Debates of the Senate (Hansard)
3rd Session, 40th Parliament,
Volume 147, Issue 66
Wednesday, November 17, 2010
The Honourable Noël A. Kinsella, Speaker
Wednesday, November 17, 2010
The Senate met at 1:30 p.m., the Speaker in the chair.
Hon. James S. Cowan (Leader of the Opposition): Honourable senators,
the Senate has a long-standing and well-deserved reputation as a chamber of
sober second thought, a place where the issues of the day are carefully and
thoughtfully considered and Canadians are given an opportunity to be heard.
Yesterday was a black day for the Senate and for that tradition.
Yesterday, this government thumbed its nose at the House of Commons and at
Canadians from coast to coast to coast who care deeply about climate change,
arguably the most important issue facing Canada and the world. Yesterday, this
government refused to allow a bill that came to us with the support of a
majority of the elected members of the other place to proceed even to committee,
where it could receive careful scrutiny and allow Canadians to be heard on the
merits of the bill.
For 193 days, this bill sat here on the Order Paper. Not a single
Conservative senator cared enough about the issue of climate change to stand on
her or his hind legs to express an opinion for or against the bill — not one. A
review of the Debates of the Senate records only the speeches of Senators
Mitchell and Peterson in support of the bill. Not one speech, not one word from
the other side: silence. Then those same Conservative senators stood silently to
kill the bill at second reading.
Senator Mercer: Trained seals.
Senator Cowan: Honourable senators, the Senate certainly has no
obligation to pass every bill that comes here from the House of Commons; but it
does have an obligation, a duty, to give those bills due and proper
consideration, to subject them to debate and to committee scrutiny and to give
Canadians an opportunity to be heard.
Yesterday, for the first time in living memory, the Senate rejected a bill
coming from the House of Commons without first sending it to committee for
study. There was no debate, no explanation, no witnesses, no evidence, nothing.
Senator Mercer: Orders of the PMO.
Senator Cowan: Once again, this government has shown its autocratic
and anti-democratic underbelly, shutting down Parliament to dodge a defeat —
Some Hon. Senators: Oh, oh.
Senator Cowan: Some honourable senators find this funny. I do not
think Canadians find this funny. Once again, this government has shown its
autocratic and anti-democratic underbelly, shutting down Parliament to dodge a
defeat or to avoid uncomfortable committee study, throwing its own fixed
election date laws under the bus, and now this.
This government, which spins itself as the champion of openness,
accountability and democracy has once again shown its true colours.
This government believes that its ideas are the only ones worth listening to
or talking about, which stifles dissent and launches vicious personal attacks
against anyone who has the temerity to express an original thought or an
Honourable senators, this unprecedented action of the unaccountable,
unelected Conservative majority in this place was shameful. Canadians deserve
better, much better, and sooner rather than later they will get it — a
government that respects them and the institutions which reflect and represent
Some Hon. Senators: Hear, hear!
Hon. Patrick Brazeau: Honourable senators, over the past 30 years,
preconceived notions, stereotypes and beliefs about the limitations of persons
with disabilities have been changing slowly but surely.
Fortunately, we are now better equipped as a society to easily judge a
person's worth, to be compassionate and to promote a society that fully includes
men, women and children with physical disabilities.
This change is in no small way thanks to the courage, goodwill and vision of
the Canadian Foundation for Physically Disabled Persons, founded nearly 30 years
ago in 1987 by the Rotary Club of Toronto-Don Valley. Nearly 30 years and over
$25 million in successful fundraising since then, the foundation's important
work includes recognizing and celebrating the incredible achievements of some of
Canada's finest Paralympic athletes.
In respect of this recognition, I was fortunate enough to be in attendance
last week as the foundation celebrated the tremendous accomplishments of four
individuals who were named to the Canadian Disability Hall of Fame and who
continue to redefine the meaning of success.
They include athlete Colette Bourgonje of Saskatoon, Saskatchewan, who won
Canada's first medal and her tenth career medal in the Vancouver 2010
Paralympics 10-kilometre sit- ski cross-country event; builder Alan Dean of
Aurora, Ontario, who has played a pioneering and continuing leadership role in
the growth and development of international elite sport for athletes with a
disability; achiever David Shannon of Thunder Bay, Ontario, whose unique claim
to fame includes planting a wheelchair access parking sign on the North Pole in
April 2009, making him the first quadriplegic in history to reach the geographic
North Pole; and achiever Jeffrey Tiessen of St Ann's, Ontario, who was also
celebrated. One of Canada's best known, he medalled in three consecutive Summer
Those are just four of the many examples of incredible success achieved by
persons with disabilities.
Honourable senators, I applaud the successes of these unique individuals
whose abilities far exceed their disabilities.
In the same breath, I offer my sincere thanks and appreciation to our
esteemed colleague, Senator Vim Kochhar, who is the foundation's founding chair
and who has invested selflessly in this cause and these unique and empowering
individuals. They are a tribute to the human spirit, the indomitable will that
can prevail over adversity and the unlimited potential to which we can aspire if
we choose to say "why not" over "why me?"
Hon. Claudette Tardif (Deputy Leader of the Opposition): Honourable
senators, prior to yesterday's defeat of Bill C-311, the Senate has defeated
only four bills that were passed by the elected members of the House of Commons
in the last 70 years.
In 1998, it defeated a private member's bill, Bill C-220. That legislation
was introduced by Liberal member Tom Wappel, and was known as the Son of Sam
bill because it would have prevented convicted criminals from profiting by
writing and publishing accounts of their heinous crimes.
After arriving in the Senate, it was given second reading and referred to the
Standing Senate Committee on Legal and Constitutional Affairs. The committee
held 12 days of hearings, hearing from a wide array of witnesses. Based on the
evidence the committee heard, it concluded that Bill C-220, notwithstanding its
meritorious intent, violated the freedom of speech provisions in our Canadian
Charter of Rights and Freedoms, and in the committee's report to the Senate,
recommended that the bill not be proceeded with. The Senate accepted the
committee's advice and on June 10, 1998, unanimously agreed to adopt the report
and kill the bill. That was 12 years ago.
Two years before that, on June 19, 1996, the Senate, at third reading,
defeated Bill C-28, the government's Pearson Airport legislation. Prior to that
final fateful vote, committees of the Senate held 50 meetings on the Pearson
Airport issue, hearing from almost 100 witnesses; and, indeed, one of those
committees tabled a 300-plus page report.
Three years before that, the Senate, again on a third reading vote, defeated
Bill C-93, a budget implementation bill. The bill was defeated following five
days of committee hearings.
In early 1991, the Senate defeated the abortion legislation of then Justice
Minister Kim Campbell. This defeat followed 10 days of hearings held by our
Legal Committee, which heard from 38 witnesses.
Honourable senators, that is the history and tradition of a legislative
chamber that respects its unelected nature by defeating legislation adopted by
the elected members of the other place only after listening long and hard to a
great many Canadians.
Yesterday, that all changed. Yesterday, the Conservative- dominated,
unelected Senate declared that it will defeat, without explanation or any public
input, any piece of legislation adopted by the elected members of the House of
Immediately following the vote, I called across the aisle, "This is a sad day
for democracy." The government leader in the Senate immediately responded, "It
is a great day for democracy."
What made it great, honourable senators? Is it that the Senate, which has
always recognized the limitations its unelected nature has placed on its
legislative activities, for the first time in living memory at second reading,
killed a bill adopted by the members in the other place — Canadians who were
elected to represent and speak for them in Parliament?
Yesterday was a regrettable day for the Senate and for all Canadians who
expect that parliamentarians be responsive to their wishes.
Hon. Kelvin Kenneth Ogilvie: Honourable senators, this year, one of
our country's true success stories celebrates an important milestone. For 10
years now, Genome Canada has planted the Canadian flag on one of the most
exciting frontiers of science — genomics. By unlocking the mysteries of our
genes, scientists are literally learning the language of life itself.
Through large-scale projects, Genome Canada has enabled Canadian scientists
to make groundbreaking discoveries, propelling sectors from fisheries to
forestry, agriculture, health and the environment.
By developing the technological infrastructure critical for this kind of
scientific research, Genome Canada has empowered Canadian scientists to make
such remarkable contributions as sequencing the virus for severe acute
respiratory syndrome, SARS, and the H1N1 "swine flu."
Genome Canada has now reached an inflection point, a time when it translates
the last decade of research into applications that will dramatically improve
human health, strengthen economic competitiveness and enrich our society.
On Monday, November 22, Genome Canada will hold a special reception,
"Genomics on the Hill," giving parliamentarians the opportunity to see firsthand
some of its most exciting projects and to talk with the scientists that are
I invite all honourable senators to join Genome Canada and me at that event
in Room 256-S, Centre Block, and to celebrate 10 years of Canadian scientific
Hon. Rod A.A. Zimmer: Honourable senators, I rise today to
congratulate my dear friend and former colleague, the Honourable Belinda
Stronach, on her receipt of Equal Voice's EVE Award, in recognition of her
philanthropic and political contributions to the promotion of women in public
On Tuesday, November 9, 2010, I had the pleasure of attending the Women in
Public Life luncheon along with my fellow colleague Senator Frum, as well as the
former ambassador to Cuba, Mr. Mark Entwistle.
The event was presented by the Canadian Club of Ottawa and Equal Voice. Equal
Voice is a group of women and men who are deeply concerned about Canadian
politics and have formed a multi-partisan non-profit organization, devoted to
the still-bold idea that more women must be elected to every level of government
in Canada. I strongly support their mission and applaud the works of Ms.
Stronach, the women in this chamber and the other place, as well as those in all
levels of government.
I will also take this opportunity to support Senator Hervieux- Payette's
bill, Bill S-206, which would require public companies under this jurisdiction
to increase gradually the number of women on their boards of directors until the
promotion reaches 50 per cent.
Honourable senators, finally, I applaud Ms. Stronach for all the
philanthropic work she does on behalf of the Belinda Stronach Foundation. I am
proud to be a member of the board.
Hon. Donald H. Oliver: Honourable senators, on July 29, 2010,
Professor Donald J. Savoie submitted a report to Premier Darrell Dexter of Nova
Scotia, recommending a series of measures to improve the province's economic
development. Professor Savoie currently holds the Canada Research Chair in
Public Administration and Governance at the Université de Moncton.
The report is entitled Invest More, Innovate More, Trade More,
Learn More: The Way Ahead for Nova Scotia. It provides invaluable
information on Nova Scotia's current and future economic development.
Dr. Savoie made 24 recommendations on what Nova Scotia needs to do to
position itself to meet emerging economic challenges.
One of these recommendations was the creation of a $50 million venture
capital fund through Innovacorp and the Nova Scotia Department of Economic and
Rural Development. This fund would help start-up companies develop their
products and technologies and assist them in developing market strategies.
Dr. Savoie recognizes the need for start-up firms to have access to capital
to fund their projects. He points out that Nova Scotia has one of the lowest per
capita venture capital supplies in Canada, which is 62 per cent below the
I was happy the premier learned from Dr. Savoie's advice. On November 9, the
premier announced the creation of a privately run venture capital fund for
Atlantic Canada. Premier Dexter said that this fund would benefit companies in
what he called "high- growth" sectors, such as clean technology, life sciences
and information technology.
Mr. Savoie also feels that "Nova Scotia needs to focus on the energy sector,
a key sector in the region's economy." He believes that the province "should
take the lead in R&D on alternative sources of power" and that it must "promote
Honourable senators, Nova Scotia is increasingly more active in the energy
sector and leading the way in green energy. In March, the creation of the new
multi-million dollar wind manufacturing facility in Pictou County was announced.
The federal and provincial governments invested in that project.
Dr. Savoie also considers Halifax to be a world-class city that should be
promoted further as the ideal place to attract business. He cites many
attributes that make Halifax the place to invest, such as its geographical
location, its top-tier universities and schools, research facilities and
thriving firms. Halifax has the potential of becoming a hub of innovation,
research and development, and education in Canada.
Honourable senators, I bring this 42-page report to your attention because it
is timely and innovative. It recommends a series of invaluable initiatives that
can help both Nova Scotia and Canada become more economically prosperous and
The Hon. the Speaker: Honourable senators, I draw your attention to
the presence in the gallery of His Worship Brad Woodside, the distinguished
Mayor of Fredericton, the capital city of New Brunswick.
On behalf of all honourable senators, welcome to the Senate of Canada.
Hon. Senators: Hear, hear.
Hon. Mac Harb: Honourable senators, I have the honour to table, in
both official languages, the report of the Canadian delegation of the
Inter-Parliamentary Union respecting its participation at the Parliamentary
Panel within the Framework of the World Trade Organization Public Forum 2010 and
the 22nd Session of the Steering Committee of the Parliamentary Conference, held
in Geneva, Switzerland, on September 16, 2010.
Hon. Paul J. Massicotte: Honourable senators, I have the honour to
table, in both official languages, the report of the Canadian parliamentary
delegation of the Canada-Africa Parliamentary Association, respecting its
bilateral visits to Cotonou, Benin, and Ouagadougou, Burkina Faso, September 5
to 12, 2010.
Hon. Grant Mitchell: Honourable senators, yesterday the unelected
Conservative Senate defeated Bill C-311 outright.
Some Hon. Senators: Oh, oh!
Senator Mitchell: The louder they yell, the wronger they are.
That was passed by a majority of elected — I will say that again — elected
members of Parliament. They did not just defeat it; they did that without one
word of debate on that bill, although they had 193 days — a big number — over
which they could have prepared and presented their case. They did it without
ever allowing it to go to committee, where it could have been given a broader
airing with testimony and discussion in front of the Canadian people so they
could properly evaluate it. Perhaps even the government would have learned
something about it.
I wonder whether the Leader of the Government in the Senate could explain to
us how it is that this unelected Conservative Senate has the arrogance to think
that it can turn down legislation passed by a majority of elected members of
Parliament in the other place. How does it do that?
Hon. Marjory LeBreton (Leader of the Government): I thank the
honourable senator for the question.
As honourable senators are well aware, the government has been clear in its
opposition to Bill C-311. In fact, the record also shows that the government was
prepared to speak to the bill.
Honourable senators, Senator Mitchell forced a vote on second reading and
since the senator forced a vote on second reading, the government was not about
to pass up an opportunity to defeat this bill, which would be so injurious to
the Canadian economy. If the honourable senator is concerned about who caused
all of this, I suggest he look in the mirror and have a strong conversation with
whoever is looking back at him.
Senator Mitchell: Honourable senators, regarding who called the
question, the leader knows that when she says that I called the question, she
knows that is not true and I know that is not true. Honourable senators know
that is not true. Senator Comeau is under a good deal of duress because he
called the question.
An Hon. Senator: Oh, oh.
Senator Mitchell: Wait a minute. As to the leader's point, the
government is on the record as being against this bill. Therefore, is the leader
saying that we no longer have to worry about what she has to say about anything
in this Senate? Ought we just to call up Hansard in the House of Commons and
know exactly what position the Prime Minister and the Prime Minister's Office
have told the leader to take?
Senator LeBreton: Honourable senators, I think the record will clearly
show that Senator Mitchell called the question and I think the record will
clearly show, when His Honour confirmed the question had been called on second
reading, that Senator Comeau is quoted in Hansard as saying "no." Do not try to
blame Senator Comeau.
Senator Comeau: Don't pawn off your mistakes on me!
Senator Mercer: He did not mean to hurt your feelings.
Senator LeBreton: Honourable senators, as I said a moment ago, I
suggest Senator Mitchell have a very serious conversation with himself. He was
the person who caused this.
On the issue of unelected Conservative senators, we have two bills before
Parliament. One is sponsored by my colleague in this chamber, Senator Brown, for
an elected Senate. If the honourable senator wants to prevent such occurrences,
I support an elected Senate, he ought to get on with business and start
supporting Senator Brown's bill.
Senator Mitchell: Honourable senators, we are actually operating under
the Rules in the way the Senate works now. Given that, can the leader tell me if
she will, as a matter of course, veto legislation passed in the House of Commons
by a majority of elected members? Will she veto that before even allowing anyone
on her side to debate that legislation and before she even allows it to go to
committee where it will get a proper, public airing before the Canadian people?
Senator LeBreton: Again, honourable senators, let us be very clear.
Senator Neufeld was our spokesperson and he has been working on preparing his
speech to address Bill C-311. As honourable senators know as per the Rules of
the Senate of Canada, the tradition is to call bills each day. We clearly
Honourable Mitchell was the one who forced the vote and therefore, he should
not try now to unscramble the egg that he himself scrambled.
Senator Mitchell: Honourable senator, the leader and I both know that
is absolutely not true.
Some Hon. Senators: Oh, oh.
Senator Mitchell: Right here, I can point, too; right here.
What happens now? There is a part-time Minister of the Environment, who was
part time even when he was full time. Whatever plan the government thought it
had has gone out the window and they are waiting for the U.S. Congress to tell
them what to do. They have two weeks before Cancun, when the next round of
climate change negotiations occur, and the government just defeated a bill that
would have required them to have a plan for such a meeting.
What will the government take to Cancun? What will they say on behalf of
Canadians? When will the government defend their interests on climate change?
Senator LeBreton: Honourable senators, I will respond to that.
However, before I do, I want to again make it very clear that, on the record,
when Senator Comeau said, "stand the bill," Senator Mitchell is clearly quoted
on the record as saying "I do not want it to stand."
Some Hon. Senators: Hear, hear!
Senator LeBreton: With regard to our excellent Minister of the
Environment, my colleague, the Honourable John Baird, will be going to Cancun to
carry on from Minister Prentice's good work in Copenhagen. The International
Energy Agency Executive Director Nobuo Tanaka praised Canada's climate target
announcement to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 17 per cent below its 2005
levels by 2020, under the Copenhagen accord. Our target is in line with the
target inscribed by the Obama administration. We are going to Cancun to follow
along on the good work done by Minister Prentice when, for the first time, the
major emitting countries signed on to the Copenhagen Accord.
Hon. Tommy Banks: I have a supplementary question for the leader.
Putting aside the substance of the question of the bill — I would ask the leader
to take this question as notice and I will do the same and look it up, too — can
she tell us whether ever before in the Senate a bill that has been sent to us by
the House of Commons was defeated before and at second reading without having
been sent to committee for study?
I have only been here 10 years, and I have never seen such a thing. Can the
minister tell us whether that has happened before? I will do the same. I am
interested to know.
Senator LeBreton: This is a private NDP bill from the House of
Some Hon. Senators: Oh, oh.
Senator LeBreton: It morphed into an NDP/Liberal/Bloc coalition bill
and was sponsored by the Liberals. In answer to the honourable senator's
question, we were prepared to continue the debate on the bill and send it to
committee, but I do not believe ever before an opposition party has demanded a
vote on second reading of a bill. I would suggest that was an unprecedented act
by Senator Mitchell.
Senator Banks: Notwithstanding, are any of us aware of any
circumstance in this place since 1867 in which the Senate has defeated a House
of Commons bill at second reading and before committee study? I am asking for
this information because I do not know but I would be very interested in finding
Senator LeBreton: Technically, that is not a question for the Leader
of the Government in the Senate. That is a procedural question that the
honourable senator, as an individual senator, has every right to research
Hon. Catherine S. Callbeck: Honourable senators, my question is for
the Leader of the Government in the Senate. Canadians consume about 3,400
milligrams of sodium a day, more than double the recommended intake of 1,500
milligrams. Almost 80 per cent of this daily salt intake comes from processed
and packaged foods.
In July, the Health Canada Sodium Working Group released its sodium reduction
strategy which called for voluntary restrictions on the amount of salt allowed
in packaged and processed food, but there has been no action by Health Canada to
A recent Australian study published in the medical journal Heart found
that government-led mandatory restrictions are 20 times more effective than
Will the government take these new findings into consideration and implement
mandatory measures to help reduce the salt content in packaged and processed
Hon. Marjory LeBreton (Leader of the Government): I thank the
honourable senator for the question. She has stated something that is of serious
concern to health officials and the government.
Sodium levels are extremely high in Canada. That is why, as the honourable
senator mentioned, we established the Sodium Working Group. It has looked at
ways to reduce the amount of sodium and has encouraged Canadians, through
information pieces, to reduce their sodium intake by one third by 2016.
Health ministers, meaning Minister Aglukkaq and her counterparts in the
provinces and territories, are working on the recommendations of the Sodium
Working Group and they have agreed to collaborate in working together in areas
of public education, research and monitoring. The short answer to the honourable
senator's question is that this is an issue that all levels of government, led
by Minister Aglukkaq, are seized with and action is forthcoming.
Senator Callbeck: I have a supplementary question. This certainly is a
serious issue. The Heart and Stroke Foundation states that a reduction in
dietary sodium would eliminate high blood pressure for more than a million
Canadians, which would save at least $430 million every year in direct high
blood pressure management costs. About one in seven deaths from stroke and one
in eleven from coronary heart disease would be prevented.
This new research has indicated that mandatory restrictions are 20 times
better than voluntary, so it is imperative that the government act quickly on
this issue. The leader said that the minister is working on this, but what is
the time frame for introducing initiatives to reduce salt found in packaged and
Senator LeBreton: The honourable senator is absolutely right. The high
intake of sodium has serious health outcomes. Our former colleague Senator Keon
regularly briefed us and spoke of this not only in our caucus but in the Senate
as a whole. I point out to the honourable senator that we, as a government,
established this working group. I am happy to find out if there is a specific
time frame, but the fact that the minister established this working group and is
working with her provincial and territorial counterparts would indicate that
this is a matter the government takes seriously and will be taking action on.
With regard to the actual timetable, I will make inquiries.
Senator Callbeck: I thank the leader for making inquiries about the
time frame, but I also want to go back to my first question which she really did
not answer. Will this group take into consideration the Australian study that
has been published in the medical journal Heart?
Senator LeBreton: I am sure all the various studies have been
considered and taken into account by the working group. The honourable senator
asked a specific question. Since I was not in the room with the health
ministers, I cannot answer specifically. The honourable senator frequently says
that I did not answer her question. I would be in no position to know that, but
I would be happy to find out.
Hon. Jean Lapointe: Honourable senators, my question is for the Leader
of the Government in the Senate.
Yesterday, the leader implied that I had called her an acrobat and a tap
dancer and said that, every time I spoke, I had new descriptions for her.
I was a bit taken aback because even though I have always said she has a way
with words, I know that the job she does is not easy and that she has to be
quick on her feet. I said she was an extraordinary skater because I am always
amazed at the way she skates around when she answers questions. I added that she
skated so quickly, she could join the real Ottawa Senators, the hockey team.
However, I would like to remind the leader that she was the one who told me
she tap danced. I did not know that.
I would like the minister to tell me whether I am mistaken or whether she got
a bit carried away.
Hon. Marjory LeBreton (Leader of the Government): Honourable Senators,
I really will miss Senator Lapointe. He actually demonstrates some of the
camaraderie that is lacking in this place from time to time.
I thought the honourable senator had said tap dancing. Anyhow, I remember the
honourable senator at different times describing various acts I am particularly
good at, and I appreciate the compliment.
Hon. Marie-P. Poulin: Honourable senators, my question is for the
Leader of the Government in the Senate.
As we all know, last week marked yet another Remembrance Day. Thousands of
people gathered at the National War Memorial just down the street from
Parliament Hill, and it was a sight to behold. Their presence and that of other
Canadians who held local Remembrance Day ceremonies across the country is a
tangible support for the military. We all take pride in the men and women in
It was regrettable, therefore, to be reminded of the ongoing furor over the
way our disabled soldiers are treated, unable to work, trying to cope with the
mental and physical trauma they have suffered in the service of the country.
Will the Leader of the Government give some comfort to these heroes and their
families? Will she tell us now — not next month or next week — when the lump-sum
disability payments will be replaced by lifelong disability pensions?
Hon. Marjory LeBreton (Leader of the Government): I absolutely agree
with the outpouring of support by Canadians. I was there myself. The estimated
crowd size at the National War Memorial in Ottawa was over 30,000.
I also point out to the honourable senator that the Veterans Charter, which
included the lump-sum payment, was enacted in spring 2005 by the previous
government and of course received support in both chambers. The government,
Minister Blackburn and the Minister of National Defence have been working
extremely hard on addressing many of the concerns and have come a long way in
With regard to the lump-sum payments, the government is addressing these
concerns and we will take action, honourable senators. I expect an announcement
will be made soon on the lump-sum payment issue.
Senator Poulin: Honourable senators, we know that a number of families
are worried about these promises. Could the leader inquire of the Minister of
Veterans Affairs when he plans to present to Parliament a new program for our
military men and women who continue to suffer from mental or physical health
problems as a result of serving their country?
Senator LeBreton: I will use the opportunity to tell the honourable
senator some of the steps the government has taken in the last few months to
address the Veterans Charter and other issues.
Obviously, as I said before in response to questions I think from Senator
Dallaire, no government has been more committed to our servicemen and women and
to our veterans than this government. We are proud of the work we have done to
improve the conditions for our veterans and also to provide our servicemen and
women with the proper equipment and the proper tools to do their job.
Obviously, giving our veterans the utmost of care is paramount. That is why
we recently announced funding of $2 billion to fix the gaps in the charter. We
have a number of new measures particularly to help those returning from
Afghanistan with serious and catastrophic injuries, and we are taking measures
to put more people in place to ensure that all veterans, and especially those
who have suffered serious and catastrophic injuries, are treated properly and
Veterans who have suffered severe injuries since 2006, and even before, will
see an augmentation on their monthly cheques if they cannot work. Veterans
receiving earnings loss will receive no less than $40,000. That is a baseline.
These benefits will be available on a go-forward basis when the legislation and
regulations are in place. I hope that we can count on the support of all
honourable senators on both sides to support this bill when it is before the
As I mentioned, we also recently announced changes that ensure that no
seriously injured veteran will receive less than $58,000 per year in income
support. Again, as I mentioned in my first answer, the government is in the
process of working on the lump-sum payment issue, and I expect the government
will make an announcement in this regard in the near future.
Senator Poulin: Honourable senators, is the leader unable to tell us
when the changes will be presented in Parliament?
Senator LeBreton: With all due respect, I have already answered the
question, and so has the Minister of Veterans Affairs, Minister Blackburn.
In the last two months, we made a series of important changes with regard to
the treatment of our veterans. This payment is part of the process. Obviously,
some veterans have expressed concern with the lump-sum payment, and others have
not. This payment was part of the Veterans Charter that was passed before we
came into government. Some veterans preferred the lump-sum payment.
All the concerns and views of the veterans and the potential recipients of
these payments have been listened to, and I ask the honourable senator to leave
it to my colleague, the Minister of Veterans Affairs, to make this announcement
and place it before Parliament, for he is the minister responsible. As I said,
it will be soon.
Hon. Percy E. Downe: Honourable senators, this is the government of
reassuring words, but they are short on commitment for veterans.
They have had reassuring words the last few weeks, but over the last four
years, numerous promises have been made to veterans. I have here in my file a
letter to Joyce Carter, where Prime Minister Harper promised to extend the
Veterans Independence Program. It never happened.
Can the Leader of the Government in the Senate advise when that change will
be undertaken on behalf of veterans?
Senator LeBreton: The honourable senator is incorrect.
Senator Comeau: As usual.
Senator LeBreton: The VIP program was greatly enhanced under our
government. Obviously, there is still work to do in this area, but to say it did
not happen is, of course, flat-out wrong.
Senator Comeau: There you go.
Senator Downe: The minister has to check her record. I have the letter
signed by Stephen Harper:
. . . immediately extend the Veterans Independence Program services to
widows of all Second World War and Korean War veterans, regardless of when
the Veteran passed away or how long they had been receiving the benefit
prior to passing away.
That extension to the program simply did not happen.
Can the minister advise if it will happen?
Senator LeBreton: Again, honourable senators, in February 2008, our
government expanded the Veterans Independence Program. To date, the extension
has provided about 3,500 low-income or disabled survivors with a maximum of
$2,400 a year to help them with housekeeping and grounds maintenance services.
As I have said before, we are continuing to look at ways to improve the VIP to
ensure those who need the services will have the help they need to remain
independent in their homes.
For the honourable senator to say that we have done nothing is wrong. As I
pointed out before, we realize there is still work to do in this regard, but we
have enhanced the Veterans Independence Program significantly since we came into
Senator Downe: I never said the government did not do anything. I said
the Prime Minister did not keep his promise. If the leader checks the record,
she will find the same thing.
Here is another promise made by this government, more reassuring words. Prime
Minister Harper promised during the federal election in 2006:
Our government will stand up for full compensation for persons exposed to
defoliant spraying during the period from 1956 to 1984.
The government then turned around and announced a compensation package for
those between 1966 and 1967.
When will the original promise and commitment by the Prime Minister be kept?
Senator LeBreton: The promise was kept. A $20,000 ex gratia
payment was announced in September 2007, with an April 2009 deadline. An
order-in-council provided Veterans Affairs Canada the authority to make payments
until October 1, 2010. Recognizing there would be applicants unable to meet the
deadline, a grace period was provided to process late applications. Many
individuals received the payment after submitting late applications.
Again, honourable senators, I ask Senator Downe to provide the proper facts.
Senator Downe: Honourable senators, with all due respect, the minister
was present when the Prime Minister made that announcement in 2006. The leader
knows what the Prime Minister promised. It reads clearly, ". . . all those from
1956 to 1984. . . ." That is a quote from Prime Minister Harper. The
compensation package was 1966-67. The compensation package the leader referred
to was so narrow that they did not even spend all the money; $33 million was
returned to the government. What did the government do with the money? We found
out today from the Minister of Veterans Affairs, when he appeared before the
Veterans Affairs Committee, that the money was returned to general revenue. It
did not even go to veterans.
Honourable senators, I have another promise made by the government in respect
of the Veterans Affairs Canada Funeral and Burial Program — again, more
reassuring words but short of action. Currently, Canadian Forces members receive
more than $13,000 for burial. Veterans receive up to $3,600. The minister has
been working for months to raise that limit. Nothing has been done. When will
the government implement this program?
Senator LeBreton: Concerning Agent Orange, the honourable senator
knows well that criteria were established in an effort to capture all who were
eligible. They were given ample time to make application. I believe it was under
former Veterans Affairs Minister Greg Thompson that the commitment to victims of
Agent Orange was met.
With regard to the Funeral and Burial Program, I am sure that Minister
Blackburn made it clear today that the government knows the program requires
improvement. All of the issues we have addressed over the last three or four
months have been addressed with one goal in mind: To honour our veterans and to
look after our injured. The government will continue with this program.
Veterans, their families and our servicemen and women appreciate the work of the
government. We know that some areas have yet to be addressed.
Hon. Grant Mitchell: Honourable senators, I rise on a question of
privilege pursuant to rule 59(10). This important matter is obstructing my
ability to exercise my privileges on behalf of the Canadian people in this
Senate chamber and in my role as senator. I apologize to honourable senators for
not giving three hours' notice. I had not been aware of this question of
privilege within that three hours' notice deadline. That is why I am presenting
it now, without that notice.
The question of privilege hinges upon a very significant and important
discrepancy between the audio tapes that recorded the proceedings yesterday in
the debate and leading up to the vote on Bill C-311, a very clear discrepancy of
what is in the audio tape and what appears in the written Hansard. The two
discrepancies, and there are two of them, turn the truth of what occurred, as
reflected properly in the audio tape, on its head by the time it appeared in the
written Hansard version of what occurred in this Senate chamber.
First, the audio version has Senator Comeau clearly calling for the question.
The word "question" is absolutely distinct. Anyone who has listened to that
tape, since we have discovered it, will tell you — and I am sure that you will
find the same thing — clearly Senator Comeau calls "Question." On the other
hand, that absolutely does not appear in the written version of Hansard.
Second, the written version of Hansard has Senator Comeau saying clearly "no"
to a subsequent call by the Speaker for the question.
Honourable senators, lo and behold, when you listen to the audio tape,
Senator Comeau did not say that "no." What we have are two things that clearly
had been replaced from what occurred in the audio tape to what occurred in the
written Hansard record which earlier today, the Leader of the Government and
Senator Comeau referred to as proof positive that what they say occurred,
occurred. However, in fact, it did not. The truth is exactly the opposite from
what can be derived from Hansard. It is exactly the opposite because whatever
got into Hansard, for whatever reason, and for however it got in there, it did
not come from the audio tape.
My concern is that, fundamental to our ability to represent and communicate
with Canadians to discuss issues, is their ability, unfettered, to trust the
record of this chamber. The ability to trust the record of this chamber has been
grievously undermined by what occurred between audio and written versions.
Some Hon. Senators: Oh, oh.
Senator Mitchell: Honourable senators, that fundamentally erodes my
privileges to conduct myself as effectively as possible as a senator. In fact,
it erodes the privileges of all members of this Senate.
In light of these facts, I ask His Honour to find that there is indeed a
prima facie case of breach of privilege. I would ask His Honour to compare the
audio tape with the written version of Hansard that was ultimately released; and
I would ask you to pursue with the Hansard administration, and others, this
question: Was Hansard ever approached, in writing or verbally, by anybody on
that side or elsewhere —
Some Hon. Senators: Oh, oh.
Senator Mitchell: — to change the blues to that which appeared in the
Honourable senators, should His Honour —
Some Hon. Senators: Oh, oh.
Senator Mitchell: The louder they yell, the wronger they are.
Should His Honour find that there is a prima facie case of breach of
privilege, I am prepared, more than happily, to move the appropriate motion to
have the matter referred to our Standing Committee on Rules, Procedures and the
Rights of Parliament, where we will have an opportunity to ascertain why the
record of our debates was so error-filled.
Some Hon. Senators: Hear, hear!
Senator Tkachuk: Now we will get the real version.
Hon. Gerald J. Comeau (Deputy Leader of the Government): I never cease
to be amazed by the depths of some of my colleagues on the other side. I say
"some of my colleagues," not all. I have some great friends on the other side
and a huge amount of respect for them. I never cease to be amazed by the depth
of poor judgment and game play that some of my colleagues on the other side
display. Obviously, the honourable senator knows he screwed up.
Senator Tkachuk: That is the nice version. He is extricating himself
Senator Comeau: Honourable senators, what happened yesterday can be
checked on the audio tapes, and by all means we will have them checked. When the
item, Bill C-311, was called, I said, "reporté" or "stand." Senator Grant
Mitchell clearly said on the record, "I do not want it to stand." He did not
deny saying that.
An Hon. Senator: He stood up.
Senator Comeau: As a matter of fact, he stood up — all five feet, five
Some Hon. Senators: Oh, oh.
Senator Mercer: Speaking of small!
Senator Comeau: The Speaker said:
If debate has concluded on this item, are honourable senators ready for
Senator Comeau: No.
Senator Mitchell: That is not on the tape.
Senator Comeau: We will not take the honourable senator's word for it
because, obviously, there might be a certain bias on his side; as well as there
might be a bias on this side. We will leave it to less biased people to listen
to the tape. By all means, listen to the tape.
An Hon. Senator: Take responsibility.
Senator Comeau: "Take responsibility" is a good comment.
Senator Tkachuk: They never take responsibility, just like 13 years of
climate change — no responsibility.
Senator Comeau: Check the tapes. As for the accusation that this side
has somehow called the Hansard people asking them to change Hansard —
An Hon. Senator: Disgusting.
Senator Comeau: That is a good word — it is disgusting. No honourable
senator in this chamber should be accused of calling Hansard to change the
record in order to fit —
Senator Munson: To fit the tape?
Senator Comeau: As a matter of fact, let me refer to this item. I have
been following the blogs on this issue. This is what Senator Mitchell, I assume,
or others, have quoted a certain Kady O'Malley saying — some lady who writes
It seems the Senate xscript from yesterday does *not* reflect the audio,
in which Senator Comeau reportedly calls for the Q to be put.
I have listened to the tape. There is one individual who did say "Question."
That individual, in my humble opinion, has an accent that is particular. It is
an Acadian accent of my good friend, a friend of many decades, Senator
Robichaud. Honourable senators may wish to check with Senator Robichaud — a good
Acadian accent and clearly on the record. Honourable senators, do not get your
Acadians mixed up. Senator Comeau sits on this side; Senator Robichaud sits on
the other side.
We are good friends, by the way. Senator Robichaud and I were elected back in
1984 and we have remained friends throughout all these years. I am not accusing
him in any way. He wanted the question to be put, just as Senator Mitchell said:
"I do not want it to stand."
Senator Mitchell: I wanted to speak about it.
Senator Comeau: Look, hold on.
Senator LeBreton: Why did you not say so?
Senator Tkachuk: That is not what you said.
Senator Wallin: That is not what you said.
Senator Comeau: Like I said initially, the honourable senator made a
Senator Tkachuk: Just ask Iggy for forgiveness.
Senator Comeau: By forcing the vote, Senator Mitchell, what happened
was that on this side we wanted the debate to continue. In fact, our senator who
was the sponsor on this side —
Senator Cowan: One hundred and ninety-three days.
Senator Comeau: Democracy takes time, Senator Cowan, patience.
You made your point yesterday. You forced the question and we on our side did
our duty to the Canadian public, which was not to pass a bad bill.
Some Hon. Senators: Hear, hear!
Senator Comeau: I was certainly not going to get up and pass a bad
bill — a bill that would hurt Albertans and all of Canada, in fact, but the oil
sands particularly would have been extremely damaged. There was no way I was
voting for that bill; no way.
Senator Tkachuk: Neither was I.
Senator Comeau: You forced the vote.
I suggest to His Honour, I do not think it is worth doing but he may wish to,
I do not think it is worth doing, but you may wish to, with your —
Senator Angus: This is an insult to our Hansard people.
Senator Comeau: — especially since Hansard has now been accused of
lying on behalf of this side. I think that is a fairly serious accusation. There
is no point of privilege against any senator in this chamber, but I think there
is the question that Hansard is somehow, for the first time in history, being
accused of being political. I have never in all my years —
Senator Angus: That is a disgrace.
Senator Comeau: — heard of Hansard being accused of being political.
This is the first time, so I think it is well worth having a look at this.
Honourable senators, this is not a question of privilege. I believe it is a
question of the senator's hurt feelings, and that I can understand. It is a
question for which he did not quite calculate what would happen if he
precipitated the question, and it happened. They can try to spin as much as they
possibly want, and spin it to death if they wish, but it will not change what
happened yesterday in which the honourable senator forced a bill to be voted
upon at second reading; what a screw-up.
Some Hon. Senators: Hear, hear.
Hon. Terry M. Mercer: Honourable senators, as His Honour considers
this question of privilege, and as he will hopefully examine the tapes and the
transcript, et cetera, he might also try to determine for all of us here the
qualifications of Senator Comeau in judging what accent he has been able to hear
on a tape.
I have had the privilege of living beside and with Acadians all my life, and
I have had the privilege of working and living with many francophones from
across the country. My seatmate is Franco-Manitoban. I have known many
Quebecers; I have known many people from France. It is extremely difficult to
tell the difference in the accents.
Unless Senator Comeau has training that I am not aware of, I do not know how
he could have the ability to judge that the person who spoke definitely had an
Acadian accent — by the way, whether it was an Acadian accent and whether it was
Senator Robichaud's and not Senator Comeau's. Maybe he can tell us whether there
is a distinction between the accent of an Acadian person who is from New
Brunswick and an Acadian person who is from Nova Scotia.
Hon. Anne C. Cools: Honourable senators, I have been listening to the
debate with some interest. For the time being, I will not touch the question of
rule 59(10). I will go directly to the subject matter.
I would like to begin by saying Your Honour — please; I am trying to get His
Honourable senators, I would like to say, Your Honour, that there is no
breach of privilege here of any kind.
Some Hon. Senators: Hear, hear.
Senator Cools: There is not a prima facie case before us. Senator
Mitchell talks about trusting the record. I make it my business, honourable
senators, whenever I give a speech or make an intervention, to always review the
The term "blues" has disappeared. There was a time when a senator spoke in
this place and the blues would appear on our desks in the chamber for us to
check our remarks and make corrections — not alterations, but corrections. Any
senator who reviews blues frequently will know that there are often mistakes and
that the senator is presented with ample opportunity to make those corrections
before the final printing at three o'clock in the morning or whenever it
Honourable senators, the proper course of action to have been taken here was
for Senator Mitchell to rise in his place and to inform the house and His Honour
that he noticed a discrepancy between the audio record and the printed debates,
to call the attention of the Speaker to this, and to ask the Speaker to review
the two sets of records to see whether or not there is a discrepancy.
That course of action is the appropriate one to be taken. If there are
genuine mistakes, then the senator has the opportunity to offer corrections to
those on the floor after His Honour has looked into the matter. To simply make
an assumption that someone has tampered with the record or that somehow or other
there has been some improbity is unnecessary and unhelpful. Mistakes happen all
Very clearly, there can be no breach of privilege here because the accusation
has not been made on any definite basis which one can measure. We all know that
it is a basic principle of common law that accusations of wrongdoing,
misbehaviour, misconduct or whatever should always proceed on a very definite
and defined basis. That is one of the characteristics of the common law and the
penal system, that accusations proceed on a very definite basis — not guesswork,
not maybe, not speculatively, but very definite.
Your Honour, I propose that you should, first, set aside, even dismiss, any
consideration about a prima facie case of breach of privilege. This is a
slightly mistaken proceeding. I think what Senator Mitchell was intending to do
is raise a point of order and to state clearly that he believes, from what he
has seen, that there is a difference, a discrepancy and some errors, and that he
would like to have them corrected. In the meantime, perhaps Your Honour could
verify whether what Senator Mitchell believes to be the case is actually the
Your Honour, I think that you have a duty to look at the two records and to
give us an account — not an opinion, but a factual account — of what actually
In any event, honourable senators, the accusations of partisan misbehaviour
should be dismissed. They are uncalled for.
Your Honour, I believe that you should do your homework and perhaps at that
time a determination can be made as to whether or not a case of privilege even
exists. Based on what has been put before us, there is no such case at the
Hon. Claudette Tardif (Deputy Leader of the Opposition): Honourable
senators, these are difficult questions and issues that we are faced with. What
Senator Mitchell has brought to our attention is that there are inaccuracies
that are put in the Debates of the Senate as compared to the audio
transcript. I listened to the audio transcript, as did some of my colleagues,
and there are two discrepancies. Feel free to listen to it yourselves,
The Debates indicate that Senator Comeau said "no," when that is not on the
audio tape. The audio tape would have picked that up and it is not there.
There is also the question of Senator Comeau saying "Question," and that is
not included. Those are the discrepancies.
If we feel that the Debates of the Senate do not reflect what we say
and do as senators, it affects our capabilities and the fact that we can move
forward and have confidence in the Debates of the Senate. Let us not
forget that it is the Debates of the Senate that become historical
records. They are posted on the web and that is what the public has access to in
order to better verify what has gone on in this distinguished chamber. That is
The Leader of the Government in the Senate has indicated that Senator
Mitchell called the vote. He said he did not want the item to stand. That was
the opportunity for honourable senators to stand and say, "I have not finished
my notes; I intend to speak next week or in a few days; several senators are
interested; we want to keep this issue alive and to go forward." But you did not
do that, honourable senators. You chose to defeat that bill. There are
discrepancies and that is why we are saying it is a breach of all of our
privileges as senators.
Hon. Consiglio Di Nino: Honourable senators, I think Senator Cools hit
the nail on the head more than any one of us. I was not disturbed by Senator
Mitchell rising and making his statement on a question of privilege. What
disturbed me is when he said that he expected, or that he thought that the
records had been tampered with. That is an accusation of an inappropriate act.
Senator Wallin: Beyond repair.
Senator Di Nino: It is a shameful accusation made by a colleague who
did not have the proof to say that. He did not say, "Colleagues, I think we may
have a mistake made on the record; let us see if we can find it." He got up and
he accused someone. I do not think he was accusing anyone on your side. He was
either accusing someone on our side or someone at the table. That is
unacceptable. That requires at least an apology.
Senator Tkachuk: That is exactly right!
Senator Cools: Honourable senators, I wonder if I could have a
clarification. I believe that Senator Tardif said that she had listened to the
tapes. I am wondering; was this information that was known to many senators
other than Senator Mitchell before he raised it? I was under the impression that
Senator Mitchell had raised this matter now because he had had no earlier
I wonder if we could have some clarification as to how much time we are
talking about here. Perhaps Senator Tardif could clarify for us when it was
today that she listened to those tapes.
Senator Tardif: I would certainly accept to reply to that question. I
usually read the Debates of the Senate every day. Today is a busy day. As
the honourable senator knows, we have caucuses in the morning, there is an
Alberta caucus and different things. By the time I had a chance to read the
Debates of the Senate, it was about 11 o'clock this morning. I noticed at
that time that the Debates of the Senate did not seem to conform with my
memory of that particular event.
I then called some of our clerks and asked, "How would I get an audio
transcript of what had occurred yesterday?" I was informed as to where I might
find that information and, by the time I got to it and listened to it, it was
around 11:30 in the morning.
Senator Comeau: I do want to get one last item on the record. I was
listening to my colleague Senator Tardif speaking earlier about when she had
heard Senator Comeau, myself, call the question. I think she said that was when
she was listening to the tape.
I want at least for my side to know that I categorically deny any suggestion
that I called for the question yesterday. That is on the record. I want to have
it on the record. I categorically deny that I called for the question. In fact,
it was picked up by the stenographers. When the Speaker asked whether we were
ready for the question, I said "no," we were not ready for the question.
If in listening to the tape Senator Tardif thinks she heard Senator Comeau —
and I give her the benefit of the doubt on it — calling for the question, that
is dead wrong.
The Hon. the Speaker: Honourable senators, let me thank all honourable
senators for their interventions on this matter. It is important that the matter
was brought to the floor of the house and I am prepared to deal with it.
First and foremost, the official record of this house is the publication that
is on our desks every day called the Journals of the Senate. That is the
only official record. If you look at page 948 of the Journals of the Senate
from November 16, 2010, it describes that Commons Public Bills were called;
Orders No. 1 and 2 were called and were postponed until the next sitting. Then,
the following appears:
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.
The question being put on the motion, it was negatived on the following
Honourable senators, that is the official record.
I will come to the matter of Hansard that has been the subject of discussion.
As I listened to the debate around the matter, yesterday the proceedings were
perfectly in order in the disposition of Bill C- 311. There was lots of time.
There was a delay of an hour for the vote but the decision was made. Since a
decision of the house was made, I feel it is my obligation to remind honourable
senators that in Beauchesne, sixth edition, at citation 479:
A Member may not speak against or reflect upon any determination of the
House, unless intending to conclude with a motion for rescinding it.
Page 617 of the second edition of House of Commons Procedure and Practice
Members may not speak against or reflect upon any decision of the House.
This stems from the well-established rule which holds that a question, once
put and carried in the affirmative or negative, cannot be questioned again.
Such reflections are not in order because the Member is bound by a vote
agreed to by a majority.
Comments criticizing or reflecting about a clear decision taken by the Senate
shall not be made. I am not suggesting that such comments have been made in this
discussion, but I wanted to put this as part of the background. What was done
yesterday was dealt with in an orderly manner and we are not commenting on it.
Earlier in the day, questions were raised as to whether or not it is in order
for a bill that is at second reading to be put to a vote, and whether there is
some relationship to the number of members who would have spoken on a bill that
is at second reading. Of course, as all honourable senators know, according to
our rules, second reading is a debate on the principle of a bill. More clearly,
if some honourable senators are opposed to the principle of the bill, they will
not adopt the bill at second reading.
That has occurred in the past and that was the question that was put forward.
There have been several cases of such bills. One is Bill 86, An Act to amend The
Farmers' Creditors Arrangement Act, in 1934. The motion for second reading
passed in the negative. Another is An Act to amend the Lord's Day Act, which was
put for second reading and also passed in the negative. The answer to that
question is that it has occurred.
As to the question around the timeliness of raising a question of privilege
and whether or not rule 59(10) was available, I think, in light of what Senator
Tardif has said, it appears that this rule might have been available. More
typically, because the vote was 24 hours ago, the more normal proceeding of
using a written notice would have been used.
I am unable to find a prima facie question of privilege in this matter.
However, I think the wise counsel from Senator Cools is important. I will
undertake to make inquiries because of the integrity of our reporting system and
the professionalism and tremendous work that all honourable senators recognize
is done by those who work so diligently in producing the Debates, while
providing, as Senator Cools pointed out, opportunities for errors of spellings,
et cetera, to be corrected through examination of the blues. I know there is no
intent on any honourable senator's part to cast aspersions on the excellent work
that our reporters do.
Honourable senators, I will conclude by saying that all honourable senators
understand that there are technical limitations. The microphones can pick up
only one voice at a time, when they are on, so what is recorded on the tape is
what is picked up from the microphones that are open at the time and does not
cover absolutely everything said at the time.
That is my ruling. I will undertake to report on the administrative side of
On the Order:
Resuming debate on the motion of the Honourable Senator Greene, seconded
by the Honourable Senator MacDonald, for the second reading of Bill C-14, An
Act to amend the Electricity and Gas Inspection Act and the Weights and
Hon. Mac Harb: Honourable senators, it gives me great pleasure to rise
to speak on Bill C-14, An Act to amend the Electricity and Gas Inspection Act
and the Weights and Measures Act.
Having said that, the government in its wisdom has decided to give this
legislation another title: the Fairness at the Pumps Act. The issue of
inaccurate pumps or scales certainly deserves attention. Canadians should get
what they pay for. It is worth a closer look to see if this bill actually
addresses its intent.
Normally, when legislation is introduced to deal with a matter, there are a
number of measures against which we will test the bill. The very first one is
whether or not a bill is necessary to deal with the specific problem that the
government is talking about, in this case, the accuracy and the fairness at the
Measurement Canada and Industry Canada, as well as the minister and his
secretary of state, appeared before the Industry Committee on a number of
occasions to answer questions about whether or not the pumps are actually
accurate. It was stated that, by all measures, 94 per cent of gas pumps tested
by Measurement Canada over the past 10 years were accurate. Only 6 per cent of
those pumps were not accurate. In fact, 2 per cent were inaccurate in favour of
the consumer, while the balance were in favour of the retailer.
If we take all those figures together, the compliance rate would be 97 per
cent accuracy in terms of the gas pumps.
At committee, members of Parliament and representatives from the industry
were concerned about the unfairness of the short title of this bill and for good
reason. Despite the recommendation to change the title of the bill, the
government stuck to its unfortunate and misleading marketing strategy, trying to
point the finger at gas retailers in this country and indicating that the
problem is at the pumps in terms of the system that is being used.
Having said that, when Measurement Canada appeared before the committee and
they were asked about the systems that are used in other types of industries, it
became quite clear that this bill could be called the "Fairness at the Quarry
Act." The quarry and sandpit industries had only about 50 per cent compliance;
in fact, they had a 47.42 per cent accuracy rate. Why not that? Or why would the
government have not used, for example, the electricity issue as a basis to name
the act the "Electrical Fairness Act," when Measurement Canada indicated that
the compliance rate in that industry is only 74.19 per cent? Independent gas
retailers that have a compliance rate of 94 per cent, which is one of the
highest of all sectors, feel that they are being targeted and accused of
Honourable senators, a closer look at the data indicates that losses due to
meters are actually about $8 million annually, although some have put out
figures of $20 million. When officials from Industry Canada and Measurement
Canada appeared before the committee, they indicated that was not really the
case. In fact, it was a lot less.
Witnesses appeared before the committee, in particular, Jane Savage of the
Canadian Independent Petroleum Marketers Association, who said:
I have a member who calls this a solution looking for a problem.
She went on to say:
. . .The point is that the number of prosecutions is zero or very small,
so there is a disconnect between the intensity of the language around this
bill, including its name, and the reality.
The government went ahead and issued their press releases. Honourable
senators, listen to some of the headlines. From The Chronicle-Herald,
Halifax: "Feds tackle gas gougers," from the Vancouver Sun, "Proposed law
aims to stop rip-offs at the gas pumps;" and, perhaps most telling of all, from
the Edmonton Journal, "Ottawa vows stiff fines for hikes at pumps."
Honourable senators, as you can see, the unfairness is not really in terms of
the pump itself. The unfairness is elsewhere. Nonetheless, the government has
decided what they want to do is proceed with the bill, and that is the title
they want to give it, despite the fact that the inaccuracies in other industries
is not the same. The intent of it is really political partisanship rather than
responding to a public need.
The first test for the legislation, if we are talking about fairness at the
pumps, is does this legislation deal with fairness at the pumps? No, it does
not. So it failed.
The second test is whether the bill responds to the public's needs. The
government would have us believe that it does, honourable senators. However, if
you go into any type of community you will find people complaining about the
high price of gasoline. People still complain about the lack of competition in
the gasoline industry in Canada. Of course, in some communities they will
complain that they are paying for more gas than they are getting at the pump,
but that is due to the ambient temperature compensation provisions that were
endorsed by the government.
The bill, honourable senators, misleads Canadians into thinking that
long-standing problems of high prices in the retail gas sector will be addressed
as a result of it. The truth is that it will not.
The proposed legislation does not address a core issue, which is a flawed
pump testing system that can be affected by cold temperatures. What is not in
the bill — and, frankly, it should be addressed — is the protection of consumers
from high gas prices and the encouragement of more competition at the retail
A third test is whether or not this bill is effective in terms of fairness at
the pumps. No, it is not, because the title itself implies that the amendments
are only concerned with gas measurement when the new legislation covers eight
sectors, including retail petroleum, downstream or wholesale petroleum, dairy,
retail food, fishing, logging, grain and field crops and mining.
Mandatory inspections, honourable senators, generally are practices used by
many countries around the world in France, Germany, and the United States. In
Canada, we already have, for electricity and natural gas, meters that fall under
the Electricity and Gas Inspection Act, and they were inspected.
It is in their own interest to test their pumps, and they do. Gasoline
retailing is not the only sector that worries about accuracy.
Krista Pawley, spokeswoman for the Canadian Council of Grocery Distributors,
says the accuracy of scales is taken seriously by retailers because they depend
on consumer confidence. Measurement Canada statistics show that inaccuracies
occur one in ten times, but three times out of four, the consumer comes out
ahead. Obviously, there is room for improvement in this sector, but it is not a
crisis pushing Canadians to call for change.
Canadians' confidence in the accuracy of measurement- based transactions
is vitally important to our economy, especially at a time when family
budgets are spread thin. . .
Minister of State Denis Lebel said that when announcing his bill.
When Minister Lebel appeared before the committee, he was right about one
thing: family budgets are spread thin these days. This trend will continue
because of factors such as inaccurate points of reference for automatically
correcting volume based on temperature, constantly rising gas prices and the
lack of real competition in the retail gas sector.
Another test for "fairness at the pumps," which the government is calling it,
is whether it is fair to the consumer and to retailers. Frankly, it makes a
minimal difference. Why? Because 300 additional inspectors would have to be
hired to do the increased inspections, at a cost of $50 and $200 per pump?
Retailers will surely be picking up the tab. If retailers take on these costs,
you can be sure that they will transfer them on to the consumer. These retailers
are already struggling in small markets, with low margins and typically older
equipment. We have heard that these inspections will cost anywhere from, as I
mentioned, $50 to $200 per visit. One could ask: How will they be protected? The
government assured the committee and the other house that market forces will
keep the costs of these inspection services by an accredited service provider
down. However, if you look at retailers, they do not have that luxury. There
will not be competition among inspectors in these sectors. In fact, they will be
lucky to have access to any local inspectors, and they may end up paying extra
to bring inspectors from distant urban centres. How fair is it that increased
inspections could cost Canadians more as retailers pass along extra costs to
Can it be applied? Yes, of course, it can be applied. It passes the test.
Mandatory inspection frequencies are used by other countries.
When they appeared before the committee, most of the industry stakeholders
and consumer groups who helped develop Industry Canada's policy on trade
measurements agreed with the frequency of mandatory inspections.
However, some of them expressed concerns about the timing of inspections
because wear on equipment varies depending on the number of transactions at a
retailer. In other words, a gas retailer in a rural area would experience less
wear on equipment than a retailer in an urban area.
What benefit is there to privatizing inspections? For many years Measurement
Canada has employed authorized service providers to carry out inspections in the
electricity sector under the Electricity and Gas Inspection Act.
Member of Parliament Mike Lake indicated that at the committee.
As I mentioned earlier, the electricity sector is not exactly a shining
example in terms of compliance. Measurement Canada reports that the compliance
rate in the electricity sector is 74 per cent, even though the inspections are
carried out by authorized service providers.
I would like a guarantee that resources be made available to Measurement
Canada to ensure that the laws and regulations of this bill are enforced. When
Measurement Canada appeared before the committee, one of the things they made
known was that they do need more resources.
Another issue is whether enough certified inspectors will be available in
small markets. Some of the witnesses alluded that some of the inspectors who
provide the inspection services also provide other services to the gas stations,
to the retailers. A member of the committee raised an interesting question at
the time. This question, I hope, will be raised when the witnesses appear before
the committee on the Senate side.
The question was whether there is a potential for a conflict of interest when
a private-sector inspector is hired to certify whether a pump is meeting the
requirement while this same inspector is providing other services to the gas
station. Is there a potential for conflict of interest there? Measurement Canada
said they would take every measure possible to minimize or ensure that would not
be the case.
Another important point to address is whether there is an appeal mechanism
for a person — a gas retailer or an individual — who is charged. The fact is
there is no appeal mechanism. The fairness at the pumps legislation supposedly
does not provide that mechanism, because the last resort for this individual is
the minister; there is no other recourse. It would be important to have an
appropriate and realistic dispute resolution process with an appeal beyond the
minister so that it does not stop there.
Another test is the compliance measures and penalties — are they enforceable?
The truth is yes, they are enforceable in this bill. It passes the test. The
bill proposes to strengthen consumer protection by increasing the court-imposed
fines under the Electricity and Gas Inspection Act and the Weights and Measures
Act from $1,000 to $10,000 for minor offences, and from $5,000 up to $25,000 for
major offences. The amendments also introduce a new fine of up to $50,000 for
Currently, prosecution is the only means available to levy fines for
non-compliance. In fairness to Measurement Canada, they have stated that it is
extremely difficult. The committee heard that only one prosecution was
successful over the past few years.
The use of administrative monetary penalties, which was introduced in this
bill, is no doubt better than other measures that were in the former law, which
were the prosecutions. This gives the authority more flexibility to suit the
penalty to the infraction. However, are the fines at a rate that will actually
promote compliance with the act? The Consumers Council of Canada raised the
point about whether they are in line.
Section 29.28 of the bill allows ministerial discretion to make public
offences under the act, which is tricky because one will ask the question
whether this will work for or against the deterrent quality of the act. Will gas
retailers be subject to a witch hunt, have their names published, et cetera,
when they are doing their best to comply with rules, notwithstanding that due
diligence is there?
Another concern that was raised was whether a retailer could end up on the
list by mistake. If that happened after we published those names, we know that
could ruin this particular business completely.
One of the tests is the test of the Charter. Does this bill meet the Charter
test? Something that is interesting, and that I hope the committee will have a
chance to look at, is the new power that was given to the inspector to enter the
business or the home of an entrepreneur.
In the previous act, there are certain measures that are put in place and
certain conditions under which an inspector can enter a business in order to
specifically search for whether or not compliance with the act is taking place.
However, I found it intriguing that the new amendment, 17 (1), clearly states:
An inspector who has reasonable grounds to believe that an object to
which this Act applies is located in or on a place, including a vehicle, or
that an activity regulated by this Act is conducted in a place, including a
vehicle, may, for the purpose of verifying compliance with this Act,
(a) enter the place;
(b) examine the place or anything found in or on the place;
(c) seize and detain anything in or on the place;
(d) use any means of communication in the place or cause it to
(e) use any computer system in the place, or cause it to be
used, to examine data contained in or available to it;
(f) prepare a document, or cause one to be prepared, based on
(g) use any copying equipment in the place, or cause it to be
(h) direct any person to put anything in or on the place into
operation or to cease operating it; and
(i) prohibit or limit access to all or part of the place.
That is massive. That was not in the previous act. That is an extension of
the power of the inspector.
I hope that when the committee has a chance to hear from witnesses, that a
number of serious questions are raised in order to ensure that we are not going
too far in terms of the delegation of authority to an inspector. I hope we hear
from witness on this subject in particular because, as I pointed out earlier,
the government now wants to go out into the private sector and license
inspectors in the private sector.
Now we have two sets of inspectors, both with similar authorities. One
inspector is hired by the government and works for the government; another
inspector is on a contract in order to go out and do due diligence. If that
particular private- sector contractor is in a constituency or community
somewhere where you have a number of clientele, and if the government's
intention is to encourage competition, if one of those inspectors ends up losing
a contract and somehow the wheels turn, we will have an awkward situation. As I
mentioned earlier, one of our colleagues on the committee raised the potential
for conflict, which is an important point to look at.
Finally, honourable senators, there is the question of whether or not the
cost analysis for this bill was done in terms of "fairness at the pumps," as the
government calls it. It is important that it be done. An additional 300
inspectors will have to be certified. The cost is anywhere from $50 to $200 per
pump. A lot of inspections are to be conducted across the country.
The bill has been in the works for a long time. The bureaucracy has done a
marvellous job in reaching out to stakeholders and did a lot of consultation.
They brought the stakeholders together, consulted with them, and raised the
issue of whether or not they support the idea of regular inspection. They almost
got unanimity in that, yes, we need to have regular inspection and that regular
inspection has to be mandated.
There was a time when those inspections were not mandated; they were done on
a voluntary basis. There was a time when the government asked the industry to
regulate itself and to take care of its own problems.
Statistics showed that was not happening and that is why Industry Canada, in
2004, embarked on this type of consultation to reach out to these stakeholders,
to bring them together and to set up a mechanism to ensure that there is
The amendments to the Electricity and Gas Inspection Act and the Weights and
Measures Act are good.
However, the government has decided to amend this bill by adding a title that
does not belong there and that is unfortunate and misleading. It does not have
much to do with these amendments to those two acts. In fact, it is completely
outside of them. The minister went on CTV and all across the country, and there
were many press releases, talking about fairness at the pumps, as if this bill
really deals with that. In essence, however, this bill deals with eight
different sectors in two acts, and this is a small parcel of it.
We support the principle of the bill. We would like to see some hearings
conducted by the committee with witnesses and the due diligence to be done. We
hope that we will be able to give the bill the best possible review and bring it
back to this house for a discussion and a decision.
The Hon. the Speaker pro tempore: Is there further
Hon. Tommy Banks: Will Senator Harb accept a question?
Senator Harb: Yes, I will.
Senator Banks: I thank the honourable senator for his excellent
recitation of concerns about this bill, as well as its good parts. I cannot help
but note that many of the things the honourable senator referred to about search
and seizure, and the appointment of inspectors and the authorities given to them
and to the minister under this bill are similar to several acts of Parliament
that have been before us. Those pieces of legislation have been passed and they
went further than their predecessors did with respect to those powers.
In respect of this bill in particular, I note that some of the administrative
penalties under it, which can be assessed by the minister, are in the $10,000 to
$20,000 range in some cases. Proposed subsection 22.23 states the following:
A violation that is continued on more than one day constitutes a separate
violation in respect of each day during which it is continued.
I divine from that, by simple arithmetic, that if I were a dealer or supplier
who contravened the act and was, therefore, susceptible to a fine of $10,000,
and I committed the offence for ten consecutive days, then the aggregate my fine
would be $100,000. If the fine was $20,000 and I continued it for ten days, the
fine would be $200,000. Am I reading that correctly?
Senator Harb: That would be a good question to ask at the committee.
My understanding is that they have set out a maximum penalty of $50,000 for
repeat offenders. It remains to be seen, in the case of a major offence, whether
or not every time one commits an offence, one would pay $50,000 and, if one
committed it five times, it would be $250,000. That interesting question should
be raised at the committee.
The Hon. the Speaker pro tempore: Is there further
(On motion of Senator Tardif, debate adjourned.)
On the Order:
Resuming debate on the motion of the Honourable Senator Brazeau, seconded
by the Honourable Senator Lang, for the second reading of Bill S-11, An Act
respecting the safety of drinking water on first nation lands.
Hon. Lillian Eva Dyck: Honourable senators, I would like to make some
comments about Bill S-11, but the adjournment should remain in the name of
Honourable senators, I rise today to speak to Bill S-11, An Act respecting
the safety of drinking water on First Nation lands. We have heard much debate on
the topic of the dire situation of safe drinking water on reserves across
Canada. The statistics are staggering and the situation on reserves has no place
in an advanced and modern country such as Canada. All of us in this chamber must
surely agree that something needs to be done to rectify this situation, but
action for action's sake rarely produces effective change.
Significant portions of Bill S-11, which raise deep and great concern, do not
really do much to meet the objective of safe and clean drinking water on
reserves. As this chamber continues to study this bill, I would like to point
out four areas of significant concern for honourable senators to contemplate.
The first problem with Bill S-11 is that the government did not fulfill its
responsibility to consult and accommodate First Nations in the drafting of this
legislation. The federal government is obliged to consult and accommodate
Aboriginal peoples when their potential or existing rights may be infringed by
impending legislative or regulatory schemes. This duty to consult and
accommodate was upheld in a 1990 Supreme Court of Canada decision in R. v.
While the Department of Indian Affairs and Northern Development did hold
engagement sessions and impact assessments, those were not nearly sufficient to
fulfill the government's obligations to consult and accommodate First Nations.
INAC contracted the Institute On Governance to conduct the consultation and
engagement sessions. From February to March 2009, 13 engagement sessions in each
province and territory and an additional 10 consultation sessions for First
Nation organizations were undertaken across the country on the desirability of
federal drinking water and waste water legislation pertaining to federal
legislation that would call for the incorporation by reference of provincial or
territorial regulations relating to potable water and waste water.
However, it did not involve a consultation process on Bill S-11 as it stands
here before us now.
The summary report by the Institute On Governance stated that the Crown did
not satisfy its duty to consult and accommodate First Nations. The report noted
that: First, the Crown failed to engage in any meaningful consultation; second,
the Crown breached its duty to accommodate First Nations by making a unilateral
decision to proceed with the engagement sessions and impact assessments solely
on incorporation by reference; third, the Crown did not genuinely listen to
concerns; fourth, the Crown failed to provide adequate time and resources to
enable meaningful consultation; and, fifth, the Crown was unwilling to engage in
discussion of any inherent, treaty and Aboriginal rights- related issues to
Honourable senators, it could not be clearer that the Government of Canada
has not lived up to its responsibility to engage in meaningful consultation with
First Nations in regard to Bill S-11. The government's own summary report that
it commissioned, facilitated through the Institute on Governance, clearly
documents this issue.
Honourable senators, the second area of concern with Bill S-11 arises from
the imposition of provincial laws on reserves through incorporation by
reference. Subclause 4(3) in Bill S-11 states that "The regulations may
incorporate by reference laws of a province. . . ."
Generally speaking, under subsection 91(24) of the Constitution Act, 1867,
the federal government has exclusive jurisdiction to make laws in relation to
"Indians, and Lands reserved for the Indians." The Expert Panel on Safe Drinking
Water for First Nations noted the great uncertainty that this approach
encounters. The report summarizes that this approach is "fraught with such
uncertainty that it is neither a viable nor effective option," yet it appears in
the bill before us.
The uncertainty rests in the legal basis of laws of incorporation to First
Hon. Tommy Banks: Your Honour, with all due respect, some honourable
senators, who I am sure are discussing important things, are speaking and I
cannot hear the honourable senator who has the floor.
Perhaps if there are important matters to be discussed amongst honourable
senators, they could discuss them in a lower voice or outside the chamber.
The Hon. the Speaker pro tempore: Senator Banks makes a
good point, and I ask honourable senators to observe the rules of decorum.
Senator Dyck: The Supreme Court in subsequent cases has carved out how
and when incorporation can be used and applied to First Nations people. In
Dick v. R, the distinction between two categories of provincial laws that
could apply to First Nations were, one, provincial laws that can be applied to
Indians without "touching their Indianness;" and two, provincial laws applied
through section 88 of the Indian Act.
In the first case, the expert panel concluded that there is little legal
basis for the application of provincial laws to First Nations drinking water
because water and waste water management are under the jurisdiction of the band
council. Section 81(1) of the Indian Act allows band councils to make bylaws
. . . the construction and maintenance of watercourses . . . the
construction and regulation of the use of public wells, cisterns, reservoirs
and other water supplies;
Through an application under section 88, the panel again stated that because
section 88 applies only to "Indians" and it does not extend to lands reserved
for Indians, it would be hard to enforce a regulatory regime on water through
incorporation of provincial or territorial laws because water is a natural
resource tied to the lands reserved for Indians, not Indians themselves.
While the Supreme Court has not heard on this matter, lower courts have
consistently upheld that principle.
With a legal basis for incorporation for drinking water regulations on
reserve, which is shaky at best, why has the government included it in their
However, the more important and fundamental issue is this: Why has the
federal government not recognized the rights of First Nations to initiate and
enact their own regulations, policies or First Nations laws with respect to safe
drinking water on reserves?
Honourable senators, the third area of concern with Bill S-11 is the
systematic chipping away of section 35 treaty and Aboriginal rights. Three
clauses in Bill S-11 attempt to limit greatly and even to void these rights. The
first clause of concern is paragraph 4(1) (r) that states that
provide for the relationship between the regulations and aboriginal and
treaty rights referred to in section 35 of the Constitution Act, 1982,
including the extent to which the regulations may abrogate or derogate from
those aboriginal and treaty rights;
Here there exists a possibility that regulations made under this act could
actually "abrogate or derogate" from constitutionally protected Aboriginal or
treaty rights. Furthermore, the bill itself does not contain a non-derogation
clause, even in the weakest of forms. One does not even appear in the preamble
to the bill.
The second clause of concern regarding section 35 rights is subclause 6(1),
which allows regulations made under Bill S-11 to prevail over any laws or bylaws
made by a First Nation in the event of a conflict or inconsistency between them.
I reiterate that under the Indian Act, band councils have the power to enact
bylaws that regulate water systems on reserve.
Similarly, the third clause of concern deals with a threat to treaty rights.
Subclause 6(2) allows Bill S-11 and regulations made under the act to:
. . . prevail over the land claims agreement or self-government agreement
to which the aboriginal body is a party, and over any Act of Parliament
giving effect to it, in the event of a conflict or inconsistency. . . .
This clause has the ability to make null and void significant portions of
previous treaties and agreements that the Government of Canada has with First
Honourable senators, this clause is of great concern. Bill S-11 can
potentially allow these federal regulations to override Aboriginal and treaty
rights that are constitutionally protected.
Finally, honourable senators, I turn to the fourth problem with Bill S-11. It
does not provide the resources needed for the provision of safe drinking water
on reserves. An explicit recommendation made in the expert panel report was that
the resource gap must be closed in terms of water and waste water management on
reserve compared to the provinces and territories.
Further, the report stated that it is "not credible to go forward with any
regulatory regime without adequate capacity to satisfy the regulatory
requirements." Bill S-11 does nothing to provide First Nations with the
resources and capacity to modernize water systems on reserves. Instead, it
outlines powers and the mechanism of regulations.
First Nations and First Nation organizations across Canada have all agreed
that this problem is the fundamental flaw in Bill S-11. It is unfair and
irresponsible first to create these regulations and then provide nothing in
terms of resources to meet them. For the record, I have met with Vice Chiefs
Watson and Lerat from the Federation of Saskatchewan Indian Nations and they see
serious flaws in Bill S-11 and think it should be withdrawn or stopped.
Another question raised by the Institute on Governance report, and a concern
among many First Nations, is to what extent First Nations now become liable for
regulatory non-compliance and resulting implications. Bill S-11 is unclear on
Honourable senators, members of the Standing Senate Committee on Aboriginal
Peoples are familiar with the problem of safe drinking water on First Nations
reserves. In 2007, we released a report on this very issue. The report concluded
with two clear recommendations. The first was that Indian and Northern Affairs
Canada conduct a complete review of water systems on reserves and dedicate the
necessary funds to provide for the identified resource needs.
As Dr. Harry Swain, the chair of the expert panel, stated in the report of
the Standing Senate Committee on Aboriginal Peoples in 2007, Safe Drinking
Water for First Nations:
. . . if we want to see the completion of what has been a fairly
considerable national effort to get good water on Indian reserves, then we
should worry about the basic resources and then about a regulatory regime.
The recommendation from our report in 2007 also laid out that a plan for
allocation of money should be completed by June 2008. The second recommendation
was that the department:
. . . also undertake a comprehensive consultation process with First
Nation communities and organizations regarding legislative options . . .
with a view to collaboratively developing such legislation.
It is quite clear that neither of these recommendations is met in Bill S-11.
Honourable senators, it is our duty to ensure that the Government of Canada
lives up to its obligations to Aboriginal peoples in Canada and to the
Constitution. There are significant portions of Bill S-11 that threaten both
According to a recent news article, the Minister of Indian Affairs and
Northern Development stated that he will allow First Nations to help to rewrite
Bill S-11. What exactly does that mean? Will the government withdraw Bill S-11
from the Senate in order to live up to Minister Duncan's promise? Honourable
senators, I hope that that is the case and that Minister Duncan asks that this
bill be withdrawn so that First Nations can sit at the table as equal partners
in the drafting of legislation respecting the safety of drinking water on First
Honourable senators, I will conclude by reading a quote from the fall 2010
FLOW newsletter, which states the case clearly and succinctly with regard to
To enact legislation which appears to contemplate and even condone
impacts on First Nation's rights without first accommodating the known
concerns of First Nations is in direct violation of the government's
fiduciary duties and responsibilities, not to mention the statements of the
Supreme Court of Canada regarding the protections afforded First Nations
rights by virtue of Section 35(1) of the Canadian Constitution. . . . We are
legally and morally bound to ensure First Nations have access to safe
drinking water without compromising their inherent and constitutional
The Hon. the Speaker pro tempore: The Honourable Senator
Dyck's time has expired. Is she asking for more time to accept a question from
Senator St. Germain?
Senator Dyck: Yes.
Hon. Gerald J. Comeau (Deputy Leader of the Government): Five more
Hon. Gerry St. Germain: Honourable senators, my question is to Senator
Dyck. I compliment the senator on her excellent observations with regard to this
proposed legislation. She makes reference to the statement made by the minister
responsible for this file.
I ask all honourable senators to consider the urgency of this matter because
it is hoped that this will lead immediately to bringing together everyone
responsible for the safe drinking water of all Canadians, in particular
Aboriginals in this case. The sooner honourable senators refer this bill to
committee for study, the better it will be.
The Minister has indicated that he is open and understands that changes to
the bill are required. Would the honourable senator agree that the sooner this
bill is referred to committee, the better?
Senator Dyck: I thank the honourable senator for his comments and
question. I am not certain that is the best course of action to take. I am still
relatively naive when it comes to Senate procedure.
My preferred option is that the bill be withdrawn, which I say with all due
respect. The minister must have had second thoughts because he is now saying to
the press that there are serious problems with the bill. All the indications
from the major First Nation organizations, such as the Assembly of First
Nations, the Assembly of Manitoba Chiefs, the Chiefs of Ontario, the Federation
of Saskatchewan Indian Nations, et cetera, have said that the bill is so
seriously flawed that they are unconvinced that it can be amended to make it
The preferred option among First Nations is to draft a bill collaboratively,
as was done with specific claims.
Senator St. Germain: I hear what the honourable senator is saying, and
I am respectful of her views that the bill be withdrawn. However, there is
nothing to prevent this action from taking place in committee. This issue is so
important for such a basic requirement for Aboriginal peoples that I do not
think we should procrastinate. I am not accusing procrastination. I realize that
those who question it from the other side are doing so in a manner that is in
the best interests of all. However, in the same breath, we cannot stand still.
We have to move forward.
I urge the other side to consider that thought process and at least refer the
bill to committee. If a rewrite is needed, it could conceivably happen at that
level. Does the honourable senator agree?
Senator Dyck: I agree that drinking water is an important question.
Part of the difficulty is: How big and serious a question is it? When the
Department of Indian and Northern Affairs appeared before the committee in April
this year, they told us that in 2006 there were 193 deficient water systems
across Canada; that as of April 2010, they had reduced it to 49; and that only
three communities were high risk. Obviously, we do not want to say that we will
let those three communities suffer. The whole issue is how big the problem
actually is. INAC will not be finished its assessment until this month, so I am
not sure if they have finished their assessment of the drinking water situation
across Canada. Although we want to act, we do not have all the facts so that we
can look at it objectively and know how big the problem is.
Certainly, the AFN and the FSIN are saying that drinking water is a problem
but wonder where they will find the resources to fix it. Why should we have
regulations? Why should the First Nations organizations be liable if there is a
problem with the water because they are not fulfilling the regulations because
they do not have the money to do so? The money should come first.
(On motion of Senator Dyck, for Senator Mitchell, debate adjourned.)
The Senate proceeded to consideration of the eleventh report of the Standing
Senate Committee on Legal and Constitutional Affairs (Bill S-10, An Act to amend
the Controlled Drugs and Substances Act and to make related and consequential
amendments to other Acts, with an amendment), presented in the Senate on
November 4, 2010.
Hon. John D. Wallace moved the adoption of the report.
He said: Honourable senators, as you may recall, Senator Fraser, Chair of the
Standing Senate Committee on Legal and Constitutional Affairs, presented this
eleventh report to the chamber on November 4, 2010. Senator Fraser is not able
to be in the chamber today and has requested that I speak to the report on her
behalf. I must say, I am pleased to do so.
Honourable senators, I thought it might be helpful to begin by briefly
providing background information that will perhaps refresh your memories with
regard to the focus and intent of Bill S-10. As you will recall, Bill S-10
proposes to amend the Controlled Drugs and Substances Act and also make related
consequential amendments to other acts.
The bill's purpose and objectives are directed towards addressing a problem
that is undoubtedly of concern to all Canadians, and that is the problem of
illicit drug crimes in this country, particularly those crimes that relate to
drug trafficking, production, importation and exportation of illicit drugs. In
this regard, Bill S-10 has been described as being a fundamental part of
Canada's comprehensive National Anti-Drug Strategy that was announced by the
government in 2007, which strategy seeks to address issues involved with illicit
drug crime by means of a three-pronged approach that focuses on, number one,
drug law enforcement, number two, drug prevention and, number three, drug
A very significant aspect of Bill S-10 is that it proposes to introduce a
number of mandatory minimum penalties that are targeted towards those who commit
serious drug offences. When I say "serious drug offences" in the context of
production and trafficking of illicit drugs, I am referring to circumstances
where certain aggravating factors are present in the commission of a drug crime;
for example, when organized crime is involved, when the activity involves the
use of violence or weapons, involves repeat offenders or is in relation to
youth. Those are the serious drug crimes that Bill S-10 is seeking to address.
Bill S-10 was carefully examined by the Legal and Constitutional Committee
and in so doing we heard from a number of witnesses and we also incorporated by
reference all of the evidence and testimony that was presented to our committee
in respect of the predecessor bill, Bill C-15. Consequently, Bill S- 10, subject
to one amendment, which I will speak to in a moment, was carried on division by
members of the committee. I will take a moment to describe for you the
particular amendment that has been proposed by the Legal and Constitutional
Section 5 of Bill S-10 includes the addition of a new provision, section
8.1(1). I will paraphrase a bit in referring to this. It essentially says that
within two years of the section coming into force, a comprehensive review of the
operations and provisions of the act, including a cost benefit analysis of
mandatory minimum sentences, shall be undertaken by such committee of the House
of Commons or both houses of Parliament, as may be designated. Two aspects of
that I would draw to your attention: First, that this comprehensive review take
place two years later and involve, according to the bill, only committees of the
House of Commons or of both houses of Parliament.
We heard from a number of witnesses — and the issue was raised when we did
clause-by-clause analysis of the bill by Senator Baker, and he did so
effectively — who pointed out that two years is not sufficient to allow this
comprehensive review of the act to take place. It was felt that five years would
be more appropriate. The amendment that our committee has proposed and is part
of the eleventh report would increase the two-year review period to five years.
Second, and certainly as Senator Baker has related, it has been the practice
of our Parliament to have both committees of the Senate and the House of Commons
on equal footing on these matters. The amendment that is part of the eleventh
report is that this comprehensive review could be undertaken by a committee of
the Senate, the House of Commons or both houses of Parliament.
That is the extent of the amendment that our committee is proposing. Other
than that, as I say, on division, Bill S-10 was carried. Once again, I want to
thank Senator Baker for his useful and constructive input into the development
of the amendment within our committee.
Honourable senators, I will conclude by saying I respectfully ask for your
support in the adoption of the eleventh report.
(On motion of Senator Tardif, debate adjourned.)
On the Order:
Resuming debate on the consideration of the eighth report (interim) of
the Standing Senate Committee on Energy, the Environment and Natural
Resources entitled: Facts Do Not Justify Banning Canada's Current
Offshore Drilling Operations: A Senate Review In the Wake of BP's Deepwater
Horizon Incident, deposited with the Clerk of the Senate on August 18,
Hon. Daniel Lang: Honourable senators, time has passed us by, and I
would like to take some time to address the issue on a day following, so I move
the adjournment in my name.
(On motion of Senator Lang, debate adjourned.)
On the Order:
Resuming debate on the inquiry of the Honourable Senator Carstairs, P.C.,
calling the attention of the Senate to the Impact of Dementia on the
Hon. Terry M. Mercer: Honourable senators, this is a very important
topic covered here in calling the attention of the Senate to the impact of
dementia on Canadian society.
I do not think there is a person in this chamber who has not been affected by
this or knows someone who has been affected by it. There is nothing sadder for
any of us than to observe a loved one who is suffering from dementia, and the
impact it has on families; people going to hospitals or to nursing homes or even
to their own homes, visiting their loved ones, their mothers, their fathers,
husbands or wives, and not being recognized by those individuals. It is so
difficult for all of us to deal with that, as it happens to many of us. It is
important that we understand the major impact this has on Canadian society.
I do want to give a much longer speech on this, honourable senators —
The Hon. the Speaker pro tempore: I regret to advise the
honourable senator that it being 4 p.m., pursuant to the order adopted by the
Senate on April 15, 2010, I declare the Senate continued until Thursday,
November 18, 2010, at 1:30 p.m.
(The Senate adjourned until Thursday, November 18, 2010, at 1:30 p.m.)