government. Budget 2010 shows New
Brunswickers and Canadians, from coast to coast to coast, that we can be the
best and that we can manage without mortgaging the future of our children and
The Prime Minister has a clear vision to be responsible,
reasonable and steadfast. We must all strive, honourable senators, regardless of
where we live to make Canada — our provinces and territories — for a better
place to live; a better place to work; a better place to raise our children; and
a better place to reach out to the most vulnerable.
In closing, honourable senators, as Prime Minister Harper
always says, we have to continue making Canada the best place for our families.
Yes, like Prime Minister Harper, we must continue "making
Canada the best place for our families."
Hon. Lowell Murray: Honourable senators, I propose
to move adjournment of the debate. However, before I make that motion — if there
is time — I ask the Honourable Senator Mockler whether there is room in the
vision for the implementation of the Honourable Keith Ashfield's commitment to
remove the tolls from the Saint John Harbour Bridge.
Hon. Suzanne Fortin-Duplessis (The Hon. the Acting
Speaker): Do honourable senators wish to give Senator Mockler more time?
Hon. Senators: Agreed.
Senator Mockler: Honourable senators, I would like
to thank Senator Murray for this question. This is a very important question.
In my former life, I was the Minister of Transport for New
Brunswick. I must tell you that the best transport agreement New Brunswick ever
signed with the Government of Canada was that signed by the previous Bernard
Lord government. That government cared about the people of New Brunswick as a
Senator Murray, it was the most important agreement ever
seen in the history of New Brunswick. Signed by whom? By Bernard Lord, for over
$400 million. With whom? With Stephen Harper's government.
I do not need to take any lessons from the current New
Brunswick government. When it comes to responsibilities, Canada's Conservative
government will continue to shoulder its own.
Hon. Fernand Robichaud: I have a supplementary
question for Senator Mockler. Could he respond to Senator Murray's question?
Hon. Gerald J. Comeau (Deputy Leader of the
Government), pursuant to notice of March 25, 2010, moved:
That the proceedings on the Order of the Day for
resuming the debate on the motion for the Address in reply to Her Excellency
the Governor General's Speech from the Throne addressed to both Houses of
Parliament be concluded no later than Wednesday, April 14, 2010.
Resuming debate on the motion of the Honourable
Senator Poirier, seconded by the Honourable Senator Runciman:
That the following Address be presented to Her
Excellency the Governor General of Canada:
To Her Excellency the Right Honourable Michaëlle Jean,
Chancellor and Principal Companion of the Order of Canada, Chancellor and
Commander of the Order of Military Merit, Chancellor and Commander of the
Order of Merit of the Police Forces, Governor General and Commander-in-Chief
MAY IT PLEASE YOUR EXCELLENCY:
We, Her Majesty's most loyal and dutiful subjects, the
Senate of Canada in Parliament assembled, beg leave to offer our humble
thanks to Your Excellency for the gracious Speech which Your Excellency has
addressed to both Houses of Parliament.
Hon. Grant Mitchell: Honourable senators, I want to
say how much I enjoyed Senator Mockler's speech for two reasons. First, it was
so much more pleasant to have him standing there speaking properly than sitting
in his chair yelling at me and others. Second, it was, for the most part, a
wonderful outline of a tremendous Liberal government record. It was all about
how strong the banks are and how well Canada has been managed economically.
That was all in error before we received the $58 billion
mortgage that Senator Mockler says he does not want to leave our children. The
government has already mortgaged our children for an extra $58 billion. That
deficit is unacceptable, and it has occurred because this government does not
know how to manage. I also think that is reflected to some extent in the Throne
Speech and budget.
I was interested in Senator Finley's speech recently. He
said that the Liberals had not criticized the budget very much. It hit me the
moment he said that, of course, it is true because there is nothing in the
budget. It is exceptionally light. The Throne Speech is even lighter. I look at
it on my desk and I almost have to put a paperweight on it so it does not float
I would like to talk a little about the lightness of being
Conservative in this era of government in Canada. That is my focus on the Throne
Speech. I may just roll into the budget a little bit.
Before I begin, I would like to say that my colleagues on
the Standing Senate Committee on Energy, the Environment and Natural Resources
had a wonderful experience in Vancouver at the Globe 2010 conference. It was
outstandingly good for many reasons. It left me with great impressions of what
is going on in British Columbia because there is strong leadership on climate
change and on the environment in that province.
We saw, for example, the electrical grid control structure
for the entire province. Senator Neufeld organized that great experience. It is
state of the art, perhaps some of the best in the world. It is outstanding and
very important for the efficiency of electricity development, production and
distribution in that province.
We also heard of the policy stating that the British
Columbia government will be carbon neutral, and where they cannot do it
themselves, it will be carbon neutral by finding other places, people or
businesses — farmers, for example — to reduce carbon emissions on their behalf.
They will buy that service. That is what a credit, allocations and offset market
is all about. You buy the service to offset emissions. They have set up a group
to work with industry and agriculture to develop those offsets, so they are
investing money directly in businesses in clean tech in the future so that it
can be done effectively.
They have programs to promote clean and green tech. VANOC
maintained the highest of environmental standards. I believe it was said they
had the single most environmentally safe building in the world at this time.
That province is driving forward and providing leadership.
We came away with the impression that although a great
deal is being done, but that it is nowhere near enough. We understand that every
level of government needs leadership. In fact, the federal government must play
a profound role in this leadership.
I would like to note that for eight years, Senator Neufeld
was involved as energy minister in that province. He was involved in much of
that development. I want to put on record that I am impressed by what he and his
colleagues did. He should be congratulated for having done it. It is tremendous.
They have also priced carbon. Economists and business
leaders are saying that you have to have a price, one way or another, or
businesses cannot deal with it. They want it, and they were at that conference
saying: Tell us what you want us to do; we are ready to do it, but we need
leadership. There is a huge vacuum. They are not getting it.
I spoke with Gordon Campbell, the premier, to whom I would
give a great deal of the credit for that kind of leadership, and the Mayor of
Vancouver, Gregor Robertson, was there as well. They are doing tremendous
You can see the energy and the twinkle in Gordon
Campbell's eyes. He can see his province's future and is prepared to take it
there. If only we could see that in the federal Conservative government, but we
have seen none of it, particularly when it comes to climate change.
I know it is perhaps cliché and obvious that great leaders
seek out great challenges, but it is not obvious to this government. Great
leaders are defined by great challenges. You cannot be a great leader without a
great challenge. This is one of the greatest challenges that this country has
ever faced, and where is the Prime Minister of this country? He has run. He is
hiding. I have this image of him sitting in his hotel room in Copenhagen because
he is not of any importance to that conference.
I was struck by the fact that President Obama met with 19
world leaders in Copenhagen, and he did not meet with our Prime Minister. Can
you imagine in the past the presidents of the United States being at a
conference anywhere in the world and not meeting with Prime Minister Pearson,
Prime Minister Trudeau, Prime Minister Mulroney, Prime Minister Chrétien, or
Prime Minister Martin? It is almost incomprehensible to imagine such a thing.
Do you know what they were saying in Copenhagen? They were
saying, Canada, could you please get out of the room so we can get some work
That is what we have come to. We have some of the best
carbon capture and storage technology in the world, but it is not properly
developed. Do you know who China signed the agreement with on carbon capture and
storage? It was not with Canada. It was with the United States. Canada had never
gone to the trouble of creating a relationship until the Prime Minister visited
about five years after the last time we visited. During that visit, something
almost unprecedented happened: the Chinese premier scolded our Prime Minister
internationally in a press conference. Can you imagine what that does to our
credibility, and why that happened? Can you imagine why they signed with the
United States and not with Canada? It is pathetic. The future of this country
and our economy has a great deal to do with what will happen in China and in
India, and we are not very much a part of it because this government has lost
sight, if it ever had it, of what needs to be done in those countries.
Let us look specifically at climate change. When I look at
the Throne Speech and the budget, I am reminded of the absence of anything on
climate change — 12 lines in 23 pages of the Throne Speech, and only four
mentions in the pages of the budget document.
What has happened? The government has no consistency at
all in its objectives. It set objectives under its Clean Air Act of 50 per cent
reductions by 2020 and, of course, it overruled those. It came out with new
targets of 20 per cent reductions of 2006 by 2020, and then shortly after that,
it came out with 17 per cent reductions of 2005 by 2020, but it makes you wonder
whether they want to do that at all.
Then one looks at what they have or do not have in the
budget. One can see, for example, that they have been appointing climate change
skeptics to science granting boards. That is enlightened. They have stopped the
budget for the Canadian Foundation for Climate and Atmospheric Sciences
Commission, which is the main funding body for university research on climate in
Canada. They are not renewing funding for the Polar Environment Atmospheric
Research Laboratory, which is known internationally for its effective data
gathering and scientific work in the North on climate change. They are muzzling
Environment Canada scientists, so if there ever was a hope of getting better
explanation out to Canadians so they can understand and embrace the nature of
this problem, it is diminished by the fact these people cannot speak.
When it comes to renewable energy, for example, there is
no new funding for the ecoENERGY program. That program has been very successful
in generating and attracting more investment in renewable energy, such as wind
energy. It is gone. They have not renewed it.
The United States is outspending us 18 to 1 per capita.
They know where the future is, namely, clean energy, energy that, in our case,
can be blended with fossil fuel energy if it is done properly. That is where the
world is going, and we are not going with it.
Two thirds of the energy fund has gone to carbon capture
and storage, which is not all bad. The problem is the Conservatives have a
target of 17 per cent reduction by 2020. That is less than 10 years. Carbon
capture and storage cannot be in place in magnitude in less than 10 years.
You have one small plan. You have put $100 million over
four years — $25 million a year — into forestry renewable energy. That is great.
You put $20 million extra money into the Prime Minister's Office. He is getting
$20 million and renewable energy is getting slightly more. I know there is a lot
of hot air over in that office, but I am not sure it deserves $20 million,
particularly if the forestry industry is getting only $25 million, and other
industries like the clean tech and renewable energy industries are not getting
anything. What are you thinking?
They will say they have the Green Infrastructure Fund. It
is not clear exactly what that will be going into, but it is $200 million a
year. The bulk of that $200 million a year, among other things, is going into
waste water and waste infrastructure. Those are all useful things, but they are
doing nothing for climate change.
This government has a problem that it cannot acknowledge
and will not acknowledge. It cannot see the huge economic potential. It cannot
see that there is a huge economic cost in not doing something about climate
change. It cannot see what I and others believe, that we will have growth as
good as or even better than business as usual. Why can the government not seem
to grasp that?
Honourable senators, I have talked about this before. Part
of the reason is that the ideology of the Conservative government is to hate
government. This is seen all the time. It is seen in its being remiss, for
example. The federal government does not want to meet with the premiers. The
Prime Minister has met once with the premiers in four years. In fact, he then
lamented the fact that Quebec argued a different position at Copenhagen. Why
would it not? Quebec never got to sit down with the other premiers and work out
a position together. The government's neglect is also seen in the fact they did
not want to initiate a stimulus package, and it is certainly seen in the fact
that they do not want to do anything at all on climate change.
Honourable senators, there is another reason: There are
huge elements in the Conservative caucus who do not believe in climate change.
Maxime Bernier made the case that many members of the caucus probably agree
with, otherwise they would be fired. If not, why would he still be in the
caucus? I could imagine some things Mr. Bernier could have said about other
positions and he would have been out right now; particularly since he had that
problem a year or two ago.
Maxime Bernier is the poster boy. He is almost the
official spokesperson for the Conservative government. He absolutely is and he
says what so many people somehow believe. He says that climate change is
happening, but it is not happening because of human activity. I want to say to
the people who believe climate change is happening but not because of human
activity that they better be very afraid. If we are not causing it, then we
cannot fix it. Unless they think they can tinker with sunspots — because that is
always what is claimed — and just stop the increase in heat at the right moment,
which I do not think we can, then we will have real problems. They had better
pray we are causing climate change, because then we have a chance of fixing it —
but we have to start now.
Honourable senators, the other thing that climate change
deniers say is that they do not believe the science. The deniers have been able
to take a small piece of evidence in a room full of scientific data, such as
that from the University of East Anglia, and discredit the whole room, even
though it has been re- established in its credibility by a third party such as
The Guardian. Honourable senators will be pleased to know that is a
right-wing newspaper. It is like me taking the National Post and saying
there are four words in this newspaper that are wrong. I suppose that ruins the
credibility of the National Post and the whole thing should be thrown
The fact is that those who argue against the science never
respond with science to prove humans are not causing climate change. They never
can find a scientific way to destroy that. Even though there are natural causes,
they can never show that those natural causes account for the full scientific
May I have another five minutes?
The Hon. the Acting Speaker: Senator Mitchell's
speaking time has run out.
Senator Mitchell: I ask for leave to extend my time
by five minutes.
The Hon. the Acting Speaker: Is leave granted,
Hon. Senators: Agreed.
Senator Mitchell: Thank you, honourable senators.
Just to wrap up, I want to say that, try as hard as I
might, I do not agree with Senator Mockler that there is a vision in that
speech. Let us look at the forces of change in Canada and the world today, like
demographics and what they will mean for support for caregivers, the health care
system, and the fact we have a completely changing economic world. As was said
at our convention on the weekend, there will be jobs without people. We need
information, research, and information technologies. We need to be ahead of the
curve on this. We are losing ground on these things.
We need to understand that climate change will profoundly
change the world and profoundly change Canada. There is nothing in the budget or
Throne Speech that truly captures a vision of the future in a way that will
allow us to provide leadership for Canada to get to where we have to be. We will
lose ground and our children will suffer as a result.
It was once said that the very hard right Conservatives —
and I am sure there are none in here — cannot imagine what it is like to be
someone else. I thought about that and how it probably makes some sense, because
if one cannot do that, then one has a very tough time creating strong social
I also think there are elements in some governments — not
to mention names — that cannot imagine what it will be like in the future. If
you cannot imagine what it will be like in the future, then you cannot get
there, and you cannot convince people to go there with you. We need the kind of
government that can do that, and that is not the kind of government we see in
this Throne Speech or in this budget.
Hon. Lowell Murray: I believe there are still a
couple of minutes remaining to the honourable senator, and I wonder whether he
would accept a question.
Senator Mitchell: Yes.
Senator Murray: I was somewhat intrigued a while
ago to hear Mr. Ignatieff's comments of support for the tar sands, which
suggests to me that on one of the most fundamental issues there may not be much
difference between the government and Her Majesty's Loyal Opposition.
Second, could the honourable senator tell us what Mr.
Ignatieff's position is and, if he does not know it, could he give us his own
position on the question of carbon capture and storage?
Senator Mitchell: I am happy to answer that
question. May I ask the honourable senator to please call it oil sands? That is
what it is.
Senator Murray: Oil sands, yes.
Senator Mitchell: As a quick aside, I will also say
that if we are to support Senator Mockler in his chosen challenge in public
life, which is to distribute income across the country, then we better have the
I will say a third thing: It is interesting how many
people in the environment industry and in business are saying the way to clean
up the coal-fired gas plants and the coal-fired electrical plants is to use
natural gas, and everyone says that is great because it creates less GHG
emission per BTU, et cetera. However, that is what we use in the oil sands. We
use natural gas. Therefore, the solution across the country for the kinds of
power plants in Ontario is the problem when it comes to Alberta. That is what I
want to avoid and that is what Mr. Ignatieff wants to avoid.
Honourable senators, the fact is we need the oil sands; we
just need to operate them better. The top technology in the world is the only
carbon capture and storage, or CCS, technology in Canada that did not get
funding. If we get CCS working properly, and if the government had actually
funded Weyburn and we can do all the things we need to do, then we can make the
oil sands possible and we can capture their emissions.
We also need to remember that the biggest emitters in this
country are not oil sands plants. The biggest emitters in this country are
coal-fired electrical plants. Coal-fired electricity emits tons more GHG across
Canada than do the oil sands. The oil sands must be cleaned up, but they are at
3 per cent or 4 per cent.
As for carbon capture and storage, there are those who
will say it is very expensive. It is approximately $30 a ton over a 25-year
period. However, in looking at every single potential solution for climate
change there is someone, often an environmental group, who says there is a
problem and you cannot do it. Nuclear cannot be done they would say because of
the waste. Ethanol cannot be done because you are burning food. Carbon capture
and storage cannot be done because it is too expensive. Wind cannot be done
because it kills birds and makes people sick. I am not being facetious; that is
what people say.
Tell me what solution could there conceivably be that
would be perfect. There is not one, and government has to take some, drive them
and lead. I believe it is compatible. If we do the oil sands right — we have to
keep the pressure on them — and we do coal- fired electrical plants right, then
we can do that, but we must do the oil sands right. We have to keep the pressure
on them. If we do coal-fired electrical plants right, then we can do that.
However, we have to do it.
Hon. Pierrette Ringuette moved second reading of
Bill S-214, An Act to amend the Bankruptcy and Insolvency Act and other Acts
(unfunded pension plan liabilities).
She said: Honourable senators, I rise today to speak on
second reading of Bill S-214, An Act to amend the Bankruptcy and Insolvency Act
and other Acts (unfunded pension plan liabilities). Bill S-214 is the same
legislation that I tabled in December 2009, then known as Bill S-245,
legislation that was an unfortunate casualty of this government's poor decision
to prorogue Parliament.
This legislation, if passed, would give the pensioners of
companies that declare bankruptcy preferred creditor status during bankruptcy
proceedings, allowing those who have spent their working lives preparing for
their retirement a better opportunity to hold on to some of the money that is
rightfully owed to them and put them on the same level playing field as other
creditors, creditors who have had a much shorter relationship with the bankrupt
company in question.
This bill is similar to the Wage Earner Protection Program
Act, which the Senate passed in 2005. At the time, the Liberal government
rightly maintained that salaries owed to employees of a company should have some
My friends opposite no doubt came around to this opinion,
because the Conservative government expanded the program in its Economic Action
Plan. Since we agreed on giving employees preferred creditor status, but not
pensioners, it is high time we corrected this imbalance.
Sadly, Canada has fallen behind with respect to the
protection of pensioners during bankruptcy proceedings. Ms. Diane Urquhart, an
independent financial analyst, recently testified before the Finance Committee
of the House of Commons, saying:
Canada lags the world in protection of its terminated
employees, pensioners, survivors and long-term disabled employees during
bankruptcy. I did a study over the Christmas-New Year season and found that
40 of 53 countries studied by the OECD have preferred or better status for
employee benefits or they have a public pension benefit guarantee insurance
I want to give honourable senators an example. In my own
region of New Brunswick, the County of Madawaska is linked with the other side
of a river by a bridge. We are also brought together by a pulp and paper mill.
The pulp is being produced in Edmundston, New Brunswick, and being pushed via
vapour to the other side of the river in Madawaska, Maine, where they produce
coated paper. The employees of the Madawaska, Maine, Fraser Mill have protection
of their pension plan by federal legislation in the U.S. Their counterparts in
the same company, working in Edmundston, New Brunswick, have absolutely nothing.
This bill will try to redress that particular discrepancy.
Honourable senators, let us be absolutely clear. The
legislation we are considering, Bill S-214, is not a government handout. This is
not a burden on the Canadian taxpayers. This will not affect the government's
bottom line. In fact, if this bill is not adopted, tens of thousands of
Canadians, who should have received a decent retirement income with medical
benefits, will be living near the poverty line and entitled to the GST tax
credit, the Guaranteed Income Supplement, medication from provincial government
programs, and much more.
Let me be absolutely clear. If we do not pass Bill S-214,
employees and retirees from bankrupt corporations will need government financial
assistance through many different programs, and that will definitely be at a
cost to the Canadian taxpayer over many years to come.
This legislation will provide just a little more security,
transparency and, most importantly, fairness into bankruptcy proceedings,
specifically with respect to the money that is owed to pensioners.
Unfortunately, my colleagues opposite have not grasped the
urgency of the situation. We may hear about Nortel, AbitibiBowater or Fraser
Papers every day, but the Conservative government continues to ignore
The Minister of Finance has decided to order another study
instead of taking action. With all due respect to the Minister of Finance and my
colleagues opposite, that is not enough. These pensioners do not have time to
wait for the results of another government study.
A vivid reminder of the urgent need for action was
provided just last Friday when a justice of the Ontario Superior Court rejected
a temporary deal between Nortel Networks Corporation and its pensioners and
disabled employees. The deal itself would have allowed former employees to take
advantage of any changes to the Bankruptcy Act to increase their benefits up to
the end of this year. Unfortunately, the court found this deal unfairly
penalized other Nortel creditors because of the lack of a defined amount.
Therefore, as of March 31, 2010 — that is tomorrow — there will be no funds for
these benefits or pension plans unless another temporary agreement is reached.
As a result of this ruling, some pensioners and those
receiving long-term disability payments fear their benefits will disappear
tomorrow. It is difficult for pensioners to make long-term plans when their
benefits suddenly expire one week after an unfortunate court ruling.
However, this bill is not only about the Nortel pensioners
or the AbitibiBowater pensioners. It is about all pensioners across Canada who
are worried that a lifetime of work, a lifetime of paying into their company
pension plan, and a lifetime of stability and security will become the latest
casualty of this economic downturn.
Honourable senators, let us be absolutely clear: In this
debate, pension plans are simply deferred wages for employees. That is why it is
absolutely necessary for us to take action and amend the Bankruptcy and
Insolvency Act to provide the same protection to these long-term deferred wages
as we agreed to in the Wage Earner Protection Program.
Honourable senators, I hope this bill will not become
another partisan hot potato in this chamber. Pensioners should not be held as
political or economic hostages. Pensioners need this legislation as quickly as
possible. Let us move this bill quickly to committee where we can hear from the
experts on both sides and come out with a bill that all senators can support. I
know for a fact that all honourable senators take the needs of our pensioners
seriously. Let us prove that we can work together and pass Bill S- 214. The
clock is ticking for too many people who already need our help.
This is not a matter of the government giving handouts; it
is a matter of protecting the pensioners who contributed to their pension plans
throughout their careers. This bill would simply help them get the money owned
Resuming debate on the motion of the Honourable
Senator Ringuette, seconded by the Honourable Senator Munson, for the second
reading of Bill S-201, An Act to amend the Office of the Superintendent of
Financial Institutions Act (credit and debit cards).
Hon. Stephen Greene: Honourable senators, I rise to
add my voice to the debate on Bill S-201. While the bill's stated objective
might seem innocuous, it is clear that it will provide little to no benefit to
what is really required — educating Canadians to deal with the financial turmoil
the world has suffered through.
We are living in an increasingly complex financial world
of investment and credit products whose characteristics and risks have become
much more difficult to comprehend. Technology is generating ever-increasing
market activity that allows investors in search of the best returns to find
them, not in hours, minutes or seconds, but in fractions of a second.
The range of financial products in the market is rapidly
expanding, and the complexity of such products can make it difficult for the
average Canadian to fully comprehend the risks, fees and potential returns. This
complex and dynamic environment means that improving financial literacy, which
is not addressed by this bill, will be the key to restoring confidence and
ensuring long-term prosperity.
Understanding the basics of money, credit and investments
is crucial. Financial literacy is essential for people from all walks of life.
This literacy includes workers who are setting up a bank account and trying to
determine the best way to reach their goals; the family trying to make ends meet
while saving for a first home; investors who fail to understand the risks and
returns on their investments or the benefits of compound interest; and the
senior who, in a world of Internet banking and automated teller machines, ATMs,
is susceptible to financial scams and fraud, as my mother recently discovered.
Whether for a sophisticated investment or a simple savings
account, today's financial world cries out for improved financial literacy. This
was our government's goal long before the financial crisis emerged, and it
remains so today. We continue to take the steps needed to encourage savings,
ensure access to borrowing and make the system more transparent and
Honourable senators, education is a necessary influence on
consumers' choices whether they are picking credit cards, buying houses or
deciding on a career. For example, over 200 credit cards are available in
Canada, some of which charge interest rates as low as prime and some with no
fees whatsoever. While having so many choices ensures competition and varying
interest rates, decisions about which card is right for a person can be tricky
and difficult without the necessary knowledge. That is where the Financial
Consumer Agency of Canada comes in. FCAC ensures that federally regulated
financial institutions provide the required disclosures to consumers. In
addition, FCAC provides consumers with useful information, such as comparison
tables outlining the rates and features of the multitude of cards offered in
Canada. FCAC publishes a semi-annual report entitled, Credit Cards and You:
All you need to know about credit cards, that provides comparison tables
outlining the rates and features of numerous credit cards offered in Canada by a
variety of issuers. Young people, in particular, will benefit from the actions
we are taking and the information we are providing as they decide, for the first
time, what financial products are best for them. So honourable senators might
fully appreciate the practical hands-on resources available to Canadians, I
strongly recommend that they visit the website of the Financial Consumer Agency
of Canada at www.fcac-acfc.gc.ca.
However, our Conservative government recognizes that while
the Financial Consumer Agency of Canada has addressed the issue of financial
literacy somewhat, much more work is needed. That is why we provided increased
funding in Budget 2007 and Budget 2008 to improve financial literacy in Canada.
Canada's Economic Action Plan, as outlined in Budget 2009, built on prior
investments by committing to an independent task force to work toward a national
strategy on financial literacy.
This important step cannot be underestimated. Thomas
Kloet, Chief Executive Officer, TMX Group Inc., which operates the Toronto Stock
Exchange, TSX Venture Exchange and the Montreal Exchange, said in the
National Post at the launch of the Task Force on Canadian Financial
With the impact of the global economic crisis on their
personal portfolios, investors in Canada and around the world are assuming
more responsibility for their financial situations than ever before. . . .
most of us have little choice but to ramp up our understanding of the
markets and make daily decisions to help secure our financial futures.
The Government of Canada clearly recognizes this
I note for the benefit of honourable senators that last
month the Task Force released a discussion paper that will serve as the basis
for the public meetings it will hold in each province and territory in the
coming weeks to discuss this important matter. For more information on this
important cross-country public consultation, I encourage honourable senators to
We are also taking steps to make financial products like
credit cards more consumer friendly, as outlined in the sweeping new landmark
regulations announced by the Minister of Finance. These new measures will help,
first, by mandating summary boxes on contracts and applications to help improve
disclosure to consumers by clearly stating the key features such as interest
rates and fees; second, by forcing clearer implications of minimum payments by
improving consumer awareness of the time it would take to fully repay loans if
only the minimum payment were made each month; third, by ensuring timely advance
disclosure of interest rate changes to protect consumers from poorly disclosed
interest rate hikes; fourth, by mandating a minimum 21-day grace period for all
new purchases made within that period to remain interest free as long as the
consumer pays their balance in full by the due date; fifth, by requiring lower
interest costs with mandatory allocations of favoured consumer payments; sixth,
by requiring express consent for credit limit increases; seventh, by placing
limits on aggressive debt collection practices; and eighth, by prohibiting
over-the-limit fees by restricting fees due to merchant holds placed on credit
cards, protecting consumers from inadvertent fees they are not responsible for
or aware of.
These regulations announced by the Minister of Finance
were well received. A May 25, 2009 Toronto Star editorial judged them
welcomed regulatory changes that will both introduce more transparency to the
system and save consumers money.
On October 5, 2009, the Montreal Gazette editorial
applauded them for being advantageous for consumers. The editorial commented
that the regulations strike a just and sensible balance.
The Consumers' Association of Canada, in a written
submission to the House of Commons Finance and Industry Committee, cheered them
We believe the role of the Government is to ensure
that consumers are given the tools they need to make informed decisions.
On this basis, we welcomed the Finance Minister's
recent proposals for regulation of credit card issuer practices because they
will address the key consumer concerns in the market without having
unexpected adverse consequences for consumers.
We welcome Minister Flaherty's recent nine-point plan
for improved credit card regulation, transparency and education. We believe
these changes, once implemented, will result in real and tangible benefits
Honourable senators should also be aware that the levels
of interest rates, including lines of credit, are set by financial institutions
in competition with each other. As long as markets are competitive, and
consumers and business are sufficiently scrutinizing what products are
available, it would be difficult for one or even a group of lenders to maintain
a higher interest rate on a sustainable basis than the rest of the market.
Overall, since the onset of the credit turmoil, Canadian
banks have responded to cuts in the central bank rate by reducing their interest
rates. Interest rates on lines of credit, for example, have declined in recent
months, and to date, the bank prime rates have fallen in concert with declines
in the bank rate.
While it has become popular among some Liberal senators to
launch into tirades about the alleged actions of Canadian banks with respect to
their interest rates, credit cards or otherwise, they should take a moment and
listen to their own Liberal colleagues — Liberal colleagues like the Liberal
Member of Parliament for Scarborough Southwest, who wrote in the Toronto Sun
only months ago:
We have the best banking system on the globe. The
cynical and critical discourse aimed at our banks is troubling. Our banks
continue to reflect profitability. . . .
Instead of having pride in our banking system, we have
a penchant to bank bash. Credit cards are dispensed to facilitate
discretionary spending — something which consumers have control over.
Indeed, the federal government can assist consumers with
the decisions they have control over by creating a regulatory framework that
ensures financial products and services are sold in a lawful and transparent
manner. We do not dictate rates or cap them. Intrusive government meddling, and
the red tape it would unleash, would only harm Canadians.
The remarks by the Liberal Member of Parliament for
Scarborough Southwest are different from the remarks of the honourable senator
on behalf of her bill. In her speech, it was said that Canada "bailed out" our
banks to the tune of $100 billion. Now, as any proud Canadian knows, our banks
were sound going into the economic downturn and not one taxpayer's dollar was
used to bail out a Canadian bank.
What we did do was help with bank liquidity by taking
approximately $100 billion in mortgages and auto loans off the books of Canadian
banks. This was not done because those mortgages and loans were risky or bad or
"toxic," which resulted in the bailouts and some government ownership south of
the border. No, it was done by our government because Canada as a whole,
including Canadian consumers and Canadian businesses, were exposed to worldwide
problems with liquidity due to problems occurring elsewhere.
Taxpayers' dollars are not at risk here because those
mortgages and car loans are not risky or toxic in any sense. In fact, the
government, and thus taxpayers, will very likely make money off those mortgages
and car loans.
Our government took those assets off the banks' books in
order to provide our banks a little more liquidity room in the face of a
worldwide liquidity crisis. During this crisis, banks stopped lending to each
other. Our banks normally borrow from other banks, thereby allowing each to have
the cash flow to lend to Canadians who wish to buy, for example, a new home or
car or to lend to a business for working capital or expansion. When the global
borrowing system dried up, resulting in a liquidity crunch, our government
helped our banking system endure the problems created abroad. This was not a
bailout, not even close.
As a Nova Scotian, you will permit me a nautical analogy
that summarizes our banking situation during those times. We were a ship that
weathered and survived a massive storm that forced all other ships to be towed
into port. Alone at sea, the only ship able to sail — no tow lines, no damage —
all we needed was a little wind in our sails and our government provided that
We are all well aware of the concerns merchants have
raised regarding credit and debit cards. These concerns range from the
complexity and lack of transparency of the credit card contracts and fee
structure to increasing credit card fees.
Many groups have spoken about the numerous approaches we
could take to resolve the issue. For example, the Canadian Federation of
Independent Business has advocated a code of conduct.
Our Conservative government, a strong supporter of small
business, has responded to this advice. We released for public comment a code of
conduct for the credit and debit card industry in Canada. This code was based on
discussions of various issues related to the debit and credit card industry with
stakeholders, including merchant and consumer groups, credit and debit card
networks, card issuers and acquirers.
The proposed code will include various measures designed
to encourage choice and competition in the credit and debit market for the
benefit of consumers and merchants, and will also promote fair business
practices to help ensure that merchants and consumers clearly understand the
cost and benefits of credit and debit cards.
Reaction to the proposed code has been extremely
favourable. Permit me to share a sampling of that reaction.
The Retail Council of Canada has stated:
The announcement of the Code is an important step
toward ensuring merchant choice, enhanced competition and greater
transparency. . . . Minister Flaherty deserves a great deal of credit for
tackling this important and complex issue, and merchants across Canada
appreciate the introduction of the Code. . . . The Code will keep the card
companies' feet to the fire with their business practices and our coalition
will be holding them publicly accountable.
The Canadian Council of Grocery Distributors exclaimed:
The Code is a solid starting point as government
begins to address merchant concerns and to avoid skyrocketing costs for
debit and credit card transactions. It has the potential to impose some
price discipline on the card companies, and will force them to compete for
merchants' business . . . creating a measure of cost-certainty for our
The Canadian Restaurant and Foodservices Association
welcomed the announcement, adding:
This is an important step in addressing concerns of
our members about unfair business practices. . . . The government is to be
congratulated for recognizing the imbalance in negotiating power between
credit card companies and merchants. The new code is a first step toward
ensuring increased transparency and disclosure by credit card companies
while allowing merchants to choose the cards they accept and payment options
All interested parties were invited to comment on how
compliance with the code may best be monitored in an open and public
consultation that began late last year and ended this past January.
As announced in Budget 2010, the code is being made
available for adoption by credit and debit card networks and their participants.
What is more, the budget also announced our Conservative government would also
propose legislation to provide the Minister of Finance with the authority to
regulate the market conduct of the credit and debit networks and their
participants, if necessary. Our Conservative government also provides the
minister with the authority to monitor compliance with the code and any future
market regulations or amendments to the Finance Consumer Agency of Canada's
I note that the Canadian Federation of Independent
Business, the Retail Council of Canada, the Canadian Council of Grocery
Distributors and the Payments Accountability Council, among others, representing
more than 250,000 businesses in Canada, all reacted positively to this
The Retail Council of Canada exclaimed:
The Finance Minister and the Government of Canada
deserve a great deal of credit for tackling this important and complex
issue, and merchants across Canada appreciate the new measures introduced in
The Canadian Council of Grocery Distributors heralded it,
Budget 2010 tells us that the voices of consumers and
retailers are being heard.
I would like now to review some of the more technical
concerns we have with the particular proposal behind S-201.
While our government is working in close consultation with
all affected stakeholders to come toward the best solutions, Bill S- 201 would
unilaterally impose a made-in-Ottawa solution, with no input from those
interested and affected.
This proposal calls for the Office of the Superintendent
of Financial Institutions to monitor the credit and debit card systems in Canada
and provide an annual report to the minister regarding the operation of those
systems — the fees and charges related to such cards and the privacy of users.
The proposal recommends monitoring the market conduct of
the credit and debit card system, whereas OSFI's mandate focuses — as it should,
particularly given the global financial crisis — on prudential regulation. As
such, this bill will require that OSFI monitor compliance of entities beyond its
legislated mandate and could conflict with its increasingly important prudential
mandate. It simply does not make sense to have a prudential regulator deal with
a market conduct problem. In fact, the Canadian Federation of Independent
Business has already publicly dismissed this idea, declaring, "we're not
convinced the Office of the Superintendent of Financial Institutions is the
Finally, I note that the recent recommendation from the
Standing Senate Committee on Banking, Trade and Commerce did not include any
suggestion that OSFI be responsible for this oversight function. In fact, not a
single mention of OSFI was made in the committee's report.
For all these reasons, our Conservative government will
oppose Bill S-201 and continue to pursue our own path.
Honourable senators, over the past four years, this
government has taken the steps needed to encourage saving, ensure access to
borrowing and make the system more transparent and understandable.
As our record shows, the government believes that the best
consumer protection framework is one where there is disclosure, competition and
choice. This approach has been proven time and again.
As we have seen all too clearly with the unfolding of the
subprime debacle south of the border, financial pressures that originate in
large banks and financial institutions can quickly become systemic and have
serious and real consequences for the most vulnerable in society. Canada has
managed to avoid the worst consequences of that collapse and remains the envy of
the industrialized world in terms of the health of our financial sector and the
capitalization of our banks. In large part, that is due to the responsible
stewardship our Conservative government has provided.
Through the historic economic action plan, our government
has done more to address the effects of the ongoing global recession on
vulnerable Canadians than anything else proposed. This plan will strengthen
Canada's financial system and protect Canadian Canadians' hard-earned savings.
This plan will help consumers of financial products by, among other things,
improving business practices in respect of credit cards issued by federally
regulated financial institutions.
Strong Canadian financial institutions are the pillar that
will help support a faster economic recovery and promote future growth in this
country. We owe it to Canadians to keep our model financial system strong.
We need to follow through on what we are already doing;
that is, encourage greater competition in financial services and product
offerings, as I outlined with respect to our efforts to help consumers and
Honourable senators, as our actions and the supportive
comments of groups like the Canadian Federation of Independent Business, the
Retail Council of Canada or the Consumers' Association of Canada clearly
demonstrate, this Conservative government understands the importance of
monitoring the credit and debit industry in this country.
I therefore urge honourable senators to vote against this
bill and to instead support the government's ongoing measures to create more
financially knowledgeable Canadians in a transparent and competitive
The Hon. the Acting Speaker: Are honourable
senators ready for the question?
Hon. Senators: Question.
The Hon. the Acting Speaker: Is it your pleasure,
honourable senators, to adopt the motion?
Hon. Senators: Agreed.
Some Hon. Senators: On division.
(Motion agreed to, on division, and bill read second
Hon. Gerald J. Comeau (Deputy Leader of the
Government): Honourable senators, a committee has a minister appearing
before it later on this afternoon and the committee asks that they be allowed to
meet at that time. Therefore, with leave of the Senate and notwithstanding rule
58(1)(a), I move:
That the Standing Senate Committee on Agriculture and
Forestry and the Standing Senate Committee on Energy, the Environment and
Natural Resources have power to sit from 5 p.m. today, even though the
Senate may then be sitting, and that the application of rule 95(4) be
suspended in relation thereto.
The Hon. the Acting Speaker: Honourable senators,
is leave granted?
Hon. Art Eggleton moved second reading of Bill
S-216, An Act to amend the Bankruptcy and Insolvency Act and the Companies'
Creditors Arrangement Act in order to protect beneficiaries of long-term
disability benefits plans.
He said: Honourable senators, before I tell you what is in
this bill and what it does, let me tell you what it does not do. First, it is
not about pensions. It is about long-term disability, LTD, and that only.
Second, the bill is not only about Nortel, although that situation precipitated
this bill. It is about employees now and in the future, in similar circumstances
with respect to LTD plans.
I appeal to all honourable senators, on an all-party
basis, to support this piece of legislation.
The purpose of this bill is straightforward: to protect
employees on long-term disability. While its focus is narrow, Bill S-216 speaks
to larger issues, such as issues of fairness, justice and respect. It aims to
correct the situation that leaves the most vulnerable of our workers in the most
desperate of straits, and it reaffirms the simple principle that people who pay
their dues and play by the rules have the right to expect that they will receive
what has been promised to them.
At the moment, approximately one million employees in
Canada have disability benefits that are self-insured by their employers. That
is approximately 40 per cent of long-term disability plans. Approximately 60 per
cent of them are actually insured through the normal insurance premium process,
but 40 per cent are self-insured. If a company with self-funded, long-term
disability benefits goes bankrupt, its employees who depend on these benefits
are given the same standing as an unsecured creditor.
That is what the Bankruptcy and Insolvency Act provides.
It says to the disabled: "Get in line behind the secured creditors, behind the
bondholders, behind the preferred shareholders, behind the common shareholders,
and then, if there is anything left, you might get something."
In 2001, Amy Stahlke, in Benefits Canada magazine, wrote
about the impending problem:
In Canada, there has been little regulation of
self-insured plans. There is no requirement that employers set aside
adequate reserves to cover future liabilities arising from these plans. If
reserves are set aside, there is no restriction on how those funds are
invested. There is also no obligation to keep funds in trust to protect them
from creditors. This means that a bankruptcy could spell the end of the
benefits plan, including benefits for individuals already on disability.
Honourable senators, employees who are disabled and who
cannot work should not be shunted aside. Their needs are not over when their
employer goes under. They still need their medication. They still need
treatment. They still need rehabilitation. They still need all of the things
that their long- term disability plan would have helped to provide.
The bill proposes to protect beneficiaries under long-term
disability plans by granting them preferred status. By bringing LTD claimants to
preferred status, employees will continue to get their benefit coverage up to
age 65 years, be able to pay their medical bills and continue to live outside of
Honourable senators, some may have concerns about the cost
and the impact on credit markets. Some may have concerns about our overall
competitiveness. However, when we look at the evidence, we see that not only can
this be done, but many countries around the world are already doing it.
Thirty-four of 54 countries studied by the OECD and World
Bank already have either super priority or preferred status for employee claims
in their bankruptcy laws. That is for all pension claims, not only long-term
disability plans. They have properly functioning credit markets, and they are
still competitive. Therefore, the two are not incompatible. We can protect our
most vulnerable employees and retain dynamic credit markets and stay
At least 12 other countries, including Germany and the
United Kingdom, require payment of insurance premiums by their corporations to
fund their public pension plans and disability income insurance plans.
The United Kingdom's system goes even further. In 2004,
they enacted the Pension Protection Fund that states if an insolvent company has
underfunded their long-term disability fund, the government will compensate the
scheme to protect employees. They are, therefore, protected before an employer
goes bankrupt because the government requires their company to fund the LTD
plans. If there is a shortfall, the government will step in to cover the
shortfall. In essence, the most vulnerable are protected.
In the United States, long-term disability employers have
protection through the Pension Benefit Guarantee Corporation. Employees also
have legal recourse to go after LTD benefits after bankruptcy provided by their
Federal Employee Retirement Income Security Act legislation. There is no such
avenue for Canadians. They also have a more generous Social Security Disability
Insurance Program that pays more than twice what the Canada Pension Plan
Disability Benefit pays to the disabled in Canada. All of our major allies and
trading partners have something that goes well beyond what our government offers
to our disabled workers.
Honourable senators, nowhere is the inequity of the
present situation more starkly illustrated than in the case of Nortel workers.
As that company goes about the business of divvying up its assets, over 400 of
its employees on long-term disability are being cast aside.
This comes on the heels of news that Nortel paid seven top
executives U.S. $8.6 million in incentive bonuses last year as the company
struggled through bankruptcy proceedings. What is shocking is that these bonuses
were paid to many of the same people involved in decisions that put the company
into trouble in the first place. These bonuses were paid at a time when
thousands of former employees lost their jobs without severance and while
hundreds may lose their LTD benefits.
These long-term disabled employees face a dire situation
because Nortel has stopped making new cash contributions to its health and
welfare trust. What is the result? Funds in the health and welfare trust are
being depleted as the company pays out current long-term disability income,
which means there will not be anything left to pay these employees in the
This exacerbates the enormity of the situation because the
average age of the Nortel LTD employee is 42 years and he or she may need
benefits for many years to come as a result of cancer, respiratory diseases et
cetera. Many employees became disabled at younger ages. On average, they have
their lives frozen at 50 per cent of their income at the time of their
disability, which is well below their earnings potential if they had not gotten
sick. This means that these disabled persons have not been able to accumulate
personal savings from their low disability incomes to ensure they can live
outside of poverty in the future if their benefits are cut off.
Honourable senators, these people also face average health
care costs of $12,000 per year. That is over and above public medical care,
which is paid through medical benefits from the trust. Once the money in the
trust is gone, what are they supposed to do? Current CPP disability income is
only about $13,000 a year, well below the poverty line and barely enough to
cover their health care costs, never mind leaving anything for food or shelter.
What will happen, of course, is that these employees will
turn increasingly to social assistance and make greater use of social services.
They will have to make the heart-wrenching decisions whether to buy medication
or food, to get treatment or pay the rent.
Effectively, Nortel will have downloaded these costs onto
taxpayers while the company walks away from its responsibility. Let me emphasize
that the company will transfer its responsibilities, download them onto
taxpayers through social assistance programs, and the company, which still has
billions of dollars in assets, will walk away.
Nowhere is this situation more illustrated than in the
individual cases of Nortel employees. They are real people, not simply
statistics. They stand to lose everything if nothing is done.
Josée Marin, a lab technologist at Nortel and single
mother, has been in long-term disability since 2002. She suffers from Crohn's
disease, an inflammatory bowel condition, and scleroderma, a chronic autoimmune
disorder. She does not want to become a burden on taxpayers or her family. She
wants to be able to live the remaining years of her life with dignity. As she so
starkly stated: "I want to die in the comfort of my home, not in my car or on
Then there is Peter Burns, an engineer and a father of
three. In 2004, a tumour was found on his spinal cord. After surgery, he was
left paralyzed below the T9 vertebra. Surgery partially corrected his paralysis,
but some damage was permanent. He also suffered a post-surgical stroke that led
to permanent short-term memory loss, extreme hypersensitivity, compromised
mobility and severe chronic pain. Most of the time I talked with him, he could
not sit because of the pain in his back and legs.
Like Josée, he was of the understanding that Nortel's
long-term disability plan would support him until age 65 years. To ensure he
would be covered, he made additional contributions to the plan to raise his LTD
coverage from 50 per cent to 70 per cent of his income. He thought he had done
everything right. He thought he took the responsible steps to protect himself
and his family. Sadly, if nothing changes soon, his efforts may be for naught.
Nortel employees are not alone. There are workers in
similar situations at the Pacific News Group, which is owned by Canwest. As
Canwest goes through bankruptcy, their employees may see their benefits go as
The problem is not new; we have seen this kind of thing
before. When Massey Combines went into receivership, many employees saw their
Honourable senators, long-term disability plans are based
on a simple bargain: If one pays one's fees, one will be covered should anything
happen that makes it impossible for one to work. In the case of Nortel and
others, that bargain has been broken. In the future, if no action is taken,
similar bargains will be broken again. The taxpayers, I emphasize, will then end
up picking up the costs.
The bill before honourable senators today attempts to end
that practice. It declares in no uncertain terms that promising long- term
support and then making short-term decisions to leave those promises in tatters
is not just a matter of liabilities that are unfunded; it is a matter of
practices that are unfair, unjust and unacceptable.
On March 11 of this month, the Government of Canada
ratified the United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with
Disabilities, and I applaud them for doing that. The guiding principles of the
convention say that we must respect the inherent dignity and inclusion of
persons with disabilities in society and that we must protect their right to an
adequate standard of living. If nothing is done soon, honourable senators, then
we will not be living up to our commitment by protecting Josée, Peter, and the
other Nortel employees who currently and in the future will find themselves in
this terrible position.
Honourable senators, there are times when it falls to
legislators to speak up for those who have no voice, to help the powerless, to
stand up for people because of the rightness of their cause and the unfairness
of our laws. This is just such a time.
This bill will not only bring a greater degree of fairness
in the bankruptcy process, but it will also help protect some of our most
vulnerable citizens now and in the future.
As Josée Marin said:
These changes to the bankruptcy act are about human
decency. They ensure a situation like the one I have been through for the
last year never happens to any critically ill or disabled worker ever again.
Again, colleagues, I appeal for all-party support for
these measures. Thank you very much.
Hon. Tommy Banks: Honourable senators, with regard
to Bill C-464, I just want to say a quick word. I have taken the liberty today
of sending to all honourable senators a DVD of a motion picture that sets out
the reason and providence of this bill that is before us, and I commend your
attention to it. It will help you to better understand the issue than I could
possibly do when I speak to this bill for your consideration.
Resuming debate on the inquiry of the Honourable
Senator Robichaud, P.C., calling the attention of the Senate to the
importance to the Acadian people of the Acadian flag—a flag that brings
people together.—(Honourable Senator Champagne)
Hon. Andrée Champagne: Honourable senators, in the
inquiry that he initiated, our colleague Senator Robichaud talked about the
Acadian people's attachment to the French language and how important their flag,
a symbol that brings people together if ever there was one, is to them.
My responsibilities within the Assemblée des
parlementaires de la francophonie recently led me to become acquainted with
another group of Acadians: the Cajuns. I met some of them in Baton Rouge and
Lafayette, in Louisiana.
During our meetings, we reviewed the history of Louisiana.
We heard names that are very familiar to francophone Canadians. Our
conversations were peppered with names like Sieur de LaSalle and the Lemoyne
brothers — Pierre Lemoyne, Sieur d'Iberville, and his brother, Jean-Baptiste
Lemoyne, Sieur de Bienville. The latter dedicated 40 years of his life to the
survival of a French community in the Mississippi Valley, an enormous
French-speaking territory. In fact, after it was sold for the bargain price of
$15 million, the United States divided it into 15 new states.
It was the Sieur de Bienville who called the region
Louisiana to please his king. Its first capital was located in modern-day
Biloxi, Mississippi, and then in the city we know as Mobile, Alabama. When he
decided to move the capital closer to the mouth of the great river, he named the
town in honour of the Regent of the French court, the Duc d'Orléans. Thus, New
Orleans was born.
In the middle of the 19th century, the capital was moved
once again, this time to Baton Rouge, where it remains to this day. The Vieux
Capitole still exits and is now a museum right next to the current huge capital
building, with a statue of Sieur de Bienville in its rightful place. That is
where we were received by Senator Éric Lafleur and Congressman Jack Montoucet.
Thanks to them, we were able to hold our first meetings in the Senate chamber.
I must admit that we were bubbling with emotion to hear
these elected members speak to us in excellent French and tell us that a number
of Louisianans have been encouraged by descendants of "our" Acadians to make a
concerted effort to bolster the Francophonie in the southern United States.
Our subsequent meetings were held in Lafayette, in the
offices of the International Centre headed by Philippe Gustin. Mr. Gustin left
France more than 30 years ago to teach French in Louisiana and has taken root
Louisianans by birth or by choice are moving heaven and
earth to make sure that in Louisiana, French is no longer considered just
another foreign language like Spanish, German, Chinese or Arabic. They are
making definite progress.
Immersion schools have been set up and an entire
generation of young Cajuns are now studying the language of Molière quite
seriously. They are proud to speak French and want it to be passed down to new
generations. French was once their grandmothers' language, but today it is a
language that a number of young people want to speak.
Under the aegis of Ms. Comeau, they are preparing for the
Great Acadian Awakening. They are getting help from, among others, a young woman
from the Acadian peninsula of New Brunswick who has been teaching French in
Lafayette for seven years.
Our meetings with youth organizations were very enriching.
Louisiana French uses terms that surprise us and make us smile. There are many
expressions that relate to the sea. For example, on a restaurant door a sign in
English said "Pull" to open the door. Below that was the word "Hâlez," or haul,
as in haul in a boat or haul in lobster traps.
I remarked that at home we use the word "Tirez," which
means to draw, to which the young person responsible for translating signs at
that establishment simply said, "Madam, here if we said `Tirez,' people would
draw their guns."
I have already ordered my Louisiana French dictionary.
Historian William Arcenaux also spoke to us about the foundation that he has
established. Each year, college students come to study at the Université
Sainte-Anne in Nova Scotia. Others do a placement in France or Belgium. The
foundation covers both transportation and living costs, while the universities
cover the registration and course costs.
Honourable senators, we must do everything we can to allow
other Canadian francophone universities to do the same. I will need your help.
Finally, our Acadians, who were displaced in 1755 and have
set down roots there, are just as determined and stubborn as those who are still
here on Canadian soil.
Many find themselves with family names with an X on the
end, which was added to their names in the first censuses. Their flag underwent
many changes: from an array of golden fleur-de-lys to a variety of colours, to
including the star of our Acadian flag. However, they are just as proud of the
pelican that now represents them.
The Cajuns and elected Louisianans who want their state to
revive its roots and original language deserve our support. The APF will do its
part, but all of the francophones and francophiles in the world must also do
their part to help promote the Great Acadian Awakening in Louisiana.
Hon. Rose-Marie Losier-Cool: Honourable senators, I
would like to thank Senator Champagne for this wonderful history of our Cajun
cousins. As we say, "On va se hâler une chaise," that is, "Pull up a chair and
sit a spell." Or, as I'm sure you've heard, "Let the good times roll." And on
that note, I move that the debate be now adjourned.
(On motion of Senator Losier-Cool, debate adjourned.)
Hon. Doug Finley rose pursuant to notice of March
That he will call the attention of the Senate to the
issue of the erosion of Freedom of Speech in our country.
He said: Honourable senators, I rise to call the attention
of the Senate to the erosion of freedom of speech in Canada.
There can scarcely be a more important issue than this
one. Freedom of speech is, and always has been, the bedrock of our Canadian
democracy. The great Alan Borovoy, who was the head of the Canadian Civil
Liberties Association for more than 40 years, calls freedom of speech a
"strategic freedom" because it is a freedom upon which all other freedoms are
built. For example, how could we exercise our democratic right to hold elections
without free speech? How could we have a fair trial without free speech? What is
the point of freedom of assembly if we cannot talk freely at such a public
Freedom of speech is a most important freedom. Indeed, if
we had all our other rights taken away we could still win them back with freedom
Benjamin Franklin once said: "Without Freedom of thought,
there can be no such Thing as Wisdom; and no such thing as public Liberty,
without Freedom of speech."
Freedom of speech is embedded in Parliament's DNA. The
word "Parliament" itself comes from the French word "parler," to speak. As
parliamentarians we guard our freedom jealously. No member of the House of
Commons or the Senate may be sued for anything that is said in Parliament. Our
freedom of speech is absolute.
Yet, only last week, a few miles from here, censorship
reared its ugly head. Ann Coulter, an American political commentator, had been
invited to speak at the University of Ottawa. Before she even said a word, she
was served with a letter from François Houle, the university's vice-president,
containing a thinly veiled threat that she could face criminal charges if she
proceeded with her speech.
On the night of her speech, an unruly mob of nearly 1,000
people, some of whom had publicly mused about assaulting her, succeeded in
shutting down her lecture after overwhelmed police said they could not guarantee
Honourable senators, it was the most un-Canadian display
that I personally have seen in years. It was so shocking that hundreds of
foreign news media covered the fiasco, from the BBC to The New York Times
to CNN. It was an embarrassing moment for Canada because it besmirched our
reputation as a bastion of human rights — a reputation hard won in places like
Vimy Ridge, Juno Beach and Kandahar.
More important than international embarrassment is the
truth those ugly news stories revealed. Too many Canadians, especially those in
positions of authority, have replaced the real human right of freedom of speech
with a counterfeit human right not to be offended.
An angry mob is bad enough. That may be written off as
misguided youth, overcome by enthusiasm. However, such excuses are not available
to a university vice-president who obviously wrote his warning letter to Ms.
Coulter after careful thought.
Ann Coulter is controversial, she is not to everyone's
taste, but that is irrelevant because freedom of speech means nothing if it
applies only to people with whom we agree. To quote George Orwell: "Freedom is
the right to tell people what they do not want to hear."
In a pluralistic society like Canada, we must protect our
right to peacefully disagree with each other. We must allow a diversity of
opinion, even if we find some opinions offensive. Unless someone counsels
violence or other crimes, we must never use the law to silence them.
Freedom of speech is as Canadian as maple syrup, hockey
and the northern lights. It is part of our national identity, our history and
our culture. It is in section 2 of our 1982 Charter of Rights and Freedoms,
listed as one of our "fundamental freedoms;" and it is in the first section of
Canada's 1960 Bill of Rights.
Honourable senators, our Canadian tradition of liberty
goes much further back than that. In 1835, a 30-year-old newspaper publisher in
Nova Scotia was charged with seditious libel for exposing corruption amongst
Halifax politicians. The judge instructed the jury to convict him. At that time,
truth was not a defence. The publisher passionately called on the jury to "leave
an unshackled press as a legacy to your children." After only 10 minutes of
deliberations, the jury acquitted him. That young man, of course, was Joseph
Howe, who would go on to become the premier of Nova Scotia.
Our Canadian tradition of free speech is even older than
that. It is part of our inheritance from Great Britain and France.
Quebecers are heir to article 11 of the Declaration of
the Rights of Man and of the Citizen, 1789. This article states:
The free communication of ideas and opinions is one of
the most precious rights of man. Any citizen may therefore speak, write
[and] publish freely . . .
France has produced some of the most well-known defenders
of free speech in the world.
François-Marie Arouet, better known by his pen name,
Voltaire, was a polemicist who used satire and criticism to press for political
and religious reforms. He paid a personal price, facing censorship and legal
Voltaire put it best when he famously wrote, "I disapprove
of what you say, but I will defend to the death your right to say it." His
passionate advocacy helped shape liberty on both sides of the Atlantic.
English Canada has an impressive legacy of free speech,
too. Like Voltaire, John Milton, the great poet who wrote Paradise Lost,
was constantly hounded for his political views. His 1644 pamphlet on free
speech, Areopagitica, perhaps the greatest defence of free speech ever
written, is as relevant today as it was 350 years ago. In it, Milton wrote, "Let
Truth and Falsehood grapple; who ever knew Truth put to the worst, in a free and
open encounter?" and, "He who kills a man kills a reasonable creature, but he
who destroys a good book kills reason itself . . ."
Yet, despite our 400-year tradition of free speech, the
tyrannical instinct to censor still exists. We saw it on a university campus
last week, and we see it every week in Canada's misleadingly named human rights
This week in Vancouver, a stand-up comedian named Guy Earl
has been on trial before the B.C. Human Rights Tribunal for the crime of telling
jokes that someone did not find funny. An audience member who heckled him is
suing him for $20,000 because she found his retorts offensive. They may have
been offensive, but what is more offensive is that a government agency would be
the arbiter of good taste or humour. Nobel Prize winner Alexandr Solzhenitsyn
was sentenced to eight years of hard labour for telling a joke about Stalin's
moustache. It is a disgrace that Canada is now putting comedians on trial.
There is not a lot that the Senate can do about the B.C.
Human Rights Tribunal, but our own Canadian Human Rights Commission has
egregiously violated freedom of speech without any shame. In a censorship trial
in 2007, a CHRC investigator named Dean Stacey testified that, "Freedom of
speech is an American concept, so I don't give it any value." He actually said
that. The Canadian Human Rights Commission actually admits they do not give free
speech any value. That is totally unacceptable.
Freedom of speech is the great non-partisan principle that
every member of Parliament can agree on — that every Canadian can agree on. I
will never tire of quoting the great Liberal Prime Minister Wilfrid Laurier when
he said that Canada is free and its freedom is its nationality. I will readily
give credit to Keith Martin, the Liberal MP from British Columbia, who two years
ago introduced a private member's motion to repeal the censorship provisions of
the Canadian Human Rights Act.
Honourable senators, I call for this inquiry to accomplish
five things: first, to reaffirm that freedom of speech is a great Canadian
principle that goes back hundreds of years; second, to put Canada's censors on
notice that their days of infringing upon our freedoms with impunity are over;
third, to show moral support for those who are battling censors; fourth, to
inquire into the details of what went so desperately wrong at the University of
Ottawa to ensure that those awful events never happen again; and, fifth, to
inspire a debate that hopefully will lead to a redefinition of section 13.1 of
the Human Rights Act.
Honourable senators, there are times for partisan debate
when parties must naturally be at odds with one another. This is not one of
those times. Freedom of speech and respect for differing views is a foundational
principle of our entire parliamentary system — indeed, of our entire legal
system, as well.
I look forward to the constructive comments of my friends
and colleagues on both sides of the aisle to build on the bipartisan history
that Canadian free speech enjoys. If we can rededicate our Parliament to
protecting this most important right, we will have done our country a great
service, but if we fail to stop and indeed reverse this erosion of freedom, we
will have failed our most basic duty, the duty to uphold our constitution and
the rights in it, the rights it guarantees for all Canadians.
I know that, like so many generations of Canadians before
us, we will meet the challenges of our time and live up to our responsibility to
pass on to our children the same freedoms that we inherited from our parents.
God keep our land glorious and free.
Hon. Maria Chaput: Would the honourable Senator
Finley take a question?
Senator Finley: Yes.
Senator Chaput: I would like to congratulate you,
Senator Finley. I, too, am a strong proponent of freedom of speech. However, I
was wondering about the fine line between freedom of speech and respect for
others. In your view, at what point does freedom of expression go too far, and
can it go too far?
For example, is it not an abuse of the freedom of
expression to incite hatred in others, or cause feelings of rejection or
destruction? And, at that point, do we lose our freedom of expression?
I would like to hear your comments on this, Senator
Senator Finley: I thank the honourable senator for
the question. I agree that it is a very thin line. However, I do not think that
anything trumps freedom of speech. If the line is crossed to the extent that it
is clearly a hate crime, in other words, if someone counsels or encourages some
kind of unrest or malice towards someone based on gender, creed, race or
religion, then I agree that line has been crossed. However, this is why I would
like to see a debate to define our view as to what is appropriate or not. That
should be part of the debate. It is not for me to say what that line should be,
but it would have to go an awfully long way before I would accept any
curtailment of freedom of speech.
The Hon. the Speaker: I know there is another
question, honourable senators, but Senator Finley's time has expired. If he
asked for an extension of his time, Senator Downe could ask his question.
Senator Finley: Yes, please, Your Honour.
Hon. Senators: Agreed.
Hon. Percy E. Downe: I am wondering if it is the
honourable senator's view that the government has made a mistake by restricting
people who want to come to Canada to speak by not allowing them entrance to the
Senator Finley: I can certainly appreciate where
the question comes from, honourable senators. Far be it from me to argue with my
wife, the minister, and the Ministers of Immigration and Public Safety, and so
on. It is a fine line. I assume that the honourable senator is referring to Mr.
Galloway. I was disappointed that he was not given an opportunity to express
himself here in Canada.
I have followed Mr. Galloway's pronouncements, and I do
not think it would have taken long for Canadians to realize the manner of the
man. However, on balance, the decision to ban Mr. Galloway was probably correct
because of incidents and activities in which he has been involved. However, I
was disappointed that he did not get an opportunity to strut his stuff in front
Senator Downe: I thank the honourable senator for
that thoughtful response. I found his speech interesting. It will be an
interesting debate. I was not referring to the honourable senator's spouse but
to the previous minister.
Hon. David Tkachuk: Honourable senators, on March
23, a mob prevented Ann Coulter, a political provocateur, from speaking at the
University of Ottawa. Their actions were explicitly encouraged and given prior
sanction by the provost of the University, Mr. François Houle, who wrote a
letter to Ms. Coulter before her arrival in Canada. The obsequious words of
welcome that began the letter were suspiciously warm and completely
disingenuous. It stated:
We are, of course, always delighted to welcome
speakers on our campus . . . We have a great respect for freedom of
expression in Canada, . . .
After that, he should have written . . . except when we do
not like what you have to say and how you say it.
After making clear for Ms. Coulter the differences between
free speech in Canada and the United States, he basically accused her of
trafficking in hate speech, which in Canada, and I quote his letter, "could in
fact lead to criminal charges."
The letter closed with a line that could have come
straight out of the re-education camps of Pol Pot's Cambodia: It stated:
Hopefully, you will understand and agree that what
may, at first glance, seem like unnecessary restrictions to freedom of
expression do, in fact, lead not only to a more civilized discussion, but to
a more meaningful, reasoned and intelligent one as well.
The mob took its cue from the provost. Their actions so
physically intimidated the police that the guardians of free speech, the police,
fearing for Ms. Coulter's safety, advised her against speaking. After the fact,
the leadership of the university incredibly failed to support what, to me, is
the very foundation of our academic institutions: Freedom of speech. University
of Ottawa President Allan Rock, with his head firmly planted in the sand, gave a
tepid response. He said:
We have a long history of hosting contentious and
controversial speakers on our campus. Last night was no exception, as people
gathered here to listen to and debate Ann Coulter's opinions . . .
In other words, Mr. Rock is saying that it was not the
university that stopped Ms. Coulter from speaking. I remind senators that
dictators use paramilitary groups to prevent free speech.
An Hon. Senator: Oh, come on!
Senator Tkachuk: I am just stating what happened.
You might not like what I am stating, but I am stating what happened. I am
practising free speech.
Senator Cordy: Were you there?
Senator Tkachuk: Prior restraint — regulating
speech or expression before it occurs — is usually exercised through judicial or
administrative regulations. At the University of Ottawa, the mob exercised prior
restraint and the administration took cover behind it. The mob went so far as to
prevent the speech itself — not the courts, not the law, but the mob, on the
excuse of what Ms. Coulter might say. They prevented their fellow students from
hearing her. Those students were there voluntarily to listen, debate and make up
their own minds. They were prevented from doing so by that mob. They were
prevented from taking her on in a debate, if they so chose.
That this took place at a university is all the more
troubling. We depend on universities to promote the free exchange of ideas. We
depend on them to teach our kids and future leaders about the value of free
speech, its meaning and its origins. The University of Ottawa has yet to learn
the lesson, it seems. How could they overlook some of the most elemental
teachings of free speech, such as the following words on the subject by Justice,
Louis D. Brandeis, who said:
If there be a time to expose through discussion the
falsehood and fallacies, to avert the evil by process of education, the
remedy to be applied is more speech, not enforced silence.
The taxpayers of Canada fund the University of Ottawa.
These same taxpayers, ordinary Canadians or rather extraordinary Canadians, are
willing to allow citizens to advocate the breakup of Canada, allow them to form
political parties advocating such a breakup of the country, and allow them to
run candidates for office, who, if elected, sit in our Parliament. This is free
speech in Canada. The taxpayers of this country trust the administration and
faculty of the University of Ottawa to teach these values to our young people.
They have failed us. They have failed the parents of these people. They have
failed the country.
Hon. Lowell Murray: Would Senator Tkachuk take a
question? I congratulate Senator Finley and Senator Tkachuk on their speeches.
My question to Senator Tkachuk is: If I am not in my seat at the time, will he
agree, in the interest of open debate and free speech, to offer a courtesy
second to Senator Harb the next time he brings in his bill on the seal hunt? Is
there an answer?
Some Hon. Senators: Oh, oh.
Hon. Michael Duffy: Honourable senators, I rise to
join my colleague, Senator Finley, in support of an inquiry into the state of
freedom of speech in Canada. I share Senator Finley's love of freedom and his
concern about the growing phenomenon of censorship. I approach the subject from
the perspective of someone who, as a journalist for more than 40 years, has used
freedom of speech every day of his life and as someone who has observed its
essential role in keeping our democracy healthy.
My first observation is that freedom of speech is much
bigger than politics. It is about our right as free men and women to express
ourselves in any way we choose, not just politically but socially, musically,
artistically and through every other human endeavour. Our freedom of expression
is inextricably linked to our right to think for ourselves, to choose our place
in the world, to talk back to the world and to even fight against the world. If
you doubt that, ask any high school rock band why they do what they do. It is
freedom of expression.
While it is often political speech that grabs the news
headlines, we should never forget that millions of Canadians put freedom of
speech into action every day, from filmmakers to authors to stand-up comedians
to advertising agencies, to service club meetings and even to Rotary Clubs. Free
speech is a thread of personal liberty that is woven into every part of Canadian
society. As a journalist, I exercised my freedom of speech every day, and I was
proud to offer a platform to many whose ideas were often considered
controversial. Senator Cools, for example, was often a guest on my television
program as she fought for causes she believed in, in particular the rights of
divorced fathers. There are many other examples involving both senators and
members from the other place.
Free speech oils the gears of democracy to keep them
running smoothly, especially in times of great controversy. Freedom of speech
not only helps the system to work but also invites people into the system and
gives them a seat at the table of our national discussions. It turns dissidents
into participants and invites people to opt in, not to drop out.
We sometimes take that for granted, but we should not,
because in countries where there is no freedom of speech, people who feel
marginalized cannot voice their grievances peacefully. They do not have the
safety valve of public debate in which to vent their passions.
It is no coincidence that many of the countries with the
least freedom of speech are countries with the most political violence. Some
people say that if we banned offensive or rude opinions in Canada, our society
will be more harmonious, but experience around the world shows that is just not
how it works. If we stop people from expressing themselves verbally, even in
ways we personally find distasteful, they might be tempted to express themselves
in other less peaceful ways.
Free speech is our national safety valve. I am impressed
by how many grassroots Canadians have joined the ranks of democratic
participatory journalism through blogs, YouTube and social media such as
Facebook and Twitter.
Journalism was once seen as a private club. There were
enormous barriers to entry. Ordinary people could not join in the national
discussion. They were reduced to the role of spectators, with little chance to
participate beyond shaking their fists at the television set or maybe writing an
occasional letter to the editor.
But now, anyone with a laptop — or a camera, for that
matter — can help make the news and have their say and, through the power of
their ideas, reach millions of people and sometimes even change the world. It is
not just healthy for journalism; it is healthy for our democracy, and it is
young people who are in the vanguard. That is free speech.
Just ask the hardliners of Iran who are losing the battle
of ideas against university students armed only with the power of Twitter. Or
consider Communist China. During the events in Tiananmen Square, our
distinguished colleague Senator Munson provided Canadians with a window on that
important and historic event.
Today, thanks to technology, instead of just a few valiant
journalists like Senator Munson, the main voice for dissidents in China, the
main voice calling for reform, is that country's 20 million bloggers who are
blowing the whistle on corruption and pressing for greater liberty.
What is the lesson? Even if censorship was morally correct
— and it is not — it has been rendered obsolete by technology.
The Canadian Human Rights Commission, about whom we heard
a lot earlier today, has shut down offensive websites here in Canada, but
persistent dissidents are not stopped by that. They can simply move their
websites to the United States or to Iceland, which has announced recently its
plans to be the world's leading free speech jurisdiction.
There is another paradox of censorship in the Internet
age. Out of the billions of pages on the Web, the Simon Wiesenthal Centre
estimates that about 8,000 sites are serious purveyors of racism or
anti-Semitism. By prosecuting this relatively small number of obscure websites,
we give fringe, marginal ideas more attention and publicity than they would ever
have received on their own.
Honourable senators, there is a better way. There may be
thousands of hate sites, but there are millions of amateur bloggers out there
ready to expose and rebut racist lies.
I am referring to people like Ken McVay of British
Columbia. He is a righteous Gentile who has spent thousands of hours
meticulously rebutting Holocaust denial on the Internet. He does not sue anyone,
but he will debate anyone at the drop of a hat. His website is www.nizkor.org;
it is now one of the most comprehensive archives of knowledge about the
Holocaust to be found anywhere. Ken McVay has not created celebrity haters, like
our censorship laws have, but he has been tremendously effective at rebutting
racist lies as a citizen blogger.
Of course, we all agree that anti-Semitism and Holocaust
denials are odious ideas, but one of the problems with censorship is that the
definition of what is offensive is open to political bias.
Maclean's columnist Mark Steyn was put on trial for
a week in Vancouver for merely expressing his political views. Ezra Levant and
the Western Standard magazine were investigated for 900 days for
illustrating a news story about the Danish cartoons of Mohammed with eight of
Prosecuting those acts of journalism was clearly not the
intention of Parliament when Parliament passed hate speech laws; and the
chilling effect has been much wider than just these and a few other notorious
prosecutions. How many other journalists have quietly decided to pull their
punches on controversial issues just to avoid a nuisance suit or a human rights
How many radio and television stations have avoided
vigorous discussions of controversial issues out of fear of censorship from the
Canadian Broadcast Standards Council, acting on behalf of the CRTC?
And why is it that the CBC has an in-house ombudsman to
deal with questions of fairness, while private broadcasters have a different
regime? It seems strange to me.
This is not hypothetical. In 2004, a handful of complaints
convinced the CRTC to yank the licence of CHOI-FM, one of Quebec's most popular
radio stations. Imagine that, a government order that, had it been allowed to
stand, would have destroyed dozens of careers and a successful business, all
because of hurt political feelings. That is how Hugo Chavez handles radio
stations he does not like. It is not the Canadian way.
That is why non-partisan NGOs such as PEN Canada, the
Canadian Association of Journalists, the Canadian Constitution Foundation and
the Canadian Civil Liberties Association have all condemned government
censorship and section 13 of the Canadian Human Rights Act, in particular.
Even anti-hate groups like B'nai Brith Canada have
expressed grave reservations about human rights commissions, which were created
to be a shield to protect Canadians and their rights, but instead have become
swords used to destroy our rights. B'nai Brith, itself, was the subject of just
such a nuisance complaint.
Finally, I would like to observe that, while technology
has enhanced our freedom of speech, Canadian courts have enhanced our freedom of
speech as well. I am referring to the 2008 Supreme Court case about defamation
law — WIC Radio Ltd. v. Simpson.
The court unanimously ruled that:
We live in a free country where people have as much
right to express outrageous and ridiculous opinions as moderate ones.
Just last September, the Canadian Human Rights Tribunal
declared section 13 of the Human Rights Act unconstitutional.
Honourable senators, censorship was never a moral idea,
but now it is impractical, too. Technology and human innovation came first,
making the censors obsolete. Our judges were the next to weigh in, reaffirming
that censorship is a violation of our Charter values of free speech. Now it is
time for Parliament to act to modernize our laws and remove the archaic
censorship provisions. They are unwelcome remnants of a different era.
It is my hope that this Senate inquiry will begin the
process by which Parliament brings our laws into sync with Canada's values: our
love of freedom; our ability to handle differences of opinion peacefully; our
national embrace of the technologies of communication; and a clear message from
the courts that Canada as a country must live up to our national promise of
freedom for all.
As a journalist, I know the value of free speech and, as a
senator, I believe I have a duty to protect it.
The Hon. the Acting Speaker: Senator Duffy, would
you accept a question?
Senator Duffy: Yes, Your Honour.
Hon. Roméo Antonius Dallaire: Honourable senators,
at this point in the debate, I do not want to raise the issue of the power that
communications media can exert over a country. I have seen the effect that
private stations, such as Radio Télévision Libre des Mille Collines, can have.
That station was instrumental in the events that transpired and was known as
genocide radio. I will talk more about it later on in the debate.
Everyone seems to want to blame the Human Rights
Commission. There is a debate going on about human rights and the limits of
those rights. Perhaps it would be useful to have a minister or a political
person appointed to be responsible for human rights instead of allocating that
responsibility to a dozen departments, whose public servants do not really take
the time to understand the Charter or to adapt the restrictions therein to
modern-day human rights and privileges.
Senator Duffy: Honourable senators, we all know
about the experience of radio in Rwanda. Thank heavens we do not have that sort
of thing here. Were it to occur here, I think it would be covered by hate speech
laws, as well as the other laws that we have on the books to deal with issues of
speech going too far. We all know the line that one cannot yell "fire" in a
As far as reforming government, the honourable senator has
been at this a long while. If we continue on with this inquiry, maybe we will
have some ideas about the honourable senator's idea of streamlining things.
Hon. Anne C. Cools: Honourable senators, I thank
Senator Finley for his intervention and for putting this subject matter before
us. I also thank Senator Duffy for his speech.
My question is of a particular variety. At the time that
Senator Duffy was speaking of his several interviews with me, and there were
countless ones, the fact of the matter is that public opinion in the country
supported me, whether it was due to my defence of the importance of fathers in
children's lives and the importance of continuous meaningful relationships with
fathers, or whether it was on the phenomenon of women's violence against
children, and even against men.
Honourable senators, in all those instances, I was
supported by public opinion. All the pollsters would tell me this, and obviously
I could see it in the work I was doing. I want to put this to the honourable
senator because he comes out of the information and communication industry. He
knows a lot about it. How is it and how was it that such a tiny number of
individuals, a marginal number of individuals, are and were able to have such a
stranglehold on the information industry?
Senator Duffy: I thank the honourable senator for
The Hon. the Acting Speaker: Is the honourable
senator asking for more time to answer?
Do honourable senators agree to five minutes more?
Hon. Senators: Agreed.
Senator Duffy: I hope our inquiry can look at that
question, if we carry on this debate, as to all avenues of communication and
what influences are there and what are the potential roadblocks to having a free
and democratic society in terms of our public broadcasting.
Senator Cools: Honourable senators, that would be
extremely helpful. I think Senator Wallin wants to take the adjournment, but I
shall make it my business to speak on this matter. As this debate continues, we
have to look at the fact that these individuals often are marginal and comprise
a small number. It takes a high degree of moral courage, a high degree of brain
power, a fair mastery of the English language as well as the ability to be
articulate, to cut through the masquerade, to allow individuals to look at truth
and to make judgments, particularly on what they see around them.
Honourable senators, in the particular instance of the
divorce debate, as the honourable senator knows, every single person was
affected by divorce, so every woman I know had a son, brother or father involved
in divorce and "access denial." As honourable senators remember at the time,
freedom of speech was even violated to a greater sense. Remember at the time,
there was a plethora of false allegations of abuse against fathers in court
This is a huge subject matter. I hope we shall take the
time to explore it in its multiple dimensions. When the honourable senator
speaks of Mark Steyn and the others, perhaps we can take a look there.
Honourable senators will remember there were nasty, horrible, racist statements
made about me by one of the individuals in one of those cases. I have stayed far
away from it, but we should look at it. I think the honourable senator knows
what I am talking about.
Senator Duffy: Thank you, Senator Cools. She always
gives food for thought.
Hon. Jim Munson: I notice that this notice of
motion was under Senator Finley's name and that he will "call the attention of
the Senate to the issue of the erosion of Freedom of Speech in our country."
Will the honourable senator expand upon his views on critical thinking?
Senator Duffy: Is this question addressed to me or
Senator Munson: It is for Senator Duffy.
Senator Duffy: I do not think I can do the subject
justice in the time available today. That discussion is for another time.
Hon. Mobina S. B. Jaffer: I listened to the
honourable senator with great interest. I have taken note of what he said. I
have a question of clarification. From his answer to Senator Dallaire, does the
honourable senator accept that there are certain times when we must have hate
laws so there is no incitement of hate in our country?
Senator Duffy: We have a full array of laws already
on the books and I think they are put there for a reason. I see recent events as
going far beyond what is contemplated in the law.
Hon. Pamela Wallin: Honourable senators, I am
pleased to participate in this inquiry today, which was launched by my colleague
Senator Finley. The right to free speech is not the same as the right to be
heard, but their coincidence is at the core of our democracy and is the essence
of what democracy is truly all about: the right to say what you mean and the
right to be heard.
The first issue is free speech. Since men and women first
put pen to paper, or chisel to stone, or since the first political speech was
shouted from a corner, or since the first actor took to the stage, many have
joined the fight for free speech.
Last century and this one, we have even asked our
soldiers, even to this day, to preserve that hard-won right to speak freely and
to speak our mind. My mother always counselled me to speak my mind, but only
once my mind was informed. I try to follow her advice.
That said, for better or worse, free speech is also about
the right to uninformed speech or to speech for those with whom we may most
vehemently disagree. Their words may appal us, offend our sensibilities, or make
us angry or sad. We have laws, as we must and should, to contain and punish
those who spread hate with their words or who demean others based on their race,
gender or sexual preference. There are libel and slander constraints, as well.
However, the critic Noam Chomsky once stated: "If we do
not believe in freedom of speech for those we despise, then we do not believe in
it at all."
The recent case of Ann Coulter, a provocative media
pundit, mentioned by the honourable senator, is a case in for the many who
despise her. If you do, turn off your TV; do not buy her book; debate her; even
mock her; but please do not censor her. My colleague quoted Voltaire, the French
writer and historian, who also cogently wrote, as Senator Finley mentioned, that
"I may disapprove of what you say, but I will defend to the death your right to
In more contemporary terms, others have turned their mind
to this issue. A one-time candidate in the United States, Adlai Stevenson, once
said: "My definition of a free society is a society where it is safe to be
unpopular." I think that is an important idea and concept. Perhaps even more
compelling was his comment: "The sound of tireless voices is the price we pay
for the right to hear the music of our own opinions."
The Internet discussion that ensued following Ann
Coulter's arrival in Ottawa was filled with calls for action: to denounce her,
to throw eggs or pie, or to spew their venom. I read a lot of them. Somewhat of
an online frenzy of hate was whipped up out of ignorance and intolerance. It was
abusive and threatening. Such acts demean us all. Institutions of higher
learning should be the last place to expect stifled thought.
One honourable senator today mentioned the case of the
professors in Regina. I was truly saddened by the selfish and mean-spirited
response of professors there — it is my alma mater — regarding the Project Hero
scholarship that provides financial aid to children of fallen soldiers so they
might have an education. These are parents who are at war because their country
asked them to do so. They are there fighting so that young Afghans can go to
school and we think that maybe our soldiers' children should have the same
In my profound disagreement with them and others, I will
still defend their right — the right of the protestors and the professors to
speak — even though I disagree. I use my voice to reply to them and I want my
right to do that.
The only way to ensure that you and those you agree with
have the right to speak is to support the right to speak of those you despise or
do not like — the people with whom you do not agree.
Wendell Phillips once said: "Eternal vigilance is the
price of liberty." That is why the honourable senator was right to launch this
inquiry. Each time we remain silent in the face of an attack on free speech, we
erode it. We lose a little liberty each time someone is silenced.
While Ann Coulter may not share the status of others who
have been silenced, such as Nelson Mandela, Charles Darwin, Anne Frank, J. D.
Salinger, Alice Walker or even The Beatles, the principle is the same. These are
the words of Alexandr Solzhenitsyn:
Woe to that nation whose literature is cut short by
the intrusion of force. This is not merely interference with the freedom of
the press but the sealing up of a nation's heart, the excision of its
He is one who knows what it is to be silenced.
It does not matter whether it is a Harry Potter book or
the comedy of George Carlin, we must rail against unduly restricting free
speech. Carlin said: "I think it's the duty of the comedian to find out where
the line is drawn and to cross it deliberately." He at least tried to do so and,
with humour and a willingness to fight through the courts for his right to be
offensive to some and funny to others, he eventually prevailed.
When free speech is taken away by force or a court, I
suppose they can restore it in some senses. However, if we give up free speech
without a fight, then it is lost forever.
George Washington said: "If freedom of speech is taken
away, then dumb and silent we may be led, like sheep to the slaughter." Our
American friends have been having this battle for centuries. The only legitimate
restraint on free speech, they argue, is if it creates clear and present danger.
They have modern interpretations of that term. Free speech is one of their
Through our own French and British cultures and histories,
we too have taken on this issue. In fact, the history is long, from Socrates to
the Magna Carta, from Milton in 1644 to the English Bill of Rights in 1689 and
to the French Revolution, where the Declaration of the Rights of Man in 1789
called for freedom of speech.
The U.S. Bill of Rights declared in 1791 that freedom of
speech was an inalienable right. In 1929, Justice Oliver Wendell Holmes gave
voice to some of the sentiments expressed here today. The principle of free
thought is "not free thought for those who agree with us, but freedom for the
thought that we hate."
We still have much to battle these days. There are threats
to free speech all of the time — too many examples for any of us to cite today.
I will leave honourable senators with a final thought. If A.J. Liebling is
correct that "freedom of the press is guaranteed only to those who own one,"
then let us take a page from his legendary book and remember that we own our own
thoughts, ideas and speech. We own them, so let us use them and defend them. It
is our responsibility as citizens and as representatives of the people of
Hon. James S. Cowan (Leader of the Opposition):
Would Senator Wallin take a question?
Senator Wallin: I will try my best.
Senator Cowan: Honourable senators, I am sure all
of us in this chamber welcome Senator Finley's inquiry. Many of us are anxious
to participate in the debate. My question relates to the particular focus of not
only Senator Wallin's speech but a number of other speeches, and that is what I
might call the Coulter incident.
Is it the honourable senator's belief that the censorship
and improper conduct in relation to that incident is based on the university
preventing her from speaking, which has been reported, or based upon another
report that Coulter's own organizers shut it down and requested that she not go
I was not there; perhaps the honourable senator was, but
there were two different reports. From the tenor of some of the discussion
today, it seems that the focus of this, which I think should be broader —
An Hon. Senator: Oh, oh.
Senator Cowan: Perhaps Senator Comeau was there and
he can speak. Perhaps the honourable senator should speak on this; it is an
I would like to hear from Senator Wallin whether she knows
which of those two possible explanations is, in fact, true.
Senator Wallin: I thank Senator Cowan for the
question. I do not know what is ultimately true. The reports I read indicated
that her organizers decided to pull her away from the event in conjunction with
conversation with university officials. It is a chicken and egg scenario in my
mind. It is simply one example. We can pick others and my colleague, Senator
Duffy, mentioned others in this country.
It is a much broader issue than that event for me. That is
a recent trigger that should cause us to have concern about what is happening.
Whether we like, agree or disagree with Ann Coulter, it is up to us to form our
own opinions. However, the principle is important. That was the nature of my
comments. What if someone the honourable senator believes in was shouted down,
harassed or kept at bay by those in power from simply making remarks?
I suppose this comes from my years as a journalist, but it
also comes from my years as a citizen. It is the responsibility of each and
every one of us. We cannot simply say the university made a mistake and they
should be punished, or the protestors made a mistake and they should not be
allowed to speak. Each and every one of us must take responsibility in our own
ways for doing that.
This inquiry will be spelled out in greater terms. Senator
Finley has done that. I wanted to add my voice as someone who believes that we
do not simply slough off these responsibilities onto institutions, rightly or
wrongly. We all take on these responsibilities. That is why some of us were
moved today to stand and to talk about it. It is a right that I feel very
strongly about. These days, particularly in the world we live with the
technological onslaught, it is more difficult to do.
Senator Cowan: Honourable senators, I take it that
Senator Wallin agrees with me that it is important not to focus entirely on that
incident, whatever the circumstances were and that what we really want to
address in this inquiry — which I think we all welcome — is the broader
discussion about freedom of speech. I think we all agree with the principle, but
we would also agree that there must be some bounds. I take it that the
honourable senator would agree that it is important to expand the discussion
beyond the narrow context of this particular incident. I am not trivializing the
incident at all.
Senator Wallin: Honourable senators, this is one
incident and, as I said, many have been raised by my colleague today. However,
this incident has obviously provoked us to rise on this issue today. Yes, I
agree the issue is much broader than one single incident. It is the eye on the
situation and that is what we were addressing.
Hon. Art Eggleton: My question to Senator Wallin
centres on a controversy that has existed on campuses in Canada for the last
couple of years about the Israeli Apartheid Week that upsets many people in our
communities as being anti-Semitic. If it is not directly anti-Semitic, it is
close to it.
How do the honourable senator's comments relate to that
particular annual event which offends many people in this country?
Senator Wallin: I thank Senator Eggleton for the
question. I did not cite that as an example, and I have certainly read about
those situations on campus. The larger point is what is troubling me, and I say
this also as a chancellor of a university: It should be of interest to us what
that next generation out there is thinking and doing on university campuses. We
might be well served to educate ourselves about debates being held on that
topic, those that my colleagues raised today and that I did as well.
Senator Eggleton: The honourable senator would not
suggest, as some people do, that those debates be banned?
Senator Wallin: I cannot tell honourable senators
whether or not I think they should be banned. I have done some reading on that,
but not in depth. If they fall under the purview of hate speech, and I cannot
answer that specifically, if that is happening, then we have some laws and
regulations to address that. I do not know enough of the circumstances to tell
honourable senators what I think should be done legally.
Senator Downe: Will the honourable senator tell us
her view on the subject of freedom of speech for senior public servants, some of
whom — when they appear before parliamentary committees or in other forums where
they must relate what the facts are — are sometimes threatened that their legal
costs will not be covered for any lawsuits that come out of it? That is against
the tradition where legal costs are always covered for public servants and
parliamentarians. In one case, a head of an agency lost her job.
What are the honourable senator's views on freedom of
speech for senior public servants?
Senator Wallin: I have had experience with that on
both sides of the coin, as someone who was the consul general in New York, when
I had to seek legal support for some of my staff members during a particular
incident. I have looked at this issue as a journalist from many sides. This is
precisely the point: Let us look at some of these issues and find a constructive
way to approach this subject.
There are obvious reasons of national security for which
some people will be restricted from speaking. I do not think that would be
challenged by anyone. We cannot share every secret, and we also must take into
account the context in which people make the comments that they do and check out
the actual allegations as to whether they had other forums or other ways to
share their information.
These things are never as simple as they appear in a news
story of four or five paragraphs. These issues are complicated, and that is
exactly why we have raised this. It is a good time for all of us to reflect.
There have been many changes in the way information is spread these days. This
is a good time to inquire into that situation.
The Hon. the Acting Speaker: Honourable senators,
other senators have expressed the desire to speak. Is it your pleasure to give
Senator Munson five more minutes?
Hon. Senators: Agreed.
Senator Munson: Honourable senators, my son will
hate me for this. He was a graduate of King's, and perhaps he had some critical
thinking in his life. He was the op-editor of the Dalhousie Gazette, and
that is why I wanted to have Senator Duffy speak about critical thinking at
King's and what real critical thinking means. Critical thinking is about being
objective in a news story, but that is another topic because if you are worried
about the next generation and the erosion of the freedom of speech, get ready
for the next generation.
However, we should expand Senator Finley's inquiry on the
erosion aspects of free speech. I do not see very much in the way of the erosion
of freedom of speech in this country. Perhaps we should expand the inquiry to
the United States of America, as we witnessed in the last week when David Frum
exercised freedom of speech and lost his job.
Could I have the honourable senator's comments, please?
Senator Wallin: I certainly have slightly different
information than does the honourable senator, and he knows how we go about
collecting all of that. I do not know why David Frum lost his job. However, I do
not think it is within our purview to start to examine freedom of speech in the
United States. We should clean up our own backyard first.
Senator Cools: Honourable senators, I am very
interested, as I said before, in these types of interventions on free speech. If
the debate continues, we will obviously have to broaden and then narrow the
subjects of discussion.
My question to Senator Wallin has to do with whether she
has any ideas as to why so much of this activity seems to be happening on
university campuses. My question is borne out of the fact that, just a few days
ago, I saw some clips from a speech by a professor, Dr. Norman Finkelstein, who
is a Jewish academic, whose very parents were victims in the Holocaust, and who
is critical of Israeli aggression against the Palestinians. Yet, this professor
was under fire for speaking out against Israeli aggression.
Honourable senators, this is such a large topic, one that
has been worrying many of us for a long time. Does the honourable senator have
any ideas as to why these sorts of things seem to be happening on university
campuses? When I went to university, it was free speech. It was listen to
everyone but the openness was quite profound. That was in the 1960s. I wonder
why this kind of incident seems to be occurring on university campuses.
Senator Wallin: In one of the examples I cited, the
issue was not the students; it was professors. Perhaps it is just because of the
particular examples we chose, but it has much more to do, as we can all
conclude, with what is happening with technology, how people are communicating
and where people are testing their limits. It would be fair to say we all tested
our limits much further when we were younger, and they have different mechanisms
for doing that now. They can do that through and on the Internet, and it has the
amazing and powerful impact of having a reach beyond anything we could have
managed when we tried to gather a handful of people to mount a small protest
against whatever it was we were protesting that day.
This reach is now international and global. It has a
focus, but it is not just university campuses. Senator Finley has done a good
job in terms of laying out the embrace that will allow us to bring that into the
The Hon. the Acting Speaker: Honourable senators,
the time allocated for questions has expired.
Hon. Hugh Segal, pursuant to notice of March 18,
That the Senate approve in principle the installation
of equipment necessary for broadcast quality audio-visual recording of its
proceedings and other approved events in the Senate Chamber and in no fewer
than four rooms ordinarily used for meetings by committees of the Senate;
That for the purposes set out in the following
paragraph, public proceedings of the Senate and of its Committees be
recorded by this equipment, subject to policies, practices and guidelines
approved from time to time by the Standing Committee on Internal Economy,
Budgets and Administration ("the Committee");
That proceedings categorized according to subjects of
interest be prepared and made available for use by any television
broadcaster or distributor of audio-visual programs, subject to the terms
specified in any current or future agreements between the Senate and that
broadcaster or distributor;
That such selected proceedings also be made available
on demand to the public on the Parliamentary Internet;
That the Senate engage by contract a producer who
shall, subject only to the direction of that Committee, make the
determination of the program content of the proceedings of the Senate and of
its committees on a gavel to gavel basis;
That equipment and personnel necessary for the expert
preparation and categorization of broadcast-quality proceedings be secured
for these purposes; and
That the Committee be instructed to take measures
necessary to the implementation of this motion.
He said: Honourable senators, awash as we are in a
constructive discussion about freedom of speech, I thought I might try for the
third time since coming to this place four years ago to talk about freedom of
vision — the freedom of Canadians to see what we do in this place.
In this Third Session of the Fortieth Parliament, I rise
one more time to speak on my motion regarding the broadcasting of Senate
proceedings. For those colleagues who have just arrived, I have done this on two
other occasions. For those who are here and have been here for both of those
occasions, I apologize for sounding repetitive and argumentative.
We in this chamber, and indeed outside of it, are
discussing its meaning and value, and reform proposals are awash everywhere.
Public perception of this institution is often less than generous, but I am one
of those people who thinks that if Canadians could turn on their computers and
hear the debate we have just had — for which I thank my colleague, Senator
Finley, for leadership on the matter — they would be impressed by the breadth,
depth and range of discussion. The fact they are denied the right to do so
because we do not have televised or digital video streaming from this place, for
people to tune into as they wish, is a serious mistake.
Honourable senators, the public has a right to know what
it is we do before it pronounces on how we might change this institution. As
honourable senators will know, I have proposed a referendum on several occasions
since coming to this place, but a referendum, to echo my colleague Senator
Wallin, should be one upon which people are well informed before they express
their views. Having a chance to see what happens in this place will assist in
Currently, whatever good work is done, whatever
legislation comes away from this place improved by amendment or approved after
passing under our microscope, however thoughtful or inspired or improved — all
in the best interests of Canadians — are neither here nor there if Canadians
have no way of hearing or seeing this except by reading Hansard or whatever
journalists may choose in their wisdom to cover.
Honourable senators, we could go a long way in showing the
Canadian public a glimpse into our work and maybe, just maybe, they would come
to understand what the Fathers of Confederation envisaged when they created this
institution. Reforming the Senate, if such reform is to take place, would be a
much easier task if its very legitimacy was not in question. In my view, one of
the reasons its utility is in question is because, other than a few select
committees, its work is hidden from sight. Televising or making our
deliberations digitally available, communicating the public proceedings of the
work done here, would assist remarkably in the utility question on a national
The motion before honourable senators is my original
motion of three years ago, but it has been changed. It is a revised, bipartisan
collaboration that was introduced more than a year ago. At that time, there was
debate, especially by my good friends Senator Fraser and Senator Andreychuk, as
to the wording, which implied something about which they were troubled, namely
editing of the broadcasts. Senator Banks has also offered insightful
modernization suggestions from the original notion.
Honourable senators will note this phraseology, that of
any editing, has been removed from this new motion. I agree with my honourable
friends: Any public broadcasting should be subject to full public scrutiny,
warts and all. It is my hope that video records will be digitally searchable by
young people without any limitation.
Everyone in this place takes their work most seriously. We
understand our role and execute it to the best of our ability and in the end our
decisions directly affect other Canadians. It should not, I hope, be hard for us
to agree that it is our responsibility to make our discussions and debates
transparent and accessible for those who wish or care to see for themselves
where their tax dollars are being spent and for what purpose.
This is the 21st century. Virtually everyone in this
chamber is computer literate, carries a BlackBerry, watches more than one news
broadcast daily, and stays in touch with family and friends and people from
their Senate district via email, Facebook or Skype. What then could possibly be
the argument against allowing the public occasionally, whenever they decide to
do so, to peer in on our deliberations and evaluate them for themselves?
I believe this motion represents a way ahead. The Standing
Committee on Internal Economy, Budgets and Administration can make a series of
decisions about cost and proceeding in a way that does not diminish the
authority of this chamber to govern the process going forward in any way, as is
our tradition. Based on advice —
Hon. Roméo Antonius Dallaire: Honourable senators,
if I may interrupt; I am trying to listen to the French translation. It is a
little fast. I wonder if the honourable senator can slow down the tempo of his
speech to help us, if he does not mind.
Senator Segal: Based on advice from all sides, the
motion reflects a fashion in which we might proceed that is both frugal and
responsible. It will allow us to progress without diminishing the prerogatives
that we all have as members of this place with respect to the way it is
governed. I commend this motion to your most favourable and pressing
consideration in either one of our two official languages.
Hon. Joan Fraser: Will Senator Segal take a
As I recall, in the last session the honourable senator's
motion was amended for a reference to the Rules Committee, which, as the
honourable senator knows, has done a lot of work on this subject, and I have
reason to believe the committee would like to continue and complete that work. I
am not talking now about a completion 10 years down the road, although the
honourable senator might suspect that from some of the things I have said in the
past. I am talking about an expeditious process here. There would be, I believe,
some reluctance to do so without a renewal of the reference.
Is Senator Segal prepared to accept a friendly amendment
to revive that reference to the Rules Committee?
Senator Segal: It was my privilege to do so the
last time this item was discussed and I would be honoured to do so again.
Hon. Jim Munson: I agree with everything that
Senator Segal says on this matter. The proceedings of this place should be
televised. I know some senators cringe because they do not like that idea.
Honourable senators, I went home to northern New
Brunswick, even though I am an Ontario senator, and I watched the proceedings of
Bathurst city hall on television. They talked about sewer works and other
things, and it was twelve o'clock at night and it was soothing by the Bay de
Chaleur, but it was there. It is a public debate and people are seeing that
I am sure the same thing happens at city hall at Kingston
or nearby and people watch it. They participate. The proceedings are transparent
and open. How can those of us who believe in a televised Senate move it faster
so that we see it before I am 75, or before I am dead or in eight years?
Senator Segal: That is a question for which I am
likely the least able to offer a response. There is a place where good ideas go
to die. I suggest that this motion that is now before us has had the opportunity
of visiting that place on a couple of occasions. I defer to those who are in
charge of that place as to how that might be in some way advanced.
I understand the need for careful consideration, but I
think in an age when students in grade 10 can watch the British House of Lords
on their BlackBerry phones on the BBC download, they might be able perhaps to
watch the upper chamber in this country, right here in Canada.
Hon. Percy E. Downe: Has the senator given any
thought to what changes could be incorporated if we do have a webcasting TV in
the Senate? Will he consider, for example, instead of trying to parallel the
House of Commons where Question Period might become more partisan, entertaining
a session on committee work where committee chairs can be questioned and members
of the committee can inform other senators what they are doing in their
On the weekends, I watch CPAC occasionally and I see
interesting Senate committees. I have no knowledge of them because I am at other
committees at the same time they are meeting. Rather than paralleling what the
House of Commons is doing, is the senator open to being creative about how we
can present this institution in the best possible way?
Senator Segal: I am, but I do not want to exceed —
The Hon. the Acting Speaker: Honourable senators,
it is now 6 p.m. Is it your wish that we not see the clock and continue past 6
Hon. Gerald J. Comeau (Deputy Leader of the
Government): Honourable senators, there are just a few minutes left in
Senator Segal's time. We have one final motion that we would like to get
through. Would honourable senators agree to not see the clock?
Hon. Senators: Agreed.
Senator Segal: Honourable senators, I do not want
to expand the remits of this motion. Some of our colleagues who have been
steadfastly opposed to this idea have said that they are troubled that this idea
will, through the back door, affect a series of other procedural and rule
changes around the orders by which this place operates. That would be beyond the
remit of the motion, and anyone would be justifiably concerned about such
The ability for all members of this place, during Question
Period, to ask questions of committee chairs, which I understand to be part of
the standing orders, would allow some of that discussion to roll out in the
normative way. Moreover, nothing that would be decided with respect to this
particular instrumental motion about visual streaming would get in the way of
the Rules Committee saying that they would like to have a different approach to
Question Period. The Rules Committee could say that they want to have a system
that exists in some other places where question periods take place on fewer days
but for a longer period each day, which would allow more other debates. That is
beyond my remit and certainly beyond my pay scale.
It strikes me that is the sort of thing that could be
discussed, but I would not want to leave the impression that my purpose in this
motion is to have a backdoor impact on the way this place operates. That should
be a front-door discussion in which we are all involved.
(On motion of Senator Tardif, for Senator Banks, debate
Hon. Pamela Wallin, pursuant to notice of March 29,
That the Standing Senate Committee on National
Security and Defence be authorized to study:
(a) services and benefits provided to
members of the Canadian Forces; to veterans who have served honourably
in Her Majesty's Canadian Armed Forces in the past; to members and
former members of the Royal Canadian Mounted Police and its antecedents;
and all of their families;
(b) commemorative activities undertaken by
the Department of Veterans' Affairs Canada, to keep alive for all
Canadians the memory of Canadian veterans' achievements and sacrifices;
(c) continuing implementation of the New
That the papers and evidence received and taken during
the First and Second Sessions of the Fortieth Parliament be referred to the
That the Committee report to the Senate no later than
June 17th 2011, and that the Committee retain all powers necessary to
publicize its findings until 90 days after the tabling of the final report.
The Hon. the Acting Speaker: Is it your pleasure,
honourable senators, to adopt the motion?