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Debates of the Senate (Hansard)

3rd Session, 40th Parliament,
Volume 147, Issue 62

Tuesday, November 2, 2010
The Honourable Noël A. Kinsella, Speaker


THE SENATE

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

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

Prayers.

Visitors in the Gallery

The Hon. the Speaker: Honourable senators, before calling for Senators' Statements, I wish to draw your attention to the presence in the gallery of Mr. Vladimir Svinarev, Secretary General of the Council of the Federation of the Federal Assembly of the Russian Federation, who is accompanied by a delegation.

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

Hon. Senators: Hear, hear.


SENATORS' STATEMENTS

Mr. Urban Laughlin

Congratulations on Induction into Atlantic Agricultural Hall of Fame

Hon. Catherine S. Callbeck: Honourable senators, today I pay tribute to an individual who has made an outstanding contribution to agriculture in his native province of Prince Edward Island and across Canada. Urban Laughlin has been a passionate advocate for the industry, farm families and rural communities. Last week, he was inducted into the Atlantic Agricultural Hall of Fame. He is now recognized and celebrated as a member of a distinguished group of agriculturalists who have dedicated their lives to the advancement of the agricultural industry.

Urban Laughlin was one of the founding members of the National Farmers Union of Canada. As an active leader in the NFU for the past 40 years, he has worked for social justice for farmers and for the establishment of economic and social policies that help maintain the family farm. Many times he has confronted issues by speaking out firmly in submissions to all levels of government and when needed, in public demonstrations, so that the voice of farmers would be heard.

The agriculture industry has been transformed over the past decades. New technologies, changes in agricultural policies and increased global competition all have had a major impact on agriculture in this country. Through it all, Mr. Laughlin has worked to ensure that the interests of farm families are recognized and taken into account. In so doing, he has worked to defend and promote our family farmers as the stewards of our land and the people who supply our food.

Among his many positive contributions, Mr. Laughlin was instrumental in the promotion of agricultural marketing boards in Prince Edward Island. He has been an active member of a number of farm organizations, including 4-H and Junior Farmers. His voice is one that is admired and respected, and his leadership has been a source of inspiration to all those who have worked with him.

Mr. Laughlin is a farmer to the core. His induction into the Atlantic Agricultural Hall of Fame is a fitting tribute to, and recognition of, one who has dedicated his life to the advancement of the agriculture industry in this country and to the people who are part of it.

Please join with me in extending congratulations and best wishes to Urban Laughlin, along with our thanks for his dedication and hard work for so many years.

Russian Federation

Visit of Representatives from the Federation Council of Russia

Hon. David Tkachuk: Honourable senators, this week the Senate of Canada is honoured to receive as its guests the Secretary General of the Federation Council of the Russian Federation, Mr. Vladimir Svinarev, and his two officials, Mr. Alexey Nesterenko and Ms. Elena Molochkova, who have come to Ottawa at the invitation of our Clerk. This delegation is seated in our official gallery and has been introduced by the Speaker.

The Federation Council of Russia is the upper house of their federal Parliament. Like the Senate of Canada, it is an appointed body and is meant to represent their country's regions. Each of the 83 federal regions of Russia sends two senators to the Council, bringing its Council of the Federation to 166 members, which is about one and a half times the size of the Senate of Canada.

The Council is meant to complement the work of the lower house, the State Duma, which is popularly elected. It assists the Duma in the preparation of legislative proposals.

Committees form a key component of the structure of the Council and many of them seem to parallel the committees we have in Canada. For example, there is a committee on legal and judicial affairs, defence and security, international affairs, house rules and one on social policy and public health.

Given the great similarities between the Senate of Canada and the Federation Council, we hope the visit of the Secretary General will be mutually beneficial. In the course of their meetings with various Senate officials as well as honourable senators, a number of administrative matters will be discussed, including human resources management, financial procedures, legal and drafting assistance and the organization of the various directorates that report to the Clerk.

We wish Mr. Svinarev and his officials the greatest success in the services they provide to the Federation Council. If there is anything the Senate of Canada can do to assist him, I am sure our officials will be pleased to do so.

Remembrance Day

Hon. Hugh Segal: Honourable senators, next week, at large and small events across Canada, Canadians will pause to say "thank you" to those who served, survived and perished in the defence of Canada and freedom, as members of the Canadian Armed Forces. As we do so, it is important to remember the thousands of Canadians who served, perished and are buried where they stood and fought, all over the world.

In July 1943, Agira, Italy, was taken by the 1st Canadian Division after the Allied invasion of Sicily. One hundred and sixty thousand Commonwealth and American troops were involved in the campaign, and 508 young Canadians lost their lives. Four hundred and ninety of them are buried at the Agira Canadian War Cemetery. I was honoured to visit the site this past October, and was incredibly moved to note that some were still teenagers when they made the ultimate sacrifice.

These young men were from a range of regiments who had fought and died together for people they did not know in a country they had never visited before, except to liberate Italians from the Fascists and Nazis who had seized this most beautiful of countries. Soldiers from the Princess Patricia's Canadian Light Infantry, Three Rivers Regiment, Royal 22nd Regiment, Hastings and Prince Edward Regiment, Royal Canadian Engineers, Royal Canadian Artillery, Signals, Loyal Edmonton Rifles, 48th Highlanders, Seaforth Highlanders, RCAF, Royal Canadian Regiment, Loyal Edmonton Regiment, Carleton and York Regiment, the West Nova Scotia Regiment, 4th Princess Louise Dragoon Guards, Royal Canadian Ordnance Corps and Saskatoon Light Infantry are all buried beside each other.

Four hundred and ninety Canadians lie in one little cemetery, all from a war that lasted half as long as the war in Afghanistan.

Donna and I were not the only Canadians to visit that day. Folks from Windsor had been there earlier and had signed the register. They paid tribute to an uncle resting there — one they had never known. Donna and I simply wrote: "We can never thank them enough."

We visited each stone and we said "thank you," but that is not in any way close to what those of us raised in freedom, peace and relative stability owe these young men who fought for a better world and who never lived to see or experience the good they did.

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As we approach November 11, 2010, we should all think of these young men buried throughout Europe and Asia, and resolve to keep their memory and sacrifice alive in active parts of who we are, what we believe in, and what we defend going forward.

F-35 Fighter Purchase

Hon. Pamela Wallin: Honourable senators, earlier today I attended a ceremony at the Governor General's residence acknowledging acts of bravery and courage by the Canadian Forces, on the front lines, at home and around the world. It is why I am so troubled that the Liberals have declared they will cancel the F-35 fighter purchase. They would throw away Canada's already substantial investment in that program, and they would undermine our aerospace industry and force taxpayers to pay millions in withdrawal fees.

Eventually, of course, they would start over with a costly time-wasting competition that again would choose the F-35 because it is the only fighter that meets the needs of our air force and allows us to work in sync with our allies.

The Liberal "scrap-it" approach is exactly what Mr. Chrétien's government did when they cancelled the EH-101 contract. That decision cost taxpayers nearly half a billion dollars in cancellation fees, and it risked the lives of our pilots and crew who are still flying those shaky old Sea Kings. The real dangers and the real costs cannot be calculated.

I do not often agree with my Liberal colleague Senator Kenny, but I am surprised and delighted that he unequivocally supports the government's position on the F-35. He said:

. . . we already know that the F-35 — the only 5th generation fighter jet on the market — is the best product.

It is important to note that before the end of the F-35 contract, 40 years from now, more than 80,000 Canadian aerospace workers will have contributed at least $12 billion worth of work on 5,000 F-35s to be sold worldwide.

Canadian companies are not only churning out aircraft parts. The research and development benefits are enormous. Canadian expertise has developed key technologies such as thermal management and 3-D visualization tools. No wonder the aerospace industry supports the purchase of the F-35s.

Let us remember it was the Chrétien Liberals who signed on to the F-35 program in the first place. When in power, they seemed to recognize the potential benefits, but now they say they will scrap it. Let us hope they will eventually see the light on the economic front as well as on the security benefits.

For example, they say Canada does not need fancy stuff like stealth capability. Well, they are wrong. Stealth is not a bell and a whistle. Stealth means that the F-35 is virtually invisible to enemy radar. It means our pilots are safer and less vulnerable. We must properly equip our forces.

Missing and Murdered Aboriginal Women

Hon. Patrick Brazeau: Honourable senators, I rise today in the chamber to give voice to the important matter of addressing the plight of missing and murdered Aboriginal women. Our government committed itself to dealing with this critical issue in the Speech from the Throne and in Budget 2010.

We do so in sad recognition that for each woman whose life came to a tragic and sudden end or who had gone missing, left behind were grieving mothers, distraught fathers, motherless children and other aggrieved loved ones. We do so in the knowledge that what each of them had in common was the fact that they all deserved far better support and security from the systems designed to protect them.

In light of this knowledge, last Friday in Vancouver, our government announced details of the measures we are undertaking in respect of the plight of missing and murdered Aboriginal women and girls. We are proud to announce that the Government of Canada is investing in new concrete measures to bolster law enforcement and the justice system, to boost victims' services and support, to create community safety plans and to support new awareness programs.

We are making changes to the Criminal Code to help make criminal investigations more effective, particularly in cases that involve missing or murdered Aboriginal women. Furthermore, we are strengthening our ability to enforce the law across the country. We are investing in a new National Police Support Centre for Missing Persons, which will be housed at the RCMP headquarters.

We are providing money to improve the national police database with regard to missing persons. We are financing the creation of a website where the public can provide information in cases of disappearance.

[English]

We will also launch a new initiative to bring expertise across jurisdictions to share ideas and information on practices in law enforcement, victim services, Aboriginal community development and violence reduction that work.

We are also investing in new pilot projects and services to support Aboriginal communities and families. Our plan includes a $1.6 million investment over two years to help the Western provinces develop culturally appropriate victim services, and $500,000 to community groups to respond to the unique issues faced by the families of missing or murdered Aboriginal women.

We are also introducing new school-and community-based pilot projects that will raise awareness among young Aboriginal women. Investments will be made in new education materials to help break intergenerational cycles of violence and abuse that threaten Aboriginal communities across Canada.

[Translation]

Lastly, Aboriginal governments and communities will receive $1.5 million over two years to develop community plans to increase safety for women in Aboriginal communities.

[English]

The issue is a responsibility that we all share. Men will have a role to play in this issue as well. Men must be involved in these undertakings. Men must recognize and embrace women's right to safety and protection. Husbands, brothers, boyfriends, fathers, friends, Aboriginal leaders and chiefs all have a role to play in dealing with the issue of missing and murdered Aboriginal women.

Together, we can deliver effective and appropriate solutions, and through collaborative efforts we can, and will, build the capacity necessary to send a clear and unwavering message: Violence against women in Canada will not be tolerated in any community across our great country or against any group of Canadians.

Capital Gains Tax Benefit for Land Trusts

Hon. Michael Duffy: Honourable senators, I rise this afternoon to bring to your attention an important change in Canada's tax law that will greatly assist in the preservation of important pieces of the Canadian landscape.

After representations from a number of groups, including the Lucy Maud Montgomery Land Trust, our government has changed our tax laws to encourage Americans who own property in Canada to donate those lands to Canadian land trusts.

In my home province of Prince Edward Island, the L.M. Montgomery Land Trust has been working for years to preserve from development those amazing pieces of land we all know near the P.E.I. National Park, which are now held in private hands.

Canadians who donate land to trusts do not have to pay capital gains tax, but now, as a result of this important change in Canadian tax law, Americans who own land here, and who donate it to a Canadian land trust, will be entitled to the same capital gains tax benefit.

This important change has been welcomed by Peter Rukavina, President of the L.M. Montgomery Land Trust. He says this change will make soliciting donations of land in Prince Edward Island much easier.

There is a lot of non-resident land ownership right across Canada, but especially along the north coast of P.E.I. in so-called Anne's Land. Mr. Rukavina, along with the Honourable Marion Reid, Scott Linkletter, Bill Bishop and others, have been hard at work raising funds to buy the development rights to those lands to preserve these magnificent vistas for future generations.

I understand they are about to embark on a new fundraising drive. It is my hope that the positive response of Prime Minister Harper and Finance Minister Flaherty on the tax issue will make the work of the Lucy Maud Montgomery Land Trust much easier on behalf of future generations.

Visitors in the Gallery

The Hon. the Speaker: Honourable senators, I wish to draw your attention to the presence in the gallery of His Excellency Trajko Veljanoski, President of the Assembly of the Republic of Macedonia; Mr. Andrej Petrov, Member of the Assembly, President of the Parliamentary Group for Cooperation with Canada; Mr. Aleksandar Nikoloski, Member of the Assembly, Member of the Parliamentary Group for Cooperation with Canada; and Mr. Safet Neziri, Member of the Assembly, Member of the Parliamentary Group for Cooperation with Canada.

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

Hon. Senators: Hear, hear.


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[Translation]

ROUTINE PROCEEDINGS

Commission of Inquiry into the Decline of Sockeye Salmon in the Fraser River

October 2010 Report Tabled

Hon. Gerald J. Comeau (Deputy Leader of the Government): Honourable senators, I have the honour to table, in both official languages, the interim report of the Commission of Inquiry into the Decline of Sockeye Salmon in the Fraser River, entitled, Fraser River Sockeye Salmon: Past Declines. Future Sustainability?

Citizenship and Immigration

2010 Annual Report to Parliament on Immigration Tabled

Hon. Gerald J. Comeau (Deputy Leader of the Government): Honourable senators, I have the honour to table, in both official languages, the Annual Report to Parliament on Immigration, 2010.

Commissioner of Official Languages

Beyond Obligations, Volume II—2009-10 Annual Report Tabled

The Hon. the Speaker: Honourable senators, I have the honour to table, in both official languages, Volume II of the 2009-10 annual report of the Commissioner of Official Languages, pursuant to section 66 of the Official Languages Act.

[English]

Canada Consumer Product Safety Bill

First Reading

The Hon. the Speaker informed the Senate that a message had been received from the House of Commons with Bill C-36, An Act respecting the safety of consumer products.

(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.)

Human Rights

Notice of Motion to Authorize Committee to Study Government's Role in Supporting the Promotion and Protection of Women's Rights in Afghanistan

Hon. Nancy Ruth: Honourable senators, I give notice that, at the next sitting of the Senate, I will move:

That the Standing Senate Committee on Human Rights be authorized to examine and report on the role that the Government of Canada may play in supporting the promotion and protection of women's rights in Afghanistan after Canada has ended its combat operations in 2011; and

That the committee submit its final report to the Senate no later than December 16, 2010, and that the committee retain all powers necessary to publicize its findings for 180 days after the tabling of the final report.


QUESTION PERIOD

Industry

Potash Corporation of Saskatchewan

Hon. Robert W. Peterson: Honourable senators, my question is to the Leader of the Government in the Senate.

On the eve of a major decision regarding the hostile bid for the takeover of the Potash Corporation of Saskatchewan, let me quote a statement from Brad Wall, the Premier of Saskatchewan, made yesterday amid speculation that Investment Canada was recommending the Prime Minister approve BHP's hostile takeover of the Potash Corporation of Saskatchewan:

If this story does in fact reflect the federal government's decision, the government of Saskatchewan will view this as a profound betrayal of our province and its people.

In addition, the following provinces have provided their support to the premier: Alberta, Manitoba, Quebec and New Brunswick.

In excess of 75 per cent of the people of Saskatchewan are opposed to this bid. The only people who have remained silent are the Conservative MPs and senators from Saskatchewan. My question is: Are they being compelled to remain silent, or does this signify they are in fact supportive of this hostile takeover?

Hon. Marjory LeBreton (Leader of the Government): Honourable senators, as Senator Peterson well knows, the decision will be made by the Minister of Industry, the Honourable Tony Clement, according to his responsibilities under the Investment Canada Act.

As I have said repeatedly, the government is following its legislative responsibilities. Under the Investment Canada Act, the Minister of Industry is responsible for the review of BHP's bid, and it is the Minister of Industry who makes the determination whether or not foreign acquisitions are likely to be of net benefit to Canada. We will await his decision after consultation with his officials.

Senator Peterson: Research in Motion shares are off by 40 per cent. What does the leader suppose would be the reaction of her government if there were a hostile takeover bid for this corporation, which is the pride of Waterloo?

Senator LeBreton: What does that matter have to do with this matter? I would suggest to the honourable senator that he stop reading Don Martin and people like that in the newspapers.

The fact is, this is the decision of the Minister of Industry. There are many rumours out there. Rumours are rumours are rumours. That is all I can say.

Hon. Maria Chaput: Honourable senators, the Province of Manitoba has added its voice in opposition to the Potash Corporation takeover. Manitoba Premier Greg Selinger also wants Ottawa to block the bid. Mr. Selinger said:

We believe the Saskatchewan position is the right one in the current circumstances.

A new deal must be forged between the provinces, territories and the federal government. This one is no good. Will the federal government give due consideration to this matter?

Senator LeBreton: I thank the honourable senator for advising me of the view of the Premier of Manitoba. I read that same article.

Again, I repeat, and I will continue to repeat, that the government and the Minister of Industry are following their legislative responsibilities under the Investment Canada Act, and this determination will be made under conditions of whether it is of net benefit to Canada.

[Translation]

Canadian Heritage

Support for the Arts and Culture

Hon. Lucie Pépin: Honourable senators, my question is for the Leader of the Government in the Senate.

The support programs that allowed our artists to work abroad, PromArt and Trade Routes, were abolished in 2008. This government considered them ineffective. Because this federal funding was withdrawn, 170 tours and over 1,600 performances were cancelled. This translates into a shortfall of over $15 million for our artistic companies. The Leader of the Government in the Senate must have read about the results of the study released yesterday by CINARS, the International Exchange for the Performing Arts.

Does the government plan to take action to lessen the impact its decision has had on Canadian artists' ability to take part in international tours?

[English]

Hon. Marjory LeBreton (Leader of the Government): Honourable senators, our government has delivered more support for arts and culture than ever before. This includes record levels of support for the Canada Council and Telefilm Canada, both of which market artists abroad. We have also doubled support for national arts training programs.

Therefore, I think it is incorrect for the honourable senator to suggest that the government does not support our arts and culture, particularly in the funding of international arts events.

[Translation]

Senator Pépin: Honourable senators, the Leader of the Government in the Senate has said that her government recently granted funding to various companies, but we all know that the only way Canada can truly shine on the international stage is through our artists, who are our cultural ambassadors.

I am not asking the government to acknowledge that it made a mistake by abolishing this support program.

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Since the government now claims to be a champion of the arts, why does it still refuse to restore the support that would allow our performing artists to showcase their work internationally?

[English]

Senator LeBreton: Honourable senators, I have previously answered this question in various other ways. Previous governments had programs that they supported. This government was elected to implement our agenda and support programs that are recommended to us. Just because a certain program has received funding in the past is not reason enough for it to receive funding forever. It is, of course, not feasible.

I will reiterate some of the things we have done for arts and culture. We have increased spending on arts, culture and heritage by 8 per cent. Our campaign promise was to maintain or increase spending on the arts, culture and heritage, and we have kept our word. We have increased direct support to arts and cultural organizations by putting a record amount into the Canada Council for the Arts, $181 million. We have doubled support for national arts training programs across Canada. The Canada Media Fund holds $360 million for Canadian broadcasting. We have reviewed spending to ensure maximum benefit goes to artists and cultural groups. Of course, all of this is in the interests of the taxpayer. As a result, there is more support for festivals, theatres, museums and programs directed at arts and culture for our children.

I reject absolutely the notion that this government does not support arts and culture, and I believe that the proof is in the pudding. We have actually increased the support to the community.

[Translation]

Human Resources and Skills Development

Budget Restraints at Colleges and Universities

Hon. Claudette Tardif (Deputy Leader of the Opposition): Honourable senators, the most recent statistics from the Association of Universities and Colleges of Canada indicate that university enrolment this fall increased by almost 4 per cent, or 32,000 full-time students, over fall 2009. With an increasing number of young people going on to post-secondary education, universities and colleges across Canada are facing growing financial and physical constraints. Although I recognize the government's investments in infrastructure, Canadian colleges and universities continue to lack financial, physical and human resources.

Can the Leader of the Government in the Senate tell us whether her government recognizes the increasing operational needs of universities and whether the government will undertake to provide more support to post-secondary education in its next budget?

[English]

Hon. Marjory LeBreton (Leader of the Government): Honourable senators, we absolutely do. Our government provided $800 million more for post-secondary education through the Canada Social Transfer, up 40 per cent from the previous government which cut $25 billion in transfers to the provinces, including student funding. Through the Canada Student Grants Program, we have made more money available in grants which students do not have to pay back. This means more access and less student debt to repay in the future. We are providing $250 a month to low-income students and $100 a month to middle-income students. Close to 280,000 students benefited in the last school year, 140,000 more than under the old system.

[Translation]

Enrolment Levels of First Nations and Inuit Students

Hon. Claudette Tardif (Deputy Leader of the Opposition): Honourable senators, the Aboriginal population is growing six times faster than the non-Aboriginal population. Yet, Aboriginal peoples remain underrepresented in post-secondary institutions because of a lack of financial resources.

According to the Canadian Federation of Students, one of the ways to counter this disproportion is to eliminate the cap on increases in the Post-Secondary Student Support Program and ensure that all eligible Aboriginal and Inuit post-secondary learners receive the funding required to pursue post-secondary education.

What will the government do to ensure better representation of First Nations and Inuit students at Canadian universities and colleges?

[English]

Hon. Marjory LeBreton (Leader of the Government): I appreciate the honourable senator's question, because it gives me an opportunity to put on the record what the government has done. This government has shown many times over that it is committed to improving First Nations education and that it is working in partnership with the provinces, territories and First Nations to do so.

Minister Duncan has said that the government will engage in a new approach to provide support to First Nations and Inuit post-secondary students. It will be an effective and accountable program and coordinated with other federal student support programs. We will work with Aboriginal organizations as we move forward.

Since 2006, when we came into government, we have invested approximately $714 million resulting in the completion of nearly 100 school projects and over 100 school projects are currently under way.

As the honourable senator well knows, Minister Strahl, Minister Prentice and now Minister Duncan have all been working closely and collaboratively with the Provinces of British Columbia, Alberta, Manitoba, Prince Edward Island and New Brunswick, and with regional First Nations on initiatives to improve education outcomes for students.

I appreciate the opportunity to state this, honourable senators. I think people neither fully appreciate nor understand all the good work the government has done and the commitment it has to improving education for Aboriginal peoples.

Financial Assistance for Post-Secondary Students

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

In August of this year, as post-secondary students were going back to colleges and universities, the Canada Student Loans Program hit its lending limit of $15 billion. That meant approximately 50,000 students were in danger of receiving no funding at all. The system was stretched to the limit.

The minister quietly amended the regulation of the Canada Student Financial Assistance Act which defines how the government's liability is calculated through an order-in-council to fix the problem. This freed up approximately $2 billion in additional funds to cover the shortfall this year. However, what is the government's long-term solution to this issue? What will the government do to ensure the Canada Student Loans Program is not faced with this problem again?

Hon. Marjory LeBreton (Leader of the Government): Honourable senators, I partially answered this question previously. We, as a government, have improved the situation for post-secondary students on many fronts. Our Repayment Assistance Plan provides flexibility for those students who need to repay loans, making it easier to manage loans by ensuring an affordable repayment amount on a reasonable schedule. We made post-secondary scholarships and bursaries tax-free, introduced the textbook tax credit and tool tax credit, and provided $85.7 million for the Canada Graduate Scholarships Program. We provided $2 billion for university infrastructure, funding close to 200 projects across Canada. We created tens of thousands of jobs for students, including close to 40,000 jobs this past summer through the Canada Summer Jobs 2010 program which received an extra $10 million this year. We also supported student jobs through Career Focus, $30 million; Pathways to Education, $20 million; and Skills Link, $30 million.

It is safe to say, honourable senators, that we are providing our youth with the tools necessary, whether it is through post-secondary education in universities or through skilled trades, to advance their post-secondary education and have meaningful occupations when they finish their post-secondary education.

Senator Callbeck: I have a supplementary question. With all due respect, that does not answer the question that I was asking. My question was this: In August, the Canada Student Loans Program hit its limit of $15 billion, which meant approximately 50,000 students were in danger of not receiving any funding. The minister has now changed the regulation and that meant redefining what the government's liability is. That is for this year.

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I want to know what the government's long-term position is as far as changing that limit, or if it will change that limit. What is her position on the Canada Student Loans Program and its limit of $15 billion?

Senator LeBreton: I thank the honourable senator for her question. I can only say to her that this government has shown a commitment of unprecedented support to our post-secondary students.

With regard to the future plans for this particular program, I am sure that in the ensuing months, when the government looks forward at all of the various areas that must be funded, we will be looking at all of these matters.

I will take Senator Callbeck's specific question as notice, because obviously she is not satisfied that we have markedly increased all of these programs and provided many more programs for students. I find although we do more and more to help our students, that Senator Callbeck will always ask a question about why we are not doing more.

In any event, we have done far more than any government in the history of the country to support our students, and we will continue to do that. I will take that specific question as notice.

Industry

Marketing and Information Campaign for the 2011 Census

Hon. Jane Cordy: Honourable senators, on October 5, 2010, I asked the Leader of the Government in the Senate what the cost to Canadian taxpayers would be to increase the number of long-form census surveys from 2.7 million, or one in five Canadian families, to 4.5 million, which is one in three Canadian families. The leader said she would obtain the actual figure for me, but, as I have not yet received her answer, I will use the figure of $30 million since it is the one I am seeing most used.

The leader spoke about the need to inform Canadians about changes to the 2011 data collection. Will this $30 million include funds to develop and launch the marketing and information campaign, or will there be a separate budget over and above the $30 million extra to implement the changes?

Hon. Marjory LeBreton (Leader of the Government): I thank Senator Cordy for the question. I did indicate to the honourable senator that I would attempt to ascertain the information, so I will again repeat that response. I indicated that I would respond to her by written answer, and I will follow through on that.

Senator Cordy: My question is this: In addition to the $30 million or $35 million, or whatever the amount is, will there be another budget to launch the marketing and information campaign? The leader did say several times in this chamber that because the form will be changing this time and because it is voluntary, that indeed there would have to be an information package and program set up so Canadians would be aware of it.

Will the setting up of the marketing information campaign have a separate budget over and above the $30 million?

Senator LeBreton: Again, I will take Senator Cordy's question as notice.

Senator Cordy: At the same time that this government pledged an additional $30 million for the new national survey, it also mandated a $7 million cut to Statistics Canada's operating budget. At a time of preaching government belt-tightening, which seems to exclude the Prime Minister's office budget, this government decided to implement a costly change to the Canada census process. What is the reason for this change at this time of economic restraint?

Senator LeBreton: Honourable senators, I answered that question before. All departments are looking at their overall budgets. Statistics Canada is no different. The fact is Statistics Canada provides an excellent service, as I have said before. Again, going back to the census, all of their work, except for the short-form census and two other surveys, is done on a voluntary basis.

With regard to the honourable senator's question, I did answer it before. All government departments are looking within their own budgets in order to reduce their expenses in accordance with the Minister of Finance's economic plan.


ORDERS OF THE DAY

Justice for Victims of Terrorism Bill

Third Reading—Debate Adjourned

Hon. David Tkachuk moved third reading of Bill S-7, An Act to deter terrorism and to amend the State Immunity Act.

He said: I rise today to recommend that the Senate adopt, at third reading, Bill S-7, the Justice for Victims of Terrorism Act.

Before doing so, I would like to thank all who have played a part in helping to move Bill S-7 through the Senate, beginning with the Prime Minister and the Minister of Public Safety, who have taken up as a government initiative the private bill I introduced five and half years ago in this chamber.

I am grateful to senators on both sides for their support throughout this process and, in particular, to Senator Grafstein who, up until he retired, always seconded my bill in all its forms.

I include the members of the Standing Senate Committee on Legal and Constitutional Affairs, led by then chair Senator Joan Fraser, who studied my private member's bill, and most currently includes members of the Special Senate Committee on Anti-terrorism, led by Senator Hugh Segal, who studied Bill S-7.

I would like to thank the committee clerk, Barbara Reynolds, her staff and the library researchers, who were particularly helpful at the committee stage, and the law branch for their work on the three private bills that I introduced in previous sessions.

I would like to also acknowledge Maureen Basnicki and the Canadian victims of terror who pushed for this bill, Aaron Blumenfeld, Sheryl Saperia and Danny Eisen of the Canadian Coalition Against Terror, for their continuing advice.

We are reminded on a daily basis that the threat of terrorism is real and widespread, and the unfortunate reality is that Canada and Canadians remain vulnerable to this global threat.

Third reading debate on the bill is particularly timely, given Friday's events where terrorists used FedEx to get their explosives into passenger aircraft via the cargo hold. One plane from the United Arab Emirates had to be escorted as it flew over Canadian airspace.

We must remain steadfast in our efforts to stop the perpetrators of terrorism and their supporters.

Bill S-7 would create a cause of action for victims of terrorism and it would lift the immunity of states that support it. It would allow Canada to demonstrate leadership in the struggle against terrorism by holding terrorists and their supporters accountable for their actions. As importantly, it will provide victims with a means to have their voices heard.

First, it creates a new act, the Justice for Victims of Terrorism Act, allowing Canadians to take legal action against the perpetrators and their supporters, including foreign states.

They could sue for redress for terrorist acts that occurred anywhere in the world on or after January 1, 1985, provided that they can demonstrate a real and substantial connection between their action and Canada. Making the bill retroactive to 1985 sends a clear message to the world that those who perpetuate or support terrorist acts remain accountable to this day.

Second, the bill will allow victims to seek redress, not just from the perpetrators of terrorist acts, but also from their supporters, including designated foreign states. It does so by lifting the immunity now provided under the State Immunity Act for those states designated as supporters of terrorism. It will allow the Governor-in-Council to create, based on the recommendation of the Minister of Foreign Affairs and in consultation with the Minister of Public Safety, a list of states that have supported a terrorist entity listed pursuant to the Criminal Code.

Lifting the state's immunity is a significant foreign policy decision, one that cannot be taken lightly. That is why we would base such a decision on a rigorous mechanism and concrete criteria. Specifically, the criteria for listing a foreign state are whether there are "reasonable grounds to believe" that the foreign state supports, or supported, a terrorist entity listed pursuant to the Criminal Code. We believe that providing support to terrorist entities listed pursuant to the Criminal Code — a list that is determined through an established, detailed and effective analytical process — is an adequate criterion to justify the listing of a state.

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This bill will be a significant complement to Canada's counterterrorism framework. It will act as a deterrent to terrorists and their supporters, and will demonstrate Canada's leadership in combating terrorism. Indeed, by holding all these actors accountable, we are targeting something of the utmost importance to terrorist groups — money.

It is also important to note that this bill will finally address the needs of victims who have been waiting for too long now to have this right to seek redress.

If other civilized nations that are also governed by the rule of law were to pass similar measures, it would be difficult for terrorists to function. Why: because terrorists operate from, and are supported by, dysfunctional states that typically do not follow the rule of law. Terrorists are reluctant, therefore, to leave large sums of money in their own banks, as the money may not be safe, nor do they want to leave large sums of money in places such as the Congo, Somalia or Uzbekistan. Terrorists look for safe places, and generally that means countries like Canada, the United States and members of the European Union, countries that follow the rule of law.

If their terrorist activities were to mean that their assets in safe countries were potentially subject to court-ordered seizure, terrorists would have a serious problem, as they need cash to operate. This bill would not only put another resource in the hands of those harmed by terrorist actions; it would also cause those who sponsor terrorists to think twice. That is why it is important to pass this bill, and I urge all honourable senators to support the timely passage at third reading.

Honourable senators, during our committee hearings, we heard constructive suggestions for technical changes that will add clarity to the bill. One concern is that, as drafted, while the language empowers the government to create a list of states for which state immunity does not exist, there is no requirement that the government do so.

Another concern is that the current text does not offer certainty that an action should continue if a state is taken off the list. Before committing to spending time and money, plaintiffs understandably want the assurances that an action will remain valid, as long as the state is listed when the legal action began.

A third concern is that the bill, as drafted, does not ensure periodic updates to the list. The amendment that I will move will provide for a biannual update, which would occur at the same time as the biannual review of terrorist activities. The government would also have the option of adding nations at any time should a nation begin to assist terrorist activities.

Therefore, I move —

The Hon. the Speaker: Order. This will be helpful to the house. Senator Tkachuk has moved third reading and indicated to the house that, as a result of work done in committee, a motion in amendment will be proposed. Rule 30 requires the leave of the house for him to make this motion. Of course, another senator can make the motion. Senator Tkachuk has indicated that he will make the motion.

Therefore, make the motion, with leave of the house.

Senator Tkachuk: Can I ask leave of the house to make the motion?

Hon. Senators: Agreed.

The Hon. the Speaker: Carried.

Motion in Amendment

Hon. David Tkachuk: Honourable senators, therefore, I move:

That Bill S-7 be not now read a third time but that it be amended in clause 7,

(a) on page 4,

(i) by replacing line 33 with the following:

"Council may, at any time, set out the name of a foreign state", and

(ii) by adding after line 40 the following:

"(3) The list must be established no later than six months after the day on which this section comes into force."; and

(b) on page 5,

(i) by renumbering subsections 6.1(3) to 6.1(6) as subsections 6.1(4) to 6.1(7) and any cross-references thereto accordingly,

(ii) by replacing lines 22 to 29 with the following:

"(a) whether there are still reasonable grounds, as set out in subsection (2), for a foreign state to be set out on the list and make a recommendation to the Governor in Council as to whether the foreign state should remain set out on the list; and

(b) whether there are reasonable grounds, as set out in subsection (2), for a foreign state that is not set out on the list to be set out on the list and, if so, make a recommendation to the Governor in Council as to whether the foreign state should be set out on the list.

(8) The review does not affect the validity of the list.

(9) The Minister must complete the review", and

(iii) by adding, after line 34, the following:

"(10) Where proceedings for support of terrorism are commenced against a foreign state that is set out on the list, the subsequent removal of the foreign state from the list does not have the effect of restoring the state's immunity from the jurisdiction of a court in respect of those proceedings or any related appeal or enforcement proceedings.".

The Hon. the Speaker: It has been moved by the Honourable Senator Tkachuk, seconded by the Honourable Senator Mockler, that Bill S-7 be not now read a third time but that it be amended in clause 7 —

Some Hon. Senators: Dispense.

The Hon. the Speaker: Is there debate on the amendment?

Hon. Mobina S. B. Jaffer: May I ask a question at this time?

I wish to thank Senator Tkachuk for what he has done. I know he has worked hard to bring amendments in relation to issues that arose during committee. I have not had the opportunity to see the amendments before today, so I would like a clarification.

One of the preoccupations I had during committee was the "in and out," in the sense that a country can be on the list, someone can start an action, and then suddenly the country is removed from the list by our government. What protection is there for the person who has brought this action?

As honourable senators may recall, at the end of our hearings, the lead person from the Department of Foreign Affairs and International Trade told us that the legislation was such that if the government removed a name from the list, they would then have immunity. With the amendments that the honourable senator has proposed, have we resolved that issue?

Senator Tkachuk: We have.

(On motion of Senator Jaffer, debate adjourned.)

Senatorial Selection Bill

Second Reading—Debate Continued

On the Order:

Resuming debate on the motion of the Honourable Senator Brown, seconded by the Honourable Senator Runciman, for the second reading of Bill S-8, An Act respecting the selection of senators.

Hon. Grant Mitchell: Honourable senators, I will speak about the election of senators. I have made a few of these comments here before, so I want to apologize to any honourable senators who have already heard them, in case I am boring them. I think I probably did not finish, though, so it is worth another effort. Senators who have been appointed since I last spoke on this issue have not heard my comments, and I know they particularly will enjoy them.

I want to leave members of the government with this thought. They are accident prone on so many issues, for example, the budget deficit — who would have thought we would reach $56 billion? — and losing the seat on the United Nations Security Council. Who would have thought that they would bungle foreign relations so dramatically that we would lose something we never lost before?

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Honourable senators, I am thinking about the United Arab Emirates, the loss of Camp Mirage and the millions of dollars that has cost. As I stood I thought, "At least I am trying to help this government not make a similar mess of Senate elections, because they are accident prone."

An Hon. Senator: Good for you!

Senator Mitchell: Thank you. I am doing my best here. I am not just helping the government. I am doing this, of course, on behalf of the people of Alberta and the people of Canada.

I want to raise a number of issues, not about the matter of electing senators — I think it is relatively difficult to argue against the concept of elections in a democratic state, although it has become less democratic over the last four years — but about the way that this bill would implement Senate elections. The thought that I had, when reviewing this bill over the number of times it has been presented, after delay by prorogation and by other manoeuvres of this government, was this: Be very careful what you wish for; you might just get it.

Two fundamental reasons that people, particularly in Alberta, argue for an elected Senate are: First, it would make the process more democratic; and, second, it would make Albertans' regional interests more effectively represented in the national governing centre. Let me address those two areas.

First, it will not make it more democratic. All of us in this house know — and I think the new senators are probably up to speed on this fact — that the Senate, on paper, has profound power. We can veto practically everything that the House of Commons passes. The flip side is that every piece of legislation — that is, every financial bill, every cent they want to spend — must be passed by the Senate. The Senate does not exercise that power as aggressively as it might, although in the past we have certainly amended many bills. The Senate did that quite regularly when we had governments that were open to suggestion, advice and other ideas. The Senate has not been able to do so with this government, of course, but we have done that in the past. We have actually turned down bills from the government. Generally speaking, the Senate does not exercise that power as aggressively as it might because we are not elected and they are, and we understand the difference.

Honourable senators, let us imagine for a minute that the Senate becomes an elected body. All of a sudden, senators will be inclined to vote as we want and we will vote against that government — or I would, on many occasions. Come to think of it, I am trying to imagine the number of times that I would vote with this government; it would not be many. Senators could absolutely hamstring the government if we began to vote against and veto what they are trying to do. We would have the obligation and the power to do that because we, too, would be elected.

Imagine if the Canadian people began to do, between the Senate and the House of Commons, what they have inherently done between provinces and the federal government; that is, they voted opposition. Let us compound the problem and vote opposition at the Senate level. All of a sudden, we hamstring government, we bog it down and we grind it to a halt. Tell me how that would make this process more democratic? It would not, unless you are of the ilk that hates government anyway and you wanted it to grind down and do nothing. You forget all the great things the government has done to make this country as great as it is, in partnership with the Canadian people, with businesses and with organizations. Maybe you would think twice about wanting it to grind down because we are elected without having to determine a way to break an impasse.

Australia has such a way to break an impasse. If their two houses disagree on the same issue twice, there is an automatic election. I have been an elected politician. I know how elections focus your attention. That would break impasses. However, there would be no way to break impasses once this bill is passed. This bill, therefore, is profoundly premature. If you want to see what happens when you cannot break impasses, go to the United States, where you will see a system of government that is all but dysfunctional. It cannot do the obvious or the right for much of the time. That is what happens.

My second point — and I know you want to hear this, Senator Duffy — is that Albertans and some other provinces feel that, somehow, all of our regional grievances will be redressed once we get an elected Senate. That is, we will be in regional balance nirvana. It will all be right again. Well, think twice about that. In fact, think three or four times about that, because, you know what? If you have a look at the number of seats in the House of Commons and in the Senate today, that will not be the case. If elected, we would be exercising our power based on seats that fundamentally will make the regional imbalances worse, certainly from the Albertan and the western points of view. In the House of Commons today, 9.3 per cent of the seats are from Alberta. That will go up to 11 per cent when we get the new seats. In the Senate today, 5.7 per cent of the seats are from Alberta. This bill would dilute Alberta's representation in this house, but we would be exercising power based on that diluted representation. With those numbers, how could that possibly improve regional representation? That is not a rhetorical question. That is an empirical question. The answer is that it will not; it cannot. It will damage that representation.

Let us compound that problem, honourable senators. Alberta has six seats. Do you know how many seats Nova Scotia and New Brunswick have? They each have 10 seats. I love Nova Scotia and New Brunswick. They will get better regional representation. That is great, but it will not help the West and it will not redress regional imbalance. How many seats does the West have? They have 24. How many seats do Ontario and Quebec have? Well, they have 24 each. How many seats do the Atlantic Provinces have? They have 30 seats. I can see why the Maritimes would want to vote for it. It will not redress regional imbalance. Until we find a way to reallocate seats that is somehow more amenable to that issue, we are compounding the problem. It will not make regional representation better, it will exacerbate it. Albertans will be disadvantaged because of that imbalance. That is another reason why I will not support this bill.

Let us look at the restructuring of powers. Has anyone over there for one moment considered the restructuring of power that this bill will effect on the country? First, the Prime Minister will lose power. Many people hope that this Prime Minister would lose power. God knows, he has spent a lot of time and money increasing his budget so that he can have more power because that is what he wants. I happen to think we need a relatively powerful prime minister to govern this difficult country. I do not want to see the Prime Minister necessarily weakened in this way. However, if senators can stand up and vote against those government bills which come from a powerful prime minister, then all of a sudden the Prime Minister loses power. That makes me conclude one of two things: Either he is not aware that it will happen, which I doubt, because he knows he would lose power; or he knows that the bill will never be implemented, which I am pretty sure he understands as well. He is not doing this to redress regional imbalance and improve democracy. The Prime Minister is doing this strictly to earn political points. Otherwise, if he wanted to pass it fast, why did not he put it in the budget bill? It would have got jammed through that way. Everything else was in it. If he really cared about it, why has he not talked to the 10 provinces and the 3 territories and got them to set up elections? We do not even have elections happening. In fact, the one election that was to happen, the one subsequent to Senator Brown's election, was just pushed aside by Mr. Stelmach. Why? Because he was afraid the Wildrose Alliance Party would win the seat and it would embarrass him. It had nothing to do with the higher ideal of reforming this great institution to make it more democratic and more regionally representative — absolutely not.

If the Prime Minister loses power for his or her bills, then the next level of power, members of Parliament, will not be as powerful. I love bumping into members of Parliament from Alberta, particularly on the plane or in the airport, and saying, "What do you think? Who will be more powerful after the Senate is elected: you or me?" They think a minute, and then I say, "It will be senators, because there are only six senators in Alberta. At worst, they represent one sixth of the province. More than that, they represent the whole province. We represent all three million Albertans, each one of us, and you represent one twenty eighth, soon to be one thirty third, of the province. Who do you think the press will come to? Who do you think the power brokers will come to? Who do you think will have influence? It will not be you."

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I then ask them to list five members of the House of Representatives in the United States, who are their counterparts, and to name five American senators. Most people can come up with five, because the Senate is much more powerful than the House of Representatives. I then ask what this would do to the power relationship between the premiers and the Senate.

The Senate is responsible for representing regional interests, and most of us work very hard at that, but the most obvious and powerful spokespeople for regional representation are the premiers. However, once we are elected we can take that power from the premiers. Do you think the premiers will want to relinquish it?

I then ask people to name five governors of the United States of America. They can usually name Arnold Schwarzenegger, then they make a couple of incorrect guesses. They do not know five governors. They do, however, know five premiers.

Let us look at what this does to the power structure, which no one over there has thought about. Think about the implications of that restructuring of power for this country and then tell me if this legislation, which is nothing but political spin, is worth the risk to which it exposes this country. I do not think it is. In fact, I think it is very dangerous.

I wish to address a few practicalities. Imagine that there are 52 Liberals and 52 Conservatives in here, that there is an election for the one hundred and fifth member and that a Liberal wins the election. Does anyone in this house think for one minute that prime minister of the day would appoint a Liberal and give the Liberals a majority in the Senate? Of course not. Therefore, it means nothing. It does not mean more democracy; it simply gives the prime minister another chance to be capricious.

Speaking of capriciousness, Alberta was the only province to fulfil its commitment to hold Senate elections, and now it has wiped that out. Has the Prime Minister been asking these premiers for help in building democracy? Did he offer them money to run the elections? Why would they do it? This is a federal institution. Is he downloading that responsibility on them, which they will not spend anyway? Of course not. It will not happen.

Another capricious issue is rural-urban power. Let us imagine that the ex-mayor of Edmonton runs to become a senator as does the ex-mayor of Lloydminster, a fine town of 8,000 to 10,000 people. Who do you think will win? The ex-mayor of Edmonton will win because there are 1 million people in the Edmonton area. That ex-mayor will be well-known and will have an overwhelming chance to win the election. That will create a rural-urban problem.

Has anyone thought about the money? Each MP can spend about $85,000 for an election. If we have the equivalent of 28 seats in Alberta, can each senator, running in the whole province, spend $2.5 million? If so, how will they raise that money? Are there any rules on that? If six are running, that amounts to $14 million. If that is the case, the rich and the connected will win. How will that represent minority rights and regional interests?

[Translation]

Hon. Suzanne Fortin-Duplessis (The Hon. the Acting Speaker): Honourable senators, Senator Mitchell's time has expired. Is it agreed, honourable senators, that he will be accorded five more minutes?

Some Hon. Senators: Agreed.

Senator Mitchell: Thank you very much. I will try to be brief.

[English]

Why would we limit the terms of senators if they are elected? Are we going to limit the terms of MPs, MLAs, mayors and others? If we are electing them, the Canadian people get to limit their terms if they want to. If one never has to run again, how does that enhance accountability? They will never have to have their accountability questioned. This makes no sense; it is without any consistency.

Finally, with eight-year terms, one prime minister can appoint the whole house. There are three people on this side who are younger than I am. If this were to happen, which it will not because we will change the government, the four of us would be sitting all by ourselves because, unlike Paul Martin, I do not foresee this Prime Minister ever appointing a Liberal to the Senate.

It is dangerous to proceed in this way without having worked out these factors. All members of the Senate and the House Commons know in their heart of hearts that this will not happen because the Prime Minister will not get the support of the provinces and will probably not get the support of the courts to do it.

Let us think about reforms that we could implement here with which we have no problem. One is televising and podcasting this place so that people all across the country can see what we are doing. That would impose a bit of accountability. The Prime Minister keeps talking about transparency with regard to things like the G8 and the G20. Let us give the Canadian people some transparency right here.

Another thing that we could do is to give Senate committees more power to do their jobs. We could allow them to hire their own staff. I have never known a body that provides two bosses, one who hires them and one for whom they work, to function particularly well. It does not work. Everyone across the way who has ever run a business or managed people knows that. We need to be able to hire our own communications, research and writing staff and our own advisers of all kinds. In that way we would have the power to do even better the jobs that we are now doing very well. That would be an easy thing for us to do. We could do it ourselves.

We might want to implement the kind of review process about which Senator Eggleton spoke. As well, we could do more work in Committee of the Whole. Once we are televised, working in Committee of the Whole could open this place up more to the people of Canada as well as giving more of us a chance to have more input into more committee proceedings.

If you think that the deficit was bad, that losing the seat on the Security Council was bad, that losing Camp Mirage was bad — and I could go on — you wait to see what would happen if this bill is passed. It could make this place inoperable. You may want that, but Canadians do not.

(On motion of Senator Cowan, debate adjourned.)

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Supreme Court Act

Bill to Amend—Second Reading—Debate Continued

On the Order:

Resuming debate on the motion of the Honourable Senator Tardif, seconded by the Honourable Senator Rivest, for the second reading of Bill C-232, An Act to amend the Supreme Court Act (understanding the official languages).

Hon. Michael A. Meighen: Honourable senators, this highly contentious, interesting and important bill continues to evolve. For example, I am reminded of the compromise resolution passed this summer by the Canadian Bar Association, which may be a way forward.

I have been preparing notes to speak on this matter, but they are not complete. I understand that Senators MacDonald and Comeau also wish to intervene in the debate. Given that the bill sits at day 14, I ask the indulgence of honourable senators to adjourn the debate in my name for the balance of my time.

[Translation]

Hon. Claudette Tardif (Deputy Leader of the Opposition): Honourable senators, I have a question for honourable Senators Meighen and Comeau.

I am not inclined to accept this adjournment of the debate because the Senate has been studying Bill C-232 since April 13, 2010, or for 203 days. The last Conservative senator to speak to this bill did so on June 22, 2010, four months ago.

I dare say that during these four months, senators have had enough time to prepare their notes and scrutinize the bill. I believe it is high time to move on and put a stop to these delaying tactics.

Let us not forget that this bill was adopted by the majority of the elected members in the other place.

[English]

Are Conservative senators now obstructing the will of the elected majority?

[Translation]

Can Senator Comeau guarantee that the Conservative senators will actually speak when we return the week of November 15?

Senator Meighen: Honourable senators, this is the first time I have asked for a postponement. I do not think this is a delaying tactic in this case. It is just an attempt to find the best solution to a tricky problem. I can assure you, honourable senators, that I will take part in the debate in a few weeks.

(On motion of Senator Meighen, debate adjourned, on division.)

[English]

Internal Economy, Budgets and Administration

Sixth Report of Committee Adopted

The Senate proceeded to consideration of the sixth report of the Standing Committee on Internal Economy, Budgets and Administration (request from the Auditor General to conduct a performance audit of the Senate Administration), presented in the Senate on October 28, 2010.

Hon. David Tkachuk: Honourable senators, the sixth report of the Standing Committee on Internal Economy, Budgets and Administration, tabled on Thursday, October 21, has but a single sentence:

Your committee recommends that the Senate agree with the request from the Auditor General to conduct a performance audit of the Senate Administration.

The recommendation itself is self-explanatory. However, by way of background, I would like to outline the process that led to this recommendation and to what we expect from the audit.

I assure honourable senators that the historical rights of the Senate have been respected and will continue to be respected. As senators are well aware, the Senate and the other place are each responsible for their own administration and management. We operate independently of each other. We are also independent of the Crown and, thus, of her advisers. We are responsible for ensuring that our affairs are managed efficiently and responsibly.

We have already acted on our own initiative to have outside auditors look at various aspects of our operations and have put in place a multi-year internal audit plan. Until recently, there has never been a financial audit of the Senate's books. In the spirit of the 2006 Federal Accountability Act, that has now changed.

In June, the Senate released the first ever opening balance audit of its books, which was conducted by PricewaterhouseCoopers. The full statements for the 2009-2010 fiscal year have been audited by another firm, KPMG.

We have received and intend to soon release an audit of senators' office expenditures prepared by Ernst & Young. The scope of this audit included risks regarding senators' travel expenses, living expenses, and research and office budgets.

Beginning in December, the travel and hospitality spending of individual senators will be made public. This will continue to be made public on a quarterly basis.

As honourable senators are aware, while the Auditor General reports to the House of Commons, she is not the auditor of either house of Parliament. She can only look at our operations if she is invited to do so. In 2009, Auditor General Sheila Fraser made requests to conduct performance audits of both the Senate and the House of Commons administrations. At the time, it was deemed appropriate to await a decision of the other place, as the Auditor General is an officer of that house.

The House of Commons agreed to the Auditor General's request last June. Your committee then invited her to appear before it at the earliest opportunity to formally consider her request. At a meeting of your Internal Economy Committee on October 7, Ms. Fraser appeared before us together with two of her officials, Assistant Auditor General Clyde MacLellan and Audit Principal Gordon Stock.

The meeting was informative. Ms. Fraser clearly explained the scope and process by which the performance audit would be conducted and told us that the audit would be carried out at the same time as the audit of the other place, which is already in the planning stage, under the direction of the same Assistant Auditor General and Audit Principal, Messrs. Clyde MacLellan and Gordon Stock, whom we met.

However, the Senate would be assigned its own audit team and all audit work would be carried out independently of the audit of the House of Commons. The Auditor General suggested in her opening remarks to the Internal Economy Committee that the audit could look at security, human resources, IT, and financial management and control. She further stated that an audit of the financial management and control would include an examination of practices established for the expenses and administrative costs of senators and their offices, and that the audit will cover two fiscal years — this year and last year.

The Auditor General has committed to keeping all confidential information secure on Senate premises. The audit would be conducted in three stages — planning, examination and reporting — with the first two stages taking two to three months each and the reporting stage taking six months. Ms. Fraser suggested that the audit report would be ready in the fall of 2011.

The questions asked by your committee at its meeting on October 7 and the resulting answers were likewise very informative. While the proposed audit is of the Senate Administration, this would, of course, include the policies and processes in place, with adequate testing to ensure that the prescribed practices are followed. Such testing of these practices could include transactions from senators. While she is prepared to keep the committee abreast of how the audit is progressing, audit findings and recommendations will be communicated initially with the Clerk of the Senate and, once validated, with the committee.

Following the Auditor General's appearance before the committee three weeks ago, the committee deliberated and unanimously decided last Thursday to recommend to the Senate that it agree to her request to conduct a performance audit. Should the Senate adopt this report, I will send a formal letter of invitation on behalf of your committee and the Senate to proceed with the proposed audit.

All honourable senators are aware of the potential sensitivities of carrying out an audit in a political institution such as ours, which is subject to intense public scrutiny and often undue criticism. To illustrate, after the committee's meeting on October 7, Senator Furey, Deputy Chair of the Internal Economy Committee, and I sent the same message to reporters informing them that there was agreement to recommend to the Senate that the AG be invited to conduct the proposed audit.

On the following Monday, The Hill Times reported:

Auditor General Sheila Fraser will finally be allowed to conduct performance audits of the Senate and House, after nearly 20 years of being shut out.

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Now it was The Hill Times so I did not send the letter. We cannot speak for the other place, but the Senate had not been approached by the Auditor General to conduct a performance audit since 1991. We cannot shut out someone who has not even requested to enter.

Honourable senators, in the interests of transparency and accountability, and with the promise of constructive advice coming out of this audit, your committee has determined that this process is a desirable one that is well worth embarking on. In this light, I call upon honourable senators to adopt the draft report before you.

The Hon. the Speaker: It is moved by the Honourable Senator Tkachuk, that the report be adopted.

Some Hon. Senators: Debate.

The Hon. the Speaker: Do we have the motion on the floor yet? I was not in the chair when the order was called. Do you wish to move the motion for the adoption of the report?

Senator Tkachuk: I want to ensure that Senator Furey has an opportunity to speak, so I move that the Senate adopt the report. I thought I did that at the beginning.

The Hon. the Speaker: Now we are on debate. Senator Furey.

Hon. George J. Furey: Honourable senators, before I begin a few brief remarks, I would like to take a moment to thank my colleague Senator Tkachuk. Senator Tkachuk took over the challenges of the Internal Economy Committee less than a year ago and has worked diligently and extremely hard to bring about our own audits. We began some four years ago, and he has ensured they were brought to fruition. I congratulate him for his hard work and diligence.

Our occasional political differences aside, honourable senators, I feel strongly that the time has come for all of us as a Senate to move forward in a united way with an invitation to the Auditor General to do a performance audit. I would like to take a moment to congratulate our Director of Finance, Nicole Proulx; our director of audits, Jill Anne Joseph; our director responsible for Internal Economy Committee, Lucie Lavoie; and, of course, our tireless clerk, Dr. Gary O'Brien.

The audit process has been a long road, which commenced under the capable guidance of Mr. Paul Bélisle, and our senior administrators deserve a lot of credit for their hard work and dedication. This work will no doubt be very helpful to the Auditor General's staff if, indeed, it is the wish of the Senate to invite them to commence a performance audit.

After 19 years without an audit by the Auditor General, we are once again called upon to invite the Auditor General to review our policies and procedures. The outcome is sure to be of value to our institution. The auditors will no doubt make worthwhile recommendations to improve the efficiency, effectiveness and economy of our management practices.

While the Senate, under the direction of the Internal Economy Committee, has taken many initiatives to improve our oversight and management practices in recent years, an audit by Ms. Sheila Fraser will validate and hopefully supplement our initiatives to continue moving forward as an institution.

Over her 10 years as the Auditor General of Canada, Sheila Fraser has made frequent headlines for her no-nonsense audit reports on a number of institutions and has developed a world-renowned reputation in doing so. Although she is scheduled to leave the position of Auditor General at the end of May 2011, the planning and examination stages of the performance audit should be completed by that time.

As such, the findings and preliminary recommendations on which the report will be based will be a product of Ms. Fraser's watch. However, it will be the task of the new Auditor General to determine whether the audit report and the recommendations contained therein are suitable to our particular political environment.

During her appearance before the Standing Committee on Internal Economy, Budgets and Administration on October 7, the Auditor General was asked how her final draft report will be validated. She explained that at the end of audit, the clerk would be asked to confirm that he agrees with the facts as presented in the report. She said:

Every time we say this is the policy, or this is what we found, we would ensure that the clerk and his management team were aware of all that we were reporting and that they agreed to the facts.

She further said:

The conclusions, of course, would be ours and there may be disagreement at times on conclusions but we would never want to present the report if there was disagreement on the facts.

However, and these are my words, any disagreements about conclusions may well be stated in the report itself.

Honourable senators, the approval of this report is likely to have some significant consequences for our institution on a go-forward basis. During the planning and examination stages of the Auditor General's audit, staff will do their best to continue with business as usual while responding to the audit team's requirements.

When the process concludes, the Senate will no doubt continue to implement corrective actions recommended by the Office of the Auditor General. The administration is at present gearing up to provide maximum responsiveness to the Auditor General's team in the event that the Senate approves her request to audit our institution.

While senior management and staff will continue to serve senators as best they can, we do recognize that it will be a significant effort for them to work with auditors, and we wish to thank senators in advance for their consideration and understanding.

Honourable senators, I fully support Senator Tkachuk's report and respectfully request that this chamber do likewise.

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

[Translation]

Hon. Fernand Robichaud: Honourable senators, when the Auditor General has finished her report, to which authority will she present it? Will she present it to the Standing Senate Committee on Internal Economy, Budgets and Administration or directly to the Senate Chamber?

[English]

Senator Furey: That question was put to the Auditor General. She did state clearly that her report will be tabled with the Internal Economy Committee, not with the House of Commons.

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

Hon. Senators: Agreed.

(Motion agreed to.)

[Translation]

Aboriginal Affairs

Inquiry—Debate Continued

On the Order:

Resuming debate on the inquiry of the Honourable Senator Brazeau calling the attention of the Senate to the issue of accountability, transparency and responsibility in Canada's Aboriginal Affairs.

Hon. Gerald J. Comeau (Deputy Leader of the Government): Honourable senators, this item is on day 14. I know that one senator on this side would like to speak on this topic, but I see that the adjournment on this inquiry currently stands in Senator Fraser's name. As Senator Tardif has told us that Senator Fraser will most likely not speak to this motion, I would like to move adjournment of this inquiry in my name.

(On motion of Senator Comeau, debate adjourned.)

(The Senate adjourned until Wednesday, November 3, 2010, at 1:30 p.m.)