Debates of the Senate (Hansard)
3rd Session, 40th Parliament,
Volume 147, Issue 71
Tuesday, November 30, 2010
The Honourable Noël A. Kinsella, Speaker
Tuesday, November 30, 2010
The Senate met at 2 p.m., the Speaker in the chair.
The Hon. the Speaker: Honourable senators, I received a notice from
the Leader of the Opposition, who requests that, pursuant to rule 22(10), the
time provided for the consideration of Senators' Statements be extended today
for the purpose of paying tribute to the Honourable Senator Jean Lapointe, who
will retire from the Senate on December 6, 2010.
I remind all honourable senators that, pursuant to our Rules, each senator
will be allowed only three minutes and may speak only once.
I will ask, if it is agreed, that the time for Senators' Statements be
extended by 30 minutes so that we can continue our tributes to Senator Lapointe,
not including the time allotted for Senator Lapointe's response. Any time
remaining after tributes will then be used for other statements.
Is it agreed, honourable senators?
Hon. Senators: Agreed.
Hon. Claudette Tardif (Deputy Leader of the Opposition): Honourable
senators, I am pleased to pay tribute to the Honourable Jean Lapointe. He is a
great humanitarian who is deserving of our respect and deep gratitude. He is a
great artist whose memorable journey has left us with lasting works and who has
received and is still receiving well-deserved honours.
He is a great senator who is not afraid to speak his mind, with passion and
humour sometimes, but whose words are always able to captivate his audience.
Since his appointment to the Senate on June 13, 2001, by the Right Honourable
Jean Chrétien, Senator Lapointe has carried out his duties admirably, with
generosity, kindness and dedication.
His experience and commitment to the disadvantaged were put to good use in
Senator Lapointe, allow me to point out in particular the fact that you
wanted and were determined to make our society better when you introduced and
defended with firmness and perseverance your private member's bill to restrict
video lottery terminals and slot machines to certain locations. Senator
Lapointe, you clearly demonstrated your humanity and your sincere conviction in
tackling some serious social problems head-on.
I am convinced that your efforts were not in vain and that your attempts to
make Canadians aware of gambling addiction will bear fruit.
For my part, Senator Lapointe, I would like to tell you that I am very
grateful for your affinity with and understanding of francophones in minority
situations. I sensed true empathy on your part and sincere support that I will
never forget. Coming from one of the great Quebecers who is so attached to his
French language and an ambassador of La Francophonie through his works, I am
touched by your desire to understand and promote the reality of francophone
Senator Lapointe, do not forget that your actions, throughout your
parliamentary career, have contributed to the evolution of our institution. You
acquitted yourself honourably through the years you spent in the Senate. You
will remain a source of inspiration for your colleagues.
I extend to you and your family my best wishes for happiness and health. I
hope you will have new challenges, both personal and artistic, so that we will
continue to be moved by and to enjoy your great talent for a long time.
Thank you, Senator Lapointe.
Hon. Andrée Champagne: Honourable senators, many of you have guessed
that Jean Lapointe and I have been friends for more than 50 years.
I met him in his glory days, when he elegantly shared the spotlight with his
singing partner, Jérôme Lemay.
Then I saw him struggle with serious and intense personal problems. It took a
lot of courage and guts to finally climb out of the abyss from which some never
manage to emerge.
What is more, he dedicated time and money to establishing La Maison Jean
Lapointe, whose mission is to help those dealing with the same harmful
While he has always been surrounded with love, from his children, the women
who have shared his life and his loyal fans, he has not been spared great sorrow
With determination, he began a new solo career. With his microphone and
piano, he gave us the tunes that would be passed down from generation to
generation because of their humour and tenderness.
He is also a sensitive and convincing actor. Of the dozens of leading roles
he has played, his interpretation of Duplessis will certainly remain etched in
After decades of turmoil, in better days, he found a way to pick up the
pieces and reconnect with loved ones.
His appointment to the Senate did indeed surprise me, almost as much as my
own appointment surprised me. However, between the two of us, I think I win the
award for attendance. In the Senate, I got to know an extremely sensitive side
of Jean Lapointe, who was not always able to control his displeasure, as we saw
many times in this chamber, in televised interviews and in newspaper articles.
My dear Jean, as you return to your beloved bohemian life full-time, I wish
you health, leading roles that will provide you with wonderful challenges,
serenity and especially lots of love to inspire you to write us many beautiful
In your words:
In songs we learn about life
In songs we learn many lessons
In lessons we learn how to read
But in our beds we live love songs
And in love we write songs
Hon. Rose-Marie Losier-Cool: Honourable senators, I will use all my
time to talk about my dear colleague, Senator Lapointe, which should make him
happy, as he stood up a few years ago to speak out against the practice of
certain senators who apparently take advantage of tributes to others to talk
Today, I bid farewell to a politician who continues to fight against video
lottery terminals, to a philanthropist who founded La Maison Jean Lapointe, but
also to an actor, and especially, especially, a singer whose songs I still
listen to today. His songs were the inspiration for my thanks and tribute to
him, so I am sure that he will love what I have to say, even if it does not
We all have a role in life, we come, we go.
Like all those crooner types
Who were born in Naples,
He was a gift from above.
He shared his words, his language, his magic,
His mindset not always moderate.
In a vast, snow-covered country,
I remember the good ol' days of music,
Gone, long before the TV flickered. T
here are enough who believe
That a song could never change anything.
But if we all sang together?
Songs are lessons about life.
They give us hope of moving forward.
The possibilities are endless.
Every song is a new lesson.
Every step a new connection,
Moments of sheer happiness.
Everyone can play the jester.
Playing with someone's life.
With their silly somersaults,
And their big feet tripping them up,
Combatting false masters, now that is freedom,
In word and in action!
And in the landscape,
On the other side of the clouds?
Behind every cloud is a sun,
Enticing us to sing.
And thanks to you, Senator Lapointe:
They will see a wonderful country,
And their minds will fill with memories.
Hon. Claude Carignan: Honourable senators, it is difficult to pay
tribute to Jean Lapointe without playing some sort of game, and I had the idea,
like many others, I think, to create a sort of riddle by referring to 15 French
song or album titles in my speech.
I invite you to pick out the references.
Jean Lapointe has a unique "Profile," but the man I want to pay tribute to
today is not the comedian who has made me "laugh until I cried"; not the actor
who, in the Duplessis series, helped give "One Voice, One Story" to one of the
most important figures in the history of Quebec; not the composer, the "Jester"
"with no makeup," who wrote messages of love and hope; not the performer who
played the "Showman at the Olympia"; not the senator, Jean Lapointe, with an
The man I wish to pay tribute to here today is a wonderful friend to people
struggling with various addictions, including alcohol, drugs and gambling, a man
who understands, as his own song lyrics say, that "Everyone has a Story," a man
who encourages those people to grow, even inviting them to express themselves,
saying "Sing me your Song," a man who has helped and supported others by saying,
"Let's Sing Together."
In 1982, Jean Lapointe very generously joined the fight against alcoholism by
lending his name to a drug treatment centre that would become La Maison Jean
In 1983, he issued a call of hope to people struggling with addictions with
the following words, "Bring your sick flowers; we will put them in the sun. Yes,
now is the time for sick flowers to come back to life and experience a summer
like no other."
In 1984, my father was one of those flowers, who, like hundreds of others,
responded to the call to experience "a summer like no other" after spending some
time at Maison Jean Lapointe.
Mr. Lapointe, thanks to your generosity, you have saved the lives of hundreds
of people. For some people, the reawakening lasted only a summer, while for
others, like my father, who passed away in 1989, the reawakening lasted a few
years, but this interlude of sobriety allowed his loved ones to get to know the
real man, and it allowed families to enjoy some peace and to realize that "It is
a Beautiful World."
Honourable Senator Lapointe, you must have "Heard this Somewhere," these
simple, but profound words: "thank you" and "goodbye."
Hon. Céline Hervieux-Payette: Honourable senators, my first meeting
with my dear friend Senator Lapointe goes back to the days of Les Jérolas when,
as a young producer, I hired them — Jean Lapointe and his friend Jérôme Lemay —
as the opening act for Félix Leclerc. The event was a resounding success,
especially since it was a fundraising dinner for the Liberal Party. His career
was off to a good start.
Within this noble institution, it is clear that bonds of friendship are
formed based on shared values and objectives. One shared objective that is not
always at the forefront, but which has cost our friend Senator Lapointe dearly,
is his faith in Canada. Senator Lapointe has always stood up to Quebec and has
never joined the Quebec separatist movement. He has always stood his ground,
even when his close friend Félix had different ideas. He has always defended
We are all the richer for having Jean Lapointe in our midst. He has 300 songs
and over 30 films to his credit. Few of us here can boast such creativity.
Today, I would like to give him a little gift. I will reintroduce his bill
amending the Criminal Code to limit the devastation caused by video lottery
terminals and I will become its sponsor.
I would like to say a few words about the professionalism of Senator Lapointe
regarding his commitment to this cause. He has undertaken extensive studies of
the resulting damages; he has wonderful research files and I hope that I will be
able to borrow them, so that we will not have to start all over again. I hope
that our colleagues on the other side will see the light and support this bill
which, in my opinion, has extraordinary worth in terms of reducing the poverty
and misery of thousands of people who are addicted to video lottery terminals.
I would also like to thank him. At the start of my seal campaign, he was not
entirely convinced that it was a great cause. I had to plead my case. He pleaded
this case with his son and eventually wrote us a song, putting great experts
like Brigitte Bardot, Pamela Anderson and Paul McCartney in their place. His
sense of humour, which shines through in his songs as well as his career in
general, allows us to put things into perspective.
A big thank you, Senator Lapointe, for having supported this cause. I am
certain that you will continue to do so. The fight is not over; sealers from the
Magdalen Islands and Newfoundland as well as the Inuit people still need Jean
Lapointe to help me with this battle, in which we are up against Europe, after
all. This is not a small-scale battle.
For me, the memories are memories from here. I am sure that we will still
spend time together as friends. I will continue to count on his sound advice as
I appreciate his good judgement on things in general. At the beginning, people
asked me what an artist was doing in the Senate and I told them it is essential
that the Senate have talented people like Senator Lapointe because these types
of people have heart and spirit and are very sensitive.
Thank you for everything, Senator Lapointe. See you soon.
The Hon. the Speaker: Honourable senators, since the fire alarm is
ringing, I must suspend the sitting.
(The sitting of the Senate was suspended.)
(The sitting of the Senate was resumed.)
Hon. Lucie Pépin: Honourable senators, today we mark the upcoming
departure of a fellow senator for whom I have the highest regard.
An African proverb states, "Wood may remain ten years in the water, but it
will never become a crocodile." We could say the same about Jean Lapointe, the
artist. His nine and a half years in the Senate did not turn him into a
politician. He remained the same artist we admired on stage and on television.
"Senartist" Lapointe, as he has dubbed himself, is a guy who takes a
no-holds-barred approach and expresses his true opinions. Our distinguished
colleague was not one to engage in doublespeak or to conform.
He wanted nothing to do with partisanship. As we saw in an interview last
weekend, "Senartist" Lapointe most often voted according to his conscience and
his own understanding of the issues.
Senator, thank you for your frequent reminders that, in the Senate, toeing
the party line should not be the norm. Above all, senators must be free spirits.
Everyone knows that artists are very humane individuals who are quick to
recognize and oppose injustices. Senator Lapointe, with his kind and generous
nature, is no exception. He demonstrated this here by acting as a guardian angel
to the general public, minorities and the underprivileged. It was in the spirit
of protecting the weak that he tabled his bill to remove video lottery terminals
from certain locations.
We know that the senator always wanted to limit the time devoted to tributes
and so we can best pay tribute to him by keeping them brief.
I stand as a witness that Senator Lapointe did not like long speeches. When I
was Speaker pro tempore, he would often rise to ask a senator to shorten
his or her remarks.
My dear senator, I will stop here just for you and close by wishing you much
happiness in your return to the stage. I hope that what lies ahead will be just
as rewarding as your already rich career.
Fair winds, dear artist.
Hon. Jean-Claude Rivest: Honourable senators, I would like to say to
Senator Lapointe that, as is often said, by what things a man sinneth, by the
same also shall he be punished. You asked that tributes be short and the fire
alarm has resulted in the longest tributes we have heard in some time.
Jean, quite simply, on behalf of Quebecers and French Canadians who have
followed your career, I would like to give a very simple tribute to the artist
first of all.
I would also like to thank you for your participation in and commitment to
the political life of the Senate, and also for your extraordinary efforts in
social advocacy. We have rightfully talked about Maison Jean Lapointe.
One thing is certain: all Quebecers love Jean Lapointe. They love Jean
Lapointe for his contributions as an artist and they also love the man who, in
spite of woes and misery, has experienced greatness. For this, all Quebecers owe
him a debt of gratitude because we followed the journey of the man, Jean
Lapointe, as well as that of the artist. Jean Lapointe's great humanitarian
values have made an impression on all of us.
I would also simply like to remember two of Senator Lapointe's great and
close friends, Félix Leclerc and Raymond Devos, who are two of the greatest
artists we have ever known in the francophone world, and who were cut from the
same cloth as Jean Lapointe. Félix and Raymond are probably both a little sad
that you are leaving the Senate, Félix perhaps less so because of his political
opinions. Nevertheless, I am certain that Félix Leclerc and Raymond Devos, like
all Quebecers, are very pleased that, in a few days, Jean Lapointe will once
again be a full-time artist, the artist who knows how to make us cry and laugh,
but most of all who continues to move us.
Hon. Francis Fox: Honourable senators, it is with great pleasure that
I take the floor today to speak about the career of a man who left his mark on
his era as an artist, humorist, author, singer-songwriter and actor. The entire
francophone population of Canada has enjoyed his remarkable talents.
He has received many awards: a Genie for his supporting role in One Man
and a Jutra award for Le dernier tunnel. We all remember his brilliant
turn as Duplessis in the series by the same name. And, as we know, his movie
career is not over.
Jean Lapointe's efforts to help our society progress and improve began before
his appointment to the Senate. One initiative to his credit is the founding of
La Maison Jean Lapointe. It was an honour for me to preside over the annual
oyster lunch to raise money for the foundation for three consecutive years. That
organization has helped many people overcome their struggle with addictions to
alcohol, drugs and gambling.
As a senator, his bill on video lottery terminals helped to advance the
debate on gambling addictions throughout Canada. I have no doubt that his
efforts will one day pay off. He will go down in history as the one who led the
charge on this important issue.
Jean, for your social commitment, for your ongoing efforts to advance your
initiatives and for your contributions to this caucus, we all owe you a debt of
Let me tell everyone else, those who have not had the pleasure of being in
the Liberal caucus, that when Jean Lapointe spoke to the caucus, everyone
listened — especially when he sang his message.
If I may speak on behalf of everyone here, Jean, you are loved and respected
by us all. And speaking of those who love you, I would like to salute your
family, your staff and your friends, who are with you here today to celebrate
your time in the Senate, just one part of your rich career.
With that, Jean, I say "Sing us your Song," for you still have much to say,
much to do and much to contribute. We will miss you dearly.
Goodbye for now and good luck.
Hon. Bill Rompkey: Honourable senators, there I was, minding my own
business in room 200. We were practising for the Christmas concert. Senator
Lapointe was playing the grand piano up in front and there was a lull in the
proceedings, so we started to sing together. Then he suddenly said, "Why don't
you join me? I am going to the Air Canada Centre to the Chrétien tribute, so why
don't you join Senator Ringuette and me?"
When I picked my jaw up off the floor, I still found it difficult to speak.
However, we went, and he rehearsed us and made sure that we were ready to
perform. I remember being at the Air Canada Centre and saying to myself, "Now,
don't be nervous," although my knees were shaking, "just keep your eyes on Jean
Lapointe, and everything will be okay." We got out on stage, and fortunately,
the lights were all down in the Air Canada Centre. There was a spotlight on the
stage, so I could not see anyone. It was as if there was no audience there at
all, but there was and I knew I had to keep my eyes on Jean.
I just want to say to Jean that it was one of the most memorable experiences
I have had, and he made it possible. Maybe when people speak about me, they will
not say, "He served in Parliament for 40 years," but "He is the guy who sang
with Jean Lapointe."
That will make me very happy, and it is something that I would treasure.
Thank you for your service to the Senate and for your friendship.
Hon. Marie-P. Poulin: Honourable senators, I join you in paying
tribute to Senator Jean Lapointe, a great public servant in every sense of the
word, as today's statements express so well.
As a raconteur, lyricist, composer, singer, songwriter, actor and so much
more, he continues to please his fans around the world and here at home in
When I was a radio producer a number of years ago, I had a certain bias. I
played Jean Lapointe records during every one of my daily broadcasts. Since
1950, Senator Jean Lapointe has been playing a key role in traditional and
modern francophone culture. Despite his celebrity, it was the man of compassion
I came to know here in the Senate.
As we know, the Jean Lapointe Foundation runs rehabilitation centres in
Quebec to help those suffering from addiction. A dear friend of mine spent some
time in one of the Jean Lapointe centres. One day, I confided in our colleague
that my friend was having a tough time. Jean asked me, "What is your friend's
name and telephone number?"
The next day, I received a phone call from my friend. He was laughing so hard
he could barely speak. Senator Jean Lapointe did indeed call him, but my friend
thought someone was playing a trick on him. He hung up on Jean Lapointe not
once, but twice. Jean finally managed to keep my friend on the phone and have a
heart-to-heart talk with him.
Jean Lapointe, you have brightened the lives of many. You have given them
hope and I thank you from the bottom of my heart.
As a famous singer with an unequalled sense of humour, you may know that old
musicians do not retire; they decompose — but not for many years to come, I
Senator Lapointe, I will miss you.
Hon. Roméo Antonius Dallaire: Honourable senators, it is with great
humility as a junior member of the Senate that I speak today to pay tribute to
one of our senior members, the most senior member, who is leaving us today.
I had the opportunity to see Senator Lapointe on the show Les coulisses du
pouvoir, last Sunday, talking about what inspired him to serve his country
not only in a historical and artistic sense, but also in terms of influencing
the politics of the land.
Son of a Liberal member of Parliament, who sat from 1935 to 1945, Jean
Lapointe was named an Officer of the Order of Canada and an Officer of the
National Order of Quebec. He is a member of the Académie des Grands Québécois.
He has won Genie and Jutra awards many times over. How many kilometres he has
travelled throughout this country, in all kinds of weather, alone, far from
family, during his career as an artist. How many times he has risked his life on
those roads to bring joy, humanity, interest and expression to people in
theatres and living rooms in Quebec and elsewhere. And then there is his success
in Paris and internationally.
Despite all that time away from his family, but supported by them despite his
absence, he also agreed to come to Ottawa to spend more hours and days separated
from them, once again.
Senator Lapointe said:
I came here to serve. And so I contend, I state, I insist and I know that
the Senate is the guardian angel of the people, of minorities and of the
poor. Because, in contrast, when the party line comes into play, when that
is brought to committee and highly competent people testify, that is when
partisan lines begin to blur. . . .
Senator Lapointe, you still continued your efforts. You did not give up when
these complications arose. On the contrary, you continued to perform with
emotion. There is nothing more honest than to see the passion in the eyes and on
the face of someone convinced of his mission, someone who is trying to convince
others who do not have the same perception of humanity or the same sensitivity
You have been a soulmate to me, as I am one of those trying to survive day by
day. Every day, the hope is to survive until tomorrow. You understand these
emotions, you understand these statements and you understand the enormity of the
task at hand.
Jean Lapointe, I salute you.
Hon. Tommy Banks: Honourable senators, most of us in the rest of
Canada have the disadvantage of not fully appreciating or understanding the way
in which and the extent to which Quebecers and other members of the francophonie
in Canada appreciate, understand and hold in such high esteem their creative
artists. Therefore, we cannot fully appreciate the story that Senator Poulin
told us when she explained to us her friend received a phone call from Jean
Lapointe, and it seemed like it must be a joke because it was not possible that
Jean Lapointe would actually be calling him.
We therefore also cannot appreciate the iconic stature that Jean Lapointe
occupies in the Quebec pantheon of great artists. He is an actor, a musician, a
comedian, a raconteur and an author, and he brings great distinction in those
respects to this place, as he always has.
Like Senator Rompkey, I have the great honour of saying that I once actually
played with Jean Lapointe, and it is one of the most important moments of my
life. We will miss you greatly.
Hon. Mobina S. B. Jaffer: Honourable Senator Jean Lapointe, my
esteemed colleague and dear friend, Senator Lapierre, Senator Léger, you and I
all joined the upper chamber together in June 2001. I am very happy that Senator
Léger is here with us today. I feel that we are all connected here.
Your departure will certainly leave a void that can never be filled. However,
your words and your famous works will often echo here, reminding us that you are
always with us.
The Senate process has always been important to you, and you have never had
trouble expressing how it made you feel. Sometimes that took courage. I tip my
hat to you and your undying, daring attitude. That is not something all of us
Senator Lapointe, I will always associate my time in the Senate with you as
we arrived here at the same time and, during that time, I have come to admire
Senator Lapointe, I will miss you.
Hon. Jean Lapointe: Your Honour, honourable senators, I feel like a
firefighter right now; a firefighter with tears in his eyes.
I will be brief; I do not want to name all the senators I love here, but I do
want to acknowledge you, Your Honour, for accomplishing a miracle. In such a
short time you have learned French and you have given me many chances. I am not
a fool; when I was the last to want to speak and I was not supposed to, you
still let me speak.
I would like to apologize to my adversaries for times when I spoke before
thinking. I never meant any harm. I did not come here to fight; I came here to
try to bring a little peace.
I would like to thank Senator Céline Hervieux-Payette in particular, who
guided me through all my years in the Senate. Before making a mistake, I would
go to her to suggest what I wanted to say. She would say, "Be quiet!" I would
I would like to thank Senator Francis Fox, who not only was another guide for
me, but who has also been involved in La Maison Jean Lapointe Foundation, youth
centres and so on. For the past few years, La Maison Jean Lapointe has been
addressing another addiction: gambling. I am proud to say that my daughter, Anne
Élizabeth, is the director of educational programs there. She is doing a great
job, and is well-liked and admired by her co-workers.
I would like to thank Senator Paul Massicotte, who really helped me get
through a difficult period. I would also like to thank Senator Pierre Claude
Nolin, a Conservative senator who always supported my efforts on video lottery
terminals, in spite of everything. He is someone I like very much and a very
I would like to thank one of the greatest senators I have ever met here,
Senator George Furey, who has always done, and continues to do, remarkable work.
Of course, I would like to thank the singing senators, Senator Rompkey and
Senator Ringuette. We had the pleasure of singing together, and I believe we
honoured this place by doing so.
I would like to thank Francine Charron, my executive assistant, as well as
Pascal Charron, my political advisor, who helped me so much on the video lottery
Senator Andrée Champagne referred earlier to my absences. I must say, I was
very ill for three years. I can hardly blame him, but my doctor signed a medical
certificate to justify my absence from the Senate for an indefinite period. It
was my friend Céline Hervieux-Payette who said, "Do not stay at home; you will
only get more depressed. Come to the Senate; we love you and we will help you."
I appreciate her honesty. I was often absent. I sat at the end of the row, where
I had asked to sit because I often felt ill and had to leave the chamber.
Nevertheless, I listened to the debates in my office and when there was a vote,
I would come down.
I would like to thank the Senate staff. When I first arrived here, I was so
overcome by the beauty of the Senate that I asked myself, "What am I doing
I cannot help but feel emotional as I thank my dear friend, Viola Léger.
After my tour with Les Jérolas and the film I am currently working on, and God
willing, if we are still healthy, I truly hope with all my heart that we will
one day find ourselves together on the same stage.
In closing, I would like to thank the members of my family and all those who
came some distance to attend the tributes today, among others, my beloved agent.
To all of you and to everyone here, no matter which party you belong to —
because I am a Liberal in quotation marks. I did not always vote with the party
line. I do not remember ever voting Conservative, except maybe once. It was a
youthful indiscretion, something that happens to everyone! — from the first to
the last, I truly thank you. I will never forget — I see my friend Demers
looking at me. He is very dear to me — the time that I spent in the Senate. From
the bottom of my heart, thank you.
The Hon. the Speaker: Honourable senators, before proceeding to
Tabling of Documents, I would like to draw your attention to the presence in the
gallery of La Sagouine, our former colleague the Honourable Senator Viola
On behalf of all honourable senators, welcome to the Senate of Canada.
Hon. Jean Lapointe: Honourable senators, please excuse me. All the
members of my family are in the gallery. I would like to ask them to meet me in
my office before going to yours, Your Honour.
The Hon. the Speaker: Honourable senators, to all the family and
friends of Senator Lapointe, welcome to the Senate of Canada and to the
reception that will be held after the Senate adjourns later this afternoon.
Hon. Maria Chaput: Honourable senators, I give notice that, at the
next sitting of the Senate, I will move:
That, notwithstanding the Order of the Senate adopted on Wednesday, March
24, 2010, the Standing Senate Committee on Official Languages, which was
authorized to study the application of the Official Languages Act and
of the regulations and directives made under it, be empowered to extend the
date of presenting its final report from December 31, 2010 to March 31,
That the Committee retain until June 30, 2011 all powers necessary to
publicize its findings.
Hon. Art Eggleton: Honourable senators, I give notice that, at the
next sitting of the Senate, I will move:
That notwithstanding the order of the Senate adopted on March 18, 2010,
the date for the presentation of the final report by the Standing Senate
Committee on Social Affairs, Science and Technology on access to
post-secondary education in Canada be extended from December 31, 2010 to
March 31, 2011 and that the date until which the committee retains powers to
allow it to publicize its findings be extended from June 30, 2011 to
September 30, 2011.
Hon. Donald H. Oliver: Honourable senators, pursuant to rule 57(2), I
give notice that, two days hence:
I will call the attention of the Senate to the "Chiapas Declaration",
which was adopted by consensus at the International Parliamentary Conference
on "Parliaments, Minorities and Indigenous Peoples: Effective participation
in politics" in Mexico on November 3rd, which urges every parliament to:
Hold a special debate on the situation of minorities and indigenous
peoples in their country;
Recognize the diversity in society; and
Adopt a Plan of Action to make the right to equal participation and
non-discrimination a reality for minorities and indigenous peoples.
Hon. Art Eggleton: Honourable senators, my question is for the Leader
of the Government in the Senate. At the Banking Committee last week, the
Conservative members recommended that Bill S-216 not be read a third time and
not be proceeded with. The committee, though, at the same time, passed a motion
that was actually introduced by the Conservative members that we should ask the
Minister of Industry, the Honourable Tony Clement — the same minister
responsible for the acts that are relevant to Bill S-216 — to do something to
help the people of Nortel who will be immediately affected by the recommendation
to the Senate not to proceed with Bill S-216.
My question is simply, if not Bill S-216, then what? What will the government
do to help those people?
Hon. Marjory LeBreton (Leader of the Government): I thank the
honourable senator for the question. The situation that former employees of
Nortel are facing is a serious issue, not only to the individuals personally
involved but to all Canadians. It is also important to our government. That is
why we made a commitment in the Speech from the Throne to better protect workers
when their employer goes bankrupt.
We are currently looking at ways to better protect employees on long-term
disability in the event of bankruptcy. I can assure honourable senators that
this is a matter of great concern to the government. Several ministers are
working on proposals to alleviate the situation, especially for employees on
long-term disability who are working for companies that go into bankruptcy.
Senator Eggleton: I appreciate that answer. However, the problem is
that in 32 days, time will run out for these people. In 32 days, they will be
cut off from their income support, subsequently to be replaced by something that
is far less than they currently receive. There is no assurance at this time as
to what that will be.
They will be also cut off from their medical benefits which, for many of
them, are thousands and thousands of dollars a year. If they do not have the
money for that, some of them will face more dire medical circumstances and worse
health. They are already under enormous stress, knowing that, in 32 days, the
clock will run out.
Certainly, the government has known about this matter for some time. I
presented Bill S-216 in the spring of this year. In fact, I spoke to the
Honourable Tony Clement at that time about it, so it has been well known to
exist, but in 32 days, time will run out on these people. They are in desperate
straits. They will go into poverty. They will not be able to get their medicines
or the support that they need.
When will the government announce whatever it will do to help these people
before they go through much more stress and the clock runs out at the end of the
Senator LeBreton: Honourable senators, no one appreciates more than we
do the stress these individuals are facing, and we all know that this is a
terribly unfortunate situation. All senators and members of Parliament
sympathize with the difficult situation facing Nortel pensioners and long-term
However, the fact of the matter is, honourable senators — and it is well
known — that as well intended as Senator Eggleton's bill may have been, this
bill would not have helped Nortel long-term disability recipients. Instead, it
would have undoubtedly led to endless litigation to the detriment of all
involved. This situation came about as a result of a court-approved settlement
agreement between all parties enacted under legislation in effect at the time.
It is an unfortunate situation where actions have held out false hope to
these individuals that something — and in particular this bill — would somehow
or other alleviate this problem. Of course it would not. We certainly had many
witnesses who testified to that. All of this, I wish to underscore, honourable
senators, does not change the concern of members of the government and
ministers, as committed to in the Speech from the Throne, in seeking to find a
solution that will better protect employees when their employer goes bankrupt.
Senator Mercer: Thirty two days.
Senator LeBreton: This is a very unfortunate situation. I think it is
sad that actions, whether this bill or others, have held out false hope when, in
fact, this matter was litigated and dealt with in the courts.
Senator Eggleton: Expert witnesses before the Banking Committee, and I
heard them, would beg to differ on that point of view.
Senator Oliver: Not all of them.
Senator Eggleton: The expert witnesses said this bill would work. In
fact, most countries have provisions such as these. Almost all our trading
partners already have these provisions. There is nothing new about that.
However, I will speak to that later when we address the question of the report.
I want to get back to the alternative again, because if it is not this bill,
then what, and when? Given that time is running out, will the government commit
to announcing something in the next 32 days — the sooner, the better — that
will, in fact, help relieve the 400 Nortel employees in this desperate
circumstance who are sick and disabled? Will the government do that?
Senator LeBreton: Honourable senators, I think I have been clear about
this, and certainly the government has been clear about it. The government, when
we delivered the Throne Speech in this very place, specifically made reference
to better protecting workers when their employers go bankrupt, especially those
on long-term disability. I will impress the urgency upon my colleagues. Everyone
is working hard to find a resolution to this. No one takes any joy in the
situation these people face.
Having said that, there is ample evidence that a bill introduced by the
honourable senator in the Senate would not have alleviated the problem and, of
course, the bill had a long road ahead of it in Parliament.
I point out that this situation was the result of a court-approved
settlement, and, of course, the court-approved settlement was agreed to by all
parties and was enacted under legislation that was in place at the time. Little
more can be said.
Again, I regret that Nortel pensioners, and especially those people on
long-term disability, were put in the situation of being held out to false hope
that somehow or other, miraculously, a bill in the Senate would have been able
to change something that had already been court-ordered under the previous
Hon. James S. Cowan (Leader of the Opposition): I am sure that the
Nortel pensioners appreciate the leader's concern and her regret about their
situation. However, the fact is, to use the leader's phrase, there are only 32
days left and these people are in desperate shape. Surely the government has had
ample opportunity. The government has made the decision that Senator Eggleton's
bill is not the solution. Have they or have they not identified the solution
that they will propose? That is the government's responsibility. Does the
government have a solution? As Senator Eggleton has asked, when will that
solution be proposed?
The leader suggested that Senator Eggleton's bill has held out false hope to
these people. We want to know whether they can expect anything from their
government in the next 32 days and, if so, when.
Senator LeBreton: Honourable senators, all I can say is that, as a
member of the government, I am not in a position to answer specifically Senator
Cowan's direct question, other than to say that the government has made a
commitment to workers, as was indicated in the Throne Speech, and we will be
working to find a solution, especially for people on long-term disability
pensions who were working for companies that declare bankruptcy.
All I can say is that I will impress upon my colleagues the urgency, although
I know I do not have to; they can count the same way I can. I will ensure that
my colleagues are very aware of the concerns that have been expressed today.
Senator Cowan: Would the leader also ask her colleague to avoid either
false hopes, which the leader has suggested, or uncertainty, which I think we
would all agree exists on this issue, and would the leader speak to the minister
and ask him to make a clear and definitive statement between now and the end of
December so that those pensioners will at least know where they stand?
As it is now, they have had reasonable expectations that the government would
cooperate in the passage of Senator Eggleton's bill. It appears, from the
actions of the majority in the committee, that that is not the case and this
bill will not go forward, and that is fine. However, as Senator Eggleton has
said, if not his bill, then what?
Would the leader agree that the minister has a responsibility to address this
issue in a clear and definitive way between now and the end of December, and
will the leader urge her colleague to take that step?
Senator LeBreton: First, it is not correct to say that we gave
reasonable assurances that Senator Eggleton's bill would pass. I do not believe
that is the case.
Senator Cowan: I did not say that.
Senator LeBreton: I thought the honourable senator said that.
Senator Cowan: No, I did not.
Senator LeBreton: On the whole issue of pensions, the government has
been working extremely hard with our provincial and territorial counterparts. As
the honourable senator is well aware, only 10 per cent of pensions in Canada
actually fall under the federal government.
As was specifically stated in the Throne Speech, the government is anxious to
find solutions for that particular group, the recipients of long-term disability
pensions and the companies that have declared bankruptcy.
All I can do, as I said a moment ago, is to impress this upon my colleagues.
There are several ministers who are seized with this matter and, hopefully, as
was indicated and promised in the Throne Speech, a solution will be forthcoming.
Hon. Roméo Antonius Dallaire: Honourable senators, my question is for
the Leader of the Government in the Senate and concerns Sudan, specifically the
referendum to be held in January, which could give rise to exceedingly volatile
conditions in terms of the human rights of minorities and internally displaced
I have not had an answer to a question I asked a few weeks ago. I would
therefore like to move on to the other aspect of the question, which concerns
the deployment of Canadian Forces as a preventive measure in support of the
The United Nations has requested the rapid deployment of an additional 2,000
troops to reinforce the mission because current tensions have increased the
risks. Was Canada asked to participate or did Canada offer to provide additional
troops to bolster the mission and bring it up to a minimum operating level in
order to ensure safety in the area?
Hon. Marjory LeBreton (Leader of the Government): Honourable senators,
I do not know whether or not Canada has offered or, in fact, if a specific
request has been made of Canada in this regard, so I will take Senator
Dallaire's question as notice.
Senator Dallaire: I thank the leader for her reply. Canada has led the
way in conflict resolution, and in fact in conflict prevention, through the
introduction and the acceptance of the United Nations General Assembly of the
Responsibility to Protect, or R2P — a concept that, in fact, Canada created, led
and has been pursuing.
Here, we have an ideal scenario of the prevention of a possible catastrophe
of minorities in Northern Sudan if Southern Sudan votes for the separation of
refugees coming in from Darfur who would want a better opportunity in this new
country. We have oil fields now being contested and two armies facing each
other. We have the UN that is out there asking not only for troops, but also for
transport to get them there, logistics to move them around, helicopters, and
even maps, as we provided in 2005.
Is any initiative being taken by the Canadian government to pursue its policy
under the R2P, unless we have gone away from that initiative in our foreign
policy, to prevent a humanitarian catastrophe?
Senator LeBreton: All of the concerns raised by Senator Dallaire are
of great concern. I will seek an answer from Foreign Affairs on the extent to
which Canada intends to make commitments or what exactly is being asked of
Canada. I will take the honourable senator's question as notice and provide him
with a written response.
Senator Dallaire: Honourable senators, to reinforce the point, a sense
of urgency surrounds these questions. I find it difficult to understand why the
government is not expressing anything about such a significant area of concern
and Canada's international involvement.
However, that is not the only area of troop deployment that I wish to raise
with the leader. Currently, the mission in Haiti is under significant pressure.
They need an enormous amount of help in the area of water purification. I have
seen people die of cholera by the thousands. It all comes down to clean water,
nothing more. We have purification systems capable of producing millions of
litres of clean water each day that are sitting in a DART facility instead of
being deployed to Haiti. Why have we not responded as we did in the immediate
emergency? As my son said when he was redeployed back home, maybe we moved out
Senator LeBreton: Honourable senators, no one questions our commitment
to Haiti. This government has committed over $1 billion in Haiti. The senator is
absolutely right about water purification. Canada is a world leader in this
area. There have been examples of water purification equipment sitting on docks
in the harbour at Port-au-Prince because of the red tape. There was a long
report about this situation on a television newscast a few nights ago. This is a
serious issue. I can assure honourable senators that every effort Canada can
make is being made in Haiti, not only in the area of water purification and in
dealing with field hospitals during the cholera outbreak, in particular in
Cap-Haitien, but also in construction and rebuilding of schools, houses and
public buildings so that the government can begin to function again. The
honourable senator would know that the situation in Haiti is dire and desperate
because his son was there. Certainly, Canada is doing everything it can do. I
would say that Canada is doing more than can be expected because it has expended
a great deal of money and sent many people to Haiti. Unfortunately, the lack of
infrastructure and the cholera outbreak facing our people are great challenges,
to say the least. I do not think the commitment of the government is any less
than it has been right from the beginning.
Senator Dallaire: In both cases, we are talking about two UN missions
and, in both cases, we have not demonstrated any particular desire to respond.
Is the policy of the current government such that Canada is not keen on
participating in UN missions deployed overseas?
Senator LeBreton: I do not know what the honourable senator would base
that question on or why he would even ask it. Canada has lived up to its
commitments and continues to commit through the United Nations and other
agencies all over the world. Why the honourable senator would suggest that is
not the case is beyond me.
Hon. Mobina S. B. Jaffer: Honourable senators, my question is for the
leader of the government. When I was an envoy to Sudan, there were 100 members
of the armed forces there. Currently, how many men and women do we have working
in Sudan? How many police officers do we have helping with rape investigations?
I would ask the leader to tell honourable senators what the Task Force Sudan
is doing, how much money is dedicated to the work of the Task Force Sudan, and
what work will be done to help women in Southern Sudan who will suffer when the
referendum results are released.
Senator LeBreton: Honourable senators, I will be happy to refer
Senator Jaffer's questions to Foreign Affairs to bring her up to date on
Canada's work in Sudan.
Hon. Catherine S. Callbeck: Honourable senators, my question is to the
Leader of the Government in the Senate. Last Thursday, I participated in a small
business round table for young entrepreneurs. They brought forward many good
ideas and concerns to help small business. One concern raised was that the
Canada Revenue Agency website is not user friendly and takes too long to find
specific information. These young people do not have that kind of time when they
are trying to meet the challenges of running small businesses.
Some of them have complained to the CRA, but there have not been any changes.
Would the leader please speak to the Minister of National Revenue regarding that
website so it can be made user friendly and, therefore, help our young
entrepreneurs and all small businesses?
Hon. Marjory LeBreton (Leader of the Government): I thank the
honourable senator for her question. I am happy to learn that she participated
in one of these round tables. As the honourable senator knows, the government is
conducting round-table discussions across the country dealing with large and
small businesses in preparation for the next budget. The government has made
many improvements to government services through Service Canada and various
agencies. I am aware that the Canada Revenue Agency has improved their services
quite significantly in a number of areas, but I would be happy to refer Senator
Callbeck's question to the Minister of Revenue to seek a proper answer for the
honourable senator. If she has more details of the types of frustrations that
they have experienced and the kind of information they are looking for, I would
appreciate having it.
Hon. Gerald J. Comeau (Deputy Leader of the Government): Honourable
senators, I have the honour to present four answers to oral questions: the
first, a delayed answer to a question by Senator Dallaire on July 7, 2010,
concerning National Defence, Budget and Recruitment; the second, a delayed
answer to a question by Senator Dallaire on October 6, 2010, concerning National
Defence, Operational Capability of Armed Forces; the third, a delayed answer to
a question by Senator Callbeck on October 7, 2010, concerning Veterans Affairs,
Veterans Independence Program; and the fourth, a delayed answer to a question by
Senator Banks on October 28, 2010, concerning Transport, Harmonized Sales
(Response to question raised by Hon. Roméo Antonius Dallaire on July 7,
The Government is committed to providing the military the support it
needs so that our troops can continue to do the important work that is asked
of them. In recent years, the Government has made major, necessary
investments in the country's military capabilities in support of the Canada
First Defence Strategy.
In regards to the question of Vote transfers, departments have other
methods at their disposal — in addition to Vote transfers — to cash manage
the funding for capital projects that experience some slippage. For example,
the Department can apply to re-profile Vote 5 funding from the current
fiscal year to future years, to better match project cash flow requirements.
In addition, DND can carry forward up to 2.5% of its Vote 1 and Vote 5
appropriation, from one fiscal year to the next.
Budget 2010 reaffirmed the government's pledge to increase the defence
budget annually and will continue to support the fundamental tenets of the
Canada First Defence Strategy. However, like other departments, DND and the
Canadian Forces (CF) will have to manage its activities within an
environment of constrained operating budgets.
In this context, the budget included provisions to slow the rate of
previously planned growth for DND by $525 million in 2012-13 and $1 billion
annually thereafter, starting in 2013-14. Therefore the defence budget will
continue to grow every year, but more slowly than previously planned.
Recruitment, training, and retention of Canadian Forces personnel are
central components of the Canada First Defence Strategy. In June, the
Minister of National Defence told the Standing Committee on National
Security and Defence that a renewed emphasis on recruitment has helped the
CF meet its latest yearly recruiting goal. We are well on our way to having
70,000 regular force and 30,000 reservists' personnel.
In addition, the Canadian Forces have enrolled over 6,500 new recruits
annually for the last three years. In fact, our Regular Force grew by 2,200
personnel last fiscal year, the best net increase we've seen over the past
Moreover, occupations below preferred manning levels have been
prioritized, including navy technicians, doctors, medical technicians and
other health service occupations, to name a few. Building on this strategy,
we expect to close the gap in our manning in most occupations by 2015 and
anticipate declaring all of our military occupations to within five per cent
of our establishment by this time.
While the CF have generally met or exceeded their recruitment goals,
keeping trained, qualified personnel has proven to be a challenge. To
counter this, the CF is working to ensure that new recruits experience a
smoother transition into the Canadian Forces. All members will benefit from
more flexibility with respect to career options, better career management
support and a renewed commitment to military families. The CF has also taken
action to reduce the number of voluntary releases during the early stages of
a military career. For instance, recruits are now provided with more
information at the outset of their career so that they have more realistic
It is important to manage this growth effectively and in a balanced way,
which is why predictable funding and the 20-year planning window outlined in
the Canada First Defence Strategy are so valuable.
Over the last several years, the Canadian Forces have shown that they are
capable of generating a significant and simultaneous deployment of troops
across a diverse spectrum of operations. We have benefited from increased
funding over the last several years, excellent training and equipment, and
above all else, the dedication and resolve of our soldiers, sailors and air
(Response to question raised by Hon. Roméo Antonius Dallaire on October 6,
There are no plans to reduce the operational capability of the Canadian
Forces. The Canadian Forces will continue to be able to deliver excellence
in Canada, be a strong and reliable partner in continental defence and
project leadership abroad through meaningful contributions to international
Similarly, there have been no policy decisions to reduce the operational
effectiveness of the naval, army or air force reserves. Our reservists are a
vital part of the Canadian Forces, and the Government of Canada is committed
to ensuring they have the resources and personnel they need to undertake
their missions. Training for reservists continues to prepare and maintain
reservists' combat readiness to ensure mission success and the safe return
of our reservist soldiers, sailors, airmen and airwomen. Recently, this has
been especially the case for Canadian Forces reservists deployed to
While it is true that Budget 2010 will reduce the budget of National
Defence by $525 million in fiscal year 2012-2013 and by $1 billion in
2013-2014 and ongoing, in reality National Defence's budget has grown
significantly since 2005 and will continue to grow (albeit more slowly) over
the next 20 years as part of the government's Canada First Defence
Furthermore, as part of the annual business planning and quarterly review
processes at all levels, the department regularly examines the resource
requirements within the defence program and will internally reallocate
resources to areas of higher priority as needed.
The government is committed to implementing the Canada First
Defence Strategy, which will ensure the Canadian Forces have the
people, equipment, infrastructure and expertise required to defend Canada
and Canadian interests now and well into the future. To achieve this, our
strategy sets out a predictable, long-term funding framework and vision for
the Canadian Forces.
(Response to question raised by Hon. Catherine S. Callbeck on October 7,
The Veterans Independence Program was established in 1981 by Veterans
Affairs Canada. The intent of the program is to assist veterans to remain
healthy and independent in their own homes and communities as long as
possible by providing a range of services.
Eligibility for the Veterans Independence Program has evolved over the
years to meet the needs of veterans, their primary care-givers and other
eligible clients. In February 2005 amendments were made to allow Veterans
Independence Program housekeeping and/or grounds maintenance services to be
continued for a lifetime to a greater number of qualified primary
caregivers. This change was intended to address the needs of primary
caregivers who benefited from, came to rely upon, and have a continuing
health need for the Veterans Independence Program housekeeping and/or
grounds maintenance services. In general, it allowed a primary caregiver to
continue receiving housekeeping and/or grounds maintenance services after
the Veteran died or moved to a long-term care facility, provided the
caregiver had a health need for the services.
The most recent change to Veterans Independence Program eligibility
occurred in 2008. At that time, eligibility was expanded to include
low-income or disabled survivors of certain war service Veterans who were
not receiving Veterans Independence Program housekeeping and/or grounds
maintenance benefits when the veteran passed away. This was the first time
these benefits were made available to survivors of veterans who had not been
receiving the benefits prior to the death of the veteran.
This expansion addresses the situation where the traditional war veteran
received a disability pension or the War Veterans Allowance but was not
receiving Veterans Independence Program housekeeping and/or grounds
maintenance benefits at the time of death or admission to a health care
facility. As a result, the survivor never had the opportunity to access
Veterans Independence Program housekeeping and grounds maintenance services.
With this expansion, those most in need — low-income or disabled survivors —
may have the help they need to remain in their homes. It also honours the
commitment of the survivors to our veterans, recognizing their years of
support which enabled our veterans to remain independent in their homes as
long as possible.
Veterans Affairs Canada encourages veterans to apply for Veterans
Independence Program services when a health need arises to ensure that those
in need can receive Veterans Independence Program services while they are
still able to, and before they are admitted to a long-term care facility.
Veterans Affairs Canada continues to look at ways to improve programs and
services. This will ensure veterans and their care-givers who have the
greatest need for Veterans Independence Program services will have the help
they need to remain independent in their homes and communities.
Approximately 108,000 clients of all ages benefit from Veterans
Independence Program services.
(Response to question raised by Hon. Tommy Banks on October 28, 2010)
According to the Excise Tax Act (GST/HST legislation), postal
services involving a bill of lading are subject to GST or HST based on the
destination address. Canada Post considers commercial parcels, Xpresspost
and Priority Courier to be postal services made pursuant to a bill of
Therefore, if a Canada Post customer uses one of the services to send an
item to the HST zone (Newfoundland, Nova Scotia, New Brunswick, Ontario and
British Columbia), HST would apply to the postage. Likewise, if a customer
from the HST zone uses one of these services to send an item outside the HST
zone, only GST would apply. Consumer parcels and letter mail are taxed based
on province of origin.
All transportation companies, couriers and Canada Post competitors, are
required to collect GST or HST based on the destination address.
On the Order:
Resuming debate on the motion of the Honourable Senator Seidman, seconded
by the Honourable Senator Stewart Olsen, for the second reading of Bill
C-31, An Act to amend the Old Age Security Act.
Hon. Catherine S. Callbeck: Honourable senators, I am pleased to rise
today to speak on Bill C-31, which will prevent incarcerated persons from
receiving any benefits under the OASA. I thank Senator Seidman for her excellent
outline last Thursday on this legislation.
As many honourable senators are aware, this legislation was introduced in
response to reports that serial child murderer, Clifford Olson, was receiving
approximately $1,100 per month in OAS and GIS benefits. There is no question
that such a thing is appalling; it is an insult to many seniors and to all
Canadians across the country who are struggling to make ends meet.
I firmly support the principle of withholding OAS benefits for people who are
incarcerated. Under this legislation, OAS benefits will not be paid to any
person incarcerated in a federal, provincial or territorial institution if the
sentence of imprisonment is more than 90 days. However, information-sharing
agreements must be signed with the provinces before this can take effect.
There are four types of benefits that can be paid under the Old Age Security
Act. The first is the Old Age Security Pension, which is a monthly payment
available to Canadians 65 years of age or older. There is also the Guaranteed
Income Supplement, which is additional money meant for low-income seniors living
in Canada. To be eligible, a senior must be receiving an OAS Pension and meet
the income requirements.
The third type is the Allowance, an income-tested benefit for low-income
seniors who are between the age of 60 and 64 years old and whose spouses or
common-law partners are OAS and GIS recipients. Finally, there is the Allowance
for the Survivor Program, which is an income-tested benefit for low-income
seniors between the age of 60 and 64 whose spouse or common-law partner has
While incarcerated, an individual will not be eligible for any of those
benefits. That person must notify the minister in writing of a release in order
to resume their benefits, which will begin during the month of their release.
The original legislation stated that the senior could not write to the
minister until after he or she were released; however, the other place has
amended the legislation so that the notification can be made before release.
This bill is expected to affect approximately 400 federal inmates and some
600 more in provincial or territorial facilities. As I said, information-sharing
agreements need to be signed with the provinces and territories in order to
implement this legislation. Unless the provinces and territories identify their
inmates, there is no way for the federal government to know who is incarcerated
at the provincial and territorial correctional facilities.
Honourable senators, OAS benefits are supposed to assist seniors cover the
costs of living, which are things like housing, food and clothing. When a person
is incarcerated, that person receives for free these necessities of life from
the correctional facility. It is reasonable that if the government is already
providing housing and food for inmates, there is no need for it to also provide
monthly OAS benefits that are meant to cover these living costs. Suspending
these OAS benefits also means the federal government will be saving millions of
dollars while not paying out these benefits.
A concern has been expressed that these changes may cause undue hardship for
the low-income spouses of those incarcerated. The government has attempted to
address this concern. A spouse over the age of 65 will still receive his or her
OAS Pension and Guaranteed Income Supplement benefit. However, the GIS amount
will be calculated as if the person were single, because a maximum amount for a
single person is more than for a couple: $658.40 compared to $434.78.
A spouse who is 60 to 64 years old will still receive their Allowance.
Generally, the Allowance will be paid only if common-law partners have applied
for it. This legislation provides that the spouse or common-law partner of an
incarcerated person may present an application individually in order to receive
the Allowance. The application will then be considered as if the applicant were
presented jointly by the couple. However, the Allowance amount would be based on
the individual's income, not the couple's income. The Allowance amount will go
up because it is income tested.
It has also been suggested by others that by denying a particular group of
Old Age Security benefits, the legislation discriminates against Canadians who
are incarcerated. I know Senator Seidman has already mentioned various provinces
that do not pay social assistance to incarcerated people and some countries that
do not pay pensions. I am sure the committee will want to examine this issue in
In the end, honourable senators, I support sending this legislation to
committee for further debate and more comprehensive examination.
The Hon. the Speaker: Are honourable senators ready for the question?
Some Hon. Senators: Question!
The Hon. the Speaker: Is it your pleasure, honourable senators, to
adopt the motion?
(Motion agreed to and bill read a second time.)
The Hon. the Speaker: When will this bill be read a third time?
(On motion of Senator Seidman, bill referred to the Standing Senate Committee
on Social Affairs, Science and Technology.)
Hon. Donald H. Oliver moved second reading of Bill C-28, An Act to
promote the efficiency and adaptability of the Canadian economy by regulating
certain activities that discourage reliance on electronic means of carrying out
commercial activities, and to amend the Canadian Radio-television and
Telecommunications Commission Act, the Competition Act, the Personal Information
Protection and Electronic Documents Act and the Telecommunications Act.
He said: Honourable senators, I am pleased today to begin second reading of
Bill C-28, Canada's proposed anti-spam legislation. A year ago, I spoke about
its predecessor, Bill C-27, in the last session of Parliament. Honourable
senators will also recall that I have spoken at length about the matters
contained in this bill when I introduced my own private members' bills to
counter spam. I take great satisfaction in seeing this bill come before us again
and I have every hope that this time we will legislate a strong regulatory
system that will tell spammers they have nowhere to hide in Canada.
Honourable senators, measures to counter spam and related online threats have
become even more urgent. In 2003-04, when my bills were before this chamber, I
reminded honourable senators how spam costs businesses billions of dollars a
year in lost productivity and other costs, and how it exposes families and
children to pornography and fraudulent content, including phishing emails that
trick users into providing private information. These online threats undermine
the trust that businesses and consumers have in the digital world, and they
diminish the great promise of the Internet for individuals, businesses,
governments and society at large.
As honourable senators know, the Internet has become the central nervous
system for the digital economy. It provides a common global platform for
communication and commerce. Its use by business and consumers has led to the
emergence of a borderless international marketplace.
Since 2000, online sales for Canadian companies have increased nearly
tenfold. Ten years ago, online sales in our country were less than $7.2 billion;
in 2007, they reached almost $63 billion.
Businesses and consumers have grown to depend on the Internet; they count on
it to be safe and reliable. Online security threats can erode the degree of
trust and confidence in the Internet as a safe and reliable environment for
Threats to the online economy include more than just spam. They include
spyware, malware, computer viruses, phishing, viral attachments, false or
misleading emails, the use of fraudulent websites and the harvesting of
The bill before us contains important provisions that will protect Canadian
businesses and consumers from the most harmful and misleading form of online
threats. It improves the privacy and economic security of Canadians in the
electronic environment. It offers a host of clear rules that all Canadians will
benefit from. It will promote confidence in online communication and electronic
The bill before us stakes out new ground in Canada. Currently, Canada is the
only G8 country and one of only three OECD countries without legislation dealing
with spam. This bill will rectify that situation.
In developing the bill, the Government of Canada has been able to incorporate
the best practices of other countries that have launched similar efforts. In my
private member's bills, I knew how effective the private right of action had
been in combating spam in the United States, so I recommended that to the
government. Under the bill before us, businesses will be able to sue spammers
who use their brand to lure unsuspecting customers to divulge private
information online as a result of unsolicited emails. The bill enables class
action suits by individuals who have been spammed or whose computers have been
subject to spyware or botnets.
When I spoke last year, I commented that spam had become even more malicious
with the advent of malware that enabled bad actors to take control over
computers and use them to spread further spam. Honourable senators, in the year
that has passed since then, the situation has become even worse.
Some of my colleagues may have noted a recent series in The Globe and Mail,
entitled "Canada: Our Time to Lead." One of the stories proposed that Canada
take a leadership role in Internet security. It related the story of how a new
generation of spam is targeting social media such as Facebook. Even more
disturbing is the increased prevalence of even more powerful botnets. These vast
networks of computers are infected with malware that can be controlled in unison
for a wide variety of purposes.
Clearly, the situation is evolving quickly.
I have been deeply involved in drafting, speaking about and studying
anti-spam legislation now for more than eight years. My first private member's
bill was Bill S-23, which received first reading on September 17, 2003, in the
Second Session of the Thirty-seventh Parliament. My second bill, Bill S-2,
received first reading in February 3, 2004; and my third bill, Bill S-15,
received first reading on October 20, 2004, in the First Session of the
Thirty-eighth Parliament. Five years ago, Senator Goldstein also introduced a
private member's bill, based upon a lot of the work I had done in my previous
Honourable senators, safeguards were proposed in the government bill, Bill
C-27, and here again in Bill C-28 before us. With each iteration, this bill gets
Before either Bill C-27 or Bill C-28, I proposed to the government that we
must have an independent regime, a stand-alone bill that would include a private
right of action. Bill C-28 includes a private right of action, and the
authorities of the CRTC, the Competition Bureau and the Office of the Privacy
Commissioner, which can all be used against spammers. The CRTC and the
Competition Bureau have been given powers to impose stiff administrative
monetary penalties, which I am happy to see.
The bill last year, as with the bill before us, was based largely on the
recommendations of the Task Force on Spam and wide consultations by Industry
Canada. Honourable senators, I had the honour to appear before and make
recommendations to the task force. I strenuously argued that we needed to have a
stand-alone, independent anti-spam bill, which we now have.
The task force also benefited from the best practices of other countries,
including Australia, where similar measures were effective in curtailing spam in
that country, and in the United States, where the right of private action has
been very effective.
For example, I would remind honourable senators that a California court,
enforcing the United States' anti-spam law, ordered a Montreal-based Internet
marketer to pay Facebook more than $1 billion in penalties for posting spam
messages on the social networking site. The judgment was recently upheld by the
Quebec Superior Court.
Honourable senators, we spoke at length about the merits of the former Bill
C-27 last year and we sent that bill to committee for review. Unfortunately, it
died on the order paper by year-end. Now, Bill C-28 has come before us with
those earlier provisions essentially intact, but it has been fine-tuned in the
meantime. The bill before us is better because it introduces two important
changes from Bill C-27 that further strengthen the bill.
The first deals with what is called the "order of precedence" between this
bill and the Personal Information Protection and Electronic Documents Act, known
as PIPEDA. As honourable senators may recall, PIPEDA contains a primacy clause
that ensures its provisions take precedence over subsequently enacted bills when
dealing with personal information and consent. The purpose was to ensure that
PIPEDA was not undermined inadvertently by legislation with weaker provisions.
The interesting thing, however, is that the privacy provisions in Bill C-28
are stronger than those in PIPEDA; stronger when it comes to consent when
dealing with personal information respecting email addresses and stronger when
dealing with consent to receive commercial messages. Clause 3 of the bill before
us today clarifies that, in the event of a conflict with PIPEDA, this bill would
The second change is a result of the debates that were held on its
predecessor bill a year ago. Honourable senators may recall that the former Bill
C-27 prohibited the electronic collection and use of personal information from
computer systems "without authorization."
A number of parties, lobbyists and interest groups expressed concern with the
breadth of that wording and pointed out that it could perhaps prohibit the
ordinary and otherwise lawful use of information that is publicly available on
the Internet. The government spent many hours looking at that problem and it has
responded positively to those legitimate concerns.
Rather than prohibit the use of personal information collected "without
authorization," the bill before us limits the prohibition to the collecting of
information "in contravention of an act of Parliament." Those new seven words
were chosen to overcome that previous problem. This language better reflects the
intent of the bill and protects all those who legitimately collect information
that is available to the public.
This change will safeguard personal information in the computers of
individuals and businesses, while permitting the ordinary and routine use of
publicly available information on the Internet. Honourable senators, the changes
in Bill C-28 make a good bill even better.
Canadians have been waiting a long time for this type of anti-spam
I have reminded this chamber on previous occasions that Canada has been one
of the very few industrialized countries without a regulatory regime to control
spam. As the series of articles in The Globe and Mail urged, Canada has
an opportunity to take the lead in many of the security implications of the
We are an advanced nation, with a high degree of respect in the international
community. We have been at the forefront of the Internet and its applications.
However, in the area of legislation governing spam, we have earned a reputation
as one of the few countries without laws in place.
Honourable senators, the time has come for us to leave that reputation behind
and move to a leadership position with the passage of this bill. I therefore
urge all honourable senators to join me in supporting this significant piece of
(On motion of Senator Tardif, debate adjourned.)
On the Order:
Resuming debate on the motion of the Honourable Senator Brown, seconded
by the Honourable Senator Runciman, for the second reading of Bill S-8, An
Act respecting the selection of senators.
Hon. David Tkachuk: Honourable senators, it is my pleasure to speak
today to Bill S-8, the senatorial selection bill.
I want to respond to the comments of Senator Joyal who, in his remarks on
October 20, questioned the constitutionality of this bill. I also want to say a
few words about Senator Mitchell's contribution to this debate, as he represents
a province which already has a senatorial selection process in place.
I always appreciate Senator Joyal's comments, and this time was no different.
However, his statements on the senatorial selection bill, while enjoyable, were
I would like to address each of his primary criticisms, beginning with the
idea that Bill S-8 would change the method of selecting senators.
Let me be clear: This bill would not change the method by which senators are
appointed. It does not bind the Prime Minister in making recommendations to the
Governor General. It does not affect the power of the Governor General when
making appointments to the Senate. It would require the Prime Minister to
consider the names of any nominees put forward by a province, provided that
these names were the result of a democratic consultation process with the
citizens of that province, as it is presently done in the province of Alberta.
I have not seen or heard anyone question the constitutionality of the Alberta
process, which has been used by Prime Minister Mulroney in the case of Stan
Waters, and by Prime Minister Harper in the case of Bert Brown. This bill would
not require the Prime Minister to recommend those names for appointment, nor
would it require the Governor General to summon these individuals to the Senate.
It states only that the Prime Minister must consider the names.
In short, the bill does not in any way change the method of selection for
senators, and therefore does not require a constitutional amendment.
Honourable senators, our government has been clear about our desire for
Senate reform since taking office in 2006. Specifically, we believe Canadians
should have a say on who represents them in the Senate. To facilitate and
promote reform, the Prime Minister has invited the provinces to develop and
implement their own democratic process for the selection of Senate nominees. The
senatorial selection act would codify this approach.
Senator Joyal's second point, that Bill S-8 somehow delegates power to the
provinces, is false. It does no such thing. Nothing in Bill S-8 changes the
powers of the Governor General or of the provinces. The sole power to summon
individuals to the Senate remains firmly in place with the Governor General.
Not only is there no delegation of powers to the provinces, but the bill does
not even require that the provinces establish a consultation process. We are
simply encouraging the provinces to develop legislation, not forcing them to do
The framework contained in the schedule of the bill is voluntary. It is
provided for the provinces and territories to use as a basis for implementing
the process to consult voters on Senate appointments. In our view, the most
important aspect of any selection process is that it provides citizens with the
opportunity to have input on their Senate representatives. Whether or not a
particular province provides its citizens with that opportunity is a decision of
that province alone.
Finally, I come to the third objection, that the legislature of a province
has no jurisdiction to enact legislation with respect to the Senate. Again, the
premise of the bill has been misinterpreted. Provinces will not be legislating
with respect to the Senate because the bill does not empower provinces to
legislate with respect to the Senate. Any provincial process would only be
consultative in nature and not legally binding. Thus, this bill does not violate
In many ways, these consultation processes would resemble referendums or
plebiscites. Most provinces already have legislation that enables them to seek
the views of citizens through a referendum on any matter of public interest or
Indeed, back in 2002, the Supreme Court of British Columbia ruled that it is
open to the provincial government to elicit public opinion and that whether the
government ought to have held a referendum is a political matter for which it is
accountable to the electorate.
Honourable senators, the court has already stated that a province is well
within its right to consult its citizens to determine their views on important
public matters. The senatorial selection act encourages provinces to do exactly
that. Any provincial process would be a nonbinding mechanism that would seek the
views of its residents. Provincial governments would be accountable to the
electorate on whether or not they chose to have a selection process. Similarly,
the Government of Canada would continue to be accountable for its appointments
to the Senate, just as Prime Minister Harper was accountable when he chose to
accept the wishes of the people of Alberta and appoint Senator Bert Brown. At
the end of day, these are political matters for governments.
Let me address what I suspect to be the real reason the Liberals are focusing
on the Constitution. They are opposed to citizens having a say in who is their
senator, even though a recent Angus Reid poll found that 70 per cent of
Canadians would like to see direct Senate elections. The Liberals have had five
years to develop their own ideas, yet the best they can offer up are 15-year
terms and constitutional reform — a 15-year term, honourable senators. One
election per generation: That is the Liberal approach to democracy.
A senator now coming to the end of her or his 15-year term would have been
elected in 1995, a couple of years after Al Gore "invented" the Internet and
around the time that Jean Chrétien was discussing public policy with street
people. Bill Clinton had just welcomed a young intern named Monica Lewinsky to
the White House and O.J. Simpson's lawyer was telling an L.A. courtroom, "If a
glove doesn't fit, you must acquit."
Honourable senators, this past January their leader in the other place said
he would like to see senators selected by a panel. Mr. Ignatieff and his Harvard
friends — they would all be visiting of course — would be sitting around
discussing who should be the next senator from Saskatchewan, or the next senator
from Manitoba or Nova Scotia. Anything but the electorate.
This is not democracy, and it is time the Liberals were clear with Canadians
on where they stand on Senate elections. What I suspect is that they would say
something to the effect of, "We support Senate elections as long as they never
Senator Mitchell may very well have demonstrated this when he attacked the
government's approach during his November 2 remarks. Perhaps he felt a bit of
déjà vu as he rose to speak on Bill S-8, a flashback to his days in the Alberta
legislature when he spoke for Senate elections, but against the similarly named
Senatorial Selection Amendment Act. Speaking of what was known as Bill 40, he
told the legislature on April 29, 1998:
I've never met a Senator who deep in their heart didn't want to be
elected, because they know there is something slightly missing.
We have noticed. Of course, having spoken out on the need to elect senators,
Senator Mitchell then proceeded to vote against the bill.
This was around the time that Senator Mitchell had just handed over the
Alberta leadership to a successor and thus was open to new challenges, so he
made it abundantly clear that his reasons for opposing Bill 40 did not include a
future Senate appointment, stating:
I know that the Treasurer wants to speak. . .
The treasurer at the time was the Honourable Stockwell Day.
. . . and I bet I know what he's going to say. He's going to say that
Grant Mitchell, the Member for Edmonton-McClung, is concerned about this
because he would be in the running for a senatorial position perhaps. I'm
I'm not interested. I have no interest in going to Ottawa, period, and I
want to lay to rest before the member from the Treasury Department. . .
— who was Stockwell Day —
. . . gets up and starts to try to promote that little myth.
It's interesting that patronage would immediately come to a
Conservative's mind, because it really hasn't crossed mine. Not interested.
Well, how about that, fellow senators?
He even claimed that Senate elections were actually a Liberal idea, telling
the legislature, on April 27, 1998:
For any of those members who would suggest that we're not in favour of
Senatorial elections, we absolutely are. In fact, it was Nick Taylor, the
previous leader, who actually proposed the motion to elect a Senator, who
eventually became Senator Stan Waters.
Indeed, a few months prior, he had demanded that the vacancy created by the
death of Senator Walter Twinn be filled by an elected senator.
The Edmonton Journal, on November 7, 1997, told readers:
Alberta politicians ranging from Manning to Klein and Liberal Leader
Grant Mitchell have demanded a repeat performance of the 1989 election that
resulted in the 1990 Senate installation of victor Stan Waters.
I am sure that when the call finally came in 2005, Senator Mitchell said,
"Thank you, Prime Minister, but the people of Alberta have spoken, and they want
Bert Brown as their senator."
To summarize, Senator Mitchell thinks that unelected senators are missing
something. He claims that Senate elections were originally a Liberal idea. He
demanded that an Alberta vacancy be filled by an elected senator and then turned
around and accepted an appointment, even though elected senators were waiting in
the wings. Honourable senators, Senator Mitchell is not willing to support this
Honourable senators, we are seeing the same kind of story. The Liberals pay
lip service to the idea of Senate reform, but they will do whatever it takes to
obstruct progress, and the flavour of the day is the Constitution.
As I have already outlined, from a legal and constitutional perspective, the
senatorial selection act is sound. It does not alter the Constitution, nor would
it bind the Prime Minister or the Governor General in appointing senators.
Senators would continue to be summoned to the Senate by the Governor General on
the advice of the Prime Minister pursuant to the Constitution.
Although this bill may not be a radical change, it is an important change
that illustrates our government's determination to enhance the legitimacy of our
democratic institution. It indicates that this Prime Minister is willing to
listen to the provinces and the people of Canada regarding Senate appointments.
Our government continues to believe that this chamber needs to be reformed for
it to be considered a modern democratic institution.
Honourable senators, four years ago, in its first report, the Special Senate
Committee on Senate Reform told the Senate — and the Liberals controlled the
committee back then — that the issues the committee proposed to address included
"development of a model for a modern, elected Senate." Liberal members of that
committee included Senator Austin, Senator Chaput, Senator Dawson, Senator
Hubley, Senator Munson and Senator Watt, four of whom are still serving.
We now have a perfect opportunity for a committee of the Senate to look at
the creation of a modern, elected Senate. Let us give Canadians a say on who
represents them in this institution.
(On motion of Senator Tardif, debate adjourned.)
Hon. Gerald J. Comeau (Deputy Leader of the Government), pursuant to
notice of November 24, 2010, moved:
That, in accordance with subsection 53(1) of the Privacy Act, Chapter
P-21, R.S.C. 1985, the Senate approve the appointment of Ms. Jennifer
Stoddart as Privacy Commissioner.
(Motion agreed to.)
On the Order:
Resuming debate on the motion of the Honourable Senator Tardif, seconded
by the Honourable Senator Rivest, for the second reading of Bill C-232, An
Act to amend the Supreme Court Act (understanding the official languages).
Hon. Michael L. MacDonald: Honourable senators, before I begin, I
would like it understood that my speech today will in no way interfere with
Senator Meighen's holding of the adjournment, and, when I conclude my remarks, I
would ask that the debate be adjourned in the name of Senator Meighen for the
balance of his time.
I rise today in this chamber to speak to Bill C-232, an Act to amend the
Supreme Court Act (understanding the official languages). Simply stated, this
bill, if passed, would restrict membership on the Supreme Court to that very
small percentage of Canadians who would prove fluency in both official
languages. Bill C-232 is also a rare private member's bill that has come to us
from the other place, and, since few such bills even make it this far through
the legislative process, I think we owe it a particular duty of examination.
An Hon. Senator: Oh, oh!
Senator MacDonald: I will not deal at length with the political
conduct of the opposition in the other place regarding this bill except to point
out that the Leader of the Opposition, Mr. Ignatieff, whipped his caucus to
support a private member's bill from the fourth party in the House of Commons.
Private members' bills are supposed to be free votes. I will leave it to
honourable senators to come to their own conclusion of what motivates Mr.
Ignatieff and why he was so anxious to hold hands with the Bloc on this issue.
I also want to state that I take no great pleasure in speaking to this bill.
Legislation dealing with the issue of language is a sensitive matter in most
countries, and Canada is certainly no exception. Canada has been an officially
bilingual country since 1969. I support official bilingualism, and I firmly
believe it makes us a more inclusive democracy. Yet, support for official
bilingualism does not exempt any parliament from using good judgment, fairness
and common sense when applying this policy or, indeed, any other government
policy. I appreciate the need to be vigilant regarding the application of
government policy, and I respect those working to ensure that the fundamental
elements of official bilingualism are upheld and updated when necessary.
However, Canada is politically a federation, not a unitary state, and Canada
is geographically the second-largest country in the world, containing
significant regional and demographic differences across its length and breadth.
We must be mindful of these realities as well and insist that they be observed,
accommodated and reflected in the policies and the practices of the federal
Although I appreciate the importance of language to people individually and
collectively, I confess I find the politics of language to be a dreary and
divisive subject, and one which I much prefer to avoid. However, it is
impossible to stay silent on a proposal that could only serve to marginalize the
overwhelming majority of those in the legal community, both in my home province
and across this country. This unfairness is particularly acute in regard to
Ontario and the West, both of which are already severely under-represented on
the Supreme Court relative to the size of their populations.
Since this legislation arrived here in the spring, I have received many
representations from a variety of sources, expressing deep reservations about
the negative impact of Bill C-232. I have also had the opportunity to listen to
many people in the Nova Scotia legal community, and they are greatly concerned;
indeed, they are disillusioned by the restrictive nature of this legislation.
They shake their heads at the mindset of some politicians in the Ottawa bubble.
I am obligated to speak out for them, just as I am obliged to defend in this
chamber the best interests of Nova Scotia. If ever there was a circumstance
illustrating the importance of the Senate's duty to provide sober second
thought, surely it is Bill C-232. With that in mind, I would like to review the
arguments put forth by those who would impose this proposed legislation on our
Supreme Court. Let us put their reasoning under the light and determine if they
have made a convincing case for their position.
The proponents of Bill C-232 claim that it is essential that our Supreme
Court justices be bilingual so that a citizen will not suffer an injustice,
because he would not be understood, because the defence would not be understood,
and because the judge would not understand the nuances of the defence. This is
specious reasoning at best and thoroughly unconvincing. Those that promote this
argument cannot point to one concrete example of a Supreme Court judgment being
rendered under such circumstances.
Simultaneous translation and interpretation has been an accepted practice in
legislatures, courts and institutions throughout the world for many years. The
people providing these services are specialists and highly skilled in their
profession. Those working at the Supreme Court of Canada are highly trained in
nuance and terminology, and are familiar with the use and meaning of legal
language. It is what they do for a living. To suggest that their work is
deficient stretches the imagination. The advocates of Bill C-232 re-assure us
that the judges would have only to be functionally bilingual and that the bar
would not be set too high. It is hard to believe that a functionally bilingual
judge would exhibit comprehension skills superior to those of any fluently
bilingual interpreter. The idea that a case could be lost because of nuance in
language being overlooked is truly a dog that will not hunt.
Why confine concerns about nuance of language to solely our official
languages? What about the 6 million Canadians who speak neither of the official
languages as their first language? What about Aboriginal Canadians and the
millions of immigrants who have made Canada their home? What allowances are made
for the nuances of language in their situation and that of their children? Why
are they less deserving of similar accommodation? Those who would support this
legislation are silent on this issue.
Many would argue that the Supreme Court has definite shortcomings, but
bilingualism is certainly not one of them. Our national institutions are
thoroughly bilingual, and they work. The Supreme Court, along with the House of
Commons and the Senate, is one of the three great institutions of Canada that
embodies the federal state. When Canada became officially bilingual in 1969, the
federal government endeavoured to make these three bodies fully bilingual in
If the Senate is any example, I think the federal government has done a
pretty good job. One has to spend only a few days working in the Senate to
appreciate how well it functions in both official languages. I am always
impressed by the fluency of the people I meet here. The bilingual efficiency of
those who transcribe our proceedings is incredible, and the professionalism of
the table and other officers is exemplary. I especially admire the effortless
bilingualism of our pages, who are so patient and courteous, so indispensible to
the running of this chamber, and so attentive to the needs and the demands of
senators. We all operate comfortably in a functional and officially bilingual
This environment is fully replicated in both the House of Commons and the
Supreme Court of Canada. The purpose of establishing this type of workplace is
quite straightforward and requires no interpretation — these institutions are to
be fully bilingual in order to ensure that those who serve there have not only
the freedom but also the right to work in the official language of their choice.
If you are elected to the House of Commons, summoned to the Senate or appointed
to the Supreme Court, you need to understand one of the official languages to
function, but you do not require both to do your job. That is an undeniable
fact. That is an incontestable truth.
Who in this country would dare to suggest that only the officially bilingual
could run for election to the House of Commons, let alone attempt to pass a law
enforcing such a measure? There is no federal institution as diverse and as
representative of modern Canada as this Senate in which we serve. Just think of
how unrepresentative of our country this Senate would become and how different
and less diverse its composition would be if the narrow provisions of Bill C-232
were applied to this institution. Mr. Ignatieff thinks nothing of imposing these
same measures on the Supreme Court and conspires to do so with his fellow
travellers, the Bloc.
The proponents of this bill confine their arguments primarily to esoteric
platitudes, but they studiously ignore the practical impact its enactment would
have from coast to coast; and they refuse to acknowledge the extensive
marginalization of Canadians that Bill C-232 would produce.
We must always be mindful of the relatively small size of the Supreme Court.
Canada presently has a nine-member Supreme Court. By law, three positions are
reserved for the province of Quebec. By convention, three of the remaining six
seats are allocated to Ontario, two to the West, and one to Atlantic Canada.
These conventions are important as they allow for an application of balance
and fairness in the absence of any legal requirement. Such compromises are
essential to maintain political stability, and to minimize regional grievances
in a large and diverse federation such as Canada. We have conventions and
standard practices, and we apply them consistently because they are beneficial
to the running of our country.
Atlantic Canada has but one member on the Supreme Court. Newfoundland, which
joined Canada in 1949, has never had one of its own serve on the Supreme Court.
However, Newfoundland is almost 98 per cent unilingual, the most unilingual
province in Canada. Just as 19th century merchants displayed signs saying 'no
Irish need apply,' this bill would hammer a 21st century notice over the door of
the Supreme Court of Canada declaring, 'no Newfoundlanders need apply.'
As a Nova Scotian, I know Newfoundlanders as well as any mainlander, and as a
Cape Bretoner, I am their neighbour. I have met many members of the Newfoundland
bar over the years, and I am never surprised when they prove to be among the
smartest and most thoughtful of people. Newfoundlanders will not support and
should not accept being barred from serving on the highest court in the land due
to the circumstances of their birth. I am more than prepared to stand with
Newfoundlanders, even if some in the coalition are prepared to push them aside.
Let us go across the country. Quebec is the second most populated province
with about 7.5 million people. About 6.5 million are francophone and 4 million
of them are unilingual. By any yardstick, 4 million people constitute a critical
mass of people. They form the heart of a community in Canada that stretches back
to the 17th century. Now, we are to tell these old-stock Canadians that they do
not merit consideration for the Supreme Court because they are unilingual. Are
we really to believe that such a large and dynamic community of people in the
centre of our country is not capable of producing one legal mind worthy of
elevation to the Supreme Court?
Unilingual francophones from Quebec are no less Canadian than anybody else in
this country, and they have the right to fully participate in our national
institutions. Fortunately, in today's Canada, under the practices already
established in the House of Commons, the Senate and the Supreme Court, they can
do exactly that; and they are free to and have the right to participate in the
official language of their choice.
We need also to consider how much Canada's population has grown since 1949,
when the Supreme Court was enlarged from seven to nine members. In the past 60
years Canada's population has almost tripled in size, resulting in the Supreme
Court being increasingly unrepresentative of the regions of the country. While
Quebec and Atlantic Canada have one Supreme Court judge for every 2.5 and 2.3
million people, respectively, Ontario finds itself with one judge for every 4.4
million people. The imbalance is most pronounced in the West, which finds itself
with one judge for every 5.1 million people.
About 93 per cent of Western Canadians are either unilingual or bilingual in
non-official languages. Western Canada is the fastest growing area of our
country, and they are already grossly under-represented on the Supreme Court. To
deliberately marginalize the West even further by the imposition of such
restrictive criteria is irresponsible and unacceptable.
We must also remind ourselves not just how much Canada's population has grown
but how it is growing. Honourable senators, I am disappointed to say that if we
were to look at a photo of the Supreme Court today, it looks pretty much as it
would in the 19th century, other than the inclusion of women. As far as I can
determine, there has never been a visible minority or Aboriginal Canadian on the
Supreme Court. Although Canada promotes itself as being one of the most
multicultural countries in the world, there is no evidence of this to date
reflected in the composition of the Supreme Court.
Most immigrants to Canada today are visible minorities, and many speak to
their children at home in a language that is neither of our official languages.
In effect, Bill C-232 mandates that we hold our immigrants, Aboriginal Canadians
and their children to an even higher standard than other Canadians; not only
must they learn one of Canada's official languages, they must learn two. They
must be trilingual.
This bill pushes visible minorities and Aboriginal Canadians to the margins.
The Hon. the Speaker: I regret to advise the honourable senator that
his 15 minutes have expired.
Senator MacDonald: May I have five more minutes?
Hon. Senators: Agreed.
Senator MacDonald: This pushes visible minorities and Aboriginal
Canadians to the margins and makes their chances of serving on the Supreme Court
statistically very remote. This is unconscionable.
My honourable colleagues on the other side who spoke on this issue pointed
out several times in debate that both the English and French versions of the
statutes are equally authoritative. They are correct. Why is it so? I believe we
do this because it does not matter what language we speak. When I rise to make a
statement in this chamber or in committee, I know that my words will be
interpreted and translated by eminently qualified people who understand the
language of Parliament and who understand the importance of accuracy.
There are many countries in the democratic world that are officially
bilingual or even multilingual. I took the time to review the composition of
many of their supreme courts, and in almost all cases they operate with
simultaneous translation with no requirements for the judges to have bilingual
or multilingual ability.
Belgium is an officially bilingual country; they speak primarily Flemish and
French, and they have a small German-speaking population. Belgium is also
surrounded by tens of millions of Dutch, French and German speakers, which
provide Belgiums, like most Europeans, ample opportunity from birth to acquire
more than one language.
The Belgian supreme court equivalent has 13 members, with six chosen from the
native Flemish community, six from the Walloon community and one from the
German-speaking population. Like Canada, although many judges are bilingual,
they are not required to be officially bilingual. Unlike Canada, bilingualism is
not considered an asset when appointments are made to the court, although
Belgium, geographically, is a mere postage stamp of a country compared to
Canada, which is 3,000 miles wide and spans a continent.
The problem, honourable senators, is that this bill speaks to one particular
ideal of Canada, not of the modern Canada in which we live coast to coast. To
demand that our Supreme Court justices know both of our official languages holds
them to a standard that, frankly speaking, few Canadians can meet. It is not a
standard we expect in our members in the other place and not one we demand of
the members of this chamber.
The Senate of Canada endeavours not to defeat government legislation. All
parliamentarians understand that the House of Commons provides the basis for
responsible government in our country and the Senate is, by convention,
restrained in its conduct when it comes to defeating government bills. However,
it must be noted that it is not the elected Government of Canada which sponsored
and passed this legislation in the other place. It was the coalition which
dropped these questionable, undemocratic and elitist measures into our laps for
Some Hon. Senators: Oh, oh!
Senator MacDonald: Bill C-232 is divisive, exclusionary and above all
completely unnecessary. This legislation does not deserve our support. I urge
all honourable senators to do the reasonable and rational thing and reject this
prime example of bad and poorly thought-out legislation.
Hon. Claudette Tardif (Deputy Leader of the Opposition): Would the
Honourable Senator MacDonald take a question?
Senator MacDonald: Of course.
Senator Tardif: First, I would like to thank Senator MacDonald for
speaking about this bill. However, I would like to make sure that he understands
the intent of Bill C-232.
When we apply the principle of substantive equality of the official languages
in the highest court in the country, we are talking about fairness before the
law. French and English are treated equally. However, it is clear that one
language takes precedence over the other in the Supreme Court of Canada, since
most of the time interpreters are used when cases are heard in French.
How can we talk about substantive equality if French is not recognized in the
same way as English in the Supreme Court of Canada? This looks like a double
standard to me.
Senator MacDonald: I take issue with the claim that English and French
do not have the same standing in the Supreme Court of Canada. I know that the
Supreme Court is primarily an appeals court and that most of the evidence that
goes before the Supreme Court is in written form and there is no oral
Senator Tardif: I would beg to differ. There is an oral presentation
and, in that presentation, often the French lawyers need to have their voice
heard through an interpreter whereas English-speaking lawyers do not.
Senator MacDonald: Again, I would like to correct Senator Tardif. I
did not say there was never any oral presentation. I said it is primarily an
appeals court, primarily with written representation.
Senator Fraser: And those documents are not translated.
Senator Tardif: And those documents are not translated.
The Hon. the Speaker: It is moved by the Honourable Senator Meighen,
seconded by the Honourable Senator Rivard, that the debate stand until the next
sitting of the Senate. Is it your pleasure, honourable senators, to adopt the
Some Hon. Senators: No.
The Hon. the Speaker: I will repeat the motion. It is moved by the
Honourable Senator Meighen, seconded by the Honourable Senator Rivard, that the
debate stand until the next sitting of the Senate. Is it your pleasure . . .
Senator Tardif: I would like a clarification.
The Hon. the Speaker: The motion before the Senate is the following:
It is moved by the Honourable Senator Meighen, seconded by the Honourable
Senator Rivard, that the debate stand until the next sitting of the Senate.
Will those honourable senators in favour of the motion please say "yea"?
Some Hon. Senators: Yea.
The Hon. the Speaker: Will those honourable senators who are opposed
to the motion please say "nay"?
Some Hon. Senators: Nay.
The Hon. the Speaker: In my opinion, the "yeas" have it.
(Motion agreed to, on division.)
The Senate proceeded to consideration of the sixth report of the Standing
Senate Committee on Banking, Trade and Commerce (Bill S-216, An Act to amend the
Bankruptcy and Insolvency Act and the Companies' Creditors Arrangement Act in
order to protect beneficiaries of long term disability benefits plans, with a
recommendation), presented in the Senate on November 25, 2010.
Hon. Céline Hervieux-Payette: Honourable senators, it gives me no
pleasure to move the adoption of this report, but as the Deputy Chair of this
committee, I have certain responsibilities.
Since my chair was not at the meeting last week, I move, with great sorrow,
the adoption of the report to ensure that it is brought forward for debate in
the Senate, where I hope it will be defeated.
The Hon. the Speaker: It is moved by the Honourable Senator
Hervieux-Payette, seconded by the Honourable Senator Tkachuk, that this report
On debate, Honourable Senator Hervieux-Payette.
Senator Hervieux-Payette: Honourable senators, I would like to explain
how I feel about this report, which took us all by surprise at last Thursday's
meeting. I would like to explain how, when it came time for clause-by-clause
consideration of the bill, just as I was asking whether there was agreement to
proceed with a clause-by-clause study of Bill S-216, the Conservative senators
asked that we not proceed with the vote on the clause-by-clause study. There was
a vote on this procedure and the Conservative senators simply ignored the
clause-by-clause study of Bill S-216.
I would like to reiterate the comments I made to my colleagues, which were
that since we have a British parliamentary system, voting for a clause-by-clause
study allows senators to speak to each clause and to vote for or against each
clause. There was nothing to prevent our colleagues from exercising their right
to vote. We are lawmakers and our way of dealing with all issues is simply
The second phase of our meeting consisted of the tabling, by the same
senator, of a report by God knows who, a report that I was obliged to table by
virtue of my position and that did not at all reflect the evidence submitted by
the witnesses. I would like to make some clarifications, because we had an
outstanding witness by the name of James Pierlot.
He holds degrees in history from the University of Western Ontario, common
law, Osgoode Hall, civil law, University of Montreal.
As well, Mr. Pierlot holds a Masters of Law in Taxation from Osgoode Hall. I
would like to remind honourable senators what this witness said.
Bill S-216 amounts to a modest incremental change to insolvency
legislation that is consistent with other recent changes to insolvency
legislation that provided limited creditor protection for pension plan
contributions and unpaid wages.
For Mr. Pierlot, the effect of Bill S-216 on an employer's ability to raise
capital is expected to be minimal because LTD claimants tend to be a small
minority of an employer's total workforce and because the bill is not intended
to affect secured creditor claims. Although the bill may require more employers
to obtain periodic valuations of LTD liabilities for purposes of obtaining
credit, this bill would not seem to be an unduly onerous task, given that
valuations of LTD programs are fairly routine.
For Mr. Pierlot, it is a modest but important first step toward improving
benefit security for Canada's most vulnerable workers, those who are unable to
support themselves due to workplace injury, illness or disability.
These remarks reflect the opinions of most of the witnesses we heard and the
credibility of that witness is worth a great deal. I would remind honourable
senators that Nortel once amounted to 30 per cent of the TSX, that is, 30 per
cent of the companies listed on the Toronto Stock Exchange. This shows the
importance of a company that was a leader in technology in Canada, and one that
disappointed us considerably. Shorty before Nortel declared bankruptcy, we
learned that its senior executives had given themselves bonuses worth $8 million
and we are still wondering what was going on with the board of directors of that
corporation, which submitted incorrect financial statements three times.
I would remind honourable senators that Nortel executives in the United
States were prosecuted and received prison sentences for fraud. The same
corporation has caused much suffering to these employees with disabilities.
In Canada, in September 2010, an agreement was reached with Nortel's
creditors. Needless to say, there was nothing in that agreement for the
employees with disabilities. In the meantime, Bill S-216 was introduced in this
chamber. We have learned that Nortel's creditors will share $6 billion,
including $1 billion in Canada. It is estimated that, at this time, the amount
of money needed to create a fund that would give some hope and dignity to the
former Nortel employees with disabilities is about $80 million.
I will use the terms from the report tabled by our Conservative colleagues
and point out certain paragraphs that just do not stand up to scrutiny.
First is the question of retroactivity. The last budget, Bill C-9 — which was
passed in the Senate to our dismay — contained retroactive measures that went
back several years. When it comes to retroactivity, the Conservatives do not
seem to get bogged down in details if they are taking money out of taxpayers'
The second point in the report suggests that Canadian industry would suffer.
I would remind the senators that of the 54 countries studied by the OECD, 34
protect workers with disabilities by giving them sufficient income, treatment,
and necessary medication for their well-being and by not penalizing them and
ensuring that funding is available.
The third paragraph in the report is about the impact on the financial
sector, in terms of potential future borrowing. The analysts advising us said
that there would be very little impact, about 0.002 per cent. I do not think
that the Canadian economy will be weakened or that the markets will crash if we
pay 0.002 per cent.
I would also like to point out that we are being told that, if Bill S-216 is
passed, there is the possibility of a legal challenge. That cannot be serious.
The $6 billion would remain frozen until the proceedings conclude and the
creditors who are owed $6 billion would go after 550 disabled pensioners.
Really, if the $6 billion were invested and earning interest, I do not
understand why they would still go after people living in extremely deplorable
financial and physical situations, and lose hundreds of millions of dollars in
interest while the courts deal with this issue. I do not think that we are very
realistic when we talk about this issue.
Regarding the legal challenges, those of us with legal knowledge believe that
the creditors forgot to put some money aside in their settlement. I do not think
that contributing $80 million of the $6 billion would really reduce the
financial rating of Canada's businesses.
No senator worth their salt could support this report. In light of the
evidence, it seems clear that Bill S-216 has to be passed in the face of the
silence, inaction and vague policy of the government which has not proposed
anything — as we saw today in Question Period — to give hope to these disabled
workers. I wonder who will have the heart and the courage to face these people
who will lose everything on December 31, knowing that on November 30, we still
have not found a solution even though the issue was brought before the Senate in
Honourable senators, you will understand that it is impossible for me to
support this, and I expect a response as soon as possible.
At the request of my colleagues, I have prepared a letter to the minister
asking him what his solution is to this. I look forward eagerly to a solution,
which should be imminent, because when people are sick and living in
uncertainty, we know that this affects their health. Some colleagues from both
sides of the chamber have been sick and they know full well that concern
contributes to the problem, while security helps in recovery. I invite
honourable senators to reject this report.
Hon. Art Eggleton: Honourable senators, this committee report is not
an appropriate answer to people who are in very a desperate situation, and it is
not supported by the expert evidence that was given at the Standing Senate
Committee on Banking, Trade and Commerce.
I will ask all honourable senators not to support this report from the
committee, as Senator Hervieux-Payette has also stated, and in fact to, allow us
to then go back to Bill S-216 so that we can properly deal with the matter. I
have an amendment to Bill S-216, and if we get to that stage, I will want to
move for further clarification on the transition clause number 8.
I will deal first with the arguments that come up in the report. The first
argument against Bill S-216 is the retroactivity. The retroactivity in this
particular case is a very limited one because the proceedings are still before
the court and are not completed. There has been one part of it that has been the
result of a recommended settlement by the court on the basis of the law as it
presently stands, which makes the long-term disability claimants unsecured
creditors, right at the bottom of the barrel. However, if they are moved up into
a preferred status, which is about a middle-rank status, not the highest by any
means, then the court would take that into consideration. The transition clause
in this bill it would require that they do that, and then could provide for the
appropriate benefits to which these people are entitled and to which they have
seen their health and welfare trust diminished to the point where it cannot
presently provide for them, even though the company has the assets to do so.
It is a limited application of retroactivity, which is something that happens
all the time around here. Bill C-39, Bill C-33 and Bill S-7 have all been
adopted and each one includes one or more retroactivity clauses. We find
retroactivity in terms of budget bills when they are ultimately adopted and
taken back to an earlier stage when the provision was put into effect.
There is nothing unusual about retroactivity. You would have trouble if you
were getting into criminal law in dealing with that, but this is hardly that
kind of thing. This is dealing with commercial transactions involving
bondholders and others and is simply saying that the employees deserve to be at
a higher rank.
Honourable senators, this government has recognized that because it brought
in the Wage Earner Protection Program Act in 2007, and it said there should be
super-priority status. That is more than what my bill asks for. That is a higher
ranking. Super-priority status is for wages outstanding when it comes to
bankruptcy proceedings. The Leader of the Government in the Senate cited that
the other day in one of her answers.
It is hard to understand why it seems fine in one instance and does not in
another. It did not create all the havoc or problems in the markets in that
case, as it has in so many other countries, yet somehow they think it will be
Mr. Pierlot, who has previously been mentioned, who is a legal expert in this
area and deals with pensions and disability plans, et cetera, says that does not
hold water at all in his comments. He says it is quite acceptable and has
adequate precedent to be able to do that. The next argument is that it could
result in litigation. You could make an argument that almost anything could
result in litigation.
Again, that same witness said that he did not see the cause for action and
did not see a basis in law to be able to do that. He said that surely they are
not going to sue the disabled employees. Will they sue the government? What
basis would they have to do so? He says there is no basis. He went through the
Constitution and other factors and said there was no basis in law to do it.
The other argument mentioned was the time factor, that the people who have
most of the money perhaps are the secured creditors. They would not have a
reason to do it. They are better off to start with than the preferred status
that I am recommending. They are better off. Others, well, time is money and it
would take a lot of time to go through these kinds of processes, presumably, and
to what end.
Here we are talking about less than $100 million out of a company that,
worldwide, has assets of $6 billion, and $1 billion of assets in Canada. We are
talking about a very small amount of money by comparison, and it is not
something that anybody would find in their interest to tie up in the court for a
long period of time, namely their own possibility of getting funds out of the
liquidation of the company, which is well on its way to happening.
Again, the expert advice that we had before our committee quite clearly
indicated that there is not a basis, a case in law, for doing that.
Honourable senators, they go on to talk about conferring super-priority
status on similar claims under the bankruptcy. Again, super-priority status does
not, in the CCAA, pertain, and I am not asking for it under the Bankruptcy and
Insolvency Act, but the government, under the Wage Earner Protection Program
Act, did bring in something to that effect for outstanding wages.
The final argument they come up with is increasing risk for investors and
financing costs for bond-issuing companies. Again, the evidence does not support
that. The financial analyst who was before our committee cited numbers down to
the one hundredth of 1 per cent level: miniscule, absolutely negligible.
A study done in Australia further supports that. This is a study done by a
couple of economists there, Anderson and Davis. They examined the effect of
employee entitlements on bond credit spreads in Australia. They used an
analytical credit risk model. They actually added in more than just things like
long-term disability. They added in other employee-type benefits, and again said
it was a negligible, extremely small impact.
Those witnesses and those pieces of information that the committee had before
it simply do not support this idea that it might hurt the markets.
There are so many countries that already do this. Thirty-four out of 54
countries surveyed by the OECD and the World Bank already have either
super-priority status or preferred status: France, Germany, Belgium, the Czech
Republic, Italy, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, the U.K., Norway, Australia, New
Zealand, Korea, Brazil, Israel. I could go on and on. Those countries already
have the amendments to the bankruptcy protection for those people.
On top of that, we have all sorts of other provisions in countries such as
the United States or the U.K. At least 12 countries, including Germany and the
United Kingdom, require the payment of insurance premiums by their corporations
to fund their public pension plan and disability income insurance programs. In
the United States, LTD employees have disability protection for pensioners
through the Pension Benefit Guaranty Corporation. Also, employees have legal
recourse to go after LTD benefits after bankruptcy provided by their federal
Employee Retirement Income Security Act legislation. There is no such avenue for
Canadians. They also have a more generous social security disability program,
which actually pays more than twice what the CPP disability pays for similar
people in Canada. Every major trading partner, every country we deal with, has
something more than what we have. Most of them have the kind of protection in
bankruptcy proceedings that I am asking for in this bill.
Colleagues, the evidence quite clearly supports us not adopting this
single-page report from the committee and instead reinstating Bill S-216. If we
do not do that, we are letting Nortel off the hook. We are letting them walk
away from their obligations. They managed to find money to pay seven executives
$8 million in bonuses a year ago. They have assets of $6 billion, $1 billion of
which is in Canada, and they are just going to download this obligation onto the
taxpayers. There is not enough money in the health and welfare trust to deal
with Nortel's responsibilities. They raided the fund. It is down to 35 per cent
of what it would require. Therefore, at the end of the year, these people will
be cut off their medical benefits, and their income support benefits will be cut
down to about 20 per cent of what they are now, which in turn is only 50 per
cent of what they had as income when they were employed by the company.
How will this then affect them? Honourable senators, we have a number of
impact statements that a number of them have signed. Over 400 people are in this
circumstance, and many of them have signed impact statements. Let me give you
One woman says she is 55 years old, with primary progressive multiple
sclerosis. She currently uses a cane. She has worked in Canada for over 40
years. She says:
The situation my husband and I find ourselves in is not only frightening
but it's alarming. We have both worked all of our adult lives and, while
ensuring a good education and providing for our sons, we also managed to
diligently save for our retirement. I am sure it's everyone's dream to enjoy
a comfortable retirement. This has all changed. Not only does my illness
cause a considerable change to our plans, our financial stability that we
have worked tirelessly for is all gone. Due to my husband being
self-employed, we will be without benefits after December 31 of this year.
The cost of medication alone, combined with my lack of income, will no doubt
deplete our savings in the short term, causing us ultimately to sell our
home, which currently has little equity due to remortgaging.
Another person says:
I am the mother of a nine year old child. I survived to this point severe
cancer, which has left me disabled. I have fought extremely hard for my
life, and now the perspective of losing my long-term disability benefits by
the end of December causes me and my family a tremendous amount of stress.
Time is quickly running out for us.
Another one says:
My wife was diagnosed with a brain tumour one month after the birth of
our second child in 2008. As of December 31, our lifestyle will drastically
change. We will no longer have the means to save adequately for our
children's education, to invest in our retirements or take family vacations.
There is also the risk that we will have to sell our home. I anticipate the
additional financial burden would significantly impact the well-being,
mentally and physically, of my life.
Another person says:
My income under disability has dropped by 50 per cent. If there is
nothing after December 2010, we will well go into poverty. I will not have
enough to cover basic living expenses and definitely not enough to pay for
the medication that I need to just survive. My medication is over $5,000 a
year. I am uninsurable by new insurance unless I pay over $3,000 a year in
premiums. Without the medical treatment, the cancer will spread quickly. The
impact of no income from the LTD benefits in my situation is not just one of
inconvenience, it is in fact life threatening.
Another one says:
There are no words to explain the stress that this bankruptcy is putting
all of us in.
Another one with a stroke says:
I am not able to talk, write and read due to a stroke while I was working
in the office. This statement was written by my wife, with help. The stroke
was caused by a blood clot, et cetera. To help look after me, my wife has
quit her job, and without the medical benefits, we don't know how to pay for
my essential medications, annually costing some $5,000, over and above
medicare. Without disability benefits, we are not sure how to pay our rent,
our household expenses and help our children with their education.
Let me go to one more.
The Hon. the Speaker: I regret to advise the honourable senator that
the 15 minutes is over.
Some Hon. Senators: Five more minutes.
The Hon. the Speaker: Agreed.
Senator Eggleton: This one says:
To end up disabled and in utter poverty after all the years of studying
and hard-working is much for one in life. When I was thinking about all
this, I decided to commit suicide, and I did it. At the end of this March,
when the judge was deciding when to stop our life support, immediately or
December 31, 2010, like it would make a difference, I wrote a last note,
asking my mum to teach my children, live on rice and potatoes, and took a
huge overdose of my pills. I already was far from here, not feeling
anything. Fortunately, or maybe not so, my son found me breathless and
called 911. At that time, my life had been rescued. I spent a month in
hospital, in bed, not wanting to see the spring. Do I have to continue?
There are so many more who are like that. These people are in a desperate
situation, and the end of the year is fast approaching. Some of them may survive
with the taxpayers' social assistance programs, but many others may be like that
lady and maybe not. Something has to be done about this. As I said earlier, if
it is not this bill, what will it be? Time is running out. These people are
desperate and very stressed out at this moment and will get more stressed out
The arguments put forward in this report are not sustainable. We have
adequate evidence from the expert witnesses that were before the committee and
from the fact that so many other countries provide this kind of support and do
even more that we should not accept this report but go back to Bill S-216.
Some Hon. Senators: Hear, hear!
Hon. Grant Mitchell: Honourable senators, I rise to agree with exactly
that sentiment. Let me tell you why I have a great deal of difficulty with the
way things stand now. I had the pleasure, certainly the challenge, of sitting in
on the Bill C-10 review with the Standing Senate Committee on National Finance
earlier this year. Of course, we reviewed the Nortel situation. We had a number
of witnesses, as we always do about issues like that, and, as the discussion
progressed, I began to wonder why it is that pensioners, and in this case
disability pensioners, would be so far down the list of priorities when it comes
to credit or ranking, particularly given that the government itself had, just
several years before, established the Wage Earners Protection Act, which moved
wage earners up the ranking so that, in the event something like this occurred,
they would have greater standing and a greater chance of getting paid. If it is
good enough for wage earners, who would still have a chance to get another job,
if worst came to the worst, and protect themselves and their families, surely
pensioners who live on their pensions, just as wage earners live on their wage,
and disability pensioners would have an even greater argument for being raised
up the list or the ranking of creditors.
I asked one of the private sector experts, I believe from a national
accounting firm, why it would be that pensioners would be subordinated in
ranking, in line for getting paid in the event of a bankruptcy, behind much more
powerful interests, like the banks? What they said was very telling and striking
to me. They said that if the pension liability was moved up the ranking ahead of
secured creditors, like the banks, then the cost of borrowing for companies
would go up. It would go up, of course, because the banks would not have access
to that money now going to pensioners or disability pensioners. Therefore, in
the event of a failure, they would not stand to recoup as much money. The
implicit cost is greater. They therefore would charge higher interest rates if
that ranking were to be readjusted in favour of pensioners.
I said to myself, how can that possibly be fair? Why would we in this country
ask pensioners to subsidize the cost of borrowing for big companies? It seems
surreptitious. It seems unfair and behind the scenes. It is complicated, of
course, so perhaps it is easy to slip by, but that is exactly what this issue is
about. It says that the banks are more important, and the company's interest in
being able to pay not quite as much money in interest on its borrowings is more
important than the basic livelihood of people who simply cannot recover if they
lose the benefit. They do not have another chance.
It seems very straightforward to me. Why would we not put a priority on
people who are disabled? Why would we not put a priority on people who rely on
their pensions to live?
One of the very powerful things that I appreciated about what Senator
Eggleton said was how he brought this issue down from the abstract — people out
there, pensioners — to real people who have families, lives, fears and hopes,
and who confront a future without much security at this time. I am very glad of
that, and I would hope that we could think about those people as people and not
as some abstract issue.
Also, I was encouraged, tentatively hopeful, when I heard the leader say
today that she could not talk about it because they actually were doing
something. I will put all kinds of hope in the thought that she meant that they
are doing something for these people. I would ask that perhaps they could do it
before Christmas so that these people, who are real people and who are
suffering, will be able to enjoy that period of the year as well.
Hon. Sharon Carstairs: Honourable senators, I rise on a point of
order. I am extremely concerned throughout this debate that we have something
before us that was not properly put before us. I look at rule 96(7.1) of the
Rules of the Senate, which states:
Except with leave of its members present, a committee cannot dispense
with clause-by-clause consideration of a bill.
I was not at the committee meeting, but I understand that the government side
decided that they did not want to proceed with clause-by-clause consideration.
They moved a motion to that effect and, therefore, dispensed with
clause-by-clause consideration of the bill. In fact, the Rules of the Senate
do not allow us to dispense with clause-by-clause consideration unless there is
unanimous consent. They proceeded to write a report on a bill that they had not
dealt with in clause-by-clause consideration, which only the government side
approved. It would seem to me that this entire report is not appropriately
before the house and that this bill should be referred back to the committee for
clause-by-clause consideration, which they should have done when it was in
committee in the first place.
Hon. Gerald J. Comeau (Deputy Leader of the Government): I believe
that I heard Senator Carstairs indicate that she was not at the committee.
Therefore, she is reporting on what I presume she was told had happened at
committee. Be that as it may —
Senator Mitchell: So?
Senator Mercer: Your point is?
Senator Comeau: Do you want to get into the act, Senator Mitchell, as
usual? I would stick to your own defences.
The committee is the master of its own house. The committee duly presented
its report last week, and with serious reservations today it was moved for
adoption by Senator Hervieux-Payette. I do not see anything out of order at all
with the fact that we have the report of the committee before us for
consideration. Senator Carstairs gave it a good try, but I do not think it is
The Hon. the Speaker: Honourable senators, may I ask Senator Carstairs
to repeat the rule she cited?
Senator Carstairs: Yes. I cited rule 97(7.1)
Senator Cools: It is rule 96.
Senator Losier-Cool: It is rule 96.
Senator Carstairs: I am sorry; it is rule 96(7.1), on page 97, of the
Rules of the Senate.
The Hon. the Speaker: Thank you, senator.
Hon. Céline Hervieux-Payette: Honourable senators, I want to ensure
that honourable senators understand that the clause-by-clause matter is not
before the Senate as hearsay. I mentioned in my speech that I tried to introduce
clause-by-clause. Maybe my honourable colleague was not listening. I even
suggested that the committee proceed to clause-by-clause consideration of Bill
S-216, as per usual. Of course, at that time, the Conservative senators opposed
the vote and voted on the fact that we could not vote.
I have just learned that, although I am not an expert in procedure, it is not
proper procedure in committee. Had I known that rule, of course, we would have
used it. We have to return to our rules of procedure. As far as I am concerned,
we have no choice but to return to clause-by-clause consideration at committee.
Hon. Anne C. Cools: Honourable senators, I rise to support Senator
Carstairs' point of order. The sixth report of the Banking Committee in regard
to Bill S-216 is out of order. At times I feel terrible that I see these flawed
procedures very quickly. I am often bothered that we have become very slipshod
in our practices and inattentive to the rules. Sometimes, honourable senators, I
tire of being the one who notices.
Let us roll back in time. Senator Carstairs has put on the record very
appropriately rule 96(7.1), and I will read that clearly for the record. It
Except with leave of its members present, a committee cannot dispense
with clause-by-clause consideration of a bill.
For those honourable senators who do not understand, "leave" is that which is
required to waive or to suspend a rule of the house. It is otherwise called
"unanimous consent." It means that there must not be a single dissenting voice.
The rules intend that clause-by-clause consideration of a bill be a serious part
of committee consideration.
I find some support for that, honourable senators, in Erskine May's
Treatise on The Law, Privileges, Proceedings and Usage of Parliament,
twenty-third edition, at page 600, under the title "Functions of a committee on
a bill." It states:
The function of a committee on a bill is to consider the bill clause by
clause and, if it wishes, word by word, and to approve the text or to modify
it to reflect the committee's legislative intentions.
Erskine May is also replicated in the new House of Commons Procedure and
Practice, Second Edition, 2009, by Audrey O'Brien and Marc Bosc. At page
757, under the title "Role of a Committee on a Bill," it states:
The role of a committee is to consider a bill clause-by-clause and, if
necessary, word by word, and to approve the text or to modify it.
Therefore, honourable senators, clause-by-clause consideration is important.
It is unfortunate that the chair of the committee did not know this rule. It is
also unfortunate that the committee members did not know this. However, this is
a fact of our parliamentary life in terms of proceeding to clause-by-clause
consideration, and this has been a fact of the rules for quite some time.
I would like to caution again about the current practices of simply
proceeding in what I consider to be very shoddy ways. However, let us move on to
Honourable senators, if the committee chair had known this, she first could
have insisted that all committee members be asked for leave. Every single member
would have had to dispense with clause-by-clause consideration. However, the
chair had another option in her hand, as well. I want to put this on the record
and I have used this often in support of the Speaker of this place. If the chair
has any doubts whatsoever about the probity, the propriety, the properness, the
morality, et cetera of any question, the chair is bound not to put the question.
If the chair was dubious, she should not have put the question for a vote.
I can support that, honourable senators, by citing The Chairman's Handbook
of 1933, written by Sir Reginald Palgrave. It is a very famous book. You can
find support for what I said at page 5:
A Chairman is bound to decline to put from the Chair a Motion or
Amendment which is out of Order, . . .
Honourable senators, I have known this for a while. I was not planning to
speak but I had looked up some authorities to see if my recollection was
correct. I have so verified it all.
Honourable senators, there is no doubt about what the committee record says,
and I have the committee transcript in my hands. It does not have the issue
number. It says "unrevised," and the date is not on it, but there is a number —
48482 Bank, page 1030-49. All that is on it, and we recognize it as the
I shall quote the committee blues on page 1030-50. The deputy chair was
speaking and she was cut off. Senator Greene states:
I would like to make a motion. I move that:
We not proceed to clause-by-clause, and
That we proceed in camera to consider two draft reports.
Then there is an exchange back and forth. Then Senator Greene later on said
We are not suggesting a postponement.
This is at page 1030-51.
We are not suggesting a postponement. We are suggesting we go in camera.
We would like to go in camera to consider two draft reports.
Honourable senators, there is nothing at this point in time that needs more
examination in this Senate than the phenomenon of committees working in camera
and often without a record. We need to study this, because one particular
committee that I am on is having many problems operating as it does in camera
and without records. This debate proves the importance of records.
Honourable senators, I sincerely believe that Senator Greene had no bad
intentions. He was doing his best and he sincerely believes in what he is doing.
He is a good man.
In any event, honourable senators, I want to continue citing the committee
blues. At page 1030-54, Senator Greene said:
No, Madam Chair, we do not. We would like to dispense with clause by
clause and to consider a draft report.
Honourable senators, I have placed the committee blues before His Honour.
Finally, Senator Greene at page 1030-54 says:
I agree with that. I would like to move that we do not proceed with
clause by clause.
The deputy chair then put the question, which she should never have done.
Honourable senators, I wish now to speak about a committee report and the
meaning of the word "report." Perhaps I can attempt a definition of a "report."
A committee report is the means by which a committee expresses the opinion, or
the conclusion it has reached after it has obeyed the reference of the Senate to
study a particular matter or question.
Honourable senators, the committee report is that document that records the
opinion of the committee after it has reached its opinion. In this case, no
opinion was reached on Bill S-216. This is very important, and I am not
splitting hairs. First of all, a committee decides yea or nay. It decides it is
for or against or "maybe." It is after that decision has been taken that a
member says, "Let us report this conclusion to the house." Usually it is by a
motion, and then the committee report, a formal document called a "report," is
put for a vote and then presented in the Senate.
Honourable senators, what happened here is very unusual. Senator Greene
simply appeared with these two things called "reports." It was by his moving the
adoption of his report that the committee formed its opinion that is now before
us. There was no real discussion in the committee and no expression of a
considered opinion or conclusion.
Honourable senators, many of these irregularities occur and now many senators
think they are normal practice. Some senators even think they are correct, but
they are not. A committee decision has to be taken before the committee report
can be adopted or even assembled or put for a vote. It seems these two documents
suddenly appeared before the committee were moved and then voted on, as other
senators have said.
Honourable senators, I really think we can do better. I am not debating the
merits of the bill. I am not giving a speech here about the individual LTD
claimants who are suffering. We have all received the correspondence. I am told
there is incalculable and unspeakable suffering. I am speaking about a
parliamentary point here, all the more important because, when senators set out
to defeat a bill, or to recommend such to the house, as the committee report
recommended that the bill not be proceeded with, it is extremely important that
that decision be a clear decision of the committee, and that it represents the
opinion of the committee after considered debate and considered discussion. That
did not happen.
Your Honour has been put, as usual, in a very difficult spot. I believe that
the report is not properly before us. We had a similar situation a couple of
years back where there was another report which was not properly before us,
because the circumstances of its adoption were questionable and dubious.
However, the proceedings around this committee report are flawed enough and
impure enough as to make it a corrupt proceeding. Corrupt has nothing to do with
graft or money; "corrupt" means rendered impure, imperfect, spoiled and so on.
I do not know how the Speaker will handle this one, but he will do his best.
In a debate as critical as this, I do not think it does any good for either side
to paint each other as less than human.
I do not think there is a single senator in this place who is not concerned
with the health and the welfare of the several claimants — as Senator Eggleton
has called them, the LTD claimants.
Honourable senators, I am sorry that I am not more prepared, but I do ask His
Honour to look at the facts and consider whether this committee report was
adopted in accordance with the rule of the law, and in accordance with the due
process here that we call parliamentary procedure. At the same time the Speaker
must determine whether this committee report should be sent to committee so that
the committee can complete its study, which I would say right now stands
incomplete. This committee report is out of order.
Hon. Wilfred P. Moore: I would like to give His Honour a little bit of
information that he should also have when he is considering this matter.
When it was moved by Senator Greene that we go in camera, I asked for the
floor and was recognized by the chair. I made the point that we were in
agreement that we would go in camera, and when we came out of the in-camera
meeting, we would go to clause by clause. That is a matter of record.
On the vote, the government benches had more members in attendance and they
moved and voted not to go to clause by clause. However, that is what the
agreement was; and the agreement was in the committee the week before, so it is
consistent with what the intention of the members was.
I, too, regret not having that rule book there with us. The clerk did not
mention it. Nobody mentioned it, but clearly it should have been dealt with
Senator Comeau: I do not know how long we will be going on with this,
and in no way do I wish to stop the debate at this point. I did note that
Senator Banks wants to makes some comments.
However, I do want to come back to the issue that this point of order should
have been raised at committee. That is the proper place at which such points of
order should be raised. I wonder why it was not done at committee. Essentially,
this is where it should have been done.
I have a Beauchesne's 6th edition here, page 222, which states:
The Speaker has ruled on many occasions that it is not competent for the
Speaker to exercise procedural control over the committees. Committees are
and must remain masters of their own procedure.
The reference for this is the Journals, December 4, 1973, pp. 709-10.
Having said that, I know a number of very important arguments have been
raised this afternoon, so if His Honour wishes to take this under advisement to
give it further consideration, I have no problem with that whatsoever. I know
some very important comments have been raised this afternoon.
Senator Carstairs: There have been some very important points made,
and, yes, the point of order should have been made in the committee. It is one
more example, as Senator Cools has pointed out, that we are not as familiar with
our rules as we perhaps should be, and that those who are assigned to help us
sometimes do not have all those rules at their fingertips either.
However, the reality is that the report is now before the entire Senate, and
it is before the entire Senate inappropriately because the bill has not received
clause-by-clause. Therefore, the only appropriate action, in my view, is to send
it back to the committee for clause by clause, after which point it can then be
returned to the chamber. However, we cannot be dealing with a report on a bill
which has never had clause-by-clause.
An Hon. Senator: Yes, you can.
Hon. Tommy Banks: I call to the attention of honourable senators who
might not have been here — and I was reminded of it by Senator Cools' remarkable
grasp of Senator Carstairs' point — that Your Honour found, in the instance to
which Senator Cools referred, that there was a prima facie case of privilege
involved in the case of the proceedings of a committee of which I was the chair
at the time. Some of my colleagues will remember that.
In that case, I want to remind honourable senators that clause by clause was
done. The question on which Your Honour ruled at that time was who was there and
who ought to have been there. However, clause by clause reading and approval of
that report was done at that time, and I thank Senator Cools for reminding me of
Hon. Consiglio Di Nino: Would rule 100 of the Rules of the Senate
of Canada be of some use to His Honour? Rule 100 reads:
When a committee to which a bill has been referred considers that the
bill should not be proceeded with further in the Senate, it shall so report
to the Senate, stating its reasons. If the motion for the adoption of the
report is carried, the bill shall not reappear on the Order Paper.
That may have a bearing on this, as well.
Senator Tkachuk: That is exactly what happened.
The Hon. the Speaker: Let me thank all honourable senators for their
intervention on this point of order. I do not find the point of order
particularly difficult to deal with. I think our rules are clear. However, it
has been suggested that I should sleep on the matter at least, and I think that
was wise counsel. I will attempt to report and rule on this matter tomorrow.
Hon. Terry M. Mercer: I would urge His Honour to act with as much
haste as possible. The urgency of this bill has been outlined earlier by Senator
Eggleton and others. The clock is ticking and there are people who will suffer
if we do not get to our job and get this bill taken care of.
The Hon. the Speaker: If the honourable senator thinks it is really
urgent that I rule now, I am prepared to do so. What I said to the house is I
would be more comfortable in looking up some of the references that have been
cited, and that I would rule tomorrow.
Therefore, honourable senators, I take the matter under advisement.
(The Senate adjourned until Wednesday, December 1, 2010, at 1:30 p.m.)