The Hon. the Speaker informed the Senate that the
following communication had been received:
March 31, 2010
I have the honour to inform you that the Honourable
Thomas Albert Cromwell, Puisne Judge of the Supreme Court of Canada, in his
capacity as Deputy of the Governor General, will proceed to the Senate
Chamber today, the 31st day of March, 2010, at 4:30 p.m., for the purpose of
giving Royal Assent to certain bills.
Secretary to the Governor General and Herald Chancellor
The Hon. the Speaker: Honourable senators, I wish
to draw your attention to the presence in the gallery of Tom Godber, Board
Director, Prostate Cancer Canada; and Rocco Fazzolari, Vice-President, Prostate
On behalf of all senators, I wish to welcome you to the
Senate of Canada.
Hon. Marjory LeBreton (Leader of the Government):
Honourable senators, I am pleased to rise today to mark an important milestone
in our country's history. Fifty years ago today, under the leadership of the
Right Honourable John George Diefenbaker, the Canada Elections Act was amended
to extend the right to vote to our First Nations people.
Hon. Senators: Hear, hear!
Senator LeBreton: By doing this, our country
enhanced the sacred democratic principles of our parliamentary traditions. All
women and men share the same fundamental freedoms and the same intrinsic rights.
Without the right to vote, First Nations peoples had been denied these essential
freedoms and rights.
The amendments contained in the act to amend the Canada
Elections Act removed discriminatory parts of section 14 of the act and received
Royal Assent on March 31, 1960. The legislation came into force on July 1, 1960,
93 years after Confederation.
Honourable senators, in 1958, Mr. Diefenbaker appointed
the first senator of First Nations origin, the Honourable Senator James
Gladstone, who is honoured in the lobby of the Senate chamber.
Mr. Diefenbaker was committed to advancing the rights of
Aboriginal people and I am proud that our government is committed to the same
laudable and necessary goal.
As a government, we are building on that legacy by
demonstrating leadership and protecting the rights of First Nations, Inuit and
Metis people through such initiatives as the amendment to the Canadian Human
Rights Act, the Prime Minister's historic apology to former students of Indian
residential schools, and the creation of the Truth and Reconciliation
Honourable senators, it is necessary to mark these
chapters in our country's history as we send a clear signal that we are
committed to building a new relationship between Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal
Canadians. I hope honourable senators will join me in celebrating today's
important anniversary by honouring the prime minister who took this action,
while at the same time acknowledging the important work that remains to be done.
Canada and, I am particularly proud to say, Canadians of
Conservative stripe have shown leadership in this area and we will continue to
work to advance the rights and freedoms of Aboriginal peoples at home and
Hon. Rod A. A. Zimmer: Honourable senators, today
is a special day on Parliament Hill. Today, we unite in support of our colleague
and comrade Mr. Jack Layton and every other man in Canada who is faced with the
fight against prostate cancer.
Prostate cancer is a disease. It is the most common cancer
to affect Canadian men and has rates comparable to those of breast cancer in
women. Over 90 per cent of prostate cancer cases are curable if detected and
treated in the earliest stages.
Honourable senators, if you allow me in my remaining
allocated time, as the movie is entitled, let me become "up close and personal."
Almost seven years ago, I was diagnosed with throat cancer with the odds of 20
per cent of surviving for two years. When Dr. Kerr, the Head of Oncology at the
Health Sciences Centre in Winnipeg, along with Doctors Maksymiuk and Butler —
whom I consider saints, not doctors, since they saved my life — gave me the
news, I reacted by saying, "Doctor, the seventh stage of death is acceptance.
I'm there, so flip me over, zap my backside and let's go!" He responded by
saying, "Good attitude!"
A positive attitude generates energy and adrenaline and
fights off this disease. It also counters stress. Cancer exists in all of our
systems and will attack the most vulnerable parts of your body over 10,000 times
in your lifetime. Therefore, as much as possible, honourable senators, take the
stress out of your life.
Many Canadian men and their families are unaware of the
disease and the associated risks. Therefore, along with honourable senators in
this place and our colleagues in the other place, I wear my blue tie as a
representation of my support to promote prostate cancer awareness, detection,
treatment and a cure.
Honourable senators, almost seven years after a one-time
seven-week treatment, I am considered a survivor. However, if you are struck by
cancer, do not weaken. Take on the challenge, because I know it can be beaten.
Many myths are out there, but I have been on this adventure. Therefore, along
your journey, I pledge to all honourable senators today, irrespective of your
political background or where you sit in this Red Chamber, if you wish, I will
mentor, guide, comfort, talk, pray and walk with you. If you weaken in the last
few weeks of your treatment, I will lift you upon my shoulders and carry you the
rest of the way because you are my comrades. That is my promise.
Hon. Senators: Hear, hear.
Hon. Percy Mockler: Honourable senators, I rise
today to encourage all senators and members of Parliament to proudly wear the
men's ties and women's scarves given to us by Prostate Cancer Canada, the only
national organization dedicated to eradicating prostate cancer through research,
education and awareness.
Our best wishes go out to MP Jack Layton who recently
announced that he is undergoing treatment for prostate cancer. We applaud Mr.
Layton for speaking out on such a personal issue and helping to bring much
needed awareness to a disease with which one in six Canadian men will be
Fundraising activities include the signature events such
as ", the Wake Up Call Breakfast, the Father's Day Walk/ Run and other
countless community events across our great country. Through these activities
and the generosity of donors, the foundation continues to raise money for
innovative research, public education initiatives and the development of support
groups to assist those through their prostate cancer journey.
I encourage all men aged 40 years and older to do as I
have, to get a simple PSA blood test to determine their risk. Over 90 per cent
of prostate cancer cases are curable if detected and treated at their earliest
The ultimate goal of the Prostate Cancer Canada foundation
is to unite our great country in the fight against prostate cancer. The tie is a
symbol of prostate cancer. Honourable senators, I believe that in the near
future, it will be as recognizable as the pink ribbon is for the fight against
Honourable senators, I encourage senators and members of
Parliament to wear their ties or scarves proudly to show their solidarity with
all Canadians who are undergoing treatment to fight prostate cancer.
Hon. Mobina S. B. Jaffer: Honourable senators, I
rise today to pay tribute to West Coast Legal Education and Action Fund's
President Nitya Iyer and Executive Director Alison Brewen. West Coast LEAF is a
charitable organization that works to ensure that our laws guarantee substantial
equality for all women in Canada, especially marginalized women.
The West Coast Legal Education and Action Fund works to
ensure that the rights of women and girls as guaranteed by the Canadian Charter
of Rights and Freedoms are upheld throughout our courts, human rights
commissions and government agencies. West Coast LEAF takes action to reveal how
factors such as race, colour, Aboriginal status, sexual orientation and religion
compound discrimination against women. Senator Nancy Ruth is a great supporter
of LEAF and I thank her for her work and her support for the organization.
On March 26, West Coast LEAF held its twenty-third annual
Equality Breakfast. Over 760 guests attended to celebrate International Women's
Day and heard a moving keynote address given by Nobel Peace Prize winner Jody
Williams. During her address, Williams reminded us that "Tolerance is not
acceptance; differences must be respected and supported through local and
international law reform." This is an important message we must not forget.
Despite the great efforts of this organization and others
like it, women in Canada continue to earn less than men and to experience
violence and poverty at higher rates than men, and women around the world
continue to bear the economic and social impact of raising children.
West Coast LEAF does many other things to empower women.
One of its projects is to prepare a report card to measure how well the British
Columbia Government is living up to the obligations of the Convention on the
Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women, CEDAW. CEDAW is a
United Nations human rights treaty that guarantees women substantive equality
West Coast LEAF's annual report card on the B.C.
Government read as follows: C for violence against women and girls; C for women
and girls in prison; D for the issue of women and social assistance; D for
access to child care; D for the issue of women and housing; F for missing and
murdered Aboriginal women and girls; and, finally, F for the issue of women and
access to justice. This means that there are more British Columbian women in our
jails and more British Columbian women who do not have access to our courts.
Honourable senators, while women in this country have
rights under the Charter, human rights laws and elsewhere, Canadian women
struggle with gender-based violence, access to justice and simply outrageous
levels of poverty. We all must make these issues a priority until all areas
receive an A grade.
Canada is the best country in the world. All Canadian
women, regardless of their circumstances or background, deserve the best
treatment from the governments of British Columbia and Canada.
Hon. Nicole Eaton: Honourable senators, Canadians
enjoy poking fun at their public servants. It is a kind of national sport
stemming from the fact that we have grown accustomed to expect so much from our
civil service. A little good-hearted teasing never hurt anyone, however, I
remind honourable senators of a time when our public servants deserved our
I remind Canadians of April 1, 1925. On that day, Prime
Minister Mackenzie King appointed Oscar Douglas Skelton as Under-Secretary of
State for External Affairs, and gave the Queen's University professor the job of
bringing Canada's civil service into the modern age.
Skelton's task was daunting. How flawed was our public
service? In the words of historian Jack Granatstein, it was a mess, a swamp of
patronage and a refuge for the incompetent. A 1924 Senate report called it so
lacking in efficiency as to be little short of a national disgrace.
Enter Skelton. He hired dozens of the most talented young
men the country had to offer — alas, only men, but what men. These bright,
talented "all-rounders" steered us through the most momentous period in our
country's history: the Depression, the Second World War and the beginning of the
How good were they? They were the best anywhere. According
to Dr. Granatstein, the collective intellectual power of Canada's Foreign
Service had no peer in Ottawa, London or Washington.
How did Skelton cultivate such remarkable people? He
worked his contacts within the country's universities to hire men based on
intellectual and professional merit, not political or family connections. He
then instilled in these recruits an ethos that public service is a duty and a
privilege, not a sinecure.
Armed with that enduring belief, Skelton's External
Affairs set a standard that senior executives in other key departments soon
emulated to forge the highly skilled, non-partisan public service we now count
O.D. Skelton changed Ottawa. He and his recruits changed
Canada, and it all started 85 years ago tomorrow.
Hon. Maria Chaput: Honourable senators, I rise
today as a Franco-Manitoban senator and a member of the Western Canada
Although the stronghold of the Canadian Francophonie is
located in Quebec, there are bastions in every Canadian province and territory.
I would like to give senators a general picture of
francophones in Western Canada. The French language has occupied a special place
in Manitoba for almost two centuries. Francophones have built a comprehensive
network of French-language community organizations and services for themselves.
Francophone culture and the French language have been
alive and well in Saskatchewan for over a century and have evolved to reflect
the community's diversity and its many partnerships.
Alberta's Francophonie has flourished and sets the
standard in many ways. In British Columbia, there has been a spectacular
increase in the number of children registered in the francophone school board
and French immersion programs. In Yukon, francophones are so dynamic, it is
contagious. Francophones in the Northwest Territories have forged many social,
community and economic links. In Nunavut, francophones put down roots back in
the days of the earliest Arctic explorations. They live in harmony with three
cultures and three languages.
The Western Canadian Francophonie is constantly striving
to assert itself. Fierce battles have been fought over official languages,
schools and French radio, among other things. The francophones in Western Canada
have every intention of preserving these signs of progress and they are
certainly nowhere near surrendering.
Our language is an official language. It has equal status,
equal rights and equal privileges guaranteed by the Constitution. We have an
Official Languages Act, which is so important that the Supreme Court of Canada
has described it as not an ordinary piece of legislation, but a
quasi-constitutional act. What it protects is of tremendous importance.
Today, in 2010, the francophones of Western Canada
distinguish themselves by their increased desire to speak French and by the
impressive and sustained growth of their institutions.
Honourable senators, we, the francophones of Western
Canada, are not part of folklore; we are alive and well, and proud of our
Hon. Gerald J. Comeau (Deputy Leader of the
Government): Honourable senators, I have the honour to table, in both
official languages, Export Development Canada's annual report on the
administration of the Access to Information Act, for the period from January 1,
2009, to December 31, 2009.
Hon. Gerald J. Comeau (Deputy Leader of the
Government): Honourable senators, I have the honour to table, in both
official languages, Exinvest Inc.'s annual report on the administration of the
Access to Information Act for the period from January 1, to December 31, 2009.
Hon. A. Raynell Andreychuk: Honourable senators, I
have the honour to table, in both official languages, the first, interim, report
of the Standing Senate Committee on Foreign Affairs and International Trade
entitled: Canada and Russia: Building on today's successes for tomorrow's
The Hon. the Speaker: Honourable senators, when
shall this report be taken into consideration?
(On motion of Senator Andreychuk, report placed on the
Orders of the Day for consideration at the next sitting of the Senate.)
Hon. Gerald J. Comeau (Deputy Leader of the Government)
presented Bill S-4, An Act respecting family homes situated on First Nation
reserves and matrimonial interests or rights in or to structures and lands
situated on those reserves.
(Bill read first time.)
The Hon. the Speaker: Honourable senators, when
shall this bill be read the second time?
(On motion of Senator Comeau, bill placed on the Orders of
the Day for second reading two days hence.)
Hon. A. Raynell Andreychuk: Honourable senators, I
have the honour to table, in both official languages, the report of the Canadian
parliamentary delegation of the Commonwealth Parliamentary Association to the
Fifty-fifth Commonwealth Parliamentary Conference, held in Arusha, Tanzania,
from September 28 to October 6, 2009.
Hon. Robert W. Peterson: Honourable senators, my
question is for the Leader of the Government in the Senate. I will begin by
saying how much I appreciated her uplifting speech during Senators' Statements
regarding the fiftieth anniversary of the First Nations receiving the vote.
Unfortunately, there is another anniversary today which is not nearly as
uplifting or pleasant.
Today is the end of the fiscal year and the day that the
long- term core federal funding to First Nations University in Regina runs out.
We acknowledge there were serious problems with the
governance and management of First Nations University, but both of these issues
have been addressed. A new depoliticized board of directors has been put in
place and the senior administrators have been dismissed. The University of
Regina has stepped up to the plate and will assume oversight of financial
While the provincial government has shown tremendous
leadership in this matter and has concluded a funding deal with the university,
the leader's Conservative government is still missing from the table and refuses
to show leadership.
Honourable senators, education is the key to the future
for Aboriginal people. In the next 10 to 15 years, they will make up 50 per cent
of the workforce. Why is the Conservative government making students pay today
for mistakes of the past, which have been acknowledged and, for the most part,
have been corrected? Why would the government allow the demise of a great
institution critically important to the education of Aboriginal youth by cutting
off long-term funding?
Hon. Marjory LeBreton (Leader of the Government):
Honourable senators, as I have stated in this chamber before, the difficulties
of the First Nations University have existed for some time. As I also reported
to the honourable senator's colleague, Senator Dyck, the government remains
committed to ensuring that First Nations students continue to enjoy the same
educational opportunities as any other Canadian.
Our focus has been First Nations students in this regard.
Minister Strahl announced yesterday that our government is prepared to invest up
to $3 million through the Indian Studies Support Program to an eligible
post-secondary institution in good standing.
The investment will cover expenses related to programming
for students attending the First Nations University of Canada so that they can
finish their academic year, which ends on August 31, 2010.
Senator Peterson: I thank the leader for her
response, but it seems that the government is not concerned about the students
of the First Nations University, and is adding them to the list of cuts that
include the Aboriginal Healing Foundation and the Dental Therapy Program. Why is
the Conservative government abandoning the Aboriginal people of Canada?
Senator LeBreton: I respectfully disagree with the
honourable senator. This government and the previous government have experienced
great difficulty with this university. By no means does that difficulty
undermine the commitment made by this government to many other programs,
including education, for Aboriginal people. Work is being done and encouraging
changes have been made, but there is still much to be done. We hope that all
parties will conclude the legal agreements and bring about the changes expected
not only by Aboriginal students but also by Canadian taxpayers.
Some Hon. Senators: Hear, hear.
Hon. Lillian Eva Dyck: Honourable senators, my
mailbox is filling up with letters in support of the First Nations University of
Canada from people around the world, including Spain, Ireland and Australia. I
have received letters from the University and College Union that represents
120,000 academics and academic- related staff in the United Kingdom asking the
government to restore full funding to the First Nations University of Canada.
How can the government not restore that funding at this time?
Senator LeBreton: Honourable senators, the
government is fully funding the students until August 31, 2010, so that they are
able to complete their year. The honourable senator claims to have received
letters from around the world. I hope that they are more respectful of our
institutions than the gentleman from the University of Regina who appeared on
"Power Play with Tom Clark" last week. If his statements were an example of the
type of views that people share, that does not stand us in good stead.
I believe I put the following on the record the other day,
but I repeat: Since 2006, when the Conservative Party formed the government, the
government has invested $395 million in the completion of 94 school projects.
Canada's Economic Action Plan provided for 10 new schools and three major
renovations to schools. The Building Canada Fund provided for eight new schools
or renovation projects. As well, the government invested $100 million over three
years for the Aboriginal Skills and Employment Partnership and $75 million in
the new two-year Aboriginal Skills and Training Strategic Investment Fund. In
December 2008, Minister Strahl launched two new programs to help Aboriginal
students succeed academically: The Education Partnership Program and the First
Nation Student Success Program.
I will be happy to provide the honourable senator with
that information so that she may respond to all those letters from people around
the world who mistakenly believe this government is doing nothing for Aboriginal
Senator Dyck: I believe that the honourable leader
said the funding was coming through the Indian Studies Support Program.
According to the January 2009 internal audit of Indian and Northern Affairs
Canada, the only organization that is authorized to receive funding through the
Indian Studies Support Program on an annual ongoing basis is the First Nations
University of Canada. It is allowed under the terms and conditions of the
program to receive operational funding. The requests made by the government for
the university to put forth a proposal go against the terms and conditions of
the Indian Studies Support Program.
How does the government justify that request when the
policy is already in place that the First Nations University of Canada is
entitled to ongoing operational funding on an annual basis?
Senator LeBreton: The honourable senator must
acknowledge that there have been serious accountability problems at the First
Nations University of Canada. The Minister of Indian Affairs and Northern
Development, the Honourable Chuck Strahl, is working hard on all these files and
has met with the various stakeholders. He made an announcement yesterday to deal
with the urgent need of the students in terms of the obligations to ensure that
they complete their education. Beyond that obligation, there is much work to be
done. Our focus should be to ensure that the students complete their school
year. There will be ongoing activities at the ministry to resolve this problem,
but none of these activities takes away from the other programs that are
committed to the education and skills development of our Aboriginal peoples.
Hon. Sandra Lovelace Nicholas: Honourable senators,
I ask the leader if this university is the only school in this predicament. If
not, I want to know whether any other schools have been criticized.
Senator LeBreton: Honourable senators, the focus
today has been on the First Nations University of Canada. I would not want to
have the reputations of other excellent post-secondary or skills training
facilities undermined in any way by the activities of the First Nations
University of Canada. The questions of honourable senators have focused
specifically on this university. The government has been working on a resolution
to the serious accountability problems at the university. The original concerns
expressed were for the students, and the government agreed. The students are
paramount, and that is why Minister Strahl took such measures yesterday and
today. I am not aware that any other First Nations universities or educational
institutions face such a problem, so I will be happy to forward the honourable
senator's question to the ministry.
Hon. Jane Cordy: Honourable senators, in the
leader's response to Senator Dyck, she said that when the school closes in
August, there will be ongoing activities in the ministry to solve the problem.
Can the leader indicate to honourable senators the types of activities at the
ministry that will solve the problem?
Senator LeBreton: The honourable senator has asked
a hypothetical question. The government's focus is on the students. There are
many problems surrounding the operations of this university. It is clear that
the university could not continue. It is also clear that the minister and his
department will seek solutions to continue to help Aboriginal students. My
reference was to say that the government will not leave Aboriginal students high
and dry all over the country because of the unfortunate activities of the First
Nations University in Regina.
Senator Cordy: Honourable senators, mine was not a
hypothetical question. It was a question in response to the leader's comments to
Senator Dyck, unless her comments were hypothetical; I am not sure.
The government's plan to close this university was not
made this week but some time ago and one assumes that the ministry would have
alternate plans in place. We know that the largest growing demographic is
Aboriginal youth under the age of 25 years. Honourable senators, plans must be
in place today to educate this demographic. If no such plans are in place, we
will have problems in the future.
I ask the leader again, what does the minister have
planned? One cannot just close the door on these students and say "good luck."
The leader told this house that there would be ongoing
activity to solve the problems. Please give this house an indication of that
Senator LeBreton: I do believe the government was
definitive about the First Nations University. However, as part of the ongoing
efforts of the Minister of Indian and Northern Affairs and the government — and
these are the plans going into the future — we have worked closely with British
Columbia, Manitoba and New Brunswick First Nations groups on initiatives to
improve all educational outcomes. In February, the minister signed a memorandum
of understanding with Alberta and the Assembly of Treaty Chiefs. That MOU
established an historic partnership to strengthen First Nations education in the
province of Alberta.
These are all plans going forward that deal with education
for our Aboriginal people.
Furthermore, honourable senators, Budget 2010 provides
additional funding to strike agreements with remaining provinces that I have not
mentioned and First Nations to support better education for First Nations
The simple answer to the honourable senator's question is
that we were dealing with one particular issue, and that is the students at the
First Nations University. I have addressed that issue. I have now outlined the
work that the minister is doing in the provinces I mentioned, and in other
provinces, all for the betterment of Aboriginal students.
Hon. Maria Chaput: Honourable senators, my question
is for the Leader of the Government in the Senate. On March 29, 2010, at the
Standing Senate Committee on Official Languages, one of your colleagues asked a
witness the following question, and I quote:
When do you forecast that the census figures for
francophones in Western Canada will reach zero?
The senator in question later added, and I quote:
Aside from the folkloric element that those
communities will eventually represent, the time will come when, if we do not
find ways to revitalize and protect those communities, with the support of
government officials who will make it their mission to do so, the number of
francophones will eventually dwindle to next to nothing, even in everyday
Is it not it unfortunate that one of your honourable
colleagues is so unaware of the vitality of francophone communities in Western
Canada? I am certain that the senator's comments do not reflect a new policy of
the current government on francophones in the West. But as you can see, I was
staggered and upset by these comments. Can you give me any reassurance?
Hon. Marjory LeBreton (Leader of the Government):
Honourable senators, the activities of the various Senate committees are the
activities of Senate committees and are not the responsibility of the
government. I answer questions in Question Period on behalf of the government.
I believe that many questions and points of view are
raised in Senate committees and people have every right to raise them and every
right to question them. They do. That is part of their freedom of speech.
The fact is that people are entitled to ask questions or
make statements they believe but that might not necessarily be borne out by
fact. Any deliberations of the Senate committees are the property and the
purview of the Senate and the Senate committees and are not the responsibility
of the government. Therefore, I cannot answer for any specific person who might
have appeared, whether it was a senator or a witness. Otherwise, we would be
here, probably until I do not know when, answering questions.
Everyone is entitled to ask questions or have their own
views, and I have no other comment to make.
Hon. Jean-Claude Rivest: Honourable senators,
yesterday, the U.S. Secretary of State was in Canada. On the issue of maternal
and child health, she spoke with her usual authority and very simply and
You cannot have maternal health without reproductive
health and reproductive health includes contraception and family planning
and access to legal, safe abortions.
I would like to know why the Canadian government, rightly
or wrongly, seems to be so reticent about confirming the legal reality of
Canadian women. Why has it not taken a stand internationally so that all women
and children have the same rights as Canadian women?
Hon. Marjory LeBreton (Leader of the Government):
Honourable senators, as is well known, Canada will lead the discussion at the
upcoming G8 summit on child and maternal health, and this is an initiative
supported by the G8. We are focused on how to make a positive difference and
save the lives of mothers and children in the developing world.
Senator Rivest, whether it is the Arctic or the fact that
we host a conference, whether it is the G8 or Afghanistan, it will be Canada and
Canadians who will make those decisions.
Hon. Jean Lapointe: Honourable senators, I had the
privilege of sitting on the Standing Senate Committee on Official Languages with
two great senators, Senator Beaudoin and Senator Gauthier. We have fought tooth
and nail to help francophones outside Quebec and to help anglophones. I am
ashamed that such comments were made in committee and I would like the name of
the senator who made those comments to be disclosed. It is not fair that all
francophones east and west of Quebec and in the Maritimes are being treated this
Will the leader find out who made these comments?
Hon. Marjory LeBreton (Leader of the Government):
Honourable senators, I appreciate the question. I am not in the business of
answering for senators on either side when they appear before any committee of
the Senate, except to say that this government and all governments have a proud
tradition of two official languages. We have French language minorities in all
provinces, including Alberta, Manitoba, New Brunswick and Ontario, with a
significant number of francophones in British Columbia and an English language
minority in Quebec.
This government — just as, historically, Conservative
governments have done, going back to when the Right Honourable Brian Mulroney
was prime minister and he took a stand on Manitoba language rights — has been a
proud defender of minority language rights and our official bilingualism policy.
Senator Lapointe: Honourable senators, may I ask
the chair of the committee to disclose the name of the senator in question?
The Hon. the Speaker: According to the rules, it is
possible to ask a question of the Leader of the Government in the Senate or a
chair of a standing senate committee during question period.
Senator Lapointe: Then it is perfectly clear. I am
asking the chair of the committee to disclose the name of the senator in
Senator Chaput: Honourable senators, it was Senator
Hon. Francis Fox: Honourable senators, my question
is for the Leader of the Government in the Senate. I am seeking reassurance from
the government on the part of Canadian homeowners that an unfortunate situation
that developed in the United States did not and cannot occur here.
I go back to 2004 at the height of the building boom,
particularly in the southeast United States. The market exploded so quickly that
American gypsum mines and drywall makers could not keep up with the demand, and
hence turned to the import market. Unfortunately, they imported Chinese drywall,
which passed through South Florida ports with virtually no inspection. This
drywall was installed in as many as 100,000 homes across the United States.
Homeowners soon began to report problems such as air
conditioners failing, and electrical wiring and copper piping corroding.
Homeowners suffered persistent costs. I seek assurance from the minister that
such importation did not take place in Canada at that time, and that mechanisms
are in place to ensure building supplies imported into Canada are safe.
Hon. Marjory LeBreton (Leader of the Government):
Honourable senators, I appreciate having notice of this question because,
otherwise, I am sure if the honourable senator had asked a question about
Chinese drywall, I would not have had the facts at my fingertips.
The government is committed to protecting the health and
safety of Canadians from hazardous consumer products. We are aware of the
reports of health concerns and the situation as it developed in the United
The Canada Border Services Agency assists other government
departments in controlling the importation of hazardous products. The Canada
Border Services Agency works closely, as one would expect, with Health Canada to
ensure the products that may be in violation of the Hazardous Products Act are
intercepted at the border and handled appropriately.
I am pleased to report to honourable senators that the
Canada Border Services Agency has informed Health Canada that there is no
evidence or record of any of this drywall making its way across the border into
Hon. Céline Hervieux-Payette: Honourable senators,
my question is for the Leader of the Government in the Senate. On November 2,
2009, the Government of Canada lodged an official complaint with the World Trade
Organization to challenge the European boycott of seal products.
The first phase of the process required consultations with
the European Union. If, after 60 days, no agreement was reached, Canada could
then request that a special group be formed to review the complaint.
Could the leader tell us the nature of those consultations
between Ottawa and Brussels and what conclusions were reached? Since the 60 days
have passed, has Canada asked that a special group be formed?
Hon. Marjory LeBreton (Leader of the Government):
Senator Hervieux-Payette is right; Canada has taken this issue to the WTO. I
will take her question as notice and ask for information as to the status of
that complaint. I will provide the honourable senator with a written response.
Senator Hervieux-Payette: I have another short
question. The Humane Society International, in October 2009, after closing the
European market, made the following comment:
Expanding the boycott of Canadian seafood to Europe is
a logical next step in our campaign to end Canada's commercial seal
There is a relationship there. I simply want to warn the
government. Could the leader tell us what actions the government has taken to
ensure that hard-working Canadians will not have to endure another European
boycott on either seafood or fish?
Senator LeBreton: As honourable senators know,
especially those from the East Coast, there are problems in the fishery as it
is, without having this kind of a problem. I will add that question to my
request to the Honourable Gail Shea, the Minister of Fisheries and Oceans, for a
With regard to seal products, the honourable senator knows
that Minister Shea has been aggressively pursuing other markets for seal
products during a recent visit to China, which was successful. Hopefully we will
have success not only in dealing with the European community but also creating
other markets for our products.
Hon. Hugh Segal: Honourable senators, my question
is for the Leader of the Government in the Senate, and it is a supplementary
question asked by our colleague, a senator from Quebec, relative to Secretary
Clinton's visit to Canada. I rejoice in the leader's response that decisions
about Canadian foreign, defence and maternal policies will be made in Canada.
As the Prime Minister has established a principle that no
major military deployment will take place without a formal debate and vote in
Parliament, can I ask the leader to inquire as to whether there will be a formal
vote and debate in Parliament before any disposition with respect to the Congo?
This disposition is being talked about in many sources with respect to our
forces. Further, may I ask the leader whether the future of our activity in
Afghanistan might also be the subject of open debate and discussion in the House
Hon. Marjory LeBreton (Leader of the Government):
Honourable senators, I think we have much to be proud of because, for the first
time, when the mission to Afghanistan was extended, our Prime Minister and
government respected Parliament and took the question to Parliament. The
question was not taken to Parliament, of course, when our troops were first
committed to Afghanistan.
I believe that the Prime Minister has said publicly that
any large-scale commitment by our military will be brought to Parliament. I have
no reason to believe that will not happen. I believe it will. Honourable
senators, I will seek clarification of that belief.
Resuming debate on the motion of the Honourable
Senator Greene, seconded by the Honourable Senator Dickson, for the second
reading of Bill S-3, An Act to implement conventions and protocols concluded
between Canada and Colombia, Greece and Turkey for the avoidance of double
taxation and the prevention of fiscal evasion with respect to taxes on
Hon. Wilfred P. Moore: Honourable senators, it is
my pleasure to rise today and speak to the bill known as Bill S-8 before
"recalibration," and now properly referred to as Bill S-3, An Act to implement
conventions and protocols concluded between Canada and Colombia, Greece and
Turkey for the avoidance of double taxation and the prevention of fiscal evasion
with respect to taxes on income.
Somehow, it sounds as riveting today as when it first
appeared before us in that long lost Second Session of the Fortieth Parliament
whose life was tragically cut short by the soft-on-tax conventions,
Conservative-dominated Prime Minister's Office.
I commend my colleague Senator Greene on his words of
explanation regarding this bill. He somehow managed to stay on track despite the
recent recalibration episode. This allows for brevity on my part.
As the global economy grew more integrated, a treaty on
international taxation was sought to deal with the problems of double taxation
and tax evasion. The OECD began to address these issues in the 1950s, eventually
creating the Model Tax Convention. Since then, more than 3,000 tax treaties have
been put in place worldwide.
Simply put, the Model Tax Convention establishes a
guideline under which countries can harmonize their double tax treaties. If a
Canadian company sells its goods in another market as well as at home, there is
the possibility that it would end up paying tax at home and abroad. As Senator
Greene mentioned last week, and in the speech he delivered before
"recalibration," not only is such double taxation unfair to the company, it also
causes major problems in international trade.
Tax treaties prevent these problems in several ways. To
explain, I will quote from my pre-recalibration speech, in which I stated:
Tax treaties allocate taxing rights between two
countries by resolving the issue of residence where a taxpayer would be
considered a resident of both countries. With respect to each category of
income, treaties assign the primary right to tax to one country, usually,
but not always, the country where the income arises. A residual right to tax
is usually, but not always, assigned to the country of residence.
Treaties provide rules for determining which country
will be treated as the source country for each category of income.
Lastly, treaties also provide rules limiting the
amount of tax that the source country can impose on each category of income,
and places the onus on the resident's country to eliminate double taxation."
A dispute mechanism is included as well, which seeks
ultimately to avoid double taxation by having representatives from each of the
countries arrive at a mutually satisfactory solution regarding outstanding
issues. I believe the 2008 update to the Model Tax Convention introduced a
"mandatory, binding arbitration provision to resolve difficult issues."
Senator Greene mentioned in his post-recalibration speech
that these treaties also deal with the issue of excessive taxation through the
reduction of withholding taxes. Maximum levels are set for these withholding
taxes, and Canada often seeks outright elimination of withholding tax for some
types of income.
It is worthy to note that Senator Greene also stated in
It is important to remind honourable senators that
while we have been impacted by global recession, Canada has weathered the
recession better than any other countries and we are well placed going into
a recovery. Our fiscal standing is the healthiest in the G7; our housing
markets avoided the problems seen in other countries; and our banks and
financial system are the strongest in the world.
I would like to inform the chamber that I have passed on
these compliments to the Right Honourable Jean Chrétien, the man responsible for
protecting the economy and Canadians from this recession.
All in all, these tax treaties, including the three we are
dealing with today in Bill S-3, are meant to enable an easier international tax
regime between Canada, Colombia, Greece and Turkey. To do so under the rules as
set out by the OECD's Model Tax Convention, I support this bill and look forward
to further discussion in committee.
Hon. Stephen Greene: Before I propose sending this
to committee, I would like to add that during the post- recalibration period,
Greece signed its legislation into law. They are waiting for us.
With regard to the comments regarding the wonderful Prime
Minister Chrétien, I would like to remind the chamber that it was the Reform
Party, especially the Reform Party when Stephen Harper was the finance critic,
that enabled the 1995 Budget to take place.
Senator Moore: Do they really want to raise that
subject? Regarding Greece, we have all been reading the financial pages; little
wonder they signed it already.
Hon. Suzanne Fortin-Duplessis (The Hon. the Acting
Speaker): Is it your pleasure, honourable senators, to adopt the motion?
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. James S. Cowan (Leader of the Opposition):
Honourable senators, I want to thank our newest colleagues, Senator Poirier and
Senator Runciman, for launching the debate on the Speech from the Throne. I
think we can all acknowledge that they did the best they could in difficult
circumstances. So many words; so little substance!
Here we are again, debating yet another Speech from the
Throne after yet another surprise prorogation by this Prime Minister. I have
been Leader of the Opposition in the Senate for less than a year and a half and
this is the third speech that I have given in reply to a Speech from the Throne.
Honourable senators, there are real and pressing issues
facing our country. Canadians are concerned about jobs, the deficit, health
care, and the environment. They want to know that their government is working to
ensure that their children will have the skills and education they need to meet
the challenges down the road in our rapidly changing world. They have seen their
life savings disappear in a financial meltdown and they ask what is being done
now to protect their retirement income and pensions.
Most Canadians were skeptical of the Prime Minister's
claim that he needed to prorogue Parliament in order to recalibrate, but they
were prepared to give the government the benefit of the doubt, accepting that
serious challenges require time to come up with serious solutions.
Honourable senators, Canadians have been sadly
disappointed. This latest Speech from the Throne contains no serious solutions,
no plan for Canada in the 21st century. As Mr. Ignatieff said, "This is
recalibration? It looks more like regurgitation to me."
We have promises of recycled crime bills and Senate reform
bills — bills that died because the Harper government either sat on the
initiatives or because of the Prime Minister's decision to shut down Parliament.
The policy initiative that sparked the most public
engagement was a proposal to change the words in the national anthem. That
proposal was withdrawn within 48 hours. One could debate that issue at length,
but it is the insight this fiasco provides into how this government comes up
with policies for Canadians that is most shocking.
Prime Minister Harper justified his proroguing Parliament
as somehow necessary to enable his government to consult with Canadians on a
"recalibrated" Speech from the Throne. We can see now there was no
recalibration, and it now appears there were no consultations, either.
Forty-eight hours of "listening to Canadians" was enough
for him to decide that the proposal to change the words to the national anthem
should not succeed. Why did that not happen during the period of prorogation?
How many other policies contained in the Speech from the Throne and the budget
were crafted in such evident haste and with so little forethought?
Canadians expect honest and serious public policy.
Instead, regrettably, we have a government focused on spin while ignoring the
real problems. It replaces substance with slick advertising and rejects out of
hand all dissenting voices; whether from independent watchdogs, recognized
experts, public servants, Parliamentarians or members of the public.
We have seen this government's supposed law and order
agenda, which insists on simplistic solutions to the problem of crime in Canada.
Indeed, the Minister of Justice, himself, is on record as strongly opposing the
very solutions he now stridently advances.
Perhaps most disturbing of all were the attempts by the
members of the Harper government to discredit the testimony of Richard Colvin on
the issue of Afghan detainees. More than 125 former ambassadors, including no
less than our former ambassador to Washington, Allan Gotlieb, took the highly
unusual step of writing a letter protesting the treatment of Mr. Colvin. They
said he was "unfairly subjected to personal attacks," and that the episode:
. . . risks creating a climate in which officers may
be more inclined to report what they believe headquarters wants to hear,
rather than facts and perceptions deemed unpalatable.
However, this government is not interested in serious
public policy based on the honest examination of facts and evidence. It is
interested only in controlling the message.
Cabinet ministers routinely refuse to answer questions
about their portfolios or even their own proposed bills. We saw evidence of this
in our own Senate committees. There were several occasions when cabinet
ministers were invited to appear before Senate committees on proposed
legislation they claimed was of critical importance and urgency, yet they did
The refusal of ministers to answer questions from the
media is so well known as to pass with barely a shrug. It has been reported that
members of the press gallery are routinely warned by the Prime Minister's aides
not to ask questions at the many carefully staged photo opportunities.
Anyone brazen enough to ask a question is quickly
reprimanded and told, if they continue, reporters will no longer be invited to
So much for an era of openness and accountability. A new
era, it is true, but not the new era Canadians were expecting. No government in
Canadian history has been so secretive and so closed as this one.
How has this government tried to justify its refusal to
allow cabinet ministers to answer questions from the Parliamentary Press
Gallery? The Prime Minister's former press secretary was interviewed by The
Hill Times a little over a year ago. This is what the article said:
"Ministers are available in Question Period to answer
questions of the elected opposition, that is the system that we have, that
is the primary way by which cabinet ministers in a Parliamentary democracy
are held accountable," said Mr. Teneycke.
That was in November 2008. We know what happened next,
honourable senators. Just two short months later, the Prime Minister shut down
Parliament and then, a year later, he did it again.
So much for the accountability of ministers to Parliament.
Prime Minister Harper has repeatedly told Canadians that
his government would never cut and run. Yet, that is exactly what the Prime
Minister has done: Cut and run, shutting down Parliament not just once, but
This response by a national government to purely political
problems is so unusual that it has provoked comment not only in Canada, but
worldwide. The Economist commented on this in an article entitled "Halted
in mid-debate" and in a strong editorial entitled "Harper goes prorogue." which
Canadian ministers, it seems, are a bunch of Gerald
Fords. Like the American president, who could not walk and chew gum at the
same time, they cannot, apparently, cope with Parliament's deliberations
while dealing with the country's economic troubles and the challenge of
hosting the Winter Olympic games.
The Prime Minister's Office has tried to convince
Canadians that the prorogation was routine and that it is commonly used. Richard
Foot of Canwest News Service researched the history of the prorogation
manoeuvre. He wrote:
. . . no other English-speaking nation with a system
of government like ours — not Britain, Australia or New Zealand — has ever
had its parliament prorogued in modern times, so that its ruling party could
avoid an investigation, or a vote of confidence, by other elected
Only three times has this happened, all in Canada —
first in 1873, when Sir John A. Macdonald asked the governor general to
prorogue Parliament, in order to halt a House of Commons probe into the
Pacific Scandal. . . .
No prime minister dared use prorogation to such effect
again, until Stephen Harper convinced Gov. Gen. Michaëlle Jean to suspend
Parliament in 2008, so the Conservatives could evade a confidence vote.
A little more than a year later, he did it again.
Editorial boards across the country stood up to denounce
this shameful action by Prime Minister Harper. The Globe and Mail took
the rare step of publishing its editorial of condemnation on the front page,
something it last did 45 years ago.
Some Hon. Senators: Oh, oh!
Senator Cowan: I know the honourable senators
opposite do not like to hear some of these facts, but it would do them good to
Christopher White, a graduate student at the University of
Alberta, set up a Facebook group which he called Canadians Against Proroguing
Parliament. Over 225,000 Canadians joined that group.
At our universities, it was not only students who
protested. Daniel Weinstock of the University of Montreal, Jeremy Webber of the
University of Victoria and Charles Taylor of McGill — three eminent Canadian
professors — joined to write an article criticizing the Prime Minister's
decision to prorogue Parliament. To date, more than 150 Canadian academics who
specialize in the principles of democracy have asked to sign that article.
Liberal parliamentarians returned to work on January 25,
the week that Parliament should have resumed. That week, we held the first of
what became a series of more than 30 public round tables on issues of real
concern to Canadians. Our round tables focused on creating jobs, including for
the youth of Canada; on the digital economy; lifelong learning; supporting
science and technology; energy and the environment; health care, including
issues around Alzheimer's and dementia; the medical isotopes crisis; poverty and
homelessness; white-collar crime and community safety; aviation security;
veterans; accountability; and governance.
Honourable senators, I regret that I do not see the same
forward thinking efforts at thoughtful public policy development reflected in
the actions of this government. There is no vision or plan to ready Canadians
for the future. That was terribly evident in the Speech from the Throne.
Canadians face a major demographic shift as baby boomers
retire and join the ranks of senior citizens. As Senator Carstairs recently
pointed out in this chamber, fully 25 per cent of the Canadian population will
be over the age of 65 by 2031. This presents serious challenges in terms of
labour shortages, tax revenues, social programs and health care, to name just a
few. A responsible government prepares for such massive challenges. However,
none of this is addressed in the Speech from the Throne. Our own Parliamentary
Budget Officer made it clear that we ignore these demographic issues at our
Climate change is another serious challenge. It is real,
and it is happening here today, transforming the world as we speak. Yet this
government has no responsible environmental plan. It chooses instead to
outsource its plan to the United States, while taking no action to prepare for
the impacts that scientists know will occur — on the global food supply, water
resources and even our physical health.
Economic development opportunities are being lost by this
government's myopic approach to the environment. The Harper government says it
is waiting for the United States, but President Obama has announced significant
spending initiatives on emerging renewable and conservation technologies.
Before the recent budget, the United States government was
outspending our federal government 14 to 1 on a per capita basis. According to
the Pembina Institute, Budget 2010 not only failed to narrow that gap, it
widened it. Now, the U.S. government will be outspending Canada 17.8 to 1 on a
per capita basis. Consistent with this neglect, Minister Flaherty did not even
mention the words "climate change" in his budget speech.
Where is the plan to position Canadians to create and
seize the best jobs of tomorrow? This government cut literacy programs. It
decimated the national literacy infrastructure, stranding Canadians who
desperately need these skills to work.
Education is the key to success yet this government has
not presented any coherent plan to ensure that Canadians have the skills they
will need. There are isolated initiatives and I applaud them. However, without a
plan or clear ideas of where we want to be as a nation 5, 10 or 20 years from
now, how can we hope to reach a destination?
Honourable senators, "vision" is not a rhetorical device.
Vision is building for the future, not just solving the latest current crisis.
In the Speech from the Throne, the government ostensibly
set out, in sometimes lofty tones, its plan for the upcoming session. In the
budget tabled the day after the Speech from the Throne was delivered, we find
some details of what Canadians can expect.
The government has made the deficit the centrepiece of
this budget. Let us be clear. This is a problem of the government's own
creation. It is a problem that seems to have taken this government by surprise,
not only once, but repeatedly.
Prime Minister Harper inherited a healthy $13-billion
surplus from the previous Liberal government. He swore to Canadians in the 2008
election that his party would never put Canada back into deficit. He called the
very idea "ridiculous." That is the word he used — ridiculous. His government
presented its economic and fiscal update on November 27, 2008. Canadians were
told to expect a $100-million surplus in 2009-10.
Only weeks later, Finance Minister Flaherty was forced to
admit that his analysis had been wrong. Canada would run a deficit of between
$20 billion and $30 billion, which climbed to $34 billion and is now a record
An Hon. Senator: He should be fired.
Senator Cowan: Honourable senators, how can
Canadians have any confidence in this Minister of Finance who has been so
spectacularly wrong about what is happening to the nation's finances?
Mr. Flaherty is now telling Canadians that he can reduce
the deficit without tax increases and without cuts to program spending. The
deficit will disappear through a review of government departmental spending and
with the economy growing its way out of deficit.
Many economists across the countries, including our own
Parliamentary Budget Officer, question the government's assumptions. One
newspaper called the plan "six sleights of hand."
Dan Kelly of the Canadian Federation of Independent
Business was unequivocal in his assessment of this pie-in-the-sky approach to
The budget's assertion it does not increase taxation
is nonsense. While taxes are frozen for the calendar year 2010, every
employed Canadian and every Canadian business that has staff will experience
a significant Employment Insurance premium hike starting in January 2011.
No doubt, air travellers will disagree that this
government has not raised taxes when they are forced to pay increased airport
The message from the Harper government on the deficit
seems to be: "Trust us." However, how can Canadians be expected to trust a
government that did not see the recession coming; a Prime Minister who claims to
be an economist, but who told Canadians to invest in the stock market at the
worst possible time; and a Minister of Finance who did not know whether he would
be running a deficit or surplus?
It is also difficult to take seriously this government's
promise to reduce government spending when the Harper government quietly boosts
funding to advertise its economic action plan.
According to news reports, the government recently
increased its advertising spending on the action plan from $34 million to $39
million — a 15 per cent increase. This level of thinly-veiled partisan
advertising is equivalent to buying a Porsche with taxpayers' money and
preaching to those same taxpayers that they should take the bus.
Only this week, Canadians learned in a report by Daniel
Leblanc in The Globe and Mail:
A senior Conservative official repeatedly intervened
last month to try and suppress the revelation that Ottawa spent $5 million
on a TV advertising blitz surrounding the Vancouver Olympics.
In a tense exchange of e-mails over a two-day period,
ministerial aide Ryan Sparrow blocked attempts by bureaucrats to reveal the
price tag of the ads that aimed to promote the Conservative budgetary
measures. . . .
"No figures," bureaucrats were told by Mr. Sparrow,
the director of communications in the office of Diane Finley, the Minister
of Human Resources and Skills Development.
The Prime Minister's press office has a whopping 27 people
on staff. Don Martin, columnist for the Calgary Herald, remarked: "That's
a lot of staff to not get back to you." That is also an expensive office budget.
It may be frozen, but what is the point if the budget was padded to the max
before the freeze was imposed?
This government also has an interesting view of what all
these people in the press office are suppose to do. It seems their primary
purpose is not to provide information to the press, but rather to suppress it.
For example, after many months of stonewalling, the government has finally
admitted that its illusory tough on crime agenda will cost Canadian taxpayers
approximately $3.1 billion by 2012-13. This is a 27 per cent increase to the
Correctional Service of Canada's prison budget over the next three years. It is
occurring while crime rates have been falling for years and virtually every
expert says that the government's law and order agenda is fundamentally flawed
An Hon. Senator: It is a housing program.
Senator Cowan: Canadians need investment in
research and development and in science and education. We know there will be
strains on our health care system and our social safety net as our population
ages. Instead, we get bloated prisons and a bloated PMO. Is this the Harper
government's vision for Canada?
Look at where the government has announced it will cut
back to fight the deficit it created. In the 2010 Budget, the Department of
Public Safety, for example, is directed "to eliminate research programs where
capacity now exists in other organization such as universities." The savings are
$200,000 per year. Public Safety is responsible for our national security,
emergency management, corrections policy and law enforcement. Some of the
organizations that fall under their purview are the RCMP, CSIS, and the Canada
Border Services Agency.
We recently learned that practically all of the money that
will be saved next year by these supposedly critical cutbacks on policy research
will be spent on one single contract — for a decorator for this year's G8 and
G20 summits. I suppose we should not be too surprised at this news since this is
a government that prefers window dressing to substantive policy for Canadians.
Some Hon. Senators: Hear, hear.
Senator Cowan: Note the careful wording mandating
the cuts to the policy research for Public Safety. It is not that the research
is actually being done elsewhere; it is simply that "capacity now exists"
elsewhere to do the research. University research may be focused on something
completely different, but that is apparently irrelevant. The funding will still
Honourable senators, I fear the issue is not only about
how this government mismanages fiscal priorities, but it goes to how it treats
public policy research itself. Many of us in this chamber on both sides have
asked to see research on which various public policy proposals were based. We
were shocked to discover that no studies exist.
This has been a critical issue for senators studying the
mandatory minimum prison sentences proposed by this government. Some of those
proposed policies run counter to the research studies that have been conducted.
Is this why the Department of Public Safety is being directed to make these cuts
in spending on public policy research because the government does not want to
confirm uncomfortable truths about its policies on things like corrections and
Last year, the McGill Institute organized a panel
discussion on the question: "Does Evidence Matter in Policy-making?" John
Geddes, a well-known journalist with Maclean's, wrote in his blog:
To some of the other panellists, and I would guess to
most of those in the roomful of academics and bureaucrats listening, the
assumed premise was that evidence — facts, objective analysis, expertise —
should matter a great deal more in policy than it does now.
He was shocked to hear Ian Brodie, the Prime Minister's
former chief of staff, casually dismiss it as irrelevant when stacked up against
winning political points.
In an article entitled: "Ian Brodie offers a candid case
study in politics and policy," Mr. Geddes wrote:
Ian Brodie, Prime Minister Stephen Harper's former
chief of staff, delivered an astonishingly frank explanation today for why
the Conservative government cut the Goods and Services Tax, and why he's
glad they did, even though just about every economist and tax expert said it
was a terrible bit of public policy.
Mr. Brodie said:
"Despite economic evidence to the contrary, in my view
the GST cut worked. . . . It worked in the sense that by the end of `05-`06
campaign, voters identified the Conservative party as the party of lower
taxes. It worked in the sense that it helped us to win."
It's not really surprising, of course, that campaign
calculations lay behind the GST cuts, which have cost the federal government
about $12 billion a year at the worst possible time. That's been obvious all
What's noteworthy is that Brodie, who is now a
visiting fellow at the McGill institute, doesn't shrink from publicly
asserting that such a major public policy decision can still be deemed a
success — even in the face of "evidence to the contrary" — if that move paid
the desired political dividends.
In other words, honourable senators, in order to win
votes, Stephen Harper — an economist — introduced a fiscal policy that he knew
was bad for Canada. According to Mr. Brodie, this is how business is done under
the Harper government — all politics, all the time, and do not confuse us with
Is this the kind of policy-making that went into the
design of the economic action plan? Is that why we are facing a $54-billion
What jobs have been created so far during the height of
the recession by this economic action plan? The government will not say. We do
not know whether that is because they are ashamed of the lack of results for
Canadians or because they do not know themselves.
Last year, the government promised to directly create
190,000 new jobs over two years. Statistics show that since October 2008 — back
when Mr. Harper was saying that there would not be a recession in Canada — more
than 300,000 Canadians lost their jobs and are still out of work.
Canada has an unemployment rate of 8.2 per cent — that is
1.5 million unemployed Canadians. According to Food Banks Canada, in 2009
Canadian food banks experienced the largest ever year-over-year increase on
record. Close to 800,000 people turned to food banks in March 2009, which was
the month of the study — more than 72,000 of them for the first time. These
Canadians need more than politics. They need serious policies that will build
good jobs for now and for the future.
The National Post did a major piece on the economic
action plan, asking on the front page "Did Stimulus Really Work?" Let me read to
you some of the examples from that article describing how Canadian taxpayers'
money was spent in the name of the economic action plan.
When the Conservative government announced in August
it was sending nearly a quarter-million dollars to Calgary's GlobalFest,
organizers were delighted.
The money was part of the government's "Economic
Action Plan" to stimulate the economy, a tourism boost "to attract visitors
to Calgary from throughout Alberta, across the country and around the
world," Local MP Devinder Shory said.
The problem was that when the money arrived the
festival . . . was already set to begin. There would be little hope of
attracting any new tourists to Alberta in time to visit Calgary for the
showcase, admitted Ken Goosen, the festival's producer.
Such was the fate of a number of other Conservative
stimulus initiatives, according to the article.
An obvious question for all of us is whether the Harper
government's stimulus spending is responsible for the green shoots we are
finally beginning to see in our economic landscape.
On March 24, the Ottawa Citizen reported:
The federal government's $47.2 billion Economic Action
Plan contributed little to the economic turnaround in 2009 and will do more
harm than good in 2010, according to the Fraser Institute.
It claims the money has not gone to create jobs for
Canadians and has not helped to bring Canada out of the recession. Is it at
least being used responsibly to lay a strong foundation for good jobs for
Canadians in the future?
This brings us back to "the vision thing." It is
abundantly clear that this government has no vision for Canada and is not
interested in a vision for Canada.
I mentioned the demographic challenge we face in this
country with an aging population. Seniors are now the fastest growing segment of
homeless persons in Canada. They have been hard hit by rising housing and energy
costs while the economic meltdown decimated their savings and pensions.
All of us received a brief from the National Pensioners
and Seniors Citizens Federation, an organization that represents over 1 million
seniors. Their brief called for a national pharmacare program to stabilize the
terribly high costs of pharmaceuticals. It called for an extension and reform of
medicare. They called for national standards for home care and home support, and
for attention to the housing crisis facing seniors. The federation called for a
national pension insurance plan.
As they wrote in their brief:
Many seniors are spending sleepless nights worrying
about the security of their retained earnings, pensions and investments
The Harper government did acknowledge that our seniors
helped to build Canada. The Speech from the Throne correctly pointed out:
Canadians believe sacrifice and hard work should be
recognized. As we strive to create an even better future for our families
and communities, our government will stand up for those who built and
defended this country.
How did the government stand up for these Canadians? Its
response to the serious concerns was to offer a seniors day, mere window
Honourable senators, when I reread the submission from the
pensioners foundation, I did not find a request for a seniors day. I do not
believe anyone was spending sleepless nights worrying about that.
What was the government's answer to the concern about
retirement income? A promise to engage in more consultations.
Honourable senators, what has the Harper government been
doing these past few months? Consultations and a greeting card policy — Happy
Seniors Day — not real help or serious solutions. Our senior citizens surely
We just celebrated International Women's Day, and were
reminded that women in Canada earned just 70 per cent of what their male
colleagues earn, regardless of education level. In 2010, 40 years after the
Royal Commission on the Status of Women, we still face this shameful disparity.
Child care is an absolutely essential requirement if a
mother is to work outside of the home. The government of Prime Minister Paul
Martin understood this; then Minister Ken Dryden succeeded in obtaining signed
agreements with all 10 provinces on child care. The Harper government tore them
Diane Finley, the Human Resources Minister, in her first
meeting with the Canadian Child Care Federation had this to say:
I'll be damned if anybody tells me how to raise a
Honourables senators, by eliminating child care options,
this government is eliminating choice and is telling parents across the country
how to raise a child — how to raise a child in the officially approved
The problem, honourable senators, is that this approach
may reflect the preference and dreams of the Conservative Party's base, but it
is not the Canadian reality of 2010.
Instead of addressing any of the serious concerns facing
women today, the Harper government's Speech from the Throne proposal for women
was to change the words of O Canada. It has been reported that this idea
was suggested to the government by Senator Nancy Ruth and, in fact, was advanced
by a number of Liberal women senators several years ago.
Let us be clear: Changing the words to O Canada
will not address the wage disparity between men and women. It will not fund one
child care space. It will not help one abused woman. In any event, we all know
what happened. Not 48 hours after the Speech from the Throne was delivered, the
proposal was taken off the table by the Prime Minister himself. This abrupt
about-face presents us with an interesting and unusual predicament. As we all
know, the Throne Speech explains why Her Majesty or Her Majesty's Representative
has called Parliament into session. The motion we are debating today states that
we in the Senate "offer our humble thanks to Your Excellency for the gracious
Speech which Your Excellency has addressed to both Houses of Parliament."
However, Prime Minister Stephen Harper, Her Excellency's
most senior advisor and servant in Parliament, has publicly proclaimed that he
has no intention of meeting one of Her Excellency's expectations. In view of
what has occurred, I am surprised that Senator LeBreton, who is Prime Minister
Harper's senior representative in this chamber, has not proposed an amendment to
the Address in Reply motion to make it clear that, although we thank Her Majesty
for her gracious address, we do not agree with her instruction that a
parliamentary committee examine the wording of the national anthem. I have never
heard of any prime minister anywhere so quickly disassociating himself or
herself from the pronouncements of Her Majesty.
Honourable senators, this government is trying to change
the way we talk and think about Canada, and is determined to dismantle the
social infrastructure that generations of Canadians have built so painstakingly.
I wish to quote from Frances Russell's column in the Winnipeg Free Press
on January 20, 2010, to show how the Prime Minister is trying to change Canada.
On the domestic front, that same social conservative
base and the Conservatives' determination to return Canadian federalism to
the 1867 British North America Act era are combining to shred what little
progress this country has made in creating a pan-Canadian social and
educational policy framework.
Since 2006, the Conservatives have either axed or
slashed funding for the Canadian Council on Learning, the Status of Women,
the Canadian Council of Social Development, the Court Challenges Program,
the Canadian Policy Research Networks, the Canadian Millennium Scholarship
Foundation, Volunteer Canada, the Canadian Health Network, the Child Care
Advocacy Association of Canada, Family Service Canada and Centres of
Excellence, among many others.
The gutting of the Canadian Council on Learning, which
was leading the push for national standards for post- secondary education,
comes at a time when the Obama administration is launching a massive $250
million education initiative, claiming education is key to America's future
prosperity. But the council was never popular with the provincial-rights
premiers and it is an affront to the Harper government's belief that all
social policy is provincial, if not family-based.
Of course, those organizations were prepared to challenge
the government, and this government cannot abide challenges. In 2005, when he
was leader of the opposition, Mr. Harper said:
When a government starts trying to cancel dissent, or
avoid dissent, is frankly when it is rapidly losing its moral authority to
I could not have expressed it any better.
Honourable senators, I will conclude today as I concluded
in reply to the previous Speech from the Throne. We on this side of the chamber
will do our best to fulfil our constitutional role as members of an active,
thoughtful, dedicated opposition exercising our mandated role of sober second
thought. We intend to scrutinize carefully the government's legislative agenda
and will propose legislative measures of our own. Where we find fault with
bills, we will propose amendments to improve them. If on the other hand we find
favour with the government's proposals, we will support them. Always, our guide
will be the public good. We will not be bullied or threatened by Mr. Harper to
comply with artificial deadlines imposed by the government for purely partisan
There are serious issues facing our nation. I regret that
I do not see an equally serious vision presented in the Speech from the Throne.
Honourable senators, Canadians deserve better, and we on this side will do what
we can to see that they receive it.
Hon. Lowell Murray: Honourable senators, will
Senator Cowan allow a question?
Senator Cowan: Of course.
Senator Murray: I want to give the Leader of the
Opposition the opportunity to assure this place that he is not associating
himself or his party with the blinkered analysis of the Fraser Institute with
regard to stimulus spending. Surely as a Keynesian, which I presume most
Liberals are, and in view of the fact that the honourable senator's party
supported the stimulus measures, the honourable senator will acknowledge what
the Fraser Institute completely discounts: the powerful message that the
governments of Canada, the United States and the United Kingdom sent to the
private sector, which was that these governments will do what it takes to ensure
that an international financial crisis does not plunge the whole world into the
economic abyss. I cannot but believe that message had a positive impact on the
markets and on the private sector, a fact that is completely ignored by the
Fraser Institute. Neither the honourable senator nor I is old enough to remember
the Great Depression, but governments at that time sent the contrary message
that they would retrench, cut taxes and spending, and let the private sector
work its magic. That approach was a disaster and took a world war to recover
There will be time enough to analyze the efficacy or
otherwise of the various stimulus measures taken by this federal government.
Some things will have worked well, some others less well and some perhaps not at
all. We can have that discussion at another time. Surely the honourable senator
will not associate himself with what I think is a completely unrealistic view of
the Fraser Institute that stimulus spending played no part in the incipient
economic recovery and, in fact, caused more harm than good. This view is a piece
Senator Cowan: Honourable senators, I was quoting
from the Fraser Institute because I was anxious to make the point that Canadians
are entitled to know the effect of the stimulus spending. This government has
consistently stonewalled when asked by reporters and the Parliamentary Budget
Officer to show its impact.
I do not profess to have the same expertise or experience
as the Honourable Senator Murray, but it is my understanding that the effects of
the stimulus package in the U.S. have been much clearer and better measured. The
reporting mechanisms put in place by the Obama Administration are more robust
than those put in place in Canada. Canadian taxpayers, whose money this is, are
entitled to know in a clear and timely fashion the results of their expenditure.
That was my point. I did not intend anyone to think that those were my views
which were being expressed by the Fraser Institute. A question was asked and a
conclusion was reached by the Fraser Institute. I do not have the expertise or
information to reach my own conclusion on that issue.
Hon. Fred J. Dickson: Will the honourable senator
permit another question?
Senator Cowan: Of course.
Senator Dickson: Honourable senators, I have the
greatest respect for Senator Cowan. I am one of the many who always listen to
his remarks because of his experience in developing public policy over many
In the scales of justice, one could put the public
interests on one side and the political interests on the other. Would Senator
Cowan comment as to whether or not all policy meetings and sessions of the
Liberal Party to develop public policy ever gave any consideration to the
political benefit side of the scale?
Senator Cowan: My friend Senator Dickson and I have
been at many public events together over the years. He knows and appreciates, as
do I, how important it is for political parties to involve themselves in open
debate and encourage people — and not only members of the political party but
people from outside — to come and give the benefit of their advice. That is
certainly what the Liberal Party did so successfully this past weekend
involving, as I understand, more than 20,000 Canadians from coast to coast to
coast, as well as in our series of 30 round tables to which I referred in my
Obviously, at the end of the day, a government has to make
choices and political considerations are certainly part of those choices. One
would hope, when it comes to the choice between good public policy and good
politics, that one would choose good public policy. I am sure that my friend
would agree that, in most cases, good politics is good public policy as well.
Senator Dickson: I have a supplementary question.
Today, a report came out from KPMG saying that Canada now holds a 5 per cent
business cost advantage over the United States. Would the honourable senator
like to comment on that, which is, in part, due to the policies of the Harper
government? An honourable senator said earlier that it may have been partially
because of a foundation or part of a foundation laid by a previous government,
and that is hard to debate, but I am sure that the Harper government must have
played an important role in giving Canada that cost advantage.
Senator Cowan: Perhaps earlier my friend Senator
Moore was giving credit to Prime Minister Chrétien for having provided such a
solid financial base which was inherited by the Harper government. I have not
seen the article to which Senator Dickson refers, but I respect the work of
KPMG. If we have that sort of advantage, that is good, and that is why Mr.
Ignatieff suggested that now is the time to push the pause button on further
corporate tax reduction because we do have that advantage. We ought to take the
money that would be lost to the Government of Canada if we were to reduce
corporate taxes further to enable the next Liberal government to fund the kind
of social programs that he has referred to.
Hon. Hugh Segal: Will my honourable friend take
Senator Cowan: Absolutely.
Senator Segal: I wanted to zero in on the issue of
the deficit. I accept that there will be a judgment call made by observers and
partisans on all sides as to what the deficit might or might not have been
before the Lehman Bank collapsed. A decision was reached by the G8 and the G20
with respect to countries committing to increase their percentage of GDP
expenditure as governments so as to keep liquidity in the marketplace,
understanding that short-term deficits were a better response than a more total
collapse of the economic system.
Would my honourable friend be of the view that the
Government of Canada should not have done that, and that the deficit that we now
have is inappropriate and that we should have, as Senator Murray implied
earlier, stood back and not taken that risk, letting the financial tumbles fall
as they may?
Senator Cowan: That is not my view at all. It was
obvious that Canada would go into deficit as a result of actions not only within
our borders but also outside our borders. I am not pretending in any sense that
a deficit was avoidable. I am saying that it was irresponsible for this
government to pretend that we would not have a deficit and then to pretend that
we were not in a deficit, when we were in a deficit. That is the irresponsible
part. It is not what happened; it is the fact that the government pretended it
was not going to happen and pretended it was not happening, when it was
happening. That is what I quarrel with, not the fact that we are in deficit.
As I indicated in my response to Senator Murray, certainly
our party was supportive of the stimulus package and the necessity to spend
money to avoid the very kind of thing that Senator Murray referred to as
occurring in the 1930s.
Senator Segal: So I am clear on the proposition as
advanced by my good friend, is he in fact asserting that the Government of
Canada, the Minister of Finance and the Prime Minister, were aware of a deficit,
they hid it or misrepresented it from the public, and then that they should have
been able to anticipate what would transpire after the Lehman Bank collapsed
before it transpired and, in fact, on that basis, they simply misrepresented the
truth to the public, notwithstanding the unpredictable circumstances that
Senator Cowan: I obviously do not have the
information that was available to the Minister of Finance and the Prime Minister
at the time that they were making these public assertions. I also agree with the
obvious that we have the benefit of hindsight now.
However, honourable senators, it was clear that most
economists, most experts in the field who had more information than certainly I
or perhaps Senator Segal had, were predicting this and were saying that we were
in a deficit at the time that the Prime Minister and the Minister of Finance
were denying that that was in fact the case. On the basis of that, I say it is
unlikely that they had less information than those experts. Who was right and
who was wrong? My conclusion is that they were at least looking at the situation
through rose-coloured glasses, if not deliberately misrepresenting the situation
to Canadians. It is that for which I fault them.
Senator Segal: The Leader of the Opposition made
reference to the $13-billion surplus inherited from the Martin administration.
He will be aware of comments that have been made across the country and across
the political spectrum, fairly or unfairly, that that surplus was achieved in
part through slashing transfers to the provinces by 33 per cent and by a massive
reduction in the defence budget. However one might chose to agree or disagree
with those assertions, would the honourable senator not accept the premise that
for a government to come into office and decide to replenish the defence budget
and to cut taxes so that the social and economic deficit in the country was
dealt with by greater fairness from Ottawa was a legitimate political choice for
a government to take after campaigning on it? Further, on that basis, while
people can judge how that worked out for themselves, would the honourable
senator agree that a difference in opinion does not necessarily suggest the
squandering of someone else's surplus when it was built on social and defence
deficits in the country?
Senator Cowan: The cuts to which the honourable
senator refers were made in the 1990s. Senator LeBreton pointed out that this
government took over in 2005-06. The surplus to which I refer was built up early
in this decade. Clearly, there was no surplus in the 1990s.
That is when the cuts you referred to were made; those
cuts were made to clear up the deficits left by the previous Mulroney
government. I accept the fact these cuts were political choices the government
made when it came into power. It includes the decision — a wrong decision, in my
judgment — to slash the GST by two points.
If the government wanted to reduce the taxation burden on
Canadians, most economists — and I am not an economist — have said that
reduction was the wrong way to go about it. I leave that issue to economists. I
am sure the honourable senator can find some to support it. Stephen Harper is an
economist and he said it was the right way. However, most other economists
contended that was the wrong way to achieve the tax burden reduction the
honourable senator speaks about.
Why the government took that approach is for them to
answer and they will answer; they have answered for it several times at the
polls, and the time will come when they will do so again. The decision was a
political choice. I accept that. I think it was a wrong political choice, but it
was a choice they made. As the government, they are entitled to make such
decisions under our system of government.
I think my honourable friend is associating too closely in
point of time the reductions of the 1990s with the surplus build-up of the early
period of this decade.
Hon. Linda Frum moved second reading of Bill S-215,
An Act to amend the Criminal Code (suicide bombings).
She said: Honourable senators, I rise today to speak in
support of Bill S-215, an Act to amend the Criminal Code (suicide bombings).
It is impossible to speak about this bill on this day
without pausing to recognize the loss of innocent civilians murdered this week
in multiple attacks around the world. Terrorist attacks on civilians ended the
lives of 38 people in Moscow on Monday and claimed 12 more lives only this
morning in Dagestan, all of them victims of suicide bombers. Another suicide
bombing this morning in Afghanistan abruptly ended the lives of 12 civilians and
wounded another 45, including 8 children.
As all civilized people will agree, suicide bombing is a
heinous terrorist act that demonstrates a spectacular disregard for the sanctity
of human life.
Honourable senators, let me explain that Bill S-215 is
exactly the same as former Bill S-205, which was passed by the Senate with some
amendments on June 10, 2009. Former Bill S-205 was then debated at second
reading in the House of Commons last October and November. It was referred to
the Standing Committee on Justice and Human Rights in November of 2009, but it
died when Parliament was prorogued late last December.
Honourable senators, I will provide background for this
bill. The current definition of "terrorist activity" found in section 83.01 of
the Criminal Code has two components. The first component is defined in part as
"an act or omission that is committed in or outside Canada" that would be an
offence under the major international instruments that apply to terrorist
activities, such as hijacking and terrorist bombing.
More specifically, this component includes the offence in
the Criminal Code that implements International Convention for the Suppression
of Terrorist Bombings. This offence is found in section 431.2(2) of the Criminal
Code. It makes it a crime when a person:
. . . delivers, places, discharges or detonates an
explosive or other lethal device to, into, in or against a place of public
use, a government or public facility, a public transportation system or an
infrastructure facility, either with intent to cause death or serious bodily
injury or with intent to cause extensive destruction of such a place, system
or facility that results in or is likely to result in major economic loss,
is guilty of an indictable offence and liable to imprisonment for life.
The maximum punishment is imprisonment for life.
The second component is a general definition of "terrorist
activity," which is found under section 83.01 of the code. It is defined as an
act or omission undertaken inside or outside Canada for political, religious or
ideological purpose that is intended to intimidate the public with respect to
its security, including its economic security, or to compel a person, government
or organization, whether inside or outside Canada, from doing or refraining to
do any act that intentionally causes one of a number of specified forms of
These harms include causing death or serious bodily harm,
endangering life or causing a serious risk to health or safety, among others.
The definition of "terrorist activity" also includes counselling, attempting,
conspiring or being an accessory after the fact in relation to a terrorist
Given this definition, it is apparent that the current
definition of "terrorist activity" catches the actual carrying out of suicide
bombings by terrorists as well as counselling, attempting or conspiracy to carry
out such a suicide bombing, since such conduct, in the context of terrorism,
would intentionally cause death or serious bodily harm to a person. However, the
current definition of "terrorist activity" does not explicitly provide that
suicide bombings fall within the definition of "terrorist activity."
It could be argued that the current definition of
"terrorist activity" is an entirely satisfactory state of affairs, since suicide
bombing is already implicitly included in the definition. The argument is, there
is no need to specifically provide that it be included.
However, this argument fails to address the importance of
the criminal law as an educative or, indeed, symbolic tool that affirms the
fundamental values of Canadians. By expressly referencing "suicide bombings" in
the context of terrorism as falling within the definition of "terrorist
activity," the Code affirms the fundamental values of human life and human
Honourable senators, this bill proposes that a greater
certainty or definitional clause be added to the definition of "terrorist
activity." Specifically, it proposes to amend the Criminal Code to clarify that
suicide bombings come within paragraph (a) or (b) of the
definition of "terrorist activity" found in section 83.01 of the code if it
satisfies the criteria of that paragraph.
The benefit of this clause is that it provides a clear and
forceful educative message, not only to the people of Canada but also to the
world, that Canada denounces suicide bombing as a tactic of terrorists, given
its obvious contempt for human life and dignity. At the same time, the bill is
crafted with precision to ensure this definitional clause is consistent with the
definition of "terrorist activity" currently in the code, and does not
accidently enlarge the scope of "terrorist activity."
Let me give honourable senators an example of how
carefully this definitional clause has been drafted. Consider the possibility of
someone who decides to commit suicide by detonating himself or herself in the
middle of an empty field. Yes, this person has engaged in a suicide bombing.
However, since there is no intention to intimidate the public for a political,
religious or ideological purpose, and since there is no intention to harm anyone
other than the bomber, this bomber will neither be caught by the original
definition of "terrorist activity" nor by the new definitional clause proposed.
I will also note briefly another provision of this bill.
The bill proposes to come into effect on a day to be fixed by the
Governor-in-Council rather than the day on which it will receive Royal Assent.
This wording ensures maximum flexibility for the government to advise provinces
of this change before coming into effect.
This bill is an example of democracy in action. Former
Senator Grafstein introduced previous versions of this bill in this house before
his retirement. The organization called Canadians Against Suicide Bombing
supported previous versions of this bill. It also created an online petition in
favour of these bills, which included the names of such Canadians as former
prime ministers Jean Chrétien and Kim Campbell.
Additionally, this chamber last year voted in favour of
former Bill S-205 as amended, while members of all parties spoke favourably in
the House of Commons about former Bill S-205 prior to prorogation last December.
I hope this bill will receive speedy passage in this place and will have the
support of all parties in the House of Commons.
Some Hon. Senators: Hear, hear.
Hon. Art Eggleton: Honourable senators, I rise to
support the bill and to congratulate Senator Frum on her sponsorship of the
bill. She has picked up the baton from Senator Grafstein who still has
involvement in the background, although he does not have a voice here in the
chamber any more. I also want to recognize Judge Reuben Bromstein who has made a
campaign out of this for many years. He has recruited many supporters for this
The subject has dominated us in society and around the
world for a number of years. Events this week in Russia have again demonstrated
that this kind of suicide bombing activity still plagues us. People of all
faiths and backgrounds, innocent men, women and children, have become its
It is important to point out that suicide bombers, of
course, do not act alone. A suicide bomber carries out a mission and that is the
end of that person, but many other people recruit, finance, teach and incite
them to do this for some possibility of continuing their faith in an afterlife.
As Senator Frum pointed out, this bill helps to provide
greater clarity and certainty in the law. It also provides us with an
opportunity to demonstrate leadership in expressing our abhorrence of such
crimes against humanity.
The House of Commons was considering the previous Bill S-
205 when prorogation occurred. They have made the provision that if this bill
can be passed within 60 days, then the bill would resume its previous position
before the House of Commons committee.
I hope we will be able to accomplish that. We can start by
sending it to committee today. We debated and passed this bill previously. The
Standing Senate Committee on Legal and Constitutional Affairs heard from
witnesses on the subject. Therefore, I hope the committee would turn it around
quickly and send it back to this chamber so we can pass it through to the House
of Commons within that 60-day time frame to continue its consideration.
In that context, I am pleased to support the bill.
Hon. Hugh Segal: Honourable senators, I simply want
to express my support for both honourable senators — Senator Frum and Senator
Eggleton — on this bill. Our ability to make progress on this issue as a
civilized society, our ability to underline that suicide bombers have killed
more people of the Islamic faith than any other group in the world, and our
ability to underline our commitment to the forces of judicial and legal
investigation that need to have the conspiracy aspect for any reference in the
Criminal Code to pursue the lines of connection and financing that Senator Frum
and Senator Eggleton have discussed should be something on which we can unite in
Moreover, we should give any instrument or tool we can to
our law enforcement and intelligence agencies to prevent these events from
happening. These are not events best pursued after they have transpired for the
purpose of gathering evidence to bring people to trial. The damage has been done
by that point. Putting this particular legal precision in the Criminal Code
gives all the forces that fight for stability and order, both here and in their
networks around the world, added capacity to protect the very citizens with whom
we share this globe against this heinous crime.
I appeal to the leadership on both sides and to individual
members of this institution not to subject this bill to death by endless
adjournments for no particular reason. Let it proceed to committee where
honourable senators who have concerns or issues will have ample opportunity to
raise those questions and to have them addressed by officials. We could then
deal with fair reflection on the substantive issues without holding up progress
on this most important question.
Hon. Anne C. Cools: I move adjournment of the
The Hon. the Speaker: Is it your pleasure,
honourable senators, to adopt the motion?
Some Hon. Senators: Yea.
Some Hon. Senators: Nay.
The Hon. the Speaker: All those in favour of the
motion will please say "yea."
Some Hon. Senators: Yea.
The Hon. the Speaker: All those opposed to the
motion please say "nay."
Some Hon. Senators: Nay.
The Hon. the Speaker: Continuing debate.
Senator Cools: Honourable senators, I was under the
impression that we were hurrying through today's business so we can proceed to
Royal Assent and that we were not pursuing matters where there was prolonged
debate. That was my understanding.
Some Hon. Senators: Question!
The Hon. the Speaker: Honourable senators are
asking that the question be put.
Is it your pleasure, honourable senators, to adopt the
Some Hon. Senators: Agreed.
An Hon. Senator: No.
(Motion agreed to and bill read second time, on division.)
Resuming debate on the motion of the Honourable
Senator Watt, seconded by the Honourable Senator Eggleton, P.C., for the
second reading of Bill S-212, An Act to amend the Excise Tax Act (tax relief
Hon. Richard Neufeld: Honourable senators, thank
you for the opportunity to engage in the debate on Bill S-212 concerning tax
relief for Nunavik. The proposal will give exclusive preferential tax treatment
to residents of Nunavik through the sales and excise tax systems. Specifically,
it would apply a zero per cent GST rate on the supply of goods and services in
Nunavik. It would also exempt petroleum fuels purchased in Nunavik from federal
In discussing this proposal, there are a number of
important points to be kept in mind. First, considerable tax relief is already
available to residents of Nunavik through measures such as the Northern
Residents Deduction and current provisions of the Excise Tax Act. Second,
providing further tax relief to Nunavik residents alone while providing nothing
to Canadians in other similar regions raises issues of unfairness. Third, the
federal government already provides significant support to all provinces and
territories. Fourth, actions announced by our Conservative government in
Canada's Economic Action Plan and the significant tax relief introduced by this
government will boost confidence and economic growth and support Canadians in
Let me deal with each of these issues in turn, starting
with an overview of the tax assistance already available to residents of Nunavik
and other Canadians living in northern and isolated regions. The Northern
Residents Tax Deduction provides a daily residency deduction that recognizes the
higher costs of living in the North. This deduction aims to draw skilled labour
to northern and isolated communities by significantly reducing the tax burden of
The Northern Residents Deduction is based on a zonal
system. Residents who live in the prescribed northern zone qualify for the full
amounts of the deduction, while those living in the intermediate zone qualify
for one half of the amounts. Nunavik is part of the northern zone and its
residents are eligible for the higher amounts of the Northern Residents
As part of the government's comprehensive northern
strategy, the government made a major 10 per cent increase in the residency
amount of the Northern Residents Deduction in Budget 2008. This increase brought
the maximum annual amount of the residency deduction to $6,022.50, up from
$5,475, for residents of the northern zone, including residents living in
In addition, the Northern Residents Deduction provides a
deduction for two employer-provided vacation trips per year, as well as
unlimited employer-provided medical travel. The Conservative government's
increase in the Northern Residents Deduction represented approximately $10
million in additional tax relief in 2009-10 and subsequent years.
This increase was widely applauded. The Yellowknifer
newspaper called it:
. . . a nice unexpected surprise, a boost for the
Northern Residents Tax Deduction, which has not been updated since its
inception in 1986.
I might add that it was implemented by a previous
Conservative government under Brian Mulroney, with successive Liberal
governments in between not changing the levels at all.
The Mayor of Yellowknife added:
It was something we have been asking for a significant
period of time. The move will mean more spending into local economies and
further reduce the cost of living.
Certain additional provisions of the excise tax already
provide significant tax relief in favour of commercial transportation and remote
communities. For example, diesel fuel and aviation fuel are subject to a reduced
rate of federal excise tax. This reduced rate of excise tax on diesel fuel and
aviation fuel recognizes the importance of these fuels for business. It is
especially important in rural and remote regions of Canada, where it is
necessary to transport goods, equipment and people over vast distances.
As well, federal excise tax provides full relief for
diesel fuel that is used either as heating oil or to generate electricity.
Again, this relief is important in rural and remote regions of Canada, where
diesel fuel may be used as a substitute for home heating oil and where it is
sometimes necessary to use diesel generators to provide electricity. These
measures ensure that excise tax does not apply when diesel fuel is used to
provide shelter heat and electricity.
This brings me to my second consideration — whether it is
fair to provide tax relief to residents in Nunavik alone and not to other
northern communities, or all Canadians, for that matter.
Bill S-212 proposes a zero per cent GST rate on supply of
goods and services in Nunavik. It also proposes a federal excise tax exemption
on petroleum and fuels sold or purchased in Nunavik. Such exemptions would
certainly be a source of inequity, not only between Nunavik and those who live
elsewhere, but also between Nunavik and other parts of the North.
As I mentioned a moment ago, the proposal targets Nunavik
residents exclusively. There is little justification to do so; and as anyone can
see, this would be unfair to other residents of the North, as well as other
taxpayers in general.
Our Conservative government, on the other hand, believes
that tax relief should be as broad-based as possible. For instance, we delivered
on our commitment to reduce the GST to 5 per cent from 7 per cent. This
benefited all Canadians. While reducing the GST by 2 percentage points, it also
maintained the GST credit level which helps offset the sales tax burden of lower
income families and individuals.
The Yellowknife Chamber of Commerce supported the GST cut
and the considerable saving for northerners it provided, noting:
Any time there is some kind of a tax cut it is going
to be good because more money is going into people's pockets and maybe there
will be more opportunities for them to spend it and get the economy going.
For my third point, I would like to review the many other
ways which this government supports the residents of Nunavik. For instance, our
government recently announced $9.7 million in funding for health projects to
improve the health of Canada's Inuit, as well as support an Inuit-specific
mental wellness team and an Office of Inuit Health. These initiatives will help
approximately 48,000 Inuit living in Canada.
Budget 2010 built on that progress. The government also
announced important reforms to the food mail program to improve access to
affordable healthy foods for northerners. As well, Canada's Economic Action Plan
continues to provide support for its skills training and education and better
We are also providing significant financial support to
provincial and territorial governments on an ongoing basis to assist them in the
provision of programs and services. For 2010-11 fiscal year, the Government of
Quebec will receive $17.2 billion through major transfers to provide programs
and services to Quebec residents, including Nunavik residents — an increase of
over $500 million over the previous year.
My fourth point is that given the effects of the global
recession, Canadians are concerned about their businesses, their jobs and their
savings. The government has listened to these concerns and will do what it takes
to keep our economy moving and to help Canadians in this time of extraordinary
One important element of the government's economic action
plan is its agenda for tax relief, aimed at creating a tax system that rewards
Canadians for realizing their full potential and improving their standard of
living. In the first year, Canada's Economic Action Plan implemented significant
new personal income tax relief that will provide immediate benefits such as:
increasing the basic personal amount, the amount all Canadians can earn without
paying federal income tax; and increasing the upper limit of the two lowest
personal income tax brackets, so that Canadians can earn more before paying high
taxes. For fiscal 2010-11, year two of the economic action plan, $3.2 billion in
personal income tax relief will be delivered to all Canadians.
Nunavik residents, along with other Canadians, also
benefit from the significant tax relief provided by this government. Since
coming into office, the government has taken action that will provide
significant tax relief to Canadians and Canadian businesses now and in the
Our government certainly agrees that residents of Nunavik
deserve tax relief, as do all Canadians; this is why it has cut taxes in every
way it collects them. However, tax relief needs to be responsible and fair,
which measures proposed under Bill S-212 clearly are not. No government could
justify providing special tax preferences to Nunavik residents and denying them
to other northern residents in similar situations.
In closing, I will quote from the sponsor of the bill,
quoting his own Liberal leader's edict — that any proposal be physically
credible — from this past weekend:
One of the issues we have to confront is how do we pay
for this? We can't be a credible party until we have an answer for that
question. We will not identify any new spending unless we can clearly
identify a source of funds without increasing the deficit.
For all of those reasons I talked about, we are unable to
support this proposal. I trust all colleagues will agree.
The Hon. the Speaker: Further debate? Are
honourable senators ready for the question?
Hon. Claudette Tardif (Deputy Leader of the
The Hon. the Speaker: Is it your pleasure,
honourable senators, to adopt the motion?
The Honourable Thomas Albert Cromwell, Puisne Judge of the
Supreme Court of Canada, in his capacity as Deputy Governor General, having come
and being seated at the foot of the Throne, and the House of Commons having been
summoned, and being come with their Speaker,
The Honourable Peter Milliken, Speaker of the House of
Commons, then addressed the Honourable the Deputy Governor General as
May it please Your Honour:
The Commons of Canada have voted supplies required to
enable the government to defray certain expenses of the public service.
In the name of the Commons, I present to Your Honour
the following bills:
An Act for granting to Her Majesty certain sums of
money for the federal public administration for the financial year ending
March 31, 2010. (Bill C-6, Chapter 1, 2010)
An Act for granting to Her Majesty certain sums of
money for the federal public administration for the financial year ending
March 31, 2011. (Bill C-7, Chapter 2, 2010)
To which bills I humbly request Your Honour's assent.
The Honourable the Deputy Governor General was pleased
to give the Royal Assent to the said bills.
The House of Commons withdrew.
The Honourable the Deputy Governor General was pleased to
Leave having been given to revert to Government Notices of
Hon. Gerald J. Comeau (Deputy Leader of the
Government): Honourable senators, with leave of the Senate and
notwithstanding rule 58(1)(h), I move:
That when the Senate adjourns today, it do stand
adjourned until Tuesday, April 13, 2010, at 2 p.m.
Hon. Anne C. Cools: Honourable senators, I would
like to say a few words. My leave to move this question was requested earlier
today when I spoke to Senator Comeau. He told me that he needed my leave to move
this adjournment. I agreed then and I plan to agree now. However, I must say to
this house that I was rudely shocked this afternoon because I was under the
impression that the government and the house was under a very tight timeline.
Today is a huge day in the parliamentary process with two supply bills, to which
Her Excellency's deputy assented, and the adjournment for Easter. I rose a short
while ago to take the adjournment on a new bill so that I could speak to it.
This is the normal process. Every member has a right to speak to every measure
before this place. It is an inherent right and I was denied that right. I am
told by several senators across the way that when they were denying it, they did
not know what they were doing, which I find astounding. It is not in my nature
to be spiteful. I want the record to show that I gave agreement so that the
assent could take place and now for this adjournment motion. This is a mighty
system and senators should learn how to use it properly to reflect the freedom
of speech we were talking about only yesterday. I have the freedom to speak and
I am exercising it to give agreement so that it is done. Let us understand that
I do not have to do this. Thank you.
Hon. Michael Duffy: Honourable senators, I rise to
thank Honourable Senator Cools and to let her know how much we appreciate her
deep knowledge and history of this place. Some days some things happen,
especially with so many new members, that no one on this side ever intended to
give offence. We hold Senator Cools in high regard, as I have done personally
for many years. I would not want this place to break for the Easter recess with
any sense on the part of Senator Cools that we ever intended to slight or
insult. Some of us did not understand the details involved, but I can assure the
honourable senator that those on this side hold her in the highest regard. The
last thing we would want to do is cause the honourable senator any slight,
especially at this joyous Easter time of the year.
Senator Cools: Honourable senators, I thank Senator
Duffy for his comments. He knows the great affection I feel for him. He
mentioned Easter and I am a Christian. I believe deeply in the notions of
redemption, forgiveness and love. However, new senators should take the time to
learn and understand what they are doing, and if they do not know, perhaps they
might zip their lips.
All honourable senators have choices, and I have made a
choice not to be spiteful today in either of these two circumstances. I deeply
appreciate what the honourable senator has said, and I shall remember him in my
prayers on Easter morning.
Senator Comeau: Honourable senators, before moving
the adjournment motion, I would like to join my colleague, Senator Duffy, in
thanking Senator Cools for the sound advice she provides on a very regular
basis. I always appreciate her interventions. We do not always agree but we
always try to come to an amicable agreement. This afternoon is a case in point.
Having said that, I move that the Senate adjourn.
The Hon. the Speaker: Is it your pleasure,
honourable senators, to adopt the motion?
(Motion agreed to.)
(The Senate adjourned until Tuesday, April 13, 2010, at 2