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Debates of the Senate (Hansard)

3rd Session, 40th Parliament,
Volume 147, Issue 53

Tuesday, October 5, 2010
The Honourable Noël A. Kinsella, Speaker


THE SENATE

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

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

Prayers.

SENATORS' STATEMENTS

The Late Irving Schwartz, O.C.

Hon. Catherine S. Callbeck: Honourable senators, this country has lost one of its most visionary entrepreneurs and committed community leaders in the recent passing of Irving Schwartz of Sydney, Nova Scotia. From a small family-owned clothing and furniture store in New Waterford, he rose to become one of the leading business people of this country, with wide-ranging interests in a number of sectors. He was determined to provide new economic opportunities for the people of his community and assisted generations of entrepreneurs in countless untold ways in getting their start in business.

His life is also one of commitment to numerous community causes in areas such as health, education, the cause of peace and social justice. In addition to a number of distinguished awards and recognitions, his induction to the Order of Canada is a testament to the outstanding contributions he made to his fellow citizens.

He had a great passion for life, for his family, for his community and country. Although he provided leadership to a number of organizations and boards in his province and across Canada, he was most proud of being a volunteer firefighter with the New Waterford Fire Department.

I was personally fortunate to have known Mr. Schwartz, who became a role model for me. Like him, I grew up in a family business, which came to include a furniture store. He also attended my alma mater, Mount Allison University. His absolute dedication to serving his customers is a source of inspiration to all those who aspire to succeed in business.

As an example of his pioneering, entrepreneurial spirit, Mr. Schwartz's cable company was the first in North America to introduce broadband Internet to his customers. He remained active until the time of his death, spearheading a $5.5 million fundraising campaign for a cancer unit for the Cape Breton Regional Hospital.

The more than 1,000 people who attended the funeral at the Membertou Trade and Convention Centre in Sydney are a tribute to a long and remarkable life. I extend my sincere condolences to his family. Irving Schwartz will be greatly missed.

Role of Avaaz in Canadian Democracy

Hon. Bob Runciman: Honourable senators, I rise today to draw attention to a foreign organization that spent tens of thousands of dollars to influence the results of the last federal election campaign in a manner that does not appear in keeping with the spirit of our election laws. That U.S.-based organization even today is working hard to influence public policy and subvert Canadian democracy. No, honourable senators, I am not talking about the National Rifle Association. I am referring to Avaaz, a shadowy foreign organization that has been linked to American billionaire George Soros.

This group has attempted to influence Canadian environmental policy and, in the last election campaign, spent tens of thousands of dollars in an attempt to defeat a handful of senior government ministers. The group spent this money despite rules in the Election Act that limit third parties to spending a maximum of $3,666 in a federal election "to promote or oppose the election of one or more candidates."

The group continues to try to subvert democracy in Canada by launching a campaign against an all-news channel proposed by Sun Media. The virtual silence of the Canadian media on the involvement of this foreign entity illustrates only too well why Canadians need more voices, more opinions and more sources of news.

The CBC led its national television newscast on September 13 with a flimsy conspiracy theory attempting, but ultimately failing, to link the U.S.-based National Rifle Association to the debate over the gun registry. CBC could not find anything to indicate that the NRA had spent a single cent trying to influence Canadian policy.

Meanwhile, a real example of foreign interference in Canadian affairs was occurring right under the noses of CBC reporters and producers who tried so hard, but failed so miserably, to prove foreign influence in the gun registry debate. Avaaz was putting its resources into influencing Canadian broadcast policy, as it attempted to interfere in Canadian environmental policy, as it tried to influence the results of the last election, and as it tried to convince the Governor General to allow the opposition coalition to take power following that election.

Why have the CBC and like-minded media outlets ignored the activities of Avaaz? Is it perhaps because Avaaz shares their view of the world?

Honourable senators, this conspiracy of silence by much of the media illustrates as clearly as anything why the Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission should approve an application for an all-news channel by Sun Media, so that Canadians can have access to a broader range of opinions.

Special Olympics

Recognition of Mr. Christopher Lee

Hon. Maria Chaput: Honourable senators, on Tuesday, September 28, 2010, I met a special person by the name of Christopher Lee. I want to share with you what this young athlete and Olympian had to say:

Thank you for meeting with us, Senator Chaput. It is an honour to meet you.

My name is Christopher Lee and I live in Whitehorse, Yukon. I've been a Special Olympics athlete for 11 years, and I compete in soccer, bowling, curling and bocce.

I want to thank you for your support. Having your support means the world to me and to my fellow athletes. It is very important.

I would not be here in your office today if it were not for Special Olympics. Special Olympics have given me the chance to excel in life. I'm asking you to continue supporting Special Olympics so that other people like me in my community and across the country can have the opportunity to train and compete in sports.

I congratulate Mr. Lee and all the other fine athletes who are part of Canada's Special Olympics team.

New Brunswick

Congratulations on Election of Progressive Conservative Government

Hon. Michael Duffy: Honourable senators, I rise today to salute the democratic process, which is alive and well in Canada, and, as we saw recently, especially in the province of New Brunswick.

In addition to congratulating the premier-designate David Alward, who will be sworn in on the twelfth of this month, I want to make special mention of Wes McLean, the successful Progressive Conservative candidate who unseated Dr. Larry Kennedy in the riding of Victoria-Tobique. Dr. Kennedy was the last remaining MLA from Liberal Premier Frank McKenna's 1987 sweep.

As honourable senators will know, Wes McLean is a remarkable young man, having served as a political staffer in the Prime Minister's Office and on the staff of the Leader of the Government in the Senate, Senator LeBreton.

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It took courage to pack up the good life in Ottawa for the uncertainties of a campaign for elected office, especially when one is running against a 16-year incumbent, but Wes took up the challenge and he won. Thus, the democratic cycle begins anew.

I congratulate Wes and all of those from all parties who ran in the New Brunswick election. There truly is no higher calling than service to one's fellow citizens.

The Late Mario Laguë

Hon. Michael Duffy: Honourable senators, I want to add my voice to that of my friend Senator Munson on the tragic and sudden death of Mario Laguë. Mario was a happy warrior committed to his political boss and his party, but as a media representative, he was open and helpful to those of us in the media even when we were not always applauding his party's policies. It takes a big man to put professionalism ahead of partisan politics, but Mario, a big man, did that, and he did it with finesse.

The political process cannot work without the dedication of those who work behind the scenes. Mario Laguë was such a dedicated professional, and our sympathies go out to his family and his countless friends on their tragic loss.

Newfoundland and Labrador

Hurricane Igor Emergency Response

Hon. Ethel Cochrane: Honourable senators, on September 21, Hurricane Igor ripped through Eastern Newfoundland with a vengeance rarely seen in Canada. In its wake, bridges were destroyed, roads were turned to rubble and tens of thousands of homes were left without power.

Honourable senators, for others, the damage was even greater as countless homes were simply washed away and others flooded beyond repair.

More than 200 people in the community of Port Union lost their place of work. Damage to the local fish plant is estimated to be in the hundreds of thousands of dollars, if not millions of dollars and has been closed since the hurricane. Unfortunately, many of these workers had not yet reached the required hours to qualify for Employment Insurance benefits.

More than a week after this devastating storm, some communities remained in a state of emergency. In the town of Bonavista, where Igor's fury was especially fierce, roads were washed out, and necessities, like fuel, medication and food, were in short supply. The community of Lawn ran out of fuel completely.

Honourable senators, I am happy to report that road access was restored to all communities last weekend. In response to the emergency, three Canadian Forces ships were dispatched, as well as a fleet of Sea King helicopters and at least 900 Canadian Forces personnel. They provided emergency aid to the many thousands who were in desperate need of supplies and basic necessities. In fact, they delivered more than 200,000 pounds of humanitarian aid. They also worked feverishly to repair roads and to install temporary bridges. It should be pointed out that with the fall construction season coming to a close, temporary repairs are all that can be made at this point.

National Defence Minister Peter MacKay toured the affected area and met with local residents and Canadian Forces personnel. In the community of Trouty, he met Josephine Johnson, who, I think, explained the trauma best. She said:

It is like a nightmare that we can't wake up from. You get up in the morning and you think you can go on, but you don't know what to do or where to start.

Honourable senators, I commend the people of my province for their cooperation and determination in the face of remarkable hardship. I also thank our political leaders — both provincial and federal — for leading this emergency effort. Above all, I want to thank the Canadian Forces and all those organizations and individuals who have taken action and helped those impacted by this disaster.

Ms. Kristin Roe

Congratulations on Charitable Fundraising Efforts

Hon. Fred J. Dickson: Honourable senators, I would like to take this opportunity to acknowledge a young lady who should serve as an inspiration to all Canadians. Kristin Roe is the first Nova Scotian to successfully swim the English Channel. On July 22, the 29-year-old completed the 34-kilometre swim from Dover to Calais in 17 hours — a trek touted by many as the Mount Everest of swimming. I am surprised that Jim Munson was not with her.

What is most extraordinary about this achievement is not the long distance or the impressive time but rather her motivation. Kristin has raised hundreds of thousands of dollars for important charities serving the diverse needs of Africa. Kristin describes herself as an AIDS activist. She has dedicated much of her time to community development while working and volunteering throughout the African continent. She has seen first-hand the challenges faced by many African communities and has focused her efforts on improving these conditions.

In 2005, she completed her first major swim by crossing the Northumberland Strait, a 15-kilometre trek that helped her raise money and awareness for HIV/AIDS. In 2006, while living in South Africa, she became the first Canadian to swim the icy waters between Robben Island and Cape Town.

In 2008, Kristin tackled the Northumberland Strait again, but this time she did it twice. Kristen swam 30 kilometres in 15 hours, and raised $80,000 for the Stephen Lewis Foundation, an organization dedicated to those suffering from HIV/AIDS in Africa, and for Farmers Helping Farmers, a group of Canadian agriculturalists helping Kenyan farmers become more self-reliant in agricultural food production.

Conquering the English Channel is Kristin's most recent and challenging endeavour. She calls this latest mission the Channeling Hope campaign and has already raised over $60,000 for both the Stephen Lewis Foundation and the Nova Scotia Gambia Association.

Kristin has recently been nominated for the CBC's Champions of Change award. In this contest, Canadians will have the opportunity to vote for the volunteer of their choice. The winning contestant will receive $25,000 for his or her respective charity. I sincerely hope her efforts are appropriately honoured so that she is able to reach her goal of $100,000.

Honourable senators, I encourage you to spread the word about Kristin Roe and the Channeling Hope charity. I hope you will join me in giving her the acknowledgment and respect she deserves and that you will continue to support her in her future endeavours as she continues to raise money and awareness for such an important cause.

National Defence

Investment in the Canadian Forces

Hon. Pamela Wallin: Honourable senators, at the recent Battle of Britain anniversary, I was amazed by the dozens of World War II veterans who turned out and who stayed through a long day and actually participated in a parade. It was wonderful to see the fly-pass with some of the great old planes, including a Lancaster. The parade and the fly-pass were wonderful but most amazing was the strength and the spirit of the veterans. This country owes them a great debt of gratitude, and our troops continue to put their lives and health on the line for this country and its citizens.

The government understands this commitment, and that is why we will be investing a total of $2 billion in our Canadian Forces, including $200 million over the next five years. We will invest that money so that seriously injured veterans have access to the support they need. The government has also announced a Legacy of Care, $52.5 million over five years for seriously injured Canadian Forces personnel and their families. Soon there will be changes to the controversial lump-sum payment system that may be replaced with a pension system.

I encourage honourable senators to speedily pass these measures when the enabling legislation comes to this chamber.

Honourable senators, for those serving Canada now and in the future, we also want to ensure that while on the job they have the best equipment to do that job. That is why the government is buying 65 F-35 aircraft to replace our aging F-18s. This contract means decades' worth of business for Canadian industry, which is eligible to bid on all 3,000 aircraft to be manufactured for worldwide sale.

There are those who allege that the contract is sole-sourced, that there should be a competition. Honourable senators, there was a competition — nine years ago. Canada was part of that process. We did our homework and now we will have the best fighter aircraft in the world, bar none.

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As for those who would scrap this purchase, I remind them about what happened when a previous government scrapped the chosen replacement for the ancient Sea King helicopters. Taxpayers paid half a billion dollars in penalties. Today, 17 years later, the Canadian Forces still have not received any of those new helicopters because the project has been so plagued by problems.

Honourable senators, please, let us not play politics with procurement. The lives of our young men and women are at stake.

Visitors in the Gallery

The Hon. the Speaker: Honourable senators, I wish to draw your attention to the presence in the gallery of the participants in the Parliamentary Officers' Study Program.

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


[English]

ROUTINE PROCEEDINGS

Privacy Commissioner

Access to Information Act and Privacy Act—2009-10 Annual Reports Tabled

The Hon. the Speaker: Honourable senators, I have the honour to table, in both official languages, the 2009-10 annual reports of the Office of the Privacy Commissioner of Canada, pursuant to section 72 of the Access to Information Act and section 72 of the Privacy Act.

[Translation]

Privacy Act—2009-10 Annual Report Tabled

The Hon. the Speaker: Honourable senators, I have the honour to table, in both official languages, the Annual Report of the Office of the Privacy Commissioner of Canada for the 2009-10 fiscal year, pursuant to section 38 of the Privacy Act.

Chief Electoral Officer

Access to Information Act and Privacy Act—2009-10 Annual Reports Tabled

The Hon. the Speaker: Honourable senators, I have the honour to table, in both official languages, the annual reports on the administration of the Privacy Act and on the administration of the Access to Information Act within the Office of the Chief Electoral Officer of Canada for the 2009-10 fiscal year, pursuant to section 72 of each act.

Export Development Canada

Alternative Fuels Act—2009-10 Annual Report Tabled

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 report on the application of the Alternative Fuels Act for the 2009-10 fiscal year, from April 1, 2009 to March 31, 2010.

Global Centre for Pluralism

2009-10 Annual Report and Executive Summary of 2010 Corporate Plan Tabled

Hon. Gerald J. Comeau (Deputy Leader of the Government): Honourable senators, I have the honour to table, in both official languages, the 2009-10 Annual Report of the Global Centre for Pluralism and the Executive Summary of the 2010 Corporate Plan for the Global Centre for Pluralism.

[English]

Justice for Victims of Terrorism Bill

Second Report of Special Committee on Anti-Terrorism Presented

Hon. Hugh Segal, Chair of the Special Senate Committee on Anti-terrorism, presented the following report:

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

The Special Senate Committee on Anti-terrorism has the honour to present its

SECOND REPORT

Your committee, to which was referred Bill S-7, An Act to deter terrorism and to amend the State Immunity Act, has, in obedience to the order of reference of Thursday, June 17, 2010, examined the said Bill and now reports the same without amendment.

Your committee has also made certain observations, which are appended to this report.

Respectfully submitted,

HUGH SEGAL
Chair

(For text of observations, see today's Journals of the Senate, p. 790.)

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

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

[Translation]

The Governor General

Addresses at Installation

Hon. Gerald J. Comeau (Deputy Leader of the Government): Honourable senators, with leave of the Senate and notwithstanding rule 58(1)(j), I move:

That the Address of the Prime Minister of Canada, the Right Honourable Stephen Harper, P.C., M.P., at the Installation of the Right Honourable David Johnston as Governor General of Canada on October 1, 2010, together with the reply of His Excellency the Governor General thereto, be printed as an Appendix to the Journals of the Senate of this day and form part of the permanent records of this House.

The Hon. the Speaker: Honourable senators, is leave granted?

Hon. Senators: Agreed.

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

(For text of addresses, see today's Journals of the Senate, p. 804.)

(Motion agreed to.)

[English]

Canada Pension Plan

Bill to Amend—First Reading

Hon. Catherine S. Callbeck presented Bill S-223, An Act to amend the Canada Pension Plan (retroactivity of retirement and survivor's pensions).

(Bill read first time.)

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

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

[Translation]

L'Assemblée Parlementaire de la Francophonie

Meeting of Cooperation and Development Committee, June 8-9, 2010—Report Tabled

Hon. Andrée Champagne: Honourable senators, I have the honour to table, in both official languages, the report of the Canadian delegation of the Canadian branch of the Assemblée parlementaire de la Francophonie, respecting its participation in the meeting of the Cooperation and Development Committee of the APF, held in Rome, Italy, on June 8 and 9, 2010.


[English]

QUESTION PERIOD

The Senate

Debate on Climate Change Legislation

Hon. Grant Mitchell: Honourable senators, regardless of how this government feels about climate change, I think most of us understand that many Canadians care deeply about it and are becoming increasingly concerned about the delay in any kind of action from this government. I, for one, and I know other senators as well including senators across the way, have received many contacts — emails, phone calls, requests for meetings and the like — from Canadians who are expressing their concern. They are sick and tired of delay. I ask this question on their behalf.

Can the Leader of the Government in the Senate please tell these Canadians, through an answer in this chamber, when they can expect that she will allow at least one or two of her senators to debate the legislation that we received on climate change from the other place, which was passed by a majority of members of Parliament in that other place?

Hon. Marjory LeBreton (Leader of the Government): Honourable senators, the bill the honourable senator refers to is a private member's bill, and senators on either side of this chamber do not need my permission to speak or not to speak on a bill.

Senator Mitchell: That is not exactly what I heard from other quarters. Can the Leader of the Government in the Senate tell me, is she therefore directing that one or two of her senators can speak to this bill this afternoon, tomorrow or later in the week, before we stop for the October break so that we can move this legislation along the way, send it to committee and complete detailed work on the bill? Can the Leader of the Government please make that commitment?

Senator LeBreton: Again, I am the Leader of the Government in the Senate, and my primary responsibility is to answer for the government. The bill the honourable senator refers to is a private member's bill, and like all private members' bills that are before Parliament, members on both sides are free to speak to it when they wish.

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Environment

Climate Change

Hon. Grant Mitchell: Honourable senators, could the Leader of the Government in the Senate please explain why her government has never developed a detailed plan that relates specific policy actions to the objectives it says it wants to achieve in less than nine years? Honourable senators, nine years is just 3,400 days. Could the leader tell honourable senators why the government has not revealed the planning, accountability and transparency called for in Bill C-311?

Hon. Marjory LeBreton (Leader of the Government): Honourable senators, I will not address the private member's bill to which the honourable senator refers. However, I will put on the record the government's actions concerning climate change.

As the honourable senator knows, we support an approach to climate change that achieves real environmental as well as economic benefits for all Canadians, including working with the United States to develop a harmonized continental approach. We are continuing to work toward our target on a sector-by-sector basis. We have announced our proposed regulations on passenger car and truck emissions and are moving forward on developing regulations for heavy-duty vehicles. These regulations, of course, are harmonized with those of the United States because of the proximity of our two countries. We have announced regulations that mandate minimum renewable fuel content in gasoline and diesel. We are taking actions to reduce greenhouse gas emissions in the electricity sector by moving forward with regulations on coal-fired electricity generation. We are committed to working with provincial and territorial governments and have created two federal-provincial territorial working groups focusing on domestic and international climate change.

As the honourable senator knows, Canada supports a new global climate change regime based on the Copenhagen Accord that recognizes the importance of greening the economy for tomorrow and protecting jobs today. Under the accord, we committed to reducing Canada's emissions by 2020 to 17 per cent below the 2005 levels. We want to see balanced progress towards this objective at the UN Climate Change Conference, which is being held in Cancun, Mexico, in December.

Senator Mitchell: Honourable senators, the only thing remotely environmental about that list of policy announcements is that the government continues to recycle them. Anything else would only be "environmental" if the government actually implemented it.

Would the minister make a commitment to giving us the details of how much carbon emissions will be reduced by each one of those programs, by what time and how much of that will be done before the 2020 objective? Will the minister give us a list of what each of those programs will accomplish? It is easy to talk.

Senator LeBreton: I will commit only to what I have said the government has done. I will certainly make the honourable senator's views known to my colleague the Minister of the Environment, although I am sure he is aware of the honourable senator's views. I know that the minister will represent our country admirably on the follow up to the Copenhagen Accord at the December meeting in Cancun.

Industry

2011 Census

Hon. Catherine S. Callbeck: Honourable senators, my question is to the Leader of the Government in the Senate.

For the past four months, Canadians and Canadian organizations across this country have been voicing their concerns about the cancellation of the mandatory long-form census.

In my own province of Prince Edward Island, the provincial government has expressed its opposition to the change, and a number of non-governmental organizations have expressed dissatisfaction. Volunteer groups, churches and charities have all said they will be negatively impacted.

I am talking about groups such as the Federation of Prince Edward Island Municipalities, the Crime Prevention Committee in Summerside, and the United Way of Prince Edward Island. In fact, the United Way stressed that hundreds of registered charities in Prince Edward Island will no longer have access to information to help them focus their efforts on those people and areas that need help the most.

Despite this kind of outcry for a mandatory long-form census, why will the government not change its mind?

Hon. Marjory LeBreton (Leader of the Government): I thank the honourable senator for that question.

Honourable senators, a long-form survey containing the same questions and a wider distribution is being distributed. We have every reason to believe that Canadians will voluntarily fill out this form and that the information gleaned from this survey will be just as valuable to all of the groups that used the information available on the long form in the past.

As I said before, most information gathering in this country done by various agencies, including Statistics Canada and public opinion research agencies, is done on a voluntary basis, and no one has ever questioned the validity of information provided on a voluntary basis. The short-form census is mandatory, and it provides much of the information that various organizations need in terms of language, population growth, et cetera. The only difference between our government and the previous government with respect to the long form, which we are calling the National Household Survey, is that it is voluntary. We are asking Canadians to fill it out; we are not telling them that they have to fill it out.

Senator Comeau: Trust the volunteers.

Senator Callbeck: Honourable senators, the leader may think that this voluntary survey will be as valuable, but Statistics Canada has said that the new voluntary survey will not produce data that is as reliable as in previous years.

The Minister of Industry, who will oversee the 2011 census next spring, has said that the government has received too many complaints from citizens saying that the mandatory long-form census is intrusive and they do not want to be forced to file it. Yet Statistics Canada does not list any complaints about the long-form census being mandatory and have received only 22 complaints about it being intrusive.

I would like to know where the honourable minister got his numbers. Will the Leader of the Government in the Senate provide them to this house?

Senator LeBreton: Honourable senators, I put on the record the problems that I had a few years ago with the long-form census and how I was harassed. I do not think I lodged a complaint with Statistics Canada. I was threatened so many times I thought I had better fill it out rather than suffer the consequences.

The fact is, honourable senators, Statistics Canada gathers valuable information all the time and that information is used by various organizations, industry and not-for-profits. This information from Statistics Canada is more often than not gathered on a voluntary basis.

The forms have not been sent out yet; apparently, they are in the process of being produced. The census will be conducted in 2011. I think we are underestimating the importance that Canadians place on being citizens of this country. I think we are selling them short by assuming that Canadians will not fill out the voluntary household survey, which, as I said before, has the same questions as the previous mandatory long form and will be more widely distributed.

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We should trust Canadians to answer. I believe they will. That is exactly what the government's intentions were, namely, to provide fairness and balance and to ask Canadians to fill out the form to assist Statistics Canada, rather than to tell them, under threat of penalty, what would happen to them if they did not.

[Translation]

Sports

Sports Complex in Quebec City

Hon. Jean-Claude Rivest: Honourable senators, my question will certainly please our colleague and friend, Senator Demers.

Is the federal government about to sign a cheque to help finance the construction of a top-notch sports and cultural complex in Quebec City? This complex, as we know, is part of Quebec City's plan to be able to host the Olympics and also to one day regain a National Hockey League franchise.

Is the cheque in the mail to Mayor Labeaume? I hope, Madam Minister, that the answer you are going to give us will please our friend, Senator Demers.

[English]

Hon. Marjory LeBreton (Leader of the Government): Honourable senators, as big a hockey fan as I am, the funding of professional sports teams is primarily something that the private sector is responsible for; it is not the responsibility of the government.

I very much regretted when the Nordiques left Quebec City and went to Denver. In particular, I did not like the actions of Eric Lindros when he decided he would not go and play in Quebec City. If he had stayed with them, he would have actually won a Stanley Cup. In any event, as a result of that, I was never an Eric Lindros fan.

The fact is, as the honourable senator well knows, the promotion of professional sports teams is a matter for the private sector and that is where it should stay.

[Translation]

Senator Rivest: Honourable senators, so as not to hold up the cheque, I will not ask a supplementary question.

[English]

Industry

2011 Census

Hon. James S. Cowan (Leader of the Opposition): Honourable senators, I wish to return for a moment to the questions raised by the Honourable Senator Callbeck with respect to the census.

As I listened to the discussion and the exchange between the Leader of the Government in the Senate and various colleagues on this side — not just today but also on other days — and as I read the commentary from the government on this issue, it seems that the point is being missed. The essential point is not whether Canadians will respond and will voluntarily provide the answers, or that their answers will be less accurate than they would be if they were required to answer.

With the exception of the Prime Minister, every statistician and every economist who has commented on this issue has said consistently that the difficulty is that certain groups in our society — in particular, the elderly, Aboriginals and, perhaps, some linguistic minorities, will not respond in sufficient numbers to provide the level of statistical accuracy that is required for those organizations — federal, provincial and municipal governments, a variety of not-for-profit organizations and nongovernmental agencies — to make the kinds of decisions that they have to make every day and which they have made in the past based upon the evidence that is contained in the census-gathering process of Statistics Canada.

Does the minister believe that the answers, not whether there will be sufficient numbers, will be statistically accurate enough to provide that kind of information for those who need to make decisions on a go-forward basis?

Hon. Marjory LeBreton (Leader of the Government): Honourable senators, that question is highly insulting to our seniors and our Aboriginals.

Senator Comeau: To francophones as well.

Senator LeBreton: To francophones as well.

The honourable senator is suggesting that the only way that they will fill out any kind of a form is under threat of penalty, rather than suggesting that they would be like every other Canadian and provide the information. I make the argument that they would be more willing to fill out a survey if they know that they are able to do it without threat of penalty.

There has been a lot of speculation about the groups that refused — and there were significant numbers, apparently — to fill out the mandatory long-form census. However, to suggest that seniors, Aboriginals or people with low incomes somehow or other, for whatever reason, would not fill out a voluntary form but would fill out a mandatory form under threat does not make any sense to me.

Senator Cowan: Honourable senators, I sincerely hope that the minister is right in her confidence and I certainly do not intend to reflect on those groups in our society at all.

In order to provide some further comfort, would the minister undertake to gather the names of groups and organizations in this country that support the view that she has just expressed and table those names in this house?

Senator LeBreton: No, I will not do the honourable senator's research for him. He can read them in the newspaper himself.

I believe, my colleagues believe, and a great number of Canadians believe that when the census is distributed — the short form mandatory form and the long-form household survey — that Canadians will, as good Canadian citizens, fill out the forms that they have been provided to fill out.

When it was demanded that I fill out a long form, I know that if it had been the case with me personally and with other people I have talked to, I would have liked to have had the opportunity to answer that census when I first got it and not answer the questions that I found to be intrusive.

That would have saved a significant amount of aggravation for many people. Having a voluntary household survey, I think, will produce very good data.

[Translation]

Hon. Maria Chaput: Honourable senators, my question is for the Leader of the Government in the Senate. Health professionals point out that abolishing the mandatory long-form census will have a detrimental effect on the health of Canadians.

In Manitoba, the Winnipeg Regional Health Authority sent a letter to Prime Minister Harper, and I would like to read some excerpts from that letter:

[English]

The information collected through this form is critical to understanding the character and diversity of the residents of Winnipeg and Manitoba. . . .

The long-form census questionnaire is an essential tool to enable the health and community planning we undertake for the well-being of residents of Winnipeg and Manitoba. . . .

Please reinstate the `long form' for the 2011 Census so that we can maintain our ability to examine and respond to the health needs of all residents of Winnipeg, in particular our most vulnerable groups.

[Translation]

What does the leader have to say to that? Why was this decision made?

[English]

Senator LeBreton: Honourable senators, my answer is the same. The health professionals that the honourable senator quotes should not fear the information will not be available, because there is still a long form. It is absolutely untrue to say that there will be no long form, because there is a long form with the same number of questions. The difference is that it will have even wider distribution, so the data should be even more valuable.

I would simply tell the people who are questioning this to have some faith and trust in their fellow Canadians. After the long-form and the short-form censuses have been responded to, we will find that the data will be absolutely valuable to all of those who require and need it. We should show a little respect and faith in our fellow citizens that this information will be provided.

(1450)

I do not know about the people around me, but if I am asked nicely to do something I am more inclined to do it than if I am ordered to do it.

[Translation]

Senator Chaput: Does the leader know whether Prime Minister Harper is going to reply to the Winnipeg Regional Health Authority — in writing if possible?

[English]

Senator LeBreton: I thank the honourable senator for her question.

A letter has been sent to the Prime Minister. I believe the Prime Minister tries to answer correspondence. Again, I point out that this decision with regard to the census was a decision made by the government and by the cabinet. With regard to correspondence, the Prime Minister is a polite person; when people write to him, the Prime Minister responds, I am sure.

Hon. Jane Cordy: Honourable senators, as others have said today and previously, the government's decision to scrap the mandatory long-form census seriously undermines the ability of Statistics Canada to collect accurate and reliable data. The government has acknowledged that there will be a decrease in the percentage of responses. Their solution has been to increase the number of surveys mailed to Canadians by 2.7 million forms, for a total of 4.5 million forms that will be sent to Canadians.

Can the Leader of the Government in the Senate tell us what the cost to Canadian taxpayers is of increasing the mail out of the forms by 2.7 million?

Senator Comeau: What is the cost of going to jail?

Senator Cowan: How many went to jail?

Senator Comeau: It still is the law.

Senator LeBreton: Senator Cordy, I will obtain the actual figure, but the last mandatory long-form census resulted in hundreds of thousands of people not responding. I want to know the costs of chasing those people around, sending letters, having people call them, et cetera.

Senator Cowan: Sending them to jail.

Senator Munson: You do the crime, you do the time.

Senator LeBreton: People can speculate as to what they think the results of the survey will be, and what the results of the bill will be. However, none of us will know until the census and surveys have been distributed and people respond.

I feel confident that people will look back on this hysteria and realize a lot of it is speculative and has no basis in fact, as was the case with the hysteria we listened to last year at this time over H1N1. Honourable senators, let the process work its way through. If Senator Cordy is proven correct, the senator is proven correct. If I am proven correct, so be it.

Senator Tardif: Too late; the damage is done.

Senator LeBreton: Honourable senators, be disavowed of the idea that there is no long-form census. There is a short-form mandatory and there is the long-form National Household Survey. I have every confidence in my fellow Canadians that they will be good citizens and fill out the forms.

Senator Cordy: The unfortunate part is that, if we are proven to be right, the data will be lost and that would be truly unfortunate.

When the minister is obtaining the cost of sending out the forms to 4.5 million Canadians, which she will table in the Senate, will she also obtain for us the cost to Canadians of the development of the new Voluntary National Household Survey?

Senator LeBreton: I do not remember committing to obtaining the cost, but since the honourable senator asked nicely, I will do my best.

Hon. Wilfred P. Moore: Honourable senators, I have a supplementary question to those of Senator Cordy.

I understood that the staff in the census-taking office were paid by the completed form or unit. Will the minister check out that information and return to us with an answer? I thought the expense was per unit and that payment provided the incentive to complete the long form.

I was subject to one of those long forms and I did not fill in some of the questions I thought were somewhat intrusive. No one threatened me. The woman called me back, and I said, "I do not want to fill out those questions." She said, "That is fine. I will put down N/A."

I was told by her that my form was now completed and I thanked her. There was no threat of any type.

Senator Cordy: Did you not go to jail?

Senator Moore: I want to know the basis of the costing in the last census versus the earlier comments about the extra phone calls, et cetera. I do not know if that information is accurate.

Senator LeBreton: I will certainly try to find out that information. I guess the honourable senator was lucky to deal with someone who was nice to him because I was not so lucky. Maybe they knew my politics.

[Translation]

Delayed Answer to Oral Question

Hon. Gerald J. Comeau (Deputy Leader of the Government): Honourable senators, I have the honour to table a delayed response to an oral question raised by the Honourable Senator Callbeck on July 12, 2010, concerning health and the fight against obesity.

Health

Fight Against Obesity

(Response to question raised by Hon. Catherine S. Callbeck on July 12, 2010)

As part of our ongoing efforts to address the rising levels of obesity in Canada, Health Portfolio officials have closely examined both the recommendations of Dr. Kellie Leitch and the menu labelling initiative recently established in the United States by the Obama administration's health care reform legislation.

In addition to this ongoing analytical work, the federal Health Portfolio currently has a number of initiatives underway to promote healthy eating and physical activity among Canadians, including:

  • the dissemination of Eating Well with Canada's Food Guide and Canada's Physical Activity Guides in schools and communities;
     
  • the regulation of nutrition information and claims on prepackaged foods;
     
  • strategic funding for community-based programs through the Health Living Fund, the Canada Prenatal Nutrition Program, the Maternal and Child Health program, Aboriginal Head Start, and the Aboriginal Diabetes Initiative, and;
     
  • nutrition promotion and education initiatives under Nutrition North Canada, working with Indian and Northern Affairs Canada, food retailers and northern communities.

Most recently, Minister Aglukkaq worked with her P/T colleagues to develop and release Curbing Childhood Obesity: A Federal-Provincial-Territorial Framework for Action to Promote Healthy Weights. As a first step they will engage citizens, government and non-government partners, and industry to develop a shared approach to turn the tide on childhood obesity. This will include discussions on different ways to increase the availability and accessibility of nutritious foods, and decrease the marketing of foods and beverages high in fat, sugar and/ or sodium to children.

The federal government is committed to working in collaboration with its provincial and territorial partners and external stakeholders to develop innovative and comprehensive ways to promote and support healthy weights for all Canadians.

Answers to Order Paper Questions Tabled

Citizenship, Immigration and Multiculturalism—Speech from the Throne

Hon. Gerald J. Comeau (Deputy Leader of the Government) tabled the answer to Question No. 12 on the Order Paper—by Senator Murray.

Canadian Heritage—Priority Appointments in the Public Service for Veterans

Hon. Gerald J. Comeau (Deputy Leader of the Government) tabled the answer to Question No. 25 on the Order Paper—by Senator Downe.

Fisheries and Oceans—Convention of the Northwest Atlantic Fisheries Organization

Hon. Gerald J. Comeau (Deputy Leader of the Government) tabled the answer to Question No. 31 on the Order Paper—by Senator Rompkey.

[English]

Question of Privilege

Speaker's Ruling

The Hon. the Speaker: Honourable senators, on September 27, Senator Cowan, the Leader of the Opposition in the Senate, rose on a question of privilege pursuant to rule 43. His complaint focussed on statements made by Senator Brazeau on July 6, during debate at third reading of Bill S-4, the Family Homes on Reserves and Matrimonial Interests or Rights Act. In separate statements Senator Brazeau had both commented on several witnesses who had appeared on the bill and made specific reference to the past work of Dr. Pamela Palmater, Chair of the Centre for Study of Indigenous Governance at Ryerson University. Subsequently, on September 11, Dr. Palmater wrote to a number of senators to complain about an attempt to discredit her that was not based on fact. She also expressed concern that Senator Brazeau's comment could harm her professionally. With leave, Senator Cowan tabled a copy of the email from Dr. Palmater, which now forms part of our record.

[Translation]

Senator Cowan's argument was that, having been alerted of the complaint, the Senate must act to defend Dr. Palmater's reputation. Not to act might have a "chilling effect" on the work of committees in the future. Witnesses might be reticent about appearing, fearing they could be adversely affected. Senator Cowan argued that Senator Brazeau's statement, by potentially impeding other senators' ability to perform their duties, had amounted to contempt. The Leader of the Opposition indicated that he was not questioning the outcome of any vote on Bill S-4, although he did note that it is impossible to know whether this incident affected the result. In summary, Senator Cowan stated:

The critical point [in this question of privilege] is that if what Dr. Palmater says is true, and it is not dealt with, do any of us believe that, in the words of Erskine May [at page 150 of the 23rd edition], this will not "deter prospective witnesses from giving evidence" to us in the future? If future witnesses are deterred from sharing their knowledge with us, how can we perform our constitutionally prescribed duties as members of this legislative body?

(1500)

[English]

Senator Comeau did not accept Senator Cowan's position. Rather, the Deputy Leader of the Government in the Senate focussed on the right of all senators to express divergent points of view. He even suggested that an acceptance of Senator Cowan's argument could amount to an infringement of "Senator Brazeau's fundamental privilege of free speech."

In their interventions, Senators Mitchell, Banks, Tardif and Fraser supported Senator Cowan's position. They spoke about the prospective harm that can be done to witnesses and expressed fears about damaging reputations. When he took the floor, Senator Brazeau noted that he was surprised at the complaint. He referred to Dr. Palmater's website to support his understanding of her past career. Before this intervention, Senator Cools had expressed her dismay about the recent tenor of debate in Parliament. She did not feel that the prohibition contained in rule 51 against "personal, sharp or taxing speeches" is always fully respected. This said, Senator Cools did not see this matter as being a question of privilege, but rather one of due process and due respect. While some words may have been spoken without sufficient reflection, there was no evidence that they were deliberately harmful or aimed at deterring future witnesses.

[Translation]

In considering this matter, I have followed normal practice and taken into account the arguments provided by senators during debate on the question of privilege, in addition to our Rules and the insights from the parliamentary authorities.

[English]

The basic privilege in this case is freedom of speech. As noted in the second edition of the House of Commons Procedure and Practice, at pages 89 and 90, this is:

By far, the most important right accorded to Members of the House . . . a fundamental right without which they would be hampered in the performance of their duties. It permits them to speak in the House without inhibition, to refer to any matter or express any opinion as they see fit, to say what they feel needs to be said in the furtherance of the national interest and the aspirations of their constituents.

According to page 96 of the twenty-third edition of Erskine May, this means that:

Subject to the rules of order in debate, a Member may state whatever he thinks fit in debate, however offensive it may be to the feelings, or injurious to the character, of individuals; and he is protected by his privilege from any action for libel, as well as from any other question or molestation.

[Translation]

This privilege is powerful, and it comes with great responsibility. In the other place, "Speakers have . . . stated that although there is a need for Members to express their opinions openly in a direct fashion, it is also important that citizens' reputations are not unfairly attacked." This is at page 98 of the second edition of House of Commons Procedure and Practice. Later, at page 617, the same work notes that

[English]

Members have a responsibility to protect the innocent . . . and suggested that Members avoid as much as possible mentioning by name people from outside the House who are unable to reply in their own defence.

We must be clear, however, that it is generally true that senators have the right to express themselves freely and to say anything they want in any parliamentary proceeding. Only the Senate itself, through its rules and practices, can constrain this right. Maingot, at page 26 of the second edition, makes this clear, stating that parliamentarians' freedom of speech is "subject only to the rules, customs and practices" of their house.

It goes without saying that just because senators have the freedom to say something does not mean that they should avail themselves of this right in all cases. Honourable senators should be aware of the need to avoid impugning the reputations of those who do not sit in this place and who have no mechanism to defend themselves.

[Translation]

The case before us is somewhat complicated by the fact that it is not only parliamentarians who benefit from the protection of privilege. Witnesses are not to be molested or interfered with because of evidence that they have given or intend to give before a committee. To interfere with witnesses before their appearance or to punish them for evidence given can constitute a breach of the privileges of the Senate. This is recognized at page 150 of the twenty-third edition of Erskine May, to which reference was made during debate on the alleged question of privilege.

[English]

The retrospective element of this protection is described when it is stated that:

. . . molestation of or threats against those who have previously given evidence before either House or a committee will be treated by the House concerned as a contempt. Such actions have included assault or a threat of assault on witnesses, insulting or abusive behaviour, misuse (by the gaoler) or censure by an employer.

The prospective element of the protection is recognized in the quote to which Senator Cowan made reference, which states:

Any conduct calculated to deter prospective witnesses from giving evidence before either House or a committee is a contempt.

The aspect of retrospective protection was not fundamental in this question of privilege. We may observe, however, that Senator Brazeau took note of some factors he felt gave context to statements in committee. While I again emphasize the need for caution when mentioning outside individuals in debate, the remarks were not of the type to which Erskine May refers. The Senate was not provided, in debate on the question of privilege, with evidence of deliberate malice, deliberate misstatements or a deliberate attempt to punish.

[Translation]

In terms of prospective protection, which is central to this question of privilege, the basic allegation was that subsequent criticism of the witness could keep unknown future witnesses from appearing, at some point in time. Nothing specific was offered as an illustration to show that this was anything more than a possibility. Against this vague concern, we must set the undoubted freedom of speech that all senators enjoy, subject always to our Rules, customs and practices. There is nothing concrete in this case to suggest a real conflict between the two privileges of senator's freedom of speech and the protection of identified future witnesses.

[English]

The potential for conflict between unfettered freedom of speech and the need to use it in a responsible manner has been recognized in other countries. In Australia, most parliamentary houses have established a "right of reply". In the federal Senate, for example, a person who claims to have been adversely affected in a proceeding can submit a request that a response be published. This request goes through a control process before being put into effect. Since 1988, the Australian Senate has also recognized that freedom of speech must be exercised in a responsible manner to avoid the damaging effects that allegations can have.

In the case at issue, the Speaker's role is to evaluate whether a prima facie question of privilege is well-founded, using the four criteria in rule 43(1). There can be little doubt that the first criterion was met, since Senator Cowan only became aware of Dr. Palmater's concern on September 11.

In relation to the third criterion, that the concern be raised to seek a genuine remedy, Senator Cowan has indicated that he is ready to move referral to the Standing Committee on Rules, Procedures and the Rights of Parliament.

[Translation]

Lastly, in terms of the second and fourth criteria, it is not evident how Senator Brazeau's exercise of his undoubted freedom of speech has, in a concrete and direct way, prevented the Senate from discharging its basic functions of examining legislation, investigating public affairs and ensuring accountability. The concerns raised were speculative. Moreover, let us remember that nothing indicates that the remarks in question affected the outcome of any decision by the Senate. These two criteria have, therefore, also not been fulfilled.

(1510)

[English]

The ruling is that the conditions of rule 43(1) have not been met and I am unable to apprehend that there is a prima facie question of privilege. This case does, however, serve to underscore how careful we must all be when we use the privileges we enjoy as parliamentarians. With our freedom of speech comes the responsibility to use it in a careful and considered manner that avoids harm.


ORDERS OF THE DAY

Canada-Russia Friendship Day Bill

Second Reading

On the Order:

Resuming debate on the motion of the Honourable Senator Stollery, seconded by the Honourable Senator Losier-Cool, for the second reading of Bill S-218, An Act respecting Canada-Russia Friendship Day.

Hon. Hugh Segal: Honourable senators, I am delighted to rise to support the bill before us, introduced by Senator Stollery. I think that the idea of a special designation for June 12 in our relations with Russia is a superb and constructive idea.

The first committee I served on in this place was the Foreign Affairs Committee, of which the sponsor of this bill was the chair. I learned much from him during the time we served together. In fact, the report on foreign aid to Africa, started under his leadership, which came out under my chairmanship after the government changed, continues to be quoted and cited widely on matters of foreign aid, CIDA and the need to invest in Africa in ways that encourage trade and entrepreneurship, not dependency and corruption.

Before the summer recess, I received notice that a member of the United Kingdom House of Lords, Lord Chidgey, a Liberal Democrat and frequent intervenor on African policy questions, cited this report. He was latterly promoted to be the government spokesperson in the House of Lords on foreign aid and most recently on Africa.

Commemorating in a positive way, as this bill suggests, the establishment of diplomatic relations between Canada and Russia makes good sense. In 1942, we were both allies fighting the Axis Powers in the European and Pacific theatres. We were, through Canadian naval and air force activities, supplying Russia via Murmansk. Russia was engaged in a heroic defence of her homeland from the boot of Nazi oppression. That brave and deeply costly in Russian blood defence helped start the beginning of the end for the Nazis and cost our Russian allies millions of civilian and military lives. We were victors and friends over a common foe, something we must never forget.

Honourable senators, friendship, while continuing and genuine, cannot be unreflective and uncritical. A friend's duties include offering criticism when events and history require it. Admiration without coherent analysis of the issues advances friendship very little.

Under Mr. Stalin, Russia repelled the Nazis but was a desperately oppressive totalitarian and Communist state. Millions of Soviet citizens suffered and were imprisoned and killed by their own government. Soviet domination of Eastern Europe was not pretty. Canada's determination to support the combined deterrence of NATO and the Atlantic Charter was not only a good thing but a necessary thing. As NATO's resolute military and resolute theatre missile capacity helped convince the Gorbachev administrative to embrace perestroika, glasnost and stand down from a Cold War none of us could afford in perpetuity, NATO and Canada, as signatories to the Atlantic Charter and a supporter of our defensive effort, were among the best friends the average Russian family and individual could have.

Since glasnost and perestroika, our Russian friends have had a range of challenges to face, not the least of which were the collapse of the Soviet-style command and control economy, the collapse of the middle-class system of support for the "nomenclature" and apparatchik system, and the appearance of cowboy capitalism, usually unavoidable in these types of jarring transitions. Livelihoods have improved for a few and become more difficult for many. Governments and oligarchs have struggled under the strains of transition to freedom. People like Mr. Kodrousky reflect both this reality and the narrowness to date of Russian democracy.

Canada, under the agreement signed between Prime Minister Mulroney, Prime Minister Chrétien and Presidents Gorbachev and Yeltsin, has tried to help. Under Prime Minister Mulroney, Canada became, except for the then neighbouring West Germany, the largest per capita donor to Russia of transitional aid at the time. Programs of assistance on agriculture, democracy building, business, commerce, oil and gas were launched by the Mulroney administration. Prime Minister Chrétien deserves credit for the initiative to accept and safely dispose of nuclear fuel from Soviet submarine and naval fleets.

While at the IRPP, the Institute for Research in Public Policy, in Montreal, I was part of a delegation that went for a multi-day seminar in the oblast of Kaliningrad. The purpose of the seminar was to assist the Russians with establishing an integrated federal-provincial fiscal and transfer system. The delegation included Canadian experts who had been practitioners and academics in Canada. It was organized through CIDA and the Association of Universities and Colleges of Canada. Fred Gorbet, a former Canadian Deputy Minister of Finance in Ottawa, was the chef de mission.

While in Kaliningrad, I had occasion to visit a decommissioned Soviet nuclear submarine at a naval port. It had icebreaking capacity and multiple nuclear warhead capacity when it was operational. The retired naval officer doing the tour protested, when asked, that the icebreaking capacity meant it was only stationed in the Antarctic and never, ever in any Canadian or Alaskan Arctic or Northern Atlantic waters. All of us aboard, including our former Soviet naval officer, smiled at the explanation. We do not now face a thermonuclear Russian threat, for which President Reagan, Prime Minister Thatcher, Prime Minister Mulroney and Secretary Gorbachev deserve immense credit.

To shape a real friendship, we need to understand our friends' strengths and weaknesses and to be frank about both. The invasion of Georgia recently was a ghastly Russian mistake. The intimidation of the Ukraine, which is ongoing, speaks to the worst of Russian imperial tendencies and fears of encirclement.

The 80 years or so of Communism was simply another phase, however deeply totalitarian, of the imperialism which has always infected the Russian angst about isolation and enemies in the near abroad. Russia's vast storehouse of natural resources is now a constructive source of Russian economic and political security and leverage. How Russia uses these assets will be a defining element of her foreign geopolitical policies and strategy.

With the present elected government reflecting a consolidation of power by the former elites of the KGB, it is important that we remain vigilant, engaged and constructive. Would we call Russia's democracy genuine and deeply rooted? I doubt it very much. Russia has an authoritarian history that will not dissipate in only two decades. However, the present Russian government is probably the most democratic of any that has ever ruled Russia for any period of time.

Do the Russians run espionage and infiltration networks throughout North America? Is the Ottawa embassy likely at the centre of these? I have no specific information to confirm this, and I am no longer among those with sufficient security clearance to be briefed on these issues, but historical reality suggests that they have probably not withdrawn completely from this activity.

Do I hope Canada that has intelligence networks throughout Eastern Europe that seek to act in a counter-intelligence way and defend Canada's political, security, sovereign and economic interests and those of our allies there and elsewhere? I sure hope so, but again, I am not in a position to reassure honourable senators in any fashion on this front.

However, I do know this: There are Russian study centres at several Canadian universities, including Dalhousie, Carleton, McGill and the University of Victoria, and in Russia there are many academic centres for the study of Canada in places like Volgograd, Vladivostok, Tomsk, St. Petersburg and Moscow. Part of a realistic friendship is a more full and robust understanding of each other, and Canada should engage as this bill provides.

Honourable senators, I commend Senator Stollery's bill to your positive consideration. I hope the leadership on both sides will let this bill pass second reading today so that it can move to the Standing Senate Committee on Social Affairs, Science and Technology for study this fall. Hopefully, that committee will reflect on this bill and be prepared to move it ahead.

(1520)

Engagement with Russia on the Arctic; in common opposition to terrorism; in support of a peaceful resolution of the Iranian nuclear threat; in support of more freedom in the Caucasus; in support of joint work on oil and gas and related green technologies; in support of helping to sort out North Korea in a fashion that respects the humanitarian interests of all involved; in support of a more coherent balance of powers between Middle Eastern powers — these all speak to the geopolitical gains that are potentially available when we collaborate with our Russian neighbour.

Further cultural, business, academic, scientific and technological collaboration should be encouraged. We are two northern powers with much to share and many ways to collaborate. This suggested day of June 12 would be an excellent annual occasion to assess and update all aspects of the relationships between two great nations and the many forces of light we find in both. Forces of darkness abound. Let this gesture, moved by Senator Stollery who has vast experience with respect to Russia, be a ray of light in a dynamic relationship between the Russian people and their government and the government and people of Canada.

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

(Motion agreed to and bill read second time.)

Referred to Committee

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

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

Conflict of Interest Act

Bill to Amend—Second Reading—Debate Continued

On the Order:

Resuming debate on the motion of the Honourable Senator Day, seconded by the Honourable Senator Losier-Cool, for the second reading of Bill S-208, An Act to amend the Conflict of Interest Act (gifts).

Hon. Joseph A. Day: Honourable senators, I did want to indicate that I had begun the second reading on Bill S-208, An Act to Amend the Conflict of Interest Act.

[Translation]

Honourable senators, this bill proposes an amendment to the Conflict of Interest Act. This same amendment was considered when we studied Bill C-2 and was accepted by our committee at that time. That amendment was then adopted in the Senate and sent to the House of Commons.

That is what we are discussing now. This is the same bill that was defeated in the other place.

[English]

Honourable senators, I gave a bit of a background previously in my introduction on this matter, and I indicated then that I was in discussions in an attempt to resolve this matter. It is clearly a matter that should be resolved, but regretfully we were not able to reach a resolution. Therefore I am proceeding with the amendment. I hope, once I finish this explanation, that honourable senators will agree that this is something that should be looked into.

Honourable senators, I want you to know that what I have accepted here in this amendment does not go as far as I would like to see the conflict of interest go but, in the interest of looking for compromise, I went back to the code that was generated by Mr. Harper when he first became prime minister. I accepted that wording and I put that wording in the bill in the hope that that would be a compromise he would accept.

Bill S-208 has been drafted to close a potentially dangerous loophole in the Conflict of Interest Act. Honourable senators will be aware of the recent Oliphant inquiry which focused on the rules governing the conflict of cabinet ministers and, in particular, Mr. Brian Mulroney as prime minister, as he then was; and with respect to rules surrounding the acceptance of gifts and cash. There is no value in our going over the rather sad history of the Oliphant inquiry and the facts that surround that particular matter.

Honourable senators should be aware that several recent prime ministers, including Prime Ministers Trudeau, Clark, Mulroney, Chrétien, Martin and Harper, each, when he became prime minister, generated a code of conflict of interest. Each prime minister generated his own and they looked similar to one another, if one goes over each one of those.

Upon becoming prime minister, that became the tradition. However, shortly after coming into power, Mr. Harper decided to put the code of conflict of interest into statutory form. So, we went from not a voluntary code but a code that was expected to be followed and did not have the same force of law to a specific act, that is, the Conflict of Interest Act in the Federal Accountability Act. There are about 15 different acts that appear in the Accountability Act. This was the first one.

We worked hard on what was presented to us in the Federal Accountability Act and the Conflict of Interest Act, trying to make it better. Honourable senators will know that in the Federal Accountability Act we proposed 160 amendments, 90 of which were accepted. Regrettably, the amendments that appear here are amendments that were not accepted. It is hard to speculate, but perhaps because there were so many amendments a certain number got overlooked. I would like to think that is the case.

When the Federal Accountability Act was introduced in 2006, it was said by the Harper government that this was "the toughest anti-corruption law in Canadian history." The first part of that omnibus bill, the Federal Accountability Act, was the Conflict of Interest Act to create "a strong conflict of interest and ethics regime to help build public confidence in our system of government and parliamentary institutions."

The Conflict of Interest Act that was introduced at that time sets out a series of rules of conduct, including rules governing the acceptance of any "gift or other advantage" by public office-holders and members of their families.

I can tell honourable senators that the Conflict of Interest Act that was introduced in that Federal Accountability Act reflects closely the code that Mr. Harper had introduced some time previous to that. They are similar, but in this instance, with respect to gifts, they differ in a profound way. That is what I hope to explain to honourable senators.

The general rule with respect to gifts that appears in subsection 11(1) of the Conflict of Interest Act reads as follows:

No public office holder or member of his or her family shall accept any gift or other advantage, including from a trust, that might reasonably be seen to have been given to influence the public office holder in the exercise of an official power, duty or function.

(1530)

The problem, honourable senators, arises with respect to subsection 11(2) of the Conflict of Interest Act, which sets out a number of exceptions. No public office-holder can accept a gift that reasonably would be accepted to influence that public office-holder. Subsection (2) states:

Despite subsection (1), a public office holder or member of his or her family may accept a gift or other advantage

. . .

(b) that is given by a relative or a friend.

If a relative — husband, wife, sister, brother, mother — gives a public office-holder a gift, that is understandable. Whether it can be seen as, or whether the public might think one is trying to influence a son or daughter is the overriding factor in a gift coming from a relative. However, the exception is that, even though a gift might appear to influence the public office-holder, it is not a problem if it comes from a friend. That is where the problem lies, even if the gift might be seen reasonably to have been given to influence the public office-holder.

The next problem is that the word "friend" is not defined. Was Karlheinz Schreiber a friend of Brian Mulroney? If Mr. Mulroney says yes, then the investigation of that particular matter ends there. The problem is compounded, honourable senators, by the disclosure provisions in this act. "Disclosure" has been described as the cornerstone of a modern conflict of interest regime. The principle is that sunlight is the best disinfectant. If the Ethics Commissioner and the public can see the details of a particular relationship or transaction, then that sight facilitates effective accountability and removes any public suspicion.

Section 23 of this new Conflict of Interest Act brought in by the Federal Accountability Act sets out the requirement for confidential disclosure of gifts, and this disclosure is to the Conflict of Interest and Ethics Commissioner.

Subsection 25(5) governs public disclosure of gifts. I can explain to honourable senators the slight nuance with respect to these two different sections. One is if the gift has a value of $200; the second is if there is an accumulation of gifts that exceed $200.

Both sections require disclosure of gifts, but both sections provide for an exception if the gift or gifts are "from a relative or a friend." Here again, we find these words "a relative or a friend." I take no exception with "relative"; my exception is with "friend."

Honourable senators, the question is what we do with respect to these two sections. Section 23 involves a reporting public officer who receives a gift of $200 from any one source other than relatives or friends in a 12-month period. Public office-holders are senior members of the public service, cabinet ministers; it is that level of personnel.

Section 25 talks about a reporting public office-holder who receives a single gift in excess of $200. That gift must be disclosed to the public, honourable senators, but not, again, if it comes from a relative or a friend. With no definition of "or a friend," it means that the word "friend" can be defined by the recipient.

Honourable senators, this provision must change, if there is no limit under the current act to the value of the gift — and there is not — that may be accepted from a friend. It can be any amount. It can be cash or a gift in kind. It can be anything and it can come from anyone that the recipient wants to define as a friend.

The act is explicit in that the gift may even be — and this wording is in the definition in section 2 of the act — "an amount of money if there is no obligation to pay or repay it." Thus, the act permits cabinet ministers and then the Prime Minister to accept large sums of cash even where the circumstances are such that a reasonable person would believe that the cash was given to influence the minister or the Prime Minister in the exercise of his or her official duties. So long as the minister or the Prime Minister considers the person from whom he or she received that cash, in whatever manner, as a friend, there is no rule preventing the acceptance, and there is no rule requiring the publication or the disclosure to the Ethics Commissioner.

These provisions were noted with concern during the deliberation of Bill C-2 in 2006 by Howard Wilson, who served as the Ethics Commissioner under Prime Minister Chrétien. Bernard Shapiro also appeared before us. He was the ethics commissioner when the Federal Accountability Act was introduced. When Mr. Wilson and Mr. Shapiro testified on this bill before the Standing Senate Committee on Legal and Constitutional Affairs in 2006, each of them independently recommended that the portion of the Federal Accountability Act dealing with the conflict of interest, this portion that I have been highlighting to you, be amended to provide a tighter definition of what constitutes "a friend." Mr. Wilson said:

. . . the provisions on gifts are weakened by exempting gifts from friends. The current code —

Here, Mr. Wilson refers to the code that Mr. Harper himself brought forward —

— says these have to be close personal friends.

That terminology was adopted by Mr. Harper in his first code, but he did not repeat it. He dropped the "close personal" in front of "friend" in the statute he brought forward. That deletion, in a nutshell, is where the problem lies.

Carrying on with a quotation from Mr. Wilson, the Ethics Commissioner:

It was interesting to read the proposed text. I do not know why the drafters —

He refers to the Federal Accountability Act —

— did not use the existing language, because they have used the language of the existing code invariably throughout.

It is either an oversight or they left out "close personal" specifically to make it a much broader exemption.

Why didn't the act follow the wording of the code, and use the expression "close personal friend"?

I prefer there be no exception, but if there must be an exemption to have this act amended, I will accept the wording that appeared in the code of Mr. Harper, "close personal friend."

The Liberal members of the Standing Senate Committee on Legal and Constitutional Affairs put forward two amendments to these provisions. First, as recommended by the two former ethics advisers, they amended the act to tighten the scope of the exemption, limiting it to "close personal friends." We proposed that wording back when we dealt with the Federal Accountability Act, Bill C-2.

One is acceptance; the second is disclosure. In the disclosure provisions, section 23 and section 25, it was recommended that these sections be amended to require disclosure of all gifts valued at $200 or more from whatever source, including "friends." In effect, we have lifted out the exemption of "friends" not from the code, because in the code it was "close personal friend." In taking that code and putting it into legislation, it was changed to "friend," and the amendment proposed taking out that exemption entirely. It said, why not disclose all gifts? If gifts accumulate to $200, let the Ethics Commissioner know. If a gift is over $200, the recipient should declare it in a public declaration, everyone will be happy and no one will suspect the recipient of being overly influenced.

(1540)

We believed in 2006, and I believe today, that Canadians have a right to know who is giving expensive gifts to high ranking members of the Government of Canada. That is why this amendment is proposed. Surely an act promising transparency and accountability should provide for nothing less.

These amendments I propose here today were passed, as I mentioned to honourable senators earlier, by your committee, the Standing Senate Committee on Legal and Constitutional Affairs, and then by the Senate as a whole in 2006. A lot of wisdom went into considering these amendments and passing them.

To our disappointment, the government rejected these amendments. In the message that was sent to the Senate responding to the amendments made by the Senate in the accountability bill, it was said that these amendments were "an inappropriate intrusion into the private lives of public office holders and their families" and they would narrow the exemption for gifts to public office-holders from "friends" to "close personal friends." That result is absolutely what we were trying to accomplish, namely, narrow the exemption from "friends" to "close personal friends."

They went on to say "and would require that any gift over $200 to a reporting public office holder or his or her family from any person other than a relative be disclosed."

That result is what we intended. We knew what the amendment was for because these are gifts that had that qualification that they could be perceived as influencing the recipient in the exercise of his duty.

The Conflict of Interest and Ethics Commissioner publicly reported this particular information. The House of Commons, actually the government, sent it back to us and said that these amendments were inappropriate. My question is this: How would these amendments be inappropriate? What is it that the government is afraid Canadians will learn from a disclosure of gifts of $200 or more?

Honourable senators, these items are not mere Christmas gifts or hospitality or tokens of appreciation we are talking about. By definition, we are talking about gifts of values in excess of $200. We are not talking about special gifts from members of one's family. We accepted that family relationships need to be treated differently. Our amendments looked only to the exclusion of gifts from the undefined term "friends."

The amendments proposed in the bill that we are dealing with here today — Bill S-208 — to the Conflict of Interest Act are exactly what was passed in this chamber in 2006. The wording is the same wording that appeared in Mr. Harper's code of ethics and conflict of interest when he first became Prime Minister. It was disappointing to all of us when the government rejected those amendments, because they were a compromise in an attempt to reach some agreement.

Honourable senators, I hope that this time all honourable senators will acknowledge that the amendments that we passed were appropriate. If we send them back again, I suspect that if the House of Commons will focus on these amendments alone, and not the other 160 that we sent back, perhaps we can reach a reasonable resolution to this matter.

I do not agree that the prohibition against cabinet ministers accepting secret gifts of hundreds of thousands of dollars in cash from so-called "friends" is an inappropriate intrusion into their private lives. Our senior government officials — cabinet ministers, the Prime Minister, parliamentary secretaries, ministers of state and senior officials — simply should not accept gifts that, to a reasonable person, look like they were given to exercise influence or obtain a favour.

That is a qualification. If they do not look like they were given to exercise influence or obtain a favour, then they do not fall under this legislation. Honourable senators must keep that in mind. The gifts have to look like they intend to influence, and they cannot be from a relative because a relative is an exception.

Constraint should be imposed, to limit the gifts to those from close personal friends, as recommended by the previous Ethics Commissioner. Most importantly, gifts should be disclosed to the Conflict of Interest Commissioner and to the public if they are in excess of $200.

Honourable senators, imagine: I started this talk today with a brief reference to the Oliphant inquiry. If this Conflict of Interest Act had been in place at the time of Prime Minister Brian Mulroney, as opposed to his own code of conflict, he would not have been in breach. However, the Oliphant inquiry found he was in breach of his own code.

What has happened since that time until today is that we have weakened and watered down this legislation. We need to rectify this particular point and we need to do it now. Canadians have a right to know when a generous gift is made to those who govern us if that gift appears to be made to influence the actions of those people who govern us.

Honourable senators, I respectfully ask for your support of this amendment and this bill.

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

Climate Change Accountability Bill

Second Reading—Debate Continued

On the Order:

Resuming debate on the motion of the Honourable Senator Mitchell, seconded by the Honourable Senator Banks, for the second reading of Bill C-311, An Act to ensure Canada assumes its responsibilities in preventing dangerous climate change.

Hon. Richard Neufeld: Honourable senators, this item has reached the thirteenth week on the Order Paper. I want to advise that I still have research to complete on my notes. Things are in motion even as we are here. Therefore, I move the adjournment of the debate in my name.

(On motion of Senator Neufeld, debate adjourned.)

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[Translation]

The Senate

Motion to Encourage the Minister of National Defence to Change the Official Structural Name of the Canadian Navy

On the Order:

Resuming debate on the motion of the Honourable Senator Rompkey, P.C., seconded by the Honourable Senator Fraser:

That the Senate of Canada encourage the Minister of National Defence, in view of the long service, sacrifice and courage of Canadian Naval forces and personnel, to change the official structural name of the Canadian Navy from "Maritime Command" to "Canadian Navy" effective from this year, as part of the celebration of the Canadian Navy Centennial, with that title being used in all official and operational materials, in both official languages, as soon as possible.

Hon. Gerald J. Comeau (Deputy Leader of the Government): Honourable senators, after having spoken with Senator Rompkey, who proposed this motion, we would like to hear comments from members of the Canadian Forces, especially the Maritime Command, who are affected by this change of name. We think it would be a good idea to have their comments and suggestions.

We should not go to the navy, a highly respected force, and have the audacity to change its name without consultation, especially in this Canadian naval centennial year.

[English]

I think it is proper that we ask for ideas from those involved. We do not want to change their name without some kind of discussion with them as to whether it is a good idea. Senator Rompkey was in agreement that it would be a good idea to send this motion to the Standing Senate Committee on National Security and Defence.

I talked to the Chair of the Defence Committee and she agrees that it is a good idea.

[Translation]

Referred to Committee

Hon. Gerald J. Comeau (Deputy Leader of the Government): I move that the motion before the Senate be referred to the Standing Senate Committee on National Security and Defence for further study.

Hon. Fernand Robichaud: Honourable senators, would it be wise to establish a date for the committee to report back to the Senate on this issue?

Senator Comeau: I thank Senator Robichaud for that question. Usually, a committee must report on the issue by a certain date. However, we believe that there is no need to impose a deadline, and the committee, in its wisdom, could take the initiative and report on the issue at a time it deems appropriate.

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

Hon. Senators: Agreed.

(On motion of Senator Comeau, motion referred to the Standing Senate Committee on National Security and Defence.)

Aboriginal Peoples

Study on Federal Government's Responsibilities to First Nations, Inuit and Metis Peoples—Motion to Authorize Committee to Travel during Adjournment of the Senate—Motion Withdrawn

On Motion No. 67 by Senator St. Germain:

That, pursuant to rule 95(3)(a), the Standing Senate Committee on Aboriginal Peoples be authorized to sit, outside the city of Ottawa, between Monday, October 4, 2010 and Friday, October 8, 2010, inclusive, for the purposes of its study of the federal government's constitutional, treaty, political and legal responsibilities to First Nations, Inuit and Metis peoples and other matters generally relating to the Aboriginal Peoples of Canada, even though the Senate may then be adjourned for a period exceeding one week.

Hon. Gerald J. Comeau (Deputy Leader of the Government): Honourable senators, if you look at this motion, you will see that it seeks permission for the Standing Senate Committee on Aboriginal Peoples to travel between October 4 and 8, 2010.

Since it is now October 5, and the committee is already travelling, the motion is irrelevant. I spoke to Senator St. Germain, and he has agreed to have this motion withdrawn from the Order Paper.

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

Hon. Senators: Agreed.

(Motion withdrawn.)

[English]

Banking, Trade and Commerce

Committee Authorized to Study Statutory Review of the Business Development Bank of Canada

Hon. Michael A. Meighen, pursuant to notice of September 27, 2010, moved:

That the Standing Senate Committee on Banking Trade and Commerce be authorized to undertake the 10-year statutory review of the Business Development Bank of Canada, as required by the Business Development Bank of Canada Act and,

That the Committee submit its final report no later than December 31, 2010, and retain until January 30, 2011 all powers necessary to publicize its findings.

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

(Motion agreed to.)

(The Senate adjourned until Wednesday, October 6, 2010, at 1:30 p.m.)